I have big shoes to fill (you can take that figuratively or literally, as you like, because yes, your daddy has big feet). Since your daddy spent this past month in California, it is up to me to provide the chronicle of your ninth month.
Nine months! Good lord, child, you’ve now been out for as long as you were in. How did that happen? When I look at your impish smile and the light tripping in your eyes I can barely recall the tiny, sleepy newborn Sam that used to fit along the length of my arm from elbow to palm. It’s a good thing that I have your dad’s previous newsletters to remind me. And so, while I write this letter to you, it is very much also for him. He misses you fiercely.
While Daddy’s been gone all this month, he certainly has not been forgotten. You look more and more like him every day. And, of course, the minute he left, you started to babble “dada.“ Well, maybe not the minute he left. As I recall, after we dropped him off at the Philadelphia Airport on June 1 (our fourth wedding anniversary), you started to cry. Then you screamed. Then you screamed some more– for the whole drive back to Mom-Mom and Granddaddy’s, which thankfully is not that long of a distance, but it seemed like a decade or two passed. I was genuinely surprised to discover that my hair had not turned white, and I was genuinely terrified about being your sole caretaker for the next few weeks.
I recently read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, written by a British nanny who classifies a baby’s temperament by type. None of the descriptions seemed to match you exactly””you have aspects of a “Spirited" baby and aspects of a “Touchy" baby” and it was only the other day that I realized that you are more aptly described as “Opinionated.“ You have strong likes and dislikes and you are never shy about expressing them. You like playing with cooked spaghetti. You hate it when I wipe your mouth with the bib. You like going for walks. You hate it when people you don’t know get all up in your face. You LOVE cats, and also bunnies and dogs, although if a dog you don’t know barks in your face, you hate that too. (I can’t blame you, for the dogs or the people). You love splashing in the bath, and you now hate it when I declare the water works to be over. So, the day you screamed us home from the airport, you were merely trying to communicate your displeasure at a change of routine: “Hey, where’s DAD? Hey, MOM, you usually ride here in the back with me!“ It took you about a week to get used to me as your chauffeur, and now you actually seem to look forward to our car trips. It helps that you now have your own set of toy keys and cell phone, courtesy of Mom-Mom. You’re a modern travelin' gal.
You like traveling so much, that you’ve changed your opinion on tummy time too. As Dad indicated last month, you no longer object to being on your belly. This month you’ve become a rolling fiend. Often when I put you on the floor, you immediately get on your belly and start rolling over: front to back to front to back. You are so pleased with yourself! Especially since you discovered that if you keep rolling in the same direction, you can get from boring old point A to exciting and usually dangerous point B. While I was alarmed to see you almost knock over the pack n’play that you sleep in at Mom-Mom and Granddaddy’s, I was amused to see you roll underneath the bed in your Uncle John’s old room. You were amused too–laughing and kicking the mattress. The problem came when you needed to roll out: as you’d roll from back to front your head came into contact with the metal frame of the bed (ouch!) and that was no fun at all. Nor is it fun when you roll in your sleep into the sides of your crib and bang yourself awake. Neither of us is very happy about that, as your sleep is a precious commodity. But still, it’s wonderful to see you revel in your new skill, even if it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.
And that goes for your efforts to crawl too. Towards the end of this past month you developed the arm strength to pull yourself forward, but you still haven’t mastered the knee action. Usually you end up slithering backwards on your belly, like a commando in reverse. It’s awfully cute, sweetie, even though frustrating for you, as you move farther and farther away from the object of your desire (a toy, me, or often the cat). While watching you, I felt like the backwards crawl embodied the long, fruitless weeks of Daddy’s search for a new house for us in California. Just this past week, however, we signed a lease. I have a feeling that any day now your knees will synch up with the arm action and you’ll be reaching your intended destinations.
But please, Sam, take your time on that! It was enough of a shock when you figured out how to pivot your body 360 degrees while seated. I thought I was losing it when I walked into the living room and you were facing the kitchen after I had just seated you facing the other way. Just to be sure, I picked you up and plunked you back down facing the far wall. Sure enough, you turned your right knee outward and used it and your arms to turn your body back towards the kitchen. A couple of times I’ve found you spinning yourself all the way around, laughing breathily with that light in your eyes that says “Wow this is so cool!“ You have the same look when you pull yourself up to kneeling in your crib, and when you try to climb into my lap on the floor. I love watching you discover your new abilities–and I love watching you watch me discover your new abilities. You don’t miss a thing, my girl.
And yes, you are looking more and more like a little girl and less like a baby, although it’s not like you have a lot of baby fat to lose (more on that anon). Your sounds are becoming more sophisticated too. You babble “dada,“ “mama,“ “baba,“ “gaga,“ and “yaya" indiscriminately, often mixing and matching the consonants. You also enjoy making a popping sound with your lips and will imitate me if I start it first. But your favorite noise this month (and mine too, truth be told) is a bizarre noise that you make in the back of your throat that sounds like a cross between a smoker’s hack and a duck. I have no idea where you would have heard either of those sounds much less an amalgam of the two, but you do delight in hacking/quacking at anyone who will listen. You still mutter to yourself when you eat, and sometimes also when you play, which I hope means that you enjoy both activities, because you do spend most of your time either playing or consuming milk or food– which brings me to:
That’s what we’ve been calling our efforts to get you back on the growth chart. As Dad mentioned last month, you’d fallen off completely in the weight category. So it was good timing that we were heading immediately to Mom-Mom’s anyway, because there’s always good eating at her house. I am very pleased and relieved and happy (and did I say relieved?) to report that you’ve gained about two pounds in the last month, which puts us on back on the map. The pediatrician who checked you last week (not the one who must be on the Krispy Kreme payroll) said you were now gaining just fine. “You can’t fight genetics" were his exact words. So maybe you will be small all your life– but in the meantime, Project Fatbaby continues. Now that you are starting to move around we can’t afford for you to burn any more calories unless you also start taking more in!
And just how did we pack more calories into your diet? Well, we have one simple guideline here at Project Fatbaby: feed the baby.
“What’s Sammy doing? Is she eating? Nursing? Could she eat something now? How about now? Why don’t you feed her now? Sammy, would you like something to eat?“ And so on.
Seriously, most of my time, since your Dad left, has been spent putting sustenance into your little body. Our routine goes something like this: you wake up and I nurse you. Then I top you off with hi-calorie formula supplement. Then I sit you down and depending on what meal it is, feed you cereal and fruit, or some sort of vegetable and or meat. Somewhere in there I feed the cat, and myself, but you take precedence.
We’ve expanded your palate considerably too. You now eat many fruits (pear, peaches, apricots, as well as your favorites banana and apples) as well as vegetables (squash, sweet potato, carrots, peas, string beans). As for meats, you will tolerate chicken or turkey but only if they’re mixed with something else, preferably sweet potatoes. You LOVE sweet potatoes. Mom-mom makes them for you mashed with a little butter and a pinch of sea salt. To my dismay, however, you gagged at regular mashed potatoes (possibly because we mashed them with yogurt rather than milk). And you also didn’t care too much for the piece of cheddar cheese we gave you to play with. A love of cheese and mashed potatoes surely is encoded in your DNA, so I’m not worried.
And yes, in addition to all the above, you are back on the hi-calorie formula supplement. It must be helping, but I can tell that my milk supply is dwindling. I no longer have time or energy to pump extra now, as I used to do when your dad gave you a supplemental bottle in the past, and so my body is not getting the message to produce as much milk as you need to drink. It’s sad for me, because I wanted to provide milk for you for as long as we were both interested, and I suppose I’ve breastfed you longer now than I ever thought possible back in the early days when it was so difficult and you weren’t gaining weight fast, but still– it seems a cruel irony to me that now that I am your primary caretaker and no longer the family breadwinner, that you no longer take most of your nourishment from me. But then I remember something that Lori, the midwife who delivered you, said to me that first week of your life: breastfeeding is not just about nutrition. Indeed, it’s also a gentle snuggly time when you pull on my hair and explore my face with your free hand during our morning feeds. In the evening you still fall asleep (most of the time) cradled in my arms while nursing. I find myself savoring those moments (except when you try to pick at my freckles– that really hurts!) because one never knows how long they will last.
Meetings and Passings
And that reminds me of something sad that happened this past month: your great-uncle Jimmy passed away in early June, just after we arrived at Mom-mom and Granddaddy’s. Uncle Jimmy was your Granddaddy’s younger brother and my Godfather. He died very young (66) and in my mind rather suddenly of liver cancer. You and I saw him a day or two before he died and I will never forget that even though he was in immense pain, he grinned at you and said “Hey, pretty girl.“
That week you met just about all of your Fay relatives (you were a little overwhelmed) and you went to your first viewing. It seems fitting to me, then, that in the same month you also went to your first baseball game (AA, Altoona Curve) with none other than your “Aunt Skip”–my dear friend Candace. (Someday remind me to tell you why she’s called “Aunt Skip"). You had a great time at the ball park (though you declared it was time to leave with a 5th inning fussing””kind of like the 7th inning stretch, but more vocal), and you had a ball with your Aunt Skip overall. You hung out with her while I finished packing up my office at Penn State Altoona, and she worked very hard to teach you the words “Velcro,“ “Hola,“ and “Tintin“. (Aunt Skip’s really into words and also really into playing jokes on me. Remind me to tell you what she had my elementary French class do to me one April Fool’s Day many years ago). Anyway, it was a great visit, if sad also, because we were introducing Aunt Skip to a life that we are about to leave.
That’s the weird and wonderful thing about life, Sammy: the meetings and passings, both expected and unexpected. If someone had told me a year ago that now 1) your Dad would be in California; 2) I would have just quit my job; 3) our house would be on the market; 4) your great-grandmother Ruth and your great-uncle Jimmy would be dead; and 5) that YOU would be a GIRL, I would have scoffed. And I would have been wrong.
So here’s to the expected and the unexpected, Sam. We have another month of transition ahead of us, my darling girl, and I am so happy that we’ll be meeting it together.