Monday, June 20, 2011

Always, In Flux (Or: The Current State of My Fifteen-Month Old’s Napping, Diet, Language Acquisition, Growth and Development)

Babies are constantly changing. Everyone knows that. It’s one of those basic tenets of baby-rearing that becomes almost cliché. Just like the adage that goes, “Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they switch it up on you.” True but, to most moms anyway, a cliché.

Babies are constantly changing, but there are definitely periods where the changes seem to come quicker, more suddenly. Skills that have been slowly coming along for months suddenly come together and voila! Suddenly, one day, you realize you are in the presence of a different baby. Not so different than yesterday, but definitely different than two weeks ago. Sometimes it’s the people who only see your baby every so often that are most able to articulate the marked change.

Cedar seems to be in one of those periods now. For one thing, he’s about to make that big leap from two naps to just one. Sigh. For the longest time he has napped around 10:00 and 3:00. We have had a three hour chunk in the middle of the day to eat lunch and then go on a long walk or excursion, meet up with a friend, or run errands. I’ve come to depend on this routine and appreciate its consistency. But as Cedar’s afternoon nap has continued to get pushed later, and consequently so has his bedtime, I’ve wondered lately if I should enforce the transition to one nap and get it over with. But then I’ve reconsidered; why force it? It should become obvious when he is ready.

Now, it’s looking more and more like we have reached the time to switch him over. Last week for three days in a row Cedar resisted going down for his first nap. I’d try, then give up, then try again, then give up, and finally he’d go down sometime between 11 and 12. But then the last couple days he’s been back to two naps, so this is all to say that we are no longer on a predictable schedule.

I know I just need to go with the flow for a while until he settles into a new routine, but it’s unsettling to me to have to play each day by ear and feel unsure about what we’re doing, when is bedtime, whether I can commit to plans with friends, or sign him up for that upcoming swim class. I know, I know, big friggin’ deal, right?  These are the kinds of deliberations that probably aren’t very interesting to others, unless you are a parent like me who is slightly obsessed with sleep and who really likes to have a routine. I am by no means someone who likes to over-schedule my day, but I sure do like to know when naps, bedtime and wake up time are. These are hard-earned badges of a tired parent. It unnerves me to have it change every day now in a seesaw pattern. And it can’t be that great for Cedar either. His little body has an internal clock too, and a transition like this no doubt will throw him off for a while--although I suspect he’s more resilient than I am.

It’s probably no coincidence that this switch to a new schedule coincides with a period where Cedar is really exploring the reaches of his body and environment. Cedar didn’t learn to crawl and cruise around on furniture until he was over a year old, and since then it’s still taken him a while to realize that he is free to roam at will through the entire house. He isn’t one of those babies who just took off and was everywhere once they learned to crawl. It’s only now, at fifteen months, where I can truly say he is into everything; every day he discovers a new (un-childproofed) corner full of plants or lamps, a new dubiously supportive chair to pull up on, a new shelf to pull things off of. Only now is he of that age where he will take off with a devious grin as you come after him, playing a game of hard to get. I’ve also been teaching him how to safely get off our bed (mattress) by getting on his belly and sliding his feet off first, and although he still hasn’t mastered the whole maneuver, he sure looks satisfied when he manages a close approximation.

My baby is becoming a toddler. He says, “Hiii…” in a sweet call and response with me, and he understands so much of what we say now—in both English and Chinese. My mom watches him five or six hours a week and speaks to him solely in Chinese. I reinforce what he learns with her by scattering in words and phrases throughout our day when I’m in the mood, and to my delight, this has been enough for him to understand the language! Gei wo, chuan wazi, xiezi, kai deng, kan  feiji… Give it to me, put on your socks, shoes, turn on the light, look at the airplane… he knows these, and plenty more. My baby is bilingual! It’s amazing how they soak things up and learn.

He also knows now what ‘no’ means, and he’s old enough to erupt in a tantrum of an arching back and screaming protest when prevented from doing something he wants. I’m seeing more of his stubborn will every day. It’s both exciting and daunting to think about this coming (nearly here, already here?) stage of toddlerhood. Perhaps I will soon long for the “easy days of old” when he was a baby, as much as I’ve longed for the “easier days to come” when I’m no longer nursing and can eat whatever I want again, not to mention leave him for a whole evening or (hard to even imagine now)— a whole week!

Quick diet update: I am still not eating any dairy, soy, garlic, onions, tomatoes, citrus, coffee or chocolate. When you can’t eat garlic, it’s near impossible to eat out (unless I want to just special order a plain piece of meat, after first ascertaining that they don’t cook with soy oil, so why bother when I can make something much tastier at home?). Soy, of course, is everywhere—in most store-bought breads, crackers, chips, spreads, you name it—so that is a big one I need to watch out for. Both soy and garlic still give Cedar terrible gas pains (last time I tested), which leads to a terrible nights of sleep for all of us. I’ve learned from experience many times that it is not worth it for me to eat soy in any quantity. I will eventually test these main off-limit foods again, but there’s plenty of other stuff to test and retest in the meantime.

With his other restrictions, I’ve started to allow a little here and there. Dairy gives Cedar a rash, but it’s not too bad if I just have a little on rare occasion. I will occasionally now allow some organic ketchup on a burger, or some canola mayo (that has lemon in it) on my sandwiches, because being able to eat those two condiments goes a long way in the flavor diversity department. I will also occasionally allow a rare, beautiful cup of coffee, which doesn’t seem to affect Cedar unless I start to have it multiple days in a row. And I will eat a few pieces of certain brands of salami or other items that contain the ambiguous ingredient “spices” which no doubt means a little onion or garlic powder, but which I can get away with in small quantities. I still stay away from cabbage and broccoli, especially raw. Beans, which I’ve tried a bit more of recently, seem okay.

It has gotten way easier, this diet, but we are far from being out of the woods. In the meantime, I’m still constantly trying out new foods directly with Cedar, and since it is a rare day when he doesn’t have some slight rash on his cheeks still, then it can be hard to gauge whether he is having a subtle reaction to something or not. I never want to feed a huge quantity of something to him before I’ve given him just a little the first time, and so inevitably there are many foods I have to give him several times before I can truly say (or guess) that they are okay.

So far (besides the aforementioned things that I’m not eating and so by extension am definitely not giving Cedar until he can first tolerate my eating them), he has also proved sensitive to: bananas, strawberries, possibly potatoes and corn, and also plums, apricots, and peaches. I plan to retest the latter-mentioned fruits because I so hope he can enjoy with us the summer harvest, but I’ll hold off on the other stuff in the time being because my suspicion is great enough, and because there’s plenty of other new stuff I can introduce to him first.

This is such a slow process because I don’t want to test stuff on him if he’s already got a rash, and I also don’t want to test stuff on him if I’ve eaten something questionable myself within the last couple days. For the longest time I was also following the ‘wait three days after trying something new’ rule, but lately I’ve grown impatient and sometimes only wait a day or two if we are trying foods that I’m not that worried about. I’ve tried both egg yolk and whites on him separately, but he didn’t eat much of them, and his ensuing rash the next few days was not obvious enough for me to be able to say definitively if it was from the eggs or not. I haven’t gotten around to trying any nuts or shellfish on Cedar yet, but I have given him tuna and salmon which seem okay, thankfully. Wheat and gluten are fine too (thank god—it wouldn’t be fair for one kid to have so many restrictions!), as are all the meats he’s tried—chicken, turkey, beef, and a tiny bit of pork.

Because of our slow progression in trying new foods, and also because he is somewhat of a picky eater (well, who wouldn’t be when you have only been allowed so few things), Cedar’s diet right now consists mostly of a few key foods: oatmeal, bread, pasta, and puffs; blueberries (his favorite), apples, pears, and peas; a bit of the aforementioned meats (he’s not so hot on plain meat- who can blame him- but LOVED the bbq smoked chicken); carrots he can take or leave, and the same goes for green beans, beets, or squash. I’m constantly trying to strategize what else I can give him, as this diet seems rather boring and often vegetable deficient (usually all he’ll eat are peas and avocados) and protein deficient. It’s hard to make things more enticing when there are still so many foods and spices he hasn’t tried. His main source of protein is still breast milk, and since he can’t have any other kinds of milk, this means it’s important for me to keep nursing for some time—especially until he’s outgrown some of his allergies.

I’ve thought about sharing some of the ways we’ve learned to make food taste good during this period with so many restrictions, although I doubt that many people out there with food sensitivities would match our particular list of what’s okay or not okay. (People always assume that I can’t have gluten when I mention ‘food sensitivities,’ because that’s the allergy that has become more common and thus recognized in our culture. Restaurant people also often don’t realize that soy is in everything, and that vegetable oil = soy oil. And I’m not vegan; I eat eggs and meat, but I can’t do dairy.) I know, it’s a lot to keep track of. But personal gripes aside, I doubt that there are many out there who have to avoid the combo of dairy, garlic, onions, tomatoes and citrus. How do you cook a tasty pasta without these things?! Think lots of olives, capers, mushrooms, peppers, or artichoke hearts; plenty of herbs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For other flavor punches, also think bacon, roasted root veggies, and lots of avocados. And think spices like celery salt, paprika, and cumin. Not curry powder though, because that has garlic in it usually, and nothing too spicy either.

Anyway, this blog post is all over the place. I guess it’s just my personal taking stock of where we’re at now during this period of solstice and change. We’re growing up, we’re letting go, we’re stuck in old ways, we’re holding on. We’re trying to remember to appreciate each day, each stage, and each small new success along the way. We’re not walking yet, but we’re getting closer every day, and not that much in a hurry. (I was relieved, however when Cedar finally started crawling because it is such a useful skill for him to have in the interim before walking, even if it is not an essential milestone.)

What else? We’re packing up the 12 months, well into the 18s, already wearing some of the 2T tops, and soon, believe it or not, even 3Ts will be on the radar. (Our collection of hand-me-downs are in constant rotation between the too big or too small boxes in the attic, the “holding drawers” for the next size on the horizon, and then the one big drawer for current mainstays.) One month, one age, one size bleeds into the next, and before I know it, I’m signing my baby up for co-op preschool (starting next fall! Just one morning a week, though).

Some days I think that my life is incredibly tedious and boring. Other days I feel incredibly thankful and blessed. Some days I can’t wait for Cedar to get older and start going to school so I can claim back more time to write and work. Other days I just want to savor these days when he’s still a baby, my constant companion, sidekick, boob man, snugglebug nestled into my chest. I want it to faster, I want it to go slower. Always this push and pull, push and pull. Always, we finally reach out only when someone is about to leave. Always, something to praise, something to disdain. Always, in flux. Always, the norm. Always, surprises. Always, this moment to anchor my fly-away thoughts, to anchor my being in what is.

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