Tuesday, March 20, 2018

leo's first two weeks

We spent two nights in the hospital. Because Leo was a big baby like his big brother, we had to go through the blood sugar protocol again. Luckily, this time, they had a glucose gel available that we used in the first several hours of his life. It was great because it allowed us to keep his blood sugar levels up without interfering with breastfeeding. Even better, he passed all his tests with flying colors. I was so relieved because I knew it was probably the one thing that could potentially complicate our hospital stay. It was also way less stressful this time around since we’d been through the drill before.

We noticed a pretty big difference in the hospital care this time. We had the same wonderful labor and delivery experience, but the postpartum care was far superior this time. It’s clear they had upped their game over the last two years. We splurged for the “VIP” room, which really meant we paid extra to have a bigger room with more windows. It was so worth it, though – if for nothing else than it had a better couch/bed for Jon to sleep on. We had a great troop of nurses who cared for us and interrupted us as little as possible. It was just an overall better experience. I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital with Charlie, but it was almost, dare I say it, a little relaxing this time stay.

Papa & Shi Shi came to the hospital on Sunday night to meet Leo, but big brother Charlie had to stay home. Because of this terrible flu season, the maternity ward was closed to visitors under age 12. I was a little disappointed Charlie couldn’t come to the hospital to meet his little brother, but it was probably for the best to avoid both germs and potential meltdowns when it was time to leave mom and dad.

We got to go home on Tuesday. We spent that entire morning bugging everyone who came into our hospital room until all the ducks were in a row for discharge. We made it home just before Charlie’s nap time. It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm February day. It was so sweet to pull up to the house to see Charlie waiting for us at the door. He started to jump up and down when he saw us coming, which melted my heart. I missed him while we were in the hospital. Leo kindly brought him a small gift to open – a construction truck puzzle that immediately grabbed his attention. He acknowledged the baby, but was much more interested in his puzzle, which he took out of the box immediately and started working right there in the entry way.

Once he played with his puzzle for a bit, we tried to get him a little more interested in Leo. He was more fascinated by Leo’s car seat straps, which he wanted to help buckle and unbuckle. He did, however, immediately know that this was the baby Leo who had been in mama’s tummy, and who he had been talking about for a couple of months. In fact, I think Charlie gets credit for naming Leo. As we were mulling our top choices, we asked Charlie one day if he could say “Baby Leo,” which he immediately repeated as “Baby Wee-ooo” like a fire truck sound. It was such a cute moment that I think Jon and I both knew right then that we had to name the baby Leo. It also doesn’t hurt that both boys are now featured in one of our favorite TV shows, the West Wing. We didn’t do that on purpose, but it’s kind of funny it worked out that way.  

Just as we were getting settled back into life at home, we had this crazy windstorm Thursday night/early Friday morning. In my sleep-deprived state, I kind of blocked out how bad the wind was raging outside, but by Friday morning, we woke up without power. Thousands of people across the state were without power, and we were among the lucky ones.

We went to the pediatrician that Friday morning for a weight and color check. Just like his big brother, Leo had some jaundice so we had a follow-up appointment that morning to check his progress. As we left the house, we saw a truck from the power company on our block so we assumed our power would be back on soon. We waited all afternoon, but our electricity didn’t come back so we made the decision to move to a hotel before we were going to lose daylight. This was a hard day for me. The last thing I wanted to do was move to a hotel with a toddler and a newborn.

Luckily, we had barely unpacked from the hospital so I still had my toiletries ready to go. I haphazardly threw the rest of our things in a bag and we took the boys out to eat before checking into the hotel. Not how I imagined Leo’s first restaurant meal or hotel stay! But once we were finally settled into the hotel, it really wasn’t so bad. Charlie was an absolute champ about the whole ordeal and remained completely unfazed in spite of all the changes he’d experience in such a short time. It helped that Shi Shi and Papa were here to offer lots of distraction and attention.

For me, it was almost like being at the hospital, but without the interruptions of nurses and doctors. I just stayed in the room almost the entire time nursing the baby, cuddling with him and resting as much as I could. It also helped that Leo had his best night of sleep thus far that first night in the hotel. We ended up staying two nights and two full days until our power was restored Sunday evening. It felt so good to be back home, but it also felt like we were starting over on getting settled into being home as a family of four.

Charlie has been such a good big brother. He’s very sweet with Leo. It makes my mama heart so happy to watch him assume this new role with total ease. He has started to include Leo when he does his family roll call of naming everyone at the dinner table. He also gets very concerned when Leo cries, and can’t get over to him fast enough to try to soothe him with kisses. He’s only tried to share contraband with him once (sprinkles from a cake pop), but will go give him a blanket or try to restore his pacifier. But most of the time, he kind of just lets him be because he’s too busy playing. So far, he hasn’t shown any jealousy or annoyance at the attention Leo is getting. However, he does laugh hysterically when Leo gets really worked up and is crying hard. This happened in the car the other day and Charlie couldn’t stop laughing at Leo’s high-pitched wails.

As for Leo, he’s been a pretty chill baby so far. His first few days were especially sleepy, and I had a lot of trouble getting him to wake up to nurse. He’s gradually become more wakeful during the day, and we seem to be making progress on figuring out his days/nights. I think it’s about the same amount of work as the newborn phase was with Charlie, but it feels so much easier this time since everything is just more familiar. I’m thankful breastfeeding has been an easier learning curve this time. He’s a great eater – usually eating every 2 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. He does like to cluster feed in the evenings, and he also likes to be held during this period. We survived our first growth spurt that he hit right at two weeks where all he wanted to do was eat and eat and eat some more.

Unlike his brother, he can be soothed in other ways besides nursing. He often refuses the pacifier, but he likes motion and so far will often fall asleep in his mamaroo, car seat or rock n play. He can also be cuddled and rocked to sleep fairly easily. I love all the snuggles I’m getting these days!

He usually goes to sleep for his first longer stretch between 10:30-12. He will sleep anywhere from 3-4 hours, wake up to nurse, and then sleep another 3 hrs or so, nurse again, and then maybe sleep a little bit more before we both get up for the day. The first several nights were rough because he wouldn’t always go back to sleep or stay asleep long after nursing, but now, he generally goes right back to sleep after nursing. He usually sleeps in his bassinet next to me, but sometimes if he’s being fussier than normal, I let him sleep in his rock n play. Once he gets into a good sleep, he really will sleep hard, which is very helpful considering big brother is always running around making noise.

He likes to be nice and snuggly – either swaddled or wrapped in a warm blanket or both! So far, he has enjoyed bath time until it’s time to get out and he gets cold. He’s starting to become more alert each day – having more wakeful periods during the day where he just kind of looks around or stares at us with his big blue eyes. I often wonder how strange this all must be for a little baby who spent so many months inside my belly!

He had newborn photos at 10 days, and was much more cooperative than his brother Charlie was for his. He slept through most of the shoot and let us manipulate him at will. He also lost his cord stump right in the middle of the photo shoot. Ewww. I think we traumatized our poor photographer (who is a mom herself) but hates the whole newborn bellybutton/cord situation. Photo day was kind of a turning point for me. It was the first day I showered, did my hair, put on makeup and wore real clothes. It felt pretty great to put myself together again for the first time in several days.

I’m so grateful that the transition to two kiddos has been smooth so far. Of course, all of this is made possible by many helping hands. My parents were here for two weeks keeping us fed and Charlie entertained. They left my freezer full of meals, and I barely lifted a finger to do anything other than tend to the baby in those early days. Jon’s parents visited next and were equally helpful. It’s also a huge luxury that Jon has been able to work from home every day since Leo’s birth. The real test will be when the help is gone and Jon starts going into the office more often. But every day gets a little bit easier and seems more manageable.

Eating his cake pop that mama and dada brought him from the hospital
(it was actually a gift from the starbucks workers who identified dada as a new  - for the 2nd time - father). 

Reading about how to be a good big brother

Hotel stay!

Hotel nap with mama

Lots of kisses from big brother

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

leo's birth story

This is the story of Leo Grant Hardin's birth. Born February 25th at 6:37 a.m. weighing 9 lbs and measuring 22 inches long. We are so smitten with this baby boy who perfectly completes our little family. 


So here we were again waiting on baby, and boy did I want this baby out. Mentally, I had a harder time waiting for Charlie who was 8 days past his due date. This time with Leo, I was mentally prepared for the waiting, but I was so physically done with being pregnant. It was certainly harder this go-round – probably because I had a toddler to chase around, kitchen renovation to oversee and a traveling husband for much of this pregnancy. I also experienced this really fun nerve pain just below my ribs that became almost constant in the last couple of weeks.

I did everything I could think of to help evict this baby. Despite my best efforts, he was determined to give his older brother a run for his money. I went to the chiropractor on Wednesday, my midwife tried to jump-start things with a membrane sweep on Thursday, and finally, I had acupuncture on Friday. I’m not sure which of these things gets the credit, but by Saturday afternoon just after 1:00 p.m. I finally started having contractions. At first, I really didn’t pay much attention to them. Over the last week or so, I’d had a few times where contractions would last for 1-2 hours and then fizzle out. I just assumed that was happening again, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

It wasn’t until just after dinner (shrimp tacos that I could barely eat) around 7:00 p.m. that I started to feel they were getting a little more intense, but there still wasn’t much of a pattern forming and they were several minutes apart. I took a bath, drank a little wine, and we watched a few episodes of The West Wing. Around 10:00 p.m. I decided I should just try to go to sleep…still thinking there was a good chance they’d go away while I slept. I rested for about 2 hours (meanwhile, Jon was not so much in denial and started to get ready to head to the hospital).

By 1:00 a.m., it became apparent I was not going to sleep, and I went back to timing the contractions, which were getting longer and more intense, but were still about 4.5-5 minutes apart. We decided to call the midwife at 1:45 to get her advice on how soon we should come in. At this point, I think I finally accepted that I was in labor and it wasn’t going to stop – probably right about the time I moved from early to active labor. The midwife initially advised we should come within the hour, but by the time the call was over, we all agreed we should leave now.

I was still a little worried we were going in too soon because I was totally fine in between contractions – able to talk, think straight, etc. We called our doula Cara to let her know we were headed in soon so she could meet us at the hospital. God bless doulas who answer their phones at all hours of the night! While I kept questioning the decision, I had a pretty strong contraction that caused me to start shaking. That’s when I knew it was time. We were in the car on our way to the hospital by 2:10 a.m. On the car ride, contractions started coming every 3 minutes. By the time we were checked in at the hospital around 2:45 a.m., they were about 2 minutes apart.

I must say that arriving at the hospital in the middle of the night was so calm. It’s a busy, urban hospital usually bustling with traffic so I really enjoyed the empty, quiet hospital that greeted me this time (compared to Charlie’s birth when we arrived in the middle of the day). We had to use the emergency room entrance where a nice man was waiting to escort us to the elevators and up to labor & delivery. He offered me a wheelchair, but that just seemed silly so I walked. Much better than riding in a crowded elevator while in labor! They were ready for us at L&D so check-in was a breeze. It was also great because L&D was very quiet that night. There was plenty of room at the inn. I had heard that sometimes they get so full and second babies come so fast that they’ve had deliveries in the triage area before. That kind of sounded like my worst nightmare so I was relieved to arrive to have a good midwife on call, wonderful nurses, and not as many laboring women vying for rooms and attention from the staff.

And last, but not least, it was a great night to have a baby because it was my birthday! I’d been saying for months – as soon as I found out my due date – that this baby was going to come 7 days late on my birthday. I remember looking down at my hospital bracelet and seeing that it said my age was “32” now. That was the first time it really hit me that this baby was going to share my birthday with me. I really can’t think of a better (or more painful ;) way to spend my birthday.

We started out in (an empty) triage area because we wanted to wait for one of the L&D rooms with a tub –it just needed to be cleaned before we could move over there. Our nurse was really lovely, and another one volunteered to go start filling the tub so it would be ready as soon as I moved over. They hooked me up for my antibiotics (since I was GBS positive a dose of antibiotics was recommended to protect the baby from contracting strep during delivery). There was a student midwife Rachel there that night, and Whitney was the main midwife on call. I was so happy to have her for this delivery. She was exactly who I needed that night.

They checked my progress, and I was dilated about 6-8 cm at this point. I guess I really was in labor! After about 45 minutes in triage, we moved to the delivery room. I spent the next couple of hours in transition. It was totally different this time because I was very present. With Charlie, it almost felt like an out of body experience where I kind of just went inside myself to get through the contractions. I remember almost nothing of the time I spent in transition with Charlie. But this time, I was more aware and engaged while I was in labor. I was also much more verbal – talking in between contractions, voicing what I needed, and asking questions. I did get into the tub, but I didn’t stay in as long because I was getting too warm. I fully planned to get back in the tub for delivery, but I spent most of the time laboring out of the tub.

At this point, you may have noticed I haven’t mention anything about my water breaking…because it hadn’t, and after a few hours of active labor it was starting to become an issue. Baby was still pretty high and needed to descend in order to his way out. As I continued to labor, I think I became more and more aware of the fact that we weren’t really getting anywhere.

Around 6:00 a.m. I asked my doula if my water needed to break in order for baby to come. I knew it was possible for babies to be born “en caul,” but I also knew it was extremely rare. My doula confirmed what I suspected – my water probably needed to break in order for baby to be born. My next question was asking if the midwife could break my water for me. She advised we could call Whitney in and have a discussion about it. I knew it was the kind of intervention the midwives usually tried to avoid. But at this point, I was getting tired (you may remember that I hadn’t slept), and even worse, I was getting discouraged. I felt like progress was stalling, and it didn’t help that all of the things we were trying to encourage baby to descend made the contractions more intense.

Whitney came in a few minutes later, agreed to check my progress, and then talk about next steps. Sure enough, I was fully dilated, but my water needed to break. She agreed that this may be a unique situation where an intervention may help, but first she asked me to try one last position laying on my side for a few more contractions. It was pretty awful, but I powered through for 3-4 contractions with no luck.

She started to walk us through the risks of breaking my water for me. Jon and I were about to talk about it (turns out, I would have said “yes” and Jon was leaning toward giving it more time – easy for the one who isn’t in labor to say!) and make a decision, but before we could even respond, you guessed it, my water broke.

It was incredibly startling and overwhelming. I still thought I could potentially have hours of labor left, but as soon as my water broke, baby was more than ready to make his appearance. We went from 0-60 in an instant. I think everyone could read the panic on my face as I immediately yelled “He’s coming!”

But this is where Whitney was really amazing. She knew I was panicked by how quickly things were happening, but she took control of the room. She looked me in the eye, told me to stay calm and reassured me that everything was just as it should be. I felt completely out of control, but she guided me through what to do, when to push, when to breath, and finally when to reach down and help pull my baby to my chest. At 6:37 a.m., approximately 6 minutes after my water broke and with just a few frantic pushes, Leo was here.

Looking back on it, I can see why it was all so startling to me. With Charlie, I pushed for 2.5 hours because he wasn’t in an optimal position. I had a long time to work toward and mentally prepare for his arrival. It was a much more gradual process that I could control, and I had pretty decent breaks in between contractions during the pushing stage with Charlie. While I’m certainly glad I didn’t have to push for hours this time with Leo, it was completely out of my element for everything to happen so fast without much warning. Luckily, Leo was in a perfect position, and I was already at the hospital when my water did break. Had my water broken earlier in labor while we were still home, there is a good chance we would have had this baby at home. Yikes!

Leo gave out a good cry as I pulled him up to my chest. And just like that, all was right with the world. He was a big baby – apparently that’s just how I grow them. 9 lbs and 22 inches long. He has the longest fingers and toes, deep blue eyes, and lots of hair that’s pretty dark – we have no idea where the darker hair comes from. We’ll see if it stays this color!

I’m so thankful to have had two healthy, safe and natural deliveries. Although they were completely different experiences, they were very similar in some ways. I spent about 6+ hours in early labor with both boys and then roughly 6 hours in active labor. The hours were just dispersed differently – more pushing with Charlie, more time in transition with Leo. 

Welcome to the world, little lion man. Mama, Dada and big brother Charlie love you very much.

Joys of being at a teaching hospital :)

Getting dressed to go home!
Friday, January 12, 2018

charlie is two!

I'm a little late on this, but that's what happens when your kid has a birthday right before the holidays. I warn you that this post is going to be long and heavy on details. I want to capture what life is like right now with Charlie. I'd like to think I'll remember all these little details, but I know I won't. The growth and development is so rapid these days. He is constantly changing, and I'm learning new things about him every day. It's so fun to watch him grow and discover. Hopefully someday I'll be able to look back at this post and remember these fun (but exhausting) toddler days.

We have arrived at two...although he could easily pass for three based on how big he is. At his well check he measured 95% for height and 92% for weight. You can imagine that having such a big, strong boy is not this very pregnant's mama favorite thing right now!

Speaking of his well visit, he was less enthused to be at the doctor this time. It didn't help that the first activity was measuring his head, which he hated. This kid hates having his head/face messed with (we refuse all hats, nose wipes, etc). It snowballed from there, and he resisted the scale and height measurement too because, why not?! He was generally fine when the doctor came in...until she checked his ears. Every time we do battle over ear checks, they always comment on how strong he is - a fact that is never lost on me. We survived, but the last step was a blood draw. It was just a finger prick, which Charlie didn't mind, but man, did he throw a fit over the ensuing bandaid. He did not want anything on his hand (did I mention he refuses to wear gloves too?). He might be the only toddler I know who doesn't like bandaids. It took a juice box to calm him down, but he wasn't fully restored to happiness until he managed to remove both bandaids (which, of course, resulted in him messing with his finger and causing it to bleed all over himself later in the day). Sigh.

We were in Oklahoma for Charlie's official birthday. We had a fun day exploring the zoo, lunch at chick fil a, cake/ice cream/presents, all followed by breakfast for dinner. I think Charlie had a fun day, but he was also battling a virus that put a little damper on his day. You know Charlie isn't feeling well when he turns down bacon. Luckily, if anyone is a champ while being a sick, it's Charlie. And besides being a little low on energy and not having his usual appetite, he seemed to have an enjoyable day. We had an adorable Little Blue Truck cake in honor of his favorite book, but he was more interested in eating the ice cream.

When we aren't in Oklahoma or celebrating birthdays, this is what a typical day looks like for me and Charlie:
7:30-8 Charlie wakes up. He starts his day chatting away until we go in to get him.
8:30-9 He gets to hang out in mama and dada's room and watch an episode of Sesame Street while mama gets ready. He recently learned how to say "Elmo" and he loves the letter and number of the day songs - especially when he can identify the letter or number.
9:00 Breakfast
10:00-12:00 We leave the house most days for an activity - depending on the day it could be speech therapy (which we actually do at home), MOPS, bible study, music class, playgroup, running errands or visiting the tot gym or a local playground.
12:30 Lunch
1:00-4:00 Nap - Bless him for taking a solid 3-hour nap.
4:00-6 We usually play at home in the afternoon. We often Facetime with Shi Shi, and sometimes get to watch another Sesame Street while mama finishes dinner prep.
6:00 Dinner
6:30 Bath
7:00 Bed

He is still a great sleeper and napper. He rarely fusses when he goes down. The only time we run into problems is when he falls asleep in the car before his nap. I'm praying this pattern remains for several more months - especially once baby brother arrives.

Thank goodness he sleeps and naps so hard, because when he isn't sleeping, he's full of energy. I would definitely consider him busy, yet not hyper. He can sit and concentrate on a puzzle or read books or do another activity for several minutes, and he enjoys playing independently for long stretches. He's not constantly bouncing off the walls - thank goodness - but the challenge is that he is curious and gets into everything. And once he has discovered something, it will probably be thrown - sometimes down the stairs or into the bathtub or maybe even the toilet if mama isn't looking. He's also fast, and I often underestimate his reach until it's too late. It just doesn't take long for him to get into mischief. We've done quite a bit more childproofing in this house - including the kitchen cabinets, much to Charlie's dismay. He can still access the tupperware drawer and spice rack - both of which he loves to rearrange.

He continues to be the epitome of a little boy. He loves balls - throwing them, kicking them, making baskets, having them thrown at him (he'd be terrible at dodge ball because he lets them hit him and then just laughs and laughs). He also loves when we throw pillows at him. We'll keep working on learning how to catch.

He loves trucks, trains and all other vehicles - especially pushing them down slides or ramps. He's a big fan of his new train table. His favorite books are all about things with wheels. Helicopters and planes have become a more recent obsession. He stops whatever he is doing when he sees or hears them and then spends the next several minutes pointing to the sky as if to summon more of these magical flying objects. His favorite word in sign language is helicopter, which he often does accompanied by a helicopter sound.

He loves playgrounds, swings, slides and anything he can climb. Bouncy houses are delightful - as is pushing anything heavy around. He doesn't like when dada is out of town, but he loves when dada comes home with a suitcase for him to push through the house. He really just loves anything physical.

He's a bit of a daredevil and also pretty tough. It takes a lot to make him cry. He doesn't always know his own strength and can sometimes run into (or run over) other kids if he's not paying attention. Charlie always bounces right back up, but he's definitely been known to make bigger kids [unintentionally] cry. Luckily, he's usually pretty self-aware and good at avoiding collisions.

When he isn't running, pushing, throwing or sliding, he loves to spend time figuring things out, and can be quite determined until something is solved. He is a master worker of puzzles, and is starting to do multi-piece and interlocking puzzles. He recently became obsessed with buckles, snaps and zippers. He can't unbuckle himself quite yet (thank goodness!), but he always insists on buckling his straps after he gets out of his booster seat at the table.

Luckily, he seems to love mama and dada equally. No favorites right now. We have a distinct division of labor in Charlie's mind. Some things are clearly dada activities and other things are strictly for mama. When we are reading books together at night, he will bring certain books to me and certain books to Jon. It never fails. Sometimes when Jon isn't home, he might bring me a dada book, but I can always tell he's a little disappointed in how I read it compared to dada. Somehow I got chosen for all the wordy books - I think I have every version of Little Blue Truck memorized. Dada largely gets the books with more pictures and definitely more fun animal/vehicle sounds. :)

He likes other kids - especially playing chase. He can sometimes get really tickled by other kids and belly laugh when he thinks they are funny. It's still mostly parallel play at this point, but he does generally "share" pretty well. He just kind of moves on if someone takes something from him, but will often hover nearby until it becomes available again for the snatching.  He's usually pretty good about waiting for his turn to play with something or accepting a suitable alternative. I think it's because he just doesn't care enough about any one thing to throw a fit over it. He likes a lot of different things, and therefore can be satisfied with many options.

He still eats a lot, but he's pretty picky about what he eats. Fruit remains his favorite and largest food group. I can't think of a fruit he won't eat. Carbs are also beloved, of course. He likes starchy vegetables (anything orange and roasted with cinnamon), but only does green vegetables in his puree pouches. He loves yogurt and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and cheese sticks. Of course, french fries, mac and cheese, grilled cheese, pizza and PBJ are always acceptable. Chicken nuggets and bacon are his favorite proteins. Chick-fil-A is his happy place (mama and dada can't argue with that).

He is becoming increasingly shy, and it takes him a while to warm up to people. He usually won't talk a lot around other people. He still stares intently at strangers, but clams up when they try to talk to him. Lately, he's been pretty hesitant to enter the room when we are going to music class or if I'm dropping him off at nursery or playgroup. He doesn't cry, but I usually have to pick him up and carry him over the threshold. Oddly enough, once he's in the room, he's perfectly fine and has a grand time. He's pretty reserved in new places and new situations.

I really see a lot of Jon in him. Everyone still thinks they look alike, although I do think part of that is the shared hair color. People who have known me my entire life swear he looks like me as a toddler. I just think he looks like Charlie, but there is no doubt he already shares a lot of personality traits with his dad.

He never strays too far from the equilibrium on the emotional scale. We have our moments, but the extreme highs and lows are pretty rare. He can get really excited, and he can get really mad, but most of the time he exists in a general state of pleasant observation and contentment. But even though he is mostly laid back that doesn't mean he won't let you know his opinion. He is stubborn and strong-willed. He won't eat what he doesn't want to eat. He literally turns his back and hides in the corner of the bathtub when we try to brush his teeth. Wiping his nose can be a two-person job.

Much like his dada, he can be rather particular. He can dump out a bucket of toys and happily leave them strewn about, but other things must be in their rightful place. He likes to line up his outdoor vehicles and then move them all, one by one, to another location within the yard. The other day, I set up his bowling pins slightly out of order, but he refused to knock them down until they were in their proper place. On his plate, he'll keep his food divided in each section. If I give him more fruit, but accidentally put it where the crackers previously resided, he'll generally move the fruit to it's original section of the plate before eating it.

Also like his dada, he can be a man of few words, but I'm so proud of all the progress he's made in speech therapy. Our first session was in late May/early June when he was about 18 months. At that point, I think he had about three words: mama, dada, uh-oh. Now, he says all kinds of words (and sound! He loves animal and vehicle sounds), and is just starting to string a couple of words together. He loves his speech therapist Miss Molly, who comes to our house once a week. By now, he has learned why she is there, and almost always shows off with new words during his therapy sessions. I'll work on something with him for weeks without success, and then Molly shows up and he says it right away. Typical.

The last few weeks alone have been a bit of a language explosion. Apparently this happens a lot around the holidays when kids are exposed to new things and lots of attention from doting family members. He learned everyone's names in Oklahoma pretty quickly, and liked to take roll call while we were all sitting at the table together. He recently added "baby" to his vocabulary and will give the baby kisses when asked. We are nearing 40-50 words now + several letters and a couple of numbers. The other day he walked into the kitchen and said "hello, mama" with perfect enunciation. We'd never even heard the word "hello" come out of his mouth before. It melted my heart.

Naturally, he demands to be rewarded for his efforts. He claps for himself and says "yay!" when he accomplishes what he wants. He says "yes," but we've only ever heard it in the context of an exclamation - as in "yes, I did it!" I'm happy to give him all the praise he wants if it helps him learn new words.

Every stage seems to be a little more fun than the last. I'm still in awe of watching this tiny human unfold before us. He brings us so much joy with his sweet kisses, belly laughs, boundless energy, and pure excitement over the littlest things.

And photos from his birthday celebration in Oklahoma. 

These animals are great, but I want an energy drink.