The sun is shining here in Chengdu as I draft this letter to you and it is so fitting–this has been such a sunny, happy month with you. Not to say that any past months were any less happy, but this month it just feels like we got to know you so much better. We’ve listened to so much laughing and received so many smiles. It’s honestly been pure joy to get to hang out with you all day.
Last month I wrote that we seemed to be enjoying a short calm before a storm of new developments. Whether my forecast was Mama’s intuition or sheer dumb luck, it turned out to be true. We celebrated so many fun “firsts” this month, so many that this letter feels a lot more boastful than any previous letters, but I can’t help it. I read somewhere that the last few months of a baby’s first year are often accompanied by a sudden uptick in learning and development and that seems to be a pretty accurate description of the past few weeks. It feels like every day you master a new trick and we love watching your face light up with understanding when you learn something new.
In Guangzhou you mastered getting up into a sitting position from your tummy and visa versa. It seemed like crawling was imminent but it took a few more weeks, a visit from Nai Nai, some strategically placed plastic bags and the irresistible allure of the iPad to get you to take your first wobbly steps on hands and knees last weekend. You still like to stop and pull back into a sitting position for a rest after every few steps, but its so fun to see you actually able to move in the direction you want to go. Your first steps reminded me a little of a baby turtle wobbling and flopping towards the sea, but everyday you get a little faster and stronger. It won’t be long before we are racing to catch up to you. Already, taking this month’s photos proved to be challenging in a way I wasn’t ready for–you kept crawling out of the frame to reach for my camera strap!
Learning to crawl was such a long and involved process around here, so it came as a total surprise this month when you began pulling up to a stand within days of figuring out crawling. Now you love standing up next to the coffee table and holding on with one hand for balance while using the other to grab at whatever forbidden items Daddy and I have tried to hide from you on top. You are still a little too short to pull up on most things, but with a tiny boost from us or your crib rails, you pop up to a sturdy stand so easily now-always with a giant smile on your face. You still get adorably tangled up when you try to take steps, but you seem bound and determined to try anyway.
Opening and closing your board books is a great source of entertainment these days and you like to grab my hands and clap them together to hear the sound they make. I’ve been trying to teach you how to clap your hands for months, but apparently clapping my hands for me is much more fun. You’ve reached that stage where you’ve begun to enjoy methodically taking toys out of your toy box one at a time and examining each one briefly before pulling the next item out for inspection. It’s funny to watch you working through your pile of toys with such a serious look of concentration on your face; next we’ll have to teach you how to put them all back in at the end of the day!
In the food department, I’ve nearly given up on getting you to like my homemade baby food as its clear you vastly prefer either the perfectly-smooth store-bought purees or “real food” to the purees of carrots and lentils and peas that I’ve made for you. That’s alright Will, you’ll eat my food eventually right? Until then, we know you love all things fruit-including prunes and pears and mangoes and apples. You tried a banana, orange, pineapple and flax seed smoothie at baby group and loved it. You’ll eat veggies when paired with fruits and you seem surprisingly fond of the Greek yogurt I found in Guangzhou for you. Slices of avocados, cucumbers, cooked squash and crusts of wheat bread are also hit and you’ve begun reaching for all of our food with increasing interest and accuracy. Some days you still want nothing but nursing but those days are becoming less and less frequent.
We’re still waiting for some serious babbling but, in the meantime, you seem much more intent on communicating what you want and don’t want through grunts and whines and a variety of coos. You love bath time and you don’t like when we take toys away from you. You’ve also gotten quite set in your routines, for better or for worse. If I try to nurse you at night before your bath, you’ll have none of it, no matter how hungry you are. Nursing comes only after bath-time in your world.
You’re still waking up many, many more times a night than I’ll admit to the general public but you are going down more easily most evenings and occasionally you’ll even sleep in until 7 or 7:30am. On the other hand, your naps are getting shorter and shorter. Instead of sleeping you prefer to play, play, play! I’m afraid you will give up your morning nap far sooner than I’d like you to!
This month we saw the beginning of some stranger anxiety. You used to give your smiles so freely to everyone on the street, but these days you need a little more time to get used to people. When waitresses try to pick you up at restaurants, your face crumples up and you bawl until you are back in my arms, at which point you immediately turn around to give your fans a watery little smile through your tears. Sometimes when we have crowds of people around us baby-talking to you, you bury your head in my chest and just look out with one eye at everyone. It melts my heart into a big pile of good right there in the middle of the market.
Speaking of the market, this is the last monthly letter I’ll write you from Chengdu. Next month we will be in Washington D.C. for your 9 month “birthday.” Hard to believe that in just a few weeks we’ll be taking you back across the world to see your grandparents in Wisconsin and Virginia. They all can’t wait to see you. I just hope leaving your home here won’t be too hard on you. You’ll spend so much of your childhood on planes and moving across the world little one, but I hope you know that as long as you have Mama and Daddy with you, you are always home. You are our sweet little man and we aren’t going anywhere without you.
All of our love,