lulu letters: month 6

Dear Lulu,


The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.
~ Arnold J. Toynbee

I have no idea who Arnold J. Toynbee is, but this quote of the day that appeared in my inbox this morning describes my time with you. You remind me to stop doing and spend more time being. Being without needing and having to and shoulding and coulding.

Simply being. Don't get me wrong: we work hard! We really do. Yet your work is mostly about play. Learning how to roll and sit and use your voice and feed yourself...How fun is that?! Way more fun than vacuuming, let me tell you. Still, you inspire me to try harder at playing. Wait. I feel like I'm missing the point somehow...


Anyway, without further adieu, here are some windows into our world during your sixth month.



3.18


Every baby finds ways to get from here to there, and your current locomotion of choice is back scooching. You push with your legs into a “bridge”-type position, flailing your hips back and forth and thumping up and down. A marshmallow ball of energy. It happens every time I put you on your changing table, and you did it for about 20 minutes straight on your playmat today.


So. Much. Energy.



3.19


Your cheeks are always cherub-rosy after your morning nursing session, when you’re bursting full of happy.


On the flip side, you continue to scream bloody murder for your afternoon naps. WHAT is that all about? Sometimes I have to surrender and give you a boob, but you still have the darndest time settling down. You sleep, wake up screaming, go back to sleep, and...repeat multiple times until you finally finally FINALLY reach the other side of slumber. Usually.



3.23


Spring lifts our spirits! Long neighborhood walks, strolls down a Main Street that’s crawling out of hibernation, library book pick-ups and pops into our favorite friendly shop, outside visits with friends...Your Papa and I received our first COVID vaccine shots two days ago, and studies show that you receive antibodies through my milk. Hope springs eternal, and life is beautiful beyond belief.


You wore your new denim jacket on our walk yesterday, and I wore mine, because I just couldn’t help myself. You explored grass for the first time, running it between your fingers as you sat between my legs. It took you about 45 minutes to finally go down for your afternoon nap, but you slept from 3:30-4. This is progress.


Your squawk is less present the past few days! It’s as if you know that we are all in a more rosier space. Everything feels more bearable these days.


We went for a family drive before dinner, and your Papa suggested stopping at a winery. We have been waiting to visit a winery since we came upstate a year ago, so my heart leapt out of my chest at the very idea. They all closed at 5 pm, and the closest option was a cider house we’d never explored. We sat on a picnic table, you between us, cider in hand, with a view of fields and Cayuga Lake. It doesn’t get much better than that, my love. You reached for Papa’s glass as soon as we sat down. Like mother, like daughter Get ready for a new “happy hour” routine!


You went to town on the peas you had for dinner. The way you opened your mouth and explored the peas in the suctioned bowl on your highchair tray...I remember feeding babies with spoons, but you grabbed the spoon on the first bite, as if to say, “I got this, Mama.” You do got this, my goofy brainiac.


What else...You are so close to sitting on your own! I prop you in the nursing pillow, and you lean forward and backward (sometimes a little too far back, as you’re still figuring out your center of gravity) reaching for toys. When you sit in your Papa’s lap, you use those strong core muscles to curl forward and more upright.


You are a roly poly machine. My little Olympian! You often roll right onto your tummy as soon as I put you on your back. You’re still not sure how to roll back, but you’ll get there soon. It’s nearly impossible to change you now! You’re so squirmy, trying to roll over and getting stuck facing the wall, because there’s not enough space. This morning we found you on your belly in your bassinet, which was terrifying for us new parents. Turns out, it’s a-okay. Forgive us for waking you up to roll you over.


Yes, we’re all shedding our restless coats as we glide into the place we’ve been yearning for: release from winter’s stifling cocoon.



3.24


Yesterday you stuck your butt up in the air during tummy time, a new move that you tried again today. Everyone says that it’s wonderful-slash-easier when you’re not mobile, but you are so ready to do your own thing, and we are so ready to experience that with you. There’s so much to explore! As Pops says, “The world is your oyster.”


You have these funny new right arm flaps, up and down. Just the right arm, pumping away, like a full arm wave. Zia Leah says it looks like you’re enjoying a real knee-slapping joke.


I don’t think I mentioned this before, but after you give “kisses,” you turn your head away, as if to say, “There you go. I’m done.” It’s hilarious.


You are more and more of a baby – if that makes sense. The way you wake up happy and gab away to yourself, then greet me with a smile that takes over your face and my heart...Stop it.



*Side note on your Mama over here: Today I sneezed without peeing myself for the first time since you were born. I know you don’t want to know that, but it was a momentous moment that had to be shared.



3.25


After your bedtime bottle, I lift you to my left shoulder. You sigh a deep sigh and nuzzle into my neck, your face inward.


We are home.



3.27


You discovered the “Mom to Be” crown and sash hanging on the wall. For whatever reason, this is the morning they finally caught your attention, even though they’ve been hanging there since Day 1. I held the crown, and you delicately touched the fake flowers. I put it on my head, and you beamed – almost like you understood the joke. How I treasure our time together in our nursing chair. You only nurse twice a day now, and you’re often crankier in the afternoons, so mornings are pretty magical.


You’re apparently going through a developmental leap that includes noticing more details. Sounds about right: you’re all about tags these days. You have a small blanket-thing with satin ribbon “tags” all around it, and your favorite tag is the actual tag. Last night you were captivated by the tag on your polar bear, which we aptly named Amy Polar (Poehler) Bear.


Another part of this leap is understanding relationships between things – inside/outside, on top of/below, etc. You’re not quite there yet, but we put a teething bracelet inside the pocket of your cloth book last night so that part of it was sticking out. We took it out, showed it to you, and repeated until you eventually pulled it out yourself. Yet another smallest of small novelties


Watching each new synapse fire with understanding is a wonder. By the way, you know how one of my nicknames is Wonder Rocket? Your Papa called you Wonder Muffin last night. It might be my favorite nickname yet.



3.28


You have befriended the piano. When we first began sitting down together, you touched the keys ever so lightly, growing frustrated with the lack of sound. Now you sit down and pound, your arms flailing with excitement, reaching out and trying to consume the music books.


Welcome to the world of music, Wonder Muffin.



3.30


I think you might have moved through a growth spurt. You slept for about an hour and a half a few mornings ago! That might have been, at least in part, because you fell asleep on your belly with your left arm pinned under you, completely face planted into your mattress. I tiptoed in and carefully moved your head so that at least one nostril was airborne, and there you remained for all of 80 minutes.



3.31


When you see your Mema or Pops, you light up like you’ve been cooped up in the long winter of our home, and they are spring. Watching you with them is the world at once come alive, resting in peace, and turning gently as it always has. I have no better way to describe it at the moment. You are of them, and you hold everything for them – love, joy, promise, relief, wonder, beyond...


They grab you up as soon as we arrive and can’t wait to get their hands on you after you’re done nursing. You are a magnetic pull that collects every heart’s filaments.



4.1


My beautiful girl, there are so many tiny things I want to capture here. I want to remember them forever, and I want you to have as many windows as possible into the simple world we created together. A house made of unbreakable glass.


What are those tiny things right now?


Your little breathing is such a constant.


You’re fascinated with the wooden spiral mobile that hangs over your bed. These days, you look toward it at bedtime. As we wait for your bottle to warm, I sit you on the edge of your crib and spin it. You are mesmerized. You reach out and grab it, your breathing growing more rapid, your little roly poly body squirming with delight.


A few other points of bedtime interest:

  • We made it through a book or two many nights this week! Usually you can’t wait for the bottle you know is on its way, and you fuss until it arrives. You grab it with your outstretched hands and “Huh huh huh!” your open mouth to it as if you hadn’t just had another bottle about an hour earlier. (You store up like a camel at night.) So much for Mama’s romantic notions of bedtime reading.

  • I always try to burp you mid-bottle, and you always put up a fight. I give you a few hard pats before surrendering. You settle in during the second half no matter how restless you were during the first half. The consistency of these small rituals of ours is rather uncanny.

  • We have quite an arsenal of lotions and ointments and remedies and sleep aids, which I didn't realize until Mema put you to bed once, and I listed all the things over the phone:

  • In our bedroom (where you still sleep), we:

  • turn on the fan

  • fill and turn on the cool air humidifier

  • pull down the blackout shade

  • On you, we (usually in this same order, which sounds more OCD than it seems...):

  • put on a special night diaper + diaper balm

  • do a quick massage with lotion

  • dab a second type of balm on your eczema/rash-prone areas – your "knee pits" (as Zia Leah used to call them when she was little), the back of your head, and under your chin

  • rub some all-natural eucalyptus balm on the soles of your feet, as well as a tiny bit on your chest right before we zip you up, so you don't get it on your hands)

  • put on your sleep sack

  • squeeze a few drops of saline up your nose

Those last two help with your night congestion. That last one is essentially waterboarding. We waterboard our baby every night. You even know it's coming and brace yourself, which makes it even worse. But it's so quick, and it helps. Forgive us for any future PTSD related to saline. Or noses.



4.2


You have started eating your toes. You’ve been playing with them for awhile now, and they have now found a new home in your mouth. I got a pair of socks with jingly balls attached to the toes from Lovevery, which you weren’t interested in the first time. Yesterday was your “Aha!” moment with those. Is there anything funnier than a baby whose feet jingle when they kick? I doubt it.


Speaking of Lovevery, we have some new toys – some a bigger hit than others. You like the spinning thing for a few seconds. After a few spins, you look away, as if to say, “That’s it? BORING.” The magic tissue box is more interesting, and I have a feeling the intrigue will continue to grow. Right now you mostly just suck on the tissues, but you’re starting to pull them out a bit.


You’re closer and closer to sitting! You can now sit in your green donut, as long as one of us has a hand ready to catch you when you keel over. If you’re in the typical “lounge” pose, you often curl forward, trying to get more upright. I can still put you in there while I take a shower, which I realize won’t last much longer.


You enjoy my singing voice. I don’t sing often enough, so I’ll keep working on that. It soothes you when you start crying on your changing table because you’re too hungry and can’t wait for me to change you first. The Itsy Bitsy Spider has calmed you within seconds two days in a row.


Your little tongue reaches for everything that’s near it – out front, out to the side...It’s hysterical, that soft little flapper.


Today, for the first time, you started grabbing my boob after you were done nursing. Didn’t feel so great to be manhandled like that, but kind of funny that today was the day you suddenly gained interest.

Your Papa and I recently watched videos of your first days. “Miraculous” doesn’t begin to describe it. Videos of me holding you for the first time, meeting your Zia Leah and Pops, your Mema singing to you. You look like such a tiny creature, eyes nearly black, movements so...exploratory...like you’re moving through molasses. So alert from the first moments after your birth. People still comment on how alert and present you are, and you emerged into this world that way, my wide-eyed beauty.


Your legs were so spindly, your skin red and wrinkly, waiting to be filled with the firm pillowy baby fat that now prevents you from wearing the cute Milkbarn pajamas I so desperately want to buy for you. Your sounds were soft squeaks. Everything about you was foreign, just as everything was foreign to you – except our voices. You knew those well.


And then to see you in my arms, the beautiful being that you are, sucking away on whatever toy you were holding, jamming your fingers in your mouth, your onesie drenched with spit up, grunting as you pooped...I kissed you a zillion times, but it was completely unsatisfying because it wasn’t enough. There is just too much love and joy and wonder and awe.


You.



4.4


Happy Easter, my love!! Your Papa calls it a fake holiday, but never believe that for a second. Holidays are what you make them. Is Valentine’s Day a consumer holiday? Perhaps. But it’s also an excuse to show people you love them, and if that’s not a great holiday, I don’t know what is.


I digress.


Easter! You were dressed to the nines in your blue and white checked Easter jumper with a “Happy Easter” bib, white knee socks with bows, and a gray sweater that brought it all down to Earth just enough. I wore my pearls, and Pops wore a light blue button down with his tomato tie.


We kicked off the celebration with a mimosa toast – the first I’d had since some Manhattan ladies’ brunch over a year ago, I’m sure. You reached right out for mine, and I snapped a photo of you with your tongue in my big blue wine glass. Perfection.


The table was ever-festive with a blue and yellow tablecloth as we dined on deviled eggs (my one request), stuffed portobellos, shrimp cocktail, and salmon – with my contribution, lemon bars, for dessert. Mema presented you with your first Easter basket, setting it on your new highchair tray so that I could only see the top of your head poking above it. (I only gave you an Easter bag that contained your first Easter duds, and you seemed disappointed when I pulled them out. “Ummm...That’s it? Lame.”)


You scooched around on your new playmat and enjoyed your first (quick) game of Bocce, wrapped up in a blanket in the cool sun, smiling gleefully into the brisk wind as we wondered if you were too chilly.


My little bunny bean.



4.5


Papa sits you on the couch next to him in the morning, propped between him and a couch arm, and you look like a little old man with your hand resting randomly on your leg. You are so close to sitting on your own. I set you up in the nursing pillow every day now and watch each tiny development over time. One day you pitch forward for a toy, and the next, it’s less of a pitch and more of a lean. One day you’re stuck in the forward position, and the next, you’re able to lean back ever so slightly.


The new hair on top of your head is blonder than the newborn hair in the back. It’s so fluffy, and it sticks straight up when I pull off a hat. I rub that soft fuzzy head all day now.


I want to touch you constantly – kiss you, squeeze you, tickle your soft skin...I know it’s a lot. Talk to your Zia Leah if it ever feels like too much, because she can commiserate! I did the same thing to her when she was a baby.



4.6


I hope I never forget how you roll to your side and scrunch into a ball, wrapping your arms around my hand when I put it on your chest to soothe you. Almost every evening, like clockwork, you cry/scream out about an hour after we put you to bed. One of us goes in and rocks your chest with a hand. It doesn’t take much. Do you just need one more peek at us, one more point of connection, before fully settling in? We can’t figure it out.


In other news, you are already a winery pro, Lulu. The three of us are continuing our winery tour, and you are always calm and content, chilaxin’ away as your parents enjoy this new luxury.


You continue to defy physics by growing exponentially cuter and cuter. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of changing you before an outing or otherwise caught up in “doing” something, I pause and just take you in. I’m suddenly knocked off my feet by a wave that crashes into my soul and leaves me standing in a puddle of oxytocin-laced seawater that dribbled down to my toes.


The past few days have been much calmer: very little fuss in general – even in the evenings before bed – no squawks and very few dinosaur growls. We are in somewhat of a nap groove. You still take two shorter naps in the morning, but they seem to be on a positive trajectory overall, with one being nearly an hour long most days. We are out and about most afternoons, and you take at least one short car nap. You have been taking a 5-5:30ish catnap all week, which helps you feel calmer before we start bedtime around 6:45.


All in all, we’re doing it, and it’s liberating. I’m no longer fighting challenges. Are they improving, or am I just more immune to them? I think it’s a combination. Perhaps some subconsciously shifted perspective. Whatever the forces at play, we all seem more settled into life together.


This was my daily quote today, and it rings so true:


We take our colors, chameleon-like, from each other.

Thank you for giving me the rainbow every single day.



4.7


Your dinosaur growl shifted to a dolphin squeak yesterday. Loving this exploration of the animal kingdom!


I packed a huge storage container full of clothes that no longer fit you – from the newborn size that you initially swam in through six-month onesies that I can no longer stuff you into. You officially wear 12-month pants and 9-month tops. Every pair of hand-me-down PJs – both 12 months and 12-18 months – fits too snugly in the arms and legs. Who designs these things?! You’re big, but you’re no beast, and still the appendages fit you like Saran Wrap. Guess it’s time to Google “pajamas for fat babies”...


You played with your first lake stones – at Lodi Point, of course. I sat you down with bare feet, and you dug with feet and hands, turning over stones and listening to that enchanting, soul-comforting click-clack sound. You felt grass between your toes for the first time. I held you over the water and dipped your toes in the cold water super duper quick.


This is your future, sweet pea.



4.9


You had your first playdate today! We spent the afternoon with four-year-old Emerson and her mama, whom I hadn’t seen since Emerson was in her belly. How much has happened since then…


As soon as you saw Emerson, a smile devoured your face, and you couldn’t stop laughing! I think it was because she was the first tiny person you’ve met! Was it confusing? Whatever it was, you were positively beside yourself.


Tonight we had a joy reunion in the Wolff backyard as we spent the evening with our extended “family” – three couples who form our inner circle. The last time we were all together was at the hayride in December 2019. It felt at once like a lifetime ago and like yesterday, how easily we all fell into the collective energy, the well-worn love.


You met so many people who love you so much, including my godfather – whom I deemed your Great Gafayu. (When I was little, I couldn’t say “godfather,” and Gafayu has stuck ever since.) Watching him hold you was pure magic, the evening sunlight haloing the two of you in your bliss bubble. The others had met you at least from afar, but he hadn’t laid eyes on you yet. This is what life is all about, my love. These moments right here.


You were the hit of the party, of course. Beyond exhausted when they arrived at 5 pm, but rallying – listening, laughing, taking it all in – until we left at 7:30. You are the light of our lives.



4.11


Well, sweet girl, we went to our first restaurant post-COVID. We sat outside on the deck of a winery cafe and enjoyed a leisurely meal – me, Papa, Mema, and Pops – because you were, in a word, stellar. Completely content the entire time as you looked around, smiled, played with toys, gabbed to lend your voice to the energetic conversation buzzing around you. You sensed the joy and rode it like a rainbow!


Fun fact #1: You’re all about celery these days. I think it’s your favorite thing to chew on. Is there anything better than watching your baby gnaw on raw vegetables with her gums? Probably, but nothing comes to mind at the moment.


Fun fact #2: Your dolphin squeaks only lasted about two days. We are not longer in the animal kingdom with your new favorite sounds: throat gurgles and mouth bubbles. Admittedly, there are the most tolerable sounds so far, so thank you for that.


Fun fact #3: You’re slowly discovering this thing called “throwing.” I don’t think you really know what you’re doing at this point, but you will soon, and then...watch out!


The most beautiful aspect of mamahood these days is snuggles. You have been so snuggly! It’s the sweetest part of being a Mama so far. That and the way that you have started to reach for me. You give your first version of hugs, wrapping your arms around necks, pulling shoulders closer to you, nuzzling your face into faces and giving “kisses.”


Oh, my heart.



4.12


You are officially a nightroller. Our rolling bean. You still haven’t figured out how to roll from your tummy to your back, so I spent last night rolling you back and got very little sleep as a result. I heard your muffled gabs and saw you face planted in the mattress a few times, which isn’t the most comforting image of one’s baby. It’s “typically” fine to leave you, or so say the experts. That word – “typical” – doesn’t feel like enough of a guarantee, but I suppose you’d instinctually turn your face if you couldn’t breathe, so I’ll have to learn to trust that. Working on it.



4.13


You are so ready to be more mobile! When I lay you on your back now, you almost always assume your version of a yogic Boat Pose – head curled off the floor, legs lifted. I wish I could spring into that pose like you do! Grow those abs, baby bean!!


We seem to have reached an understanding with your morning naps. You’re consistent with two: one around 8:30/9 and another around 11/11:30. The first one is brief, about 30-35 minutes. The second one ranges lately, from 40 minutes to nearly 90 minutes a few days ago. That was a miracle and a half.


Afternoon naps are another story that’s getting pretty old at this point.



4.14


My girl loves hip hop. I rap The Itsy Bitsy Spider (still your favorite song, which, I admit, feels a little disappointing, but I’m accepting it), and you guffaw. Yeah, I guess watching me try to rap is pretty amusing.


You legitimately pose for the camera. I point my camera at you and smile, and you immediately smile right back. Is it disturbing for such a youngster to recognize phone cameras? Kind of? I suppose it’s just reality.


Your Mama took a big leap yesterday and decided to stop tracking your feeds and sleeps. I have been tracking since the day we came home from the hospital, and I have a huge binder full of all the data. I can’t bring myself to throw it away, but what on earth am I going to do with it? It was helpful for a long time, especially as I didn’t need to hold that information in my brain. (“When did she last eat? When might she be hungry again? How much should I give her? Is it time to try another nap?) But, you know, at this point, I think we’re a-okay. Six months feels like a great time to let this go.



4.15


Who is HALF A YEAR OLD?!?!


That's right: YOU. Emmylou. Emmylou Who. Our Lulu, Emmy, little bean, wonder muffin, cutie patootie, sweet pea, angel face...In short, our everything.


We made it through half a year already. Way to go, us!


Happy six-month anniversary of the most incredible day of our lives, Emmylou Wolff VanBruinisse.


I'm out of words. [Mic drop]