LOCOmotion

Gone are the days when Keith and I spent the majority of our time moving Finn from place to place in attempts to keep him entertained and stimulated. Now HE’S the one entertaining US and keeping US moving after HIM. It’s almost insane how only a couple of months ago, Finn had to get around using his skillful rolling techniques, and NOW he’s darting across rooms on all fours with ease and — just in the past week — balancing independently on his own two feet! The best part for me is that rather than just falling over after a couple of seconds, he’s learned to skillfully lower himself down to the ground. Here he is getting a kick out of his new skills after our last music class. Of course, as the laws of the universe seem to dictate, I only captured the shorter episode on camera:

My friend Lisa, who was with us at the time, saw him and said, “Uh oh — it’s only a matter of time now. When he’s walking, you’ll be in big trouble then!” Hmm — I thought we were in trouble already, as evidenced by our recent baby accidents.

What I’m worried about MOST, however, isn’t what Finn’s developing walking skills will allow him to get his hands on; it’s what they may mean for his neurological development. A few months ago, when Finn started cruising around before he crawled, my mom said, “Make sure he learns how to crawl if you want him to be a good reader.” I thought it was an odd statement, to say the least… but then I did some research online and discovered that there really is a long-standing conversation out there about how crawling provides “cross lateral movement [that] enables the brain to cross the mid-section (going from the right side of your body, across the center to the other side).” This “crossing of the midline” is apparently important for the kind of neurological development necessary for types of organizational learning such as reading and writing. Well, we were relieved to see Finn start to crawl, but it wasn’t exactly your traditional hand-knee-hand-knee motion! Finn’s alateral peg-leg shuffle worried me enough that I raised the issue with my pediatrician, who dismissed my concerns quickly, assuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Still, I’ve come across various articles that try to connect a previous lack of cross-crawling with poor reading skills as well as others that tout the benefits of learning through types of physical movement that promote a crossing of the midline, such dancing, music, and sign-language. Then last week I enjoyed an interesting discussion at becoming-mom.net that dealt with the importance of physical play for young children. At the end of the discussion, author Ariana provided a link to an article that discusses the intellectual benefits of knitting, an activity which, among many other things, establishes “laterality” and “stimulate[s] cellular development of the brain.” This, of course, got me thinking about the midline again — and about how, rather than developing a neat cross-crawl, Finn has transitioned from peg-leg scramble into smooth scooting territory:

Ultimately, I only have so much control over how he crawls and when he walks; I believe that most of this is determined by genetics, anyway. Still, a new mom MUST have something to worry about, mustn’t she?

fancy footwork

I’ve always wanted to avoid “genderfying” Finn — at least as much as I can in today’s society, that is. I’d like to expose him to a variety of intellectual, emotional, and physical experiences… whether they involve working with plants or poetry, being outside in the dirt of the garden or inside mixing spices in the kitchen, darting around on the playing field or the dance floor. He can ultimately — or periodically — decide what he likes best. But as long as his father and my brothers are around, he’ll get plenty of experience with soccer balls:

I think I see some budding talent there — or at least a budding aficionado…

Head to toe failures in babyproofing

One of our most urgent projects this summer has been to babyproof the house. Finn is SO amazingly mobile and fast these days that we have to follow him around everywhere like security guards in order to keep him free from potential catastrophe. We’ve done a pretty thorough job with his room, removing all objects his busy hands might use in harmful ways, putting up a fixed closet door in place of the “closet curtain” we had up before, getting a secure baby gate for the doorway, and even padding the low-level marble sill under the window that spans almost an entire wall of the nursery. Although we’re trying to make modifications in the rest of our house, as well, the truth is that we just have to make sure we’re within arm’s reach of Finn when we’re, well, everywhere else.

“Everywhere else” IS, of course, where our first two minor accidents happened — and within 15 hours of one another. First, yesterday evening Finn was playing on his Daddy’s legs on the couch and collided with Keith’s foot, acquiring an odd, toenail-shaped crescent and two-inch scrape on his perfect, little forehead:

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I was so distraught that I actually called the pediatrician’s office. How should I clean it? Should I use neosporin afterward? His forehead was contaminated with a TOENAIL! Ugh!

But it gets worse. This morning in the kitchen, as I pleasantly prepared a quick breakfast and Keith watched Finn terrorize our cleaning robot, Finn somehow cut his baby toe on the foot pedal of the garbage can. Before we realized what had happened, we saw drops of blood on the floor and on his foot and for a moment thought he had lost a toe to the robot. I felt surges of panic, guilt, shame, helplessness. What kind of parents ARE we, anyway? How in such a short period of time could Finn get hurt literally from head to toe?

I realize that I can’t protect Finn from every harm. In nine short months, he’s experienced the agony of teething, the itchiness of a neck rash, the misery of a cold, the irritation of mosquito bites, and the pain of vaccinations (not to mention the startling discomfort of coming into a cold, bright, loud hospital room). Watching my son bleed, however, instilled in me a greater fear of danger. I can see now how easily, quickly, and unexpectedly it comes. I’ve had people chuckle at me and say, “wait until his first stitches,” or “wait until his first broken bone.” His FIRST? What?

It was easier to keep my baby safe when he was in my arms. What do I do now? I can’t babyproof the world, can I?

fumbling fingers

Although Finn is an eager, adventurous eater, we finally realized last week that he’s lagging in the finger food department. Slippery pieces of avocado, nectarine, and banana can be discouraging, I suppose. All he needed was a little practice with some easier to maneuver, organic, low-sugar Os. By day two, he had it down, but his first efforts were priceless:

Now, what about those toes on the table? It’s a bit early to concern ourselves with proper etiquette, no?

The Little Man at Month 9

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This month, month nine, makes my Finn a Little Man of the World. He has experienced more bright lights, sweet milk, and nibbling kisses than he has dark, swooshing days in the womb. Today, as I held him on his back in a sun-heated pool, his head resting on my hand as I weaved his body slowly through the water, he closed his eyes and I wondered if he remembered those safe moments, closed away and warm. These days, it seems, are filled with unavoidable bumps, sharp edges, throbbing gums. Tooth seven (yes, that makes three new teeth in three weeks) has reared its little head, and since they come in pairs, and since the constant line of drool from his chin has not abated in days, the eighth is sure to break through any second. Things are not always easy here on earth. It’s no wonder Finn’s having trouble sleeping, waking throughout the night as if he never slept from 8 to 6 once upon a time. I suppose if he is indeed nostalgic  for his long-lost days of the womb, our carefully chosen organic sheets will likely never be quite so cozy.

No, we’re not always on cloud nine at month nine. But we’re here together figuring it out, our little family. Finn, at thirty inches and three ounces shy of twenty-two pounds, is finding his busy way via peg-leg crawling, standing and sitting and standing and sitting (etc.), cruising, bouncing, bird-watching, listening, grabbing, splashing, laughing, tasting (today, fresh cherries) and, in his own way, talking. His sentences sound real, despite the fact that I cannot understand his words. He is not just practicing, but saying things about this world that, as he becomes part of it, is becoming his.

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Piranha Baby

biting sophie

How can I teach an orally-fixated, teething, 9 month old that biting isn’t fun? I’ve tried modeling better behavior by caressing him softly while saying “gentle,” offering a variety of colorful, cool teething toys instead, putting him down immediately after he chomps me with a quick and direct “no biting” phrase, making a disappointed face, and, of course, when he catches me off guard, involuntarily shouting “ouch!” — which doesn’t seem to deter him, either. Instead, he often smiles and sometimes even laughs afterwards. Clearly, he thinks he’s playing games, regardless of my reaction. Those tiny, precious teeth — two growing nubs and four sweet-looking chicklets — don’t feel so darling!

hulk

simple toys & joys

crab

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After two three-hour flights and nine days abroad with Finn, I must say that traveling with him was much easier than I ever expected. Before leaving for the airport, I tried to arm myself well against a variety of potential disasters by loading up with diapers, changes of clothing, medicines, sanitizers, lotions, books, and laptop complete with a baby Einstein sign language DVD, but the truth is that the simplest of things actually served us best. In addition to our trusty Peanut-Shell sling, which kept our most precious cargo close, accessible, and EASY to carry , the two other most useful items were Mr. Crab, a cheap, tiny, orange bath toy, and Sophie, an overpriced but squeaky and apparently very tasty rubber giraffe. Both are small, lightweight, very portable, easily grasped by little hands, fun for the gums (teeth five and six erupted while vacationing!), useful in any tub, and quickly WASHABLE! I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the last point: it’s quite frustrating to cart around a bag full of previously dropped, germy objects, trying to remember which are clean and which are dirty. Instead, with a few simple, old-school toys and an occasional skip over to the nearest sink, we were able to provide Finn with hours of entertainment  — without ANY batteries or power cables.