So yesterday it was Ten Things, and today it's ten months: Austen turns ten months old today. Such a sweet kid he is, too. He's gotten really good at going to bed in the past month; I nurse him for a little while, and whether he falls asleep with the nipple in his mouth or ends the session by rolling onto his hands and knees and giving me a big grin, he knows that when I pick him up and carry him up to his room, it's bedtime. (He also probably knows by me saying, "it's bedtime, boo", but more on that in a minute.) I hold him for a minute or two, give him a snuggle, tell him that I love him, and put him down. Al then covers him up with the blanket, I raise the crib rail, we tell him we'll see him in the morning, and that's it. He's down for 8 or 9 hours at least. At most there's a small whimper.
I mentioned in the Boston post that Austen seemed to understand me when I told him that he had to leave his hat on if he wanted to stay on the swings, and now I'm certain that he's understanding at least some of the things I'm telling him. Today he sat down hard on the floor and bonked his head on the couch, and it couldn't have hurt that much—the couch is soft—but I think it startled him. He started to cry when neither Al nor I picked him up immediately, and then he positively screamed when it was Al who reached for him instead of me. When he started to go into hysterics, I motioned for Al to hand him over, and I sat him on my lap facing me and let him put his head on my shoulder. He huh-huh-huh-waaaaaaaaaaaaahed for a little while with me murmuring in his ear, "it's OK, sweetie. You're fine, mommy's here" (and whispering to Al that this was more of a mind-running-through-all-the-horrible-things-that-could-have-happened cry than an I'm-hurt cry). I then sat him up and tried to get him to make eye contact with me, and when he continued to cry, I said, "do you want a drink of water? Would that make it better?" He immediately looked toward the water bottle lying on the couch, and then he reached for it. See? The kid was paying attention. I gave him some water, and the episode was over. He also knows the word "peekaboo" for sure, and will duck behind my leg, my laptop, or a towel to play, popping up at varying intervals to try to surprise me or Al.
Austen is seriously making strides in the walking department. (Oops, yes, I guess that's a pun.) He's furniture surfing with gusto now, boldly walking the length of the couch, circling the child-friendly cube ottomans, and looping the cherry side table to try to squeeze between the couch and the window. This morning he pushed the lightweight leather ottoman (which we usually use as a shoe-donning station) around the kitchen while holding a wooden salad spoon in one hand. In fact, he often has something in one hand these days; he'll find something interesting and hang onto it for hours. Today it was the wooden spoon, then a Sharpie, and then a set of chopsticks from the Han Ah Reum (which he refused to let go of even when we put him in the tub); yesterday it was the X-10 remote that Al donated to his toybox; the day before that, it was my old hairbrush; and the day before that it was a set of baby nail clippers. I'm not sure whether the precious object fascination has anything to do with him no longer insisting that we hold both of his hands before he'll take a step, but he's definitely (a) not releasing the precious object, and (b) not waiting for us to grab both hands before he takes off. He tends to overthink the stepping motion a bit when getting an assist from only one side, causing him to move more sideways than forward; I know it's more of a mental problem than a physical one because I've seen him just do it—walk normally—when his attention is focused on something other than his feet.
Meanwhile, Austen is also getting more mobile when he's not on his feet. He's not crawling yet; though he often gets on all fours and wiggles a lot, he doesn't go anywhere from that position. Instead, he'll either roll onto one hip and scootch forward using one arm and one foot, or he'll roll onto his belly and wriggle backwards. He can get really far either way, as well as by ooching forward on his butt (i.e., by using his heels to drag his butt forward).
On the same day Austen clearly said "Mama" for the first time, I also thought I heard him say "up-pa" when he wanted to be picked up. I wasn't sure, though, especially since I couldn't remember ever saying "up" to him when I picked him up. When he said it again the next day, however, I started paying attention to what Al and I were saying so I could figure out where he'd gotten it. It turns out that I do ask him, "do you want to be picked up?" quite a bit, so that's probably where the association came from. In any case, he knows "up" now. I think I also heard him say "Papi" when David Ortiz came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning tonight, but I can't be sure. I'll have to test that theory tomorrow afternoon. ;)
One of Austen's bottom teeth has pushed its way up past the gumline, and its partner is now just breaking the surface as well. Meanwhile, the canine that started the teething bonanza is also sticking up/out, and once in a while, when Austen tilts his head while eating, we can see the top two teeth working their way down. The overall impression when you look at his mouth is that there are teeth, plural, even though it's really only the one sticking up significantly.
This has been my first month of full-time stay-at-home momhood since Austen was three months old, and it's been an adjustment. Today I'm feeling fairly positive about my mothering abilities, perhaps because Al took vacation and was around the house most of the day (except when he went out to play pickup hockey), but there are days I feel like a completely crap mother—especially when I can't actively play with Austen all the time like the babysitter did. I find I need to break up my week somehow, or I'll go bonkers. In the past couple weeks I've driven down to Maryland to visit my parents for a couple days mid-week, and to visit our friend Allison and her new 6 week-old, Nora, on a Thursday. (It helps to know that Allison was desperate to see us as we were to see her. :) I also met in person here in Philadelphia a woman I met online through this blog on a day when we both desperately needed some adult interaction.
When I can't think of anywhere to go (or I can't justify wasting gasoline just to save my sanity), Austen and I walk to Schuylkill River Park, our new favorite place to play on the swings. I like it better than the park at 23rd and the Parkway partly because the walk there isn't uphill, partly because there's rarely a line for the baby swings (despite there being only two), partly because the walk there is longer and more peaceful, and partly because the park is big enough not to feel crowded even when the dog runs, the basketball courts, the open grassy areas, and the playground equipment are all occupied. Austen is starting to get into the toddler climbing gym as well as the swings, and he gets really excited when other children get on the gym with him. He really wants to play.
We're still using the Bjorn occasionally, but it's more rare now. I mostly either carry Austen in my arms or use the stroller, though I did buy a Kelty Kids hiking backpack at REI this month. (I was mostly inspired to do this by our walk around Walden Pond; I'd like to go on other hikes with Austen and be able to see my feet.) So far I've only used the backpack once, when I needed to vacuum the house this week and didn't have anywhere else to put Austen while doing it. (The Exersaucer was retired last month; Austen's gotten too tall for it, but more importantly, he started to see it as a confining device rather than a source of freedom as he once did.) I found it quite strenuous to crouch down to suck up Cheerios and other debris in the kitchen and dining room, but other than that, the backpack worked like a charm. Austen just sat up there playing with the baby nail clippers, and he only pulled my hair once or twice.