Begin the Beguine
Avid fans of Sesame Street will recognize the title of this post as the line that the Count sings to the Countess after the number 14, which makes it appropriate for a summary of Austen's 14th month of being. (It's also, incidentally, the title of a Cole Porter song.)
This update is likely to be as much about me as about Austen, as this is the month I started working full-time again, under the best possible scenario: The team I worked on for almost 7 years when we lived in California had an opening right when I decided I wanted to work again. I get to work on a team I love, doing work I enjoy, creating a product I actually use (I'm using it right now, in fact)—and all from home, where I can take Austen breaks instead of coffee breaks. It's taken a couple months to get all the paperwork processed, but that gave us time to sort out our nanny issues. I'm thrilled to say that after many frustrating weeks of combing craigslist and being unable to find a good match for us, our current nanny decided to come on with us full-time. This is a good thing for me, of course, but it's also fantastic for Austen because Hannah and he have similar social-butterfly personalities. They're out right now playing with another nanny and her 16 month-old charge, in fact.
We also have Hannah to thank for the fact that Austen is now enrolled in a music class for toddlers; she did all the research, located a class near us, and called to see if we could come watch a sample class before deciding to enroll. I went to the first three or four classes, and they're really fun. We got a songbook and CD to play at home so Austen can become familiar with the songs, and now that he recognizes the tunes and the activities associated with them, he's TOTALLY INTO MUSIC CLASS. The great part is that even if I can't make it to any more classes, I can still sing and play with Austen in the evenings because I know the songs now, too.
In addition to the music and the activities—perhaps more than the music and the activities—Austen likes music class because it affords him the opportunity to hug and kiss other little kids. He's been hugging (and knocking down) other kids since before he could walk, and over the past month he's started trying to kiss them, too. He started by practicing on me a couple months ago, and once he got the hang of closing his mouth more and not probing with his tongue, he decided to spread the love around... which, now that I think of it, is probably why we've all been sick since Christmas. On Sunday he enountered an 8 or 9 year-old at the ice rink in Aston who crouched down and smiled at him, and Austen immediately moved in for the kiss. Unfortunately, the kid was wearing a skateboarding helmet on which Austen bonked his head every time he leaned in. Didn't stop him from trying five or six times before Al finally suggested to Austen that he give up.
After experimenting with a few different formats, we've settled into a regular routine around here now. Austen now gets a bath every night (unless we're out late) instead of every other night; Al gets in the tub with him and then takes a shower while I put Austen's jammies on. We watch a little Sesame Street together, and then between 7 and 8pm I say, "ready for bed?" Austen lifts his arms up in the "pick me up!" gesture, I say "kiss Daddy good night!", Austen kisses Daddy, and I take him upstairs. On go the HEPA filter and the humidifier, and then I carry Austen around the room while singing a series of standards and lullabies. The last tune is always the classic lullaby, though I vary the lyrics from night to night. I've settled on these two verses at a minimum, however:
Lullaby, and good night
In your crib you'll be sleeping
With your eyes closed, fast asleep
We'll be here when you wake up
Close your eyes, little bean
We'll be here in the morn
Sleep 'til seven or eight
And we'll come get you then.
The whole put-down routine takes from five to fifteen minutes, depending how ready for sleep (and how snarffly) Austen is. If he's especially resistent, I sing more animated songs first and then work my way to the slower ones.
Despite the admonishment to sleep until 7 or 8, Austen's up between 6 and 6:30 most mornings. Al gets up with him, plays with him down in the basement, and feeds him breakfast while I sleep a while longer ('til 7:45 most mornings, 7 on Mondays) and then get dressed. We trade off at around 8 or 8:15, and Al gets ready for work while I get Austen dressed. (Mondays are a little trickier, because Hannah comes at 8 instead of 9.) So far it's working really well for us, though I'm sure Al could use more sleep than he's currently getting. He much prefers getting up with Austen to putting him down, however, so I think the division of labor suits us.
Austen seems to be adapting fairly well to the fact that I'm working and that Hannah is here more often, although I think he's a little sad that he doesn't get at least one day alone with me during the week. The other day I held him while Hannah got her coat on in preparation for taking Austen out in the stroller, and Austen waved bye-bye at her. I said, "oh no, honey, she's not leaving yet. You're going out together." He waved again, more firmly this time, and both Hannah's and my hearts broke a little. He couldn't have been saying, "Mommy's here now, you can go" more clearly. I was secretly glad when we had an uncovered childcare day last week (Hannah wasn't full-time yet, and the temporary nanny got sick), so Austen and I could spend the day together running errands. I'm also making sure that I get down on the floor and play with him whenever I'm not working.
Of course, that means there's no time for chores. Obviously weekday baking has fallen by the wayside (though I can sometimes squeeze in a batch of muffins on the weekends), and the laundry tends to pile up now. I have figured out how to incorporate Austen into a couple chores, however; it started with stirring pots on the stove, and then progressed to unloading the dishwasher (perhaps because he realized that's where his beloved spatulas come from). I do all the dishes and glasses, and Austen unloads the silverware. He started by handing me one knife or fork or spoon at a time, which I would put away in the drawer while saying, "thank you!", but the other day he carried several spoons in a row to the drawer and tossed them in himself.
Austen also likes it when I vacuum, though the appeal of the vacuum cleaner is the exhaust that blows out the front—which means he's constantly standing right where I need to vacuum. We've worked out a game where I chase him around with the vacuum cleaner, and in this way he gets his hair blown back as desired, and I eventually get the whole room cleaned.