list-making mode

12 months

The kugel for tomorrow night’s break fast is in the oven. Lunches are made. Coffee is prepared. The daily chaos you create in your room and in the living room has been made less chaotic. All of the little projects that come before blogging are done (I even finished up the photo book for your second six months, of which I’m quite proud). So Obie and I are curled up on the couch, and I can focus on filling in the seemingly huge gap since you turned one–an eternity ago.

Life has been a bit frenetic lately as we ramp up to our big trip to Italy–where you’ll meet your Nonno and get your first taste of my beloved Verona–in less than two weeks. We planned this months ago and kind of tucked it back behind all of the other things that came first: the beach, the summer, your birthday. Now it’s imminent, and I’m in full-on list-making mode. We’ve squeezed as many plans into September as we possibly could, and I’ve managed to keep this coming weekend free for last-minute whatever and for our first stabs at packing, if we can get around to it. I’ve been focused this week on stockpiling an arsenal of distractions–from a mini Doodle Pro to pipe cleaners to a little library of iPad apps–for the plane rides. I pulled out the iPad yesterday evening and let you go at it for the first time. It kept you busy for a full 20 minutes before you’d had it. Twenty minutes is good! Twenty minutes will do. Especially if I can get several 20-minute chunks out of it at a time.

I was exactly your age, 13 months old, when Nonna boarded an international flight (in the opposite direction, of course) to bring me to the States for the first time. I’ve been traveling overseas for my entire life, and yet this trip–this plane ride–is causing me angst. It got so bad at one point a few days ago that I told Daddy I wanted to cancel our plans. I’ve never been afraid of flying, but because we’re taking you with us, I’m having misgivings. It’s my responsibility to keep you safe, but in getting on that plane, I’m handing over that responsibility to someone else, and that’s hard for me to reconcile. The panic has subsided a bit since talking about my fears with several people, and I’m focusing on what lies on the other side of the air travel to get me through: 11 days of watching you get to know your Nonno, of walking you around the prettiest city in the world, of playing with your zia Ila and of eating better than we have in a long, long time. I’m anticipating you’ll initiate a long love affair with pasta. These things make me happy, but I’m wondering: Has anyone else out there traveling by plane (or overseas) with your baby for the first time had this same anxiety?

You, of course, are oblivious. You’re much too busy discovering more and more of the world each day.

You’re still not walking, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not getting everywhere you want to go as efficiently imaginable. You’re so confident on your feet, cruising everywhere while barely holding on. You can go up and down stairs without ever slowing down, and you’ve even begun to step up with alternating feet if we’re holding your hands and helping you lift yourself. You’ll take several steps between bases, like the coffee table the couch, and you’ll walk quickly and confidently while holding our hands. You just haven’t let go to do it on your own, but I know it’s coming soon. (You have your first pair of real shoes–the cutest little pair of Saucony sneakers I’ve ever seen–so we’re ready.)

You’ve got your third tooth, lower incisor just left of center, and you’ve begun using a fork to feed yourself. You’ve even gotten the knack of stabbing food with it and navigating it to your mouth. It’s not consistent, but you seem to like doing it, and even just holding the fork makes you happy. You have a great relationship with the whole milk we started you on about a week after your birthday; despite our concerns about an intolerance (we supplemented you with soy formula from the time you were three months old because you had such negative reactions to the milk protein-based formula), you’re handling it just fine with no apparent digestive fallout.

Your language has blossomed; every day, you spit out something new that catches me completely by surprise and makes my heart soar. In addition to mamma and dada (still not entirely consistent, but it’s clear you know who we are), you now say car (so clearly!), hat, cup, cat and kitty (that one’s new as of today). You can tell us how old you are (pointing your index finger), and you still look up and say your version of “round and round and round” when we ask where the fan is. You know the sounds that monkeys and ducks make, and you’re working on cows, pigs and cats. When Wild Kratts comes on, you sing the opening jingle: “Wild Wild Wild Kratts” comes out “wa wa wa.” One of your favorite expressions is “no no no,” and you’ll accompany it with a finger wag.

But it’s not just talking; your comprehension is astounding. You can make the sign for “butterfly” when you see one in a book. You throw your hands in the air when you choke and we say “arms up.” You do the same when we ask you how big you are. You point to your head and to other people’s noses on command. You know the words “ball” and “plane” (as they relate to your toys), and you know your dolls are named Luis and Andy (as in Raggedy). And you’re beginning to generalize, so “car” is both your toy cars and Mamma and Daddy’s big cars. “Hat” applies to Daddy’s, yours and the toy crown in your room. Also, you’ll pull out books and look at them intently, flipping the pages, whereas just a week ago your main goal was simply pulling them off the shelf and throwing them on the floor.

It’s all just so amazing to watch, to see the synapses connecting and know that you’re getting it. I could go on and on about other things you’ve figured out–to my surprise and delight–but I’ve mentioned the biggies. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

In the meantime, I’ll keep making lists while you figure out your world. Have an easy fast, everyone. May this new year bring us all much joy and peace–and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life. ❤

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once around the sun

12 months

These past couple of weeks have been busy and exhilarating as we’ve immersed ourselves in celebrating your 365 (plus, now) days on this beautiful planet of ours. Can you believe how far you’ve come? You’ve traveled all the way around the sun. And while you were at it, you grew from a fairly unexciting (let’s be honest) blob into an enchanting, sweet, funny, big-hearted little boy.

Three Sundays ago (already!), we hosted your first birthday bash in a shelter in Patapsco State Park. We were blessed with glorious weather–not overly hot or muggy but delightfully warm with no precipitation–and 80 of your closest friends and family gathered to celebrate YOU. Nonna and I spent most of Friday and Saturday preparing five dozen cupcakes–split between my favorite chocolate cake recipe and a new, yummy lemon one–that we decorated with M&M’s to look like little blue, green, yellow and orange fish. I applaud myself for not getting overly Pinterest-y with the party, and there was no real theme, per se, but we had a banner and balloons; I strung up your weekly photos to show how much you’ve grown; and we threw in some sweet, personal touches like a homemade birthday hat and a “guest book” that you’ll enjoy for many years in its other capacity as Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday To You!

You were adorable. You delighted in being pulled around in your wagon, sharing rides with some of your friends, and when everyone sang to you, you broke into a huge grin. You gingerly poked your finger into your smash cake and sucked off the icing; eventually, though, you went whole hog, painting your high chair and yourself in a lovely, Smurfy hue. When the party died down, you slept off your frosting hangover in your stroller while we cleaned up.

On your actual birthday, Daddy and I played hooky to spend the day with you and reminisce about how you came into the world exactly one year prior. Nonna and Opa joined us for a trip to the zoo, where we walked for hours. You loved making monkey noises at the chimps and staring up at the giraffes, who hung their heads over the retaining wall to greet you (and undoubtedly to wish you a happy birthday). You fell asleep in the car on the way home and slept for hours, so we opened your mini mountain of presents without you.

Since then, we’ve been recuperating: assembling presents, finding room for them in our increasingly tiny house, writing thank-you notes, updating your baby book, editing photos, putting your cards into your scrapbook and just generally trying to keep up with you, a bigger challenge every day.

I could write thousands of words about what this past year has meant to me, how becoming a mom and finding my groove in that role has changed me and made me a stronger, more content human being. But it’s hard for me even to begin pulling that thread, as it unravels so many emotions. I have too much to say. Instead, I’ll share what I wrote in Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday To You! on a recent quiet evening when I had a chance to reflect on how your life has filled and shaped mine–and on how you have gifted me the best year of my life.

To my sweet Guppy, on your first birthday,

When you were still in my belly, I thought often about who you might become. I wondered how the tiny being who kept me company all those months would turn out. I never imagined a you as extraordinary as the 1-year-old you are, as smart, funny, vivacious, loving and bold as you’ve shown yourself to be. I also didn’t expect you to teach me so much in just one short year. And I’m not talking the basics, because sure, it’s important to remember to use the front flap of the diaper to protect oneself from the line of fire when in the midst of a change. And no one will argue that naps make everything better. I’ve also learned about your favorites–toys, books, blankets, foods–and about what makes you feel better when you’re sad or cranky. I can interpret your babbles better than anyone (except for maybe Daddy). But you’ve taught me so much more: that my heart can grow infinitely in all directions and you’ll continue to fill it with love; that I’m capable of a patience I’ve never conjured up before and that slowing life down comes more easily than I’d ever anticipated; that I should appreciate each moment–and try to stamp it in my memory–because each milestone passes more quickly than the last; that doing nothing in particular with you is actually everything; that I should wish nothing away. I know you’ll continue to teach me things for the rest of my life–that in the end, you may teach me more than I teach you, although hopefully I’ll teach you enough to help you not just survive but thrive when you’re ready to face the world on your own. I hope I can teach you kindness, compassion, courage, confidence, perseverance and tolerance. I hope I can teach you to be fair. Mostly, I hope I can teach you to love without limits–the way I love you. Thank you for that incredible gift. I am so very lucky to call you mine.

Happy birthday, Sweet Pea! Here’s to all of your many, many, many future trips around the sun–may they bring you endless joy!

I love you so much,