When I was your age …

Dear Love Bug,

The weather these past few days has been phenomenal. Yesterday, after a day that went like this–blueberry pancakes, Nonna and Opa’s pool, three-hour nap, Rita’s, PerSmart (one of your favorite places)–we cleaned off the deck table and hauled up the market umbrella and had an incredibly civilized dinner on the deck. Daddy grilled up bacon cheeseburgers. You had already bathed and were in pajamas and wearing flip-flops and you sat in one of the folding deck chairs like a big boy. You plowed through the watermelon feta salad and asked for more. 

I took a look around and realized how charming that moment was. There was no yelling or throwing of food, no crying or whining. We were sitting outside with nothing to see but the tops of the trees that line our backyard. There were cold drinks in bottles and delicious food. It doesn’t happen often, but boy, when it happens, I feel like I can accomplish anything. It was nearly perfect. 

While we were sitting there, you were having a conversation with Daddy about Star Wars, and you said, “Dad, when I was your age, we didn’t even have Star Destroyers.” I nearly choked on my delicious burger.

It all went so well that we decided to try it again this evening. This time we had Trader Joe’s pizza, and you gobbled it up and asked for more. You talked about your day at camp; it sounded awful. You got to wear PJs all day and make your own pineapple pizza for lunch. You were bummed you didn’t get to play in the “wrecker” room, but you spent a lot of time on the playground, and you wanted to give me a tour of it before we headed home. At a certain point, you said, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” Daddy and I both turned into big puddles of mush. 

You’ve been so sweet and so kind lately, sharing your toys and your food, thanking us, saying you love us–I’m not sure what to make of it. But instead of spending my time trying to figure it out, I think I’ll just enjoy it. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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Happy Camper

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been a while, I know, and I apologize, as I’m letting some pretty important moments whiz past without memorializing them. I’ve been wrapped up in a freelance project and, you know, life. But I couldn’t let today slip by without writing to you about it, as it was a Biggie.

This morning Daddy dropped you off at summer camp, aka school (what we grown-ups call preschool). This preschool is pretty cool, though, in that it offers a summer camp program for toddlers that runs mid-June to mid-August, and it’s chock full of activities. We have a color-coded calendar hanging on our fridge, and every single day is marked with a special activity–from make-your-own-lunch Mondays to water day Tuesdays to field trips, karate, movies, computers, magicians, tie-dying, luaus, crab feasts, and more. When I first signed you up and was told you’d be in the 3s room with your friend A (who is precisely two months older than you; I’m guessing you’re the youngest kid in the class, since you don’t turn three until the end of August), I asked if there was a 30s room that I might be able to join. (By the way, you’ve begun to pronounce, “My birthday is the twenty-fifth of August!”)

But beyond the activities, this is the kind of environment in which you spend the day in a classroom with a teacher and a dozen other kids of approximately the same age. It really is your first foray into a school-like atmosphere. You have a cubby on a wall lined with cubbies. You have a backpack and a lunch bag with a tiny bento box inside it that we fill with tiny portions of food. You have a cot for nap time, and you’re expected to drink from a cup (without the sippy) and go potty on your own.

Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck all last night as I was prepping your things–gathering changes of clothes and bedding, carefully deciding what bite-sized foods to include in your lunch–and thinking about what if you can’t manage the potty by yourself or what if you refuse to nap? What if you start acting wild, as you have a tendency to do, and you lash out or use bad words or are destructive? What if you hate it or have anxiety and spend the whole day crying?

You, on the other hand, were cool as a cucumber. You excitedly told everyone you saw yesterday (and it was quite a few people, as we celebrated Father’s Day with Daddy’s side of your family and with Nonna and Opa) that you were going to summer camp. This morning, you did your thing, ignoring my frantic dance around the house to make sure you had everything you need. You even tolerated official first-day-of-camp-but-really-it’s-preschool photos out on the front porch in the classic Maryland June 100 percent humidity.

Daddy gave me a full report on Gchat later in the morning. Apparently, you’d clung to his leg for a second before you got to your classroom. And then you were off! After leaving your things in your cubby, you brushed past him to get into the room and start playing, and he went on his merry way. No tears. No fussing. No nothing.

When I arrived to pick you up, I stopped first at the office to sign you out. Ms. K, the director, told me that Ms. S, your teacher, had made a point to stop in to tell her that you are the sweetest child and that you integrated so well into the classroom with such little fuss that she wished all her kids were like you. I think my jaw must have hit the floor. She went on and on about what an angel you are and how easy you made things and how nicely you played. I asked if she was sure she had the right kid.

In the classroom, Ms. T, the aide, said you did beautifully. There were no tears, as she said they always expect on the first day, and to boot you had no issues with the potty (not even without a stool!), ate all your lunch, and had a great nap. You were happy to see me but weren’t in a rush to leave, and when we finally left the classroom, you wanted to give me a tour of the place. Like you own it. I asked about your favorite part of the day, and you said it was when you went up to the “wrecked” (rec) room in the afternoon (apparently the rain this afternoon kept you from going out to the playground) to play with the balls. You even got to kick a ball from the stage!

I found a shirt for you to wear today that says “HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS.” In the car, you told me, “I love your shirt, Mom!” (Huh?) So I told you I love yours. You asked me what your shirt said, so I told you. For the rest of the evening, you declared, “My shirt says I’m here to make new friends!”

I’m excited for you to develop those friendships and to gossip to me in the car on the way home about the other kids, as you did at Ms. G’s. I’m excited about all the new experiences you’ll have–a cruise in the inner harbor, a magician, a tour of Ravens stadium, building a stuffed animal, cooking your own lunch–and the way you’ll become accustomed to life in a classroom.

“School is good,” you said multiple times after we visited last week. And I truly believe you’re happy there.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

So Long, Daycare

Dear Love Bug,

Happy graduation! Today was your last day at Ms. G’s, where you’ve been in daycare since April 1, 2015, when you were seven months old. You’ve spent a lot of time there and did a lot of growing up. You made friends, had fights, learned to share, probably learned some not-so-great-stuff, got potty trained, learned your ABCs and your phone number, and loved Ms. G hard. You’ve been very attached to her–and to your daycare buddies–for most of your life. It’s been your home and your family when we couldn’t be. 

Now you’re on your way to preschool by way of summer camp (after a week at the beach and a week home with Nonna, Daddy, and me). We’re all super excited for you and super hoping that you’re excited too. We really don’t know what to expect. You’re so ready for this; you’re smart and you’re social; inquisitive and extroverted. I know you’ll thrive off of the structure and stimulation and you’ll learn a million new things. But I’m a bit nervous that despite us talking to you over and over about these upcoming changes, they’re going to take you by surprise, and you’re going to be sad and missing the only daycare you’ve ever known.  

When we left Ms. G’s today, you had one foot out the door and barely batted an eyelash. Despite the graduation balloon and the bag full of gifts, including a beautiful Dr. Seuss frame with a photo of you and Ms. G together and another print of the whole gang, I’m not sure it registered with you that today was any different from any other Friday. I had to remind you to give Ms. G a hug and say goodbye. And who knows when it will hit, if it will hit? Monday? Probably not, since you’ll be distracted with the beach. The following Monday, when we’re back home and you stay home with Nonna rather than heading to daycare? I doubt it. Maybe the first day of summer camp?

In some ways, this feels like the real end of your babyhood. You’re starting school. You’ll be in a classroom with a teacher, and you’ll do that for the next 16-20 (or more!) years of your life. This is it, kiddo. Welcome to the System. 

But also, this is just the end of the beginning. You have so much growing and learning and living to do. At summer camp, you’ll try karate, cook your own lunch, have water play days and field trips (on a bus!), work with computers, sleep on a cot, bring a lunch box and book bag, and make new friends. There’s a whole new world there to be discovered, and perhaps by the time you’re ready to start preschool at the local Y after Labor Day, you’ll really be ready for it. 

Something tells me you’ll be just fine. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

The Ice Cream Man

Dear Love Bug,

You’re obsessed with the ice cream man. We have several that come through our neighborhood, and even though I don’t believe you’ve ever actually gotten a frozen treat from one of them or even have a sense of their inventory, you are incredibly attuned to them. You seem to have superhuman hearing when it comes to them, and you always brightly announce their presence. “The ice cream man!” you shout, usually accompanied by a little dance. 

Today, on our way leaving daycare, the ice cream man passed right by. It must have been the sun that had gone to my head after so many days of not seeing it, but I grabbed your hand, and we chased him down. We ordered a vanilla soft serve with chocolate sauce (these are fancy ice cream men around here–no prepackaged Good Humor bars), and in the blissful afternoon sun, we sat on Ms. G’s front steps while you shoveled it into your mouth. You were so happy that you told everyone who passed by (several parents and Mr. B, Ms. G’s husband) that you’d gotten ice cream from the ice cream man. It was the first thing you said to Daddy when he got home, too. 

Now that you’ve been initiated, I wish you many more opportunities to get your ice cream delivered. And I’ll probably be ordering along with you. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Blister

Dear Love Bug,

It pushed 90 degrees yesterday (on Easter!) so I broke out your new, snazzy green-and-blue Osh Kosh sandals that I’d bought for you to wear this summer. You were instantly smitten, even though they’re a size 8T and about an inch too big still. Nevertheless, you managed to navigate the Big Playground just fine in them (admittedly with socks). 
In the afternoon, you played in the front yard for a good, long time, still wearing your sandals but this time without socks. Then we loaded you up in your wagon and walked all the way down to Grace Cafe and back for our sushi and tempura dinner. When we got back to the house, you sat on the bottom step, pulled off your sandals, and settled in to play. 

When I sat down to play with you, you said, “My toe hurts.” I took a look at where you pointed, and sure enough, there was a little blister just beneath and to the side of your right pinky toe. There was a tiny flap of skin from where it had opened. “Oh,” I said. “You have a blister.” I looked up, and the horror on your face was comically intense. “It’s ok,” I rushed to console you. “It’s just a blister. Mamma and Daddy get them all the time!” You burst into tears and wailed for approximately an hour straight. No attempt to mitigate your crying was at all effective. We tried applying Boo Boo Kitty, offering you a Paw Patrol Band-Aid, attempting to clean it with water, asking to kiss it. Nothing worked. You cried and cried and cried. Through tears and snot, you sniffled, “It hurts so much!”

And I believe it hurt. But boy does the melodrama start early. 

You refused to come to the dinner table, so we let you eat your PB&J (also a consolation) at your little table in the living room. We even let you have ice cream for dessert; you stopped crying just long enough to lick your bowl. 

After your bath, you finally allowed us to apply a Chase Band-Aid, but your gimp foot was the first thing you talked about this morning when you woke up. I pulled you out of your crib and went to set you down on the ground, but you retracted your feet and said you couldn’t walk because it hurt so much. When I started getting irritated and threatening, you capitulated and hobbled around on your heel. 

When I dropped you off at daycare and stared in horror at Graham’s split-open bloody knee, he told us about how he fell off his new bike. In response, you whipped off your shoes and socks and offered to show everyone your boo-boo. 

All this for a blister. 

Back at home this evening, you requested a change of dressing to a Marshall Band-Aid. You were so pleased that you showed it off to Marshall (your new best friend) himself.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

 

self-aware

20 months

We’ve rounded the corner into the final third of your second year. This seems momentous, for some reason–more momentous even than hitting a  year and a half–and all of a sudden you seem to have sprouted into a little boy. You’re less roly poly and much more dexterous, your hair is fuller, your little face is becoming more defined. You just don’t quite look like a baby anymore.

And you know who you are: you’re “Eefan.” You refer to yourself nearly constantly in the third person, and you narrate your own life. “Eefan does X,” you say, or “Eefan doing Y.” Last week, Daddy texted me a conversation you had with him one morning after I’d left the house:

Daddy: Are you ready?
You: No.
Daddy: Time to go to Ms. Gina’s.
You: Eefan reading.

You point to yourself in pictures and cheerily call out your own name. If we ask you to whom something belongs, you’ll say “Eefan’s ball” or “Eefan’s book,” complete with the possessive S! You also talk to yourself a lot, especially in the mornings before I come into your room to pluck you from your crib or at night when you’re lulling yourself to sleep. Eefan is clearly your best friend, and I think that’s great.

Your self-awareness has expanded to your physical well-being, and your vocabulary is now allowing you to tell us if something’s bothering you. You’re beginning to use the word “hurt,” and you’re pretty good with identifying various body parts. Last week–I remember it was Tuesday morning–you woke up crying, which is unusual. Early in our morning routine, you said “boo boo kitty,” letting us know that something hurt. (You use this to mean “boo boo” rather than the cat-shaped ice pack we use when you have a boo boo.) “Where does it hurt?” I asked. You said, “belly.” I was surprised; I hadn’t actually ever heard you use that term before. I thought maybe you were hungry, so we offered you your usual cup of milk and Cheerios. You chugged the milk and left the Cheerios–a bit unusual but nothing we thought much about.

Later, as I was on my way to the dentist, I got a call from Daddy. You’d thrown up all over the back seat of his car on your way to daycare. I took a sick day and spent the day with you. You never threw up again, and by the time you woke up from a marathon nap, you seemed more or less back to normal. Seventy-two hours later, the stomach bug hit me, and by the time I was recovering after a full day spent completely helpless in the face of the most violent digestive illness I’ve ever experienced, Daddy got it. Repeat. All I could think was how thankful I was that Daddy and I hadn’t both gotten it at the same time; it was so debilitating, there was no way we’d have been able to take care of you. But by Sunday morning, we’d both bounced back to functioning if not normal.

And so that milestone, too, had passed: We got our first family stomach flu–not the last, I’m sure–and lived to tell the tale (although it was touch and go there for a while).

The milestones are coming nearly faster than I keep track of. On Monday, your 20th monthday on the dot, you tried out your new nap mat at daycare for the first time and took to it beautifully: no fussing, no rolling about, nothing. Apparently, you simply crawled in, put your head on the pillow and went to sleep. So now you’re napping on the floor like the big kids and you never even looked back at your Pack N Play.

Part of me is just a smidge sad, just slightly grieving the baby that was, the baby who needed me desperately. You’re so independent now, so aware of who you are and what you want; lately, that’s Daddy more than me (another blog post to come on that, perhaps), pancakes, cookies, tunnels, Elmo, downstairs and bubbles. Every once in a while, a book is thrown in there, too.

I’m so very, very proud of the little boy you’re becoming. But it’s also OK if Eefan wants to climb into my lap and be a baby for a little bit longer.

  
  
  
  
  

what a long, strange week it’s been

35 weeks

I have started to post several times and abandoned it. I’m feeling out of sorts, and the more time I let go by, the more I feel like I need to write to make sure I don’t leave anything out.

This has been a strange week. When you’re old enough to read and understand this, the world will no longer really remember who Freddie Gray was. But they’ll talk about the Baltimore Riots of ’15, like they still talk about the Baltimore Riots of ’68. I hope, when they talk about the ones of ’15, they’ll talk about how they made a lasting, positive change in this city where you were born, the city I’ve grown to love. That is not the case with the riots of ’68; unfortunately, those always seem to be associated with the Beginning of the End, the line between how Baltimore used to be and how it now is, which is to say terribly divided: decaying on one end and overly gentrified on the other. I’m not sure it’s any different from any other city; it just seems much more, well, black and white.

I don’t want to get too much into this, because it’s depressing. But yesterday, when you fell blissfully asleep below your new bucket cap in your jogging stroller in the most glorious weather anyone could dream up, I took a look at you and thought that if I could capture the peace you clearly felt and somehow preserve it for you, I would. Of all the things I want for you–happiness and success and courage and honesty and compassion (I could go on and on)–what I want most is peace, a life unmarred by anxiety or animosity. Right now, I’m doing everything in my power to ensure you have that for the very, very short time that the world grants it to you.

To keep this post from getting altogether bleak, I’ll talk about how spring has arrived, full blown, aflower and sneezy. The days are long and, for the most part, glorious. The sun gains strength every day, and all sorts of green babies are popping their heads up through the fresh, meaty dirt. You love sitting in the grass and ripping it up and battling me in an attempt to deliver it to your mouth. I like taking your socks off so you can wiggle your feet in it.

We’ve been making some major improvements to the back yard, and we’ve been spending quite a bit of time back there with you. The mosquitoes haven’t yet taken over, so it’s wonderful to sit and enjoy our immense maple tree and the white noise of the creek and our garden. It astounds me how much I’ve gotten done back there. Last fall, when you’d first joined us, I couldn’t even get my act together to water the plants, and they all promptly died. Just half a year later, I’m able to get major gardening and planting done with you keeping me company. Once, we dragged your corral out back and set it up with a blanket and a tarp beneath. Mostly, we plop you in a Fisher Price swing that our wonderfully thoughtful neighbor Martina gave you, a hand-me-down from her own kids who have outgrown it. Daddy attached it to the underside of the top deck, so you can swing out over the yard. You love it so much, you giggle and squeal with delight whenever we put you in it.

A few weekends ago (already!) when we’d just arrived on the very cusp of spring with a day that was bright and warm, we decided it was time for you to experience a larger body of water than your bathtub. Since even before you were born, I’ve been saying that I want you to be water savvy and swimming early. We opted not to do swim lessons, primarily because we don’t want to have somewhere to be at a certain time every weekend, but we wanted to get you into the pool as soon as the weather warmed up enough not to be torturous upon exiting the water. So we pulled all of our swim gear out of hiding, packed up towels and headed over to the beautiful, new Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City.

The indoor pool there is spectacular; it has a graduated (what they call “beach”) entry, it’s light and airy, and it offers family locker rooms along a corridor lined with changing tables. At $5/person per entry, it’s a no-brainer. We got you suited up in your Bummis Swimmi diaper, pulled on your adorable miniature trunks and threw you in. Just kidding. We waded in with you in our arms, and you took to the pool like, well, a fish to water. You LOVED it. You splashed and played and smiled and laughed the whole time. Your friend Claire, who’s just 10 days older than you, joined us with her mom and dad. You two didn’t pay much attention to each other, but at least you shared toys nicely.

We stayed in the water for 45 minutes, and if it had been up to you, you probably would’ve stayed longer. We can’t wait to go back with you; we’re thinking we might celebrate Mother’s Day by heading over there with Nonna.

Tomorrow, we have our second full Friday together, and what a treat it is to be able to take the time off work to be with you on a regular basis. I’m glad about the timing, too, since Daddy and I will be away from you overnight for the first time this weekend (riot allowing). Nonna gifted us an overnight stay in a B&B in the city for our birthdays, and we’re planning to go out to a fancy dinner and, perhaps best of all, sleep. And sleep in.

Nonna and Opa will be staying with you, so of course I’m not worried about your well-being. I’m a little worried about how much we’ll miss each other (me more than you, for sure), but this is a great thrown-into-the-deep-end test and good practice, if a slightly different scenario, for when we go to the beach with Nonna and Opa in June and to Italy in October. It’s a change of routine for all of us, and it’ll be interesting to see how we all cope.

You continue to love daycare, and daycare loves you back, mostly. The older kids there adore you, especially one little 2-year-old boy named Elliott. He waits by the front window for you to arrive, then rushes to your side and holds your hand while Daddy extracts you from the car seat. Ms. Gina, your daycare provider, is smitten. She loves you like you’re her own, and she sends us lots of photos of you while we’re at work. You get excited to see me when I come pick you up at the end of the day–even waving hello when I walk through the door–but you’re more than happy to be there, playing with your friends, all day. Recently, you’ve been ousted from your “youngest” spot by a 9-week-old baby girl. Nine weeks! I can’t even imagine. I’m so, so, so thankful that we were able to keep you at home until you were seven months old.

Especially since the Daycare Runny Nose has begun. A couple of weekends ago, you had an extremely cranky couple of days that marked the start of your third illness in four months. While it began with a fever, your temperature normalized quickly (we kept you home from daycare only for a day) but you’ve continued to have congestion and a slow but constant trickle from your nose. You seem to be improving over the past couple of days, now that it’s been fully two weeks that you’ve been dealing with it. I noticed the 9-week-old’s nose was running, too.

Here’s to a healthy ramp-up to summer!


This Week in Guppy Growth

It’s been well more than a week, so we’ve got quite a few new things going on …

  • You’ve begun to wave hello and goodbye, thanks in large part to daycare, where you watch the other kids come and go. It’s kind of a whole-arm flapping, but it gets the job done.
  • You’re still not crawling on all fours, except for maybe a few paces here and there. You prefer to be on your tummy and drag yourself about. That being said, I’ve watched you transition from sitting to all fours and just this morning, with the tiniest bit of help from me, you pulled yourself up to your knees from crawling and played with the activities on the top of your cube for several minutes, balancing yourself completely upright on your knees.
  • You “sing along” to some of your favorite songs, like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “You Are My Sunshine.” You love to play Pat-a-Cake, clapping your hands, and This Little Piggy.
  • You’re babbling constantly. So far, you’ve mastered “baba,” “gaga” and “mama.” No real words yet, of course.
  • You got your first real boo-boo last weekend, when you rolled and flipped yourself out of the hammock we’d just set up out back. Luckily, you fell only a couple of inches; still you landed face first and got a huge, egg-shaped welt on your forehead. You cried, but I think you scared yourself more than it hurt. You’re such a tough cookie. (Daddy and I cried for you, don’t worry.)
  • Your solid-food repertoire is impressive. Recently, you’ve tasted (and liked): salmon, shrimp, hard-boiled egg, kiwi, cheese, pasta with ricotta, yogurt (you fiend) and, perhaps most exciting, Osem Bamba, an Israeli puff snack made from peanut flour. I had to buy it on Amazon (although Nonna found it later at Harris Teeter), but our intention with this is to ward off any nut allergies, per recent research.
  • No teeth yet. This doesn’t surprise me, as I didn’t get my teeth until quite late (around a year), but you’re drooling like crazy. We’ve started dressing you daily in bandana bibs.