Concerned

Dear Love Bug,

Not too long ago, Timehop served up a photo from last year’s Chincoteague beach week and there was a caption that said something about what a terror you’d been that day. “Good thing he’s a year older and he’s outgrown that,” I thought at the time.

And then today happened and (as usual) I realized how naive I am. Kind of like that time I wrote IN THIS VERY BLOG that I was certain Three could be no worse than Two.

We had a lovely morning at the beach, albeit a bit nippy in the pretty intense breeze coming off the water. The waves were much rougher today than they were Sunday, too. In any case, you happily did your thing for a couple of hours: digging; running; climbing up a fairly significant wall of sand left behind from the recent storms, I’m guessing; flying kites (which you did all by yourself! *high five*); building an awesome sand kingdom with Daddy and me. I asked you a few times if you wanted to stop for a minute and have a snack, but each time you refused. “I’m just digging,” you’d say. Or “I’m busy building stuff.”

At about 12:15, we told you it was time to start packing up to head home, and you turned into an absolute deranged lunatic. You kept running away from us, cackling maniacally, until we physically picked you up and carried you toward the parking lot. At which point you flailed about and writhed and swung at us until a few of your punches landed.

I kept asking you to calm down, to take breaths, to use your words, but you just got yourself more and more worked up. And what was scarier than anything else was your goofy grin and crazy laughter through the entire unpleasant experience. Daddy and I have never spanked you. Ever. Today we had no tools left in our arsenal, and you got one from each of us. You howled and cried until we threatened to leave you at the beach, locked in a changing room. And finally, finally you calmed down enough for me to shower you with Nonna’s help, dry you off, and get you changed.

I told you there’d be no lunch. You’d be going straight to your room for a nap when we got home. “But I’m hungry!” you wailed. Nonna offered you a snack in the car, and you absolutely inhaled a full pack of peanut butter crackers and a small bag of popcorn.

And then it clicked. I’m starting to wonder if your terrible, unmanageable behavior, when it happens, is a result of hunger. But not just hunger–could it possibly be hypoglycemia? Hear me out. I’ve read accounts from moms with diabetic toddlers, and they talk about how they battle absolutely erratic, nearly unresponsive children when they have blood-sugar crashes. And I do truly wonder if we’re dealing with something biological here and not purely behavioral. Your Beebee has diagnosed hypoglycemia and your Granddad has diabetes. Maybe you’re dealing with something related to blood sugar, too?

When we get home, I’m going to make an appointment to have you tested, just to make sure we know what the situation is. And then we’ll be better armed to manage it.

We put you to bed when we got home from the beach, and you’re STILL sleeping. It’s going on 4 hours. And I wonder if pure exhaustion might also be a symptom of something more systemic than simply running your heart out on the beach.

In the hope that there’s another parent out there who might have experience with this, can anyone share some advice?

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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Junior Ranger

Dear Love Bug,

Mother Nature gave us a gift of a day, and it was so unexpected I felt like doing cartwheels down the beach. We actually got there today, and it was a pretty damn near perfect beach morning. The sun wasn’t beating down or anything, but it was warm (but not hot) and slightly breezy, and the beach was relatively empty because I think the forecast kept people away.

You immediately got your big shovels out and began to dig in the sand, which you’ve been waiting approximately one year to do. Then you played your favorite game of Run Squealing Into and Out of the Water, letting it get as high as your knees. You also made some friends, played badminton and bocce (each for about 5 minutes), and dug for mole crabs (also admittedly one of my favorite things to do). I got hot at one point, which was completely surprising because again, the forecast made it seem like it was going to be the most disappointing beach week ever, and waded past the breakers to cool myself off. You called to me from the shore, so I came back, scooped you up and took you in with me. “I can swim!” you kept screaming above the roar of the water. “I can do it on my own!” Love Bug, your confidence overwhelms me. I love you so much for it. But you can neither swim nor do it on your own. So I flipped you tummy down and let you kick about while I hung onto you pretty tightly. I’m what I would consider an excellent swimmer. I’ve been jumping waves since I was barely bigger than you. But I have a HEALTHY respect for the ocean, and I’m trying to instill it in you, too.

At 11:30, we wanted to get to a ranger-led activity out on the boardwalk behind the visitor center. You put up a little bit of a fight because you really wanted to stay on the beach. But eventually you capitulated and let Daddy carry you across the parking lot to the center. The program had already begun but we were able to catch up easily, and we joined a group of 10 or so people in examining “clues” along the boardwalk of life/death in the marshy salt flats on the bay side of the beach. You stole the show in your loud, adorable, smarty-pants way. You were by far the youngest participant, but you’d blurt out answers to the ranger’s questions or say “Excuse me, Ms. Ranger!” and then ask a question or make an observation. You really seemed to enjoy it, which made my heart happy, because I spent many summers immersed in the ranger programs here when I was (much) younger. Hope we can do many more in the years to come.

I’m exhausted. I’m listening to you sleep-sigh along with the rolls of thunder outside, and my eyelids are getting heavy. We’ll have another big day tomorrow. Night night, my love.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Sweet Dreams

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been a while–nearly a year! It’s funny how rhythms shift, and then you start wondering how you managed to do something so easily in the past when it seems so daunting now. In any case, we’re on vacation, back in our beloved Chincoteague, and the absence of any other demands has afforded me the opportunity to write (to you) again.

You’re going on 4, and “the beach” holds all new meaning for you as your world has expanded significantly over the past year. You can’t wait to get there. I just hope we can make it, as the weather this year isn’t any more promising than it was last year. In fact, it looks worse, much as we didn’t think that was possible. We’ll do our best. I’m trying hard to mask my disappointment lest it be contagious to you. I’m telling myself that what’s important is that we’re on vacation and we’re with family. But I’m not sure that will really resonate with you.

We prepped for this Beach Week by buying a new set of twin-sized sheets because we decided early on that this was the year we’d stop hauling alternative sleeping arrangements for you (no Pack N Play, no inflatable toddler bed) and you’d finally sleep in the daybed in our room in the house we’ve rented since you were born. Nonna had bought a bed rail for you some time ago. We’d talked to you before we left about sleeping in a Big Boy Bed, and you seemed pretty comfortable with the idea.

So as soon as we arrived, we made up your bed and called you up to check it out. Of course you wanted to climb into it immediately. You announced that you had no need for the bed rail. We suggested we test it out tonight, and if it didn’t seem necessary, we could ditch it. When we came up for bed, we found you pressed right against it, so … I think we’ll keep it on. It’s a long way from the bed to the hardwood floor. I don’t think a fall would feel very good.

This evening, you and I crawled into it together to read a few books. What a luxury! There’s no way to get into your toddler bed at home together, even without the rail that we removed some time ago. So we always read in your glider. But being able to cuddle in bed is a whole different experience.

Before the end of the calendar year, we’ll convert your bed at home into a Big Boy Bed, bigger even than the one here. And I’m already envisioning chapter books (hello, Harry Potter!) read curled up together in that big bed, night after night. More milestones to come.

In the meantime, I’m wishing us all sweet dreams of sunshine and beach weather. And doing a little bit of praying, too.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Three Minus Two

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been forever because of sheer exhaustion. I’ve missed writing about at least a million noteworthy things (tackling playground climbing walls entirely on your own, attempting to dress and undress yourself, conversations about cemeteries and rainbows), but I’ve just been too tired, too distracted, too entirely consumed by The Project.

Well, The Project launches tomorrow, and then it’s kind of out of our hands for a while. Our house–my home for a decade, the one we brought you back from the hospital to, the one that’s witnessed all these firsts of yours–is going on the market. Tomorrow. It seems surreal, especially since it’s mostly empty and doesn’t really feel like “us” anymore. I also can’t find anything I’m looking for, which is particularly frustrating. As is having to prep it for potential showings each morning while getting you out of bed (increasingly challenging with each passing day, and you’re just turning 3, not 13), dressed, washed, fed, and out the door so we can all get to our respective day jobs on time.

Once it’s under contract, and please, please, please God, let that happen as quickly as possible, we’ll begin looking for our forever home. And when I say forever, I mean literally I want to take my last breath in that house, as I will never ever do this again. I haven’t even really let myself think about the house hunting, as I’ve been so focused on the house prepping and selling. But that’ll be the next step: finding a house we fall in love with and can be comfortable in, one you can grow in without feeling cramped or discouraged from spreading out. We’d love a big backyard and lots of green. Our souls need it, at this point.

While all the house prep has been going for the past six or seven weeks, you’ve slowly crept your way toward 3. And here we are, two days out. I’m much less prepared for your birthday than I’ve ever been in the past, but I guess we’ll wing it this year. Daddy and I have taken the day off of work again this year to spend your day with you, and it’s just as well, as your camp/school is closed. You say you want to go to the Science Center, which is your recent most favorite place ever. So that’s what we’ll do, topped off with present opening and Carvel cake eating and then dinner, most likely at IHOP, which is your most favorite restaurant ever.

Your party is Sunday, and I’m so thankful I bought a bunch of decorations off of another mom, as there’s been no bandwidth for crafting. It’s going to be a highly commercialized, exceptionally unstructured party. And it’s Paw Patrol themed up the wazoo, which I know will make you happy. I even snagged a Paw Patrol pin-the-badge-on-Chase, which I hope you’ll want to participate in. You’ve been very into birthday pinatas lately but not so much into pin-the-tail games. Maybe it’s the blindfold aspect.

I’m looking forward, for a few sweet hours that day, to doing nothing but focusing on you, my big-hearted, super-social, loquacious 3-year-old. You deserve it.

Go trademark it!

Dear Love Bug,

You’ve been asleep for hours on your magical blow-up toddler bed at Nonna’s. I think it must be made with chloroform because you power down the second you crawl into it and you’ve been known to sleep for 13, possibly 14, hours in it. 

I’m tucked into the futon in the basement, where I’ve slept the best sleeps of my life. May we both wake up refreshed because I’m exhausted. Not only have I been packing, painting, and yard sale posting for a week straight (The Project progresses), I’m flying solo this weekend because Daddy’s at Man Camp. All I can say is props to all the single parents out there. 

That being said, you’ve been particularly delightful lately. I mean, you’ve been amazing. Not perfect, by any means. But just so good. Is this the ramp-up to Three? If this is what your fourth year looks like, I say gimme more. I’ve heard from many, many, many people that 3 is worse than 2. I’ve had a hard time envisioning what that might look like because 2 has been difficult bordering on disaster. I kept wondering how it could get any worse. But now I’m wondering if you just had a particularly terrible 2 and maybe 3 won’t be so bad?

Some examples of your turn toward awesome: 

  • You feel remorse. You’ll still throw things on the floor, but then you’ll realize this isn’t OK and you’ll actually apologize and then pick them up. 
  • Bedtime has been miraculously drama free. You’ll maybe try to bargain for another book or some extra cuddles, but when we say it’s bedtime, you pretty much roll over and go to sleep. 
  • You tell us you love us all the time. And if we say it to you, you say, “I love you back.”
  • The physical manifestations (biting, hitting, kicking) of anger have all but disappeared. I don’t remember the last time you lashed out at one of us violently. Today, you got mad and kind of stomped around and then turned to me and said, “I’m frustrated!” The other night, out of nowhere, you said to me, “I’ll never ever pinch you again.” (It wasn’t like you had just done it or anything–you were just sitting there.) I was like, “Uh, thanks!”
  • Not always, but when I ask you to do something, you’ve begun to say, “OK, Mamma.” 

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, don’t get me wrong. Last night at Sorrento’s, you flipped your pizza over onto my purse and ruined it, for example. But we are trending in the right direction. 

Also, our conversations have become so smart. In the car on the way down here, we were listening to your CD, and “This Old Man” came on. You know, “This old man, he plays seven, he plays seven up in heaven, with a knick knack paddy whack give a dog a bone …” You listened intently and then said, “Mom, what’s heaven?” I had instant sweaty palms. “Uh, it’s a place,” I responded. You chewed on that, and I steeled myself for a follow-up question that never came but will soon enough, I’m sure. You’ve never asked about song lyrics like that before. 

And then this evening, you requested Team Umi Zoomi, your new obsession, and Nonna got it loaded up on Amazon. We wound up talking about the delivery method, and you said, “No, Amazoff.” It took me a split second, but then I got it, and I was speechless. How clever of you. Go trademark it. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma 

Jesus Christ and Other Stories

Dear Love Bug,

I fear these notes may be increasingly few and far between. Daddy and I are working on a project that may be months in the making, and it’s occupying a lot of free time. It’s also much too premature to really say anything about it, but if I’m not writing as regularly, that’s why. 

It’s a long Fourth of July weekend, and we’ve hit the dog days of summer. Thick air, immediate sweat, intense thunderstorms. None of it seems to phase you. You ran wild around your friend D’s house this afternoon while we were there for an early Independence Day cookout, usurping all his toys. You have a big personality, and sometimes I feel like you steamroll quieter kids. 

And speaking of quiet, you are not at all it. Aside from talking incessantly, which you’ve been doing for a while now, you have taken to repeating yourself over and over again if you get no response or a response you don’t agree with. It’ll go something like this, which a actually happened today:

Me: “There’s leftover pizza in the fridge so I think we’ll have that for lunch.”

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

Me: “But we need to eat the pizza before it goes bad so we’ll eat that.”

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

Me: . . .

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

This morning, when Daddy and I were upstairs getting ready to head out with you to run some errands, we heard you bang into something downstairs, followed by “Ow! Jesus Christ!” I nearly died. It’s not like I ever say that or anything. 

How come you repeat that but not our constant pleases and thank yous?

The other day, we were headed down to Food Truck Wednesday at the firehouse–it’s become somewhat of a midweek ritual at this point–with Daddy hauling you down in your wagon. As you were bouncing along the sidewalk, you declared, “I want a dog. Can I have one for my birthday?” (Your birthday, by the way, has become an obsession. You talk about it All. The. Time. In fact, it’s become your way of showing or repealing favor. If you’re feeling lovey toward us, it’s “You can come to my birthday party.” If you’re mad: “You can’t come to my birthday party!” Said with all the will of an angry toddler. 

Anyway, we both responded “no” because ain’t no way in hell that’s gonna happen. But you pressed us. “Why can’t I have a dog?” I responded, “I don’t think the kitties would be very happy if we got a dog.” You thought a bit, then said, “Well, can we get two dogs?” Of course this is perfectly logical. We have two cats, so getting a single dog wouldn’t work. They each need one, obvs. 

Oh, Sweet Pea, you keep me so entertained. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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