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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S’mores and Hush Puppies

Dear Love Bug,

Our beach week has been marked by less-than-stellar weather, but there have been a couple of glorious afternoons. And the otherwise gloom certainly hasn’t kept us from eating well. 

On Sunday, after a full day spent rolling in sand and salt, we grilled burgers and dogs on the charcoal drum grill that sits just outside the screened-in porch at Misty Moon. We all ate well, including you, which was a pleasant surprise. You’ve been off “hangaburgers,” as you call them, for a while. But that night, you gobbled yours up (maybe because it was stuffed with cheese and bacon?). 

After dinner, as a special treat, we prepped s’mores–and pulled out our long marshmallow-roasting sticks for the occasion. We’d roast over the still-fiery-hot charcoal in the bottom of the grill. You were so eager to participate, so I told you you could hold one of the sticks and roast a marshmallow on the condition that you never come anywhere close to the grill. You agreed, and I got you set up. You were doing great, with my assistance of course, until I looked up for a second. In that half-moment, you came too close to the grill with your outstretched arm holding the stick. You flinched and jerked your arm back but managed to sear your forearm. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a wail. It was painful to hear. Daddy and I ran for ice while Nonna scooped you up to console you. You allowed us to ice it until your tears dried, and then you took a deep breath and dove into the s’more we’d prepared just for you. And just like that, the entire incident was over. (Although you have a faint pink horizontal line across your forearm as a reminder.)

I’m sure you’ll roast marshmallows again at some point. It just won’t be anytime soon. 

Last night, we went out for dinner at Etta’s, as is our long, long time tradition. In fact, from speaking with the waitress, we determined it’s approximately a 30-year tradition from the time Nonna and I discovered it in the original location on Ridge Road. This is your third year in a row having a dinner there during our beach week. 

At Etta’s, they bring you hush puppies along with your bread. And you pretty much fell in love. We had them again tonight with our crab feast on the porch (this time from Capt. Zack’s), and you asked for more once you’d gobbled up your ration. You said, “Can I have more of those–what do you call them?”

Island food suits you, I suppose. And that makes me happy. 

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

On the Town

Dear Love Bug,

Tonight was one of the ones I want to stamp in my memory forever. It’s way too late for me to write about it in as much detail as it warrants, but I’ll give you the highlights. 

Once Daddy got home from work, we loaded you up in your little red covered wagon and hiked down and across town in the most gorgeous spring weather–bright and sunny but coolish and dry–to the Volunteer Fire Department. When we got there, the big lot where the carnival comes every year was already hopping. It was lined with food trucks, buzzing with the sound of generators, and heady with the smells of the most delicious combination of foods, ethnic and not, you can imagine. 

You’d never really been exposed to a food truck before, so you asked if you could get on the trucks and then seemed disappointed that you couldn’t. It was a little hard for you to wait, strapped into your wagon, for our three meals from three different trucks to be ready, but you managed with minimal complaints. 

When we got our boxed-up meals, we went inside the fire hall to meet our friends the B’s, who also live in town. You and Aubrey will be in the same class at summer camp, and her mom and I have been good friends and colleagues since the two of you were born, two months and one day apart (she’s older).  You plowed through your (delicious) pizza, sitting nicely on a folding chair with super-minimal fidgeting. I was very impressed! 

Another family joined us whose son also goes to the preschool where you’ll be headed this summer, and the mom gave me details about the teacher in your room. All of a sudden, it feels like we’ve been welcomed into a community. 

You asked if you could have a treat, and I wanted one, too, so we loaded you back into your wagon and Aubrey into her stroller and we all made our way across the street to the ice cream cottage. We sat outside at a picnic bench while our gorgeous day turned into a sweet, breezy evening, and you and Aubrey diligently worked on your cups of ice cream until you were both covered in it. 

And the miracle of all of this is that we adults actually got to converse while you guys just kind of did your thing. It was amazingly civilized. When it was time to walk/ride back home, you and Aubrey said your good-byes, and you hugged her (kinda), which was adorable despite the awkwardness of her being strapped into her stroller at that point and you going head first at her. I’m just thrilled that you haven’t already made her a sworn enemy like you have with little E at daycare. I have high hopes for this summer–and for more ideal outdoor evenings like this one!

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

two

Blink. Just like that we’ve traveled once more around the sun.

As I strapped you into your car seat this afternoon–your legs somehow gone from chubby to gangly, all tucked up against the seat back–I took a good, hard look at your face and decided you are most certainly a little boy. There’s no more baby left there, I don’t think. Your features are so defined, so you. You’ve got little boy hair that’s always tousled. You’ve got little boy mannerisms and little boy expressions, and you run and climb and jump and ask for more anything that will flip you upside down or launch you into space. I try to rejoice in the little human you’ve become to keep myself from being just a tad heartbroken over not being able to go back.

And I really, really like you, little human. I would choose to be friends with you. You’re funny–really, you crack yourself up–and loyal and quick to forgive. You keep us, and yourself, company with your constant chatter. You like giving (and sometimes even getting) hugs and kisses. You ask us to “hang out.” And you’ve got verve.

I mean really, you’re fierce.

You are knock-down-drag-out willful, nearly 30 pounds of it. You fight for what you believe in (at least that’s how I interpret those tantrums that have begun to crop up), and you’ve got a brassy edge to you. I like you that way, although you have certainly brought me to tears, and I’m sure it will happen again. And again.

While this past year has been about us setting limits as your world has expanded, I have a feeling this next year is going to be about you testing those limits. As it should be. I just hope Daddy and I are ready for it. You have no problems advocating for what you want or making it known when you don’t agree with us. And you do it in full sentences and at full volume, often surprising us with the complexity of your thoughts and your syntax.

I’m not sure what I imagined when you were brewing in my belly two-plus years ago, but I never imagined a 2-year-old who could outsmart me. Daddy and I have taken to spelling words to each other, and on more than one occasion we have stopped dead in our jaw-dropped tracks. You seem somehow to be able to spell. You will repeat what we say verbatim, often tattling on one or the other of us. “Mamma said that,” you’ll say to Daddy, and when he looks over at me, I must sheepishly admit that you’re right.

And in this past year, you’ve gone from a relatively stationary object to a blur, half-tornado, half-hurricane, all ninja. You. Never. Sit. Still. You can climb onto the back of the couch in about two seconds flat, balancing on that top edge above the pillows so you can check out what’s going on in front of the house. You can maneuver monkey bars and climbing nets like nobody’s business. (Although you’ve fallen off of the rickety bridge at the playground and knocked the wind out of yourself at least twice. You cry for maybe 30 seconds.) Interestingly, you’re kind of lukewarm about slides and swings. Or maybe you just have to be in the right mood.

When you do slow down, you flop yourself down on your tummy to work on puzzles–you’re beginning to get pretty good at matching up more complicated pieces–or you pull books off of your shelves and flip through them. You love throwing balls (you’ve got a pretty good arm), playing with Little People (you’ve started to play pretend with them), making your trains go round their track and coloring. You also have an affinity for stickers, markers, magnets, flashlights, sticks of any kind (you call them “pew pew pews”) and all sports equipment (especially baseball bats and basketball hoops).

And you work up quite an appetite. We’re lucky that we’ve never had to battle you over food, and you often eat us under the table. Especially when it comes to pancakes. When you don’t eat, we know something’s wrong immediately. In fact, that was the first sign of your disastrous discomfort nearly two months ago when you suffered through an awful bout of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, which I can easily say was, hands down, your worst sickness out of a pretty sickness-ridden year (that also included Roseola, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and more). Your favorite foods are hot dogs, the aforementioned pancakes, peanut butter and jelly, quesadillas and pasta. You love using chopsticks. You adore fruits of all kinds (but berries and grapes trump all), and you’ll willingly eat broccoli and string beans.

You are entirely your parents’ child with your sweet tooth. Or maybe teeth. You’re a fiend for cookies, ice cream, donuts and cake, and you’ll ask for them at the most absurd times. You don’t even really seem to care that you can’t have them. You just like talking about them. You’re pretty excited about the impending goodies that we’ve been promising you for your birthday, and when we talk about it, you say you’re going to “blow out the candles.”

When I think about where we were two years ago today, two years ago tonight (my water broken, hooked up to a fetal monitor waiting for labor that hadn’t begun), I realize how incomplete our lives were, and we really had no idea. You’ve filled spaces we didn’t know had to be filled. You’ve grown love we didn’t know needed to grow. And you’ve turned us into people we weren’t before, developing in us patience, empathy and a fierce sense of family. You’ve brought Daddy and me closer than ever. We have so much to thank you for, and you don’t even know what you’ve done.

Happy Two Years in this crazy place, Little Human. Happy Two Years to us, as we’re the lucky ones. May this year shine even brighter than the last and pass maybe a bit more slowly, ‘k? I love you SO big!

aye yuv yoo

19 months

I can only imagine you’ve gone through some major cognitive leap recently. Your understanding of the world and how it works grows exponentially on a daily basis, and your ability to express yourself is mesmerizing.

Daddy and I like to play a game with you where we ask you who says what. It goes like this:

“What does the cow say?” we ask.
“Moo,” you say.

“What does the sheep say?”
“Baa.”

“What does the duck say?”
“Quack quack.”

The other day, Daddy asked you what Opa says. At one point when you were very young, Opa started saying “heh heh” to you, and you’d say it back. In fact, before you learned to say “Opa” you called him “Heh Heh.”

So when Daddy asked you what Opa says, you responded “heh heh.” Not surprising.

Then Daddy mixed it up a bit and said, “What does Daddy say?”

You responded: “Aye yuv yoo.” We were floored.

Daddy then asked, “What does Mamma say?” And you answered the same way: “Aye yuv yoo.”

My heart nearly burst from the joy! I think maybe we’re doing something right? (Thank goodness you didn’t say “Ethan, no!” which you may hear nearly as frequently as “I love you.” Toddlerhood is in full swing.)

You’ve just become much more affectionate, coming to us for hugs and cuddles, running up to us (Daddy especially) and throwing your arms around our legs while burying your face in a thigh, and giving kisses when requested. You make a “mwah” noise when  you do it, too, which just about kills me. And it’s not just for us! You kiss photos of people like your grandparents, and you kiss yourself in the mirror. You’ve also become lovey-dovey with your favorite toys, giving Simba, Heehee (your blankie), Lamby (a relatively new fave) and Max kisses just because. But it doesn’t stop there; you have your toys kiss each other, going “mwah mwah” as they do. This holds true for your Disney characters and rubber duckies, puzzle pieces, Little People and anything with a mouth, really. I love that you do this, and I love that you’re kissed so often it seems natural to you to make your toys give kisses, too.

Lest you read this at some point in the future and think you were the most perfectly charming toddler ever, let me assure you that all of this cerebral development has come with its fair share of downsides. You’ve become majorly, heels-dug-in willful, insistently demanding and, quite frankly, pretty bossy. “Daddy, fix it.” “Mamma, hold it.” Or, even more frequently: “Cookies!” or “Pancakes!” Over and over and over. You’ve also recently begun saying “I want,” which allows for some impressive sentence construction: “I want s’more mango.” “I wanna play.” If you don’t get what you want, you will often throw stuff, push things over, swing your arms around to hit something or completely melt down into a mini-tantrum. Not your finer side.

You’ve also started waking up in the middle of the night again. It’s not every night, but it’s more often than not, and it’s always weirdly in the 2 a.m. hour. I thought it might be the 18(ish)-month sleep regression, but tonight I spotted that first lower molar breaking through your raw, angry gum, and I have a feeling that’s the culprit. We’ve been plying you with Hyland’s Teething Tablets, which generally help you drift back to sleep pretty quickly.

The teething doesn’t seem to have affected your appetite, though. You must be going through a growth spurt. How else can I explain the two-hot-dog lunch? Or the entire-whole-banana-plus-blackberries dessert? Tonight, you kept asking for “more broccoli” so I’m not complaining. I’m thrilled you’re eating as well as you are, especially after a period of extreme pickiness that seemed to accompany your most recent illness (and amoxicillin treatment). We thought it was just that you weren’t feeling well, but one night you kept saying “that” and pointing to your plate. We’d given you everything on it, and you’d turned your nose up to all of it. Somehow, we realized you were talking about the plate itself. We put it on your tray and handed you your fork and spoon, and you left not a crumb. Apparently, you were on a hunger strike because we were still portioning out your food rather than allowing you to eat like a big boy off your plate.

Aye yuv yoo, Munchkin.


  
  
  
  
 

turn, turn, turn

50 weeks

It’s been a bit of an emotional week for me.

Early in the week, I learned a former colleague of mine–someone with whom I’d worked closely on specific projects but had left the university several years ago–died suddenly. She’d just turned 40 and leaves behind a little girl who’s getting ready to enter kindergarten.

Nothing hits me in the gut anymore like hearing about a child who’s lost a parent or a parent who’s lost a child. And when it’s someone I know, well, it feels like I might literally double over from the impact of it. I try not to generalize these things–not to think that because it’s happened to someone else, it will necessarily happen to us. But it’s hard to put it out of my mind. So I squeezed you a little bit tighter this week, slowed down to appreciate fully the moments we’ve spent together, especially the quiet, cuddly ones right before you go to bed when you allow me to tuck you into the crook of my arm, still, and rock you in the glider and Eskimo kiss you.

This death has also reminded me, once again, that Daddy and I really need to secure life insurance and draw up a will. I hate thinking about these things in the same way that I hate financial planning. I’d much rather just pay someone else to do it for me, but it will require some level of input from me, one way or the other, and I need to stop procrastinating to ensure you’re protected.

While I was processing the systemic shock of learning that someone I’d known relatively well had died, I got the news that your Aunt Danielle delivered a gorgeous, 6-pound-5-ounce, healthy baby girl on Wednesday. And so while the world lost a wonderful, kind, gentle human, it has gained one as well. Her name is Elisa, and I know you and she and her big brother Anthony will spend many afternoons playing together. I haven’t had a chance to meet this newest peanut yet, but I’m hoping to get over to see her and her mama this week. You’ll have to stay home, unfortunately, but you’ll get to know her soon enough.

I’m thinking a lot about your Aunt Danielle and how she now has two kids where once there was one. I can’t imagine this. I mean, not only can I not imagine having another baby, transforming our family of three into a family of four with an entirely different dynamic, I can’t imagine starting from scratch at this point. Here, on the eve of the very last week of your first year, it feels like we’ve come an exceptionally long way from where we were a year ago, battling to keep it together through murky, sleep-deprived weeks and struggling to get anything done between feedings. I quite like where we are now–it seems to me like a giant prize for sticking it out through the early months–and I’d be so reluctant to upset the beautiful balance we’ve achieved. (I’m pretty psyched to report that I’ve gone out for girls’ nights two weekends in a row! Daddy very graciously stayed home to take care of you, and you didn’t miss me at all.) I guess I’m not ready for another baby. And maybe I never will be.

In the meantime, your strength and independence continue to barrel forward as you check developmental milestones off your list. I’m attempting to catalog them here, but they’re coming almost too quickly for me to stay on top of them.

  • In addition to saying “mamma” and “dada” quite proficiently and appropriately now (my favorite is when Daddy or I walk into the room, and you spin around to greet us and say, “Mamma!” or “Dada!” as if you haven’t seen us in months), you’ve got a small vocabulary that we are able to decipher but may not be entirely comprehensible to the rest of the world. This includes saying “round and round and round” while pointing to the ceiling fan; making “eee-eee-eee” noises when seeing or pointing to a picture of a monkey; saying “one” and holding up your index finger when asked how old you are; saying “no no no” and wagging that same finger; saying “bye bye” (I heard this crystal clearly the other day when we left daycare) while waving; saying “quack quack” (but really it’s more like “ka ka” when playing with your toy duck); roaring when seeing any other animal, whether it roars in actuality or not.
  • You’ve got a second tooth! It just barely appeared a few days after the first did, but it’s completely caught up, and now you’ve got two nice, consistent central bottom teeth.
  • You’re cruising like a champ, and you’ve begun climbing. At some point, I’m sure you’re going to figure out how to climb out of your crib or over the gate. But for now, you satisfy yourself by climbing over low objects that are anywhere in your way, and you treat the living room like your own personal obstacle course. You also let go occasionally while holding onto a toy to stand on your own. We’re waiting for you to begin walking, which may be any day now or perhaps a couple of months down the road.
  • You climb the stairs like a little wind-up toy–you’re so fast! And you giggle like a maniac the whole way.
  • You can put the shapes in your shape-sorting toy, trying each shape in various different shaped holes until you get the right one. I am beyond impressed.
  • You’ve gotten to be somewhat pickier about your food, showing real preferences for carbs (shocker) and sweets (double shocker). You also love your steak grilled and slightly pink. You’ve started turning your head if we offer food you’re not interested in, and you’ll also shake your head and wave your arms to indicate you don’t want to do something or you don’t want to play with a certain toy.
  • We’ve finally said goodbye to your baby bathtub and have started bathing you in the big tub. You love it! You have so much more room to splash and play with toys, and you like swirling the bubble-bath foam around.

Next weekend is your much anticipated (by us–you have no clue) first birthday party, and the planning has hit a fever pitch. I’m both excited and nervous, since we brilliantly planned it right during your afternoon nap time. But the big cake and your little smash cake are ordered, and I’m dying with anticipation of you going face first. (I hope you do!)


  
  

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