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

I love your hair!

Dear Love Bug,

You actually said this to me today. Along with “I love your shirt!” and many unprompted “I love you!”s. 

Every time you pay me a compliment (which is amazing, by the way), I pay you one back. I want to teach you that it’s nice to do that, and I rather enjoy our mutual admiration society. 

When we got home from the library this afternoon (we’re working on your “library voice,” which you haven’t yet mastered), Daddy was eating chips and offered you one. And you said, “Thanks for sharing with me, Daddy.”

Who is this child? Can this possibly be the effects of two days at camp? What are they feeding you? 

Of course, it didn’t stop the total meltdown before bed over having to use the potty. I’ll save that for another post. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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

Rockstar Woes

Dear Love Bug,

It started first thing this morning when you climbed into bed with us at 10 to 7 (damn this room and all its natural light) and lay absolutely still sandwiched between us for more than an hour. 

Then, when I took you to the bathroom for our ritual morning Pull-up removal, I realized you were dry for the second night in a row! Woohoo! When you were perched on your step stool, you looked down at your PJs and said “Look at my cool blast-off shirt!” I said “Your PJs are cool! Wish I had a pair.” And you said “I’ll buy you some.”

Down in the living room, playing with Nonna and me, you offered both of us your coveted Paw Patrol stickers just ’cause you like us (I think). 

At the farmer’s market, there was a local artist playing a ukulele and singing. At one point, a little girl had joined her for a halting rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and you were intrigued. When they finished, you said “Is it my turn?” and clambered up on stage, where you absolutely belted out the same song (way better than the little girl, IMHO) to the accompanying ukulele, one hand on the mic like a rockstar. 

I thought I might burst with pride. You are something else. 

Then it all went downhill. You spent the rest of the day acting like a lunatic and exhausting all of us. You even had a mini tantrum on our walk down Main Street on the way to the Island Creamery, of all places, because you didn’t want to hold anyone’s hand. 

Daddy and I think we have it figured out. Whenever you seem to be going through a cognitive leap, which seems to be the case with your behavior this morning, your behavior turns terrible. We think it has to do with cerebral connections being made or perhaps synapses firing. Whatever it is, it’s both awesome and terrible. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

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

Back to the Beach

Dear Love Bug,

Here we are, back in our beloved Chincoteague. This year may not be as beachy as years past; the weather looks just ok. But we’ll make do and we’ll still have fun. 

In the late afternoon, after unpacking at Misty Moon, we drove out to Assateague to make sure it was still there. Just kidding (but some years we worry). It’s there, and other than the addition of a bike lane along the road across the island, it’s more or less unchanged. We parked as far to the left as we could, kicked off our flip flops, and ran across the sand toward the water. It was incredibly windy and pretty chilly, so we zipped you into a hoodie. 

After launching a kite–it was great kite weather!–in which you immediately lost interest and retrieving a shovel to ward off a meltdown, you got to work digging, which is your favorite beach pastime. But when you’d had enough of that, you ran toward the water’s edge and absolutely squealed with glee at getting your feet wet. You were jumping and twirling, running up toward the drier sand and then back toward the waves. You’ve found your happy place. 

The next thing we knew, the water–all 65 degrees of it–had lapped your front up to your belly button, and you’d managed to sit down in it as it creeped up the shore from the breakers. I consciously quelled the OCD rising up inside of me and told myself it was fine. 

I continued to do so as you hauled your fully wet self up into the powdery sand beyond the reach of the water and rolled around in it. You became a sandy burrito. A very, very happy sandy burrito. 

It was hard to haul you away from there, but we did. And we stripped you down and let you air dry in the gentler wind near the car until you were clean enough to put on dry clothes (Mother’s Instinct FTW, but it failed to remind me to bring a towel). 

Tomorrow will be a true beach day, and you can dig and jump in the waves to your heart’s content–and to mine, too. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma


Crossing the causeway, having just woken up from your nap. 

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