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

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

Comfy love

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been a while–sorry! First, I was too exhausted and mad at you from dealing with your absolutely horrific toddler behavior. We had a few real doozies in the past week. Then I was in long-weekend movie-watching mode. But now we’ve kind of gotten back to normal, whatever that is. 

You had a little bit of a meltdown this evening at the dinner table because you kept asking for things (more hot dog roll, more chips) that we weren’t going to give you. But you actually did a good job of calming yourself down and taking the time and space you needed to do it. So yay! This is progress. 

Otherwise, you’ve been pretty wonderful over the past few days. You’ve been sweet, cooperative and generous. You’ve generally followed directions and listened well. We took you to Panera for lunch on Saturday, and you sat so beautifully at the table–barely moving or making a peep while you polished off an entire bagel–I texted Nonna to ask if she’d seen any pigs flying around. 

Last night, after a busy afternoon spent playing hard at D’s birthday party (and running off the sugar consumed) and then an evening visiting with your great-grandparents, we sailed through your bedtime routine with remarkably little pushback from you. When we settled into your chair for snuggles and a song, you nestled into me and threw an arm around me. I squeezed you back and told you I love you. “I love you too,” you said. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. That was a first!

And then, when I got you tucked into bed, you asked for your puppies. I piled them up near you–Marshall and Tonka and Speck–and you put your arm around all of them and said, “Mmm, this is comfy.” I love that you express these things. 

Today, amid the Memorial Day sprinkler play (thanks, Nonna, for the new Paw Patrol sprinkler toy!) and frozen yogurt pops, while you were waiting for our traditional barbecue dinner to be served, you did a somersault all by yourself. And it was graceful and completely unhindered by any sort of hesitation. You just never stop amazing me. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

I Love You

Dear Love Bug,

One of the happy side effects of you sleeping in a big boy bed is that I can lean over and kiss you goodnight. What a treat! I’m so used to having to make do whispering night-night to you through the bars and kind of petting your head, which is as far as I could reach. 
I always say the mantra that Nonna and I used to recite to each other: “Night-night, sweet dreams, see you in the morning, love you!”

And speaking of “love you,” one of the cutest things you did yesterday, Nonna reminded me, was figure out how to make the sign language “I love you” sign on your own. Nonna started doing the sign with you ages ago, but you could never manipulate your little fingers into the sign. 

Then yesterday, on the way to the playground, you focused really hard on it and did it all by yourself. You squealed with glee: “I did it! I did it!” And you kept showing us over and over. Every time I looked down at you, you were staring at your fingers and working them into the sign. A new trick!

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Playing Airplane

Dear Love Bug,

It’s been a milestone a minute this weekend. We’ve been really focused on supporting your self-identity as a “big boy” by making changes, probably long overdue, to facilitate bedtimes, which have become increasingly nightmarish. At about 7:30 p.m., you turn into a raving lunatic. (That’s for posterity, my love.) And because of this, Daddy and I turn into exorcists. And it makes us cranky, and it makes you cranky, and many a night has ended in tears. It wasn’t sustainable the way it was, so we set up some ground rules:

  1. No more diapers. Trying to get you into your diapers multiple times an evening–because inevitably you have to use the potty at some point after we’ve finally wrangled you into a diaper but before you climb into bed–was like trying to get one of our grumpy cats into a diaper. It just wasn’t worth it anymore, so we made an executive decision that you’ll be wearing Pull-Ups only from here on out. I thought you’d fight this, but instead you’re so proud of wearing Pull-Ups that you’re telling everyone you know about it.
  2. No more milk before bed. I’m super tired of cleaning up your spilled milk, and I’m fairly close to crying over it. So you get milk with dinner–you can drink as much of it as you’d like while you’re at the table–and it doesn’t come upstairs. After all, only babies need milk before bed, and you’re not a baby anymore. You’re a big boy.
  3. You must be bed-ready before getting either TV (on rare occasions) or a book. TV is an extra-special treat for extra-good behavior. It’s not a given. You can read a book (or two or three, depending on the length and depending on the amount of time we have) before your bedtime cuddles. But you can only do this if you’re in your PJs and have brushed your teeth. So it behooves you to cooperate through those processes to allow time for reading or watching.

And because we have big-boy expectations of you at bedtime, we thought it was fitting that you should have a big-boy bed. We weren’t terribly concerned about the transition from crib to open bed. At Nonna’s, you’ve been sleeping on an inflatable big-boy mattress (that is, a bed without bars) for some time, and you don’t have issues staying in it. So yesterday, Daddy went up to the attic to haul down the toddler bed railing we’ve been saving since before you were born for this very moment.

We tried it out for the first time during your afternoon nap yesterday. You crawled in, turned over, and went straight to sleep. Success! And last night was problem-free too. This morning, though, through the fog of being dragged from sleep, I heard, “Mom! Dad! The light is green!” I squinted at my alarm clock to confirm; your OK-to-wake clock is programmed to turn on at 7:45 a.m. Yup, right on schedule. Then I heard your door open and your little feet slapping the wood floor. Hmmmm. That was not what we’d discussed. Your footsteps stopped, and I heard you say, “Oh! Hi, Obie!” (Apparently, our big blond furbaby was staring up at you from the other side of the barricade we set up at the top of the stairs, not to keep you in but to keep him out.) Then pitter-pat to just outside of our room and then the door handle jiggling. And finally, the door flew open. My eyes still weren’t open.

I had to remind you, once I was up and awake, that you’re not allowed to leave your room until we come to get you, not even when your clock turns green. “But Marshall said it was OK,” you said. “Marshall is a cartoon dog,” I responded, “and he doesn’t make the rules. Mamma and Daddy make the rules.” I explained that leaving your room without us could be dangerous. “Well, Marshall was impressed,” you said. I was still too groggy to  wrap my head around the exchange we’d just had, let alone ask exactly what Marshall was impressed by. “Impressed!” You’re something.

At nap time today, you had a hard time settling, and I found you sitting up on the edge of your bed, playing with your stuffed animals . I had to come in to reminde you that it was nap time, not play time, even if it’s now easier for you to get out of your bed to play. I had to rock you to sleep.

But once you were down, you slept for almost three hours. And when you finally woke up, we went to the playground with Nonna and Opa. You wanted to walk there like a big boy, not ride in the stroller. I brought the stroller along just in case you changed your mind, but you made it there (and back) without once wanting to climb in.

At the playground, you launched yourself down the gentle hill from the jungle gym area into the wide, grassy field below, arms flung out to the side and behind you. You ran in a wide arc and then made your way back up the hill. You did this a couple of times before I asked what you were doing. “Playing airplane,” you responded, matter-of-factly. We stood at the top of the hill, watching you propel yourself down with your arms out and your head back, racing through the field sprinkled with bright-yellow buttercups, so fiercely independent and just so adorable.

And I’m fairly certain this is my favorite age: when you’re a big boy but still so little in so many ways.

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Strategic Cry

Dear Love Bug,

Sorry I haven’t written in a few days. I nearly died. 

Actually, I had Strep throat, but I felt like I was going to die. (And now I know where your fits of melodrama come from.) I’m praying neither you nor Daddy get it, but if you do, we know exactly what it is and how to treat it. Three doses of azithromyacin in, and I’m nearly good as new. 

There’s lots I could write about–especially Mother’s Day, when I was slowly fading but pulled it together enough to host brunch for your grandparents but not enough to really spend any quality time with you, which makes me sad. Or your recent love affair with Matchbox cars, now that you’ve inherited easily 100 from Daddy’s collection (and some of those actually started out as your Great Uncle Paul’s). You like to take them outside, now that the weather has turned nice again, and line them up on the sidewalk and then race them down to see how fast they’ll go. That makes me happy. 

But I think what I want to write to you about today is how you’ve mastered the art of the strategic cry. After your bath, you were standing stark naked in the kitchen and asked if you could watch TV. I said no, it had gotten late, and you instantly devolved into a wailing mess. Real tears and everything. And I felt terrible for you but also was cognizant of the scene, in which (again) you were standing absolutely naked in the kitchen, sobbing over and over again about how you wanted to watch Paw Patrol. And then you looked me straight in the eye, gave a really impressive moan, and waddled over, threw your arms around my legs and buried your face in my thighs. 

Oh goodness. You sure know how to get me. 

I called you a Drama King, and maybe you have a future in theater (but please no nudity). 

Love you like crazy like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma