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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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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your first words

48 weeks

I can’t keep up with your frantic growth these days. I turned around, and all of a sudden, you seem taller, your face more little boy-like, your movements intentional and assured, your babbling approximating a language rather than being simply a string of incongruous sounds.

I think you must be burning energy like crazy because yesterday, you were unusually cranky at home after daycare until we fed you dinner, and you wolfed it down like you might not see food again for a long, long time. I read somewhere that I’m supposed to feed you until you’re no longer hungry, and you’re pretty good about indicating when that is: You’ll rip off your bib or start throwing your food on the floor. Last night, you just kept going. You tore through veggies, hot dog, mac n cheese and fruit, and you probably could have kept going, but it was getting late.

Daddy cleaned you off and plucked you from your high chair, cuddling you until I was ready to take you upstairs to nurse you. I started our routine: I filled my water glass at the fridge, then put it down so I could take you with both hands from Daddy. When I went to do that, you leaned forward, reaching toward me with both hands and saying, crystal clear and in your sweet, tiny voice: “Mamma.”

In that moment, my heart grew to a thousand times its normal size and I melted into a giant puddle. I felt like I might never stop smiling, and I grabbed you up and squeezed you. All of a sudden, from one day to the next, you know who I am! And you say it so naturally and so clearly.

This morning, we were sitting in the glider in your room, snuggling and waiting for Daddy to come in to play with you, which he always does when you’re finished nursing, so I can go get ready for work. You heard him outside the door, so you turned toward it and said, again in that clear, sweet tone: “Dada.”

So there we have them: your first words, appropriately reserved for the two people who love you most.