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

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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!

leaps and bounds

21 months

The hubbub in the house has died down post-Memorial Day cookout. The dishwasher’s running. The living room has been picked up. Food’s put away. My tummy and my heart are full. There’s something about having a lot of activity in the house that makes me feel satisfied, and the calm that follows it is even more satisfying.

You’re fast asleep–for hours already. I still wonder what you dream about–if you can remember the details of your day enough to recall them in sleep–and maybe the multitude of adventures we had this weekend are shaping your night thoughts. I’m glad we had the extra day off; without it, I would’ve been completely wiped out.

Between the outdoor time in the stifling heat, the pool, the sprinkler, the birthday party, the multiple meals out, the playground, the gardening and everything else, you’re exhausted–and so am I. You took a few marathon naps this weekend, and you’ve been crashing well before 8. This intensive time with you has felt like a luxury; our weekends are usually so rushed, trying to squeeze everything (chores, errands, play time) into two days. Having an extra day makes all the difference. Does anyone want to offer me a four-day-a-week job?!

We’re gearing up for more uninterrupted family time, as we’re off to the beach–for a full week this year!–with Nonna and Opa on Saturday. That gives us four short days to get everything prepped, packed and crammed into the car. And this after we packed and unpacked just a couple of weeks ago for a trip up to Massachusetts to visit Uncle Eddie, Aunt Lala and Hazel.

What a treat for you that was: You chased their chickens and collected their eggs; you rode in a wagon that Uncle Eddie pulled with his tractor; you had room to do nothing but run (through the sprinkler, even–a first!) on their huge property;  you had a built-in older sister to entertain you (I’ve decided that rent-an-older-sibling is a fantastic business idea); you ate delicious homemade ice cream and played on a couple of playgrounds; you hiked along the Mill River. It felt so good to breathe that fresh mountain air and to bask in having nothing in particular to do and nowhere especially to be. You had a ball, and Daddy and I had a chance to be grown-ups with our grown-up friends, which we think is important for our senses of identity and our happiness.

In getting to and from Massachusetts, you took your fifth and sixth flights, respectively. We managed to do it pretty cheaply (and they were easy-peasy, less-than-one-hour flights) with you flying as a lap infant, and it marked the last time we’ll be able to take advantage of that option. Next time we fly, we’ll be paying for a seat for you because you’ll be TWO. That happened extraordinarily quickly.

And as we enter the last quarter of a year leading up to that milestone, you’re growing by leaps and bounds. I’m fairly certain you’re stretching in your sleep; each day, you seem taller and more little boyish. We caught you with your leg slung over the top rail of your crib in attempt to escape, so we lowered it yet again–and this is the final frontier, the lowest setting. Next stop: toddler bed.

You’re getting excellent practice at climbing (and also running, jumping, galloping, hanging, crawling and shimmying) at the playground, where you spend most of your days (natch) now that the 40-Day Flood has ended and summer seems to be here to stay. And you work that playground like a boss. You’re up and down stairs and ladders and all other climbing implements effortlessly, and the other day–straight outta nowhere–you walked up to the slide, sat down, turned yourself around and went down backwards and on your stomach. What?! You were down and up again before I could figure out what had just happened. You’re also starting to make contact when kicking balls, your throwing arm ain’t half bad and you’re maybe (kinda) starting to figure out how to make significant forward progress on your riding toys and in your Cozy Coupe (as opposed to just pushing yourself backwards).

Other recent interests include coloring with crayons (rather than eating them, although you sneak an occasional waxy bite, still, here and there); playing with stickers; and preparing elaborate spreads of fake food and then demanding that we eat them. “Sit,” you say, pointing to the pouf in the living room. “Eat.” And you shove a wooden lemon toward us or, if we’re lucky, some “bread” that you’ve “buttered.”

Your language skills continue to floor us.

We’ve caught you responding to the TV when the characters–presumably either in Elmo, Super WHY! or Yo Gabba Gabba, the shows you request regularly–address the audience with a question. “What’s your name?” they ask. You’re very emphatic: “Ethan!”

You speak in full sentences, although much of it only you can understand, especially when you get going fast. Some of your latest gems include:

“Ethan push button and watch Nemo on the iPad.”

“Mamma, flip-flops hurting Ethan’s feet.”

“There’s a hole in the bucket” followed by insane laughter.

And–first words uttered upon waking up in the morning–“I need chocolate cake.” (You are my son!) This has led to some bargaining when I respond by saying there’s no chocolate cake. “Cookies?” “Nope.” “Goldfish?”

You talk so much, in fact, that we’ve realized we’ve gotten to the point that every parent, I imagine, gets to eventually: We respond exasperatedly to the endless “Mamma? Mamma? Mamma?” or “Daddy? Daddy? Daddy?” with a “Yes, Ethan, WHAT?”

I have to remind myself that you talking all the time is awesome because you’re able to express yourself using words and not by screaming or crying.

And that, Love Bug, is something to celebrate.

self-aware

20 months

We’ve rounded the corner into the final third of your second year. This seems momentous, for some reason–more momentous even than hitting a  year and a half–and all of a sudden you seem to have sprouted into a little boy. You’re less roly poly and much more dexterous, your hair is fuller, your little face is becoming more defined. You just don’t quite look like a baby anymore.

And you know who you are: you’re “Eefan.” You refer to yourself nearly constantly in the third person, and you narrate your own life. “Eefan does X,” you say, or “Eefan doing Y.” Last week, Daddy texted me a conversation you had with him one morning after I’d left the house:

Daddy: Are you ready?
You: No.
Daddy: Time to go to Ms. Gina’s.
You: Eefan reading.

You point to yourself in pictures and cheerily call out your own name. If we ask you to whom something belongs, you’ll say “Eefan’s ball” or “Eefan’s book,” complete with the possessive S! You also talk to yourself a lot, especially in the mornings before I come into your room to pluck you from your crib or at night when you’re lulling yourself to sleep. Eefan is clearly your best friend, and I think that’s great.

Your self-awareness has expanded to your physical well-being, and your vocabulary is now allowing you to tell us if something’s bothering you. You’re beginning to use the word “hurt,” and you’re pretty good with identifying various body parts. Last week–I remember it was Tuesday morning–you woke up crying, which is unusual. Early in our morning routine, you said “boo boo kitty,” letting us know that something hurt. (You use this to mean “boo boo” rather than the cat-shaped ice pack we use when you have a boo boo.) “Where does it hurt?” I asked. You said, “belly.” I was surprised; I hadn’t actually ever heard you use that term before. I thought maybe you were hungry, so we offered you your usual cup of milk and Cheerios. You chugged the milk and left the Cheerios–a bit unusual but nothing we thought much about.

Later, as I was on my way to the dentist, I got a call from Daddy. You’d thrown up all over the back seat of his car on your way to daycare. I took a sick day and spent the day with you. You never threw up again, and by the time you woke up from a marathon nap, you seemed more or less back to normal. Seventy-two hours later, the stomach bug hit me, and by the time I was recovering after a full day spent completely helpless in the face of the most violent digestive illness I’ve ever experienced, Daddy got it. Repeat. All I could think was how thankful I was that Daddy and I hadn’t both gotten it at the same time; it was so debilitating, there was no way we’d have been able to take care of you. But by Sunday morning, we’d both bounced back to functioning if not normal.

And so that milestone, too, had passed: We got our first family stomach flu–not the last, I’m sure–and lived to tell the tale (although it was touch and go there for a while).

The milestones are coming nearly faster than I keep track of. On Monday, your 20th monthday on the dot, you tried out your new nap mat at daycare for the first time and took to it beautifully: no fussing, no rolling about, nothing. Apparently, you simply crawled in, put your head on the pillow and went to sleep. So now you’re napping on the floor like the big kids and you never even looked back at your Pack N Play.

Part of me is just a smidge sad, just slightly grieving the baby that was, the baby who needed me desperately. You’re so independent now, so aware of who you are and what you want; lately, that’s Daddy more than me (another blog post to come on that, perhaps), pancakes, cookies, tunnels, Elmo, downstairs and bubbles. Every once in a while, a book is thrown in there, too.

I’m so very, very proud of the little boy you’re becoming. But it’s also OK if Eefan wants to climb into my lap and be a baby for a little bit longer.

  
  
  
  
  

pretty mamma

18 months

One of my favorite of our recent exchanges, which are becoming more like mini conversations as you begin to string words together into half sentences:

I had taken you upstairs after dinner to brush your teeth, and you spotted my comb on the vanity counter.

You: “Hold it, hold it.” That’s your way of saying you’d like something, stat.

I grabbed the comb for you, and you ran it through your hair a couple of times. Then you ran it through mine a few times, took a good look at your handiwork and stated, “Pretty Mamma.”

{melt}

Me: “Awww, thank you, Sweet Pea.”

You: “Welcome.”

You’ve become very polite: You say “welcome” any time one of us says thank you. You also say “welcome” when you mean “thank you,” but the sentiment is there. We’re very proud of this new habit of yours. You’re also pretty good at remembering to say “peas” if you really, really want something.

Some other recent things that have absolutely floored me:

  • You can count to 20 (skipping a few numbers here and there, but still).
  • When you see the framed postcards of Verona as we’re traversing the stairwell, you say “Nonno’s.” I have no idea how you know this. It’s like you’re a sorcerer.
  • You can differentiate shapes and colors, and you’re getting to be a whiz at puzzles and shape sorting.
  • And this one made laugh: Tonight, we were looking at a board book about the beach, and I taught you “bathing suit.” You interpreted this as “Beebee’s soup.” Haha! Not quite the same thing.

You’re just getting over your nth illness of the calendar year, and we’re not even through March. This time, you were diagnosed with a sinus infection and pinkeye (shortly after I recovered from the same strange, goopy combination), and at least we’ve been able to treat them with actual effective medicines. The past few times it’s been “just another virus” and we’ve all had to suffer through it.

This past weekend, before the goop hit a fever pitch, you joined me at the salon for your first haircut. You sat on my lap, and Daddy distracted you with iPhone videos and cookies while Connie, my hairstylist, transformed your mullet–adorable as it may have been on you–into a decent style with a shape. You tolerated it until the clippers came out, and then you went ninja on her (also reserved for nail trimming and anti-pinkeye eye drop application). She maybe cut the front a bit too short for my taste, but it’ll grow back quickly, I know. Already, it looks way thicker to me. I’d like to avoid cutting your hair too frequently because I think toddlers with Beatles-esque mops are the cutest ever.

This weekend, we’ll be celebrating 19 months of YOU (along with 37–eek!–years of ME) and also bunnies and spring. We’re not really doing Easter this year, since Mimi’s working, so instead we’re going to go hunt eggs on a farm. The weather’s going to be sunny and spring like, and all of a sudden the world seems pretty again.

  
  
  
  
  

slippery slopes

18 months

A year and a half in and deep, deep in the toddler weeds. I love this age except for when you’re exerting your healthy will (pretty much always) to the point of frustrating all three of us.

I have come to the realization that I’m not a baby person, meaning I’m not a baby-baby person. I’m not nostalgic for your infancy nor do I feel driven to have another baby so I can relive those newborn months that pass so quickly. I mean, I loved the cuddles. I loved (mostly) that you stayed where I put you. I loved that you needed me desperately. But the rest of it didn’t necessarily enthrall me.

What I love now is that you are you. You’ve become your own person with your own preferences and desires; you know what you like and what you don’t, and you can express that. I love that we can play, sing and dance together. I love that you can make believe, and you take me with you. I love that I can ask you questions and you respond. And I love that every day, you surprise me with something new that you can say or do.

You’re beginning to string words together into short sentences, and you’re able to use words and phrases absolutely appropriately. You’ve learned that if you say please (“peas”), you get what you want much more quickly. You’ve recently started saying “you’re welcome” when we say “thank you.” You do funny things like mimic Darth Vader and say “pew pew pew” (as in what a shooting laser sounds like) whenever you pick up any sort of stick. You’re getting really good at certain gross-motor things like getting on and off your push toys, walking up and down stairs, balancing precariously on the arm of your armchair (I wish you wouldn’t do that) and going down slides by yourself.

You’re also terribly possessive, incredibly stubborn and given to bursting into tears at the slightest hint of the word “no.” If we try to take something away from you that you shouldn’t have, it’s like your world is coming to an end. Daddy read to me tonight from the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child about toddler behavior, and it could have been written about you: Doesn’t play well with others. Doesn’t share. Offers things to others only to snatch them back. It said we shouldn’t expect anything different.

And that’s the fine line we’ve been walking. We feel like we have to set boundaries and to begin teaching you what’s right and wrong. But sometimes we feel like we’re saying “no” more than anything else. And if you’re incapable–like actually cognitively incapable–of processing the limits we’re setting, how do we even begin? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I give you a cookie just to keep you from harassing me. And that is not the only one of my parenting vices.

I try to remind myself, during these particularly trying moments, that it’s really, really hard to be a toddler. You’re not in control of anything: not your emotions, not your environment, not your schedule, not what you eat or who you play with or where you go. You can express yourself only in limited terms. (I think about how I felt when I first moved to Italy and couldn’t really communicate with people on any sort of adult level–frustrating!) Sometimes, it’s enough to make you cry. I get that.

So we’ll continue to bumble through this, which is, I suppose, what everyone does, perhaps some more gracefully than others. I’m going to work really hard on not getting frustrated, and I hope you can, too.

This is all compounded, of course, when you’re not feeling well. And we’ve all had some sort of upper-respiratory/sinus infection for what seems like months. You were out of daycare all last week because you were running a consistently high fever (up to 104!), and Daddy and I were struggling with all sorts of congestion and other nasty cold symptoms. Finally, finally, we were all feeling better this weekend only for me to come down with a case of pinkeye (of all things!). I’m terrorized by the idea of you getting it, too. I’ve been avoiding snuggles to keep you healthy, and it makes me sad. Also, you’re teething–one of those first molars on the top–and it’s making you cranky.

But through it all, we’ve been having some pretty exceptional adventures together, the kind that are so awesome they immediately become a memory. Two weekends ago, we went up to State College to be with your Aunt Becky and Uncle Greg, cousin Olivia and Mimi and Beebee. We had so much fun! On Sunday, Daddy, Beebee and I hauled you up to Tussey Mountain and got you on skis for the first time for a whopping 30 seconds. The rest of the time you played in the snow and giddily watched Daddy ride the ski lift. It made me so excited for winters to come when (hopefully) we can all hit the slopes together, slippery as they may be.


  
  
  
  

cool!

16 months on the dot

It’s anything but wintry this Christmas–we had the windows open and the ceiling fans going this morning while we opened presents–but it hasn’t dampened our spirits. We’ve lived the holidays this year through your joy and wonder, your pure elation at lighting the Chanukah candles and ripping through wrapping paper on gifts for both holidays (you lucky little boy, you) to discover what’s inside. We’ve learned that we can’t make the unwrapping too complicated or you lose interest, and we can’t make it too easy (pulling tissue paper out of gift bags) or you don’t even bother. Small boxes with easy-to-open bows and ribbons are your jam. And as long as what’s inside A. is colorful B. is easy to hold or C. makes noise, you’re absolutely delighted.

For Chanukah, we offered up a small gift each night, and they were all art supplies of one form or another (except for a single book, about going to the potty, that took you some time to warm up to). You have no idea what most of them do (other than the markers), but you promptly found a musical use for all of them. You adore music, and you always let us know when you want to hear some by rubbing your hands together in your adaptation of the ASL sign for “music.” It’s one of the first things you do when I come into your room in the morning to get you out of your crib. You ask for music, point to your yellow submarine mural and say “that.” As soon as you hear the song’s first notes coming from your iPod speaker, you do a little happy dance. You love to dance! It usually involves you half-squatting rhythmically, but sometimes you get your arms into it, and you’ve reserved a particular flick of your wrist for the B-52’s “Rock Lobster.” Daddy even taught you to make the narwhal sound (“ee-ee-ee-ee”) from that song. Now, whenever you see a narwhal (more often than you’d think, when it comes to children’s literature), you make that sound.

This morning, Daddy brought you downstairs to find our coffee table full of presents for you from him and me and from Santa. It was a good number but nothing over the top. I’d bought some used toys in nearly mint condition–I’m big into recycling these days, as I’m learning how quickly you outgrow everything–and saved them for Christmas: a big ol’ pile of wooden train cars with tracks to use on the train table Nonna bought for you; a Little People zoo with an animal for each letter of the alphabet; an entire convoy of Cars cars the perfect size for your toddler hands. There were some other odds and ends as well. As anticipated, you dove right into the zoo set. You’re big on animals these days and love learning the sounds they make. In addition to narwhal, you’ve got duck, cow, pig, sheep, monkey and anything that roars (lion, tiger, dinosaur) down pat.

Your language has absolutely exploded over the past few weeks. We’ve counted more than 60 words in your vocabulary, and you’re starting to string pairs of words together. Perhaps my favorite of your recent acquisitions is “cool!” Evidently, Daddy and I say this a lot. But even more remarkable than this wealth of words you know how to use appropriately is your amazing comprehension.

You understand so much, and it continues to surprise Daddy and me. Recent favorite examples:

  • We were playing in your room, and I suggested you take George for a ride in your wagon. You picked up your monkey stuffed animal, stuck it in your little red wagon and carted it around the room.
  • Daddy and I were getting dressed to go out and you were entertaining yourself in our room, being goofy in the mirror. I said, “Can you give baby Ethan a kiss?” and you went over to the mirror and gave your reflection a wet, sloppy kiss. When you’re in the right mood, you’re very generous with your kisses for Daddy and me, too.
  • I strapped you into your car seat after a recent shopping trip and said, “I’ll see you at home. Love you!” And you said, “BYE!”

You’re so aware and observant, and you’re making such a concerted effort to learn. You watch us and mimic our actions, repeat words back to us, follow us everywhere. Your little-human skills are amazing: You eat beautifully with a fork, spearing small chunks of food and bringing them expertly to your mouth. You’ll retrieve your shoes, hold them up to your feet and say “bye-bye!” You’ve adopted Daddy’s old flip phone and you tuck it between your ear and your shoulder. You pretend you’re calling Beebee, which cracks us up because Beebee just graduated to a smartphone from a flip phone and you apparently associate flip phones with him.

I’m sure I’ll say this many, many times as you grow, but this is definitely my favorite age. You’re just so fun! And being your Mamma is pretty darn cool.