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

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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

Z’s

Dear Love Bug,

This is my favorite exchange from today:
Me, as I was getting you ready for your bath: Let’s take off your shoesies. 

You: They’re sandalsies. 

Despite the fact that I was appalled, in retrospect, at having called them “shoesies,” your response is pretty brilliant. Well played. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

Duck

Dear Love Bug,

Yesterday you encountered your first “piñatya,” as you call it, at Anthony’s fourth (!) birthday party. In typical you fashion, you jostled to be at the front of the line, walked right up to the papier-mâché dinosaur, and with one hand whacked it hard with a little wooden bat. No fear. Some of the other kids hung back or couldn’t quite figure out what to do. Not you. Whack whack whack. And as soon as your turn was up, you wanted to go again. On your second turn, we convinced you to put down your goodie bag and use two hands on the bat. You have some swing. 

When the piñata broke open, you were immediately down on all fours, scurrying to collect candy you don’t even eat. But you were so happy to be in the midst of the hubbub, scrambling about with the other kids and watching them to figure out what you should be doing. 

Back at home, after pizza and snacks and the most giant piece of birthday cake ever (you were the only kid still sitting at the table, carefully shoveling forkfuls into your mouth and licking the plate clean), you were in the bathtub having a conversation with Das Quack. DQ is a rubber duckie dressed in lederhosen and other traditional Bavarian accessories that we’d picked up during our layover in Germany when we went to Italy. He’s since been a constant companion. You play with him in the tub and have recently started conversing with him. 

Yesterday, you felt the need to debrief him on your entire day, which is adorable. He responds to you in a German accent, and you just babble on, sparing no detail. You talked about all you did at the Science Center that morning and then regaled him with stories about the party, especially its highlight: when A opened a remote control truck, one of his birthday gifts, and let you play with it. You also pronounced that you, too, would like a piñatya at your birthday party, as long as it’s a Paw Patrol one. 

Today, Nonna and Opa came to play and to celebrate Daddy’s birthday. It turned out to be a nice day, so we all spent a lot of time outside, working with you on your trike-riding skills (you’re not yet a whiz at this) and trying to explain the concept of gliding on a scooter. You’re too distracted by the mechanics of the vehicles to focus very long on your technique for making them go. After a while, you were done with the trikes, and Nonna pulled out the little wooden handmade crossbow and arrows she and Opa had bought for you in Transylvania. This keeps you occupied. 

You quickly learned how to slide the little rubber-tipped arrows into the groove and pull the trigger, although you still need help priming the string on the bow. You love watching those arrows soar over the open area next door and over the tree stump to drop into the grass. Then you go retrieve them and start all over. 

And while seeing a 2-year-old with a crossbow may be a little unnerving, I feel very well protected!

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!

kind

22 months on the dot

It’s been a rough month for the world, kiddo. I read a tweet recently that went something along the lines of, “Let’s unplug 2016, wait 10 seconds and plug it back in.” It’s worth a shot …

We’ve lost some brilliant minds this year. But worse, we’ve lost a lot of average people. For no reason. Senselessly. Absurdly. Terrifyingly. Since my last post, just about 50 people were killed during our country’s worst mass shooting in history.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a jaw-dropping decision that you’ll probably read about in your history textbooks as “Brexit,” leading many voters to wish they’d acted differently in a response now dubbed “regrexit.”

The two incidents are completely unrelated until you look under the surface, and then you realize that they were most likely driven by similar rotten motivations related to intolerance. And now we’ve got a presidential election looming that is being underpinned by the same nasty motives.

And Daddy and I are depressed and frustrated, and we’re thinking about moving to Malta if Trump is elected. (It’s got a 99.5 percent literacy rate! It’s a gorgeous Mediterranean island! They speak English and Italian!) I spent some time feeling sad and a little guilty about bringing you into this world that’s seeming pretty dismal lately. I wondered if I was selfish, wanting you so badly because, well, I wanted you rather than thinking about what I might be subjecting you to. But then I realized that’s shortsighted because you–and your generation–can shape the world if we teach you well.

So we’ve started talking about values. I’m sure it’s all going right over that nascently curly little head of yours, but if we talk about it enough–and model the right behaviors–I know you’ll catch on. We’ve been talking about tolerance. But not just tolerance, no, that’s not right. It’s not tolerance; it’s respect for all humans and embracing others. It’s living and letting live and acting on what you believe is right. It’s sticking up for people even when no one else will because you know that it’s what you’d want if you were in that situation. It’s love.

You were born with a completely open heart, and it’s our job to make sure it never builds up walls and that it never believes that some people are more deserving than others. Daddy and I have a sticker that we got in Key West. “We are all created equal members of one human family,” it says. That’s what we’re working hard to make sure you grow up to believe.

In the meantime, we’ve been dealing with some “terrible twos” behavior, although I’m not sure that it’s so much “terrible twos” as it is just normal human development. (I am fascinated by this, and I don’t understand why it happens if you’re not seeing the behavior modeled.) For a while there, you were hitting, biting and pushing people. Daddy and I were  your favorite victims, although you’ve lashed out a few times at Nonna, and I’ve even seen you hit other kids–especially E, a little girl about six months younger than you–at daycare.

We put the kibosh on this immediately through a variety of strategies, and (somewhat surprisingly) you seem to be moving beyond those behaviors. But what’s strange is that instead of acting on these behaviors, you now express your anger/frustration/irritation by saying what I think you’d like to do. You’ll get mad and say “push!” and throw a hand up, palm out, like you’re pushing someone away. Or you’ll say “hit!” or “bite!” but you won’t actually go through with the behavior. So we’ve been responding calmly, since you’re not acting violently, and saying “No, Ethan, you don’t hit/bite/push. Why are you saying that? What’s bothering you?” Usually, it’s fleeting, and you’ll already have moved on to something else, but sometimes you’re able to express to us what the source of your negative feelings is, and I’m encouraged that we’re getting through.

You’ve got a pretty great group of role models, bud, and I hope you learn from them. Daddy and me, Nonna and Opa, Mimi and Beebee, Gina–we’re all working hard to make sure you grow up to lead a life motivated by love. And you are (generally) so sweet, so big hearted and loving. Just this morning, I caught you (via the video monitor) hugging your stuffed friends, one after the other, and my heart just about burst into a million pieces. A little bit later, I thanked you for helping me do something, and you said, “Eefan is kind.” Kind! Where in the world did you get that word? But without missing a beat (and because I jump on any opportunity to reinforce positive behavior), I said, “You are kind.” And I hope the world is kind to you in return.

In the meantime, lest this be a total downer of a post, here are some photos from the awesome, amazing week we spent at the beach (our beloved Chincoteague, Virginia) with Nonna and Opa. You were SO in your element, running on the beach, digging with your shovels, transporting water in your pails for no other reason than to transport water, jumping in the waves with Daddy and me, stomping on the sand castles Opa so patiently continued to build for you, chasing seagulls and ducks, collecting shells with Nonna, taking a ride in a bike trailer around the Wildlife Loop, racing around the top of the Assateague lighthouse, eating seafood like it’s going out of style and totally, completely, face-first indulging in the best homemade ice cream there is. You took a whole week away from home totally in stride, and we can’t wait for next year.

May this next trip around the sun engender kindness in everyone …

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.