Letters to Jack: Month 6

Hello there, my little peanut.

In recognition of turning a half-year old (oh, where did the time go!), I thought I’d share some numbers that are important in your world.

2: Teeth

I felt the first one poking through the night before we left on our trip to Yosemite (more on that later). Two nights later, it was coming up fast, and I think all of the Sierra Nevadas (Sierras Nevada?) knew you were teething. The second one popped through this week.

Yesterday, you bit my nipple twice while nursing, and, no, I will never forgive you.

18: Seconds you’ve sat unassisted before flopping over

Sitting is for suckers. You want to be standing. I bet you’d walk if you could.

0.5: Length of the longest strand of your hair, in inches.

When is that stuff going to come in, fuzzy head?


3: Times I got up each night to turn you over from sleeping on your tummy.

In the last month you decided you were a stomach baby. The problem was that you were able to roll onto your stomach while swaddled, but you couldn’t roll back.

We started putting you to bed unswaddled. And, even though the Internet told me it was much safer for you to sleep on your stomach now that you could roll back and forth, and even though we have the AngelCare monitor, I was still nervous.

Turning you back over in the middle of the night lasted about a week, until you began waking up each time I did it, and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Now you roll over onto your stomach the second we put you in bed, and we leave you there, butt crunched up in the air, off to snooze land.


0: Times you cry in the car

This is only significant for me. At this age, your brother began screaming as soon as I opened the car door. You? You love the car. You chill out like the chillest dude ever.

1: Road trips 

Speaking of the car, this past month we gathered up your brother and Grandma Barbara and headed north. Though we had to stop every 90 minutes or so to feed you, we eventually made it to the ranch/home of your great uncle and aunt in Central California. You met your first horse, slept with all of us in a trailer, woke up to the sound of roosters crowing, and went on a house boat.

Then we journeyed to Yosemite to scatter the ashes of your Papa and further honor the wonderfulness that was him. My dear boy, you won’t remember this trip, of course, but maybe a part of you will always carry with you how it felt. In life, your Papa always gave of himself, and he has continued to give through his passing. Our time with one another was full of love and laughter, of tears and togetherness. It was a trip to remind ourselves why family is the most important thing.


It was also filled with snow. We realized the day before we left that a big storm would be hitting Yosemite while we were there. Being from San Diego, we had nothing that was appropriate for you.  So we winged it. Hope you weren’t too cold.


5,000: Times you smile a day

Jack, you may be the happiest baby in the history of babies. This still amazes me because you squalled THE ENTIRE FIRST TWO MONTHS OF YOUR LIFE. But, it’s true!


You beam at strangers, you beam at your grandmas, you beam at the cats, you beam at the birds flying past the window. You giggle each time we change your diaper, every time we nuzzle your neck. When Dad or I walk in a room, you spaz out with legs and arms and squeals flying everywhere.

But all this is nothing compared with how you look at Charlie. To you, he is everything. The most interesting thing on the planet. The one to adore.

My heart swells at this growing relationship. I’ll try to remember it when you’re screaming at each other over Legos in a few years. I hope you do, too.

_MG_1973 FullSizeRender

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Letters to Jack: Month 5

IMG_1954My dear chubsicle,

I’m writing this letter from our new house. OUR NEW HOUSE! We did it, we somehow moved in the day before I went back to work. (PSA: Don’t do that.)

We’ve been here about a month, and we’re still living in boxes. Your room doesn’t even have a light in it yet. I’m told we have time to unpack, as I plan to NEVER MOVE AGAIN, but my Type-A personality hates the disorder.


Speaking of your room, this month you transitioned to sleeping there and not inches from my bed. When we moved in – and pretty much the day after I returned to work – you began your four-month sleep regression, meaning you were suddenly up four times a night. So there was no chance of you leaving the bassinet.

But when that ended I begged your Dad to get your room set up. I needed some air. I needed my own space again.

So, of course I burst into tears the first night we put you in your crib. How could you be leaving me? How am I going to sleep with you so far away? Why are you growing up so quickly? I even raised the issue of having a third child and the look your father gave me was equal parts terror and OH HELL NO.


You are mastering the roll over, both front-to-back and back-to-front. Sometimes, you roll onto your stomach and can’t get back and then scream accusingly at us. The other day, I set you on the carpet next to me while playing Uno with Charlie, and when I turned back, you were several feet away trying to stuff a Lego into your mouth. So, that’s begun, too.

You’re not interested in sitting. For you, it’s about standing tall and beefing up those beefy legs. I try wiggling you into a sitting position and you have no idea what to do. Your legs lock, you throw your whole body backward and plank.


Now that I’m back at work, you’ve started at Grandma B’s school, where Charlie also attended. You seem to be having a great time. Grandma joked that the kids should write you a book called “Toes for Dessert,” because you always seem to be chomping on yours.

On Fridays, you get special one-on-one time with Grandma Z, who sends me photos and videos of your adventures, on the 15 minutes.

You were stung by a bee at school. It landed on your chest outside, and when you looked down to see what was tickling you, it attacked. Dad picked you up from school that day, so I didn’t hear about this until hours later when I noticed a puffy, red spot on your chest.  “Oh, he got stung by a bee,” said your Dad, LIKE IT WAS NO BIG DEAL. When I finished hyperventilating, he explained that you cried for a few seconds, then were chill. I’m relieved you’re not allergic.


However, you seem to be allergic to my boobs. I can only nurse you right when you wake up or right before bed. Otherwise, it’s Scream Your Face Off City. We were at a party this weekend and all I hoped was that you’d nurse so I wouldn’t have to pump, then feed you WHAT I JUST PUMPED. No luck. #feelingrejected

This nursing challenge, along with returning to work, has led to a few tearful moments of, “That’s it! I’m quitting. Breastmilk out!” Finding ample time to pump is harder at this job. And when I do have the time, my supply is terrible. Why do I even bother?

Then something comes along to remind me why this work is so important. Last weekend it was the urgent care doctor who diagnosed your brother with strep throat. When I told him I was worried about you picking up the infection, he asked whether I was getting any breastmilk into you. “Then he’ll be fine,” the doc said.



I have two favorite things about you right now. The first is how often — and with how much verve — you kick and pump your legs when you’re happy. I’ll walk into the room and your whole body goes crazy. In the bath, you kick kick kick kick kick nonstop. Maybe you’ll be a swimmer.

The second is how, right before you fall asleep, you bury your head into my chest. I know the moment after you do this your eyes will start to close. There is nothing like this, nothing like the feeling that I’ve made you feel so comfortable and so safe that you drift off to sleep in my arms.

Man, I love you.

We have a great month ahead of us. I’m hoping that you begin to sit more, and maybe pop out your first tooth. Plus, we have your first vacation to experience.

Off we go!


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Letters to Jack: Month 4

IMG_1814My dear Jack,

Tomorrow, on the day you turn four months old, we’ll be moving into our new house. You’ll have no memory of this place we’ve called home for the last six years – the home to which we brought both you and your brother from the hospital.

Though I’ll be sad to say goodbye to this house, I won’t be sad to say goodbye to parts of this past month. You suffered your first cold and IT. WAS. AWFUL. I knew it was only a matter of time – on account of your brother being a cesspool of preschool germs – but I didn’t expect it to be so bad.


The sniffles started on a Tuesday. Within a day, the cold had destroyed your voice box, so when you tried to cry, it came out as a high-pitched, barely-there whine. Soon, I was convinced you were struggling to breathe. I brought you to Urgent Care on Thursday, where they took your temperature (slight fever), tested you for the flu (negative), and said you had a bad cold that would go away on its own. (I have a funny story about our trip to Urgent Care, but I’ll get to that in a bit). In the meantime, Children’s Tylenol would help.

It didn’t. You got worse and worse. By Saturday, I was hysterical on the phone with your Dad, forcing him to come home from Lowe’s because I thought you were suffocating. Later that day, your fever spiked to above 102 degrees.


So sick. :(

I called the after-hours line for our medical group, and explained your symptoms to the nurse. She told us to head to the ER.

Grandma B met us at the children’s hospital and took your brother. Then we spent the next four hours in the ER, which has got to be one of the lowest circles of hell. Imagine several dozen sickly children, their frightened/frustrated parents, and overburdened (though wonderful) medical staff – all shoved into one tiny waiting room. At dinner time.

At one point, a father became belligerent because the nurses wouldn’t/couldn’t immediately help his teenage daughter, who’d broken her arm and was crying in pain. Poor thing. He began screaming, dropping “F” bombs, and generally scaring everyone. I was equal parts empathetic toward him (no parent can stand when their babies are hurt, after all) and also pissed.

Guy, get your shit together. My infant CAN’T BREATHE.

You were diagnosed with bronchiolitis. A respiratory therapist put tubes up your nose and down your throat to suck out some of the congestion from your lungs. Dad held you down while I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my face into his back. I couldn’t watch; the sound of your cry was excruciating enough.

You seemed to breathe easier after that. When your fever dropped, we were sent home with good tidings and instructions to buy the Nose Frida, which is suuuuuuuuper disgusting, but also incredibly effective. By Monday, you were on the mend.


Back to my story about Urgent Care. While being examined, you let loose a loud, impressive poop that lasted 30 solid seconds. The doctor and I shared a glance and laughed. Ha ha ha – oh babies! They’re so funny!

The joke was on me, because when I went to grab a diaper and wipes out of my bag, I realized Grandma B had taken ALL OF THEM OUT when you stayed with her the day before. And, of course, the doctor’s office didn’t have anything lying around, though they did offer me cleaning wipes. Uh, no thanks.

Having no other option, I busted out my ninja skills and fashioned a diaper out of a medical sheet. I rule.


This month, you really became alive. You began to recognize me, or at least to show that you recognize me. Our eyes will lock and you’ll beam, squeal, thump your legs, and gaze at me with what must be love.  Or gas.

You’re learning to giggle. Right now, it just sounds like my reaction to your Dad thinking he’s told a funny joke.

You’re still sleeping with your eyes slightly open, WHICH IS FREAKY.


You are 100 percent asleep here. FREAKY!

Your favorite place in the universe is the changing table. You can be bawling like the world is ending. We plop you down on the pad, then oooooooh, look at the pretty window. It’s magic.

I can’t even think about leaving you there unattended anymore; yesterday, you rolled over for the first time! You were with Grandma B, doing some tummy time, when you threw your head back and the rest of your body followed. Well done!

You’re trying really hard to fit your entire hand in your mouth. The other morning while Charlie was eating breakfast before school, I rhetorically asked what you felt like packing that day. “His fist?” Charlie said.


My sweet boy, I’m only days from maternity leave ending, and my emotions are scattered. While I’m incredibly excited to return to work, I will miss our one-on-one, uninterrupted time.

This past week, I’ve stolen special moments with you – far from the packing that needed to be done, or the dinner that needed to be made. I let you nap snugly in my arms, instead of putting you in the crib. We spent a few extra minutes splashing in the bath, during which there was a moment I could’ve sworn you were the most loved baby that ever lived (along with Charlie, of course). I’ve inhaled your scent, and the smell of your sweet baby breath.


When “I See the Light” from Tangled came on my iPhone, we slow danced in our living room. I fast-forwarded to us dancing on your wedding day, a grown man, far from the tiny baby of today, and I began to cry.

It just goes so fast. I look at your brother, who’s almost FIVE, and I just can’t believe it. In no time at all, I’ll be saying the same thing about you.

But I didn’t become a mother to stay frozen in time. The real joy comes from being alongside you every day as you grow, learn new things, and discover all the wonderfuls about this life.

Thank you for letting me be here for the ride.


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Letters to Charlie: Four and Three-Quarters

Hey there, my little man,

I should be packing. In a few days we’ll be moving into our new home. It’s larger than this place, where you’ve lived your entire life. There, you’ll have your own room, a backyard to run through, and children in the neighborhood to play with. I can’t wait.

I hope the extra space will be good for you, good for our family. We’re practically on top of each other here. Dad and I have nowhere to hide.


You see, Charlie, being a parent is tough. And throwing another baby into the mix has definitely made things more chaotic. So, it’s understandable these past few months have been filled both with exhausting challenges and moments of pure bliss.

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Let’s talk about school. Your report card from the fall semester was mixed. In short, you’re super smart, but your behavior needs work. Take this week, for example. You used the word “duplicate” correctly in a sentence, but also BIT a classmate and drew on the cabinets with a pencil. Twice.

There wasn’t anything in the report card we didn’t know or expect; your impulse has always been to do what you want when you want – to hell with authority. Out of 14 behavioral categories, you received one “good,” seven “satisfactorys” and the remainder “needs improvement.” Here’s what your teacher had to say:

Charles has made progress in all of the curriculum. He stays busy during work time, but not with materials that challenge him. Charles is easily distracted. If an exercise is the least bit difficult, he will not attempt to complete it. Charles relies on help to perform tasks. We are working on following through verbal directions. 

Charles’ very social nature requires consistent teacher redirection and correction. Charles often cries when corrected by his teacher and seems to resent this. He likes for things to go his way. He can become uncomfortable about taking responsibility for his choices. We are helping Charles to cope with situations without becoming overly upset over minor affronts. 


Your teachers have started a sticker reward system similar to the chip program we’re doing at home. At the end of the day, you and a teacher discuss the day and decide together whether you’ve earned a sticker. When you get five in a row, you can spend your Target gift card, and I agreed to buy you a Batman shirt (you’re really into Batman these days).

We’ve yet to see three days in a row, but I can tell you’re trying.


After a series of particularly bad days as school, I half-jokingly asked one of your teachers if they were ready to throw in the towel. She smiled and shook her head. “Charles is a handful, but everyone here loves him. There’s just something about him.”


I saw that “something” during your Christmas program at school. When it was their turn to perform something solo, your classmates walked purposefully and calmly to the front of the stage. When you went to recite “Winter Moon” by Langston Hughes, you sauntered on all fours – LIKE A GORILLA – to the front of the room and lined up your feet just so before beginning to speak. Afterward, you threw yourself into your seat with an “uggghhhh” as if you’d finished running an exhausted mile.


Lately, you’ve shown us how clever you are. I came upstairs one morning to catch you stealing chips and putting them in your chip bank. When I asked why, you responded, “Because it’s faster!”

I found toothpaste smeared all over the bathroom. You blamed the cat. I told you the cat doesn’t have opposable thumbs so couldn’t have squeezed out the toothpaste.  You responded, “He must have stepped on it.”

Out of the blue on Christmas Eve, you asked Dad whether Santa was real. You told him you were confused you never see Santa in real life. That same night, you asked whether people are reborn when they die.

OMG, Charlie. You are only four! Thankfully, you showed your age when you exclaimed, “My fart just sounded like the cats vomiting.”


You’ve always been a sensitive child, with your feelings right on the surface. I didn’t realize how much you struggle with this until we went to a birthday party with other kids your age. Poor guy, you pretty much cried the entire time. Someone fell on you while chasing after a Frisbee, and you never quite regained control. At one point you burst into tears surrounded by all your classmates and their parents because someone had thrown away your plate with half-eaten pizza on it. It took at least 10 minutes to calm you down.

I’d given Dad the afternoon off, thinking you would be occupied with your friends while I cared for Jack. Instead, I was stressed and overwhelmed trying to comfort you while juggling Jack, who, of course, decided to be fussy. At one point, another mom who saw me struggling took Jack so that I could be with you.

Dad and I are working hard to teach you emotional management skills, but it’s tough. Your first instinct is always to cry, or hit, or kick, or bite (sorry, Max).


That being said, I can tell how caring and loving you are. Driving home from school, I often glance in the rearview mirror to see you holding Jack’s hand. Recently at the grocery store, you asked to get flowers for Dad and a balloon for you. I told you we could only take one home. Though you clutched the balloon through the entire store, you asked to keep the flowers for Dad (I let you take home both).

You are such a big kid, getting close to five. You tried to climb into my lap the other night during story time and I couldn’t hold on to all of your long limbs.

Still, there are times you still seem so small, so new.

A few nights ago, you had a bad case of croup. You’d woken up in the middle of the night and coughed so hard you puked all over everything. Afterward, I settled next to you in your bunk bed, feeling your body relax as you fell back to sleep. I couldn’t help but cry.

I know there will come a time when I can’t lie next to you in the dark of night, rubbing your back. When my presence alone won’t be enough to comfort you when you’re sick.

That day is coming fast; just yesterday I kissed your cheek and you rubbed it off.

Until then, my son, I will take every opportunity to snuggle close to you and be grateful that I get to be your mom – biting and all.


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Letters to Jack: Month 3

My dear Jack,

Let’s talk about sleep for a moment. You’re not a fan, at least during the day.

Right now, you are snoozing in your swing, so that gives me about 20 minutes to write this entire post. You take two to three, 20-minute nap chunks a day, even when sleeping in our arms.

Every. little. sound. wakes you up. You also keep one eye slightly open. Not sure if this is intentional, a fluke of anatomy, or both. It’s like you don’t want to miss one moment of this precious life.


Still, this is okay for two reasons: you’re sleeping great at night (yesterday you went from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.) and you are much happier when you’re awake (thank you, Baby Zantac!).

You’re also a wiggly sleeper. Each night, we angle you in the top left corner of the bassinet, tightly swaddled. By the time you wake up, you’ve made it down to the lower right corner, and you’re completely smushed in. How does that happen?


You’re three months old, so your development is really starting to pick up. With Charlie, I was back to work by this point, so didn’t get to witness all of this. You spend all morning babbling and cooing at me. Your smiles shine into the darkest places. You’ve giggled a few times. You found your hands and enjoy shoving them in your mouth.


You discovered the play mat and have been busy batting at, and reaching for, things that jingle. You’ve begun rolling on your side.

At your last doctor’s appointment, your pediatrician ordered us to give you three, 15-minute chunks each day because you weren’t developing head control. Though I know it pisses you off, you’ve been working hard and showing great progress.


You are warm and cuddly and I want to hug you all of the time. When I burp you, I love to nuzzle the fuzzy blond hair at the back of your neck. In certain light, your hair looks red, which makes me think of Papa, who had red hair when he was younger. Sometimes I am struck with such sadness that you will never get to meet him….

Every day, I am grateful to nurse you. This time together is so precious, as I wasn’t able to experience it with Charlie. We still have some challenges (e.g. the times you simply refuse the right breast, to the point of screaming if I try to latch you – does it smell bad or something?), but they are worth it.


This time next month, I will be back at work. Although I am excited to return, I feel pressure to make the most of our time together. I’m sure this is for several reasons: you are my last baby, this is my last maternity leave, and with two kids my time with you is more limited.

Well, true to form, you just woke up. By my clock, it’s been 26 minutes, so you’re overachieving today. Let’s go spend some time cuddling.


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Letters to Jack: Month 2

IMG_0894Jackers Crackers (your first nickname!),

This has been an exciting month, and by exciting I mean kind of awful. It started with you not sleeping at all during the day. Then it became crying when you were awake. Then it turned into screaming uncontrollably when you were awake. I’d spend an hour and a half trying to soothe you to sleep, only to have you wake up howling after 10 minutes. Driving was a nightmare. I wept a lot with you.

We couldn’t figure out what was bothering you. It didn’t seem to be colic, whatever that is. Were you overtired? Too hot? Too cold? Too stationary? Was it too quiet? Too loud? Were you allergic to, or bothered by, something I ate? The stress of all your crying was exhaustive and scary.


Then my friend Susan suggested reflux; her baby girl had it. The symptoms matched up. Not sleeping for long periods? Check. Waking up crying? Check. Arched back during nursing? Check. Gagging/coughing/gasping during feeding? Check.

Your pediatrician wasn’t available to see you for another week, so I went to another guy. He said reflux was possible but suggested I try “soothing techniques” to calm you down before we tried other interventions. Orly?! I felt like punching him. WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN DOING, DOC?!?!

You’d been crying the entire appointment. Then, like we were in a movie or something, he picked you up and you immediately stopped. Oh, and then you fell asleep in his arms.



We spent the next few days trying the techniques (feeding you smaller amounts more often, keeping you upright for 45 minutes after eating, etc.), and they helped. But you still seemed like you were in frequent pain, so I said I wanted something stronger.


Your pediatrician did not want to prescribe medication before confirming it was reflux, so he sent you for an upper GI series. Thank goodness for Grandma Z, who came with us. I couldn’t feed you for five hours before the scan, so I was terrified of how you’d be, how I’d be.

You looked so tiny and fragile underneath that huge X-ray machine. You didn’t cry once; I was a mess. I had to feed you a bottle of white, chalky, oh-so-disgusting barium while the physicians held your limbs so you wouldn’t move. Watching the liquid snake down your esophagus and into your stomach was part fascinating, part weird, part terrifying.


Then, we watched on the monitor as the liquid shot right back up into your throat. Your pediatrician referred to it as “severe reflux” when he called with the official results. You were on Baby Zantac by the next day.

And, oh, what an amazing difference it has made. Your unexplained screaming/crying has stopped. After a feeding, you look – dare I say it – happy! You pump your legs and arms, you wiggle around. You started smiling! You’re sleeping 6-8 hour chunks at night, and during the day we almost have a routine.

(At this point I thought of describing the horror it was when the barium came out of you, but I’ve decided to spare you that. You’re welcome.)


Now that your reflux has settled down (along with my stress level), I’m really trying to concentrate on enjoying our time together. This is my last maternity leave, and I’m more than halfway through. Part of me wants to sit in the rocking chair and just stare at you and cuddle for the next several weeks. It’s hard to find these times; the work that goes into having two children is just insane. I’m still getting used to it. Will I ever?

Your brother continues to be fascinated by you. If you knew what the word meant, you’d probably describe him as annoying. He’s 4.5 years old, so his way of showing interest and affection is to be what Dad and I call “all up ons.” He leans on you, pulls your legs, squeezes your cheeks, gets his face (and body) right up into yours. You probably think his name is “Charlie, no.”


You weigh somewhere around 11-12 pounds and your face is definitely getting rounder. People tell me you have the perfect head. I’ve discovered you love head rubbies, so you’ll fit right into this family. Your head is downy soft, as new blonde fuzz begins to replace the hair that fell out after you were born. I love rubbing your head as your eyes get droopy.

You still smell amazing. Your eyes are crystal blue, curious and bright. Your skin is smooth perfection. Your grunts and snorts are precious.

We are about to leave 2014 behind. It’s been a rough year for our family, for the world. Yet, your arrival is like a brilliant light that pierces through so much of the darkness.

I’m heading into 2015 full of hope, gratitude and joy.


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Letters to Charlie: On Becoming a Big Brother

_MG_1694Dear Charlie,

Wow, your first letter as a big brother. Congratulations!

We know there’ve been a lot of changes in your life. We didn’t expect the level of craziness that comes with having two children in the house. So, first of all, I’d like to thank you for toughing out this time with us.

Overall, you’ve taken to your big brother role so well, better than we expected. Our only challenge really is how often and with such fervor you want to love on Jack. To you, that means trying to touch him while he’s nursing (cue crying), or cuddle him while he’s sleeping (cue crying), or squeeze his arms and legs in weird ways (dear lord, the crying). You’re also fascinated by how often and how loudly he poops.

A few weeks ago you asked to wash his bottles. In the car coming home from school this week, you reached out to hold Jack’s hand while he was crying, and he immediately calmed down.


Drop-off at school has improved tremendously, too. You’re so proud of your baby brother. You love to show your classmates how little he is, how tiny his nose is compared to yours. You tickle his feet, kiss his cheek and off you go. This is a vast improvement from trying to leave the classroom with you sobbing, sprawled on the ground, clutching my legs.


You are 4 1/2 years old. I’ve heard this time is called the “fuck you 4s,” for good reason. You are testing limits more than ever before. You are testing our patience more than ever before. Case in point: I was nursing Jack (i.e. unable to move) when you started jumping off the back of the couch. I asked you to stop. You continued. I asked you again. You continued. I warned that if you kept it up, you’d lose a story before bed. You looked straight at me for a few seconds, then jumped again.

So, you lost the story. “If I jump again, will I lose more things?” you asked. “Yes.”

So you jumped again. “There goes another story,” I said.

Your response: “Good.”

This continued until I found a consequence that hurt: forgoing a trip to Starbucks for hot choco. Then came the tantrum.


Oh, the tantrums. They are explosive, unlike anything we’ve seen (or heard) from you before. You go from zero to 10 instantly when something doesn’t go your way. Which, these days, seems to be everything.

We continue to face challenges in regards to your choices at school, too. Right after Jack was born, your teacher took me aside during drop-off (never a good sign) to ask for help. She said you’d been sent to the principal that week for trying to take things home that weren’t yours. They were small things – a handful of marbles, kid scissors, pencil erasers – and you continued to pocket them even as it escalated to the principal.

I asked why your Dad and I weren’t told sooner, and your teacher said she was trying to address the problem herself, knowing we had our hands full with a newborn at home. While her intentions were kind, she should have told us sooner, and I’m still annoyed about it.


I noticed some of this behavior over the summer. When I picked you up, you’d be clutching a handful of crushed, sweaty, disintegrating leaves that you gathered on the playground hours before. This was before Papa got sick, so I figured it had something to do with Baby Jack being on his way. You’d expressed to Grandma Z that you were afraid he’d take all of your toys.

Then your world turned upside down – Papa died, Jack was born. When we asked why you took the items, you simply responded, “Because I wanted them.”

To address the behavior, we explained the concept of stealing several times. Instead of taking items, we asked you to tell us if there was anything from school you wanted to have at home and we’d buy it if we could. Finally, we said we were confident that you knew the right decision to make and let you know that screen time would be taken away if the problem persisted (it hasn’t; parenting win!).


I want to talk more about screen time, because that’s another major challenge in our house. We’ve always been careful with screen time. Before Jack came along, we limited your video and iPad time to no more than an hour on weekends, almost always less on weekdays. And it was always tough for you when we turned it off. Now, it’s off the charts.

Some of this is our fault. During the first weeks with Jack at home, we got more lax as we tried to integrate another child in our lives. It was just easier to let Netflix cycle onto the next episode of Curious George while strapped to the couch trying to figure out breastfeeding (I hate this feature of Netflix, by the way). So, you got used to some more TV and more of that damn monkey. When we resurfaced and got stricter, you lost your shit. Again and again. Worse and worse.

So, we’re trying a new strategy. To get screen time, you now have to earn it. Dad and I award you “chips” (poker chips) when you complete chores, make good decisions, or do something spontaneously kind for another person. Each chip equals 10 minutes of screen time, either TV or iPad. Three chips equal one Curious George. You can cash in no more than six chips a day. If you make a bad decision, you can lose chips.

This method isn’t perfect (e.g., you can’t make Jack cry just so you can calm him down and earn a chip), but it has somewhat improved our experience with screen time. You’re more helpful around the house so that you can earn chips. You’re nicer to the people around you. And you don’t freak out as much when it’s time to turn it off. We’ll see how long we stick with this.


I’m sorry to say that you have a gray tooth. Several weeks ago, you banged your mouth into the bottom runner of the shower. You cried, but then you got over it like most of your bumps and bruises. For the next few days, you complained about your teeth hurting, but I figured it was sore from the bump and didn’t think much of it. Then one day our friend Matt pointed out that one of your front teeth was gray; he’d had one as a kid. I’d never heard of such a thing!

I took you to the dentist, and sure enough, the bang caused the blood vessels in your tooth to burst. You had a 30% chance of the tooth dying, and that we needed to watch it closely. The tooth no longer seems to bother you, so I think we’re in the clear, but it just looks so….gray. Really gray. And it’s the tooth that you chipped as a baby. When do your adult teeth come in again?

Lately, you’ve been filling our house with your singing, which may be the sweetest sound in the universe. First, it was “The Continents Song,” then it was “The Solar System,” then it was “Up (sic), the Magic Dragon,” and now it’s “Winter Wonderland.” You sing these songs over and over and over again. At 9:30 the other night, I heard you belting your heart out from your bedroom. I love that you are so musical.


You are also practicing “Winter Moon” by Langston Hughes for your school holiday performance next week. I can’t wait.

You’re really into secrets and promises right now. You whisper “secrets” in my ear so that Dad doesn’t hear (usually it’s “May I watch a video?”). Or you make me close my eyes while we’re playing so that you can hide something (“You’ll never guess where Jack’s pacifier is.”). And when you ask me to do something, you seriously say, “Keep your promise,” even if I haven’t promised anything.


Sometimes when I drop you off at school, you kiss me on the cheek, then whisper, “Remember the kiss until we see each other again,” and my heart melts.

This is a challenging time for all of us, my dear son. I understand how frustrating it must be for so many things to change at one time. But know that you are loved wholly — by me, by Dad, and by your new baby brother, Jack.


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