Letters to Jack: Month 10

IMG_3420Hey baby,

You’re going to be a year old in just two months. Do you know what that means? CAKE! (Don’t worry, you’ll get some, too.)

I picked you up from inside your crib the other day and remarked how big you’ve become. You’re not a chunkster like Charlie was at this age; instead, you’re long and lean, with a large head (with some hair, not lots) and giant feet. I bought your first pair of shoes last week and had to bring home a 12-18-month pair because the smaller size was too tight.

Why do you need shoes, you ask? Because you’ve begun walking! We always knew you’d be quick to walk; you’ve been trying for months. Recently you became quite good at balancing without holding anything. On a whim while picking you up from Grandma B’s house, I encouraged you to walk from her to me. Step…step…step…step – four steps and you were in my arms. Our mouths hung open. I believe I squealed. Within the past few days, you’ve become even more confident on your feet, shoes or no shoes.


I feel as if we’re on the cusp of being able to communicate. Just in the last two days, you’ve begun to sign “more” to a point we’re fairly confident you know what you’re doing. You’re starting to clap (which looks similar to “more,” hence, the uncertainty), and you love holding my hands and making them clap. You still shake your head “no,” though this seems to be more for fun than anything communicable.

Still no “mama” or “dada,” but you do squeal each time you see our family portrait in the living room. Awww, you love us.


I told Charlie I was writing your letter tonight and he asked if he could help. I explained what I do every month, and asked him to type what he thought I should say about you:

Biting very bad he likes to grab things

Yes, the biting continues. Any time you bring your mouth close to Charlie, he flinches and yells, “NO BITING, JACK!” You usually giggle. I saw stars when you took a chunk out of my arm last week.


You’re much improved at the pincer grip, and at figuring out how to eat with eight teeth. You especially love frozen peas and puffs. We gave you blackberries at Grandma Z’s, which stained your fingers for three days and ruined a chair. Sorry, ma.


We’re giving you iron drops twice a day because your 9-month blood work came back with low levels of iron. This has been going fine, but I’ve noticed your teeth turning gray. I’m hypersensitive to this because of your brother’s gray tooth. Turns out, it’s from the iron, so now you’re also getting your teeth brushed twice a day. The gray may be permanent though. Meh.

I think we’re personally bankrolling Desitin. My gosh, I never knew what sensitive skin was until you came along. You sit in a dirty diaper for two minutes and –BAM– painful, bright red rash for days. I can’t imagine how painful that is.


We’ve stopped that awful sleep training (see Letters to Jack: Month 8 and Month 9). It wasn’t getting any better and I just couldn’t handle that crying. Instead, we started a routine where I put you in your jams, curl up with you in the rocking chair in your dark bedroom, and feed you a bottle. Most of the time, you either fall asleep on the bottle, or finish then snuggle into my chest while I rock back and forth singing Gershwin’s “Summertime.”

This is my favorite time of day, now. It’s quiet, your room is dark (thanks to the black-out shade we finally bought) and the rain machine purrs. There are nights I know you’re asleep, but I continue rocking. I breathe in the smell of your sleep, knowing these moments are finite, and feeling so thankful they are – at that moment – only ours.

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Letters to Jack: Month 9


Hey there, Jack,

Gosh, it’s been such a busy month, I don’t know where to begin. Right now, you are napping, Dad and Charlie are out, so the house is nice and quiet. I’m not even sure what to do with myself.

I forgot to turn on the monitor, so I’m debating whether I should risk sneaking into your room. It only took three minutes for you to stop crying, which may be a sleep-training record for you.


Sleep training has been rough – on you and me. We’re doing the whatever-it’s-called method where we do 20 minutes of soothing sleepy-routine stuff, then say goodbye (cue wailing) and return to comfort you after an increasing amount of time away.

We’ve seen improvement; the first few nights, you wouldn’t fall asleep for about 25-30 minutes. Now, it’s about half that.

Still, it’s been difficult on me. One night, when you showed no signs of calming down, I had to leave your Dad in charge and go for a walk. I texted my girlfriends that I was the worst parent ever because a)I couldn’t get you to sleep in the first place, and b)I couldn’t face your crying, even though it was a consequence of a decision I’d made as your parent. Isn’t that unfair?!

Sigh. I hope we’re doing the right thing. This parenting thing is hard, no matter how many times you do it.


You may have been extra tired this afternoon because today was swim class. Charlie needs some practice in the pool, so we thought it would be fun to enroll both of you. I’m not sure you get a lot out of class, but I LOVE it. It’s basically an excuse to cuddle for 30 minutes. Either Dad or I bounce up and down in the water, and you lay your head on our shoulders and nuzzle.


You are such a cuddly baby, Jack! Oh, I love it so much. You’re always resting your head on our shoulders or chests, or you crawl over to us if we’re lying on the carpet and burrow into us. You’re perfectly content to be held in my arms.

One of my favorite parts of the day is the early morning, when it’s just you and me awake. We snuggle on the couch, watch the sun rise, and I feed you a bottle. You often lock eyes with me and don’t look away. Ah, sweet bliss.

You’re not all sunshine and rainbows, however – you’re a biter. You take a chunk out of our shoulders or arms each time we pick you up. When you crawl to us, you inevitably sink your SEVEN teeth into our bellies, thighs, knees. Charlie screams and runs away if your mouth even touches his skin. Your doctor says this is normal teething behavior, but still, ouch!


You also hate to be restrained. The changing table has become more difficult, and we can no longer put you in the bouncy chair or exersaucer. If your brother tries to hold you in place, the entire block knows it.

Nobody puts Jack in a corner, apparently.


At your 9-month appointing this week, you weighed in at a slender 20 pounds. And at 19 inches around, your big, mostly-bald head (seriously, where is your hair, kid?) is still in the 99th percentile. Jeez. Come to think of it, maybe this is why you cuddle so much. You can’t keep your head up!

Your doctor said we need to give you more opportunities to feed yourself; you haven’t figured out the pincer grip, nor are you even close to using a sippy cup. You might be close to waving hello/goodbye, but right now you just look like a flapping bird. I can tell you want to walk, bad.


Some other things I love about you right now:

• You’ve discovered the joy of sharing in laughter. When you hear Dad, Charlie and I laughing, you break out into a huge smile and start giggling with us. That just makes us laugh harder.

• In addition to your name, you understand “cat.” If I say the word, you look all around the floor for Baron and Thursday. (Now we have to work on, “No biting!”)

• You respond to music. When we sing, you often stop what you’re doing and just stare at our mouths, transfixed. You also like to sing drawn out vowels. Charlie often asks, “Jack, are you singing opera?!”

•We’ve started doing a call-and-response game in the car. You squeal, then I squeal, then you giggle, then you make another sound, I copy you, then you giggle. Our first verbal conversations!

• You love swinging doors. Open and closed. Open and closed. You’re also obsessed with door jams.

Oh, my Jack. I can’t believe you are nine months old. Our lives are so busy — I have to remind myself to take a moment and appreciate the magic of our family.

With you and Charlie, there really isn’t anything better in the world.


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Letters to Jack: Month 8

_MG_2343Hey there, Jack,

As I write this, I can hear the sweet, sweet sound of sleep training. You’re not a fan.

I know Dad and I are to blame for being in this situation. When you first joined our family, it was much easier to bounce or nurse you to sleep. We just had so much to do every night – put Charlie to bed, make his lunch, clean up dinner, wash dishes, feed and water the cats, pump, and get to bed at a reasonable time because you’re still not completely sleeping through the night.

But now you’re eight months old, and it’s a bit out of hand. So, in the past few weeks, we’ve been trying to put you in the crib drowsy and let you drift to sleep on your own.

Woe is you, and woe is our family, for you scream and wail, you fight and thrash. We do frequent check-ins for comfort, but that hasn’t really worked. We were successful only one night, but that was because right after we put you to bed Charlie threw up and I shattered a wine glass on my foot. I bet you heard all the shenanigans and thought, “What a crazy family. I’m out.”


Even after you’ve fallen asleep, we aren’t out of the woods. You’ve always been such a light sleeper; now, I can’t even check on you. If you so much as sense the door opening, you bolt upright, eyes wide. You’ve learned to shake your head, so that’s the first thing you do in the dark, as if to say, “Oh no you don’t even think about leaving me.” If I try to exit quickly, the wailing begins anew.

You’ve mastered crawling; now you’re trying to scale things. Your head is still GIANT, so you’re banging into a lot of things and getting bruises (I may have Googled “hematoma” today). Grandma B was considering a soft helmet for you to wear at her school during the day. Poor thing.


I think you know your name; at least, you look at us 60 percent of the time we say “Jack.” You’re talking more, starting to form buhs and duhs. You babble and squeal. You love standing up and pumping those legs. You love wrapping yourself in our curtains. Last weekend, you and I sat in a sunbeam and played an uh-oh game that involved a purple cube, the insuppressible force of gravity, and lots of laughter.

I think your favorite place in the universe is the bath with Charlie. Not only do you get to splash in water – OMG WATER – but you get to play with your silly, animated, big, best brother.


Your first word will probably be “cat.” You go crazy when you see them, and poor Baron has lost several clumps of hair to your ninja grabs.

Changing your diaper is the best. Is that weird? It was always such a battle with Charlie, so I appreciate getting to nuzzle and cuddle and tickle you. You laugh uproariously when I nom-nom-nom on your tummy.


You turned eight months just a few days before a really cool thing happened in our country — the Supreme Court voted that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as everyone else (duh).

You’ll probably grow up amazed there was a time when this wasn’t allowed, but for a very long time that was true. It’s been wonderful to see so many people celebrate this great news. I am thankful you and your brother will grow up in a society where you can marry whoever you want.

As long as I approve, of course.


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Letters to Charlie: On Turning 5

CV_collageWow, Charlie. You are five. FIVE!

It was clear this morning you’re becoming an older kid. Within 20 minutes of waking up, you’d already told me to stop mentioning it was your birthday. “Mom, it’s ANNOOOOOYING.”

Zip it. I gave you life.

Last night, Dad and I went to parent orientation for kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN. I’m excited for you to start this next chapter of your life; you’re so ready for it. (I’m also thrilled Dad and I no longer have to commute up to 45 minutes each way to your current school. If I have to listen to “AstroPup and the Bird Fight” one more time…).

We took a bike ride (not technically true; you refuse to have pedals, so we took a bike push) to your new school a few weekends ago. While watching some big kids play, you curled into my lap. It struck me that this is the place you’ll probably decide you shouldn’t do that anymore. (Cue tears)


You’re heading into kindergarten knowing how to read, how to write, how to count by fours and fives up to 100 by memory, how to read fractions. You can put on your clothes, brush your teeth, get water from the refrigerator, read speed-limit signs, and cross the street after looking both ways. You almost don’t need us anymore!

Your recent report card was just stellar, a huge turnaround from the winter. At our parent-teacher conference this week, your teacher said how bright you are, how quickly you catch on to concepts, how much you like to participate in class. Things seemed to have settled for you once we got comfortable in our new house and used to having Baby Jack around. I’m so happy you are thriving.


You can still be pretty dramatic, though. Case in point: You love to tell stories on the way home from school, and while I’m a huge fan of story time, sometimes I can’t muster the mental fortitude during our long commute — especially because your stories inevitably come back to Batman, R2D2, or Anakin Skywalker and his ship.

One ride home after a long day at work, I told you I just couldn’t do it.

You sighed, sadly.

“Right now, my heart is empty…..but if we tell a story it will be filled with love.”

Please, someone, inform the Academy about this kid.

One morning, when I was late for work, we had an argument about eating a bite of Kix Cereal that Dad prepared for you. You agreed to try it (we have the “two-bite rule” in our house), but only dry pieces from the box. When you asked for milk with them, I dipped the spoon into the already-poured cereal bowl and offered it to you. You turned your face, raised your chin, and said, snootily, “Fresh milk, please — from the refrigerator.”

That’s when I walked away.


You recently told me, “Mom….our new house is 100 times bigger than our old house!” While, that’s not technically true, I know what you mean. You have space to play here. You run around the backyard, kick balls on the grass, jump on the tree swing. You went to a neighborhood kid’s house to jump on her trampoline last weekend.


Me to Dad: “Well, that’s worth the cost of our house right there!”


You are still a fantastic big brother for Baby Jack. I took both of you for shots recently; Jack for his six-month vaccinations, you for your kindergarten ones. You offered to go first so Jack could see “how to be brave.” We sat next to each other on the exam table; Jack in one of my arms, the other wrapped around your shoulders. When the needles went in, you whimpered, but never cried out. “It’s OK, it’s OK, I’m OK, Jack,” you said, comfortingly, when it was over. Then you held onto him while he got his shots. (Cue tears)


One of my friends (shout-out to Krystal!) recently pointed out that I’m kind of emo. It’s really true. I’ve always felt the magnitude of being your mother, but reaching these “big-kid” milestones seems to make my heart grow and grow and grow.

Perhaps it’s because I believe these years will be the best of my life. A few weekends ago, I was listening to music while making pancakes. Jack was bouncing on my hip, and you were coloring on the kitchen table. Unprompted, you got up, walked into the kitchen, and wrapped your arms around my legs.

The song playing was “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” and while I’m not the religious type, I believed it.



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Letters to Jack: Month 7

Sweet, sweet boy,

You are seven months old now, which means we’ve lived in our new house for three months and you still don’t have a light in your room.

This just shows how busy we are as a family of four (plus two cats). I’ve been trying to finish this post for three days.

Earlier, I fed you prunes for the first time. You loved them! It took you a while to figure out this solid-food thing, though. And I’m not convinced you’re completely there. Sometimes, I’ll bring the spoon to your mouth and you just stare at it, expecting it to perform or something. Other times, I get the spoon into your mouth, start to pull it out, then you lunge toward it, spilling half of the spoonful and making me panic that I’ve jabbed your tonsils.


You’ve been cranky the past few days, which is very unlike you. Twice, something about the carseat triggered unattributable squalling fits. The kind of crying that communicates, “I’m hurt. Something is wrong. Help me.” There are few sounds worse to experience, despite the fact that I can rationalize my need to soothe as biological programming.

I pulled off the freeway during one of these fits, convinced I’d pinched your skin in the buckle or something equally terrible. But nothing was visibly wrong, and Charlie was with us, and it was getting dark, so I decided it was best to just make it home.


You were still a mess when we got home, so I thought nursing might help calm you down. It worked in Yosemite, though back then we’d already begun limiting nursing to only once a day –  in the dead of night when you were too tired to remember you have teeth. I was especially hopeful this impromptu nursing session would work a second time because I’d been struggling with a painful clogged duct that the pump couldn’t get out.

So, you bit me. I cried out, but gritted my teeth. This was just a bit of pain, I told myself. You’d settle down now, start nursing, and relieve the GD clog.

Then you chomped down like a pit bull and wouldn’t let go. My screaming was louder, longer. Dad ran to grab you. I stumbled to the bath, filled it with a few inches of warm water, laid naked on my side, in the fetal position, and cried.

I would have stayed there feeling sorry for myself, but Charlie came loping into the bathroom and sat on the toilet bowl next to the tub with a video game, like there wasn’t anything strange about the situation at all.

So, I got up and got on with it.


You’re getting on with it, too – if by it, I mean crawling. You finally mastered sitting up, so you’re moving on to elbow crawls. We have to be more vigilant about what gets left on the floors. I covered all of the sockets last week after I discovered you’d booked it across the living room and were trying to electrocute yourself.

You’ve started crying when we take things away from you, like that sharp fork I left lying on top of a plate on the floor (see above re: not leaving shit around).

You’ve discovered your hands. Sometimes I find you waving to yourself with a look of complete awe on your face. You’ve also discovered your penis, which you grab during diaper changes, then burst out laughing. I know, it’s pretty silly.


Although we’re running ragged these days, you remind me every morning to cherish the time. When I walk into your room, your two-tooth, beaming smile says, “Today is just the best day, isn’t it?” You squeal when the cats come in the room. Or when you see one of your Grandmas. Or if you get to spend time in the bouncy seat. Or if it’s Wednesday.


I had the perfect Mother’s Day. We went with Dad and Charlie to the trampoline park. You and I snuggled as I softly bounced you on one of the trampolines. Dad sat nearby reading a book. Your eyes began to droop. Once you fell asleep, I stayed bouncing with you, warm in my arms, as I watched Charlie launch himself into the foam pit over and over again, laughing.

I was filled with grace and gratitude. There is something about you and your brother — together, with me — that just makes me feel whole.

You are my boys, you will always be my boys.

How in the world did I get so lucky?


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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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