Letters to Jack: Month 15

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Hey there, baby,

It’s 5:30 a.m. You just had your I’m-not-ready-to-be-awake-but-I’m-crying-anyway bottle of milk, so I have about an hour until you get up for reals. You woke me up from a nightmare about losing Charlie on Pirates of the Caribbean and simultaneously feeling desperate about getting teenagers to care about the devastating effects of climate change.

Welcome to my brain.

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Last week you were super sick. You woke up with a fever, then spent three hours fitfully sleeping on my chest. When I took your temperature midday, it read over 104 degrees F, and I FREAKED. THE. EFF. OUT. Cue me and your Dad rushing you to Urgent Care. You’re fine now, but it was scary, and I’ve never seen you look so sad and sickly in your life.

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I’ve been (slowly) working on your 1-Year-Old album, a hard copy of these letters. I loved this project with your brother and I love it with you because it reminds me of all we’ve experienced. Remember when you had severe acid reflux and had to chug a bottle of barium before an X-ray? That was terrible! Or that time we danced in the snow in Yosemite? Sweet. Sweet. Sweet.

I also marvel at how you’ve grown. Back then, you didn’t have any hair. Now, you have just enough to form the tiniest of Baby Mohawks. Progress!

I asked your brother what he would say if he wrote this letter. “Jack, don’t bite people when you’re sleepy,” he said. This is sage advice, and it reminds me to mention you’re definitely entering the toddler stage. You throw yourself on the floor when we thwart you from emptying our pantry. You scream and try wiggling from our grasp when we change your diaper. You toss food on the floor that you don’t want.

We’ve had to shout at you a few times for continuing to pull Baron’s tail. Poor cat can’t get away fast enough.

You’re still in the 99th percentile for head circumference and height. I’ve had to give away clothes that otherwise fit you because I couldn’t pull them over your noggin.

This makes you very top heavy. Earlier this month, Dad let you go down a slide on your own. Except you face-planted at the top, slid down on your face, then fell off at the bottom onto sand. Chicks dig scars, right?

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You know what they also dig? Kindness. Grandma B shared a story today of your empathy toward another child crying at school. You toddled over to the heating vent and began scratching the grate, something the boy enjoys doing. You kept looking back at him, as if inviting him to join you. It worked and he calmed down.

Your sweetness still abounds. You love to race across the room toward stuffed animals we hold out. You squeal, wrap your arms around the animal, bury your face in its fur, then collapse into our arms. Is there anything better in the universe?

In the last few days, you’ve begun patting us on the back when we hug you. “It’s OK,” you seem to be saying. “You’re going to be alright.” Aw, thanks, buddy.

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What you’re still not saying are words. I can definitely understand more of what you want –”uh” means up, “mah” means more, and you can sorta say Grandma B’s name – but that’s it. I even asked your pediatrician about it this week. “Charlie knew at least 10 words at this point!” I exasperated. “Should I be worried?!”

He said no. You’re the second child; it’s pretty common for Kid No. 2’s speech to be a bit delayed (who knew?!). Plus, it’s normal for babies your age to only know 3-5 words, which you sort of do. And, you’ve learned several more baby signs in the past month, so he’s not worried. I guess I shouldn’t be, too? (ha!)

You’ve probably decided to focus instead on your fine motor skills. You’re doing pretty well with a fork, and you’ve begun pulling zippers up and down. You’re an expert at getting puffs out of those fortressed baby snack cups.  Heck, this is a kid who was walking at nine months!

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Speaking of walking, one of our favorite things to do is a stroll together around the block. You stop to pat the top of each front-yard light and climb onto small garden retaining walls. You slap your leg (the sign for dog) each time you hear barking, sometimes so vigorously I think you’ll leave a mark. You adore being outside.

You also love turning light switches on and off (“What is this insane magic?!), putting on your shoes (“We’re going outside, right? RIGHT?”), and this Peek A Who? book (“Get it? Peek a Moo? Hahahahahaha.“).

Well, I hear you beginning to stir in your room. Chances are you’ll greet me with the biggest of smiles. You’ll make the sign for “Dad,” and we’ll go find him in bed. Then we’ll wake up Charlie and you’ll marvel at his high bunk bed. Before we leave for school/work, you’ll probably give us some cuddles, grab something off the counter you shouldn’t have, and pull the cat’s tail.

Good morning, beautiful.

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Letters to Jack: Month 14

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Sweet boy,

I never mind being up with you in the morning — just you and me in the living room, usually before dawn. You snuggle into my lap, rest your head on my shoulder, and stay there for long, perfect moments. You’re so warm.

Then you’re up, stacking blocks, pushing your car, giggling at the curtains. Your new favorite game is handing us a stuffed animal, rushing toward it, then lunging yourself into it and our arms, squealing with delight.

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Since my last post, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both were lovely and low-key. Charlie and Dad camped out by the fireplace to try catching Santa in the act (they did not succeed; that jolly guy is fast!), but you and I were smart and slept in our own, warm beds.

As expected, on Christmas morning you were very much into the wrapping paper and boxes. Charlie gave you a Yoda doll he picked out during his first trip to Disneyland a few weeks ago. I’m hoping it will replace the Piglet doll you suck on every night, which may or may not be growing mold.

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You’re showing signs of a toddler temper, though nothing compared with Charlie at this age. You mainly get upset when we try to bring you inside the house, or when you want to eat something you can’t have, and sometimes when it’s time for a diaper change. You’re trying very hard to perfect “spaghetti limbs.” How do all children know how to do this?

You love the swings more than I think I’ve ever loved anything. On Christmas, after 20 minutes on the swing in the frigid cold (SoCal translation: 50 degrees F) in Uncle Dan’s backyard, we brought you inside, and it was the absolute worst moment of your life. Oh, such sad, sad tears fell!

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We’re working a lot on language. Though I can tell you understand a great deal, you aren’t saying actual words yet (inner anxious monologue: Charlie knew several words at this point; what is going on?!). You used to say “hi” and “uh-oh,” but you’ve stopped using those. You say “mamamama,” which we think is your way of saying “more.” When you want to be picked up, you pump your legs, grab onto ours, and say, “Uh-uh-uh,” which I guess is close. I can tell when you’re trying to say “moon,” but it comes out as “muh.” That’s about it for words.

Sign language is going … OK. You mastered “more” and “eat” this week, which is incredibly helpful. Animals are either the sign for “dog,” or you point to your head. “Dad” is also pointing at your head, so who knows.  We’ve tried watching “Baby Signing Time,” but you seem to be less interested in screens than Charlie was at 14 months (and every age).

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You still know the sign for “tree.” When Dad lugged the Christmas tree into our house you stared at it, looked at us, looked at the tree, made the sign for “tree,” pointed outside, then looked back at us like, “WTF is going on here, guys.”

I may write about this every single month, but I love, love, love how you and Charlie play together. Each month it seems like your fun gets richer. You’re starting to rough house and chase each other and grab toys out of each other’s hands. OK, that last one is not so fun, but you get what I mean. You played in the crib together the other night — alone — for 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES. I peed all by myself! It was Christmas miracle.

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The New Year is just around the corner, my dear one. We’ve been having so much fun lately as a family. I can’t wait for the adventures that await us in 2016.

I hope they come with snuggles.

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Letters to Jack: Month 13

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My dear boy,

We’ve finally reached an armistice.  A sleep truce.

Yep, I’m writing this letter five minutes after plopping you in your crib — wide awake — for the night, and I haven’t heard a peep out of you. It’s similar every night and during naps. If you do fuss, it’s only for a few minutes before you begin babbling and drift off to sleep.

HALLELUJAH, WE MADE IT.

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Now that going to bed isn’t so traumatic, you really are the happiest baby on the block (mom and dad are much happier, too). That 10-tooth smile of yours is infectious. Your giggles are like sunbursts through our house. You find everything hilarious — from new tastes, to the clothes hanging in my closet, to the cats’ fluffy tails.

It’s been a busy month. We celebrated your birthday with family and friends (you devoured the cake; atta boy!). You visited the dentist for the first time. And you experienced your first Halloween.

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I have to apologize for Halloween, actually. To complete your amazing costume (a lumberjack, get it?), I added a “beard” to your cheeks using brown eyeliner pencil. You wailed, which I thought was because you were being restrained by Dad. But when I washed your face that night, I discovered it was streaked with bright red slashes from where a sharp edge of the pencil cut up your face. No wonder you cried. I’m sorry for hurting you, little man.

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I feel like we’ve begun having real conversations. You started to use baby sign language; “cat” was your first word, no surprise there. Now you know dog, milk, all done, and down. You’re getting close to saying mama, dada, and up. Through a combination of babbling and body language, I can tell what you’re thinking sometimes — like when you want to go for a spin around the living room in your Little Tyke Coupe or go outside to play.

You point to your head when we ask you where it is. You can show us “nice hands” when you get too rough with the cats.

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You’ve discovered the moon and look for it every night. You know the sound of my keys jangling the lock on Grandma B’s door, and you run to greet me at the end of the day with squeals and smiles.

My favorite development this month is your love for music. You wiggle your tush, sway and pump your legs when you hear us hum or play a song on the phone, or when a toy makes music — even when we’re not in the room! Grandma Z sings a “Shake-a, shake-a, shake-a, shake it if you can” tune that turns you into Baby Stevie Wonder.

I also love your budding relationship with Charlie. My dream in life is for you to be close friends, and my heart swells to watch you play together. This evening, you spent 10 minutes together in your room. At some point, Charlie lifted you into your crib and climbed in next to you, and I caught you two jumping on the mattress and roaring with laughter.

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My dear Jack, I could go on and on. However, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’ve got pies in the oven. We’ll all be gathering at Grandma Z’s to eat yummy food and share gratitude for our blessings.

You bet I’ll be saying thanks for you.

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Letters to Jack: Month 12

_MG_3065My sweet, precious boy,

You were warm and cuddly, groggy and perfect when I lifted you out of the crib yesterday morning. I held you tight, whispered happy birthday as you nuzzled into my shoulder. Then it hit me: Just like that, you are a year old. You are no longer a baby.

Cue all of the emotions. Sadness, mixed with elation, mixed with 200,000 years of evolution screaming, “HAVE MORE BABIES. NOW.”

In these moments, I simply wait for clarity to arrive. Last weekend, it came after a solo trip to Target with you and Charlie – a challenge all teenagers should be required to face as part of sex ed. The birth rate would drop dramatically.

(Funny story: I mentioned this experience to another mom, who compared taking two kids to Target to sky-diving. Target, she said, was more extreme.)

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I can’t get enough of you lately. It’s as if my brain finally got used to you being in our family, and I’m overcome with gratitude. When I think about you, I feel lighter, like there’s a gentle breeze in the room.

Perhaps it’s because I’m not as sleep deprived these days. A week after last month’s post, I went on a business trip and – praise be! – you began sleeping through the night again. I was thrilled for Dad, who solo-parented for three days. I couldn’t imagine him handling you, Charlie, his job, the cats, the house, etc., all on little-to-no sleep.

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I discovered something truly amazing when I returned home: your smell! You see, I’ve been mourning the loss of your baby smell – that sweet, almost-toxic scent that drives all mothers batty. Lately, you hadn’t smelled like anything. But I also hadn’t been away from you that long.

I came home late. You were already sleeping, so snuck into your room for a kiss and –BAM! – this wonderful, deep, heavy scent just slammed me. I couldn’t even move. I got weepy. I leaned over your crib and gulped in the air around you. How did I not realize this smell existed, that it was so strong?

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When you woke the next morning, I discovered you knew the second half of “uh oh.” A few days later, you began saying “hi” (mostly sounding like “eye”) and waving, which you now do non-stop to trees, our furniture, breakfast, etc. There are few sounds sweeter in the universe.

We’ve entered the Thwarting Phase of your development; you want to touch everything except the stuff you’re supposed to have. Charlie isn’t a fan.

You’ve begun tearing toilet paper off the roll and trying to eat it. You love to give us objects, then take them back.

This month you really embraced laughter. To-your-toes chortles and giggles. Especially when we tickle you.

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When you see birds, you squeal loudly, your eyes get big, and you say “ohhhhhhhhhh.” I’ve never been a bird person, but I’d buy a whole menagerie for you.

Your “birthday party” is tomorrow. I jokingly put that in quotes because it really can’t compare to the resources that went into Charlie’s first birthday. It’s going to be small, intimate, and perfect for our family, just as Charlie’s was perfect then.

Perhaps this is more of that second-child syndrome, but you are special in such a profound way; it’s something I want to keep close.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy. No matter how many mornings I whisper those words to you, no matter how old you get, I know you will always be my baby.

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Jack’s Nursery

We’ve lived in our new house for seven months, but Jack’s nursery is finally done! The theme is modern woodland. (Charlie’s was modern, modern).

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Chair: Eames rocker
Dresser: Craigslist
Crib: Babyletto
Lamp: Target
Mobile: Etsy
Wall Triangle Decals: Walls by Mur
Wooden Wall Triangles: Etsy
‘Dream Big’ Wood Sign: Etsy
Floor shelves: IKEA (Expedit, now defunct)
Crib Mattress: Land of Nod
‘Not All Who Wander…” Sign: Etsy 

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Letters to Jack: Month 11

_MG_2798Oh, dear Jack,

Let me describe some of things I’ve done lately:

  • Left coffee creamer on the kitchen counter for two days
  • Forgot to pack post-swim-class shorts for Charlie, who had to walk out of the YMCA in his undies (he may never forgive me)
  • Poured gasoline all over myself at the gas station when I pulled the nozzle out too early
  • Failed to include an actual check in the envelope I mailed to the landscaper with my monthly bill

This, my boy, is what sleep deprivation will do to you. You’ve never been a stellar sleeper, but for the last two weeks, you’ve regressed to a sleep schedule even worse than when you were a newborn. One half-hour nap ALL DAY. Waking up in the middle of the night and unable to calm down or go back to sleep for hours. Falling to sleep again, only to be up in 20 minutes, crying.

What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On.

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What’s even weirder is the lack of sleep doesn’t seem to phase you. In the morning, you beam. All day, you happily play and explore. Dad started calling you “emoticon” because you always look like the emoji of the colon and the capital d.  ( :D )

I can’t understand why you aren’t exhausted – you walk all day! This was the month you said goodbye to crawling and hello to (mostly) full-time toddling. It’s extremely cute watching you waddle across the room, arms raised like you’re surrendering to police or raisin’ the roof.

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You’ve also begun to climb onto the couch. I discovered this when I went into the other room for a few moments and heard you fall off of the couch. Sorry, dude. It’s really, really hard to keep an eye on you every second in this house, so we’ve started bribing Charlie to “baby sit” you during those interludes. He seems proud of this new job.

As you get older, you and Charlie are playing more together. You chase each other through the play tunnel. He pushes a ball toward you, you try to bite it, he exasperates, “Ohhhhh, Jack!” These are some of my happiest moments as a mother. I teared up the other night when you sang back and forth to one another.

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I was wrong last month when I thought you were beginning to sign “more.” You’re still not signing anything deliberately, even waving. You may be close to “all done,” but it’s likely you’re just discovering that your wrists twist. Still no intentional words, but you’re beginning to mimic “uh-oh,” though it’s just “uh” right now.

You like to clap and you’ve mastered the sippy cup. You enjoy emptying the contents of every drawer that isn’t baby proofed. Your favorite game with Dad and me is to shake our hands back and forth, which we pretend makes our entire body to wiggle.

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We’re supplementing you with more iron because your blood work after six weeks showed your iron levels are still too low. I don’t understand the biology of why your body isn’t absorbing iron better. You drink iron-fortified formula, we feed you iron-rich foods mixed with iron-fortified cereals. What gives? Your pediatrician says some kids just need help “filling their tanks.” Shrug.

The process of getting that blood work was somewhat traumatizing for both of us. I realized when I got to the lab that your doctor wanted not just a finger prick, but a sample from the vein in your arm. Getting blood from adults can be challenging; just imagine what it was like to slide a needle into your tiny, perfect baby vein. It took three tries. My poor baby!

You turn a year old next month. Can you believe it? What an adventurous year it’s been for all of us. I can’t wait to celebrate with you.

But first I need to get some sleep.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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