Letters to Jack: On Turning Three

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My dear boy,

I apologize for writing this letter a few days late. October has been the busiest month for our family in recent memory — Dad has been traveling, I’ve begun editing the parent newsletter for Charlie’s school, and there seems to be non-stop soccer practices and games and birthday parties and other things we’ve promised to do.

But nothing could keep me from wishing you the happiest of birthdays, my dearest three-year-old. Sometimes my heart aches thinking about how quickly you and Charlie are growing up. And sometimes — usually when you’re fighting — I calculate the number of days until you’re both off to college (roughly 3,944 days for Charlie, 5,405 days for you).

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Actually, things have been better lately. You and your brother are slowly finding things to do together — building forts, chasing each other around the house, jumping on the bed, hiding in the hamper, and dancing with glowsticks in the dark alongside Dad and me.

The yelling is still a problem when Charlie makes you unhappy. Dad and I’ve had to speak with you several times about just how scared we get when you scream like someone is cutting off a limb. The encouraging news is that sometimes you yell this loud because you’re happy to be playing with your brother.

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There’ve been some momentous milestones in the past few months. You transitioned to a big-boy bed, which went smoothly. I wanted to keep you in the crib for as long as possible (#anxiousmom), but it was pretty clear you were ready the night I watched you scamper over the railing like a monkey and plop yourself into bed.

You were very excited to learn that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. So happy, in fact, that you’ve been repeating it often: “Jack have penis….. Charlie have penis….. Daddy have penis….Mommy have nooooooo penis.” You called me into your room one night after bedtime just to verify if I had a “‘gina.” Yes, sweety. Go to bed.

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We’re inching forward on using the potty. You’re completely potty trained when naked, but there’s something that hasn’t clicked about underwear. You’ve asked a few times to wear underwear to school instead of a Pull-Up, but then you peed through the underwear and additional pairs. Your grandmas can usually convince you to pee on the potty once during the day, but that seems to be your cap for now.  Oh well, I’m not stressing. The new preschool you’re attending in January doesn’t require a potty-trained kid. You’ll get there.

Everything else about your life has to follow a strict order. At Grandma B’s school the other day, you refused to walk through the front gate when I opened it because that’s Grandma B’s job. She was busy with another student, so you stood there for several minutes completely unwilling to budge.

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You’re also obsessed with doing everything by yourself. I forgot how frustrating this stage of development can be — for toddlers and for me. Climbing into your car seat takes several excruciating minutes. If I try to help speed up the process, you thrash and wail and go limp, and there is no easy way to get a struggling child into a carseat. I’ve found it helpful to turn this torture into a game (“Let’s count up from 1 to see how fast you can get in!”). You also like when I sing the carseat song I made up for Charlie as a kid, to the tune of “Twist and Shout” (Come on, baby…let’s twist and plop….come on, baby, let’s twist and plop…..Climb into your carseat, and twist and plop).

You love singing the “ABC Song,” still. Dad and I went to a conference in September and every time we video chatted with you and Charlie, you started singing. But, when you messed up the letters, you had to go back to the beginning and start again (see above re: order).

Sometimes, you’re a grumpy morning person. When Dad or I creep into your room to wake you up, you yell, “Get… out…of my…. room!” You were sent to bed early one night for refusing to eat any dinner, so the famous three-year-old stubbornness is developing, too.

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You’re pretty smart about extending our bedtime routine, something we also experienced with your brother. When I get about 5/6ths done reading a book you’ve selected, you suddenly decide, “Not that book!,” and try to convince me to start another one. You ask for several hugs once the lights are out — and you’re usually successful with this strategy because mommies love hugs!!!

Speaking of books, you still enjoy them a lot. You’ve begun reciting stories out loud while turning the pages and pretending to read. In the car the other day, I heard your sweet voice from the back seat, saying, “Are you my mother?….No, I’m a COW!”

You’re so expressive. I love the way your face lights up when you see something exciting (“Wook! I see a pwane in duh sky!”) and the way it gets all scrunchy when you’re mad. At your family birthday party, I took video after video of you opening presents just because you were so ebullient about every gift. “It’s a diiiiiiiinooooosauuurrrr! Guys, a diiiiiiiinooooosauuurrrr!!!!

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The other day Dad remarked how easy it is to love you. It’s so true. You give your love freely and easily. You love getting and giving kisses and hugs. You softly rub my arm at bedtime when I’m singing to you. You hold my hand for no reason at all. You even enjoy housework! (“Oh, I’d wuv to, Mommy!,” you exclaim when I ask if you can help with laundry.)

This morning you woke up before the sun rose, so I snuck you into bed with me. We talked quietly in the dark, and every time I moved, you pulled my arm back so that I was holding you tight under the covers. I told you I loved you, and you burrowed deeper into my side.

My sweet boy. You and I may have only 5,405 days left until you’re off to college, but know this: For all those days — and all of the days that come after — you have my heart, and my arms will always be waiting for your hugs.

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Letters to Jack: Nearing 3

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My dear, sweet boy,

I know you’ll hate me one day for starting my letter this way, but you just pooped in the potty! Yaaaaaaaaay!!

Such are the milestones that parents pine for. I longingly imagine the day when there are no more diapers in this house. Just think of how much money I’ll have to buy episodes of “Dinosaur Train” off the internet!

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As you can see, we’re making some progress on the bathroom front. You almost always use the potty if we keep you naked (wooooo!!). But, this happens rarely when wearing your diaper. We’d like to transition to “big boy” underwear, but you’re not ready to consider it. However, you’re spending several days at Grandma Z’s next month and she says her mission is to get you there. #goodluckgrandma

Right now, you and Dad are riding bikes to the park. One thing I love about you is your willingness to do things, even simple errands. Charlie fought to stay home from the moment he learned “no,” so it’s refreshing to go places without resorting to screams and threats.

(::insert sigh::)
You and Charlie. Oil and water. Trump and sane people. Some things just don’t mix.

There is too much fighting in this house. Charlie can be a hellion and you screech bloody murder at any hint of conflict. I lost my shit last Saturday, a sign I was in major need of a Mommy Time Out. Dad had recently returned from a four-day business trip and was away again at his monthly guys’ disc golf game (no irritation about that, just setting the stage).  You screamed at each other all morning. Calm Jess had tried conflict resolution, setting timers for toys, and even separating you in different parts of the house.

But at some point, I had to pee. The second I sat down on the toilet — with high hopes of playing just one game of Candy Crush — chaos erupted. Calm Jess turned into Pantsless Jess, standing over you in the living room and yelling my face off.

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When dad came home, I left the house with the intention of running until exhaustion and pain outweighed my desire to be as far from the screaming as possible. Several miles later, I walked in the door, not because I was ready to be done, but because I started to feel guilty about being gone so long (shout-out to other slow runners).

The change in me for the rest of the weekend was profound, a reminder to parents about the importance of exercising so that you don’t kill your children.

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Aside from your blossoming friendship with your brother, you are muddling through serious Toddler Brain. This is especially heightened for a kid like you, who’s always wanted things just so. You get mad if I don’t wear pants. When we play with cars, I have to “rescue” your car from a fire or from falling off a cliff — over and over and over again. Or you tell me there’s a lion (“Mommy! There’s a why-on!”) and our stuffed animals have to run away.

Sometimes, your brain is just mush. At breakfast the other day, you asked for a fork for your yogurt instead the spoon I gave you. When I exchanged the utensils, you wailed for the spoon because WHY WOULD I EVER WANT A FORK CRAZY WOMAN.

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I tried to take you to the beach while Dad and Charlie went camping. Packed everything up, drove 20 minutes to the water, and paid $15 for all-day parking. At first, you loved splashing around as the waves came up to our feet. But the seaweed kept sticking to your legs as the waves washed out, which you were NOT OK with. And every time I tried to brush it away, another fucking wave would come (curse you moon!).

Sandcastles, I thought. We could play sandcastles. As soon as you sat down and got (gasp!) sand on your hands, you were over that, too. “Go home,” you said, with finality. “Go home now.”

You began walking toward the parking lot. I gathered you back and you started to struggle. I tried to distract you with a walk along the beach, but that didn’t work either. “Mommy, go home now,” you wept. “I don’t want to beach.”

So, 17 minutes after we set foot on the sand, we were back at the car.

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This letter is starting to sound whiney, so I will list off some awesome moments from the past few months:

  • Charlie came up with a great game called “Tickle or Pass,” where you run in a circle around Dad or me, and we decide whether to tickle you as you run past, or let you go. This has led to explosive shrieks of laughter in our home.
  • We’ve had a great time swimming lately. Charlie is getting more confident in the water, and you’re finally comfortable with bobbing solo in your floaties. Our trip to the local water park was one of my favorite days of the summer.
  • You can put on your shoes and pull up your pants. You finally figured out how to rinse and spit when brushing your teeth.
  • I love your expressions, which seem to become more exaggerated and funny as you age.
  • The “Alphabet Song” is most requested at bedtime. I hear you sing it to yourself over the monitor as you fall asleep.
  • You always ask to watch “Me-wana.”
  • One morning you were so giving of hugs and kisses that you made Dad cry.
  • We had friends over for dinner and you brought to the table a book for their 2-year-old daughter to read, just like you.
  • When we play “sleep,” you pretend to be a rooster and love to yell “COCK-A-DOODLE” as loud as you can.
  • During an arduously long car ride, we stopped for a snack at a sandwich shop across from a construction site — which was next to train tracks. I don’t think you’ve ever been so excited.

You just returned home from the park with Dad. Skin warm, smelling like fresh air. You sought me out immediately and climbed onto the bed.

“Why you need write letter?,” you asked, laying your head on my chest and poking at my keyboard with your tiny fingers.

For these moments, my sweet son. The ones so commonplace as to be easily forgotten. For the day-to-day delights that too often get overshadowed by the day-to-day frustrations.

When I look back on my experience raising you boys, I want to remember the subtle joys of being your mother — from quick kisses to silly jokes to finally getting that poop in the potty.

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Letters to Jack: Almost 33 Months

IMG_20170527_072304_nMy dearest boy,

I get a feeling when I know it’s time to write you a letter. It’s part wonder, part pride, part recognition that time is moving forward and you continue to grow.

The feeling struck me earlier this week at the end of your bath. While Charlie likes to hop out as soon as he can and seek out dessert, you always take time to clean up. One by one, you pick up each toy and place it along the edge of the tub. Then, you inspect your placement and inevitably move some objects to another spot. The bath is done only when you feel that everything is just where it should be.

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This is such an interesting part of your personality, and it manifests in other ways. You don’t like to be naked, or when I’m not wearing pants, or when your shirt gets food on it and omg we have to change it IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS RESTAURANT RIGHT NOW (sorry, Boston Market).

I wonder how this trait will shape the man you will become. Maybe you’ll be a mathematician. Maybe you’ll always have a clean house. Maybe you’ll drive your partner crazy by adjusting all of the soup cans on grocery store shelves (callback to your Grandpa Z).

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Whatever happens, I hope you always give me such great hugs. Although you’ve grown out of needing to touch me at all times, you still love to nestle into my lap with a cup of milk when you wake up in the morning. We cuddle by the front window and talk about the neighborhood outside.

A few months ago, right after settling down on the couch, you shouted, “I see fmeengo (flamingo)!” I pulled the curtain wider, thinking you were noticing my gorgeous, pink roses, only to discover a flock of plastic flamingos dotting our front yard. Apparently, someone (still don’t know who) donated to a high school cheer squad in order to “flock” our house overnight.

Though the birds only stayed for 24 hours, our gag in the morning has become opening the front curtains, looking out at the lawn and sadly remarking, “No fmeengos.”

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Your language acquisition progresses. I surprised Dad with a special no-kid weekend over Father’s Day (ironic, I know), and I swear you were speaking more fluently when we returned after two days. You’re working hard on your pronunciation, too. Poon is slowly evolving into spoon, trut into truck, Jat to JackThere are still occasions when I ask Charlie if he has any idea what you’re saying. Or I pretend to understand, like any good mother.

You’ve begun participating in our dinnertime tradition of naming what we we’re grateful for, or what made us happy during the day. “Jack, did you do anything fun at school?” … “I play trucks!” Or, “Jack, what did you do with Grandma Z today?” … “Lagooooon!”

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My last letter focused on your Charlie-induced screaming fits. The yelling is still pretty prevalent in our house, but I have noticed you playing together more often. Usually a good chasing game will get you both laughing, without a meltdown. It’s still difficult when Charlie kicks you out of his room, or wants to play with one of his friends without you tagging behind. As a younger sibling, I know this will be a challenge throughout your childhood. Older brothers are just so cool.

I worry that some of Charlie’s big-kid habits are rubbing off on you. Just like Charlie, you ask if you can watch videos as soon as I pick you up from school. And I notice you use his vocal inflections more and more often — often when you’re telling me “NO!” Usually, your agreeable disposition finds a way through.

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Recently, one of my friends rightly commented that having a toddler is an exercise in patience. Your quest for independence continues to blossom; you — and only you — have to do everything — climbing into the car, climbing out of the car, putting on your shoes, taking off your shoes, brushing your teeth, pushing the stroller (even as you hit walls, other people, etc.).

I wish this quest for autonomy carried over to potty training, which has still failed to launch. We’ve made slight progress, in that you’ve worn “big boy” Thomas the Train underwear around the house a few times (though you peed in them — and all over our couch). You’ve even asked if you could sit on the potty a few times. But that’s about as far as we’ve gotten.

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I’m not sweating it. Maybe because you’re the second kid. Maybe because the new preschool we’ll be sending you to doesn’t require it. Either way, I’m pretty confident you won’t enroll in college in a diaper.

As an anxious mama, I have enough to worry about. So, instead, I will try to focus on our morning cuddles, our constant laughs, and the knowledge that with you, Dad, and Charlie in my life, everything is just where it should be.

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Letters to Charlie: On Turning 7

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My dear boy,

Years ago, I was hired by a friend to photograph her seven-year-old daughter’s birthday. You were a baby then, maybe as old as Jack is now, and I remember thinking how big, how adult, all of the kids seemed at the party compared to my little guy at home.

Now, here we are. We just finished your seventh birthday party and I’m struck by the significance. Seven seems important. Seven seems serious. Like we’ve bid farewell to all things baby and landed solidly in Kid.

“Who told you that you could grow?” I joke with you when I realize you’re taller than the last time I paused to recognize it. You giggle and can’t tell that my heart is both aching and bursting with pride.

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A word I’d use to describe your past year is bravery. You’ve always struggled with anxieties — fears that kept you from experiencing a lot of things kids enjoy. But I got my first glimpse of your budding resolve last summer at the county fair. From a distance you saw the Jumbo Slide and asked to ride on it, but realized the meaning of the word “jumbo” when we walked up.

“Mom, I’m scared,” you said, shakily.
“It’s alright, bud. Let’s try something else.”
“No, I’m going to do it.”

You grabbed the blanket and trudged to the top of the seemingly 20-story-tall slide as my heart felt faint. At any moment I expected you to turn around and head down, but you kept going, waited your turn in line at the top, then climbed aboard the blanket.

Your face was white with fear when you got to the bottom of the slide. “I don’t think I’ll do that again,” you said, affirmatively.

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This bravery surfaced again during your first-grade production of “Traveling Through the Rainforest,” in which you proudly played Ant #3 (shout out to Dad, who made your costume). A year ago, getting you onstage was a challenge. This time? You sang and danced and recited lines about nasty developers cutting down trees in front of hundreds of parents.

IMG_20170428_082106You’re even more open to watching movies, which you’ve always avoided because of how overwhelmed you feel watching them. It took us four nights to get through “Trolls,” but we did it, even though you desperately wanted to stop the movie at the scariest parts.

And just the other day, at Savy’s birthday party, you nervously asked me to join you on the ferris wheel at Boomers. When they told me I couldn’t go (really, Boomers? I’d have to pay just to sit next to my scared kid?), tears filled your eyes, but you climbed aboard any way — and had a blast.

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First grade went much smoother than kindergarten. You were assigned the “strict teacher,” which worried me initially because I was thought she would ignore your emotional needs (I recognize I sound a little helicopter-y here), but she was just what you needed.

It wasn’t all rosy; we encountered some behavioral challenges. Most were benign 6-year-old antics, but a few situations required parental and school intervention. Those were tough times (especially the month when we didn’t allow you to play with your best friend, Allie), but I’m hopeful you’ve learned from them.

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I’m also hopeful you absorbed something from another big event this year: the presidential election. I wrote a letter to you and Jack once Trump was elected, so I won’t rehash the specifics of that time, but I was (and still am, honestly) in shock. I began to channel my anger and disbelief into action and brought you along to a few events.

First, we went to a gathering in Balboa Park to write thank-you notes to Hillary Clinton. Then we marched with 60,000 of our neighbors in downtown San Diego during the Women’s March. You were in a sour mood that day because the march kept you from seeing Allie. “I love Trump,” you grumbled as we walked through the streets.

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This past year, you discovered your new love: soccer. Though Dad and I liked the structure and philosophy of karate, it never really stuck with you. Once you got on the soccer field, we realized why: no one can win in karate. You scored three goals your first game and never looked back.

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Reading has also become a passion (yay!). This began when you realized we’d let you read at the dinner table instead of talking with Dad and I about your day. You’re now reading at a fourth-grade level and just tearing through chapter books. We let you stay up late to read on the weekends and often catch you with a flashlight under the covers on week days.

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Other highlights from your sixth year:

  • Lost teeth: Three! The first one popped out when you were eating fro-yo with gummy bears.
  • Halloween costume: Spaceman Spiff. This was the second year in a row you’ve chosen a Calvin & Hobbes-inspired costume. At the school carnival, you were confused the other kids had no idea who you were, though a dad in line behind us for the Haunted House — who was dressed as Han Solo, natch — thought your costume was cool.
  • Favorite dance move: The dab. I can’t take a photo of you without you dabbing.
  • Favorite game: Slamwich
  • Favorite video game: Trials Fusion
  • Favorite TV show: Either “Dinosaur Train” or “Chuggington.” I love that you still like these sweet shows.
  • Best friends: Though no one shines as brightly as Allie… Raeden and Cooper.
  • Favorite of mom’s and dad’s buttons to push: ALL OF THEM
  • Times you’ve forgotten your lunch bag at school: At least 30
  • Favorite thing to pick up on the playground and stuff in your pockets: Hair ties
  • Favorite fruit or vegetable: Hahahahaha!

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My favorite memory from this past year may be our mutual love of “Hamilton.” It’s been so fun learning the words together, watching the videos, and singing songs in the car. Your favorites are “Ten Dual Commandments,” “Guns and Ships, and “The World Turned Upside Down” — basically anything that involves firearms and fighting.

You have such astonishing observations about the music. The other day, while listening to “Right Hand Man,” you told me the song made you feel like you were a hunter in the forest or deep under the ocean in a submarine. How poetic is that!

IMG_8091Charlie, year six really was the best so far. You’re such a smart, inquisitive, creative, interesting kid. Though I miss that you can no longer fit in my lap, I love that you still try at times. On some mornings, you slip your hand into mine as we walk to your classroom, and I try to keep you from hearing my gasp.

Back when you were rehearsing for your breakout role as Ant #3, you asked if you could sing me a song from the play  — “Under One Sky” — before bed. I kept it together until this verse:

Under one sky, there’s a baby’s cry
Under one sky, a mother’s lullaby
Under one sky we are all a part of everything

Because I remember a time, not too long ago, when you were that baby, and I was that mother singing you a lullaby. Now, there we were, lying next to each other in the dark, while you sang to me.

Being a parent — being YOUR parent — is a magical experience, Charlie. Age seven may seem important, it may seem serious, but it’s also incredibly joyous.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

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Letters to Jack: Month 30

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My dear Jack,

I woke up this morning to a sound that’s become all-too common in our household — you screaming at Charlie.

It was supposed to be Dad’s weekend morning to sleep in, but he gave me extra time in bed on account I’d been up for a few hours during the night with your brother.

At 2:30 a.m., Charlie woke up from a nightmare involving Iron Man, then his nose hurt, then he wanted warm honey water to ease a cough, then he needed answers to pressing questions like, “Do cats talk to each other but we can’t understand them?” and “How do people get blind?” and “Guess what toy in my room I like the best?” (Answer: A plasma light ball that Uncle Dan and Aunt Rhianna gave Charlie for Christmas)

I snoozed, and you and Dad had a calm morning — until Charlie stumbled out. I’m not sure what officially happened, but it was either a) Charlie touched something you were playing with, b) Charlie touched some part of your body, c) Charlie spoke words to you, or d) Charlie looked in your direction.

I know siblings don’t always get along (heck, Uncle Dan threw a dart INTO MY EYE when we were kids), but the incessant screeching drives me batty. You’re 2.5 years old — without the language to describe your emotions — so screaming is your first defense, followed increasingly by hitting. Part of me doesn’t blame you, as Charlie is a royal instigator who knows just how to push your buttons, but we can’t have you smacking him around. So, there’s been an increase in time-outs in our house.

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When you use words to assert yourself, you repeat the phrases Dad and I speak when admonishing Charlie. But you say them in that sweet, I-can’t-pronounce-consonants-well toddler voice, so they sound darling: “You not powees!” (police) … “Top eet, Chwarwles!” (Stop it, Charles) … “You woos chips!” (lose)

You two don’t always fight. The other night, Dad and I sat on the couch for 20 minutes watching you and Charlie howl with laughter as you rocked back and forth on a fold-down chair. You love when Charlie chases you around and smacks your butt (Fun fact: That’s how your Dad scored me). Or when he reads to you. And you both share an extreme love for “Dinosaur Train.”

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Your attitude toward Charlie illustrates your place in time, squarely in the Toddler Years. You bit one of your classmates twice in one week. We thought we were making headway on potty training, but you decided this didn’t interest you any more.

And one night you cried the entire way home from Target for no discernable reason (although I think the nap you avoided taking all day had something to do with it).

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Yes, your emotional brain far outweighs your logical brain. I received a call from your Dad last night when I was out to dinner with Ash. “Can you please tell Jack that you’re OK? He’s hysterical.” Apparently, you saw my regular purse hanging in the kitchen and couldn’t understand how I could be somewhere without it and still be alive. Ash and I FaceTimed you outside of the restaurant so I could hold up the black purse I chose for the evening. Look, I’m alright, Jack. I have another purse!

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You may fight with Charlie, but you’re always sweet to me. As you get older, I keep thinking you’ll grow out of wanting to hug, snuggle and nuzzle me. Thankfully, you still seem to need these times just as much as I do.

The other day, you wrapped your arms around my neck and held onto me for several minutes, without leaving. I took a moment to soak you in, feeling completely whole, completely happy.

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Just this morning, when I finally made my way out to the living room, you gasped when you spotted me, jumped off the couch and ran into my arms. “Mommy!” Sometimes you wake up and your first words are, “I want cuddles!” (which I prefer to your second most common request: “Have iPad time?”)

On a preschool application we recently filled out, Dad and I were asked to describe your personality. I remember answering this question when Charlie began preschool, and I was struck by the difference. For Charlie, I used words such as strong-willed, opinionated, and passionate; my answers for you were gentle, loving, helpful.

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In fact, “Me help you?” is one of your most frequent requests. Your eyes light up when the washing machine chimes, because you know you’ll get to help move the wet clothes into the dryer. Your favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that means we get to put out the garbage in the morning and wheel the cans back in at night.

You are such a bright light in my life, my dear boy. You help me feel centered and remind me to enjoy this time as your mother. And your zest for life is infectious. One morning a few weeks ago, you ran into the living room, looked around at the sun streaming through the windows, and cried out, “Oh boy! It’s morning!!!”

Now, that’s something we should scream about in this house more often.

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Letters to Jack: Month 28

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My dear boy,

I’m writing this letter on our last night at the cabin. Both you and your brother are in bed, but by no means asleep. Charlie is old enough to sleep in the loft, and I can hear him slowly turning the pages of his book in hopes that we don’t hear him trying to read by the light from downstairs. (I’m totally letting him get away with this.)

You, on the other head, are shouting from our bedroom:

MILK.
I WANT MIIIIIIIIIILK.
MIIIIIIILK.
MAY I HAVE SOME MILK….PLEEEEEEEEASE.

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As you can probably guess, we’ve entered the phase of your development when you demand things (although, as you can see from above, you’re polite about it). “Mom, look at me!” has become a familiar refrain, as well as, “I said nooooo!” when I’ve asked you more than once to do something. This morning you told me, “I’m busy,” when I said it was time to change your diaper.

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I mentioned in my last letter that you began asking me to rub your back during dinner and would yell if I stopped. Awww, he loves me so much, I thought. What a sweetie! Within weeks, this became a GIANT battle at the dinner table, one still not completely resolved. You wailed —louder and louder — each time I took my hand away. On several occasions, we moved you to the other side of the table because you kept lunging toward me, knocking over your dinner, peas everywhere.

I stopped altogether, and Dad and I explained to you that I needed my hands for dinner. You wouldn’t have any of it and went on a few hunger strikes.

Our current compromise is that either Dad or I will rub your back when we finish dinner. You watch our plates like a hawk, ready to shout RUB MY BAAAAACK the moment our last bite is gone. So, dinner is still a work in progress.

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We saw the advent of “time outs” these past few months. The pattern is usually the same: You do something deemed unacceptable (throwing food, kicking someone, hitting the cats, etc.). We explain the appropriate behavior. You do it again. We again explain the correct behavior and give a time-out warning if you continue incorrect behavior. You tilt your head, stare us down with a glint in your eye, and do the thing again while we’re watching.

But, with testing of limits also comes burgeoning curiosity. Wha happen?, you ask about everything. Or, Mommy, wha dis?

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We’re getting close to transitioning to a toddler bed. Earlier this week, when fighting bedtime (I said noooo!), you lunged over your crib and toppled out. Thankfully, I was there to catch you, but shouted out in surprise and fear so loudly that I made you cry.

Dad remarked this probably bought us a few more months, but as soon as you woke up the next morning, you asked to do it again. Sigh.

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You are getting so, so big. You’ve decided the high chair is no longer acceptable, so now you’re using a booster seat. As soon as I set up the Pack & Play in the cabin, I knew we might be in for a rough night. How could you have grown so much since the last time we used it?! I clearly remember you being able to stretch out in that thing. Now it’s like fitting you in a tiny cardboard box —knees and elbows everywhere.

You whined all night until I brought you into bed with Dad and me at 3 a.m. Then you spent the next two hours shoving me toward the bitter edge of the mattress. I had to pee like hell, but knew you’d start screaming if I moved.

Ugh. Co-sleeping has never been a thing for this family.

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This letter is getting long, so I’m going to quickly run down a few more happenings :

  • For a few months, we’ve been trying to teach you how to spit after brushing your teeth. You haven’t grasped the fact that you can’t swallow to make spitting successful. At some point, Dad began saying, “Pour one out for your homies,” when spilling out the leftover water. So now you say, “Pour out. Homies!” when we empty your cup.
  • You are your father’s son when it comes to spicy. At lunch today, I watched you pour a ton of hot pepper flakes on your pizza and eat it like it was no big deal. Such pride in your father’s eyes. Such pride.
  • You marched with us in the local Women’s March. Well, strollered. Anyway, I hope one day you are happy you were there.
  • You echo the last thing you’ve heard. If Dad asks Charlie to put on his jacket, you’ll say, “Jacket, Cha-wee,” several times until he does it. I realized the danger in this when listening to a snarky Bachelor podcast one day on the way home. “Marry whores!” you shouted from the back seat. “MARRY WHORES!”

(Note: I realize the poor juxtaposition of those last two bullets.)

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Since my last letter, we’ve celebrated Christmas and New Year’s. The big wins from Christmas include a wooden truck from Grandma B (“Mover”), a stuffed Elmo from Grandma Z, a series of Pete the Cat books from Ashleigh (groovy), and a counting train puzzle from your aunt and uncle.

The most unexpected gain was a giant tub of cars that Grandma B Santa initially gathered for Charlie. He proudly announced he was too old to play with toy cars, so the whole lot went to you.

Those cars are endless fun for you. One by one, you take them out of the box and place them into perfect rows. Or you have them talk to one another and give cuddles. They go everywhere with us — in the car, to restaurants, to Grandma B’s school (well, at least to the front door). A few times, I’ve let you sleep with one or two.
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Nothing can beat New Year’s, however. I took you and Charlie to Krystal’s house, and during the 9 p.m. East Coast countdown, you discovered the utter magic of counting from 10 to one (well, in your case, from one up to 10-ish) at New Year’s. So, you stood in front of everyone and did it again (cheer), and again (cheeeer) and again (cheeeeer!).


My dear, sweet boy. When I think of spending all of 2017 by your side, all I can do is cheer, too.

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Letters to Jack: Month 26

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My sweet son,

The wind is gusting, the clouds are gathering, and there’s a chill in the air (for SoCal, that’s a wintery 59 degrees). I am typing on the couch next to our Christmas tree with a purring cat on my lap. The house is quiet — Charlie is at a friend’s house, you are napping and Dad is out getting last-minute groceries for Christmas.

In short, things are pretty perfect.

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Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, and Christmas with you and your brother is just the best. This year, you are totally into the lights, which is my favorite part of the season. You recognize Santa. You love to say “Ho, Ho, Ho.” And you rearrange your favorite ornaments on the tree every night.

Your gifts tomorrow will include your favorites — books, puzzles, trucks. So many trucks. I still don’t understand how toddlers learn to differentiate construction vehicles. I have no idea how to tell a backhoe and an excavator apart, but you sure do.

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You’re becoming much more imaginative with your truck play. You have them say hi to one another (“Hello, garbage truck. Hello, fire truck.”), then we drive them around the living room side by side.  Sometimes you make the trucks “read” books to you. This morning, you gave one of your diggers a bath in your cereal bowl.

I’m still loving your cuddles. It’s the one reason I don’t get angry when, like today, you wake up before 5:30 a.m. This morning it was still dark, so I wrapped us up in a blanket next to the twinkling Christmas tree. You drank a cup of milk and I listened to the wind and rain.

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I so cherish your chill. It’s such a different experience from Charlie’s toddler years. This struck me recently during a trip to the Wild Animal Park with some of your schoolmates and their mamas. Their kiddos were pretty rambunctious. There was lots of crying. I think at one point they tore a palm frond off a tree. You climbed into one of the strollers, leaned back, and just watched the chaos unfold. Wow, I thought. I’m the one who has it easy!

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One of your new demands is that I rub your back during dinner. For the most part, this is adorbs, but sometimes I need two hands to eat dinner, or turn the page on a book, or take that well-deserved sip of wine. This is NOT OK with you. “MOMMY, RUB BACK!…..RUB BAAAAAACK.”

You’ve also begun putting your hand down my shirt when I pick you up. And not just under the collar — waaaay down. I forgot to warn Grandma Z about this, and you sure surprised her during a recent trip to the mall!

The other day you burped and said, “Farted. Mouth.”

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Since your birthday, we’ve celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving. For Halloween, I continued the theme of dressing you in costumes that include the word “jack.” You were Jack, and Dad was your beanstalk. I was a cow. (Last year, you were the cutest lumberjack ever).

This year we let you ring doorbells and collect candy with Charlie. You were confused at first, but quickly discovered the thrill of holding a bag open and having something dropped into it. You refused to let anyone else hold it, even when the bag was practically dragging on the ground.

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I’ve mentioned before, but you really like order and routine. Sometimes you decide a thing has to be a certain way and woe to anyone who thinks otherwise. While trick-or-treating, you decided you had to hold one of your grandmas’ hands. We could not walk from one house to another before you had a firm grip on the grandma of your choice — which changed several times during the evening.

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The other day while reading a book on the couch, you noticed our hallway closet was slightly ajar. “DOOR OPEN!!!” you shrieked, then sprung off the couch to close it. Once that was done — and the world was once again in order — you came back and settled in for the rest of the story.

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My favorite moment from the past few months happened the night Charlie asked if he could sleep in your room. I told Charlie I wasn’t sure how you’d react, as this was during a phase when you cried every time we left your room at night. But, we set up Charlie’s bed, read books together, tucked everyone in and turned off the light.

Through the monitor, I heard you and Charlie talking softly in the dark. The thought of you sleeping next to one another, keeping each other company, filled my soul with such joy. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more love, I heard Charlie say, “If you want to cry, Jack, just remember that I’m right next to your bed. You can hold my hand.”

Merry Christmas, my two beautiful boys. You have my heart forever.

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