Dear Charlotte: Happy birthday, your world is growing!

Dear Charlotte,

If this 4th birthday letter has any theme, it is this: the months between 3 and 4 have been a year of understanding a world much bigger than yourself.  You are curious beyond the boundaries of your 38 inches, our four walls, and the roughly five mile radius we travel to school and back each day.  You ask big questions.  You’re constantly thinking: about the books we read, the things you hear on the radio, and the things you see people doing at any moment.  

“Mommy, will Donald Trump decide to be a good person now that he is president?”

“Does God exist in real life?”

“Did God make all the people in the world?”

“I’m sad that Hillary Clinton lost.  But that’s okay.  Maybe she can try again tomorrow?”

“When I die, will this tissue still be here?  Will you still save this drawing I did after I die?”  

Your innocence is perfectly entwined with your developing conscience; your optimism and your sense of justice are still able to operate in their own vacuums.  You’re curious enough to be hungry for everything new, but you haven’t seen, heard, and watched enough to become jaded.

Please don’t, not ever.

With your never ending questions you’ve started to form your sense of self, and your understanding of how people relate to one another.  You’re trying to recognize your place in all of it, which is a gargantuan task for a four year old mind.  It’s no surprise that we put you to bed at 7:30, but you sometimes sneak out to watch us in the living room at 9:15.  You are too busy to sleep!  You have things to figure out!  

You and I had a special moment on the night of election day, 2016.  We talked all week about going to the polls to vote for Hillary.  We drove through Scarborough with our windows down, Florence and the Machine blaring, and you exclaimed “Girl time!  Mommy and Charlotte are going to vote for Hillary Quipment!”  It was exciting and novel–but not because we were going to vote for a woman.  No, the gender wasn’t even remarkable.  You were just excited to go show your vote, to take part in the grown up process.

The next morning, I cried.  I cried before you woke up, and I cried after I brought you to school.  I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t joyfully tell you we had the first woman president, that you’d have to wait longer in your life to see it.  And the weeks and months since have been difficult, as your mom: waiting, watching, and wondering what kind of world my baby girl is going to grow into.  Will it be one that respects her rights?  

But I’ve taken solace in a few places that may become iconic as we look back on 2016:

Hillary Clinton said, in her concession speech:  “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Barack Obama told us in his farewell address, that his proudest accomplishment was raising two daughters that are smart and beautiful, but more importantly kind, thoughtful, and full of passion.  That is my hope–no, my goal of every single day–for you, Charlotte.  That your every move is motivated by a sense of purpose bigger than yourself, one that looks outward, and still seeks to welcome people in.  

You do, already, in your four year old way.

You were the first to welcome a shy girl to a busy and loud birthday party–to draw her into a room full of extroverts by providing her a quiet hand and a smile.

By greeting your teacher at 7am: “I noticed you got a haircut!  Wow, it looks good!”

“Baxter, I’m sorry you fell.  What can I do to help you? Do you need some ice?”

Just keep on asking, listening, and thinking.  Keep on talking.  Keep on helping, smiling, and sharing.  And most of all, keep believing.  Believe that you are kind, you are smart, and you are important.  That is what will take you far.

Happy Birthday!  With all my love and even more pride,

Mom

Dear Baxter: Happy Birthday 2 You!

Dear Baxter,

My little man, my Bam Bam, my last baby is two!  We are moving out of the baby years for the last time….and wow, was that a blur.  It was a rough year for all four of us, those months between 1 and 2 years old.  You seemed to pick up every illness on the block, and barely gained any weight as a result.  You simply couldn’t–and wouldn’t!–eat because you never felt good.  There were nights when all four of us dissolved into tears at dinner: you from the exhaustion of being repeatedly begged to eat; Dad from the frustration of having the same fight over food every night; me from the constant worry that you were going to be forever harmed if you didn’t eat RIGHT NOW; and Charlotte from being a mere pawn in the midst of all this stress.

It wasn’t pretty.   It was a rocky, demanding, anxiety-provoking several months, bookended by visiting every medical specialist in the greater Portland area.  Thank god that is all behind us now!  And all for naught: you are healthy!

And what do we have, now that it’s over?  An incredibly joyful, easy-going, mild-mannered, and affectionate little man!  If you’d asked me 9 months ago what Baxter would be like at age two, I couldn’t have guessed it.  I couldn’t have even dreamed it!  Some of the highlights of two year old Baxter:

-Your shyness when you take the risk to gently start singing.  As soon as someone clues into your tiny song, you get red-faced and try to hide!  This is such a different side of the “Speedy” and “Bam Bam” Baxter that we all know.

-Your fearless love of jumps (pronounced “dhumps!”) and your incessant need to jump off anything you can find: big, small, round, or dangerous.  “Mommy!  Dhumps!” you shout, most often followed by “I fall!”  and a silly laugh.

-The day you rushed up to me after school and said “Mommy!  Banana.  Fall down.  Mess, floor.  No bib!  Dirty!”  I got the more coherent version from your teacher (your banana fell out of your sandwich at lunch time, got messy on the floor, and you ended up with sun butter all over your shirt because you forgot a bib), but it almost didn’t matter.  You had a vibrant memory of something that had happened 4 hours ago, and you couldn’t WAIT to tell me when I picked you up.  What language!  And what presence of mind!

-You are starting to love books just like your big sister.  Just tonight you gently pushed a Thomas the Tank Engine book onto my lap, curled my fingers around the cover, and asked “Read?  Mommy?”  You love to point out who is sad, who is hurt, and who is funny in these books.

-You love men!  At your birthday party when you needed help, someone said “Take it to Bunna, she can open it.”  You walked right past Bunna and asked Papa for help.  When Nanny and Grampie leave our house, you run straight to Grampie and ask for kisses.  When we talk about going to Memere and Papa’s house, you quickly correct us and say “No!  Just Papa’s house!”  And Uncle “Trabass” is basically your idol.

For all the frustrations and tears we shared last year, we’ve come out on the other side much better for it.  You love your sister “Shart” to death–you follow her around and just die if you can make her laugh.  You’re really good at mimicking her, following her directions (at times) and pushing her down (at times).  It has been beautiful to watch your relationship develop.  Last week when I caught sight of you two holding hands across car seats in my rearview, my heart nearly burst.

You are still loud and proud, and you still do many things a mile a minute, but you have slowed down in some regards.  You can play with trucks for hours, and you entertain yourself with trains every evening.  You wake up in the morning needing a solid five minutes of cuddles, and at bedtime you ask to “No, just sit” awhile longer when I try to put you in bed.  You fool most people with your rough-and-tumble, all-boy personality; we get the best snuggles, wet kisses, and long-lasting hugs at home.  You are still a Bam Bam, but you’re an affectionate little monkey too 🙂

Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Bud.  You’re loving every minute of it, and so are we!  Love,

Mommy

Dear Charlotte: happy three!

Dear Charlotte/Chucky/Cha Cha:

It doesn’t seem possible that my baby is three.  My baby–my original baby–is certainly not a baby and barely even a toddler.  I wrote in your birthday letter last year that we had changed from calling you “Baby Bee” to “Little Bee”.  But now, big three year old, you are simply just “Bee” to us, or sometimes “Chucky”.  (Though you hilariously called yourself “Sucky” for a few months until you could say the ch-sound!)

If the theme of last year’s birthday letter was all the changes in our life, the theme of this year has been independence.  You are a highly verbal and talkative young lady, which has exploded since your 2nd birthday.  So, here are some words straight from your own mouth.  I hope that someday you’ll have a good laugh about the funny three year old you were; but also, that you’ll find some little glimmer or nugget of how you are then reflected so early on in how you are now.  I know that each funny phrase or earnest admonishing you give me is a peek into the future Charlotte, into the teenager and grown up that you’re going to be.  You are building your personality and your character with each passing moment, and we have the gift of watching the pieces evolve along the way.

1) While eating a kiwi the other morning, you told me:  “Mommy! This fruit is kind of like an apple.  They are both green.  And sour.  But this kiwi has a lot of seeds and the apple doesn’t really have a lot.”  

Let’s move beyond the obvious here: that my barely-three-year-old can compare and contrast.  Without prompting.  The point evenmoreso is that you’re always thinking and talking about what you’re doing in the moment.  You love to label things, talk about them, describe them, and give them voice.  “I can hear the wind soaring through the trees” or “Oh! I can see the sunset is coming out!  Look at that beautiful, beautiful sunset!” you’ll exclaim.  You see beauty and interest in the every day things like fruit, weather, and the sky.  Most of us miss it because we are too busy and moving too fast.  This is what I love and will miss most about toddlerhood: the ability and the persuasion to just.move.slowly.  You drink it all in, talk about it, observe it, and love it.  You remind me to just slow down.  How I wish I didn’t have to go work, and could just be slow with you!

2)  “Daddy, I just want to have some privacy.”

You told Dad that you were going to use the potty.  When he followed you in, you turned around and gently–but decisively–said he wasn’t welcome.  You know your own mind, dear Chucky.  I love you for being strong enough to say what you want.  But you do it in a gentle way and with quiet persistence that we follow your requests.  “I’m just not feeling like talking right now” is a frequent refrain when we ask about school.  “Smile, Mommy!  Be happy!” after I’ve just gotten upset with you.  You’re kind, but insistent.  Some may call it bossy.  I say that bossy is a good thing for a girl to be.

While the above examples make me proud, they also make me pause.  We’re finding that you need us less and less.  You clear your own plate from the table, and you’re starting to serve yourself food.  You hang up your jacket, help to feed Pippa, pick out your own clothes and can do your undies, pants, and socks…shirt will be coming soon.  And now, with the recognition that we don’t need to help you with #2 on the potty, we’ve accomplished so many of the toddlerhood milestones.  You just don’t need us in the ways that you used to.

I know that motherhood is all about this gradual release of responsibility.  But it’s hard when you step back to look, and a lot has passed you by since the last time you were aware of it.  In a strange way, time does not move linearly to a mother.  As I wrote to you last year, the greatest gift you can give is to make someone feel needed.  I know it’s developmental, and I know it’s normal.  The ways in which you will need us are going to change hundreds of times in our lives.  But something about the release of these tangible, everyday responsibilities is a hard pill to swallow.

3) You know 18 letters.  

Nobody would ever believe me, but Betsy the literacy specialist is NOT teaching her 3 year old the alphabet.  You have somehow learned 18 letters on your very own, just by picking up on environmental print, and reading as you so love to do.  Your favorite activity for us to “play” with you is reading you a book.  You’re diligent–we cannot skip a page!  You’ll often jump in and read the story along with us, or supply the missing words.  You are so in love with literature, but you’re starting to talk about how you “can’t read” or “don’t know how to read the words yet.”

Hear this*, Chucky: you will be reading in no time.  Look at all the things you CAN do!  You’re already doing the things that pre-readers do: retelling stories and predicting, you can rhyme and make up your own songs in rhythm, and sing word play games like ‘Willabee wallabee Waxter! An elephant sat on Baxter!”

(* “Hear this, Mommy!” is one of your favorite calls to attention).

4)  “Can you put some music on Daddy?”  and “That’s me in the corner!”

A new favorite activity lately is dance parties!  You love to have music on, and it has to be fast enough for you to dance crazily to!  Your current favorites are “That’s me in the corner” by R.E.M. and “Martha my dear” by the Beatles.  You hear a song once, and you can sing it.  You hear a song twice, and you can make up words that fit the same beat.   Dare I say that you may have a musical bone in your body?! A hand-me-down from your mom, perhaps.  (A dancing bone, not so much.  You don’t appear to have your father’s gift for that…yet.)

You are growing and morphing into this wonderfully kind, introspective, curious, and outgoing little girl.  Dad and I both love to take you out for “special Charlotte time” because we always have so much fun.  I am so proud to be your Mommy, and I wish I could pause time to hang onto these toddler moments forever.  They are my favorite. You are my best, best girl!

Love,

Mommy

 

 

Saturday night rager

Ohhhh how Saturday nights have changed.  {Not that this is a new thing.  We’re 2.5 years in!}  But here it is, 8:30pm on a Saturday night, and I’m making pancakes and crock pot applesauce.  To freeze.  So that I can save time making lunch during the work week.

My kids are OBSESSED with these gluten free pancakes.  And with a picky toddler and a one year old who isn’t even ON the dang growth chart (.5%ile), we need all the comfort-food-slash-time-savers we can get!  This one by Cookie and Kate nails it:

http://cookieandkate.com/2013/pumpkin-oat-pancakes/

At least I’m drinking a Geary’s HSA doing it.  Did I mention that the hubster came home from the grocery store with THREE cases of it, and a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream?  I knew I married him for a reason.  That, and he’s so handsome.

Dear Buddy Boy: you’re one!

Baxter Boy, Buddy Boy, Baximus Maximus, Bam-Bam,

We already have a slew of nicknames for you, and it’s been the fastest year of my life.  I’m writing this on the eve of your first birthday, and remembering back to that day a year ago when you joined our family.  It certainly has been a whirlwind…on fast forward…with a lot of chaos.

When I found out I was pregnant with you, I felt a strange combination of shocked and scared.  My other baby was still a baby, and here we were, going to have another baby!  But the moment you made your speedy and extreme entrance to the world, and when I heard Dad say “It’s a boy!”, I felt such an intense elation.  I didn’t know how much I wanted a boy until I heard Dad laugh those beautiful words in the hospital room.

‘We did it’! I kept thinking.  ‘We did it, together, and now I have a son!’ The “we” was you and me…we made it through an exhausting pregnancy and a fast and scary delivery–and now you were here to complete our family.  We were instantly more full, as though we didn’t know we were missing you until you actually arrived.

“Yeah right”, you’re probably saying to that last statement.  “Moms have to say stuff like that”.  But you needn’t take my word– the sheer proof of this is Charlotte’s instant and unending love for you.  From your first week at home she has looked after you, comforted you, brought you diapers and toys and eventually snacks and teething rings, and made you laugh more than any of us combined.  When you cry, she says “Oh, Baxter’s crying”–not a complaint, but empathy–and she looks for ways to help.  When you laugh, she aims to make you laugh harder.  And when you try something new, she is your biggest cheerleader.  “Oh, THERE you go!” she exclaimed when you fell to your knees, but got right back up.  “Are you feeling better Baxter boy?” she asked this afternoon, when you woke up from your nap with a runny nose.  She has to be able to see you at the dinner table, so that she can show you how to do things, and see if you like the new foods you try.  And SHE was the one who deemed you “Bam Bam”, because you’re “always banging around on things”.   She’s your protector.  And her wholehearted acceptance–no, overwhelming love–for you is the surest sign that you have made us complete.

You are a determined little monkey, and you don’t do anything cautiously or quietly.  I’ve never read anything about the circumstances of one’s labor and delivery being an early indicator of  their personality.  But for you, Bam Bam, the way you entered the world was the exactly the way you live in it each day.  You are fast, you jump feet first into anything new, you’re loud (for a little guy), and you don’t take no for an answer.  You’re a risk-taker, you work hard at things, and you are not shy to make your needs known.  I have never seen a baby do such a fast army crawl, or take to eating finger/table food as quickly as you.  Your current favorites are macaroni and cheese, salmon, anything orange, and bananas.  You eat at least one “monkey food” every single day, and more if we let you!

But this, my Buddy Boy, is the side you don’t show to everyone: you are sensitive.  You need some comfort and contact amidst your chaos.  You’ll be busily ripping the playroom to shreds, but after ten minutes you’ll crawl around to find me, bury your face in my knees, and give a big deep sigh.  Sometimes it doesn’t last, and you’re back to the mayhem in another 30 seconds.  Sometimes it does, and you lay comfortably in my lap to clap my hands or fiddle with my cheeks.  I love these moments.  I love them because you interject cuddles with craziness, and those cuddles are often reserved just for me.  You may not always stop to hug your mom, but you used to.  And it makes my day, every single time.

So, Bax, you are now one.  Leaving babyhood, and becoming a toddler.  People say it happens before your very eyes, and they are right.  I blinked, and you went from a blob to a boy.  You’ve made us all laugh and you’ve made me lighten up quite a bit in the past year, so I can only imagine what the next one will bring.  I can’t wait to see you take your first steps, start to talk with us, and grow into your very big personality.  I know you’ll do it all with that mischievous little twinkle in your eye, blowing your raspberry spit face at us.  And we’ll laugh right along with you!

Ready with big cuddles anytime you need them,

Mom

Baxter is nine months old!

My little man is now closer to one year than he is to the newborn phase.  I just remarked to Fred the other day that Baxter’s first year is seeming to go by so much faster than Charlotte’s first year did!  We are busier than ever, and the minutes literally slip away when you are ‘on’ 12hours a day.  There is no time to check email, sit down for a quiet moment, eat something in peace, or even go to the bathroom alone.  Every minute revolves around some little person and their intense needs.  Come 8pm, Fred and I barely have enough energy to talk to each other, and sometimes just relish the quiet.  But it’s all worth it when you have a little man that laughs a giant hiccuping belly laugh when all you do is look at him.

And yes, Baxter is a little man: “Baximus Maximus”, “Baxter Boy” or “Honey boy” as he’s known around here.  The sweetest moment I have seen in their relationship was just this morning: Charlotte was trying to watch The Jungle Book movie, and Baxter was sitting 6 inches from her screaming and whining for a solid 6-7 minutes.  She finally just reached over to him, rubbed his head, and said “ohhh Baxter Boy, are you sad?”  He calmed at her touch, and they both went on watching the movie.  What tenderness and care–and endless patience–she has for her brother!

The big changes between 8 months and 9 months:

  • crawling!  well, more like army-crawling-inching across the floor.  the boy has some strong arms, and the front of his clothes are getting all frayed from being dragged across every rug, hardwood floor, grass, and driveway on our property!
  • can pack away a LOT of food!  tonight he ate fistfulls of salmon, a whole bowl of applesauce, some mashed cauliflower + potato, and finished it all off with 1/3 of a banana.  and THEN went directly upstairs to nurse!
  • is starting to pull himself up on anything he can find
  • loves Pippa the cat–whenever he hears her in the room, he must find her and inch on over!
  • he babbles a lot, and says “mama” quite often…but I’m still not sure if it’s intentional or not?
  • By the way, now that he’s mobile?  There is NO HOPE for cute, stationary monthly photos anymore.  The shots below are the best we could do!

Baxter is 8 months old!

Holy cow….Baxter is actually closer to 9 months old, and I’m just getting around to posting the pictures.

What a little man he has become!  Just after he turned 8 months he started crawling (sort of an army crawl, inchworm move and he’s fast!)  He continues to love his solid food and feeding himself–sometimes I’m amazed at how much he can pack away!  Some favorites are toast with peanut butter or hummus, fish, string cheese, scrambled eggs, and applesauce.  His sleeping is fiiiiinally going well–it was a long road to get to this point!  Two predictable naps a day, bed by 7pm, sometimes a 5am wake up to feed, and then back down until 7am.  Repeat.  This boy sleeps a lot!  But that’s probably because when he’s awake, he never. stops. moving.  Never!

He starting to babble more and more, and with intention!  We can’t tell what he wants to say, but it’s evident that he wants to participate, knows how to get attention, and has a full range of sweet, mad, frustrated, and happy sounds.  Oh Bax!  We love you!