Dear Baxter: Happy Fourth!

Dear Baxter,

There never was a little boy so sweet as you. I’ve heard this won’t last forever. I’m told that teenage boys and their moms are oil and water, nails on a chalkboard, fork tines scratching an empty porcelain plate.

I want to freeze you in this way, in these moments, for all my life; it seems a cruel joke that something I love so deeply cannot stay curled in a warm ball by my side forever.

So, I write.  I’ll capture this sweetness here, on your fourth birthday, and hope that it only grows as you grow.  I know that you may stuff it down deep and only let it show when it really, truly matters.  And I will forever tell you: it always really, truly, matters. No moment is too small, and no person is undeserving. 

These precious moments are the ones I will carry with me always, and dig down deep for them when those days, months come that you are far away (in mind or in presence):

  • Like the time I was home recovering from surgery, and you needed to stay home sick. I was desperate, aching and wanting nothing but time to pass so I could fall into an exhausted heap once dad got home. At about lunch time, you stood up from your parking lot of trucks (on which you’d been pressing every noise-making button and making me join you in delighting over their mashed up sounds). “Hey. I’m just having my best day ever here with you, mom. We should make more days like this.”


  • Or the time I saw the first real recognizable drawing that you’d done: a self portrait at school, complete with ears! “Well, if you like that so much, I will go right home and make many of pictures for you, Mom!” And, you did.  You haven’t stopped for about two weeks.


  • Or the time Nanny and Grampy dropped by between school and dinner just to say hi.  You were devouring your snack (graham crackers and apple slices) when Nanny said they had to get home and make dinner.  Sensing your chance to extend their visit, you hauled out the graham crackers and more bowls. “You can share my snack if you’re hungry! Here is one for you….and one for you!”


  • Or the time dad and I were busy cooking dinner, rehashing the day.  Tripping over lunch bags and flustered over whines of hunger.  You kept interjecting:

“Mom, what does H look like?”

“Which are the spells for Dad’s name?”

“How do I write your word, you know…the one for your name?”

Ten minutes later, as we sat down to dinner, you made everyone wait.  “You can’t eat yet!  Not until you get these!” And you proceeded to deliver all four of us a painstaking, hand-drawn picture, complete with one single letter from our names:

  • Charlotte got an H with swirls because she loves dancing.
  • Dad got a D with a volcano because “he loves loud things”.
  • You gave yourself a B with beautiful trails of red criss-crossing the page “because red is the best”.
  • And I got an O with marker swoops that filled the entire page “because you’re my best mommy”.

So simple. You carried on with dinner and promptly forgot about your twenty minutes of hard work. But you made me cry, little man. Your thoughtful consideration of other people, often at our busiest or most tired moments, will stick with me for months to come.

The year between age 3 and age 4 was a big turning point for both you and your sister: you started to recognize the world beyond yourself.  You started to understand that your actions have impact.  You started to believe that other things matter, and you started asking questions and caring in a way you haven’t before.

I often find myself staring. Watching your every move, as if I could record it in my memory and later replay every sensory detail of Baxter, age 4.  I know there are more, and better things to come.  But I love you so much….


the way

you are.

Happy birthday, bud. xo,



Dear Baxter: Happy “birf-day”, you’re “tree!”

My tiny, speedy little peanut is three.  THREE.  We are officially and totally out of the baby years.  We got rid of your crib last week, and you potty trained yourself last month.  Board books are being replaced by beautiful picture books with long stories and intricate characters.

But you and I share a special ritual, one that I hope will never change.  When I drop you off somewhere, when you get hurt, or when we say goodnight, you always insist on a “kiss, a hug, and a high five”.  You came up with this yourself, and you are the enforcer every single time.  It’s your little way of checking in, making contact, and reassuring yourself that you are okay to go off and do whatever it is you’re going to face.

While I certainly know that 15 year old Baxter, or 32 year old Baxter is not going to insist on a kiss, a hug, and a high five, I hope this foundational bond always remains strong between us.  Three-year-old Baxter needs to ‘fuel up’ on your mom’s love and affection before going to do something solo: before being dropped off at a new preschool, or staying overnight at Nanny and Grampy’s, or going to sleep in a big boy bed.  It buoys your confidence, and it cements the knowledge that we will see each other again soon.  With your kiss, hug, and high five, you can conquer anything.

When you do become 15, or 24, or 32,  I know that a kiss, hug, and high five won’t be enough to solve your relationship dramas, your work frustrations, your existential crises, or your maturational dilemmas.  But remember what had prepared you for these momentous events and difficult conundrums: your mother’s love and never-ending belief that YOU CAN DO IT, and that you ARE okay.  As a little boy, you could conquer anything knowing that I was right behind you–figuratively, or literally.  This will never change.  No matter how old you are, no matter what your situation is, your mother is right behind you.  Likely cheering for you, and probably marveling at your bravery.

You see, you don’t NEED this check in with your mom.  You just think you do.  [And to me, that is everything.  Somebody once told me that the greatest gift you can give a parent is to make them feel needed.  You do that quite well.]

You are quite an affectionate little rough-and-tumble man.  You clamor for my lap anytime you get hurt or scared.  You love to “have snuggles”, and you regularly tell us “love you moon and back, momma”.  You love to have your hair stroked and your back rubbed, and every time you suffer an injustice you want to read a book to make yourself feel better.  One year old Baxter didn’t seem like he was going to grow into a cuddle bug, but you are.  And I love it!  I never knew I could put off so many chores when you ask me to “sit longer” or “talk about the day”.

My hope as you grow up?  That you will always know how, and be brave enough, to ask for help when you need it.  That you will not stifle your fears, or ignore your concerns because you think they are silly or baseless.  That you will not struggle within your own head because you’re afraid to let someone else in.  Instead?  Ask!  Discuss!  Strategize!  Worry together!  Then take a leap knowing that someone will be there on the other side to meet you: to celebrate, or commiserate.  Someday your partner or spouse may fill that role.  But never forget that your momma can do it too.  I’ll always be there with a kiss, a hug, and a high five: to fuel you up, and send you off.  Because I know you can do it.  You just have to know yourself that you can do it too.

Kisses, hugs, and high fives to the moon and back,


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,


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,


Dear Buddy Boy – I’m sorry you’re the second child

Baxter, sometimes Uncle Teddy and Uncle Tommy and I watch old home videos or look at pictures from our childhood.  We consistently find Tommy, baby #3, stuck in the corner in his swing.  He spent a LOT of time swinging (or as we call it, “rockin’ out”) in his baby days.  Oh it’s Betsy’s birthday sleepover?  There’s Tommy in the swing.  Father’s Day?  Tommy in the swing while the rest of us eat pancakes.  Christmas morning?  Swing.  No presents.

So perhaps I can use this to make you feel better about spending much of your first six months rockin’ out.  You loved it, thank god.  But even with two of us, there never seemed to be enough hands to entertain Charlotte, cook dinner, feed ourselves, and hold you.  Now that you’re a big seven month old, you are too big to swing.  So you play in your exersaucer, roll around on your playmat, or sit in the middle of the floor and desperately reach for anything you can get your hands on.  And yes, sometimes you can be found wearing a pink hat or some stretchy jeggings if I just couldn’t get your laundry done 🙂  One time (ahem, today) you even went to the circus in Santa footie pajamas.  It was the middle of April, at 11 in the morning.  No good reason to be in Santa footie pajamas.


All of this is to apologize if it feels like we’re leaving you out.  But look on the bright side: you are the most kinetic, high energy baby I’ve ever seen.  You NEVER stop moving, and you are damn strong!  Once you start to crawl, there will be no stopping you–Dad says he can already tell you’re going to be a runner.  As in, we’ll be running circles around ourselves trying to keep you in line.

I like to think of you as my loud and proud little guy.  You came into this world fast and frenzied, and you’ve continued to live every day of your baby life in just this way!  I would seriously bet that you have this rock star personality because you’ve had to make yourself be heard.  And have no doubt, we hear you little man.

Santa footie PJs at a more appropriate time of year.  I just couldn't resist inserting this pic, which perfectly represents our day to day.  Not many kodak moments here :)

Santa footie PJs at a more appropriate time of year. I just couldn’t resist inserting this pic, which perfectly represents our day to day. Not many kodak moments here 🙂

So I’m sorry that you don’t have 3,405 pictures of your first few months, that you don’t always have the cutest new clothes, that I haven’t blogged about your every move, and that you spent a lot of time rockin’ out.  I can promise you two things: 1-I WILL try harder.  2-You add a completely new and loveable dynamic to our family, and we are more fun and full because of you.  Loud and proud!



Dear Buddy Boy (you’re a feisty one)

Hey there Mister Baxter, we could tell you were a feisty one from the very moment that you came into the world.  You were speedy, you were demanding, and there was no mistaking what you wanted: OUT!

Now you’re about four and a half months old, and you’re every bit as feisty as day one.  We’re just seeing the other side of a VERY long and VERY painful sleep regression.  Up multiple times a night.  Sometimes every two hours.  It’s not just that you’re awake or want to play or eat.  Nope, it’s screeeaaaaming.  From 0 to 60 in about 1.3 seconds.  Once we get you calmed down and nearly back to sleep, we’d try to gently…oh, so gently…place you back in the crib and sneak away.  But the moment your head touched the mattress, you were back to full-volume, red-faced yelling.  You had Dad and me walking on egg shells for a full four weeks.

Luckily for all three of us, we’re starting to climb out of this sleep-deprived haze.  You are learning to play quietly!  You’re sleeping longer stretches, and don’t need to be swaddled!  I’m not complaining about how bad it was; but rather documenting from what an early age you showed us your feisty nature.  I can already see that you’re going to be a determined and active young man, bull-headed perhaps, and always on the move.  You wanted to be rocked, held, and cuddled and wouldn’t accept anything else.  As I write this now, you’re determinedly shoving both fists in your mouth, and eyeing the teething ring that sits on your belly.  I know that you’ll stop at nothing today to get that ring into your mouth.  You’re just figuring out how to use your hands, and dare I say you’ll be getting your knees up to crawl soon too.

buddy boy

It’s been amazing to look back on my memories of your sister, and see glimpses of her personality in seemingly small things like how she stared at books for hours, or was happy to just watch the world playing itself out around her.  She’s now a two year old that loves to read, but hates to take risks.  I’m guessing that you, Buddy Boy, will be in a rush to do everything; loud and proud, clamoring about, and will always let us know exactly what you want.  We love you, little man.  Even if you did rob of us a whole month of sanity!