Dear Owen: a letter at two years, eight months

dear_07

 

Well, here we are. I’ve been saying you’re two-and-a-half for months now, when really you’re closer to three. I realized it one night, when I leaned over you to help you get your legs in your jammie pants and realized they sat well above your ankles. Your 2T shirts are inching closer to your belly button everyday, as your long skinny body grows towards three. Three! How is that my baby is almost three?

There is just so much boy about you. We can’t even really say you’re a toddler because you race through our house. Need to go grab Monkey? You run from the living room to your bedroom, arms pumping. Time for a snack? You race from the kitchen to your booster seat, even though it’s just five feet away. There is no toddling anymore.

Let’s start with David and Goliath. We pretty much have to start there because you are a boy obsessed. All of our picture bibles open to this story, and you ask us to read it to you again and again. All day, you are asking us to play David and Goliaf with you; sometimes you play the part of David, others the giant, and when you do, you sometims put on your dad’s shoes and hat, and you stomp…Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of n Englishman, Who will fight me? I thought you were the children of God! Goliath and the giant from the beanstalk and the giant pickle from Veggie Tales are one in the same in your little mind. But then you are David, and you are flinging around the ladle from your play kitchen or the curtain tie backs, holding the play potato in hand as your “rock,” declaring that you are David and that God will help you. This is followed by some epic ’round and ’rounds, sound effects of the rock hitting the giant’s head, and then whichever role you are playing, you always make a whistling sound as you fall to the ground. More often than not, my response is: “I will play anything except David and Goliath with you,” which makes me sound like a terrible mother except that I do get my Israelite and Philistine on at least eight times a day to your utter delight.

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Moving on. Your vocabulary is exploding these days, and we often comment on how articulate you are for a two year old. I think I often expect more from you because you communicate so well, which makes your tantrums all the more baffling to me. We grab on to your errors and laugh about them after you go to bed at night because there are just so few of them. Like when you called the mangoes in my yogurt flamingos or the icy sidewalk slutty instead of slushy or the mershicols on TV.

But overall, you speak so well. You know most of the letter names, though you still consistently call z zipper, and you’re slowly getting your number names down, though when counting, you still prefer to skip the number three. What amazes me most is how letter and number aware you are, telling me you saw numbers on the bus driving by, or pointing out letters on store signs that you know. Today, on the highway, you pointed to a Cub foods in the distance and said, “That’s our grocery store!” Your awareness amazes me all of the time.

And jokes, Owen, you’re starting to make jokes, and it might be one of my favorite things about you. You’ll tell us something funny, and kind of wrinkle your nose, and say yeah a lot, sort of shrugging your shoulders. You know you’re telling a joke, and you are eager for shared laughs. Just today, I think you told your first pun. I was singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” from Winnie the Pooh, and you said, “Whas a jolly good fellow? Like jelly? For he’s a jolly goofellow, for he’s a jellyontoast!” And then you cracked yourself – and me – up. Our lunch conversations are so much more interesting these days, espeically when you bust into the song you made up: Mee, My, Moe, Mee, Mee, My, Moe, Mee – over and over again as you play pretend drums in front of you, pounding your forearms up and down in rhythm with your song. You love it when we all sing along (and it’s one of Elsa’s favorite activities too).

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Next to that comedian and musician, there’s a budding little artist in you. You love to use markers and especially to fingerpaint. You went through a stage where you would use your Elmo loofah (thanks, Grandma Pam!) to “paint” on the bathtub walls, telling us you were like Olivia when she paints on the walls, like Jackson Pollack. You’re just starting to draw people, who are primarily lines, sometimes with a kind of circular head on top. When we ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you tell us you want to be like dad and go to work to draw with (whiteboard) markers. Aim high, little man.

Although it is the dead of winter, we are still forever playing baseball. Sometimes with soft squishy balls, but more often you want to play pretend. You pitch, I hit, and then you run the laps of our living room for your home run trot, asking me to make fireworks noises. You continue to be super into the baseball cards we got you for Christmas. You know many of them by name (Mike Holt!), and even some of their positions. You are crazy possessive of these cards, and though you try to share them with Elsa, the look in your eyes when she tries to put one in her mouth is one of both rage and concern.

We’ve had some mild days this winter, and we have taken a lot of slow walks around the blocks of our house, always stopping first by the bakery to greet the cow and calf as you ask for a sample, which we sometimes get. Then you race down to the “tunnel,” the awnings in front of the coffee shop, before moving on to that one house with all the rocks (you always pick up one), and then the fire hydrant. We sometimes head towards the park, where you slide around on the ice rink in your boots, and sometimes we head the other way, stopping at every fenced in lawn to feed the animals behind it – usually farm animals, but sometimes zoo animals! As we head home, you start slowing down, and soon you are walking 25 feet behind me, picking up every stick and making me kind of crazy. As we head towards our house, you ask if we can stop to see Bolt, the cat who lives in Ace Hardware, and we often do, heading to his perch by the popcorn machine, calling his name for all the store to hear. He’s wary but patient as you gently pet him, and you usually convince me to give you some popcorn as we walk past Flag Foods to our alley and backyard and up the steps before shedding all of the boots and hats and coats. These walks are slow and detailed and so very you.

Owen, you are so much fun most times. I especially love watching you play with your dad, building extensive block towers / cities, or wrestling on the couch or playing that one game where the couch is a boat and he tries to save you from falling off into the carpet water, dragging you back up again and again. I see him sit next to you and talk to you about the baseball cards, or show you basketball highlights (Is that Ricky Rubio? you ask). The two of you are such playful kindred otter spirits, and I love when you get to spend time together.

This is not to say you are not a typical toddler who would spend 110% of his time watching videos or playing on Dad’s ipad if we let you. You are partial to Daniel Tiger, Veggie Tales, Curious George, and Winnie the Pooh. You love to listen to the Bible stories app on the ipad, the same ones over and over, and then play the handful of games we’ve downloaded for you. But still, you are a book lover. We are reading a lot of Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, Olivia, Peter Rabbit, Richard Scary (lowly worm!), and your current favorite: The No David Books. Which I’d knew you’d love but wish that you didn’t love the nose-picking page quite so much – “Stop that this instant!”

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You love people, Owen, and though you get kind of freaked out in large crowds, you are learning more and more to be kind to your friends – Milo! Archie! Estella! Eleanor! – and share your things. You give the best waves and hugs goodbye. You love your grandparents and aunts and uncles, and the smallest things can trigger your memory of them. Like in Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory, I am reading about the caramel chocolates, and you are sure to stop me – “Like Auntie Sara and her caramels?”…referring to that one time, five months ago, when you made caramel apples with your Aunt Sara. Your memory is a steel trap.

You are fun, Owen, but you are also two. And we have our moments. I said before, your tantrums catch me off guard because you can be so articulate, but then before I know it, you are sobbing, angrily wiping your tears off your face, yelling, “It’s dripping!” in an agonized voice. You are screaming no and grabbing the toys out of Elsa’s hands and telling us you don’t want to share your Dad with her. You have a regimented bedtime routine that allows for no flexibility: a story – usually about your Dad losing the frisbee or me going to Winnie the Pooh’s honey tree – then prayer (pray for THEAbelle,  you always say) – then a couple rounds of I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, wtih some solid back rubbing. You are running away when I tell you it’s time to go potty and making giant messes and generally doing all of the toddler things. I take deep breaths. I try to remain calm. I give out consequences when they’ve been threatened. And then, you are quick to say sorry, always asking for a hug, desperate for that restoration.

Owen, I still see baby you, wiggling every muscle in your body in the boy you who loves to be outside, who runs laps in our small Minneapolis house. I remember tiny, angry you, whipping your head around for more milk, sighing contentedly while nursing in the passionate boy you who loves and hates, rejoices and rages all in the same moment. You’re showing us these little glimpses into who you are, and we lay in bed at night, and wonder Is he like me? Does he love order? when we talk about how you have a particular way to play a game or how you like your toys put back where they belong. We don’t know you fully yet, but we love you more than fully.

Always,
Your Mom

Things You Love: juice, milk, any and all desserts, most food, Monkey, Bear, your ‘druckin (construction) pillow, baths / splashing, Marbarry (David & Julia’s cat Mayberry), Bolt the Cat at the hardware store, bakery samples, going upstairs, jumping on beds, Gleason’s gym, reading, going to the library, videos, Daniel Tiger, Curious George, David & Goliath, Veggie Tales, snacks, your froggy galoshes, dad’s ipad, “Carlo” the doll,  Archie, Estella, Milo, wrestling with your dad, playing outside, going for walks, sledding, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, Christmas (so fun with you this year!), playing kitchen, building with lego blocks or foam blocks, making stacks of anything
Things You Hate: when Elsa knocks over your block towers or chews on your baseball cards, when we don’t let you wake up for the day at 5 a.m., when it’s really windy and cold, going potty in the midst of playing, you don’t love transitions or large groups of kids, crying, getting your toe nails clipped, getting your hair washed

Dear Elsa: a letter at one year

dear-elsa

Baby Girl, you are one! One! You have been with us an entire year, which just can’t be true.  This year has gone far too quickly, and it feels like I blinked, and tiny, squishy, scrunch-faced newborn you turned into this baby with all the giggles and rolls, and then I blinked again, and this almost-toddler with enough hair to make a mullet was standing steadily at the ottoman, thinking seriously about walking across the room to get in on some Cheerios action in the kitchen.

There are so many parts of you that are the same as when we were just getting to know you. You are still quiet – or maybe serene is a better word. You are, for the most part, at peace with the world, pretty easy going. You delight in so many things, but in a quiet way. This is not to say you do not fill our house with squawks and squeaks and pat your mouth over and over to make that bah-bah-bah sound, but there is just a quietness of spirit about you.

elsaAnd we are still calling you sweet. All the time. Your face lights up when you see me or Owen or your dad. Lately, when you’ve woken up from your nap before Owen, you begin crawling towards his closed door the minute he wakes up and you hear him cry, excited to greet him. You will sit still and snuggly on the couch with us, even though every cell in your body is telling you to go! crawl! stand! bounce! dance! climb! Though you would do anything to be up and crawling on the couch, and you are ever on the go, you are still content to be held, and when I pick you up from naps, you still nestle your face into that space between my shoulder and my neck, sighing happily and patting my back, just like I am patting yours.

Honeybear, you just seem to be on the cusp of everything. You could walk. You really could. But all of our efforts to entice you into taking a step end with you doing excited mini-bouncy squats, almost falling and righting yourself, but you will not pick up your feet, despite the hours we’ve spent walking behind you, your hands clenched tightly around our fingers as you walk the length of our house. Your crawling these days resembles a cartoon character, your arms and legs motoring round and round.  You’re just so fast, and you are ever finding your way into the bathroom to your beloved toilet, or over to pound away on your dad’s laptop keyboard, or racing across the room to grab a stray baseball card of Owen’s to chew on for a minute before anyone notices. You easily climb up stairs now. In fact, for 45 long seconds over Christmas, we lost you inside of your Grandpa Joe & Grandma Pam’s house. Your dad and I each thought the other was watching you, and when we realized our error, we took a few laps through different parts of the house, racing to find you, only to discover you far away in their back bathroom, happily pulling toilet paper off the roll, quietly. You’ve got stealth, girl.

I do not think you are too far from talking either. To hear you say Mama makes me want to never stop having babies. Infrequently, you throw out appropriately timed, breathy dah!s when you see your dad. But Hi!? You’ve got that one down. You wave your entire arm excitedly and say hi to anyone you see, to the people walking by the house on the sidewalk, the stranger in the grocery store, to us across the dinner table. You live to greet.

Your dancing spirit continues, and you are quick to clap along to any song, shaking your head back and forth before stopping to raise the roof. You are always on the lookout for a chance to play your dad’s guitar, or the banjo, and what amazes me is that you don’t just bang, but you seem to pick out individual strings – carefully, so pleased with the sounds you are making. You hum along when we sing at church and absolutely light up if we sing together at home.  Anytime you hear Owen bust out Only A Boy Named David, you swing your arm back and forth with gusto at the ’round and ’round and ’round part. It is such a defining response of this part of your life.

You have also learned to love play. You drive Owen’s cars around the floor, making something between an engine and siren sound. You delight in pulling things out of containers – wipes, books, blocks, and throwing them on the floor. You love to knock over block towers, and to jam out playing songs on the baby laptop. You are literally into every cabinet you can squeeze into, and you crawl under our table tunnel several times a day, somehow worming your way through the bottom chair rungs without injuring yourself, something I don’t remember Owen being able to do without pain and frustration. And the window. You have finally discovered the joy of standing at our front window, using a stool to boost you up. You will stand there for thirty minutes, commenting with mahmas and bahs and oohpagoowoos at all that  you see outside. You can even carefully get yoursel down most of the time, but it amazes me how long you will choose to be up there. You especially love when it gets dark out and the car lights come on.

Despite our several rounds of shared family stomach flu fun, you have finally found your way with food. You are careful and pick up the smallest crumbs with your thumb and forefinger, bringing them to your mouth before using your other hand to make large swipes, driving all the cheerios to the floor, laughing at the genius of your trick. You seem to like most foods but definitely prefer fruit and bread and anything you can pick up yourself. You dislike being spoon fed and grab at the spoon, wanting to put it in your own mouth.

You use that same forefinger to point at books, all the time, now. Pointing as if you were reading or saying, “Hey guys, but have you seen THIS lion cub? He’s amazing!” Your love affair with all things animal continues, and you squeal and squawk over all the animal picture books we have, laughing and shaking with happiness in the presence of any dog or cat.

Even your birthday party was puppy themed. You now have a whole litter of stuffed animal dogs, and your cake was a three-dimensional puppy cake. Though we celebrated with just the four of us on your actual birthday, with Owen singing Happy Birthday to you at least 16 times that day, with balloons and cupcakes and presents, we also invited a bunch of family and friends over to celebrate your little life with a brunch. A brunch full of food and people who love you and all of their kids who played with every toy in our house. Our house was filled with life and love for you, and I loved every second of it because you were just so happy. On your actual birthday and at your party, you seemed to get it….that all eyes were on you, that we were remembering how much we love you, that we were doing all of the things to bring a smile to your face. You were not overwhelmed by any of it, but took it in with your serene smile, happy to hear all of the voices singing, before diving finger first into some chocolate cake and carefully picking up every crumb.

Elsa, I walk this delicate line between desperately wanting you to grow up so we can know you better…hear your words and discover what excites you and introduce you to this great big world…I also long to keep you snuggly and small enough to fit in the ergo, your cheeks warm against my chest in sleep, your breath tickling my skin. I long to braid your hair and watch you color and watch you take care of the dog I’m sure we will inevitably get at your impassioned request, but I also want to keep you forever in this stage of innocence, in which a funny noise, a blinking light, the smallest of things delight you. This is the line that all mothers walk, I think, and so for now, like Mary, I treasure you and all of these things about you in my heart. I store them up and I bring them out at night when I am trying to fall asleep, replaying the beauty of your large eyes against your baby face, reliving the moment that you learned to give kisses, remembering the softness of your hair and your cheeks.

I love you, Elsa, and am thankful for every single minute of the last year we’ve gotten with you.
I can’t believe you’re mine.

Love,
Mama

Things You Love: baths, standing up in the bath, Owen, standing at the front window (on a stool), when your dad comes home, cheerios!, graham crackers, cucumbers, walking while you hang on to our fingers, balloons!, cake, dogs, cats, any book with pictures of animals, videos, commercials with songs (something we discovered while watching football with dad – you would light up and start grooving at the start of every commercial set), climbing up stairs, being on the couch, knocking over block towers, singing, dancing, music, drinking out of my cup, getting into the refrigerator, climbing up the kitchen stool, when Owen plays with you, being tickled, nursing

Things You Hate: sitting down in the bath, getting your diaper or clothes changed, when Owen is crying hard (you start crying too and look really concerned), being gassy, being told no (you break out into this hyper-emotional laugh-cry), being pulled away from the couch side table with the lamp and laptop that you are always trying to pull down, when Owen pushes you

Dear Elsa – a letter at eleven months

dear-elsa

Here we are, almost at your first birthday, and these days when I nurse you, your body stretches long across mine, your legs hang off my lap. Where there was once this tiny peanut whose entire body fit between my neck and my stomach, there is now this little girl, who stands and thinks about walking before dropping down and racing across the floor on all fours, beelining for all of our electrical cords, the bathroom trash, your brother’s dropped dinner crumbs, the banjo, the stairs.

Els, you are such a delight. You regularly crack yourself (and us) up, scrunching up your face at the dinner table and cackling at everything and nothing. Your greatest joy in life is to crawl across the couch, pulling yourself up on the arm rest, and stand there, bobbing up and down, squawking with happiness. You stand so well, so sturdy, now, and we stand you up, just a few feet away from us on the carpet. We stretch out our hands towards you, urging you with the space to take a step; you squeal and do mini-squats, excited until you drop down on your knees and crawl over to us, then up on our laps, ever climbing up, up, up.

You love to dance, love to sing, and often I catch you lately, quietly singing to yourself, or better yet, quietly humming and ahhing along with some song at church or on the computer. It is such a sweet and gentle song that you sing. And you’ve got moves, baby girl; you bob your booty up and down, or wiggle your torso when sitting, at the first note of any song, though you seem partial to Desiny’s Child circa 1999 or kid techno-beats like The Hampster Dance.

You are finding your voice more and more everyday, filling our ears with mamamas and aspirated dah!s, squawking like a happy bird in public restrooms, clapping at the sound of your own echoed voice. You greet us with a happy and breathy “baaaah” when we pick you up from your nap, a sound you make with a wide-open-mouth smile whenever something excites you. We believe your first legit word is a friendly hi, which admittedly sounds a little more like aye but you say it with so much warmth, such a big smile, such a vigorous wave that we’re counting it. Your face lights up if anyone says hi and waves to you; your whole body wiggles with excitement.

This month has also served as your introduction to Christmas. You are obsessed with the tree skirt under our tree, the one your Grandma Pam made so long ago, with all the sequined snowmen. Despite our ottoman barriers, you would worm your way to it, crouching over it and staring with wonder, then trying to sneak in a chew on the Christmas lights or pull off an ornament or two to mouth. We celebrated your first Christmas with just our little family last week. You, of course, loved (and chewed) all the crinkly paper, but when you opened the little play cell phone we got you, your eyes lit up. You held it up in the air as if to show us, and then actually sat and played with it for a few minutes, like you knew what opening a gift was all about. We still sort of can’t believe we bought one of our kids a techy toy, but you take such joy in finding my phone or seeing it light up, that we had to.

While you don’t seem to be winter’s biggest fan, we’ve discovered that you will tolerate being outside in the cold if we pull you around in a sled; the moment we stop, you burst into tears and look at us with the saddest eyes. At times, I fear for your teenage years, because your eyes, Elsa, when filled with tears, are irresistible. They are big and blue and wet and imploring.

For now, we say no to you in an attempt to teach you about the dangers of chewing on chords or touching the fireplace, and to you, it is the greatest game. You look back at us and immediately start giggling. When we finally pull you away from the object of your heart’s desire, you squeal at us like an angry baby piglet, and it is a sound of annoyance. And then it’s our turn to laugh.

Your love affair with all things dogs and cats continues…I think I’m going to make a dog cake for your first birthday party. You clap upon the arrival of any dog and squeal and laugh when they lick your face.

Elsa Bear, I love you so much. You bring us a tremendous amount of joy and it’s hard to imagine life without you. You make all three of us laugh all the time, and when you’re sleeping, I legitimately miss you. Lately, you’ve been waking up from your afternoon nap just a little bit before Owen – probably due to the two teeth you’ve been cutting on the bottom. It’s rare these days that you and I get time alone. Owen always seems to be awake before you. But these last few weeks, I have snuck in about fifteen minutes with you in the afternoons before he wakes up. We nurse and snuggle quietly by the Christmas tree lights, then read (and chew) a book or two before getting on the floor. You love it when I crawl with you or play peek-a-boo with the curtains, and we just play together while I try to make you laugh. Our play is much quieter than my play with Owen…softer but no less silly. But by it I can tell that you are a different bird; you watch me intently, you delight in being close to me, and you, in the midst of play, will crawl over to me and up into my lap to give me a little snuggle with snarfie. Every day when your dad walks in the door, you greet him with a dah! immediately start crawling over to him, pulling yourself up on his leg, not content until he picks you up with his cold hands and gives you a hug and a smooch. I love that about you.

Honeybear, you are the daughter of my dreams.

Love,

Your Mom

Things you Love: baths (your splashing together with Owen is epic), crawling, standing, music, dancing, eating most foods, pretzel rods, pacifier, dogs, cats, when your dad comes home, my cell phone, your cell phone, OWEN!, seeing other kids in general, Owen’s sppy cups, your own sippy cup, the toilet, the bathroom trash, electrical chords, Christmas lights & ornaments, dancing with your dad, being pulled on the sled, sleeping (lately, you’ve been diving for your bed), tvs, videos, and screens of any kind, talking with your dad by video chat, the banjo & guitar

Things you Hate: getting your diaper changed, getting dressed, getting out of the bath, falling down, when we stop sledding, teething, being with babysitters / in the nursery