“DO IT MYSELF!” (A lesson in patience)

Dear Alex,

I know I know, this is WAY overdue…. you’re already sneaking up on the 2 1/2 mark all too quickly. We’ve been pretty busy, adjusting to life as a family of 4! And I’ve been trying to give Charlie monthly letters this first year just as I did for you, so admittedly that’s been a higher priority. That’s not to say that you haven’t been growing and changing quite a bit these past few months! You’re very much a little boy now– most of your baby fat is gone (no more Buddha belly!) and you clocked in at exactly 3ft tall (and 35lb) at your last checkup. You run, jump and climb quite well but still have a little ways to go with your fine motor skills. I think that’s a skill you’re subconsciously working on though, because you’re very into jigsaw puzzles and stickers. Also, you insist of doing everything yourself these days (“DO IT MYSELF!”), from buckling yourself in the carseat each morning to putting on your pajamas each night. Patience is a virtue for sure, and it’s required in spades for dealing with you at this stage of your life!

The only exception to doing things yourself is eating– although you’re pretty good with a fork and spoon when you want to be, you ask us to feed you quite a bit. I think it has something to do with Charlie’s arrival and seeing us feeding him all the time. Actually now that he’s eating “solid” food you’re always asking for bites of whatever he’s eating. Poor kid! But as far as your own food goes, often times you barely touch your dinner these days no matter what it is. I think you are just hoping we hurry through it so you can go play! Unfortunately for you our family rule is that you don’t have to eat dinner, but you do have to sit there until the last person is done eating. That is our special family time, lots of conversations and general silliness happen at the dinner table. That and bedtime are two of my favorite parts of the day with you.

That being said, bedtime has had its series of challenges lately… from waking up with nightmares for the first month or so after Charlie was born (anxiety I think), to being DEATHLY afraid of the bath and shower for over two months (one time you cried so hard that you made yourself vomit– OMG), and most recently refusing to go to bed and crying your little eyes off whenever we try to leave the room. I do take the time to read you a story, sing songs, snuggle and chat with you each night and it’s great… but with my life going at warp speed from the moment I wake up at 4:30am until I lay down in my bed each night after whatever hour you and Charlie are in bed for the night, I’m beyond exhausted so the delays in bedtime get frustrating. On the flip side, my heart breaks a little inside when your little face drops and you reach your arms up and ask for “more snuggles please!” How can I say no to that? I know the day will come all too quickly that you don’t ask for that anymore, and so I’m trying my best to be patient (I guess that’s the word of the day) and enjoy the special time with you. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking you three questions each night while we’re laying in your bed at the end of the day– (1) What made you happy today? (2) What made you sad today? (3) What did you learn today? It’s interesting to hear your answers. Lately, the answer to #3 is “triangles!” almost every day. LOL

It’s so great being able to have real conversations with you. As I said earlier, you’re such a little boy (sometimes Dad & I are like “Holy crap, he’s a little PERSON now! We made a PERSON!”) with lots of thoughts, opinions and feelings that you want to share and discuss with us. You speak in complete sentences & you’re a little sponge, learning all sorts of new things constantly (your favorite question these days is “What’s that?” which I’ll take over “Why?” any day, although I know that one is coming soon)… an even better analogy is a little parrot, because you literally parrot back to us almost everything that we say. Except curse words– you’ve figured out that some words are forboden and when you hear one of us use a bad word you say “Don’t say that word, Daddy!” (Let’s face it, 90% of the time Dad is the offender in these situations, haha.)

Your little personality has also blossomed quite a bit in the last few months. You’re still shyer than manyΒ of the kids this age, but also a lot more outgoing than you used to be. You’re quicker to be willing to leave my side in new situations, and talk to people more freely now. A couple weeks ago we were walking through the neighborhood and came across a guy gardening in his front yard, and you struck up a conversation with him. That day you were wearing an Avengers shirt and asking the guy who was who on your shirt (as he was apparently an Avengers fan too), then you tried to give him your stuffed Cookie Monster which is pretty high praise! Haha. You’re not always so great about sharing, but you do seem to be more sensitive and caring of others’ feelings than many kids this age are. You LOVE to make people smile and laugh. You’re the biggest ham! When someone is visibly sad, you’re quick to let me know (“that girl is crying!”) and try to do something to make them feel better. We actually lost one of your toy trucks at the kid’s hair salon a month or two ago because another little boy was crying during his haircut, and you gave the boy your toy truck to help him feel better. Then we ended up leaving before he did and forgot about it. You’re very affectionate (super generous with hugs & kisses πŸ™‚ ) and overall just a super sweet guy.

Of course this piece of your personality shines through the most in your interactions with your little brother. A common phrase heard in this house is “Mom, Charlie’s crying again!” LOL. You still ask where he is almost as soon as you wake up each morning, giving him kisses and hugs CONSTANTLY. You share your toys with him and try to play with him as much as you can. You do your part in taking care of him as much as you’re able to at this age– throwing away dirty diapers & bringing me clean ones (we keep a little step stool by Charlie’s changing table so that you can “help”), shaking up Charlie’s formula and burping him when he’s done eating, picking out his clothes & pajamas to wear, putting his pacifier back in Charlie’s mouth when he drops it, cheering him on when we’re working on skills like rolling & sitting, and most of all being Charlie’s #1 source of entertainment. You two love each other so much, and although I’ve said this many times I’ll say it again: it’s by far my greatest joy as a parent so far. Being a working mom of an infant & young toddler is TOUGH, so much tougher than I ever imagined… but my God, seeing your little faces light up looking at each other makes every struggle worth it.

And with that I think the rest of our recent adventures together can be told through pictures and videos…

Visiting a local farm park… you actually HATED this place, I think for some reason you were just in a crappy mood that day, and we had to leave early. :-\ But at least we managed to get one cute picture out of it!

The 2015 “Touch-a-Truck” festival! You were not into this place at first… I think it was overwhelming for you with the big crowds of people & all, but you were happier with it by the end.

A candid snuggly moment Dad caught on camera. πŸ™‚

Of course we went down to Hampton for Easter weekend and enjoyed visiting family. You were really into the egg hunt this year! It was so nice having the Pachecos and Stoddards together for one celebration this year. The weekend after Easter we had our annual egg hunt with the playgroup too, so by then you were a pro. πŸ˜‰ I absolutely adore that bottom photo– you look like a little model.

Tuckered out after a friend’s birthday party.

Despite the impression you might get from that first video (throwing cell phones is fun!), you LOVE to sing songs. You can really see the progression over the course of these videos– it started with me singing most of the lyrics to songs and you filling in a word here or there, but now you know all the lyrics to a HUGE variety of songs (and half of those being Sesame Street related, of course), and sing quite a bit by yourself. A few weeks ago we were in the exam room at the pediatrician waiting for the doctor to come in and see you, and you were singing a whole bunch of different songs AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS because that’s just how we roll… and as we were leaving the nurses stopped us to thank you for singing and said it really made their day. So cute!

Potty training… oh gosh, what isn’t there to say about potty training?! It’s going, it’s not going, it’s going, it’s not going. I will say we’ve made some progress in that you will pee/poop in the potty if we take you there, and a lot of times you will even tell us when you have to poop (albeit too late about half the time). With pee though, you usually don’t tell us and just go in your diaper still. I do think at this point you’re pretty much ready and could be potty trained if we were to push it harder, but honestly we just haven’t had the energy (or the nerve) to do this yet. It’s going to entail all of us staying home for an entire 3-day weekend and just putting you into underwear so that you can feel what it’s like to have an accident, but a totally free 3-day weekend is extremely hard for us to come by. So for now, the truth is it’s been easier to just keep you in diapers since you are still content with that. But I don’t think that we’ll do that much longer. I’m running out of excuses not to potty train you. :-X

This is how you felt from being woken up from your nap to go to the circus. Really any time we have to wake you up rather than letting you wake on your own, it ends up looking like this. You did enjoy the circus though! The animals and the acrobats were your favorite parts, particularly the high wire motorcycle.

Thought I’d better contrast that last photo with a happy one. πŸ˜‰ You’re not always fussy, and in fact I think you’re a lot less fussy than other kids your age I’ve met, at least when you’re with me. Anyway, in this picture you & I were gardening in the front yard while Dad mowed the lawn. You enjoyed pulling up weeds… perhaps a bit too much, because you pulled up some of my loriope too.

Hanging out with your buddy Colin!

Making cookies with your girl Autumn. πŸ˜‰ This little princess had you wrapped around her finger from the moment you saw her. I brought you downstairs to hang out with her after a nap, and within 30 minutes she had you putting on her shoes for her and kissing her hand! LOL

Although you have many people friends, NO ONE tops your Sesame Street pals! You had a few of these before, but a generous friend of mine sent the rest of the gang for you. You adore them all and insist on dragging them all over the house, playing pretend with them, chatting with them, showing them to Charlie or simply moving them from one spot to another. You tuck them into bed, cook with them in your kitchen, take them outside and swing/slide with them, sit them all in a row and teach them songs, and much much more. I don’t know why we’ve wasted money on other toys as these guys are all you need to be happy. When we leave the house I do limit you to just taking one friend at a time, and at night you can only have 2 of them with you in bed.

These guys have even taken the place of Baby– I bought you a new Baby a few weeks ago as your other one had gotten so beat up… Well, first I tried to get you a Cabbage Patch Kid doll so that you could have a bigger/more durable friend to play with. But you declared that “he smells!” and refused to have anything to do with him (and it’s true– the plastic on his head was vanilla scented, LOL). So then I was able to track down another Baby just like the original but with an orange outfit instead of blue. You like him, but choose your Sesame Street friends over him when forced to make the choice. And now I have just spent entirely too much time discussing your stuffed animal/doll collection. Oy!

Breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day!

You & Dad have been doing this toddler baseball camp on Saturday morning for the past month or so. You’re always a little shy with it, but do seem to enjoy it once you warm up to it. They do all sorts of little baseball and teamwork related exercises, but you seem to pretty consistently HATE the part where they have you guys put on baseball gloves to try and catch baseballs. There’s almost always a meltdown during that part of class. :-\ Not sure why that is. We’re going to try bringing your own baseball glove from home next time, since you seem to like that one just fine.

You’ve gotten to where you’ll put yourself in time out when you commit a punishable offense (and sometimes your toys if they misbehave as well– “Turtle hit me! Time out Turtle– TWO MINUTES!!”) We actually only do time out when you hit, although I’m not sure how effective it’s been. Lately I’ve been trying “time in” with you instead– where when you get upset and start tantruming, I take you to a quiet spot and force you to sit in my lap doing something soothing (like taking deep breaths) until you calm down. Then after you’re calm and able to listen properly, we talk about whatever it is that you did wrong or that made you upset. That seems to be working a little better– last night you actually randomly turned yourself away from me & Charlie and started deep breathing on your own. I asked if you were okay and you said “yeah, just breathing” and after a few minutes you turned back to me and said “I feel better now” and gave me a hug. I was feeding Charlie at the time, my theory is maybe you were upset that I was busy with Charlie and not paying enough attention to you. So…. maybe the time ins are working? Parenting is truly one huge mindf*ck of trial and error. :-X But I do like the theory behind it better than time-outs, so I will keep it up.

A month or so ago you had a bad cold that brought about another ear infection (just when I thought you were finally done with those, ugh!). While we were waiting for the pharmacy to get your meds together, I took you to the Subway next door to share some milk & cookies. πŸ™‚ But even now, weeks later, any time we go by that Subway you’re like “Get a cookie?” You’ve got a memory like a steel trap!

Learning the important life skill of drinking the milk out of the bottom of your cereal bowl.

More meal time shenanigans. Like I mentioned earlier, dinner every night consists of us talking about how our day went, then doing silly stuff like this. You are such a funny little kid!

The Hartleben family reunion (Nana’s side of the family) in WV! The reunion itself was awesome– you had fun swimming with your cousins in the pool and eating chocolate cake…. but the 6+ hour drive each way, refusal to nap, and hellish night in the hotel room taking turns waking each other up was seriously pure torture for us all. No one got much sleep and we were all so cranky & exhausted that we ended up cutting the trip a night short so that we could go home and have some time to rest at in our owns beds before going back to the grind that following week. Dad & I have agreed that we’re not going to do any more long trips with you boys, beyond the obligatory trips to Hampton, until you’re a few years older and can handle it better. On the bright side, you won’t remember much of what happens before you’re 4 or 5 years old anyway. And there’s lots of fun things to do close by, so no shortage of fun family experiences.

Fun times with Mom! We spend lots of time outside on your play set– we like to play restaurant in that bottom part, taking turns being the waiter & customer. You must be a fantastic chef, because you’re able to whip me up any food I ask for out of thin air. πŸ˜‰ The bottom picture is from a recent trip to Clemyjontri, our favorite local park. You enjoyed all the swings, slides, things to climb on, and ESPECIALLY the carousel.

And last but certainly not least, lots of happy times playing with your little brother! πŸ™‚ He’s never far from your side. We’ll see how long it lasts until you’re trying to get away from him. LOL. I suspect he won’t be as cute and fun to you when he’s mobile and able to snatch toys from you! But for now, we’re all enjoying the relative peace and harmony.

Phew, that’s about it! There are so many more cute pictures from the last few months, but just not enough time or space to share them all here. Suffice it to say that you are growing, learning, saying and doing SO MUCH every single day, constantly getting into new adventures and blowing our minds at how smart you are as well as how quickly you’re becoming an independent little being. It’s the most hilarious, fascinating, insanely awesome thing… and us parents are just along for the ride, trying not to completely screw things up. πŸ˜‰

All my love,
Mom

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