“So the next day…”

Dear Alex,

OY. I’m so sorry that I haven’t been as on top of writing you as I once was! I called this letter “So the next day…” because when you are reading me a story (basically telling me your interpretation of the story based on pictures in the book), every time you turn the page you start it with “So the next day…” no matter how much time has actually passed in the story. LOL. We’ll call this “the next day” even though it’s actually been quite awhile since I wrote you a full letter. πŸ˜‰

Hopefully someday if/when you have small children yourself, you’ll understand. I never knew the true meaning of busy, nor the true meaning ofΒ EXHAUSTED, until becoming a parent. And not just that but the parent of two young toddlers.

It is so much more challenging than I could have possibly anticipated. Especially given how difficult of a toddler Charlie is turning out to be. It makes me that much more thankful that you are such a good kid. Seriously, I hardly ever have to worry about you getting in trouble or even throwing tantrums. You are the sweetest, most thoughtful and caring 3 year old I’ve ever met. Although of course you have your moments….

… and those moments are especially tough when Charlie is also having a “moment,” LOL, overall you are a really good kid and we’ve been truly enjoying this phase of life with you.Β The last few months I’ve been working really hard on bringing more balance to our lives and taking better care of myself as an individual, which has helped a lot as well. As the saying goes, when Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy! πŸ˜‰

One of the biggest changes we’ve made in that vein is the new tradition of having you & Charlie visit your grandparents one weekend per month. The two sets of grandparents alternate each month– so one month you go to Nana & Grump’s (which is where you are as I write this), the next you go to Papa & Grandma’s. I think this has been a great thing for you & Charlie (as well as for me & Dad).We’re really lucky that both sets of grandparents live close enough that we’re able to have this arrangement. Β Having a good relationship with your grandparents is so important, and something that I’m sad to have missed out on (as most of my grandparents passed away when I was very young).Β 

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That being said, you’ve also bonded with Dad quite a bit more these last few months. I think part of that is out of necessity because I have to chase Charlie around so much (LOL), but also I think you’re coming to an age where Dad has an easier time relating to you. Your personality really shines through now, and OMG you are so like your father!

In addition to being fairly shy, you also love making people laugh (but you seem to have more of my goofy sense of humor vs. Dad’s dry sense of humor).

You struggle a bit with social anxiety and have a hard time adapting to change. You hate getting messy or wet (but do love swimming in the pool, despite this!).

Just like Dad, you are extremely smart and have amazing attention to detail. You are a true perfectionist– very harsh on yourself when you make even the smallest mistake (this is Dad to the life!), or if you think you’ve upset someone.

YouΒ really enjoy things that combine this analytical side of your brain with your creative side– you LOVE to draw, and are actually an extremely talented artist for your age, in my non-biased opinion. πŸ˜‰

You also enjoy building things with legos (but moreso with Dad’s choking hazard legos. :-\ ) as well as with clay or playdoh.

You also love music and making up songs (which is something Dad does a lot too!).

Your feelings and emotions run deep– all in all I would say the biggest challenge with you at this age is working with you on handling your emotions, which is a pretty common issue for a 3 year old. But I also think you have a keener sense of other people’s emotions then most kids your age do. When you see that someone is upset you want to help them feel better.

I think this, combined with your ridiculously handsome looks, has made you a bit of a lady-killer already. πŸ˜‰ The perfectionist side of you makes you fairly bossy, which probably comes more from me than from Dad (LOL). Still, in group scenarios I don’t see you taking charge as much as I did when I was a kid, so I think you prefer observing from the background in team situations.

Dad and I have talked many times about what we think you might end up being when you grow up, based on these interests and personality traits. And really we have no idea. But if I were going to hazard a guess right now, I think you would be a great engineer or architect. πŸ™‚ We will of course be proud of you no matter what you choose to do with your life!

As far as developmental things go, you are pretty much potty trained except for the occasional night time accident…. but we have had several regressions since we first started the potty training process over 6 months ago. Your fine motor skills are really great– gross motor skills are… okay. You’re a little bit of a klutz and I don’t imagine you being big on sports/athletics when you get older. We opted not to do any group sports/activities this year because (1) we’re too busy/tired, (2) they’re so expensive and (3) at this age I don’t think you really enjoy them enough for it to be worth the time/money/weekly commitment. You do seem to like baseball (Thank God!) and are pretty good at swinging the bat, so I daresay we’ll have you in t-ball within the next year or two.

Earlier I noted that you tend to be really hard on yourself, which at such a young age makes me really sad to see. You get frustrated and say “I can’t do it!” a lot when you aren’t able to complete a task to your standards. So, one thing we’ve been trying to instill in you in the fact that you can do ANYTHING with enough practice and hard work. We tell you when you’re frustrated to stop, take a deep breath, take a break for a bit and say “What can I do to fix this?” So far that technique seems to be working well for you. This self-criticism and frustration is something I’ve seen in Dad a lot too, and it hurts my heart to see you both go through that. I’m not sure how else I can help you with it. When you read this as an adult someday, please know that I’m trying my best and Β haveΒ always thought, from day 1, that you are an amazing little guy who can accomplish anything he puts his mind to! πŸ™‚

I also mentioned earlier that you are obviously very smart– in my last letter I wrote about how far ahead you are academically, and that has only gotten better during these last few months going to preschool. You talk really well for a kid your age, and have started learning to write already. You pick up on things– academically or otherwise– VERY quickly, so Dad & I have to be very careful what we say and do around you (well, we should be but it doesn’t always work out that way. We are human, after all!). Dad & I both love having conversations with you and hearing about your “toddler logic” views on things. YouΒ make everyone in this family smile & laugh on a daily basis.

Speaking of family, you are Charlie are still best buddies, although there definitely is a lot more fighting over toys these days. You’ve started trying to hide things from Charlie in places you think he can’t reach, but he’s able to thwart your efforts more & more now that he’s getting pretty good at climbing. Nevertheless, you’ve asked me many times why Charlie can’t go to school with you. And when the time came to move you & Charlie into the same bedroom, you were overjoyed at the idea of getting to share a room with Charlie.

You play together a fair amount, but also have very distinctly different personalities and separate interests. For example, Charlie LOVES animals (especially Annie), and you do not. He really loves balls and cars, anything moving really, and you do not (but you do indulge him in these activities from time to time!). You love to read books, he does not. That being said, you also have a lot in common– you both love building with blocks/legos, you both love playing pretend/dress-up, and Charlie is starting to pick up on your love of art/drawing. And above all else, you both love EACH OTHER to pieces. πŸ™‚ Giving you two the gift of one another is without a doubt the greatest thing I’ve done with my life.

Our little family is my greatest treasure and blessing. I’m getting emotional just typing that… it’s so true and despite all the emotional wringers and mindf*cks it’s put me/Dad through these last few years, I have no doubts whatsoever that this is what I was born to do. God made me to be your mom, and I am so incredibly thankful. πŸ™‚

All my love,
Mom

Threenager

Dear Alex,

WOW, how quickly the last 6 months have flown by! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote you last– things have been crazy around here. I don’t want to waste space in this letter on that though, so I’ll just direct you to Charlie’s latest letter here on why finding the time & energy to write letters has been tough for me lately. You went through an especially rough period where you were not sleeping much at ALL. Seriously, averaging maybe 5-6 hours of sleep per night when you’re supposed to be getting a good 10-12. We tried all sorts of things, and it even got to the point where you pediatrician suggested sending you in for a sleep study, when finally three months later I tried removing the night light next to your bed…. and that did the trick! I couldn’t believe such a simple thing was the problem. And maybe it was a coincidence, but I didn’t care. As long as we were all getting sleep again, that’s what mattered. So, things are better now! Spring is here and hopefully that means we’ll all be healthy for more than five seconds at a time. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, enough about that…

You are THREE! Before I started writing this, I read the last letter I wrote you to get an idea of how much has changed since then. The answer? A LOT! The headliner being that you are potty trained! πŸ˜€

One day in November you just decided you wanted to wear underwear, and that was that. The first few days you had maybe 5 or 6 accidents, and then you were off to the races. We had a brief regression in January (for reasons unknown), but other than that you’ve been day time potty trained ever since. Woohoo! I’m not too worried about night training at this point– you’ve been sick a lot this winter so we’ve allowed you to keep a bottle of honeyed water with you at night to help coughing/sore throat/etc., and honestly I don’t see the point in attempting to night train until we can take that away and you wake up consistently dry in the mornings.

The other big (and very recent) change is that you started preschool about a month ago!

Dad & I had been debating for quite awhile on when or if we wanted you to start preschool… you had a lot of big changes in your life last year with becoming a big brother and all, so we didn’t want to force much else on you at the time. But now that we’re all settled into life as a family of four, and you were showing signs of being ready for the challenge, we decided the time was right. You are amazingly smart for your age– I know I’ve said this many times but it really is true– and so we really think preschool is a better fit for you now. You know all your ABC’s, both upper and lower case, and know how many of the letters sound. You know how to spell and write your name, and can recognize the names of all four of your family members on sight. You know numbers up to 20 as well, as well as shapes, colors etc. (that’s nothing new actually). You know lots of other things too, and are a quick learner. Your most recent obsession is art– you LOVE to draw, color and paint. And honestly you’re pretty good, although all you really like to color or draw is Ninja Turtles (Sesame Street is old news, you’ve moved on to Paw Patrol and Ninja Turtles now ;-).

So although you were more than ready academically, emotionally the transition has been a challenge for you. The first day was great– you went in and started playing without any tears… but I think that’s because you didn’t realize I’d be leaving. Every day for the next few weeks after that, you’ve cried at the mere mention of school, saying that “it’s scary!” 😦 Honestly I was expecting this because you can be a very shy kid and have had some issues with social anxiety, so going into a new & unfamiliar situation with no one you know has been tough for you. But it’s getting better! Your teachers have all been really sweet and understanding. The last couple of days you haven’t cried, and I think the day will come soon enough when you actually look forward to going to school.

All in all though– some really big changes! You are all boy now, the baby days are far behind you. Sometimes that makes me feel a little sad, but overall I’m extremely happy and proud of the little boy you’ve grown into. We have so much fun together. You have the sweetest personality– very thoughtful, caring, and funny. You love to make people smile & laugh. And no matter how big you get, you’ll always be my snuggle bunny! πŸ™‚

And with that, I think I’ll let the pictures and videos tell the rest of the story…

[NOTE: I started this on April 10, but never got a chance to come back and add more pics/videos. Mom fail! I’ll put those in my next letter.]

All in all, it’s been an awesomeΒ and eventful year for you. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time flies as a parent. I love putting together these recap videos of the year because SO MUCH changes in a year when you have little ones. There are lots of ups and downs, but I would not trade a second of it. You have no idea how blessed I feel to be your mom. πŸ™‚

All my love,
Mom

Welcome to ToddlerTown, Population: 2

Dear Charlie,

YOU ARE ONE! A toddler! I can’t believe how fast time is flying by.

As you can see, I totally failed at getting those last couple monthly letters in…Β there has been a lot going on, and frankly I’ve just felt so overwhelmed with life these last few months. We’ve had the holidays, your ear surgery, therapy sessions, almost constant illness from at least one member of the family at any given moment (you’ve had your second ER trip for croup since I last wrote– ugh!), Alex having some pretty severe sleep issues, birthdays, and of course the usual demands of my life as a working mom of two little boys. I’m not going to lie, it’s HARD. Between the four of us someone is always awake, someone is always crying, someone always needs help with something, someone is always hungry, someone alwaysΒ needs my attention… you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong– Dad is great with helping out with you guys and around the house but you & Alex are both very much mama’s boys. πŸ˜‰ It’s a blessing and a curse, to be sure.

You’re sleeping much better these days, but there are still times here and there where you insist on sleeping in my arms and/or directly on my face. Alex is the same way from time to time, actually more often than you are. This picture was taken around 11:30pm on one of those nights, when I had pretty much given up all hope of either of us sleeping:

I think I’ve hinted at this here and there in some of my letters to you and Alex, but I also struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. The severity of it ebbs and flows, but it really has come to a head in the last few months and a lot of things have had to take a back seat to my mental health. Finding balance and taking better care of myself has been a priority, so that I can be a better mom for you & Alex. It’s a constant struggle and the variables are always changing as you boys grow and our life circumstances change, but things are getting better and I’m hopeful that this continues to be a positive trend.Β You might wonder why I’m telling you all this– in addition to explaining the major delay in my writing, I want these letters to be an open and honest depiction of our life together and ourΒ experience with parenthood, so that if/when you have children someday you’ll be able to read this and perhaps relate some of what Dad & I are going through to your own experience.

But ENOUGH about me– I want to talk about you, sweet Charlie-bean! πŸ™‚ When I last left off you were a few days away from ear tube surgery. The surgery itself went very smoothly, and although I was admittedly quite worried about it. Watching you go “under” with the anesthesia was pretty emotional, but thankfully you did not struggle with it the way many kids do. By the time they took me back to the waiting room and I opened my email, the doctor was out to let me know if was over! They had said it would be quick, but just HOW quick really surprised me. You were awake when I got back to the recovery area, understandably confused and upset from the morning’s events. Once we got you calmed down we went back home and you were more or less back to normal by the next day. Since then you actually have still managed to get two more ear infections, but they are not nearly as severe as they were before tubes…. a little bit of ibuprofen + some Rx ear drops and you’re good to go.

Speaking of things that are painful– TEETH! You have four chompers currently and are working on several more. You recently had your first dental checkup, which at this age isn’t much of anything other than a quick tooth brushing and a peek inside your mouth. You were a little squirmy/fussy but Alex was right by your side to hold your hand. πŸ˜‰

Not my best picture– for a formula fed baby, you sure love to stick your hands down my shirt!– but it does show off your teeth really well. πŸ™‚ You might also notice in that picture that you got your first haircut recently!

You were a bit squirmy, but didn’t fuss too much. We got lucky and the lady who cut Alex’s hair for the first time, Amina, happened to be there (despite being in a new location!). I think the cut made a HUGE difference in your look. You’re such a little boy now! A lot of people say you look much more like Alex now, but I still think the two of you look totally different. At the time I was worried that would be the last we’d see if your curls, but they are definitely growing back in. We got that hair cut done right before your first birthday party… so actually you’re about due for another trim soon!

Speaking of your birthday party, let’s talk about the whirlwind of the holidays, which for us also includes birthday season. Christmas was great– I really enjoyed spending Christmas Eve/Day at home with just the four of us. It was much more relaxed. You were naturally more into the wrapping paper than anything else on Christmas morning, but once that was cleaned up I think your favorite toys from Santa were

(1) the “house” as Alex calls it…

(2) the dancing robot….

and (3) the light-up/musical Sesame Street “phone,” which is now a must for getting through long car rides!

As you can see, there’s no such thing as “mine” & “yours” when you have a sibling– you love Alex’s toys and he loves yours too. He is starting to get annoyed when you try to take something from him, but isn’t a complete jerk about it (yet). You’ve also fallen in love with an oldie but goodie from when Alex was this age– the ball popper. You really love any and all balls. We had to designate a basket in the playroom just for balls and you go right for it. In addition to the ball popper, you really enjoy the balls that sing and light up when you roll them around. You like to roll/toss balls back & forth with us, put them up on shelves or in/out of baskets. Maybe you will be our sports star someday!

Look ma, no hands! You are cruising like a champ, pushing your walker toys all over the place, standing independently for increasing lengths of time and even taking a few steps here & there. πŸ™‚ In true Charlie fashion (you are a major daredevil), you gave me a heart attack by deciding to take your first steps in the bathtub. Oy! But I digress. So after Christmas came your birthday… but we had to postpone the party due to a MAJOR snow storm rolling through on your birthday. We got 3 feet of snow and you did not like it very much:

But you did enjoy the makeshift birthday cookie I came up with later that evening. πŸ™‚

We also did a “cake smash” photo session for our last milestone photos with Miss Jeni. You had no qualms about digging into the cake!

And when Cake, Round 2 finally came at your & Alex’s birthday party a few weeks later, you were VERY sad when it was time to take the cake away & get you cleaned up. LOL!

Not gonna lie, you cry a lot these days. But when I say “a lot” I really mean that relatively speaking, as I think you are still overall a very easy and happy baby (now that the ear issues are cleared up). I think it’s just that in this 1-2 year stage, young toddlers want to communicate a lot more than they’re able to, and get frustrated when they can’t form the words to express the big emotions they’re feeling. You especially, since you’re a bit behind on language development. You do have some words (in order of frequency– Mama, Bubba, Ball, More, Dada, Annie. The first two are the only ones you say on a daily basis) and you’ve caught up to the point where Alex was at this age, so I’m not too worried. We had weekly therapy for awhile, which covered language development as well as fine + gross motor skills, but now we’re down to monthly therapy sessions. Your therapist, Miss Sammi, and I are confident that you’re well on your way to being a healthy, busy, on-track little toddler. πŸ™‚

Other than ALL THAT, we’ve just been living the dream. πŸ˜‰ I’ll let pictures and videos tell the rest of the story…

You are undoubtedly a morning person… even when the cup is empty. πŸ˜‰

We read together quite a bit, but all in all you aren’t as into books as Alex is. I think you’d rather be rolling a ball across the room! That being said, your favorite books are the ones that make noise & our “slide & see” books.

Looking dapper with some baby friends at our baby/toddler New Year’s Eve party!

We love our baby friends, and our dad friends too. πŸ™‚

Being pulled around in the snow and making unsuccessful snow angels was about all you could do in the blizzard this year… hopefully you can enjoy the snow more next year!

A chip off the old block– our family is full of handy men. πŸ™‚

Super Charlie!

When you caught Alex hiding in the dress up box one day, you both thought it was HILARIOUS.

But Alex can’t always fool you! You knew this was no ninja turtle.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Alex made this at school and you enjoyed wearing it. You now understand that hats & glasses go on your head & will try to put them there yourself. Hell hath no fury like you when someone tries to put hats/glasses on for you!

You LOVE to eat…. but at the same time you’re ridiculously picky! It’s funny, when Alex was this age he’d eat just about anything we put in front of him… but not you! Although you’re a bit more likely to be adventurous when you eat directly from my plate, for the most part you only want to eat fruit, cereal/crackers, green beans, yogurt, meatballs, bread, pizza, and pureed food pouches. Anything else gets an “ew” face and thrown in the floor within seconds after it first graces your lips. :-\ This frustrates me to no end, but Annie LOVES it:

You & Annie are best buddies in general! When she’s inside you love chasing her and petting her fur… we are working on how to be gentle with varying degrees of success. Thankfully Annie is very tolerant of your shenanigans. I imagine this is because you’re good for a snack at least a couple times a day. πŸ˜‰ She likes to give you “kisses” and you seem pretty tolerant of that too.

Of course, there’s no doubt as to who your best friend truly is! πŸ™‚ Like I said before, other than the occasional squabble over toys, you boys absolutely adore each other. It’s so cute!

Boy, am I glad to be done with those monthly pictures! The last few months are always darn near impossible to get. :-\

And with that I think we’re pretty much all caught up! The last few months haven’t been easy, but I have to say that I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Charlie, you really are an irreplacable part of this family. Every single day you make us all smile & laugh, and your sunny personality is infectious. You are the perfect fit into this crazy little family puzzle, and I am truly blessed to be your mom. πŸ™‚ As with Alex I doubt the letters will be monthly anymore– I shoot for quarterly now, but with the two toddlers on the loose I don’t foresee myself having a whole lot of free time for the next couple of years. LOL! But I’ll try my best. Until next time, sweet Charlie bean!

All my love,
Mom

Ear we go….

Dear Charlie,

I am late on your letter as usual… it’s been a really crazy/rough 6 weeks. So much has been going on that I don’t know where to begin. You might be wondering about the title of this letter– to give you some background, your brother had chronic ear infections that started when he was around 10 months and continued until he was about 18 months. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty well-versed on all things related to infant/toddler ear health. So about 6 weeks ago, when you started waking up crying several times a night, multiple nights in a row, and not even Motrin was helping, I strongly suspected an ear infection was to blame and took you to the doctor. They confirmed my suspicions and prescribed an antibiotic, but told me to not give it to you unless you got a fever. So we endured another 5 horrible nights and then the fever came. In hindsight, I wish I had went ahead and started the antibiotic while the infection was still mild. Maybe we wouldn’t have gone through the rest of the story I’m about to tell you…

The fever broke within a couple days of being on antibiotics, but you never really returned 100% to your normal self and were still having a really hard time sleepingΒ  (which is hugely out of character for you– typically you sleep soundly from 6:30pm-6:30am without a peep). So, I knew the infection had not cleared up and took you back to the doctor, who again confirmed my suspicions. They prescribed a stronger antibiotic and I left feeling hopefulΒ  (as this second antibiotic was always the one that worked for Alex), but worried because that weekend you were going to visit your grandparents without me for several days. The thought that you might be sick or uncomfortable in any way without me nearby to comfort you made me sick to my stomach… but the plans could not be undone at that point so I had to just hope for the best. You did better while on that antibiotic, but things went downhill as soon as you finished it. So back to the pediatrician we went only to find that now BOTH ears were infected (rather than just the one infected ear you started with), they prescribed an even stronger antibiotic and sent us on our way. Just a few days ago we finished that most recent round and checked back in with the doctor… and your ears are STILL infected. So, she gave us an ENT referral & we were luckily able to go see him the next day. After talking about the options, we agreed that it was better to go the more aggressive route given your developmental delays (I’ll talk about that next) and go ahead with putting tubes in your ears.

So that’s where things stand with your ears for now. Your surgery is scheduled for this coming Monday– 3 days from today. It’s a relatively minor outpatient procedure that only takes about 5 minutes to do & we shouldn’t be at the hospitalΒ more than an hour or two from start to finish, but it is indeed surgery and they do have to put you under general anesthesia…. definitely a big deal for such a little guy. SURGERY is a word that no mother ever wants to hear in relation to her kids, regardless of the circumstances. It is heartbreaking and terrifying. I’ll be honest, I haven’t slept very well since we got the ENT referral and the word SURGERY just keeps popping into my head. But, I am hopeful that this will lead to relief– finally! – from all these ear infections and we can resume life as normal.

And since you’ll be able to hear much better (right now the doctor says it’s akin to listening to something while under water), we are hopeful that it will help you start to catch up developmentally. To back track a bit, at your 9 month checkup you were physically fine, but the doctor expressed some concern that you hadn’t met enough of the milestones for communication and gross motor skills to be on par with other babies your age. He said that you were right on the border of needing therapy/intervention to help, but said it was okay to wait until your 12 month appointment to see if you’d catch up on your own.

However, after doing some research I discovered that it is free to have our local Early Intervention (EI) department come out to evaluate you and let us know whether they think further assistance is needed to catch you up. Two therapists & a social worker came out to do the evaluation, and Β I’m glad they did. You had actually caught up a great deal on your gross motor skills while you were gone for Thanksgiving, but still rated pretty low in the other categories they looked at — (1) communication, (2) fine motor, and (3) social/emotional. I was expecting (1) since you don’t really have any words yet except “mama” on occasion (usually when you’re upset), nor do you really communicate much in a nonverbal manner such as waving…. but (2) and (3) were surprises to me. They were mainly concerned that you would not hold onto things for very long, imitate others, look at yourself in the mirror, or make a lot of eye contact with others. That being said, you honestly do those things a lot with us at home, and I suspect that you just weren’t into some of the activities they were trying to get you to do. Despite this, I agreed to their recommendation of weekly therapy sessions because it is relatively low-cost and it never hurts to get a little extra help. I just spoke with your assigned therapist today, and your first session will be next Wednesday (yes, just 2 days after your surgery… we’re optimistic that you’ll be feeling better by then as the recovery time is usually just one day or so).

Other than all THAT, haha, we’ve just been enjoying life and spending lots of quality family time together, especially with the holiday season going on. As I mentioned earlier, you went to visit your grandparents the week of Thanksgiving, and had a wonderful time with them + your cousins! While you were there, you learned how to “properly” crawl, pull up to stand, climb stairs and even cruise a little bit.

You really enjoyed your first Thanksgiving meal too!

Apparently you got the memo that most people wake up early on Black Friday. Or maybe your ears were bothering you. Either way, you ended up in bed with us at 5am the next morning…

Since we’ve been home, we’ve been enjoying lots of Christmas festivities as well!

You got to put up your first Christmas ornaments, then took a nap while the rest of us decorated the tree. You got up just in time to help me finish!

We’ve been busy making Christmas cookies (which you weren’t that into but enjoyed the fruits of my labor, LOL), going to fun holiday events around the area such as ZooLights, and opening up little gifts on our advent calendar. Each night you guys get a small gift which is usually a Christmas/winter-themed book or activity (like the felt tree in the picture above). Right now I think your favorite two books have been “That’s Not My Snowman” which is a touchy-feely book, and “Jingle Jingle Little Reindeer” which has a little reindeer finger puppet built into it. And of course, we can’t be ready for Christmas without a quick chat with THIS guy…

Santa! Your first Santa experience was very positive. You did not mind sitting in his lap at all, and enjoyed grabbing his nose & beard. LOL. It was definitely a very different scene, compared to your brother’s first Santa experience…

Anyway, this year Santa came to our house for our playgroup’s annual holiday party and gave out gifts to all the kiddos. You naturally enjoyed the bow + wrapping paper more than the gift (once Alex helped you open it πŸ˜‰ ).

Here’s some of our other fun moments from the last month:

You’re such a water baby! Bath time is like this most every night… you just go crazy in there are love every minute of it! This particular night you were in the tub by yourself, but usually you & Alex take baths together just because it’s a lot easier logistically.

You’re quite an excellent eater! You’ve gotten two teeth, bottom center, which I suspect contributed to the start of this ear infection business. Also, despite being in a phase were you very much enjoy throwing things on the floor (especially when Annie is around), you still manage to consume more than you drop these days.

Look how well you can crawl now! Since this video was taken, you’ve gotten even faster. I have to watch you like a hawk.

Despite being very sick, you still managed to have many smiley moments. Overall, you’re a very chill & happy baby still. I look forward to you being an even happier baby once we have all these ear troubles behind us.

This is my MOST FAVORITE PHOTO right now! You & Dad were snuggled up in bed with Alex, just after he’d woken up from his nap. I think it shows very well how much love the three of you have for one another. πŸ™‚ Such a sweet moment! Alex was giving you lots of kisses. Obviously between daycare & home, you two are never far from each other’s side….

Dad getting lots of help fixing one of your toys. LOL

Alex wanted desperately for you to wear one of the Ninja Turtle masks he made… but if you couldn’t eat it, you decided you’d rather not. πŸ˜‰

I put you in bed with Alex a lot, especially on the weekends when we all read together before nap time. He loves to cuddle with you, but now that you can crawl you’d rather explore his bed and mess with his stuffed animals!

So I have to say, as difficult as it was to get your monthly photo last time, it was even worse this time with you being able to stand…. you would NOT. STAY. STILL. Good lord. Huge PITA, but we got there eventually (sort of). Only two more of these to go though!

And so I think I’ve finally said all I wanted to say… I can wrap up this mammoth letter! As you can see, it’s been a very eventful month (and then some). Parenting the second child may sound easier in theory, but you have been excellent at keeping me on my toes! And now that you’re mobile (not to mention having a huge penchant for trouble/being drawn to the most dangerous thing in the room like flies to honey), I mean that in the most literal sense. LOL. It’s a crazy, busy, exhausting, challenging life… but I wouldn’t trade it. πŸ˜‰ Happy 10 (well heck, almost 11) months Charlie– you are such a blessing to this family. Dad, Alex & I simply cannot imagine our lives without you!

All my love,
Mom

On the move!

Dear Charlie,

9 months old now… I can’t believe your first year is already drawing to a close! It’s been a busy month, especially for you. This month you have focused a lot on learning to crawl. You’re actually not 100% there yet, but you’re really close! As I mentioned last month, for the longest time you were only able to scoot yourself backwards. In the last couple of weeks you finally succeeded in scooting yourself forward via a sort of “Army crawl” and that is primarily how you’ve been getting around recently. Just in the last day or two though, you’ve started consistently getting up on all fours and doing that characteristic rocking motion that precedes crawling. Even just with the Army crawling though, you’re ALL over the place! I feel like I need to grow a few more arms to keep both you and Alex from getting into mischief. Just last night, after bath time I let you crawl around in your PJ’s while I got Alex into his PJ’s… in less than a minute you’d knocked over your humidifier, then snuck up and grabbed Alex’s pajama pants (which I hadn’t put on yet) with one hand while swiping at Alex’s bottom with your other hand, which resulted in your hand getting diaper cream on it. Oy! LOL.

You have your 9 month doctor’s appointment next week, and although you’re behind where Alex was at this age I’m not too concerned just yet. We’ll see what the doctor says of course, but honestly I think it’s just part of second-child syndrome in that we don’t have the kind of time to work with you 1-on-1 like we did with Alex (so sorry about that!) and there’s always so much chaos going on around here that you’re pretty content to just observe. You’re still a VERY happy baby, and you are gradually progressing with your milestones, so I think you just have a laid-back personality & are fine with the way things are for now. Growth-wise, I expect you’ll be in the highest percentiles again as you’re starting to bust out of even size 12 month clothes! I had all of Alex’s stuff through size 12M stored in your closet, but had to go up in the attic for the first time in quite awhile to get the 18M stuff. I can’t believe how quickly you’re growing!

Still no teeth yet– one has poked through a bit on the bottom, but has just barely pierced the surface & it’s been that way for over a month now. We had some rough teething nights for a couple weeks while that was going on… but thankfully it was nothing that a bit of pain medication couldn’t help with. Your lack of teeth has not held you back from eating solid foods though. You’ve had everything from bananas to broccoli to meatballs (appropriately cooked and cut of course), and you’re a very enthusiastic eater. Most of the time you gobble it all up and cry for more! You’re also getting pretty good at drinking from straw sippy cups… in the last month you’ve gone from just managing a few sips to drinking an entire 8oz of formula out of them, which is helpful when we’re out & about. Admittedly, I’m looking forward to being done with bottles!

I have to watch you and your brother closely at mealtimes though– sometimes he tries to slip you things that you can’t have yet. Just last night, you guys were finishing up your respective dinners while I was at the sink washing dishes when I hear Alex say “Charlie’s eating a carrot!” I had given him some raw baby carrots to eat, and he’d managed to slip a small piece of carrot over to you & it was in your mouth– yikes! Major choking hazard! Luckily Dad was able to smooth talk you into a big open-mouth grin while I held you facing downward, and he retrieved the deviant carrot. We had (another) talk with Alex about how you can’t have his food, but I think it’s more confusing to him now that you eat so many of the same things– including carrots, but of course I serve them to you steamed. Sigh. Lesson learned.

Other than all that it’s just life as usual around here. We’ve been enjoying the beautiful fall weather and all the fun fall/Halloween activities this area has to offer. Here’s some of my favorite pictures & videos from the past month:

Reading with Grandma– we had a surprise grandparent visit a couple weeks ago!

Going down the slide with Dad! Your face cracks me up here– you’re like WHAT the heck are we doing?!

That same day Alex decided he wanted to push you in the swing for the first time. He’s done it many times since & is getting the hang of it!

More often than not, while I’m cooking or doing dishes in the kitchen I let you sit on the floor nearby and play with toys. This has helped me discover just how dirty my kitchen floor is… particularly on a day you were wearing black sweatpants and had learned to crawl well enough to find the more obscure corners of the kitchen. :-\ But you love hanging out in the kitchen with me…

… and have even decided to start “helping” with the dishes. πŸ˜‰ You are so strong, you’ve pulled that entire bottom rack out of the dishwasher before– YIKES. Gotta watch you like a hawk!

Enjoying some food (I think this was one of those baby teething biscuits)– you get so excited to try new things! The other night I let you try some bites of the greek yogurt I was eating… and you literally did a happy dance every time I held up the spoon for you. LOL.

Avocado is another food you really like. And this is a good example of “second child syndrome” — what should’ve been a somewhat quiet/peaceful eating video sounds like we’re sitting in the middle of Wonka’s chocolate factory. Luckily you don’t mind!

Reading a bedtime story. πŸ™‚ Still my favorite time of the day!

Another story, this time before nap.

Enjoying the attractions at a local fall festival. We sat you in there and you looked at Alex’s crazy driving antics like “OMG, what am I getting into?” πŸ˜‰

Speaking of Alex’s crazy driving antics, he has taking a keen interest in pushing your stroller when we go on our evening family walks. He’s very stubborn about not getting any help with it, which of course makes me super nervous… the two of you end up stuck in the grass a lot. :-\ He’s getting better at it though!

Another way to help me in the kitchen– pre-mixing my spices for recipes! This was for roasted butternut squash– and oh my goodness you looooooooved the resultant squash. Dad & I did too, so this is now one of our go-to side options for dinner.

Painting your first pumpkin! I had to encourage you to get into it, but once you got started you enjoyed yourself. πŸ™‚ Your tummy a slight blue tinge to it for a couple days though!

Trying to get a picture of your hair here, to show you how curly it’s getting! Very different from Alex’s hair at this age. It’s so cute! I wonder if it will stay curly. Given my & Dad’s hair textures, you’ve got a pretty good shot.

This was how you felt the first time you managed to propel yourself forward with just your arms. It was kind of an awkward push/face-flop and it didn’t look enjoyable to me either…

… but you’ve since learned to use your hips & legs as well, so your “Army crawl” has gotten much more comfortable & efficient for you!

We went to our first Halloween party this past weekend! We went with a Sesame Street theme for the family’s costumes this year– you are Elmo, Alex is Cookie Monster, I am Abby Cadabby and Dad is Oscar the Grouch. Your costume is a touch too big but that’s okay, you don’t seem to mind. πŸ˜‰

Okay, so getting your 9 month picture was TOUGH. I remember with Alex what a big PITA these last few monthly pictures are, once you start getting into rolling/crawling and moving around…. for you it was all of that, but also the fact that you LOVE playing with your feet, which blocks the view of the monthly sticker!

This is what you thought of my trying to keep you from rolling or playing with your feet. :-\ We were about 50 tries in & both extremely frustrated by this point.

Finally Dad stepped in & saved the day– he was entertaining you from the edge of the crib, so we were able to at least get a smile + feet down + on your back picture. You’re looking at Dad & not the camera, but I’ll take it! Haha. We also had your professional 9 month pictures done last week, but I don’t have them back yet. I daresay they turned out better than this though!

So even though this video doesn’t show you much, I thought it was worth sharing here because it’s really about you. Pretty much since you were born, the “theme song” of our household has been “Charles in Charge” (which is an old 80’s tv show theme song, actually). We sing it all the time when we’re doing something with you. A few weeks ago I was changing your diaper and singing “Charles in charge of our days…” and all of a sudden Alex pipes in with “and our nights! Charles in charge of our wrongs and our rights!!” and it just cracked me up. I didn’t realize he’d picked up the lyrics, but given how much we sing it around here I’m not surprised! The other song we sing with you a lot, which Alex has also memorized apparently, is one I made up at some point early on… it just goes “Charlie Bean, Charlie Bean, cutest baby ever seen!” Actually I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my nickname for you– ever since you were a newborn I’ve called you Charlie Bean. I have no idea why, I guess because you’re tiny & round like a bean? Haha. Anyway, I almost always call you Charlie Bean or sometimes just Beanie. πŸ˜‰ Or, when you’re getting into trouble I call you Charles John… which is happening more & more frequently these days now that you’re on the move!

Anyway, I think that’s about it for this month! We’re quickly coming up on your first holiday season… and just a hop, skip & jump after that is your first birthday. ACK! Lots of wonderful new adventures in store for you over these next few months, but man I’m starting to get sad that your first year has flown by so fast & you’re so quickly moving out of the baby stage. :-\ This is such a wonderful age, and you are such a wonderful baby…. how did I get so lucky?!

Until next time, Charlie Bean! πŸ™‚

All my love,
Mom

“How can I love you? I don’t even like you!”

Dear Alex,

The summer has flown by and now you’re sneaking up on age 3! I can’t believe how fast this year is going by (although as you’re reading this I’m sure I sound like a broken record… I know I say it a lot. Time has been going at warp speed pretty much since the day you were born & is now at triple warp speed with Charlie here too). We’ve had a lot of fun this summer, but it’s also been pretty challenging as far as parenting goes. You’ve definitely embraced some aspects of the whole “terrible 2” thing, and of course they say age 3 is worse. These days it’s known as the “threenager” stage & I can already see why– you’ve started to roll your eyes and huff at me every once in awhile in a very teenager-ish way, and say “o-KAAAAAY” when I ask you to do something. Oy! And so as much as I love you (which is a WHOLE LOT), there are definitely times when it’s very difficult to like you. That being said, the quote I chose to title this post with actually came from you a couple months ago– you said this to dad one evening when I had to work late and he had to be the one to put you to bed (it’s usually me who does that). You were crying for me and Dad said something like “Aww come on, don’t you love me?” to which you responded “How can I love you? I don’t even like you!” OUCH. Dad’s feelings were pretty hurt, although of course I told him not to take it personally… whenever I’m here & he’s not, you’re always asking for him. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. Still, I thought that was a pretty deep (albeit hurtful) thing to say for a 2 year old.

I do think you’re a pretty big thinker for someone your age! You’re definitely very sensitive and concerned with others’ well-being more than I would expect a 2 year old to be. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I see it happening more & more frequently. For example, just tonight you told me to be careful with my soup because you didn’t want me to burn my mouth, so could I please blow on it before I eat it? LOL. Another example is a few weeks ago, we had just gotten in the car to go to daycare and I was sitting there getting my seatbelt on (hadn’t even started the car yet), when you apparently saw that another car was coming down the street and said to me “Mom! There’s another car, it’s going bye-bye. Don’t you DARE go in the road!” You’re similarly attentive to Charlie and Dad, but I also see it with strangers (especially other kids that are crying). Although you’re still pretty shy, you’re quicker to come out of your shell in social situations and when you do, you’re quite the charmer!

Emotional intelligence aside, you’re very on top of things academically as well… and it’s not like we push all of it very hard, but you’re just naturally curious and seem to pick things up really quickly. You have several of your favorite books and songs memorized. You know a plethora of colors & shapes, can recognize both capital and lowercase letters & for some of the more common ones, you know how they sound. On a good day you can spell your name, but that’s still hit or miss. You can also recognize numbers up to 10, but you can count to 20 and have started to be able to actually count groups of objects. You know more about topics like space, anatomy, animals, plants, etc than I think the average 2 year old does. You’re just so incredibly smart and it blows me away constantly. You still love books and we read together a lot. Since you have many of your books memorized, you also “read” to me & Charlie too. Sometimes I worry that by not having you in preschool yet, we’re not helping you meet your full potential… but everything I’ve heard/read on the subject says that at this age, you learn the most through playing anyway. For this year, I thought becoming a big brother was enough change for you!

No news on the potty front. Sometimes I get frustrated when I see so many of our friends’ kids potty training and how well they’ve done with it…. but you just aren’t ready. I feel like a big part of it is that none of the other kids at daycare are trained yet either. Once you start seeing other kids use the potty on a regular basis, I think that will pique your interest. But for now, you’re still very much team “Diapers for Life.” Sigh. With two kids, a full time job and a lot of extracurriculars, I just don’t have the time or energy to try to force the issue right now. Many of my friends with older kids swear that one day you’ll just wake up, decide it’s the right time and ask to wear undies. Praying that is the case.

One of the bigger changes I’ve seen in you since my last letter is the development of fears & nightmares. Sometimes you wake up crying in the night and I have a hard time settling you down because you aren’t fully awake. It breaks my heart. Even awake, you are suddenly afraid of many things– the dark, most animals, anything loud, fantasy things like dragons & giants, other random things. When we were walking around the neighborhood recently you FREAKED OUT when we walked under the branches of a big tree because you were afraid an animal was going to jump down out of the tree onto you. Hoping this is a phase and not something we should be worried about. If it’s still an issue by the time we get to your three year appointment, I’m going to ask about it. For now, we try to anticipate things you’re going to be afraid of and talk you through it in advance.

We haven’t done a “Favorite Things” list in awhile, so now might be a good time! You currently LOVE…
* Puzzles
* Books (most recently “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boyton, it must be in bed with you every night, but only when you’re ready to fall asleep. You take the title quite literally!)
* Stickers– we use these as rewards
* Ninja Turtles, Minions, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street (your favorite is now Cookie Monster, but Elmo is still high up there)
* Pizza, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets– the typical toddler food group
* Broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, most fruit
* Wendy’s chili (random but true)
* Anything Dad, Charlie or I am eating
* Music & dancing– You’re always singing, turning everything into a song and like to start randomly dancing when you hear music (or are making your own music). The easiest way to get you to cooperate or calm you down from a tantrum is to distract you/persuade you with songs.
* TV shows: Handy Manny, Super Why, Sesame Street, Pajanimals, a few others
* Swings, and sometimes slides. You recently mastered climbing up your slide and going down on your tummy, so that’s fun.
* Pretend play– you’re really into your dress-up trunk which is mostly just hats at the moment, but we’ll be adding a bunch more stuff to it for Christmas. You also like to give us “check ups” with your doctor kit and play “restaurant” in your clubhouse outside (where you take our order and cook something for us)
* Helping– In addition to doing everything yourself, you’re now in the “big helper” phase… although I don’t know how much you’re actually helping, at least you’re willing to let us get chores done rather than constantly getting us to stop what we’re doing to play with you. Specifically you like helping me cook and do dishes. πŸ˜‰
* Babies– You still love Charlie of course & are an AMAZING big brother, but now that many of our friends have had second babies you’ve been really enjoying them as well. Recently we took care of a friend’s 1 month old girl and you asked me if you could have a baby sister….. :-X Yikes!

I’d write a list of dislikes, but in typical fickle toddler fashion your dislikes change by the second. You pretty consistently don’t like animals though– at least not live ones, up close…. and that includes our dog Annie. I think you’re fine with animals & theory, but when they get too close to you, you get scared. Oh, and you consistently do not like eggs– scrambled, fried, doesn’t matter how they’re cooked. Other than that, everything is pretty much hit or miss.

That’s enough rambling– I have TONS of pictures and videos to tell the rest of our story! πŸ™‚

At the trampoline park, you were finally able to climb up to the top of the trampoline wall! You were so proud of yourself. πŸ˜‰

Playing glow in the dark putt-putt… you quickly got bored with the game itself, and talked Dad into letting you ride on his shoulders the ENTIRE time, even when he did the lazer maze!

The Pacheco side of the family came to visit for 4th of July weekend– you had a blast playing with your cousins, as usual!

This year you got to hold your first sparkler– closely supervised of course!

You & Charlie went to stay with both sets of grandparents for a week over the summer while daycare was closed for vacation. I missed you guys SO MUCH…. don’t think we’ll be sending you guys away for that long again any time soon! This was the day you came home. We celebrated your return with a hat party!

You & Dad love playing with Legos together. This is Dad’s “big boy” set, which I have since banned now that Charlie is mobile, due to the choking hazard. Now you guys mostly play with your toddler-friendly set instead.

You want to do EVERYTHING Dad is doing– you’re his little shadow! πŸ˜‰

Cheese! I’ve been working on teaching you to smile with your teeth. Anytime I take a picture of Charlie, you want your picture taken too.

Snuggled up in bed while you were sick. We had a really terrible month or so of illness in our house– you & Charlie took turns getting croup, you also had a brief stomach virus, and I was sick with some sort of cold/flu virus as well.

Miserable at the doctor’s office– they had to swab your throat for the first time to test for strep and you did NOT want to do it. The nurse had to bribe you with copious amounts of Ninja Turtle stickers. You were still miserable, but you asked me to take a picture of your stickers to show Dad anyway. My poor baby! As a parent, your kids being sick is the WORST thing. You want to do anything and everything it takes to make your little ones feel better… but there’s only so much you can do, and you just feel so powerless.

Once you were feeling better, it was back to the important business of fun and play! We enjoyed the local splash park (which I didn’t get many pictures of since I was busy having fun also), and the big playground next door.

Front porch sittin’ & rocking our shades!

Putting together one of your puzzles. You master them pretty quickly, so I’m constantly on the lookout for new puzzles to keep you challenged! Luckily the dollar store has a nice variety that are just your size.

Enjoying your swingset in the backyard, as we do almost everyday. It’s your favorite place to be! One thing that’s been an issue lately is the baby swing– you’re able to use the big boy swing but still prefer the baby one… but at 40lb + having a little brother who likes to join in on the fun, we’ve had to force you to give this up & you are not happy about it. You still try to talk us into letting you use the baby swing all the time.

Just a typical afternoon in the Pacheco house– puzzling & singing. πŸ™‚

I took you to the movies for the first time a couple months ago. We saw the movie “Minions,” which I knew would be perfect for your first movie as you are OBSESSED with the Minions characters. You did pretty good– you sat quietly and watched for about 3/4 of the movie, then got a little squirmy towards the end and stood there in front of your seat. But you didn’t fuss at all and seemed to enjoy yourself. This little display just outside the theater was the perfect photo op!

Hanging out after the movie with your pal Ella. πŸ™‚

Team huddle time during basketball class. Coach Mike was a nice guy, but overall you didn’t like basketball class as much as you liked baseball.

I saved the bunny ears from Easter and put them into your hat box. This picture cracks me up!

Proudly displaying some artwork. You LOVE to paint and color with crayons/markers.

You did a great job at your most recent trip to the dentist, and your teeth got a clean bill of health! πŸ˜€

Piled up with all your necessities as we headed out of town for our mini-vacation in Hampton. πŸ˜‰

Riding the new “pedal ponies” in the mall. It took you awhile to get the hang of it, but once you did we were all over the place! I had a lot of fun with this too, although it is a major leg workout!

Checking out some exhibits with Dad at the Virginia Living Museum. We had such a blast there!

Buckroe Beach + playground with Grandma! You were not a huge fan of the sand at first, which is unfortunate because it’s kind of hard to avoid sand at the beach. πŸ˜‰ But you got over it after awhile and enjoyed playing in the sand right at the edge of the water while the waves came up over your feet & legs (a far cry from your first trip to the beach, LOL). You & I also had a great time walking down the beach to collect shells.

You had an awesome first theme park experience at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg! Both sides of the family came with us– Bobby & Solly rode many of the rides with you (in addition to me & Dad), and you had a blast! You were so worn out by the time we were done, you fell asleep on Dad’s shoulders as we were walking out of the park. He carried you on the trolley to the car and you slept all the way home (and then some). Phew! I thought you were going to enjoy the Sesame Street part of the park more, but there wasn’t much to it & the Zoe character that everyone was taking pictures with scared you. I think because you expect the characters to be smaller based on their TV appearance, not the 6ft+ monster we saw that day!

Now that Charlie can sit in the wagon with you, we take it out for a spin around the neighborhood quite often. πŸ™‚

We recently had a very rainy weekend when a nor’easter + a hurricane came up the east coast… so for some indoor fun, we broke out our book of science experiments and tried our hand at making “fizzy foam” with vinegar, dish soap & baking soda. You loved mixing the different foam colors!

Fixing a toy with Dad!

Getting your face painted for the first time at a local fall festival. I wasn’t sure how you would react to this, but you chose Lightning McQueen to go on your cheek, sat still while the lady painted it, and were absolutely thrilled with the results. You’ve had your face painted a couple other times since then, and you really seem to enjoy it.

Bath time is much more fun now that Charlie can play in there with you!

You and Charlie love to fly to space in your rocketship. πŸ™‚

Recently we went on a pirate-themed cruise on the Potomac. It was so much fun! Here you are showing off your “booty.”

You recently decided that you want to be a fire chief when you grow up. I think that’s a good choice as it incorporates some of your favorite things– being the boss, helping people, and wearing cool hats. πŸ˜‰

That’s about all for now. Overall it’s been an amazing summer! Everyday is a new adventure, and although life with two little ones has its rough moments… you & Charlie have brought us so much joy. You make us smile & laugh everyday. πŸ™‚ As I finish this letter, you’re sitting in bed next to me eating a snack & reading a book in your Halloween costume, which you’re SO excited about. I’ll save that for the next letter though, along with the rest of the holidays. We had so much fun this summer, but now that we’re getting into my favorite time of year with Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas I’m so excited for even more fun stuff we have in store over the next few months!

Until next time, my sweet Alex. As I tell you every night, I’m SO glad to be your Mommy. πŸ™‚ Dad, Charlie & I love you so very much!

All my love,
Mom

The One Milestone I Never Wanted to See

Dear Charlie,

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later… the last couple of months were so crazy that I completely missed your 7 month letter, and now you’re just a few days shy of 8 months! I’m so sorry, but I promise that this letter will be nice & long to make up for it. πŸ˜‰

So the night after I last wrote, you woke up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe. You were making horrible seal-like sounds that I had come to recognize as “striders” from when Alex had croup the week before, and knew that you had come down with croup as well. 😦 I tried all the things the doctors had told me to do with Alex, but unfortunately none of those things worked & you were getting worse. Things like this can be very serious for a baby so little, and therefore around 8am the next morning I decided to take you to the hospital. Luckily we live only 15 minutes away from a wonderful children’s hospital, so I took you there. There was only one person ahead of us in the waiting room when we got there, but you were doing so poorly that the lady checking us in called a nurse out and she whisked us to the back right away. They immediately gave you a special breathing treatment and an oral steroid to help reduce the inflammation in your throat. You were okay with the breathing treatment for the first 10 seconds or so, but once you realized that you couldn’t take the mask off of your face your FREAKED OUT. Having to keep that mask shoved on your face while you thrashed around and sobbed, in the emergency room surrounded by a crew of doctors and nurses looking on, was the most horrible and heartbreaking moment I’ve had as a mother so far.

I wish I could say that was the end of it. Although you did improve a bit after that, your breathing gradually began to get worse again and they had to administer another breathing treatment about an hour later. And then a third. At that point the doctor came back in and said that if you started to get worse again after that third treatment, they were going to have to admit you into the hospital overnight. It was around noon at this point. When she came back to check on you, your breathing still wasn’t where she wanted it to be, and we agreed to have you admitted overnight. When the hospital doctor and nurse came in to process you into the hospital, I just completely lost it and broke down crying in front of them both. On the one hand I was mortified that I couldn’t even control myself enough to talk to them, but on the other hand this was my first time having to take a child to the ER, let alone be admitted for an overnight stay in a hospital, and I’d never felt so sad or scared in my entire life. My heart was breaking, and I felt so incredibly helpless. They were nice about it but it was still a pretty awkward moment for them. Anyway, they wheeled us up to your hospital room and got your medical history (not much of one there!), hooked up to all the monitors, and otherwise situated. This was around 2pm and one very kind nurse finally brought me some lunch. I hadn’t eaten anything other than a hasty granola bar in since dinner the night before. Dad was stuck at home with Alex, of course. The attending doctor told us that our goal was to have you go at least 6 hours without needing a breathing treament. Once you got to that point, you’d be able to go home.

The hospital crib was nice in that you could prop the mattress up on an incline which helped you breathe a bit, but you were scared and completely thrown off your typical sleep schedule by then, so for the first 8 hours or so you would only sleep if I held and rocked you, which required me standing and holding you just so in order to keep you close enough to the monitors.

You eventually did get to a point where you slept in the crib, but various nurses and technicians came in constantly to poke and prod you with various things to check your vitals & such. So, I don’t think you slept much more than an hour or so at a time & I had to feed you a few times during the night, which I hadn’t had to do since you were a newborn. But, we got through it and actually didn’t need any more breathing treatments throughout the night. The next morning you were in good spirits, rocking the hospital clothes:

And we were released around 10am! I kept you home with me that day & the next day. You improved drastically over those couple of days and were almost entirely back to normal by the third day, so I sent you back to daycare and went back to work. I’m so blessed to have a job that allows me to work from home (so I didn’t have to take any time off while you were sick, and a good thing too because I’m still trying to earn back the time I took off for maternity leave earlier in the year), but we aren’t allowed to telework more than half our time in any given pay period so I simply had to get back in the office. I felt guilty about sending you back to daycare (even though you were much better, you still had a small cough)… but such is the plight of a working mother I suppose. I enjoyed our time together while you were home with me though. You are such a happy baby in general, and were in such good spirits given all you’d gone through. Everytime I looked over at you while I was working on my laptop, this is what I saw:

So all in all, you took the whole thing much better than I did. Even now almost 2 months later, reliving it all while I’m writing this I started crying again. “Baby’s First Hospital Stay” is simply NOT something a mother anticipates writing about in the baby books… but it is what it is. I hope that was the last time I ever have to take a child to the hospital. And I have to say, if I’d had to guess I would’ve totally picked Alex to be the first one I had to take to the hospital… :-X Really surprised the first trip was for you. Glad it’s over! Everyone’s been more or less healthy since then. We all had another little cold about a month later while we were on vacation in Hampton, but that was drop in the bucket compared to this croup business!

On to happier things– you’ve had some much more positive milestones these last couple months too! You now sit up 100% independently for long periods of time, which is nice because you can hang out in shopping carts and high chairs much more easily. You’ve gotten so big that we finally ditched the bucket seat and went to a rear-facing “big boy” seat. Although I miss being able to easily get you in/out of the car without waking you up, especially since you nap in the car or stroller a lot on the weekends, the whole apparatus was just getting way too heavy for me to handle.

Also, you’re now very much a baby on the move! You’ve perfected the art of getting from Point A to Point B just by rolling, and are trying desperately to learn how to crawl. You can get your upper half off the ground as well as your lower half, but never both at the same time yet. Sometimes you’re able to Army crawl a few inches when you’re really motivated, but most of the time you just end up pushing yourself backward. When we’re hanging out in the playroom, you invariably end up pushing yourself under the bed at some point…

LOL. With all this mobility comes a lot of discovery and more interactive learning. You love playing with your big brother, and never want to be far from his side. If he has a toy, you want one too (preferably the same one he’s playing with πŸ˜‰ ). Luckily Alex is still quite indulgent of you most of the time, although there have been a couple of disagreements over toys. I don’t know why I bothered saving the infant toys, as you are just as content to play with Alex’s stuff… or just to be in his presence! He makes you smile like no other. πŸ™‚

The same goes for food– you’ve come a long way in that area as well. Now you actually manage to consume a good portion of what I put in front of you, rather than just smearing it all over yourself and the tray. πŸ˜‰ You’ve had a pretty big variety of things, and so far the only thing you didn’t seem to like is broccoli. I suspect it was more of a texture than a taste issue. And again, whenever Alex is eating, you want to be eating too! Your highchair is directly across from Alex’s seat at our table, and the two of you entertain each other at every meal. πŸ™‚ You’ve been teething and your first bottom tooth has made an appearance, although it’s just barely broken the surface so far…. but lack of teeth has not stopped you from devouring food, that’s for sure! I just try to keep it somewhat soft & manageable for you. I have to watch you like a hawk though, especially at restaurants, because whenever any food comes into your vicinity you try to grab it, whether it’s yours or not…. so sneaky! You’ve also pretty much mastered using straw sippy cups, which is great because I’m looking forward to being done with bottles!

Teething has led to some rough nights around here as well. After having to bring you into bed with us a few nights in a row, I finally broke down and started giving you some Motrin before bed. Since I started doing that, things have been much better for all of us.

One other milestone to celebrate– although I was the only one to witness it. While we were on vacation in Hampton, one morning you woke up extra early (around 5am) ready for your first bottle of the day. Naturally I was somewhat slow-moving, and in your frustration you stopped crying for a second and said in the saddest little voice, “Maaaamaaaaaaa!” Pitiful, but adorable nonetheless and I am counting that as your first word. πŸ˜€ LOL. It almost negated the fact that you had me up at 5am on a vacation day! No other words since then, just lots of random vowel noises/babbling.

All the shenanigans with everyone getting sick led to your 6 month photo session being several weeks late, but we got them done eventually… and they came out really cute!

Our photographer, Jeni, is always kind enough to let me get a few photos with you… and this one was my favorite of the two of us together. Everytime we tried to get a cheek-to-cheek picture, you would turn and give me big sloppy kisses! πŸ™‚

We’ve been on lots of adventures this summer, and you’ve been soaking it all in and participating where you can. But mostly you’ve just been taking lots of naps in the stroller or baby carrier. Thank goodness you’re such an easy baby who doesn’t mind napping in an assortment of conditions! I don’t have you on as strict of a schedule as I did when Alex was this age… in part because we’re too busy these days to stay home the amount of time that requires, and in part because you rarely want to nap for much longer than an hour at most. So, you end up taking 3-4 short naps per day, rather than the 2-3 long ones Alex used to take at this point.

I think I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story…

It’s never hard to get pictures of you smiling! You are such a happy, smiley baby– all we have to do is look at you & you bust out a grin. πŸ™‚

I think you have the most fun when we’re hanging around the house, because that’s where we can give you the most attention & where you have the most freedom. When we went on vacation, you spent a lot of time in the stroller or baby carrier…

Checking out the Virginia Living Museum

You slept through your first trip to the beach, and woke up just in time to enjoy the nearby playground afterwards!

Tuckered out after a busy day at Busch Gardens

Catching some shuteye with Papa at your cousin Michael’s birthday party

… but you did have some fun moments too!

If nothing else, I know all of our family and friends down in Hampton were happy to catch up with you & see how big you’ve gotten! πŸ™‚ You’ve enjoyed a couple of baby playdates recently as well…

Hanging out with Miss Avery, who’s a couple months older than you

Playing some tunes for Miss Scarlett, who’s about 6 months younger than you. You look like a giant next to her– it was a real eye-opener as to how much you’ve grown in such a short time!!

Now that fall is upon us, we’ve spent most weekends out enjoying the gorgeous weather and all the fun things that happen around here in the fall. You slept through most of a local fall festival a couple weeks ago…

But were awake and enjoyed the festivities on a Potomac pirate-themed cruise we did last weekend!

And now as I wrap this up, you’ve just turned 8 months old. This year is flying by SO incredibly fast! I know I say that in every letter, but it’s true. It blows my mind to see how close we are to having TWO toddlers around here… Oy! Lord help me! πŸ˜‰ But in all seriousness, I am so excited to see what the future brings for our little family. Watching you grow and develop has been such a huge joy for all of us, and it’s hard to imagine life without our sweet Charlie-bean now! We love you so much!! ❀

All my love,
Mom

Big Eats, Little Feats

Dear Charlie,

You’ve blown past 6 months & now we’re on the downhill slope towards 7! I’m sorry your letter is late this month… there’s been a nasty cold/virus from hell circulating through our family the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, it seems to be hitting you now as you’ve been coughing for the last day or so & had a slight temperature when you got up this morning. Thank goodness it’s the weekend and you can lay low for a couple days. I feel like you guys are “THOSE kids” who are sick much more often then everyone else we hang out with. Not sure why that is. The only thing I can think of is that we are pretty big social butterflies in that you guys go to daycare, plus I run a decent-sized weekend playgroup. So, you’re exposed to a lot of other kids & that means a wider variety of germs. Oh well, it is what it is. I just wish you guys had waited a little longer so I could have saved some leave time back up.

Speaking of the playgroup, I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I started it! Alex was around your age then. And now you’re reaping the benefits too, as many of our friends have also had babies/younger siblings this year. Mommy friends for me, toddler friends for Alex, baby friends for you… win-win-win. Even Dad has made a couple daddy friends! πŸ˜‰

Anywho, I love the 6 month mark because that’s when things start to get interesting! In the last month you’ve gone from this….

To this!

I didn’t think this was possible, but I think you love food even more than Alex does. πŸ˜‰ Now that you’re at the age where we can let you feed yourself a bit, you’ve really risen to the challenge. You’ve always been great at fine motor skills, so this gives you a chance to practice them some more. Similarly, you’ve gotten really into holding your own bottle lately. This is one of my favorite milestones & I’m so glad you’re into it, but your skill is not quite up to snuff yet… so every feeding goes something like this: I hold the bottle for about 10 seconds, you snatch it from me and proceed to get milk EVERYWHERE because you want to experiment with positioning the bottle, I take it back and try to resume a calm feeding, you grab it again & I think “screw it, he’s gotta learn somehow”… and then you start to make a mess again. And invariably, Alex is nearby so you’re doing all this while you’re trying to squirm around and get in a position where you can watch him while you drink your bottle. You’re actually not the only one interested in learning how to feed you your bottle:

Alex has been asking to feed you more & more often lately. I keep wondering when the novelty is going to wear off, but the two of you still love each other to pieces. I actually think now that you’re more interactive and able to hold/”play” with things, you guys enjoy each other even more.

Climbing on Dad’s back together. I see a lot more of this in your future!

Checking out the pool together at a friend’s birthday party. This was your first dip in a pool! You liked it. Not a great picture of you, but you wouldn’t stop looking at Alex! We’re heading down for an extended Hampton visit Labor Day weekend, and I plan to take you on your first beach trip then.

Alex was telling you all about the animals on this little farm toy.

I was surprised that this month I ended up with so many pictures with me in them, and not that many with Dad… usually it’s the other way around! That last one is my favorite. Snuggling up with you two for a bedtime story is the best part of my day. πŸ™‚

A couple of other things you’ve been working on this month are sitting up and crawling. You are getting a lot better at sitting up– you can usually hold it for a minute or two at a time, depending on how motivated you are. I don’t have a lot of pictures of this either, as usually my hands are tied up in making sure you don’t fall over & hit your head on the ground. You are nowhere near crawling yet, just bending your knees and wiggling in some sort of attempt at an army crawl… this doesn’t really do anything but spin you around in circles, or flip you over onto your back. You still don’t really like tummy time but will stay there if I catch your interest with a toy or something. Despite not being able to crawl, you have managed to become mobile! You recently figured out the fabulous skill of moving by rolling. Now that you can roll back-tummy as well as tummy-back, I notice you rolling away more & more frequently. One time I left you on the floor in the middle of you room while I went to grab something, and in the 2 minutes I was gone you’d managed to get yourself almost to the door! Admittedly, I am a little nervous about having two children on the move. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I suspect we’ll be putting “baby jail” back together sometime in the next couple months.

The only other major event that happened this month was your first big trip. You & Alex spent a whole week down in Hampton while daycare was closed for vacation. I can’t wait until I have some leave saved back up, so I can just take that time off of work. But for now, the grandparents generously stepped up to the plate and offered to take care of you guys. Up until this point I hadn’t even had you away from me overnight yet, so a whole week was a HUGE leap. You did great but oh man, it was SO hard for me. I missed you & Alex more than I ever thought possible. Dad & I tried to spend our time doing lots of fun things that we wouldn’t typically get to do with two small children in tow, but we still found ourselves wondering what the heck we did with ourselves before we had kids. LOL. Such little beings take up such a huge space in our lives and in our hearts. πŸ™‚ We were both extremely happy to have you back at the end of the week. Here’s a picture of you & Alex hanging out with your cousin Tori while you were down there. Tori really stepped up to the plate & did a phenomenal job helping take care of you both during your visit. Dad & I were both really impressed!

Other than that, we’ve just been “living the dream” as Dad says. It’s so true. Our life may not always be picture-perfect and things can get a little crazy around here, but you & your brother really are such a blessing to us. Nothing makes me happier than seeing your smiling faces, hearing your giggles & giving you lots of hugs + kisses. Being a working mom with a baby + toddler is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. You are such a happy baby– you almost never cry unless you’re hungry, or sometimes if you get left in a room by yourself for too long (other than your crib). You have a smile for everyone you meet. And you have the BEST little smiles! πŸ™‚

Here are a few other photos & videos from our adventures this month:

Your first bathroom selfie! This particular day you discovered your tongue and kept sticking it out at everyone. LOL

Practicing for the 4th of July fireworks! Unfortunately it ended up being rainy on 4th of July this year, so we ended up skipping the fireworks and settling for sparklers at home (although you had gone to bed by that point– maybe next year!).

Hanging out with your cousin Shayla!

Playing with your feet– still one of your favorite pastimes. πŸ˜‰

Bouncing– one of your new favorite pastimes!

Now that you’re so good at rolling both ways, I’ve noticed that you seem to like sleeping on your side the best, or your back. Almost never do you sleep on your tummy. I’m a side/back sleeper also so I can relate! Dad & Alex both prefer sleeping on their tummy, which looks so uncomfortable to me. Anyway, I love watching you sleep… although I don’t get to do it these days as much as I used to. Yesterday was the first time in awhile that you fell asleep in my arms. I’d gone in there to pick you up & soothe you, as your congestion was keeping you from falling asleep as easily as you typically do. I picked you up and sang to you (“Sunshine” of course, that is my song for you & Alex which I sing to you both quite frequently). It didn’t take you long to fall asleep in my arms, but I stood there and held + rocked you for awhile anyway. I looked at your peaceful face, smooshed up into the crook of my elbow & felt that heavy weight of you against me that is 100% trust and relaxation, with your little hand on my chest. This not being my first rodeo, I know now how all too quickly this infant phase will fly by & how soon you’ll be too big for me to hold that way (although sometimes Alex still asks me to “hold him like a baby” and I happily oblige him)… and therefore I’m trying so, so hard to soak it all in. Being a parent is the most bittersweet thing… I feel tremendous pride as I watch you grow and learn so many new things so quickly, but on the other hand there are many times where I desperately think “Oh my dear, won’t you please stay this little?”

Until next time, Charlie-bean! πŸ™‚

All my love,
Mom

The Saga of Swaddles (Charlie Strikes Back)

Dear Charlie,

You’re just over 5 months old now… coming up on half a year already! Each day you’re becoming more and more interactive. You seem to be happiest when someone is talking to or playing with you. If it’s not nap time and no one’s paying attention to you, you get upset! Luckily your brother gives you TONS of attention. πŸ˜‰ You also really love holding things and have gotten pretty good at reaching out to grab toys or other items that you want. For this reason I keep a small rattle along with your “bunny lovey” in your carseat to help keep you entertained.

Speaking of your interests, it is clear that you’re more interested in sitting & observing vs. moving around. I find it interesting to note the differences between your personality & your brother’s personality that are evident already. At this age, Alex was rolling all over the place and getting up on hands & knees in preparation for crawling…. but he was nowhere near being able to sit up independently (he was pretty late to master that skill; it was more like 7 months). You on the other hand HATE being on your stomach for very long, don’t roll much (but it does occur more often than it did a month ago) and crawling seems very far off for you… but you are already getting good at the “tripod” method of sitting, so I suspect you’ll have sitting up mastered within the next few weeks:

The other skill you’ve been working on recently is eating! We started baby oatmeal and pureed baby food with you this month, which you took to quickly. Now you enjoy some oatmeal for lunch and some type of fruit or veggie for dinner every day… and when we finish you’re usually fussing for more! So far other than oatmeal you’ve tried green beans, avocado, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, and pears. There doesn’t seem to be anything that you don’t like so far. πŸ™‚

So as you can see, you’re well past the newborn phase of life and pretty solid into “babyhood”… this seems to be where the development of skills and milestones seems to shoot ahead at a rapid pace for the next couple of years. Then one morning we wake up and the baby has been replaced with a little boy! Having just gone through this with Alex, I know all too well how fleeting this period of life is & am trying to soak it in with you as much as possible. I live for the weekends, because that’s pretty much the only time I have to just hold you and watch you sleep anymore…

You can see in this picture, which was taken a few weeks ago, that you were wearing one of the last remnants of the “newborn” phase– the swaddle blanket. At your 4 month check-up, the pediatrician stressed that we really needed to work on breaking you of the need to be swaddled while sleeping because it poses a safety concern, should you roll over in your sleep during the night. So we tried to help you gradually ditch the swaddle by leaving just one arm out for awhile, then wrapping the swaddle around your tummy so that both arms were free, and finally ditching the swaddle entirely. It led to all of us getting much less sleep for awhile, but you were making steady progress until one day you decided that going unswaddled was for the birds! Out of the blue you refused to sleep AT ALL and cried endlessly whenever we tried to get you to lay down and sleep in your crib. Finally we gave in and put the swaddle back on you, and everyone enjoyed a good night’s sleep. I suspect that you are/were teething as we can see the telltale white spots on your bottom gums, and perhaps the discomfort from that made it difficult for you to settle down and go to sleep without the swaddle. I felt guilty about giving the swaddle back, but it was clear that you were going through something and just weren’t ready to be rid of the swaddle just yet. We decided to give it a few weeks & then try again, but a few nights ago you beat us to the punch! You had another night where you could NOT fall asleep and cried endlessly, squirming your arms around within the swaddle. After trying everything I had in my bag of mommy tricks with no success, I finally opened the swaddle to see if that might help & BOOM! You were out like a light and slept soundly all night long. Since then you’ve been swaddle free and haven’t looked back. It’s funny– Alex did the same thing, but it happened earlier on with him. I guess it just goes to show that each kid has their own agenda & their own timeline… and you just have to watch their cues & let them tell you when they’re ready or not ready for things like this.

And so ends the Swaddle Saga. Phew! πŸ˜‰ I’ll be packing up and getting rid of all your swaddle blankets within the next week or two, along with your entire wardrobe in size 6 months (which you grew out of a few weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to pulling it all out of your closet). Anyway, other than that we’ve just been living the daily grind during the week, getting into a few adventures on the weekends and just enjoying time together as a family. Your brother especially is never far from your side…

I tried to get a picture of Alex kissing you while y’all were riding in the double stroller, but wasn’t quick enough. He insists on sitting facing you rather than facing the back of the stroller (as is intended) because he wants to be within kissing distance of you at all times. LOL

Drying off after bathtime. Sometimes I put your little infant tub into the big tub so that you & Alex can take baths together. He likes to entertain you with his Sesame Street bath puppets!

A couple of firsts this month: your first carousel ride and your first shopping cart ride! πŸ™‚

Snuggles with big brother while I attempted to take your monthly picture.
Already you guys interact and play together so much despite you being so little and unable to do much. I’ll be curious to see whether your relationship improves once you’re able to run around, talk etc… or if it will deteriorate because you’ll be able to snatch toys and argue! I’m sure it will be a bit of both, but hopefully more of the former. That phase will be here before we know it, as quick as you’re growing!

All my love,
Mom

“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