NEVER!!!

Dear Charlie,

You are on the fast track to 3 years old and in many ways I think you’re already there. I can’t get over how smart you are, which is becoming increasingly evident as you get more and more clear with your words/talking. In terms of personality, I think you’re more Stoddard than Pacheco– strong-willed (stubborn as an ox really, haha), impulsive, a natural leader and problem-solver, but still incredibly sweet and caring… and really quite charming. You love your brother and playing with him is your favorite thing, but you’re also not afraid to stand up for yourself. You take no shit from anyone. πŸ˜‰ As far as stereotypes go, you’re doing a pretty good job of fulfilling those of being left-handed + red headed + the middle child.

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Your favorite things are still sports, cars and animals. You’ve become very attached to a little gray stuffed kitten that you’ve cleverly named “Cat.” Cat goes just about everywhere with you.

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You’re also starting to get into legos and drawing, I think because Alex is so into those things. This summer you’ve also developed a love for the water– you fearlessly jump in and swim in a pool whenever you get the chance (with the floatie on, of course, but I think swim lessons will need to be in your near future). I’m glad I only worked part-time this summer so that I could spend more time with you guys…. but if I’m being honest, you’re the reason I ultimately decided to go back to full-time. I wouldn’t say that you’re a bad kid, but you’re so inquisitive & fearless that I can’t take my eyes off you for a second or you’re into something messy, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate. My strategy for this has been to just involve you in whatever I’m doing, which luckily you usually are happy to do — my big helper! — but Mommy really needed the mental & physical break I get when you’re at preschool.

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Speaking of preschool, you are doing so well with it! There were some tears in the beginning but you rallied quickly, and now you run into class without so much as a goodbye or backwards glance. It’s been a great outlet for your energy and creativity, and you’re learning tons. I’m so incredibly proud of you!

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Another thing you’ve been making leaps and bounds with lately is potty training. We’ve had to take a step back with it since school started because they require you to be in a pull-up (and you take that opportunity to just go in the diaper :-\ ), but when you’re home in undies you do really great with it. As with Alex, it was really just a matter of waiting until you decided you wanted to do it.

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Overall I’m really enjoying this stage of your life, even with its challenges (which we’re getting better at dealing with). My favorite part of every day is the smattering of hugs and kisses I get from you pretty much constantly throughout the day. And that sweet, devilish grin of yours. You’re growing up so fast, and my reaction to that is much the same as yours when I tell you to put your toys away and get ready for bed– “NEVER!!!” πŸ˜‰ But alas… I know better.

All my love,
Mom

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Hurricane Charlie

Dear Charlie,

It’s been a crazy spring & summer… now as we approach hurricane season I have finally made some time to write about my favorite little hurricane. πŸ˜‰

You’ve finally become a big brother and are doing better in the role than I thought you would, honestly. At first you were indifferent or only interested in Emma if Alex was playing with her (because you always want to do whatever Alex is doing!), but now you’ve started to take a bit of ownership in Emma’s well-being. You let me know if Emma is crying or needs her binkie, etc. You also love touching her tiny fingers and toes, and you even ask to hold her for *very* brief periods of time.

But overall I’d say you don’t have the nurturing instinct that Alex has & therefore your interests lie elsewhere. Nothing wrong with that of course; I love that you are very much your own person & you’re certainly always keeping us on our toes. You have a very BIG personality– I’d say in general everything with you is go BIG or go home…. the smiles that light up the room, the tantrums that can be heard in China, the amount of force you put behind throwing a baseball, your amazing dance moves (including one that we’ve coined “The Charlie Shuffle” that unfortunately I haven’t gotten on video yet), your spectacular messes, the way you grab my face between your two little hands and pull me in for big sloppy kisses (complete with “MMMMUAH!!!”), and of course the many confounding ways you manage to get into mischief. πŸ˜‰

Your brain is also BIG– you are seriously blowing me away more & more every day with how smart you are! It’s hard to believe now that I ever worried about you developmentally. You are already jumping and climbing way more than Alex did at this age (much to my dismay), building things with “big boy” legos already (another one of those “I want to do whatever Alex is doing” things), and talking a TON with drastically increasing clarity… which has helped us to discover just how much you really know and already understand at barely 2.5 years old! You already know all your colors & shapes, can count to 10 and recognize several numbers + letters on sight. Your vocabulary is huge, especially when it comes to your two favorite things– sports and animals.

I still think you’re going to be quite the little athlete when the time comes. You love love love baseball and were dying to play t-ball with Alex’s team this season. Unfortunately you can’t officially play until you’re 4, but one of the perks of Dad being a coach is that you got to go out on the field and warm up with the team at every game you attended. The rest of the time I spent most of my energy dragging you out of the dugout. πŸ˜‰ You also love basketball, and I think I’m going to sign you up for soccer next year because I think you’d like that too. This summer you’ve been quite the little fish, so swim lessons are also on your to-do list.

Animals are your other jam. You & Annie are continue to enjoy a symbiotic relationship, but really you get a huge kick out of interacting with just about any animal. Farms, zoos, and the living museum have been some of your favorite outings this year, where you were not afraid to get up close & personal with all the critters.

Another big love of yours at the moment is vehicles of any sort. Everywhere you go, car-watching is your go-to way to occupy yourself. This means that I get to listen to “Mommy, a car! Mommy, a truck! Mommy, a bus!” pretty much constantly throughout every. single. car ride. Lucky me! πŸ˜‰ We really hit the jackpot when we spot something like a firetruck or school bus. LOL. You thought all buses were school buses until we recently taught you to identify “silly” (city) buses.

Although you do love playing with me/Dad/Alex and in particular want to do EVERYTHING Alex is doing (much to his dismay… particularly at bedtime when he wants you to leave him alone so he can sleep), you’re also very independent and are more content to play by yourself than Alex ever has been. It also means you don’t feel the need to stick by my side when we go places the way Alex does, and you treat those backpack kid leashes like they are hot lava on your skin (much to MY dismay). You’re my first (and hopefully last) “runner” which, on top of being stubborn, fearless and VERY adventurous/inquisitive, is beyond exhausting.

Truly, these are all excellent qualities to have & I think you’ll probably run the world when you grow up… but it does make it challenging to parent you. You’re a good kid and I don’t think you have a malicious bone in your body, but nevertheless I really do have to watch you like a hawk (or we all pay the price!). πŸ˜‰ I think part of this relates to the fact that you’re so smart– like when the smart kid is not being challenged enough at school so he starts making trouble in the classroom. At home I can’t focus on engaging you constantly as I’m splitting my time/attention between 3 kids + 1 husband + 1 dog + LIFE, so you take matters into your own hands. And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change any of it. You keep things interesting for sure, and bring a lot of joy and laughter to our family. I can’t wait to see what you choose to do with your firecracker spirit as time goes on. πŸ™‚

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All my love,
Mom

Bros Being Bros

To my darling boys,

This time around I decided to write a letter to you both, because honestly so much of this summer and fall has been about the two of Β you growing together as brothers. You guys are together almost 24/7 (aside from daycare), including the major development I mentioned in my last letter about starting to share a bedroom. Although my greatest joy is still watching the two of you together, it is also one of my greatest challenges as a parent these days. Don’t let the cute pictures deceive you… life with two toddlers can be TOUGH!

As I said, you two are together much of the time and do love each other bunches… but you’reΒ also both growing leaps and bounds as individuals.

Alex, you’re learning so much about the world around you, about logic, emotions and relationships. School has done so much for you socially, and you continue to come more and more out of your shell everyday! You’re incredibly smart, kind, cautious and thoughtful. Your teachers never have anything but wonderful things to say about you, and just about everyday at least one of your classmates runs up to you to give you a hug goodbye as you’re leaving. As I mentioned in your last letter, youΒ still love to read, build, and create things. You still love ninja turtles, but have expanded your horizons quite a bit as well (which is great, because the rest of us are getting kind of sick of TMNT around here…haha). Like your father, you’re incredibly creative and artistically talented. I could not be more proud of you. πŸ™‚

Charlie, far behind you are the days where I worried about developmental delays– you are ALL OVER THE PLACE now and into everything. And I really do mean EVERYTHING. You are strong, fearless, independent, and stubborn. You are developing excellent problem-solving skills already. You love anything that involves movement– sports, cars/trucks/trains (Thomas the Tank Engine is your favorite character at the moment), music, and animals. But you also love anything your big brother is up to…. much to his dismay. πŸ˜‰ Your language skills have come a long way in the last month or two, but you have not developed Alex’sΒ social skills (yet– totally normal for a not-quite 2 year old), and so he gets frustrated with you often. The good times still far outweigh the bad though, and overall I think you twoΒ get along pretty well considering your ages and how very different your personalities are. You are definitely aΒ more challenging toddler, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that Stoddard personality all too well, and I think it will serve you well later in life…. if I can teach you to channel it properly! Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

Charlie, you also recently mastered climbing, and haveΒ enjoyed climbing into Alex’s bed every chance you get. That’s led to a whole lot of trial & error in regards to your sleeping arrangements, as we had to de-bunk the beds for fear that you might somehow fall from up there. Alex, you’ve been as wonderful through all of these changes as you possibly could be, which included many nights of Charlie snuggling up next to you, hogging your bed space & waking you up earlier than you’d like. Things are starting to settle down and everyone is sleeping well again, thank goodness! I’m really glad we decided to work on this transition well before your baby sister arrives. I’d rather be working these kinks out now, rather than when we have a newborn to deal with on top of everything else…. as you can see, there’s never a dull moment around here! πŸ˜‰

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But as I said before, I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I spoke about how you two have grown as individuals and as brothers…. but I can also say that we have grown as a family. Dad & I have grown, as individuals & as a couple, so much in these last 6 months as well. Being parents to two toddlers, and then making the decision to bring another beautiful life into the world, has not only brought us more joy and fulfillment than I could ever truly describe in a letter… but it has made us better people. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it. We love you boys so much, and can’t wait to see what the future brings. 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

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

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