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  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’re 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, you 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. 🙂

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. 😉 Your language skills have come a long way in the last month or two, but you have not developed Alex’s 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 two get along pretty well considering your ages and how very different your personalities are. You are definitely a 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 have 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! 😉

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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. 🙂

All my love,
Mom

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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… 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 always 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. 😉 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. 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 our 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! 🙂 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. 😉

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. 🙂 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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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

You are undoubtedly a morning person… even when the cup is empty. 😉

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 😉 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! 🙂 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. 🙂 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

“PLAY ALL DAY!”

Dear Alex,

Good lord I have let the time slip away from me! Fall and winter are incredibly busy times of the year for us– there’s just so much fun stuff to do around here, plus the holidays of course, that we’ve been focusing on enjoying it all with you as much as possible. 🙂 Early toddlerhood is such a fun age & we love being able to take you out for so many fun experiences. The good news is we’ve at least been documenting it in pictures/videos! More of those later.

As a parent, these last few months have been some of the most entertaining and rewarding so far. You are very much a little boy now, with very few hints of babyhood left, and have learned SOOOO much. You’re talking up a storm, know many of your colors, shapes, letters & numbers, etc. I am just blown away by what a smart, sweet, hilarious, overall awesome little boy you are. Obviously I’m more than a bit biased, but… it’s true! 😀 You’ve really come out of your shell, especially in the last month or so. These days you smile & say hello to EVERYONE, no matter where we are, and at playdates you’re a big hugger. In fact there are a couple of newer kids in our weekend playgroup that are super shy, and I think you’ve been getting on their nerves accosting them with all these hugs. LOL. The only time social anxiety is still a factor is when you’re not with me or Dad, which is pretty rare.

Speaking of those few hints of babyhood, recently you forced our hand on getting rid of pacifiers (“binkies”) when you bit clear through one during naptime at daycare a few weeks ago. You’ve got a mouth full of teeth now & that’s a huge choking hazard, so we had to go cold turkey for operation “Bail on Binky” that very same night. It was tough the first few nights but overall you did pretty well! Hopefully you don’t steal Charlie’s binkies once he’s on the scene in a few weeks.

So, the only baby-ish thing left with you now is diapers… and that unfortunately seems to be a very long way off still. Although we had some initial success with potty training– you were interested at first and did pee & poop in the potty a couple of times, each time resulted in you FREAKING OUT and sobbing “mess, mess, yuck, yuck!” because you thought you’d been bad for making a mess. That seems to have traumatized you and now you won’t even get near the toilet unless it’s to accompany me or Dad while we’re going. Sigh. But, we’ve decided we’re not going to force it. From what I understand, potty training is a much easier process when the kid is truly ready for it & interested in it.

I mentioned being busy with the holidays– since I last wrote we’ve had not one, not two, but THREE major holidays! They’ve all been a blast, but I think this is where pictures & videos tell the stories better than I can. So, here we go– life since I last wrote has been something like this…

The biggest, most common thread that weaves through all of our adventures is BABY. Baby is the little doll we gave you not long after we found out that you were going to be a big brother. A friend gave us the idea to teach you about babies & how they are cared for this way. You might remember that Elmo used to go with us everywhere, but after accidentally forgetting him at Grandma & Papa’s house one time you latched onto Baby and he’s been your BFF ever since. If I’d known you were going to get so attached to Baby, I probably would’ve chosen one that is more sturdy. LOL. Oh well!

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Dad spent every weekend for about a month or so remodeling one of our bathrooms. You enjoyed making a “house” out of construction materials (first photo) and the many, many trips to Home Depot (second photo).

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^ You were painting the plate for a Thanksgiving craft we made (amazingly no paint got on Baby, phew!). The end result came out really cute!

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^ This was taken a couple weeks ago when you & I were up late one night while you had the stomach flu. It was a very miserable evening for you, to say the least. This was the first time you’d ever been that sick, and it absolutely broke my heart. Every time you threw up it naturally scared/upset you quite a bit. Thankfully the worst of it only lasted the one evening… but you didn’t eat much for the next couple days, which is VERY unlike you. Miraculously no one in the house managed to catch it from you either.

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^ Here you were telling Baby to “SAY CHEESE!” Haha

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^ You are still very much my little bookworm! The floor-level bookshelf was a very wise investment off the yardsale site… having to pick you up to get to the bookshelves mounted on your wall was getting to be a huge pain. You are too heavy & I am too pregnant for that!

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(Sorry these pictures are not really in chronological order, by the way). Halloween! You & I dressed up together as characters from the old movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” — you were an Oompa Loompa & I was the girl that turns into a blueberry. This year we actually took you out to a few houses around the neighborhood to trick or treat, plus to a local “trunk or treat” event with our weekend playgroup, and both times you did great! You didn’t want to say “trick or treat” but you did at least say “thank you” to everyone. One thing that cracked me up was that when a particularly generous lady gave you a full-sized candy bar, you refused to put it in your little pumpkin. I guess because you thought only bite-sized candies should go in there? Anyway, although we got some video of you trick or treating, I actually thought the video of you eating your candy after we got home was much more entertaining…

This year both sets of grandparents happened to be in town for Halloween because Charlie’s baby shower was the same weekend. It was nice having them there for the big event. 🙂 BTW, the “ta-da” story Nana is talking about is as follows:

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LMAO. You are actually pretty good about manners, we’ve drilled them into you pretty hard. You say please, thank you, sorry, and excuse me. Now we even get a full confession such as “Excuse me, I burped a little bit.” 😉

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^^ I just love those “Alex smiles!” Whenever we ask you to smile now, you get the biggest/cheesiest/goofiest grin on your face. It’s the best. 😀 That last picture is obviously from Christmas day, which leads me to “The Holidays”

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^^ Happy Thanksgiving! You were not sick this year, so that’s a win in my book. Since Grandma & Papa were in Florida for Thanksgiving, Uncle Jeff hosted lunch on the Stoddard side, then we had dinner with the Pacheco side later than evening. You had such a blast hanging out with your cousins, as you can see. 🙂

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^ When we got home that weekend after Thanksgiving we put up our Christmas decorations. Dad & I did most of it while you were napping, but we saved the tree ornaments for when you got up. In the video above we were doing the “special” ornaments which I had to help you more with, but for the plain ball ornaments you got the knack of doing it yourself pretty quickly… we just ended up with a ton of those down at the bottom. LOL. Also, you can see in the last picture the new ornament we got this year– an “Alex & Charlie” ornament to celebrate Charlie’s impending arrival.

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^ You did not think much of Santa this year, either. What’s funny is that you were SUPER excited to go see Santa… you recognize who he is/what he looks like now (mostly thanks to the big blowup Santa on our front porch), but I don’t think you’ve made the connection to the presents yet. Anyway, as soon as Santa came out you kept trying to cut in line and run up to see him. As soon as we finally got up there & it was time for you to sit on his lap, you quickly changed your mind! This was the best photo we could get. LOL. Maybe next year will be THE year!

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^ Of course we spent much of this joyous season enjoying it with our playgroup! Hard to believe it’s been a year & a half since I started the group, but now I couldn’t imagine our life without them– many of the “regulars” have become some of our closest friends. We went to a walk-through light show (that’s our friend Tom holding you & his son/your buddy Noah just after we’d finished checking it out) and did a cookie swap/holiday craft date with them this season. You made some really cute ornaments for our little mini tree in the dining room!

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^ You really, really enjoyed all the Christmas decorations around the house this year… especially the tree. The first thing you’d say when you came downstairs each morning was “Christmas tree!” 🙂 This is one of my favorite photos of you & the tree, taken one evening when we were snuggled up in front of the fire watching tv.

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Christmas day was a busy whirlwind down in Hampton with the family… for whatever reason you decided to get up for the day at 3:30am (ugh!), but you managed to hang on until after Uncle Jeff and his family came over to Papa & Grandma’s house for presents & brunch. You did a great job opening presents this year, and were content to play with your toys while everyone else opened theirs. After a nice long nap, we went over to Nana & Grump’s house for another round of presents and dinner. 🙂 It was a long, exhausting day & we JUST barely squeezed everything in the car to make the journey back home that night. I have been thinking a lot lately about how we’re going to do Christmas in future years, with another baby on top of Santa & everything else. It may be time to start our own family traditions for Christmas and celebrate with the grandparents & extended family the weekend following. (They are not going to like that when they read it… sorry, grandparents.) At least we have a whole year to think about it!

And with that, I’ll wrap up with some of my other favorite pictures & videos from all the random shenanigans we’ve gotten into these last few months (and again, they’re most likely out of order… sorry!):

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^ A couple weeks before Halloween, we went to a local nursery’s “pumpkin playground” with our weekend playgroup. It was a ton of fun, and you got to pick out a pumpkin at the end. Well, leave it to you to pick the TINIEST, in my opinion most lame pumpkin in the whole patch! But man… you sure were proud of that pumpkin (as evidenced here!). LOL

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^ I should clarify that when I say “we got it that time,” I mean that EVERY other time up until that point you would give us a very adamant NO whenever we asked you if you wanted to be a big brother and/or have a baby brother. And this was not the first time we’d tried the trick of asking you lots of questions that you say yes to first… usually it’s still a no. And it’s been back to a no ever since. Sorry, Charlie! :-X

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So as you can see… you are a non-stop ball of energy, from the moment you wake up until we wrestle you into bed you are going a million miles an hour, and having a blast while you do it. Okay, we don’t really wrestle you into bed & actually you’re pretty good about sleeping once you actually fall asleep. But when it’s time for bed or nap you insist that you want to “play all day” which is where the title of this letter came from. 😉 But alas, even super toddlers need to recharge their batteries…

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😉 And every morning you wake up looking something like this:

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LOL. You have the most epic bedhead I’ve ever seen, especially on someone with such short hair! People sometimes wonder why, but I’m always reminded whenever I need to go in and lay down with you in the middle of the night. This doesn’t happen very often anymore, just if you’re sick or have a bad dream, but when it does good GRIEF you flop around like a fish out of water! One night it was so ridiculous that I decided to go back & show Dad on the camera monitor we have in your room. It was then that I discovered our monitor has a “time lapse” feature, and I made this gem of a video. The following took place over the course of about an hour & a half in the wee hours of the morning a couple months ago:

Although you’re super cute & snuggly when I go to lay down with you, you refuse to just lie still and fall back asleep. As someone who also has trouble falling asleep I can relate somewhat to your plight (my mind goes a mile a minute and it’s really hard for me to “turn that off” when I need to sleep), but I still get exhausted just watching that video! Haha.

But even though life with you (and especially with being pregnant on top of it) has been insanely exhausting, I would not change a single second of it. As I (finally!) wrap this letter up it’s now New Year’s Eve, which is a day many people use to reflect on how their year has went. For me, it’s absolutely been one of the best years of my life. This age in your life has been a challenge (you have those “terrible two” moments for sure!) but also a lot of fun– you are so full of joy and wonder, and it’s been a great reminder to appreciate all the little things in life. One of my favorite things to do is just walk around the neighborhood and explore with you– when the weather cooperates we take a little walk as a family after dinner each evening (although it’s gotten too dark too early to do that now, but we’ll pick it up again in the spring). We always take the time to say “hi” to the mailboxes (haha) and check out every fancy leaf, every pretty car, every random critter scurrying/flying around, every friendly neighbor, etc etc. Getting to see the world through your eyes is one of my favorite things about being your mom. For that… I thank you, sweet Alex. 🙂

Although it’s much later than I intended, the timing of this letter actually works out for the best as I doubt I’ll have time to write again until things settle down after Charlie is born. We’re actually doing your birthday party a month late this year for that same reason, so the next letter can cover your birthday and all the associated celebrations involved with that. And of course, your transition from only child to big brother. 😉 Wish us luck, family & friends!

All my love,
Mom

The good, the bad and the funny

Dear Alex,

We’re wrapping up summer and you’ve just passed the 20 month mark… crap, that is dangerously close to 2 years old! In some ways I feel like we’re there already, as I see quite a bit of the “terrible two’s” behavior coming out already. Lots of crying/tantrums over the most random stuff, hitting, etc. We’ve instituted time-outs for you now in these situations, and have set up a lovely space for this that Dad called “the sin bin.” It’s actually just your pack & play set up in a corner. 😉 When you hit or throw a tantrum, you go into time out there for about 2 minutes. Another typical toddler behavior that has sprung up recently is being picky with your food. I think if it were up to you now you’d eat only carbs. I have to serve your veggies first with nothing else on the plate, or else you’ll skip over them to the other stuff. Sometimes even then you don’t eat them, which is weird because up until this point you ate pretty much EVERYTHING, especially veggies! I’m also going to try some new recipes soon that “sneak” veggies in, like zucchini muffins and such. Hopefully this is just a phase.

I mentioned that you randomly cry over stuff, but I should also mention that you laugh at the most random things lately too. A couple of examples– one morning while we were eating breakfast, you kept putting your face right in front of a bottle of honey and cracking up! Not sure why the honey bottle was so hysterical. Another one is that lately you crack up anytime someone gives you a thumbs-up, or points, or anything like that with their fingers. Apparently fingers are super funny! 😛 Toddler are very much little Jekyll/Hyde sort of people, with mood swings ALLLL over the place.

I mentioned the bad & the funny, but saved the good for last as there is just so, so much of that to share. 🙂 You are growing, learning, and maturing so very quickly lately. I’d been planning to add to the catalogue of words I started in the last letter for you, but you’ve added so many words to your vocabulary in the last two months that I couldn’t possibly remember them all now. You know many names of the common people in your life (including your own, which sounds more like “Aye-ex” at this point), many foods & common objects, several verbs (“watch,” “walk,” “read” and “eat” being your favorites), most of the niceties (please, thank you, i’m sorry), both yes and no, and several two word phrases (like “Mommy’s cup, “More please,” etc). You can identify some colors, letters & shapes, and quite a few of your body parts as well…

And you learn TONS new stuff everyday. You are such a smart little guy! Dad & I are so, so proud of you already. You’ve had a lot of other “firsts” this summer as well. One thing that I was a little nervous about what your first dental checkup, but you were a champ! We went to a really great pediatric dental practice, where all the staff were friendly and fun. They made sure you had a gentle & positive experience. The dentist said your teeth look great! 😀 This will sound silly, but after it was over I felt a little emotional, similar to when you got your first haircut… things like that are big reminders of how you’re very much NOT a baby anymore, how quickly you’re growing and how quickly the time is passing by. Another little “milestone” we had over the summer was the transition to a booster seat at restaurants (which is immensely easier to deal with than a high chair, although it doesn’t keep you as well-contained when you get fidgety). Here’s your first booster seat experience, during one of our Sunday family lunches at Bertucci’s:

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And another one a few weeks later. This is a blurry shot but I love it because it’s a sweet moment between me & you. When we’re out to eat & you sit next to me in the booth, you frequently lean over & put your head on my shoulder, just because. 🙂

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Anywho, we’ve spent as much of our time as possible outside this summer, enjoying all the fun & festivities this area has to offer. It was at one of these local festivals that you recently experienced your first carnival ride:

Of course, you LOVED it…. and I was not surprised, considering how much you love swings & slides, and it was only a slight step up from that. Speaking of swings & slides, here’s some more pics of our summer fun:

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At the park with your pal Ella!

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At kiddie band concert (The Milkshake Band!) with your friends Adelyn & Bree. You might have noticed by now… you have a LOT of girlfriends. Uh oh. 😉

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Our play group had their first “birthday” party over the summer at our favorite park. It was so much fun! Everyone had a blast playing cornhole, blowing bubbles, riding the little train that goes around the park & just running around playing outside. Hard to believe it’s been over a year now since I started that group… it’s been quite successful & I’m very proud of it. 🙂 Many of our BFFs/”family” in the area are in our lives because of that group!

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We went to visit Hampton for Labor Day weekend… you had a blast seeing your grandparents & cousins!

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So this trampoline park opened up near our house a few months ago… you & I finally went to check it out recently. It was a BLAST, as you can see! 🙂

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Lately I’ve been getting you to “help” me cook more often– this little booster tower thing lets you stand right next to me at counter height. Usually more often than not, you’re just sampling the ingredients. LOL. I also got you a little play kitchen off one of the yardsale sites & put it right next to our real kitchen, and you enjoy playing with that as well while I’m cooking.

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Bedtime stories with Grandma & Daddy. 🙂 You may notice that you’re wearing the same PJ’s in both pictures… you really love those “puppy jammies.” Unfortunately we’ve just recently retired those and bumped you up to size 3T for pajamas. I’m stocking up on 3T clothes for the winter too. You’re growing so fast!

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“Where’s Alex?!” LOL. One of your favorite things to play, mostly when we’re hanging out upstairs, is hide and seek. We had a weekend last month where we were all pretty sick and spent the whole weekend upstairs in bed. Here we are all snuggled up:

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Not that being sick ever slows you down! Lots of hide & seek games were played that weekend. Haha. Here are some of my other favorite pictures of you from the last couple months:

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We’re still working on you saying “cheese” for pictures… this is pretty much best-case scenario at this point, where you do indeed say cheese but you won’t look at the camera. We’ll keep working on it!

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Admittedly, we take quite a few pictures of you while you’re sitting at the table… it’s pretty much the only place where you stay in one place long enough to actually GET a picture. 😉

That’s enough for one letter I think, although I could go on & on about all the stuff you’re up to these days. Every day is a new adventure with you because you’re learning and doing new things constantly. We’ve even started to dabble in potty training with some degree of success, but we still have such a long way to go on it that I don’t think it’s worth discussing in great detail just yet.

Anywho– until next time, my sweet boy! 🙂

All my love,
Mom

 

“Beebee!” (And other incomprehensible words)

Dear Alex,

It’s been such a busy and eventful summer…. and we’re only half way through it! I’m sorry I haven’t had time to write in awhile, but hopefully this insanely long letter will make up for it. You are a little over 18 months old now– the amount of growth and development that’s occurred in these last couple months seriously blows my mind. It is so cool, a true blessing, to be able to witness it and to think “I made this awesome little human!” 🙂 The biggest thing we’ve noticed is the sudden influx of words you’re adding to your vocabulary lately. However, many of the words are understandable to only me & sometimes Dad. So, I thought I’d come up with a little “Alex translator” here to help our friends and family out. Here are the words you have down pat, where what you’re saying is actually what you mean… at least the ones I can think of, I’m sure there’s more:

Mommy
Daddy
Up
Hi
Bye
Bubble
Cow
Elmo
Shoe
No
Yeah
Yuck

And here’s the ones that need translation:

“Dow” = Down
“Baw” = Ball or ball-shaped object (you’ve been calling grapes “baws” lately too)
“Caw” = Car, truck, or just about anything with wheels
“App” = Apple
“Peas” = Please (you are EXCELLENT about saying please to get what you want. It’s effing adorable.
“Mow” = More
“Momo” = another word for Elmo
“Beebee” = Baby
“Papa” (only said in a whisper for some reason) = Papa and/or Grandma
“Coh” = Cody, our dog
“Eee-eee” = Annie, our dog… or Eat, depending on the context involved

And of course, there’s a whole gaggle of “words” that you babble all the time, of which we have no clue what they mean. LOL

In less exciting news, we had a period where nights were REALLY rough for awhile… you’d wake up sometime between 12-3am crying and wouldn’t go back to sleep for HOURS. Later we would find out it was due to teething, a growth spurt (you’ve shot up almost 2 inches in the last couple months), and yet ANOTHER ear infection. They always seem to happen when you get new teeth, and considering it was the molars this time (a doozy!) I wasn’t surprised. What sucked the most about it was that you came down with the infection while Dad & I were on vacation in Puerto Rico, so we couldn’t do much to help you. We also moved you to your first “big boy bed” not long after the ear infection cleared up, so I suppose that complicated things a bit too. There were many, many nights where Dad & I took turns sleeping in the bed with you to help you get used to it. I do not handle lack of sleep very well, especially on top of other health conditions that I’ll discuss shortly, so my sanity level was pretty low for awhile there. The good news is, things are more or less back to normal now & you sleep in that big boy bed like a champ!

Here’s one from one of those nights where you would only sleep in my arms. Although it was exhausting, I have to admit I enjoyed the extra cuddle time. 🙂 During the day you’re so busy & all over the place that cuddles are rare.

We’re still working on the decorations in your “big boy room,” but it’s going to be baseball/Washington Nationals themed. 😀 I’ll take pictures of all of it when we’re done!

Zzzzzzzz……

Notice the funny little creature laying in bed next to you… that’s Elmo, AKA “Momo,” who you adore and take EVERYWHERE with you. You love all Elmo-related toys, books, shows and other paraphernalia. Here are some other adventures with you & best buddy Elmo…

On a walk with Elmo. We stopped by McDonald’s for lunch while we were out– notice the chicken nugget. 😉

Sharing your dinner with Elmo. You’re pretty good about sharing for a kid this age. Sometimes you like to trick us though, acting like you’re sharing & then snatch it away at the last second!

Showing Elmo how to use the bouncy seat. The truth is you’ve outgrown this thing & it  doesn’t really hold your interest anymore, but I’ve kept it out because sometimes I need a safe place to put you, where I know you’re not going anywhere!

Your other favorite toy these days is a little stuffed baby doll we all call “Baby,” but you pronounce it “Beebee.” Baby goes just about everywhere with us, too.

 

We bought you Baby as a way to teach you about babies, how to love & care for them, etc… because YOU ARE GOING TO BE A BIG BROTHER NEXT JANUARY!!! 😀 We are so excited and although I’m a little nervous about how you’re going to take not being the center of attention anymore, all in all I think you’ll love being a big brother. Especially since Baby Pacheco #2 is going to be a boy also, you guys will have a lot of fun together as you grow up. 🙂 Your little brother, Charlie, will be getting his own letters, although I’ve been horrible about keeping up with them so far as my life is much busier this pregnancy than it was during the last. Anyway, you & I had fun making this little pregnancy announcement:

Because in this day & age, nothing’s official until it’s posted on Facebook. Haha. This was originally going to be just one photo, but you were such a ham about it that I turned it into a little film strip sort of thing. Mothering a young toddler while going through the first trimester of pregnancy has been ROUGH, to say the least. Definitely exhausting. I’ll save those details for Charlie’s letter, though. Here’s some other fun stuff you’ve been up to this summer!

Your favorite song in all the world is “Old MacDonald,” and you don’t care who knows it. You burst into song– the part you sing is exclusively “E-I-E-I-O!!!” — all the time, and it’s one of the ways we can calm you down when you’re upset. Every toy you have that plays that song gets put to frequent use lately, and I even downloaded an app on my phone that plays it…. so now you either pick up my phone to shove it in my hand and say “EIEIO!” to get me to play the song or you hold it up to your ear and say “Hi!” 😉 So cute.

Speaking of farms, a couple weeks ago Papa, Grandma & I took you to a local farm-themed petting zoo/playground sort of place called “Blue Bird Gap Farm” while we were visiting family in Hampton. I grew up going to this place, but it was not nearly as nice when I was a kid as it is now! Apparently it was recently renovated. Anyway, you had a BLAST and especially enjoyed feeding the sheep. 🙂

Another thing you’re really into lately is playing dress-up with my & Dad’s clothes, shoes, etc. I tried to get a picture of you in Dad’s big work boots, but every time I put you in them you would try to walk around and immediately fall on your face. :-X

One hot Saturday morning, we went with some friends from our playgroup to a local splash park! You really enjoyed it, although it took you a little while to get comfortable in the new environment. This is pretty typical whenever we go to a place that has a lot of people, you stay close to me and survey the scene for a good 15 minutes or so before you’re willing to venture out and explore. Here’s an example from a playdate we had awhile back– this was you not long after we got there:

This type of shy behavior is pretty similar to Dad’s personality, but totally a foreign concept to me. I’ve always been pretty outgoing…. when I was a kid I walked up to random strangers and told them my life story, LOL. Anyway, I’ve been working on respecting this aspect of your personality & not pushing you to do more than you’re comfortable with. As it has with Dad, I know it will get easier for you with time. Like at a friend’s birthday party we went to recently, you were running all over the place within a few minutes. I took this picture of you & a couple of your friends squished into a truck after I’d pushed you guys around the yard for a few minutes. Y’all had so much fun together!

As I’ve mentioned in other letters, you have a truck just like this one that you love to “drive” around. You’re very much into cars/trucks/etc and love “driving” just about anything you can get your hands on:

Good times at the home improvement stores!

If only our regular grocery store had carts like this! 😉

You & your buddy Juju flying a plane at Clemyjontri park! That park was AWESOME, biggest play place we’ve been to yet! I love how so much of the entertainment in this area is free… even that splash park doesn’t charge an entrance fee!

And of course we’ve been out & about geocaching. 😉 Here’s the one we found near Clemyjontri park that same afternoon. We also rode the carousel while we were there… I loved that they have seatbelts on the animals! Ignore my dorky hiking shoes; I wore them because I knew we’d be geocaching. LOL

Sometimes the most random stuff CRACKS YOU UP. Here’s some other random fun we’ve had this summer:

Watching the Nats game with Dad. 🙂

Working on your “selfie” skills….

That’s better!

Hanging with your pal “Eee-eee” AKA Annie. This is about as close as the dogs let you get to them, unless there’s food involved.

Putting those new teeth to good use! 😉 You’re still a pretty good eater, but you’ve started to get picky lately. Hoping it’s a phase that passes quickly…

Swinging! 😀 Yes I squeezed my fat, pregnancy-bloated self into the swing. You’re never too old for swings, I say!

More silliness at the dinner table. You were cracking us up!

All in all it’s been a wonderful summer. I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by so far! Despite the tantrums and such, this has still been my favorite age so far… you’re so much fun to hang out with these days! You are the number one reason I smile everyday. 🙂

All my love,
Mom

 

 

 

Peace

Dear Alex,

A small addendum to my recent update. I wanted to wait to write about this until it happened again & the feeling was fresh in my mind. This occurred last night.

My young toddler, barely beyond the brink of infancy, wakes in the middle of the night crying as though he’s lost his last friend in the world.
I go to check on him, and nothing appears outwardly wrong. A bad dream perhaps, or teething. Whatever it was, he quiets the moment I pick him up.
I kiss his forehead, hold him close to me and settle down into the rocking chair. He breathes a heavy sigh of relief and burrows into my embrace, facing me belly to belly with his cheek buried in my elbow. The way we’ve done a thousand times before.
But now he is so big that his feet hang past the side of my lap, just over the edge of the chair. Snuggly moments like this are so few and far between these days that, even though my bed is calling, I decide to sit with him for awhile.
I rub his back and lean my head sideways against the headrest so that I can relax while staring at that sweet face. Before long he’s back in Dreamland, the pacifier drooping at the edge of his lips.
As I start to follow him there, suddenly he reaches his little hand up unconsciously and touches my face, caressing my cheek and then resting his hand on my chest.

And there we stay, in the quiet abyss between awake and asleep, feeling one another’s heartbeat. It feels like forever. It feels like no time at all.
But more than anything else, it feels like peace.

Times like this remind me why I became a mother. The depth of this bond, this love, the way you need me and I need you more than anything or anyone else in the world, is unlike any other experience I’ve had in this life. I know I say this a lot in these letters, but it is truly a blessing.

All my love,
Mom

Walk the walk, Talk the talk

Dear Alex,

You’re just over 16 months now! The spring has flown by, weather-wise it seems we’ve almost skipped it entirely and are starting to move on to summer. We were very thankful when the long season of winter weather finally ended, and now we spend a LOT of time playing outside. Things have not changed much activity-wise in the last two months. You are still VERY active, only your walking skills are more proficient and you’ve moved on to trying to run. Your climbing skills have improved a lot too (unfortunately for me, Dad, & especially the dogs LOL), partially because I think you’ve gotten quite a bit taller. You had your checkup at 15 months & clocked in at almost 27lb! I think my arms are getting pretty strong. 😉 Movement-wise, you are also starting to get more into dancing a little bit. It’s still pretty rare so I haven’t caught it on video yet, but super cute!

The biggest change these last two months has been communication. Your understanding of words & even what you’re able to say has grown leaps & bounds. You can identify and point to the common people in your life, for example “Where’s Mommy? Where’s Daddy?” and even distinguishing between our two dogs, Cody & Annie. You know the names of many common objects, and will follow basic commands like “Bring me the ball” or “Put the egg in the basket” (which was said often on Easter Sunday, LOL). Your new favorite word to say is “yuck,” probably because you’re constantly putting anything & EVERYTHING into your mouth, which leads us to say “Don’t eat that,  that’s yuck!” :-X You have mommy & daddy down pat, and will say a few other words such as out, dog, more, & bye bye. We occasionally hear other words & even what we think might be a short sentence (Dad thought he heard you say “want that” the other day, but I am skeptical). You are getting to be very inquisitive, and often ask us what things are by pointing at something and going “Eh?” It’s fun to have little conversations with you. How much you’re learning in such a short span of time just blows my mind! Oh, and one more thing about being vocal– you have recently discovered screaming. When we’re not giving you enough attention or you’re not getting what you want, more & more often you’re starting to throw back your head and SCREAM bloody murder. Lord help us! Hoping to nip that in the bud…. terrible 2’s here we come. :-\

Anyway, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in your hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, too. You’re getting more proficient at things like the shape sorter and building with blocks. When we play outside, you LOVE to “shoot hoops” and have gotten pretty good at slam-dunks with your toddler sized basketball hoop. Recently we took out your little tee ball set, and after only showing you what to do once or twice, you were hitting balls off the tee no problem! You also understand the concept of throwing & we like to play catch with you, in our own little way. It’s more like a complicated game of fetch, honestly. 😉 Haha

I think the rest of our adventures recently can be told in pictures & videos (and I apologize in advance as there are probably not going to be in chronological order)….

Easter festivities! We actually did an egg hunt/ meet the bunny event with my mom’s group the weekend before, then spent Easter in Hampton with all your grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins. You were much more into it this year, although it took some persuasion to have you put eggs in the basket (rather than immediately opening them to eat the contents, LOL).

We finished up your first round of swim lessons a few weeks ago. You got a fancy little certificate & everything! I think we’ll do this again next spring, when you’re old enough to move up to the next age group. You & I had so much fun with it, and as you can see many of our friends took the class with us… but admittedly, I’m glad to have my Saturday mornings back. 😉

Never a shortage of good times with Dad! You guys have such an awesome bond. I remember when you were a newborn & Dad was worried that you would never like him as much as me… I think he realizes now how silly that was!

There are a few of my favorite photos taken recently. I may be biased but good GRIEF you are adorable! I’m so glad you ended up with my blue eyes. You are going to steal the ladies’ hearts someday! Other than my coloring though, you are the spitting image of Dad. Speaking of cute pictures….

We had some family photos taken a few weeks ago, and I think they turned out really great! It can very hard to capture pictures of you smiling, as you almost never smile on demand (we’ve been working on the whole “say cheese” thing but no dice yet), so hats off to our photographer, Amanda Pham! 🙂

As you can see, lots of fun to be had with Mom too. 😉 The first couple pictures are from Mother’s Day. You & dad brought me breakfast in bed and let me have the morning to myself, then we went out to lunch and geocaching at the park. It was such a fun day… But days with my two favorite guys are always fun!

And that’s about where things are at the moment. This weekend we’ll be headed to WV for our annual family reunion with Dad’s side of the family. It should be a lot of fun! A weekend away with family & fresh air is just what the doctor ordered, and a great “kick off” to the summer season. Not long after that, Dad & I are going on our first vacation since before you were born… and frankly, I’m a little nervous about leaving you for so long (four days). But it should be a good thing for all of us, and it’s for a worthy occasion– my & Dad’s 5th wedding anniversary! It’s hard to believe how much a life can change in just five years. Makes me wonder what the next five years will bring….

Until next time, sweet boy! 🙂

All my love,
Mom