Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Dear Elliott,

You are one! How did this happen? Your first year has flown by and I don't think I've really accepted that it's ending. Of course this ending is the very best kind of beginning, but you'll have to forgive me for feeling a little sad that your proper babyhood is over. It's funny - when your brother was one I thought he looked like such a big grownup toddler, but I do still think you look like my baby. You remain round of cheek and belly, soft of thigh and hair. You still suck the middle two fingers of your right hand to soothe yourself. You have the most amazing eyelashes I have ever seen. I sometimes bury my face in your laundry and breathe in your sweet smell. Sadly for me, you are not much of a sleep snuggler. You'll nap on my lap sitting on the couch or in the rocking chair, but I don't often have a chance to sit for long and enjoy it. And if I try to bring you to bed with me, you just wiggle, try to climb out, or complain. I still want to keep you close, though, so your crib is still beside my bed and I must admit I'm not in any hurry to move it. Though I should never admit this for fear of jinxing it, you sleep through almost every night and are generally a very good napper. When I pick you up after work or get you from your crib in the morning or after a nap, you usually lay your head on my shoulder for a few moments, snuggling in. It is one of my very favorite things ever.

You have two top and two bottom teeth and two more top teeth are just starting to cut through as of yesterday. You say mamamamama and dadadadada and sometimes bye. You have signed more a few times. You like to kiss the pictures of babies in your bedtime book and beam at yourself in the mirror in the back of the new book you got for your birthday. If I put you in your pen in the living room with toys, you'll often play by yourself for pretty long stretches of time. You also enjoy playing with big brother in your bedroom floor in the mornings. Your favorite toys are your wooden disk rattle, the Little People barn, and your wooden chunky puzzles. You put everything in your mouth so I have to watch you closely and can't let you spend much time alone with board books. We have you in baby swimming lessons at the Y and you seem to like them. You spend most of class floating happily on your back with my hand under your rear. You still fit in the Beco though increasingly are allowed to get down and crawl around on outings. I'm interested to see if you'll tolerate being worn when the weather gets better and we go back to the zoo...I hope you will.

You have a strong personality but you are also immensely easygoing and sweet. You are happy most of the time, and have the best and biggest grin in all of babydom. You can properly crawl and cruise all over. You like to eat baby fruit, but only if it's mixed with cereal, and you also like yogurt. So far you're not a big fan of finger foods, though you will crack Cheerios in half with your four teeth before spitting them back out onto your bib, and you'll nibble pancakes into little bitty pieces. You only nurse first thing in the morning and take your milk by bottle the rest of the time. You are a big fan of your big brother, and will light up when he comes into the room. When he plays with you in your baby pen, you'll throw yourself up onto his back and try to hang on as he crawls away. You seem more physical and more daring than he ever was, and now can climb up onto the bouncy seat or the nursing stool in your room and stand up. You are bold and funny, loving and curious, and sometimes very loud. It's been a year since you were lifted out into the world, and you've been lighting it up ever since. Happy, happy birthday, my beautiful little one.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

such great heights

Back in November, the weekly community playgroup where I sometimes take the boys was offering ages and stages developmental screenings so I went ahead and filled them out. There were a few minor not-quite-red-flags on Nico's that I pretty much knew would be there, things that on paper point to gross motor, fine motor, and social delays but that I suspected were just signs of Nico's Nico-ness. For instance, I truly don't think that he can't climb the ladder of a playground slide - it's just that most of the slides he encounters have stairs instead and he chooses not to play on slides despite my encouragement. Likewise, I was 100% certain he could feed himself with a spoon, he just wouldn't. He was still a few months away from his fourth birthday, so I kept the screening paperwork but refused to worry much. Then, in January, his preschool teacher filled out similar developmental screenings for the kids and brought the results to our parent-teacher conferences. Two weeks past Nico's fourth birthday, those possibly reddish colored flags were still there. His teacher (who is truly wonderful and a fantastic cheerleader for Nico) and I talked over the shared concern we felt over some of the things, and then I asked his pediatrician about them. I figured if he did need to be formally evaluated, better sooner than later. His doctor (who is a huge Nico fan and looked at me like I was a little nuts for even asking) didn't feel I should be concerned at all, and lamented the tendency to try to fit every kid into a predetermined box of abilities. I wasn't ready to dismiss the possibility that Nico has some mild sensory processing issues, but I felt comfortable waiting and seeing what he'd do in his own time.

Turns out I didn't need to wait too long - Nico's been checking off flags and concerns left and right the past few weeks. He drank from an open cup at school (a feat celebrated by excited texts from his teacher as it was happening). He started feeding himself his morning yogurt without protest (except for the hard-to-get last couple of bites). After refusing for over two years to let me teach him the correct way to hold scissors, he spent half an hour cutting a piece of construction paper into minuscule pieces while I was getting the house ready for Elliott's birthday party on Saturday. I was so happy that I wasn't even cranky about the mess. And today at a classmate's birthday party, I heard him ask another child, "Hey, do you want to play with me?" and he played well and appropriately with the other children for almost two hours.

There are still definitely things he doesn't do that the surveys and checklists say he should. He still has some catching up to do when it comes to things like hopping on one foot and catching a ball. But on his own schedule, to his own beat, he's blossoming, and I couldn't be prouder.

"I love you as high as I can jump! Mommy, I'm practicing my jumping. Jumping is like dancing!"

Friday, February 14, 2014

little prints

Last Saturday when Nico and I came home, there were little tracks all over the snow in the driveway. I pointed out the bird tracks, the rabbit tracks, and took some pictures of them with my phone. I went to get something from the car and came back to find Nico had made his own little tracks all over the snow. "Mommy, I made prints!" he told me. "Now you can take a picture!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

hot mess express

My left ear finally un-clogged for the first time in a week and following a month of one cold after another, I finally feel mostly normal today. The joy I feel over these long-awaited developments is somewhat diminished by the fact that I somehow managed to close the car door on my thumb last night. I squashed it right across the nail bed and it hurts like...well, like a motherfucker, honestly. Last night I tried to ignore the building constant thrum of pain for a few hours, then broke out the leftover good drugs they gave me but I barely used after my c-section. This morning I got barfy and lightheaded while changing Elliott's diaper and had to do some deep breathing. Because of how I pinched it, any pressure on the pad of my thumb hurts just as bad as any bump to the side or top. Good thing it's just my right thumb so it's not like I need it for anythi--OH, WAIT.

Things I have discovered to require more thumb-involvement than I ever realized:

>> changing a diaper
>> unhooking my bra
>> refastening my nursing bra clips
>> tying shoes
>> using scissors, especially small ones
>> typing
>> texting
>> writing by hand
>> folding socks

When I was in third grade, I shut my left hand in the door of my mom's big metal Chevy Impala. It gouged a big chunk out of my first finger, just below the knuckle. I remember being at school one day and my band-aid falling off. I went to my teacher to ask for another and she, presumably used to kids' frivolous band-aid requests, asked me skeptically why I needed it. I held up my gory finger and can still recall the burst of (probably bratty) satisfaction I felt when she visibly recoiled at the sight of it. She did give me the band-aid after that.

The good news is that while my thumb still hurts this evening, it hasn't tried to make me throw up in over 12 hours, so I think we'll be on good terms again soon. Hopefully I can avoid becoming infected with any new gross ailments or hurting myself in any additional stupid ways for the rest of the season.

Reading:  Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Playing:  Led Zeppelin IV

Sunday, February 09, 2014

little light of mine

I'm sitting in a high, wide windowsill at the children's museum (which used to be a library, which I sort of love...as if in a way, in its bones, it'll always be a little bit libraryish) and watching Nico play. I am absolutely positive I get judged a lot for bringing him here and then pecking away at my phone most of the time. But I don't bring him here so I can dictate and guide his play; I bring him here so he can play how he wants and hopefully learn a few lessons about sharing space with small humans who aren't related to him. I enjoy watching him play in his particular Nico way, somewhat focused and inward-turned, often narrating with bits of dialogue from his current favorite episodes of Mighty Machines. He'll end up spending our entire 3 1/2 hour visit in one big room today, moving from activity to activity but never venturing out into the rest of the building.

In the way of all kids everywhere, he spent nearly an hour playing with the very same Duplo blocks he has at home but only plays with in short bursts there. Then abruptly he was done and went to play with the Tonka trucks in the shredded tire bin for thirty minutes. Then he abandoned that to go play with the wall-building house, an activity area he has ignored since we started coming here in his first year. He's peculiarly non-efficient, walking all the way around the open-walled house to carry one foam brick at a time from the back of the house to the doorway in front. It's an exercise in meditation for me to not tell him a better way to do it, to not suggest more than once that he pile the bricks into the wheelbarrow and then carry them all at once around to the door. Or use the bricks that are already piled inside the hollow house. I saw something on facebook the other day about not realizing how type-A one was until attempting to decorate cookies with one's children. And yes, amen, preach, for making cookies and a whole host of other things which I have learned to just let go.

When Nico was tiny I used to daydream about him as a child, as a teenager. I didn't imagine him as a straight-A student (though that would be nice) or a football star or class president. I always daydreamed about how nice it would be if he turned out to be the kind of kid who made friends easily, who was effortlessly popular without being horrible. I went to grade school with a boy like that, who was class-clowny but sweet and never mean to anyone. Everyone liked him, and he never got his laughs at the expense of anyone else, something I appreciated as the class outcast. And there's the crux of the issue, really. I never fit in well, never made friends easily, and when I daydream a better future for my kids, that's what I imagine away for them. But as Nico becomes less baby and more Nico every day, it's clear that he's a little more like me than I hoped for in the ways I have wished he could skip. He often doesn't seem to know what to do with other kids, doesn't always share well, can turn inward and shy when another kid approaches and tries to engage him.

But as I wrote this, as I was literally in the midst of it, another little boy approached, maybe a little younger than Nico. He started bringing foam bricks and tossing them into the house with Nico, and Nico decided this was acceptable and actually a fun game. The other boy's mom came over and encouraged her son to ask Nico his name. They played in the same space companionably for about half an hour before it was time for the other kid to go home. We usually stay until the very last call, so we were still puttering around when a handful of employees swept into the room and started picking up all the pieces and parts of things that kids had scattered all over. Without any nudging from me, Nico pitched in to help and kept at it until the work was done. Then he let me help him wash his hands and we put on our coats and headed for the car, hand-in-hand through the beginning of a slight snow shower.

He might turn out to be an odd kid, a weird kid, a little bit of an oversensitive kid. But he's also funny and sweet and smart and kind and full of the capacity to surprise me. There's always a chance a difficult social childhood will even out later, for I now have a group of the best and most wonderful friends anyone could ask for, and I will always hope for my kids to find the same thing. And most of all, above it all, Nico is a good kid, a really good one. I think that matters most of all.