May 2013 Newsletter: "Almost Four"


Dear Morgan, 

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Nine months to be exact. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without giving an update and as I think back over the past several months, I realize what a mistake it was to wait so long. A lot has happened, kiddo, and you’ve changed and grown so much! There’s no way I could possibly sum it all up in one letter, but I’ll do my best to tell you what our life is like right now.

You currently love to collect things. “Treasures” as you call them. But it has to be said, your precious treasures are mostly, well… junk. Recently your obsession with this junk has become almost unmanageable. On any given day our house looks like a landfill scattered with things like bugglegum wrappers, bottlecaps, empty water bottles that now house a collection of centipedes or “roly poly” bugs, baggies full of grass and leaves, junk mail, or basically any and every random object that’s happened to spark your interest. You put these things in piles and stash them in hiding places throughout the house. And the worst part is that you remember exactly where you’ve hidden which pile of garbage and if I happen to do, I don’t know, the logical thing and throw them away, you have a complete meltdown. “My CENTIPEDES! My CANDY WRAPPERS! I put them RIGHT HERE! Where did they gooooo? Mom, this isn’t even funny anymore!” (Yes, you say that. And no, I cannot keep a straight face when you do.)

 

That’s another thing I should probably tell you about… how much you love “your” centipedes. And worms and caterpillars and beetles and moths and, well, any kind of bug you can get your hands on, really. What’s the deal with that? Didn’t your mother teach you that bugs are gross? You’ve been fond of bugs since before you could walk, but at the time I figured it was just a passing fancy. On the contrary, your love of all things creepy and crawly has only grown with time.

A few weeks ago you were at your uncle Tommy’s house playing in the dirt with your cousins when you found a worm. You immediately decided this worm was going to be your pet and gently cradled it in your hand while you continued playing. When the time came to leave, you asked if your pet worm could come home with us. Once home, you found a container, filled it with dirt and leaves and made a cozy new home for your little pet. Morgan, for several hours your entire life was about that worm. You talked to him, tried to get him to eat, even sang him a sweet little lullaby as you put him down for a nap. It was one of the strangest, but most precious things I’ve ever witnessed. But then, as I was cooking dinner, you came to me and said, “Mom, I don’t want my worm anymore. He’s broken.” And sure enough, that darn worm had mysteriously broken into three separate pieces. You insisted you had no idea what happened, that you just found him like that when he was supposed to be napping. I pretended to believe you but made a mental note to never leave you alone with a sleeping baby, just in case.

You’re very smart, Morgan. I know every parent thinks that about their children, but you’re really smart. And I’m not just talking about things like counting to 20 or being able to recite the alphabet. You’re smart in ways that I can’t really explain. You just get things. Things that a child your age should have no grasp of, yet you understand them so well. You’re also smart in that you know how to manipulate people. For instance if I tell you that no, you cannot have a popsicle right now, you know that if you sit next to your dad, put your hand on his arm, flash him those gorgeous blue eyes of yours and sweetly say, “Daddy, can I have a popsicle, pretty please?” he’s going to give in. No questions asked. You have that man wrapped around your little finger in a way that sometimes terrifies me. Which is why you won’t be allowed to date for… let’s see, you’re almost four now, so… another 31 years at least.

Someone recently asked me at what point you start saying a child is “almost” whatever age. Like, once they’re three and a half, are they suddenly almost four? Or is there a particular time between three and four when it becomes appropriate to say almost? I guess I don’t have a solid answer for that, but with your birthday being only three months away, I definitely think it’s okay to say that you’re almost four. And in your mind that means one thing – you can almost go to school! You’ve been telling people for months that you get to go to school once you turn four, and you are incredibly excited about that idea. You routinely fill your little backpack with papers and crayons, then sit in the corner of the living room “at school” for a while before you come to me asking for help with your “homework”. My little love, if you stay this excited about school beyond the first week you’re in attendance, I’ll be ecstatic!

The biggest change that has taken place in the last nine months has definitely been me quitting my job. For several reasons I chose to stop working near the end of last year and for five months now I’ve been a stay at home mom. Being able to spend each day together is something I’ve wanted since the moment I found out I was pregnant with you. And Morgan, I wish I could say it was everything I ever wanted or that it’s been the easiest and best decision I’ve ever made. But the truth is, while parts of it have been nothing short of amazing… it’s also really hard. Harder than any other job I’ve had. (I don’t know if saying that makes me a bad mom. I hope not. I hope it just means that I’m honest, and I also hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.)

There are days that end in tears, with me seriously questioning whether or not I was cut out for motherhood. More and more I’m learning how much you and I are alike, and while it’s thrilling to see so much of myself when I look at you, it’s also incredibly difficult because it means that we butt heads… a lot. You are stubborn and sassy and by far the most independent child I have ever met, and all of these things make it hard to be your mom sometimes.

When you’re old enough to read and understand what I’ve written, I don’t want you to read those paragraphs and feel bad. Because as hard as it can be, as frustrating as my days are sometimes, you are without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. In a world that can be scary and confusing, you are my constant; you’re what keeps me grounded. When I start to question choices I’ve made, I can look at you and know with certainty that by bringing you into this world, I’ve done at least one thing exactly right. More than anything or any person I’ve known before, you have made me more capable of loving, have made me a stronger person by challenging me, and have taught me more about myself than I ever would have learned without you. Yes, the days are sometimes long and most of the time I feel like you’re a raging wildfire I have no hope of containing, but I’m overwhelmingly grateful that somehow I got lucky enough to spend so much of my time with the most loving and vibrant human being I’ve ever met.

And I’m confident that one day (maybe when you have a child of your own) you’ll understand what I mean when I say that you, Little One, are what drives me most crazy in life… yet somehow you’re the only thing that keeps me sane.

I love you to the moon and back, baby girl.

Love,
Mama

August 2012 Newsletter: 3 years old


Dear Morgan, 

This weekend we celebrated your third birthday. Three years old!?! When and how did that happen? Unfortunately you weren’t able to enjoy much of your birthday this year because a few days ago you decided to try to bite your tongue off. I’m not even kidding. Had those sharp little teeth of yours bit down any further, you would have lost about half your tongue! Several hours of crying, a trip to the emergency room and one very nervous momma made for the kind of evening I don’t ever want to repeat. But the fact that you still weren’t eating (or even really opening your mouth, for that matter) by the time your birthday party rolled around meant that I got to eat your ice cream and help you blow out your candles.

Not gonna lie, that part was pretty rad.

 

 
Your dad and I have recently reached a point where we are consciously having to stop ourselves from saying certain words around you because of your fondness for repeating them. It’s not that we curse a lot… well, okay it is that. It’s exactly that. It’s not a fact I’m necessarily proud of, and I promise that we’ve both been trying to do better since you came along, but when I overhear you telling a spider “get outta my house you little bastard” I realize there is definitely room for improvement. So we’ve found ourselves replacing swear words with ridiculous things like “goo head” or “holy lampshade”. Basically anything that we can think of that we won’t be embarrassed by when you decide to repeat it in front of my grandma. 

 

One word that we’ve been saying a lot, thanks to you actually, is “soaking”. One afternoon, after spending hours in and out of the kiddie pool in the backyard, I told you that it was time to come inside because you were soaking wet and it was getting cold. “Yep, I’m soaking wet!” you said, but later it became, “That was soaking fun!” And since that day, you seem to use that word any time you need to describe something.

You’re soaking crazy, Mom.
That’s soaking awesome!
I’m soaking tired.
This mac-n-cheesaroni is soaking good!

 

Almost every day, after I pick you up from the babysitter’s and we’re on our way home you’ll ask me if Shylee is going to be there. You love your sister, always have. Only now, that love has transformed from an innocent, sweet, totally-in-awe love into the kind of love most siblings share — a teasing, competitive, I-can-totally-punch-harder-than-you type of love.
If it’s been a while since the two of you have seen each other, the first couple hours of your reunion are wonderful. You greet her with a giant hug and your enormous smile and the two of you rush into your bedroom or out into the yard to play. But it’s isn’t long before your care-free, balls out approach to life starts cramping her style and I hear Shylee shout something like, “Jenny, Morgan isn’t playing the game correctly” immediately followed by you making a mad dash through the living room butt naked, holding a headless Barbie in one hand and a handful of half-eaten crayons in the other. She likes her toys put neatly away or placed in small, organized piles in the corner of the closet. You like them dunked in the toilet, thrown down the stairs and then buried in various places throughout the backyard.
Recently (after hearing about the bug you carried around in your pocket for an entire day, occasionally pulling him out to ask “hey bug, you dead?”) a friend of mine told me that you have a very interesting personality. That you do, kiddo. In fact, I would dare say that you are the most interesting person I have ever met. You are not a typical little girl in that you absolutely love bugs, dinosaurs, tractors and monster trucks. You know the names of the Disney Princesses not because you enjoy watching princess movies, but because your sister makes you play her princess matching card game with her. You prefer movies like Megamind and Open Season over those silly ol’ princess movies any day. You love to shoot guns with your daddy, and the volume and strength with which you belch after a good drink of chocolate milk could put a drunken old man to shame. Yet you’re still very much my sweet little girl.
You love to cuddle and probably four out of five mornings you find your way to our bedroom before it’s light outside, lift up the covers and snuggle right next to me until the sun comes up. You know you have a spot next to Mama and you are always welcome to come cuddle up there.
The other night after you hurt your tongue, you slept next to me all night. As you tossed and turned, crying out at times, I thought about the events of the night and right then something happened: I got it! I suddenly understood fully and completely how a person could do anything for their child. I always knew I loved you deeply, even before you were born, there’s never been any question about that. But this was a different feeling, one I don’t really know how to articulate. This was the feeling that I never wanted to see you hurting, that I would gladly do whatever was necessary to take your pain away, that I needed to take that pain from you, even though I knew there was really nothing I could do.
Morgan, my whole life I’ve been the one in hospitals, undergoing surgery and endlessly being poked by needles, but it’s been okay. I’ve tried to be tough and most of the time I handle things with at least a little dignity. But when your dad drove us to the hospital that night, I was a total wreck. Simply anticipating the fear and discomfort you would feel was enough to break me and I cried the whole way to the hospital. Heaven forbid anything more serious ever happens to you because I almost didn’t make it through a little tongue biting!
You’ve not been yourself since your little accident. You’ve said maybe a total of 25 words in the past four days, you’ve been whiny, you’ve been sad, you’ve refused to eat (I’ve been keeping you alive with juice, Ensure and Scandi Shakes) and you haven’t been sleeping well. Just tonight, a couple hours ago in fact, you finally ate something! I gave you just a little bit of oatmeal, not expecting much but hoping you would at least try it. It took a little while for you to build up the courage, but eventually you took a bite and as soon as that oatmeal hit your belly, you immediately transformed back into the little girl I know and love so much. You shoveled the rest of the oatmeal in your mouth, then promptly asked for more.
After finishing the second bowl you began telling me all the things you’ve been dying to tell me over the past four days. It’s like all the words had built up inside of you and now that you were feeling a bit better they were just spilling out uncontrollably.
You talked while you changed into your jammies. You talked while I took your ponytails out and brushed your hair. You attempted to talk while you (gently) brushed your teeth. You talked while I tucked you in, and you continued to talk after I had kissed you goodnight and closed your bedroom door. As I quietly sat outside your door listening to you jabbering away on the other side I thought to myself, “I’m glad you’re back, kiddo. I soaking missed you!”
Love,
Mama

February 2012 Newsletter: 2 and 1/2 years

Dear Morgan,

You’re two and a half years old now, little one! I haven’t written for a while and for the most part, you are to blame for that. You definitely know how to keep me on my toes! When I’m not actively on my toes I’m usually sacked out on the bed, a snoring, drooling heap of flesh, completely exhausted from having been on my toes all day long. It sounds like I’m complaining but really I’m not, because as tiring as it can be to keep up with you, I can always, always count on you to keep life interesting. It’s a fair trade off in my opinion.

The past few months have been (much like all the other months with you) fun and exhausting and crazy and busy and frustrating… and wonderful. The past few weeks especially have been nothing but an endless river of words coming out of your mouth. There have been a few times that I’ve stood there, listening to you jabber on and on about something and I’ve found myself seriously wondering if your mouth was ever going to close again. You’ve recently begun telling elaborate stories and singing songs with real lyrics… well, almost. Though you get the gist of most songs, sometimes the exact words are a little bit off like, “hush little baby, don’t say that” or “rocking baby, falling treetops”.

Something we should discuss perhaps is the concept that all these words you’re saying – they actually have meaning! For instance, when you ask for some juice and then, upon seeing the cup of juice I’ve set in front of you, immediately throw your body on the floor and scream, “No, I want MILK!” you are denying both of us the experience of effective communication. When you ask for juice, you get juice. Not milk, or water, or vodka (which is what Mommy sometimes wants in these moments). That’s basically how this whole communication thing works. Until you’re married and tell your husband, “it’s fine. Go ahead.” That one certainly does not mean what it sounds like it means, but that’s an exception to an otherwise pretty steadfast rule.

We’ve spent a lot of time indoors this winter and I can tell that it’s really starting to get to you. Most of the time when we’re home, you’re running around the house like a caged animal who has just tasted freedom for the first time. There is a well worn path in the middle of the staircase that runs from the tippy-top step to the very bottom one from you sliding down the stairs backwards on your tummy. You recently asked to go swimming and when I explained that it was too cold to go swimming anywhere outside you asked excitedly, “swim in baff tub?” I have to be honest, I didn’t believe that putting a bathing suit and water shoes on you would make taking a bath any more exciting, but boy was I wrong! You had so much fun that now “bathtub swimming” is a regular occurrence in our house.
Lately right before bedtime, you’ve been getting one heck of a second wind. You like to run around in circles all over the living room until it’s time to brush your teeth, and often when you’re finished with that you say, “Let me run around just one more time, okay Mom.” And then you proceed to run around the living room another sixteen times. Surprisingly, this does not tire you out nor make you any more inclined to actually stay in your bed. Without fail, a few minutes after you’ve been put to bed you come wandering out of your bedroom and that’s when the excuses start. Usually they’re pretty run-of-the-mill: Mommy, I need a drink. I need to go potty. I need to run around just ooone more time. But sometimes they’re pretty darn clever! In fact just last night you insisted that a turtle had climbed into your crib and you needed to sleep with me so that it wouldn’t “get” you. When all else fails you resort to something simple like I need a hug, Mama, and though you haven’t figured it out yet, that one buys you an extra two or three minutes every single time.
I see so much of myself in you, but at the same time you are  your father’s daughter. You like his food, but my music. You have his love for the outdoors and my love for animals. You are social and enjoy being around people as much as I do, and you can’t stand to sit still for more than five minutes like your daddy. And then there are things about you that are all you. You’re definitely your own little person, and I love that about you. Though I love to see pieces of us in you, it’s even more fun to catch the little glimpses of the strong individual you are becoming.

Something that never, ever ceases to amaze me is the wonderment with which you see the world. Everything is exciting to you, every experience an opportunity for fun. Recently we went grocery shopping and as soon as we walked into the store you saw that they had a shopping cart made especially for kids in the shape of a car. You immediately climbed behind the steering wheel and squealed with delight, even before we started moving. When I began pushing the cart forward your laughter was so loud that it echoed throughout the entire store.

Later, after we had purchased our groceries and were on our way out to the car, I gave the cart an extra push and hopped on the back so were quickly coasting through the parking lot. I looked down at you — the cool air blowing your hair back, a gigantic smile on your face, this genuine and unbridled laughter seemingly resonating through mout your entire body — and I couldn’t help but laugh right along with you. You enjoyed that cart ride more than most people enjoy life, I think, and it was a humbling reminder that I need to make a better effort to enjoy the little things in my own life. Even if it’s something as ordinary as pushing a shopping cart through the parking lot.

Promise me you’ll hold on to that sense of wonder as long as you possibly can.

Love,
Mama

October 2011 Newsletter: 2 years, 2 months

Dear Morgan,
One day (in the distant future, heaven help me) you’re going to learn how to drive a car. Knowing you, you’re probably going to drive that car very fast and to all sorts of places you shouldn’t. The thought of you behind the steering wheel terrifies me almost as much as peeling the wrapper off a cylindrical container of dinner rolls, waiting for them to POP! Almost. But I’m getting off track. The point is that after you’ve been driving for a while and you’ve driven to the same places (school, work, the grocery store) over and over again, every once in a while you’re going to pull into a parking space or stop at a red light and suddenly realize that you have no recollection of actually driving there. You’ll find yourself thinking, “How did I end up here? Didn’t I just leave my driveway ten seconds ago?”

 

That’s how these past couple months of parenting have been for me. More than once I’ve found myself looking at you and thinking, “How the heck did we get here? When did you start speaking in whole sentences? When did your hair get long enough to pull up into a single pony tail? When did you start saying Shylee instead of Yeylee?” I can’t put my finger on exactly when these things happened, all I know is that you’re not the baby of last year or even the toddler of a few months ago. You’re a little girl, and I have no idea how it happened so quickly (but don’t get me wrong, I still call you my baby).
You currently love: watching Yo Gabba Gabba, coloring (on paper, yes, but even more so on the walls or any other surface you shouldn’t be coloring on), riding in your stroller when we go for a walk, playing dress-up with your sister, taking baths, riding your tricycles (yes, you have more than one), going to any of your Grandma’s houses, and eating as much candy as you can get your hands on.

 

Your vocabulary has really taken off in the last month or two and I’m constantly amazed at the things that come out of your mouth. The other day you burped and then exclaimed, very proudly, “Mama! I tooted mouth!” You make demands on a whole new level now, often adding a “RIGHT NOW!” for effect, and you really like to say the word “really” (I really have no idea where you picked that one up).
You still struggle with correct pronunciations, so a lot of your words are kind of funny: you say “ya-pooma” instead of you’re welcome, “babaloo” instead of caterpillar, “fooda” instead of soda, and so on. Since you still get the words you and me confused, you frequently say things like “hold you me” or “come with you me”. Part of the porcelain on our toilet cracked a while ago and when it happened we warned you not to touch it so that you didn’t get cut on the jagged edge. Now, weeks later, every single time you walk into the bathroom, you point at the toilet tank and say very seriously, “That will REALLY cut you me.”
I have to make a confession: I may have underestimated these Terrible Two’s. I knew it would be rough, I knew I’d go a little crazy, but I honestly thought we’d be able to survive the experience intact. Now? Well, now I’m not so sure. Did you know that there have been more books written about how to parent a two-year-old than any other age group? (Trust me, I’ve been looking.) It seems that I’m not the only one who is having a hard time with this phase. One thing we’ve really been working on lately is learning to name your emotions. Rather than the drop-and-shriek reaction you usually have to any perceived injustice against you, we are trying to have you tell us what is wrong. Sometimes I have to scoop you up in my arms, limp and sobbing, and ask you several times before you’ll give me any kind of answer. But once you’re willing to tell me how you’re feeling, we’re able to talk through things and figure out a solution. We’ve been having a lot of conversations along these lines:
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!”
“What’s the matter, Morgan?”
“Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!”
“Morgan, are you hurt? Or are you sad.”

“Saaaaaaaaaaaad!”

“You’re sad? I’m sorry, it’s no fun to be sad. What is making you sad?”
“Dixie make me sad.”
“Oh no, what did Dixie do?”
“Dixie eat cracker!”

Nine times out of ten, you’ve completely stopped crying by the time you tell me what happened. Simply having you put a name to your emotions has been the most monumental step in learning how to navigate these Terrible Two’s so far. And that makes me think that maybe, just maybe, we’ll pull through this okay.

 

I love you to the moon and back, little one.

Love,
Mama

August 2011 Newsletter: Happy 2nd Birthday, Morgan

Dear Morgan,

You turned two years old last week, though I have to tell you that I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible. I mean one minute you’re in my arms, this sweet, helpless little baby with a squishy face and saggy skin who does nothing but eat, sleep and poop (my goodness did you poop!) and then suddenly you’re this little person who talks and uses the potty and has an opinion about EVERYTHING.

 

Can we talk about that, Morgan? This need you have to speak your mind about everything? Can I expect that to stop anytime soon, or should I stop trying to wait this phase out and just get used to it? There are things must be done a certain way and if they’re not done in a way that you deem satisfactory, all hell breaks loose. For example, when we’re driving and I happen to be sitting in front of you, the seat must be reclined far enough back that you can touch it with your toes. As soon as we get into a vehicle you assess the back-of-the-seat situation and if things aren’t to your liking, you immediately start screaming “That! That!” or “Do it! Do it!” As if I know exactly what that is and what needs to be done with it. (Though this scenario has played out enough now that I actually do know what you want and I quickly oblige, so I guess you win this one.)
These Terrible Two’ss are rough, kiddo. I was in tears twice this week due to sheer frustration with you. Life would be SO MUCH easier if you could just understand a few things:
1) It isn’t always your turn. I love that you are beginning to grasp the concept of taking turns, but in order for it to really work you have to let other people take their turn, too. 2) When I say something, I really mean what I say. For instance, when I ask you to stop doing something, put something away, please sit down, etc, I actually want you to do what I’ve asked. I’m not trying to use some kind of reverse psychology tactic on you. I’m really pretty simple that way. On that same note, when you ask for another cookie and I tell you they’re all gone, I mean that they’re all gone. As in – there are no more; they have ceased to exist. Believe it or not, I don’t magically produce cookies and repeating your demands over and over, louder and louder each time, does not make the Mystical Cookie Fairy appear on her winged pony.
3) Sometimes it’s just easier for me to do something rather than wait for you to do it. As much as it upsets you when I do it myself, I promise that there will plenty of other opportunities for you to sweep the kitchen floor.

Your confidence grows each day and you like to assert your independence at any given opportunity — dressing yourself, emptying the contents of your potty chair into the toilet after you’ve gone to the bathroom, climbing in and out of your crib unassisted, opening your own string cheese or yogurt, choosing which items on your plate you want to eat and which ones you’d rather give to Dixie. It seems like each day there is something new you want to try and, while this can sometimes be a great source of frustration for me, it makes me proud to say that more often than not, you succeed at those new things.

Your vocabulary gets bigger every day and you’ve become quite the little parrot. You like to repeat the things you hear, which is funny until you repeat a naughty word you’ve overheard your daddy say. (If I were being totally honest I would tell you that it’s actually hilarious when you repeat swear words. But since it would be a perfect example of bad parenting, I won’t admit that I sometimes ask you to repeat them just to make me giggle.) You’ve taken to calling your dad “Honey” or “Babe” and you frequently argue with him, insisting that I’m your wife. One of my favorite things to hear you say is, “Wee har you, honey?” or “Wee go, Mama?” when you’re wandering through the house looking for your dad or I.
Morgan, I’ve always been under the impression that living with a two year old is basically a string of horrible experiences juxtaposed with a few moments of laughter. I’m not very far into this journey, but I think my opinion of two year olds is changing. If this year turns out to be anything like the last two, I think it’s safe to assume that there will be those moments of horror, but there will also be plenty of laughter and more than a few moments of absolute wonder. Though I recognize the many ways you’ve grown and constantly find myself amazed at what a little girl you’re becoming, there are times that I look at you, especially when you’re sleeping, and see my little newborn again. You still have her same round nose and soft skin. You breathe the same sigh of contentment she did when she snuggled into my chest. You have her chubby toes and wide fists. The top of your head still smells the same.
And you’re still the very essence of my heart, mind, and soul.
Happy (late) birthday!
Love,
Mama