Tuesday, September 24, 2013

late summer..early fall

Dear Kids,
Summer is pretty much over by now. We had a fairly glorious summer. We were in our new house, that we love. Every square inch of. The weather was not like it was the last summer or two (Satan's den of pain), we had short bouts of mild weather in the 80's! It was heaven. We went on our first family-of-4 vacation, to Grand Cayman and ok yes, we all were struck down like helpless moths to a severe Rotavirus, but we still made memories dammit. The Caribbean waters were still surreal, and we saw/held turtles, we stayed in a gorgeous condo (that we later desecrated with said Rotavirus), ate at beautiful restaurants, saw a sunset or two.. let's just leave it at that. And Pablo was attacked by a bird while he barfed in some bushes... ok NOW we can leave it at that.
Let's start with you, Andrew. I know I said I'd not discuss that trip - but something struck me about the whole experience. A few weeks after being back home, you started saying you missed Grand Cayman. And how you want to go back someday, very badly. We flat-out told you no, we would never go back, sorry kiddo. We left too much of ourselves there. Too much trauma! The HOA pool is nice though, right? It struck me that amidst that awful indescribable few days there, you still clung to the good memories. The ones of us swimming in perfect waters, together. You somehow indubitably blocked out the hours you spent sobbing between your father and I, both hooked up to IVs and worthless to hold you in our arms
, getting poked over and over and over for a successful IV in your tiny arm. Barfing and soiling your pants, in a foreign country. You only remembered the good. I cannot even put into words how that impresses me. I hope you can keep that selective positive memory as long as possible.

I started this summer with very ambitious plans to spend more quality time with you than normal. Which, really isn't THAT ambitious, given that most time I do spend with you, is quality! You get me ALL the livelong day long. So, regardless of what we're doing.. laundry, reading, eating, playing, arguing over your tone and attitude - I call it quality. Parenting experts probably wouldn't, but you see, I do not care about those people. But this summer, what I really wanted to happen was for ME to be more in-the-moment. To really soak up your boyhood, and make some pre-Kindergarten memories of my own. KINDERGARTEN. It was quickly approaching on the horizon, and sort of dictated a lot of decisions I made. Should we go out for cupcakes, just because? Did you earn that cupcake? Nope, not really, doesn't matter, you're starting Kindergarten and the march to total-independence is now upon us, so please, here, take all the cupcakes. Just take it, while I watch you eat it and imagine how you once fit on my arm - fingertips to inner-elbow. (*Your father haaaates it when I say things like that, he really doesn't like being reminded about the passing of time.) It's not that I'm sad about Kindergarten. What's there to be sad about? It's Kindergarten - unarguably your most fun year of school you will ever have. And if your Senior year is the most fun evar, then you're probably not getting into your first pick of colleges, so we'll have that conversation another time. So yes, Kindergarten.. it's just heavy, is all. Your grandmother kept your father out of Kindergarten (did not affect earning potential or social skills, thankfully!) and when I first heard that, years ago, I thought that was nuts. Just absolutely crazy. But you know, I get it. If I was a little more accepting and open with my neuroses, I might consider the same. It would be easier..  to keep you home. Tucked in the nest. To pretend that you're not growing up and out. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, my son. But, there you go. It's just hard. It's a milestone, and all milestones are hard.. and equal parts great.. and some parts sad. I think it's a lot to do with 'the bubble'. Since the day you were born, it's been our job to keep you bubbled. And I think we've done a pretty decent job with not keeping you so bubbled that you were aware of it. Or strange from it. You get little new freedoms all the time, as you grow, and it's really fun to watch... but you've never seen a movie with major violence or questionable language. We just don't see the point, given your age. We don't let you play with toy guns, because we don't want you to ever think guns are toys, even when they're packaged to be. We don't let you ride your bike, for any amount of time, without a helmet because SERIOUSLY SON IT'S YOUR HEAD. We don't tolerate, for one second, the notion of teasing or putdowns, in real-life or on TV. The word 'stupid' is punishable more than any other word. And I know, without a doubt, that you will soon become friends, by Kindergarten default, with children who have questionable language (by our standards, at least), watch violent movies, play with toy guns, tease other kids (possibly you), and ride barefoot and helmet-less on their bikes. And really, if we're being honest, that's what I kind of dread. The others. The not being able to keep you bubbled anymore because of this fact. You're a smart kid, and you very openly question others who choose to not wear helmets (let's pretend this is a metaphor for all questionable things in life), and so I have this comfort to help me through this phase..  knowing that you're a smart kid, and you continue to make smart choices, and we'll continue to raise you up to make them. What else can we do, really? And hopefully if you see a kid eating his own boogers you'll just walk away. That's just beyond help or reason.
But Andrew, you haven't given me an easy time this summer, behaviorally speaking (it seems to be the odd-years, 1..3..5..there HAS to be scientific backing for this, I'd really love to read something). You discovered, somehow (because I've become VERY conscious of not doing it myself) to roll your eyes, as a sarcastic way of receiving useless information. You know, like pick up those dirty socks and lean over your plate. Things that you know to do, but when you are told to do them get translated as an assault that is not worthy of your time. Major eye-rolling happening lately. And major 'tude, too. You furrow your brow (which is quite substantial, thanks to your father) and stare me down with SUCH a mad look, it cuts! Over nothing, and everything sometimes. And your tone would make any hormonal teen quiver in fear. It got to the point, where I felt like I was reprimanding you more than I was actually having any kind of fun with you, during the days. And I couldn't wait to get some separation from you and your furrowed brow at the end of the day. It made my time with AVERY seem easy. Does that tell you anything?! I sit at the kitchen table at night with you father, after you two are in bed, and as I was rehashing the difficult day one night, he came up with a plan. That turned out to be the solution (so far!). Because he's the better parent sometimes, who thinks logical effective thoughts. He suggested I make it a game of some sort, wherein you earn points for making good choices, and having a positive attitude. And if you reached some arbitrary number (we picked 30) by the day's end, you received a reward. The next day I told you about this new game, and you were ALL about it. You were rushing to do things to earn points - picking up socks left on the floor, opening the stair-gate for me as I went up or down..  you got insanely excited when you earned a point. The day was awesome. You would start to give me attitude and then I'd witness you stop yourself dead in your tracks, remembering that you would soooo not earn a point for THAT malarkey. The first day, you earned those 30 points by the end of the day, and you got your special-treat, which turned out to be playing Fruit Ninja alone with Daddy (no Avery interruptions, I do not blame you for seeing value in this!)..your pick!  however, after the bonding time was over, you resumed the entitled-ness that prompted us to start this point-system in the first place. Same thing happened on Day 2. A great day altogether, but once you reached your goal, you lost sight of how you earned them in the first place. After Day 2, we sort of slacked off with the end-of-day reward..  you earned the points throughout the day, but the busyness of the evening sort of made everyone forget about an actual treat to be had. You never said anything about it, so we didn't either. And after about a week, week and a half, you said - 100% unprompted - 'I don't need to write points down anymore, I'll just keep them in my brain. Because I know how to have a good attitude. And the points helped me remember this.' HOLY SELF-EFFICACY BATMAN! Works for us.
You also started Kindergarten this week. I did not cry. Well, let me specify, I did not cry when we dropped you off at school. Ask your Auntie Kelly what I was doing around noon the day before, when she called me with perfect timing as I made the stupid decision to read a poignant article about raising children. Who better to hyperventilate to than one's own sister?! (You'll know what I mean someday, I hope) You were dressed so sweetly, in a little striped blue and green top and khaki shorts and cute new shoes that I knew you liked. Your lunch was packed and heavy with my overcompensating anxieties that you wouldn't eat enough. We took a great many pics, which you smiled for, some genuine, some forced and trying your best to be patient. Your father made sure he had the first day of school on his work calendar, ohhhh, about a year in advance? He wouldn't have missed walking you in. In hindsight, I think he had more nerves than all of us combined. We navigated you through the throngs of kids/parents/grandparents to the gym, where we found your teacher and the line for your class. You were first in line, because of course. No child of mine is not going to be insanely early on such an important day! We said our goodbyes, but we lingered in the back.. you saw us as you looked up every few minutes, smiled and waved. So I'm sure you were confused with why we had not left. And then we didn't want you to look up and us not be there.. and then I remembered your teacher said us parents could walk to class that first day, so there ya go! Our anxieties were appeased and we got to stick around longer. We walked with you to class, and you put your backpack up and Miss Buchanan said to find a play-doh (set at each spot) and start playing. You found a blue one, of course, opened it and that was that. I leaned down and kissed your head and waited in the hallway (where Avery was getting very vocal in her stroller with her impatience).. and then your father went in and leaned in and kissed you and whispered something in your ear. He was decidedly misty when he returned to me. We walked home, the day flew by, I picked you up and you said Kindergarten was awesome but that you were very tired. By Friday (when you bought your lunch for the first time and said it was the best food ever), on the walk home from school, you said it had been a good week but you were ready to not have to work on the weekend. I hear that.
(*It's now over a month past that first day - I am awful about clicking publish, I know this - and you are still in love with Kindergarten. I think you love how strict it is, honestly. You're always talking about the rules and who broke what rule and just general dismay that anyone would break a rule. You are obsessed with their 'Honorable Character' system, and tell me how you earn whichever ones you earn with such pride. You earn 3-4 in a day sometimes, which I hear is pretty amazing, considering earning just one is the daily goal. All the things you're learning interest you, and I love that you come home with factoids for me. You said that the 4th graders come to read to you Kindergarteners, and you love having a big reading buddy. You wave and say your goodbyes to a half dozen kids just navigating the maze when school lets out, such a social guy. I'm so glad you're thriving there, because this is the next 13 years buddy! It doesn't get easier than this..  so I hope you soak up every second.)

Avery. My Lou! You are something else. In italics and all caps. You dance as you walk, arms swaying, singing some song that makes only sense to you. Something, something.. in da sky!!! Arm gestured out and up. You are throwing us all you got these days. Trying to redefine our definition of toddler-raising, and the easy peaceful path your brother paved for us. Mealtimes are... loud. It's a complete yin-yang experience, to look to my left and gaze upon Andrew, quietly devouring his meal, stopping to thank me for said meal.. and then fearfully glance to my right, where you reside in your throne, asking for NOT THIS! THAT! I WANT THAT! I WANT THAAAAT! Pease. And then you whack the sides of your throne with whatever utensil we gave you in naive good intentions that they would get used for strictly bringing food to mouth. We warn you that we will take your __ away if you play with it. We warn you, then we have to take it away (you never heed our warnings). You screech. We ignore. 10 seconds later and you're on to whatever else. We'll give you a second chance (as life is all about this concept), and it's hit or miss. Sometimes you'll be a classic 2-yr old and resort back to the misbehavior and other times a lightbulb will go off and the meal ends in peace.
You are a smart little toot. You recently have LOVED to count. Anything. And usually at bedtime when I am quite honestly dying to leave you for my end of the day solitude.. you'll count out ALL the animals on ALL the pages of whatever book you pick. And damn if you aren't accurate. It'd be one thing if you were all '1..10..9..yay!' but you count as accurately as Andrew, so I have to let you do it! I can't just glaze over and say good try! I'll be popping my eyeballs open with toothpicks, but so so proud of your accurate counting skills. You get all the way to 12.. skip a few..15,16,17, then say 19 about seven or so times.. then 20. But that 1-12 stretch is always 100% spot on. Most impressive, my 2 year old gal. You see no value in keeping clean hands when given the smallest most unassuming snack ever, but obviously your brain is just working overtime to count objects at the moment. Explains a lot, really.
Potty training? Still peeing/poopin' in the potty like a boss..  no news. Moving along.
Preschool! You love it. Even on the first day, there was no anxiety (on your part, at least).. you walked in, said hello to your teachers, and hunkered down at the puzzles table. I had to call you back over to give me and Daddy a kiss goodbye. You had no cares. You told them when you had to pee. You laid in your nap-mat (which you are obsessed with) but did not sleep, nor did the rest of the class, I later found out. You did nap the next time though, sawing logs with an arm splayed to your side, while the rest of the class played and yelled around you. I took a bajillion pics outside in the hall while trying to put my dropped jaw back in place. You LOVE the kids. You are drawn to other small people like a toddler moth to a baby flame. No personal space is given or requested. You love your teachers. We practiced their names for a couple weeks beforehand, several dozen times a day. Now, whenever I namedrop Andrew's teacher, you'll very loudly volunteer YOUR teacher's names too.. just making sure we don't forget that you are a schoolchild, too.
At nighttime, you have really started to give it your all with trying to say our prayers along with me. It's a doozy of a prayer, for a 2 year old, but we started it with your brother, who was old enough to quickly memorize it and actually understand the sentiment. We say it also with you, forgoing an age-approp one because we are 100% lazy. I'll just go ahead and quote it all here, lest 20 years from now when you read it, it's a distant memory to the 'thanks for not letting me die on my boyfriends Harley tonight' quickie thanks you send up nightly..... 'Father we thank thee for the night, and for the pleasant morning light. For rest and food and loving care, and all that makes the day so fair. Help us to do the things we should. To be kind and good. In all we do in work or play, to grow more loving everyday.' It's pretty cute watching you squint your eyes as tightly shut as you can, clasp your pudgy hands together, and garble out whatever words you can..  you really love the last 'grow more loving everyday, AMEN' part - because you get all of it, and you shout it proudly to overcompensate for the nonsensical rest of the prayers you are still learning. I lay you down, you grab your hippo and begin assaulting it, I tuck George in, cover you up. And then I sing a current fave song from a current fave show - Daniel Tiger (best show of all time to teach valuable lessons and catchy song diddys to accommodate them!) - I sing a very sappy.. 'I like you.. I like you.. I like you.. Just..the way.. you are!' And I tickle your cheek and say goodnight. You yell it back about 3 times before I can make my way to the door, I close the door and that's that. You wake up every morning somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30 yelling, I HAVE TO GO POTTY. Over and over and over, until we come in to retrieve you.
You still have the uncanny knack of making maximum mess out of minimum supplies. We played in the back yesterday afternoon, and I gave you & Andrew one cookie each, and as he neatly scarfed his, you licked yours. Then you licked your entire hand, and as your ONE cookie became a soggy licked cookie-shaped mound, crumbs forming a perfect circle around your happy little mouth, I thought to myself that this is how it's just supposed to be. You're not wrong for making such messes all the time. You're just you. You're not your brother, you're not the kid next door, you're perfectly messily you. Underneath all those crumbs, there you are, my sweet sweet girl, my nugs. I love you, crumbs and all. Both you kids are just so perfectly yourselves, confident in who you are, it just makes me so damn proud. One just has more crumbs than the other.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Preschool just let out for the summer. I had thought you would be sad and slightly out of sorts, what with the change in weekly routine and seeing some of your friends, but you were actually excited. I asked you why, and you stated simply that you liked spending time with me more. Can that never change???! Ever?! It's really and truly the only payment I need, you actually wanting to be with me. Last summer was... brutal. Just, not good. The temps were triple digits for several months straight, and your sister was at maximum-handful stage, needing very very regular naptimes to keep an even keel. You needed a nap still too, no doubt. So going out in the mornings (the only time of day that was remotely bearable) and being back by naptime was difficult at best. I swore on a thousand bibles that I wouldn't go down like that, this summer. I swore that I would enroll you two in class after class, activities galore, just to keep everyone occupied. Ask me if that has happened yet. Nope! Activities cost actual money, did you know this?! You will know this, when dance class for your future child costs several thousand dollars per semester. And the free stuff, like Vacation Bible School, only start for graduating Kindergarteners. But, I am optimistic. While your sister still plots my doom on a daily basis, it's getting way more manageable. And you, you are simply amazing. You have discovered Legos. And I mean the small stuff that breaks the skin when stepped on. No Duplos for you! The kind that breaks a mothers' weak nails, when you inevitably need help prying a minuscule headlight from another minuscule block. You want to build things, but in privacy, so that Avery doesn't destroy. You very politely tell me you'll be in your room, with the door closed, if I need you. Some days I don't even see your face for an hour.. you're just building away, in peaceful serene quiet! Selfishly, if I need to accomplish important things, I'll ask you to put the Legos on hold for a bit, because when you're off doing that, Avery is ALL up on me. I cannot do a thing. So I once more abuse your responsible age and nature to get things done around the house. 
Recently, on weekends, your Daddy takes you out to practice 2-wheel bike riding. You have totally mastered it in general, but the starting off on your own/stopping on your own needs some practice. This past weekend, you guys were out for a long time, during Avery's naptime, and your father called me, saying you fell and it was pretty bad, and you'd need washing up when ya'll got home. I was mentally prepped for gore. When you got home, you were sweating buckets, and I lifted up your shorts leg and saw the cutest, most unassuming scrapes and cuts ever.. despite your sobbing. I couldn't even stop myself from giggling, given how your father described it. I calmed you down, cleaned you up, and told you that getting skinned knees was a sign that you were trying new things, and that's always good! And that it's a sign you're being the way a big kid should be! And you gave me this totally condescending look, and said 'I was a big kid before I skinned my knees, Mommy.' True, and point taken. To further push my point, when we were doing our highs-and-lows later that day, I said my high was seeing those skinned knees because it meant you were trying your best and that you got back on the bike afterwards, which was the greatest thing...   yet another condescending glare, 'That was not your high, you are definitely kidding me.'
You call Avery 'baby'. Like, all the time, as if it were her God-given name. Your Grandpa noticed this, last time we saw him, and he asked about it.. if you call her that ALL the time, and it was kind of the first time I noticed myself. I have never thought to correct it, because it's pretty damn cute. You are constantly redirecting her, so I hear 'Baby! Baby! Baby, come over here...' all day long. Or rather, a lot of 'No Baby! Baby! No!!' 
She just loves you, she gets THE most excited to see you in the mornings. I am chump change, basically. I'll come in to her room, and she won't even stand up in her crib. She'll be wide awake, talking, but NOT getting up. I'll ask her if she wants to get up and go eat and she'll yell NO! But as soon as you walk in, she absolutely scrambles to her feet, screaming HI BROTHER!, wanting a hug on either side of the crib.. resting her bedhead on your shoulder, you patting her back til she pulls away. When you're both watching sometime on TV, you always ask her if she wants to lay on you, she always says yes. You'll pull a blanket up on your lap, and she'll lay sideways on it. You always help her with taking her shoes off, when we come from outside. You help hoist her onto things she's too short to reach, if she's struggling, asking her 'Do ya need help, baby?' You help her find objects she's looking for and having no luck finding. You're awesome.

**** It is now over a month later, I wrote all of the above and saved it in draft. Why can't I just finish a simple post?! SINCE THEN, we have sold our house and moved. (perhaps that is why I cannot finish a simple post) It was really a process for the record books. We had been casually looking for a new house for well over a year..  we had VERY narrow criteria, given that we wanted to stay within a mile or so of where we were. It's a densely populated area though, so maybe it wasn't TOO narrow a criteria. We loved our school we were zoned to, so that was never an issue. And we knew the schools around us were excellent, too. We just knew we had outgrown this house. A few houses popped up, but none really tugged at us. And yes, we were doing it completely ass-backwards, buying before selling because we were blessed to be able to do so, financially.. and because of our very particular criteria for a new house (not a good thing if you've sold your house and waiting around in an apartment!).. and because we flat-out did not want to have to rent anything in the interim for any period of time. The dense fog of curry that engulfed me when living in college-campus apartments still haunts me to this day. We also knew how incredibly hot the market was, and given the small area we were looking in, didn't want to have to settle on something just because it was there. We wanted to have the chance to jump on the perfect house when we saw it, and luckily that is exactly what happened.  Anyways. Interest rates were hitting alltime record lows, the market was really hopping, Andrew was yet to start Kindergarten, we knew the time was nigh! We saw 2 listings pop up and we scheduled viewings with our realtor. Actually - backtrack - ONE listing caught my eye (not this house) and I scheduled the viewing. THIS house listing caught Pablo's eye but I didn't give it a second look because it was above our price bracket..  I simply never looked at things I thought we couldn't have. Why get our hopes up?! Pablo requested that we view this house and I remember whining, asking whhhhy... but we went anyway. We went to the first house... and CURRY. Everywhere. The location was awesome, I loved how it was situated on the street and I loved the actual street (it was one of my favorites from day one).. but CURRY. That shit does not come out. Other things were not ideal about it either. Plus the neighbors were probably certifiable, so. That's something that can never be changed! We went on to THIS house.. and.. love. Head over heels love. Loooooove. We kind of knew the instant we went in. It was love. Our house. All those sappy annoying things. Put in an offer the day after and they accepted. Fast forward...  put OUR house for sale on the market 2 weeks later (after putting my blood, sweat, and tears into staging that sucker) and it sold in 1 day. Was not prepared for on onslaught of showings, so thankfully a friend let us bum at her house with 2 cranky kids while the house kept getting shown. 13 showings on Day 1 alone. 7 offers, 3 of which were straight cash. Took the safest bet of them all, and that was that. Had the showing service decline showings after Day 2, because we were done and the showings continued to pour in. We were shell-shocked. Our realtor didn't seem to be though, saying if a home is priced appropriately, this is what happens. I tend to agree, but I'm also giving due props to this crazy house market and my ridiculous staging efforts. (no one would know I returned 95% of those ridiculous things! kids would break them anyway) In a nutshell, though I know it's too late for nutshells at this point, it was an amazingly smooth process. Not without stress, oh no. Buying/selling with 2 small kids could never be without stress, regardless of how quick it happens. But damn. The whole process was one for the books. We are beyond grateful.

Now that that has been documented! Back to you two little stinkers.
Avery, you are my first ever two year old!!!! Oh sure, your brother was once two. But he was a 70 year old man, trapped in a 2 year olds body. Full of wisdom and respect for nature and other elderly and always showing a soothing calm tone. I never really understood the phrase 'terrible twos'. I was bewildered. (but well, the 3's came and that pretty much kicked my ass and is not relevant to this two-year-old tangent) You have shown me, Avery! You have taken my bewilderment and squeezed it in your strong sticky hands and smashed it against a freshly mopped kitchen floor.
Example, the first: Lollipops. They are your drug of choice. Given only on rare occasions, lest the obsession manifest itself further. They are rationed with the best of intentions. You see one, you want, you rage. It's amusing, I won't lie. You'll have just sat down in your highchair for a meal, pushing food around, not eating what is before you, and you'll request 'Lollipop peeeease!' as if it was the most normal, most standard thing to receive after having rejected your meal. And I very calmly, very neutrally say 'No.' And then you wail. And loudly request again, IT'S SO CUTE that your mind thinks I will have just changed my decision just now. I can't get over it. I say no again, telling you that you have food on your tray. More wailing, more kicking, more unrest over what surely seems like the worst injustice ever to you. It is hard not to laugh right in front of you.
Example, the second: Public Outings. Sure, we don't have to take you anywhere. But, life. It must happen. And much of that is outside of our home. One of which, recently, was the pit of parental despair called furniture shopping. Thankfully, the good people at the furniture knew my face since I had been in browsing so many times over the past 6 months... so decisions were made fairly quickly. But mercy. You were not keen to eat a snack in your stroller. Or to not yell so loud we had to check our ears for trickles of blood. Restaurants are also fun. You are either in performing mode, meaning you acknowledge every person within spitting distance, loudly, until they (loudly) acknowledge you back. Which is cute, the first 30 times. This mode isn't SO bad.. but it's usually quickly followed by impatient non-hungry table-crawler toddler beast mode. No amount of pre-restaurant starvation could cajole you into eating what is put in front of you. No amount of handheld device distractions could tempt you to not want to exit your highchair and run across the street for a 6-pack. This sitting and eating and being civilized thing is simply not yet formed in your being yet. So we do a lot of curbside pickup. And our grocery bill is astronomical.
Example, the third: Curiosity. Did you not hear about what it did to the cat? I know I know. I shouldn't complain about this one. It's a good thing, a great thing.. a thing that I was very very grateful was somewhat stunted in your brother for a long while. If you see a hole, some part of your body goes into it. No matter how bacteria-infested or pungent or sharp that hole is. You go to it. When you are redirected from curiosity that might have dangerous consequences, you mostly are receptive, for 10 seconds. You say 'ooooooohh! ok!' So nice! So obedient! So short-lived. You have quite the short-term memory, so unless that thing you just did ACTUALLY caused you pain (to remember it by), you go there again. I don't ever let you walk independently on bridges with room to fall off of, no matter the height. Because no. You are not trusted! I'm not sure when this trust will come, but I'll be carrying/strapping in your curious behind for a while, I'm thinking.
Example, the fourth: Independence. Your brother had the true spirit of a seasoned adult, when it came to independence. Why put your own shoes on if someone is offering to do it for you? Why button your own shirt if there's a shirt-buttoner available? Makes perfect sense. Not to you, however. You are adamant on scaling your highchair and seating yourself. If I so much as touch you during this process of grunting and maneuvering, you scream NO I GOT IT!!! And go back to the floor to start from scratch, so it can be all you. If I help you on your changing pad, you scream NO I GOT IT and get down (even if you are 99% on the pad) and start from square one. If I were to calculate time-lost to actually helping you and you starting over and watching you struggle your way through it all yourself, it's probably just the slightest bit more time-efficient to watch you struggle. I'm slowly learning to absorb this memo, be patient with me.
You scream 'I'm thirsty!!! I'm thiiiirstyyyy!!!!' And ask me where your water is. Ask me. Do it. It's inches from your person. Every. Time. We'll tell you to drink something if you are thirsty, but each time we say this, it only furthers your rage.
You see me give your brother a piece of bread at a meal, so you naturally ask for some too. I give you a piece, because I live to meet your needs. You shove it back at me, screaming 'I DON'T WANT IT!' So I take it. Calmly. I know this routine. I know what will come next... you screaming 'I WANT BREAD!!!' at the top of your strong pink lungs. I do not give you the bread. I go into the pantry to breathe deeply.
I'm recording these things because it is true, how easily we forget. I won't remember these things years from now, unless I read this. I'll yearn so hard for these toddler-years, I totally know this. So really, it's to make me laugh. To remember the day to day frustrations and how it really was.
These toddler things are countered by all the cute, believe it or not. So much of it. Even when you are dishing out the sass at warp speed, it is pretty damn cute. You recently have taken to thumping your chest like a misguided gorilla child when you say something that requires emphasis. I asked you to pick up some socks the other day that you dumped out everywhere, before you went along to something else. And you thumped your chest, pursed your lips and said, very sassily 'Don't say that to me!' Just over and over, thumping that chest. Do you see? Frustratingly cute. It sustains us all.

All in all, this summer if shaping up gloriously. New house, new memories, new hurdles of toddler rage and big kid deep conversations. It's pretty nice.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Dearest Avery,
Today you are two (or, you were when I started this, who knows when I'll be done with it)! When you are reading this someday, probably in your twenties, possibly even with children of your own, I want you to keep in mind that I'd take a bullet for you. I'd throw myself in front of a moving vehicle to save you. I'd wrassle a bear or a pack of hungry meerkats. And all similar acts of mother love. I want you to know this and keep this in the front of your mind, because this recap? Might not be pretty. It's going to be chock-full of real life scenarios, and how you were, at age almost two. What's the point in sugar-coating, and tricking my memory? Memories do that on their own anyways. It's going to sound like you've driven me to the official brink, and it might not translate as love. But just know that it's all love. Insane unexplainable love. Capisce?
You talk. A lot. Dear God in Heaven. It's very sweet, your voice. For the first half hour of the day. Your voice, child! It's so high-pitched!!! I didn't know nature/God made voices this high. Truly. I'm waiting for some toddler-stage change to take place, because I remember your brother's voice was so sweetly high pitched in the beginning, and the older he got, the deeper it sounded. I don't think this is going to happen to you. Compound this incredibly high-pitched sweet voice with the desire, no, the demand, to be heard all day... and there you have it. Oftentimes unintelligible words and phrases, said at top decibel, over and over. And. Over. You sometimes throw in a outstretched hand, like a politician making a grand point, for good measure. As if this hand motion will help me to better understand you. You also sometimes get very very close to me, and whisper this word or phrase that I'm too dumb to understand. That's pretty much the cutest ever, though. My impatience is crumbled when you do that, because it's indescribably cute. Imagine a deliciously cute little girl, getting mere centimeters from your face, whispering the word 'tassle'... and this look of 'you understand now, don't you?!'.... Yes, I melt from that.
You love to say 'come on Mommy'.. When you want to show me something, you say it, as you do your politicians hand gesture. You also say come on (10 times in a row) when I am driving. And you're in the back-seat, wanting to show me something in a book you're reading. Oh your backseat requests and demands, it's endlessly entertaining. You'll say GO with increasing anger, at any stop sign or red light. I remember your brother went through this stage, but with much less rage. I somewhat recall it being as simple as me explaining 'red means stop. green means go. we have to wait for green.' or something like that. It was a non-issue, like most things. You either have already grasped this concept and are now just toying with my sanity (my hunch), or you just haven't had it click yet (not likely, you're smart. like a velociraptor). Backseat stress is actually in full throttle, currently. Well. Probably not. This is probably just the tipping point, I know. But you and Andrew have started to .. squabble. It's hard to say who's doing more antagonizing. Because you both have your own little tics and quirks. If Andrew wiggles his fingers anywhere near you, like he's about to tickle you (but still far away), you get VERY pissed. You scream 'NO! STOP!' And he hasn't even touched you. I taught him the meaning of the word 'antagonize', and I use it frequently. I warn him to not antagonize you. But of course, he does. And then sometimes it is ALL you doing the instigating. Even when you don't really plan to. Once recently, I honked at a car, and you perked up and yelled TRAIN! (around 40 times in a row).. then after that period of fun, you wildly pointed in random places, desperately looking for the train (that was my car-honk), yelling 'here it comes! here it comes! train! here it comes!'... Andrew tries so hard to kindly redirect you, because oh my gosh. Just do that, right now. Say TRAIN! and HERE IT COMES! in a very high voice, 30-40 times in a row. (*there is no train. ever.) You kind of loathe yourself now right? It's hard, redirecting you sometimes, when your reset button needs pushed. Without sounding like a horrible person (too late, I know. I'm human). It's a lot for a 5 year old to be around sometimes, especially one as mild as your bro. If he was more of well.. a total spazz? I think you two would be more on the same page. But you know, you are both perfectly you. He's truly the yin to your yang, as much as I really dislike that cliche. If there was a time to use it, it would be referencing the two of you. I'm lucky that I get a front row seat, watching your sweet little relationship bloom.
You are very very sweet at heart, as much as I give you a hard time for your constant spunkiness and rage..  We were just earlier reading books, me reading to you and Andrew, and you were ALL up in my grill, trying to turn the pages before it was time, blocking Andrew's view of the book, and just the normal chaos...  I told you to sit on the couch with him, and you very loudly said NO! with an angry finger pointing in my face. I didn't blink, just held my 'I mean bidness, child' stare.. and within 5 seconds, no joke, you said 'I sorry!' and gently patted my shoulder with your sweet pudgy little hand. We just never know what we're going to get with you. Sometimes a situation like that would have escalated into a ridiculous boneless heap on the ground, other times it ends in an apology that melts my weary mother heart. It's fun, the not knowing.
I do sense the slow uprising of drama, though. Whenever you are touched when you ought not be touched (watching your stories, mostly), you yell OWWW! I know a simple nudge or touch doesn't hurt you, because you are a bull in a china shop. You faceplant ALL the time, almost never cry, slam into things as a daily routine with nary the tear. You simply like to say OWWW! dramatically as a way to assert yourself. One of the many ways you assert yourself, of course. It's cute, for now. Aside from a firm grabbing if you're bailing towards the street area, you never feel physical pain from us, as we aren't a spanking family. Or a swatting one, something I can't wrap my head around. You're welcome for that! I imagine I'd be hearing a chorus of OWWWS all day long if we punished opposed to disciplined.
You love love love to sing your ABCs. I have been singing you the ABCs since you popped out of the womb, basically. I did the same with your brother. And he was singing the ABCs just like you are, at around the same age. I think he sang it with a bit more efficiency, but you're in it for the theatrics, obviously. You say about every 5th letter with proficiency, but your really move & shake and sway while you do it. And at the end, there's a very emphatic 'sing wif MEEEEE!'.. big outstretched arms, etc. Other current favorite songs include Mickey. No, not as in Mouse, as in the 1982 hit by Tony Basil. You request it at bedtime when I'm singing you any song you want, while putting on your diaper/lotion/pjs. I don't know all the words, so it's a lot of made up gibberish, but I hold the beat fairly well and you get positively giddy. You love Tainted Love as much as your brother. You know what songs your father and I respectively prefer. Say, if a Coldplay song comes on, you'll say 'Daddy song'.. and if anything by Eddie Vedder comes on, it's 'Mommy song'...
You have developed sort of an evil-villain/genius laugh. This surprises no one. It's very drawn out and exaggerated, and I think it scares new friends we make at the park.
You love to be chased. You'll run off screaming 'I get you Mommy!' (yes despite the fact that I'm the one getting you). Recently, as you run, you grab at your rear end, and say 'Git the booty!' Because you positively LIVE for me say 'I'm gonna get that booty!' and I give it a little pinch. You squeal at the top of your lungs.
In similar fashion, you love to run, away from me. This is a work in progress, because obviously it's not ideal to have you run from me in any place other than home/a contained area. I say STOP but you just keep on. Yesterday, this happened, I said stop, and you STOPPED. I instantly poured on the reinforcement, saying how that was great stopping and great listening and that it made me so happy. You seriously melted, smiling and cuddling into me, just lavishing in the praise. It was pretty cute.
You are a momma's girl, through and through. You cling to me, something fierce. Even your father confirms that he too never recalls a phase/time when Andrew so distinctly preferred one of us over the other. It tickles us, how you choose me, over and over, without fail. It's just the beginning of the beautiful co-dependent mother/daughter relationship. It's too complex for words and too complex for this here blog, just yet. For now, it's just sweet and cute and yes, tiring.
At bedtime, I read you a quick book, and if I'm lucky I get about 30 seconds to just hold you before you tell me 'GO! BED!' before I put you in your crib. I tell you how much I love you, and I always say 'do you know you're my best girl?' and you always say 'yeeeeah...' and smile and nod and just eat it up.
I'm so lucky to have a daughter. I'm even luckier to have you. Happy 2nd birthday, Nugs.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Dear Son,
I wanted to document your 5th birthday (almost a month late, I knooooow), not because we did anything particularly crazy or expensive or ambitious, but because it was just a good good day. It was mostly a normal day, just peppered with fun things we don't do very often. 
I had every intention to tape some bright green crepe paper I bought across your bedroom door, so you'd get to bust out in the morning. But then I thought 1. you'd probably be like WHAT THE WHAT and be more annoyed at having to put forth such effort upon waking, than think it was actually fun and 2. I really needed your sister to sleep as late as possible (every minute past 7am makes a difference!), so the less noise, the better. So, that plan was scrapped. Maybe next year. 
Your usual routine when you get up, is you coming into our room. I'm usually on the computer, drinking coffee, and your father is usually on the laptop in bed, or getting dressed for work. You ALWAYS request to play Go Fish in the mornings, and we always have you check the monitor first. If Avery is asleep, we're a go.. if she's awake, then it's time to start the day. Yes, before the day even begins, your sister dictates our day. Life with a young toddler, all round the world! But this day, your 5th birthday, we had some presents set up in the living room. Some wrapped, some not. You made a bee-line, of course. You very sleepily ripped into them. Full disclosure: one of them was a Christmas-surplus gift, set aside in the closet with the intent to give to you on your birthday. You never even knew. You got a tool-kit set, a REAL tee for t-ball practice outside (which weighs about 20 lbs, no lie), some doodle-pads (which was the biggest hit, go fig) and markers and other misc things. I think my excitement in taking pictures had the opposite effect on you though. The more happy I appeared, the crabbier you got. You just DID NOT want the camera around that early. Asking you to hold up 5 fingers for photos resulted in a very annoyed snarl and a limp-wristed hand. Fun! We did breakfast as usual, (I think I had donuts for you, I'll tell my memory to believe that..) and you got dressed and did your 'morning responsibilities'. (yes, in days past they would have been called 'chores', but I enjoy hearing you say things in very grown-up complicated ways..) You made your bed, you opened the blinds and turned on the lamp. And then you got to play some wii. Usually 2 racing games, sometimes 3. Each game lasts about 4 minutes, so it's not a huge chunk of time, but enough for you, for now. You start rubbing your non-blinking laserbeam eyes sometimes after 2 games, so I know it's enough for now. 
You never even asked what we were doing for the day, or if we had plans at all. I loved this. You had NO expectations. How many more years of that will there be? Not many, I am certain. You'll become better friends with much much more spoiled kids, you'll watch more TV & commercials, you'll get more ideas.. and this time of having no expectations will be history. I didn't even tell you what we had planned until about 5 minutes before we were to leave. I asked you if you wanted to go watch the planes take off and land, and you started jumping up and down, saying 'Oh yes! Oh boy oh boy!!!!' I didn't tell you that your father had plans to meet us there - which was the ultimate in surprises for you, Ultimate Daddy's Boy lately. We went and picked up Chick Fil A (your choice), and planned to eat it while we watched the planes. We get there and you go running for a picnic bench, climb on the very top and start yelling one thing after another 'Do ya see that one?! Hey Mommy! Hey Mommy! That's an American EAGLE, not American Airlines. That's a triple-7!! And that's a Super 80! Oh look over  there!!' and so on and so on. Endless commentating. All this while I'm still getting Avery unbuckled and putting her jacket on. You are a mile a minute, from the very start. Our plan is that your Dad is to text me when he's at the stop-light to turn in, so I can distract you while he parks, and get it on video. Amazingly and surprisingly, the plan works perfectly and I get a cool video of him creeping up behind you, and you turning and saying 'Hiiiiii!!!!!' Super surprised. You jumped in his arms and gave him the happiest hug. And you didn't even know yet he was going to eat with us, you were just genuinely giddy to see him in the middle of the day. A rare special treat. We told you he was going to eat with us and you kept saying 'really???!' We let you all play for a bit, and then it was time to eat. It was crazy windy, so eating with paper-wrappers/napkins wouldn't have been easy, so it's a good thing your Daddy drives a boat!! The Avalon provided more than enough space in the backseat (me in the front, distributing food/napkins/etc) for a car-picnic. :) You got to play after, then it was time for him to go back to work. We left at about the same time and WHOA nelly was your sister crabby. It is completely NOT her routine to be out and about right before naptime (12:00), so she was extremely overtired and pissed. She was inconsolable for about half the drive home. You had your hands over your ears because you said it was hurting your ears. Me too. Eventually she was consoled by playing peekaboo with you, a favorite standby. We came home, I put her to bed, and you and I started our playtime. Of course I didn't enforce a naptime for you on your birthday, I'm no monster. We tried to play Uno, but as I read the instructions, I soon realized my brain has slowly atrophied (so we're clear, I blame you & Avery, 100%), so I suggested we wait for your father to get home to explain the directions better than I could. Sad sad sad. I DO possess a Bachelors! But years of staying at home, armpit deep in the often-odorous requirements of raising children makes your brain leak. Then I tried to open a Domino Rally set you got, and those instructions practically made me comatose. You were all too happy to play Go fish though, thankfully. You got to play some more Wii, then we watched Peter Pan on the iPad, in bed cuddling. It was a fun chunk of our day.
Avery was up, we had snacks at the picnic table in the kitchen, as usual. Then we went outside to play, as it was pretty nice weather. We were just playing around in the front when I had the idea to go get snow-cones. Why not?! You flipped over this idea. So off we went. Avery was, again, crabbin' it up. Not too content to be back in the carseat. We got our snow-cones (you smiled SO big when the lady put 4 gummi-bears on yours, when you told her it was your birthday, completely unprompted) and sat out in the sun for a bit, and then came back home to play some more. 
We had told you that you could pick wherever you wanted to go for dinner, and I knew before you even spoke that it was 1 of 2 places..  'Old' McDonalds or Joe's pizza. I was really crossing my fingers for the latter. (sidenote: Joe's is where your father and I ate, when we were researching where to build our home/start our family. We visited the neighborhood and after seeing the models/getting the sales pitch, we ate at Joes and talked about if this area was the best fit for us.) So anyways, you picked Joe's. Their plain cheese pizza is as authentic New York as you can get, this far South, and you & your sis just love it. Avery was being a ham the entire time, dramatically turning in her highchair every time the door opened, so that she could wave and say HIIIII! to everyone who walked inside. We had a good family dinner. I thought it'd be fun, as a special treat, to go to the park on the way home, because it was a gorgeous day outside still. We went to the 'yellow park', in the neighborhood just south of us. We had it all to ourselves. We played hide & seek and had a really good time. We reminded you that we still had brownies at home for dessert and you grabbed your belly and very responsibly stated that you'd have to wait and see, that you were very full.
We came home and cut you a little brownie, and put 5 candles in it. The night of your birthday party, the Saturday before, we asked you what your BEST favorite moment of your party was, and you said when everyone sang to you. I thought that was so sweet. We sang Happy Birthday to you and you beamed the entire time, just soaking up the attention. You didn't eat the brownie, as you were still too full.
We had a great day, just being. It's so wonderful that you put such a high value in just spending time together. The simple act of reading you books sometime, breaking from the household chores and whatnot, just means so much to you it's palpable.
At dinnertimes lately, we do this thing called 'High and Lows'..  we each (most of the time me and you, as dinnertime during the week with your father has become rare, and Avery's language is limited!) say the High (the best) part of the day and the Low (worst) part. If it's a day that you didn't take a nap, and we spent that time playing and doing things, just the two of us (while Avery slept), you will ALWAYS say that was the High - spending time with me. Even if you got to do other super fun things, in this stage of your life, I actually win over them. I know it's a short stage. You'll usually say your Low was a time of the day when you got in trouble over something. You are a super sensitive little dude, and getting in trouble stays with you. You talk about it for weeks sometimes. I am grateful it's all minor offenses, because if you had a penchant for truly naughty doings, well, I just think you'd emotionally crumble with the consequences (which, before I forget, is an instant tension melter. You think this word is hilarious beyond reason, so sometimes all I have to do is say the word CONSEQUENCES and the tension melts into ridiculous laughter.) Sometimes, in the middle of being verbally disciplined for something that you think is not worthy of discipline, you'll very clearly tell me that you are in the middle of your low for the day. You'll say 'Mommy. This is my low. Right now. My low for today.' It's so hard to not laugh to your face.
Kid, you are something else. The best big brother a little sis could ask for. The best son a set of parents could dream of. Sweet. Smart. Kind. Funny. Clever. Silly. Joyful. Sensitive. And about a thousand other things, some I don't even know about yet. But I'm so very excited. Happy 5th birthday, loves.

Monday, March 4, 2013


It's bulletpoint time.
* Andrew, you are thisclose to turning 5. FIVE. A whole hand. You are officially not one to be cuddled. Unless you want something, of course. You weren't the most cuddly baby, you preferred your space, but then you were a very affectionate toddler. And now, you're back to preferring your space. I'm hoping Kindergarten will exhaust you so much that you'll yearn for my hugs and cuddles. That's my plan, at least. Exhaust you to the point of relenting, at which point I will cuddle the living crap out of you. When we read you your book of choice before bedtime or naptime, you cuddle a little, but then you very politely say 'I'm not very comfortable, can we be done now?' Ha! At least you are polite in your rejection. You still nap I'd say 2 days out of the week. Either a Monday/Wed, or a Monday/Fri. (It's always party-time on the weekends, no time for naps usually.) It's because you only just recently figured out that it was optional. We pretty much capitalized on the fact that you never once asked if you could skip a nap. It was just a part of your routine, never questioned. And you slept! If you hadn't, we would have surely had you cut back, but you slept. so it was good. I realize that this is something that won't be around next year, or even by the time you start full-time school. Or who knows, even next month, if you get very insistent on this choice. I'll miss it. Your sweaty bedhead and loopy walk to the bathroom. I thank you for letting us squeeze out this many years of good naps with you, for I know your sister will make me pay. She will bring balance, as she does with so many other things. So, thanks.
* Avery, your happy place is in the dirt. If we could just let you play outside in the dirt all day, breaking for diaper changes, naps, and food? It would be a true state of Nirvana for you. Your little fingernails forever have dirt underneath. If you are outside, you just find it. It's a magnetic force for you. Your brother thought dirt was basically poison for much of his young life, so I'm not equipped for dealing with a consistently filthy child. I've probably used more Wet Ones on you than I have on Andrew, in his collective 4.75 years. I used to set up finger-painting/etc. for Andrew when he was very little, as a part of a sort of occupational therapy, because he had such intense sensory aversions. So I essentially desensitized him. He loathed getting messy, but with each time we did something messy and fun, he loathed it a little less. And I know he would be a different kid today, had we not have ever done all that. Life for a little kid is just a lot different/difficult when you lose your shits over having to touch unpeeled fruit. Or create messy keepsakes in preschool with your friends. I'm glad we did all of it. I will never ever everrrrr have to do this with you, my delicate strong consistently dirty daughter, for you are drawn to filth like a moth to a flame. You know how to wear a purse, which you fill with dirt. It's really the best of both worlds.
* Avery, you have started stringing words together. Like most things, I had forgotten about this stage.. until I'm back in it. I had forgotten how cute it was, watching this tiny human put 2 words together, very emphatically. Every night as we take you in for a bath, you yell VERY excitedly, bubble! bath! bubble bath! (regardless of if there are bubbles, which there are not most of the time) When your father gets home every night, you run screaming to the door, 'daddy home! daddy home!' When we're playing a game, or doing something that requires turn-taking, you'll point and jab towards Andrew, yelling 'Andrew turn! Andrew! turn!' When you're finished with a meal, usually 10-12 seconds after I have finally gotten you and Andrew served and settled in and I have finally sat down to eat, you yell 'All done!' And seriously? If I don't get you up from your chair within 30 seconds of that proclamation? You enunciate each word, loudly - ALL! DONE! With a double fist-pounding to your tray at the end, for emphasis. You really cannot ever be ignored, when you're trying to say something. Trust me. For I have tried. And sometimes, even after I've acknowledged you VERY promptly, you just say the same word or words over and over and over. In the same high pitch that is your very sweet very insistent little voice. Some times I have perspective, and I know that someday you'll speak to me in sentences and paragraphs, and someday you won't even want to speak to me. But then other times, I have the opposite of perspective and I whisper yell to your father to make it stop. Make the high-pitched word-repeating robot STOP. Obviously, keeping perspective is a recent daily goal of mine.
* Andrew, you and your father went on a 3-day, 2-night trip to see your grandparents, down south. Saying your absence was felt is a gigantic understatement. I had no clue just how much I take you for granted, until you were not available anymore! I described you as a live-in-babysitter to someone the other day, and it's pretty true. Yes, there's squabbles throughout the day, but they are 9 times out of 10 brought on by Avery's age and all that comes with it. Your patience is pretty limitless, so more often than not, you don't even let it escalate. I've told you how to deal with certain scenarios, and thankfully you've listened and I don't have to intervene TOO much (I know my days of intervening are coming though.. oh, I can smell the bloodshed already). When she has stolen a toy you want, you know that before you can kindly take it back, you had better give her something in return for it. Unless you know, you want your ears to bleed from her anger screeches. Your choice! Avery's almost 2, and she has no drive whatsoever to take off her own shoes when we come in the door. Why? Because her Manny (you) does it for her. I'm loaded down like a pack mule with groceries, and I delegate 4 different things to you, some of which are to please take her coat/shoes off.. all the while I'm unpacking groceries in (relative) peace. It's a beautiful thing. A thing that might cause a few developmental delays on her part, but I can live with that. Oh I definitely can. When you were gone for that weekend, I had grand ideas of cleaning the house top to bottom. I would have just the 1 kid! Lo! The ease! The possibilities! The delusions. Avery was at my feet 99% of the time, requiring every last ounce of energy I possessed. My live-in-babysitter void was felt. There was no cleaning. Just caretaking, which I know is as it should be.  It's my job - my only job. But still..  you were deeply missed. I don't know if this being uber-helpful thing is typical for almost-5 year olds. But I do want to know why I wasn't let in on this secret 4 years ago. When you were a belligerent pre-verbal toddler?  Hey. I have one of those right now! See? Perspective. You are it.
* Avery, you already love a good joke. Well. You say the words on cue at least..  Andrew (or whomever) says 'knock knock' and you immediately and very passionately say 'who's daaaare?' Our joke-du-jour is the old interrupting-chicken joke. So you'll very quickly follow up your 'who's daaaare?' with a 'ba-caw!' Not quite how it's supposed to go, but I'll never tell you that. You got bored with that after 900 rounds or so, and you started saying 'cat? dog?' and other animals. So after you'd ask 'who's daaaare?' I'd say interrupting cat and you'd scream MEOW! But wait. The ultimate household favorite is the Interrupting Daddy. Wherein I make a very loud juicy fart noise. It kills. And yes, yes, Daddy serves me with an equally offensive Interrupting Mommy version, which also brings the house down.

So, times are good. Days are sometimes long, but all good. And when the days are just too hectic to reconcile, there's always a good fart joke to bring us all together.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

almost 5, almost 2

Sweet mercy! Too much to document. And I just wait too long between takes, so I'm afraid A LOT gets lost in the shuffle of daily life and laziness of recording it all. Which is very sad. There's just a ton of cute being thrown around. Yes, a ton of grossness and frustrations, too. I'd love to document them all. Because it all adds up to a good life.
* Andrew, you are almost 5 years old. That's just so nuts. As my firstborn, you just don't picture this big age. You picture babies and toddlers. And then the pictures in your head just sort of stop. No idea why, really. Five must be just so old and abstract. It's not even on a new mother's sleep-deprived radar. It wasn't even on my radar when you were a toddler. But wow. Now I know. I will definitely try to picture Avery as a witty little 5 year old, because I've seen now! (almost) Five is awesome. It's so funny and sweet and mannered and crazy and surprising. You're like this fully formed PERSON. Sure ok, you've been a person for a while now. But a real independent-thinking separate entity, if that makes any sense. I can trust you with such bold tasks! For example, we'll be outside (the 3 of us) and I'll realize I forgot something inside, and I'll send you in to get it. Something on the other side of the house, on our computer desk for instance, along with some other task like 'and fill up your water while you're in there' and you'll say 'ok! be right back!' and you'll bound off on your little mission, and be back lickety split. I know, so silly, it doesn't sound like much, but compared to the stage your sister is in? The stage whenst I physically trail her every move because of fear of lost limbs? It's a lot.
* Avery, you love this song called I'm a Nut, by Caspar Babypants. Yes, Caspar Babypants.. I don't even. Anyways, when this song comes on on our Pandora we have on ALL day long, you FLIP your lid. You might be in the other room, and you'll hear the beginning notes, stop whatever your're doing and whip your head around and scream 'SONG!!!!' You'll run to the TV, stand and dance your little heart out. It's a song about.. yes, being a nut. Is it mere coincidence that you feel a connection to this song? I wouldn't bet on it. You are the biggest nut I know. The best part is the last line of the song, when Caspar Babypants (please make a popular name list somewhere!) sings long and slow 'I'm craaaaaaaaa..... zzzzzzzzyyyyy!!!' You sing this line with such passion! Of course you do.
* Andrew, we had to have the death talk with you a while back. Grandpa's dog, Sandy, had to be put to sleep, sort of shocking to us all.. so this was your first official experience with death. Because I'd never have such a discussion without consulting the internets, I settled on a loose script (minimum facts, answer any asked questions, less is more, let him take the lead) and bought 2 kids books about death on amazon. As usual, I worried relentlessly about this conversation. I hated having to have it, quite honestly. Yep, I'd rather you not even be aware that everyone on this Earth must die someday.. I'll admit to that. I planned on letting your college roomie have that conversation with you, while you comfort-ate brownies I mailed to you from home. So we picked a morning, that way your father could be sure and be there.  I told you that Sandy died, and you instantly got watery-eyed and said why??, and I said something to the effect of when someone's body stops working, they die. You were quiet for a good 30 seconds, we were too because we were letting YOU take the lead, and then you asked 'where'd she die?' And I said with Grandpa. She was safe and warm with him. And you instantly said 'no no no.. where ON THE FLOOR at his house did she die?' HA! I told you the vet, so no worries. So my child. I wouldn't want to play blocks on the spot where a death occurred either, kiddo. You then nervously half-laughed a question.. 'I'm not going to die, am I?' My instinct was to tell you, yes someday, you will.. and I started to, but your father interrupted me by saying that that was not something for you to think about or worry about. He made the right call. You were fine, we had breakfast, and that was that. Several times since you've been over to Grandpa's, you haven't once inquired about Sandy. It's just been this accepted thing..  You weren't even interested in the books we bought about the topic. They were cute and age-appropriate, but you wanted to skip them and read your usual books. Fine by me.
* In less morbid news, you BOTH are bottomless pits of food-consumption lately. Avery, you could live off yogurt (still MAGURT, God bless you!).. and applesauce, too. It must be put in your own bowl, given with your own spoon.. NO help from us. You get seriously pissed otherwise. Sometimes, towards the end, when you've decided it tastes better sucked from your shirt-sleeves, we'll take the bowl and feed you the last few bites (in the interest of just getting it out of there!).. If you throw a fit, we'll tell you it's either WE do it, or it's gone.. then you happily open your baby-bird mouth for the last bit. You've loved oranges lately.. I dice them up a little, and you could easily eat a huge orange in one sitting. Love all fruit, obsess over sweet potato fries, never met a carb you did't like. You scream POUCH! at me sometimes, because you absolutely love those applesauce/puree pouches they make nowadays. A luxury I never experienced w/your bro, but now I definitely take advantage of. Lately, you've loved hummus ("HUM-MEES!"), too. I tried giving you your own bowl and some veggie sticks/chips, but you end up just scooping the hummus with your paws, so we're backtracking that. I do the dipping for now. Andrew, you'll hear me say at least once a day to you 'my goodness you're a growin' boy!!'... because you eat like a HORSE. I hear at least 3 times towards the end of dinner (when a very full plate was put in front of you), 'I'm still huuungry..', after eating your first go 'round. I'll usually give you some Triscuits or another yogurt or more of whatever you had to hold you off. I'm starting to think you're part Hobbit, I might consider adding in Second Breakfast sometime after your mid-morning snack. You do know when to stop though. You'll say that your belly is telling you that you're full.. and that it's good to listen to your body. So smart. Mommy tells her body to shut it's trap when there's brownies in the house, so I could really use that tip.
* Avery, you're a little sponge-o-learning. I had almost forgotten about this stage. It's weird, when your kid knows the basics, the ABCs, counting, writing, most self-help skills, etc etc.. you really do forget that all these things must have been taught at some point. And that I was the primary teacher. It's a wake-up call of sorts, because one gets a little comfy (lazy) when your eldest is already on cruise control for so much. You are currently really into colors. You have probably one color you've mastered, and that's orange, which you pronounce with weirdly perfect pronunciation for your age. You call everything else either GEEN! or LELLOW! Just like that, with exclamation points. If I sing the ABCs and leave out letters, you fill them in mostly perfect.. which is the extent of it for now. You love to count, and by count I mean you point things out one by one and say mostly nonsense things, then clap for yourself and say YAY! You know a ton of body parts.. and if I had to sit down and count how many words you have.. well, I wouldn't. Because there is a lot. The grocery store is your visual playground, you point out every last thing you see/know, which is a lot, omg child you never stop talking at the grocery store bless your high-pitched chatterbox heart. You wave and say a southern 'Haaaaa!' to anyone who passes you by, or within 50 foot range. Anyone who doesn't reciprocate but clearly can sometimes makes me say rude things under my breath. You ask for things, clap when I let you do it/have it, then say NO and throw it back to me, then ask for them again, then say no, even more pissed off than before. Potty training is going to be a blast.
* Andrew, your everyday sweetness is something I wish I could go back in time and tell the me of last year about. For your 3-year old ways broke me, most days. Your out-of-nowhere rage (as ragey as you could get, at least) and daily fits truly laid me over the table. But now? SWEETNESS. Reasonableness! Just, joy. We were walking into Target one morning, really fast because it was very cold, and you said 'I'm not cold at all!' and I said something like 'it's because you have a big warm heart!' and you replied with 'Yes, it's because God and Jesus live in there, and they keep it nice and warm...' SQUEEEE. I get it, Bill Cosby. I get it now! Kids DO say the darndest things, and it's amazing.
We were driving one day, and you looked out on a field full of big holes of dirt, a construction site, and you muttered to yourself, 'looks like they have a gopher problem'...  An episode of Curious George can have the credit for that little gem, but seriously. Every day is something worth writing down.
Oh kids, you keep me (relatively) young. You have given me white hairs, too, but mostly you keep me young. I stay on my toes, entertained, exhausted, and grateful.