A Painted House

Dear James: Month Fifteen

Posted on: January 6, 2011

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: July 16, 2009

Dear James,

Today you turn fifteen months old.  And James, well, I’m flummoxed. You are ever a challenge, my son, and at fifteen months you’re still keeping me on my toes and sponsoring my intimate relationship with Google.  Fifteen months old means it’s been ten months since we first introduced you to solid food in the form of oatmeal, and then a month later to pureed fruits and vegetables.  And ten months later here we are, still feeding you bowl after bowl of oatmeal and jar after jar of food paste. I think we’ve probably spooned enough squashed, strained, and smooshed food into your little body to spackle the Great Wall of China.  And try as I might, I just can’t seem to convince you that anything with texture or form is actually worth swallowing rather than fishing out of your mouth and disdainfully discarding.  Or better yet, throwing up along with the rest of your lunch.  Every now and again you’ll swallow two bites of peanut butter toast or a Cheerio or the occasional cracker but that’s it. Anything squishy or slippery in the fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese, or even dessert category that doesn’t come pureed?  Nothing doing. 

My favorite part of this food issue is when we’re with other babies and their mamas, babies who are months and months younger than you and who ingest salad and whole pieces of pizza, and I have to explain that you still don’t want to eat Big People Food.  And then comes the advice to try grapes or macaroni and cheese or cut up hot dogs.  As if I’ve been trying to force lobster and brussel sprouts down your throat.  For the record, I don’t think at this point that you’re being deliberately picky or stubborn and thus inviting a battle of wills; your Dad and I know you well enough to realize that this is just something for which you’re not ready.  You’ve always been one to do things on your own time, James.  Like, say, finally deciding to start crawling at 14.5 months old. So we’ll continue to wait for you to want to eat things kids half your age love; I’ll keep putting PB&J on your tray for you to ignore, keep scraping discarded Cheerios and fruit out of the seat of your chair, keep wiping the pasty insides of a cereal bar out of the cracks and crevices of your nose and ears and any other orifice you’ve shoved it as an alternative to your mouth.  You’ll get there, eventually.  Perhaps only fueled by your upcoming sixteenth birthday and your genetically-induced draw to the Taco Bell drive through.  They don’t serve chalupas in little glass jars, sweet pea.

The weather has been beautiful this past month, so we’ve spent a lot of time playing outside.  And, as little boys will tend to do in the Spring, you developed your second crush.  (Your first and eternal love being, of course, the ceiling fan.)  This time the object of your affection is the neighbor’s porch light and you make it a point to visit each time we’re outside.  I frequently turn around to find you speeding down the driveway on your way to making a sharp right turn down the sidewalk.  The second you catch a glimpse of that shining bulb you point and squeal and dance in place because the depth of your feelings just can’t be contained.  I usually have to pick you up and carry you home in order to pry you away, explaining that while yes, the porch light is very pretty and enjoys playing with you too, it’s generally not considered polite to run up to someone or something you like and try to drown it in spit and kisses.  James, I hope this lesson sticks through your elementary school years.  And for your reference, there will be some additional vocabulary used and a slight change in terminology when you reach the teenage years, but the lesson will remain the same.

In other news, I think there’s a chance that somewhere in your heritage you have a hint of raccoon.  I’m not exactly sure how the genetics of it all breaks down; we’ll blame it on those crazy German ancestors on the Casper side.  You’ve become a hoarder, James.  You pick up objects all over our house and squirrel them away in hiding places for later.  A few days ago I followed a trail that went something like this: you stole a shirt out of the laundry in the living room and hid it behind our bed.  You then picked up Daddy’s battery-operated alarm clock and hid that in the bathroom drawer before stealing my toothbrush and carrying that to the kitchen cupboards.  You then took your tennis shoes and the VCR remote and carried them into your bedroom long enough to stash the remote under your bed.  The tennis shoes went into my closet, at which point you took one of my sandals out and placed it ceremoniously on top of the footstool to your rocking chair.  If you perfect this particular skill I may recommend that you pursue a career with The Amazing Race, laying out routes and clues for the show’s contestants to follow.  Because by the time I had chased down all of our possessions and come upon the final prize of my sandal, I felt like I had earned the right to jump up and down and scream on national television. Your Dad and I marvel at your thought process as each night we go around putting the house back in order so that you may start all over again the next day.  We did not laugh quite as much last week when we were searching high and low for a very important piece of computer equipment (which costs $300 to replace) that you slipped out of Daddy’s work bag and hid for us to find.  May I request that in the future you stick to claiming less critical objects as your own?  Like maybe just the keys to the car?

Last weekend you and Daddy spent the whole weekend together, just the two of you, as I was off in Iowa attending my ten year high school reunion.  Your Dad absolutely loved spending Man Time with you, working outside in the yard and going to the hardware store, reading books and playing cars and being solely responsible for your care.  He often regrets that as our family’s main source of income he has to miss so much of your day-to-day life. It was the first time I had ever been away from you for more than a few hours, James, and by the end of the weekend I would have pumped rocket fuel into my car if it would have gotten me home to you a few minutes faster.   And even though I was positive you were in good hands with Grandma and Grandpa Casper on Friday and Daddy for the rest of the weekend, I couldn’t help myself but to call every few hours and make sure that you were ok.  I know I won’t be there for every single day of the rest of your life, James, but up until last weekend I had been there for each day so far.  To miss even one was harder than I thought it would be and it seemed when I got home that you had grown seven inches and gained forty pounds in the previous fifty-five hours.  (I can only hope you didn’t think the same?)  That night I rocked you before bed and cuddled you close, so thankful to be back where I belong, and told that when you woke we’d make an extra long visit to that pretty, pretty porch light.

Love, Mama


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