A Painted House

Dear James: Month Nineteen

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: November 18, 2009

Dear James,

A few days ago you turned nineteen months old.  And right this second you’re sitting next to me stirring some imaginary soup in one of my pans, with a spatula.  Your Dad and I love watching your imagination grow, even knowing that soon enough it will lead to that quintessential parents-of-a-boy moment when you leap off of something high with a bath towel tied around your neck, in your best impression of Superman.  Or, in your case, most likely Ceiling Fan Man.  He has those rotating wings, you know.

James, you may still be a peanut as far as the growth chart, but your mental progress this last month is off the charts. You’ve learned at least three dozen new words and can imitate almost any sound (so we’re holding off on teaching you the word ‘spit’ for a while, just in case it doesn’t come out as we planned.)  You’ve also begun to grasp concepts like cause and effect, recognize dozens of objects by name, correlate animals and the sounds they make, and follow commands.  Your Dad and I are frequently surprised at how much you understand and it never stops being funny to watch you automatically start spinning in circles if one of us uses the phrase “turn around” in our conversation.

You’ve also become very good at letting us know what you’d like. Ever interested in having polite children, we taught you to ask for things by saying “please”.  And smart guy that you are, you figured out pretty quickly that you if say “peas” you will likely be given the object of your desire.  So now you go through your day with a running tract of “peas, peas, peas,” as you stretch for things out of reach, struggle with things too heavy, ask to be picked up or helped down, or strain with all your might against the fridge door trying to get to your “milt” (milk).   James, I love hearing you use words, to point and answer “I wan dat” when I ask what you’d like, or whisper “night night” when I lay you down for bed.


Wait, what?  Your absolute favorite thing in the world right now, more exciting than chocolate milk, light switches, or even the illustrious fan is your morning waffle.  MAFFLE!   The second your feet hit the floor in the morning you take off for the kitchen, round the corner on one foot, skid to a stop in front of the fridge and ask at the top of your lungs for your MAFFLE!  And not just once, but again and again and again until it’s been removed from the freezer, toasted, and cut into pieces for you.  Just a glimpse of the toaster in the cupboard or butter tub in the open fridge is enough to start a rousing chorus of MAFFLE!  It’s my favorite part of morning, James.  You may not have inherited much of my looks or my build, but by golly if you didn’t get enthusiasm toward carbs.

Speaking of inheriting, your Dad was rummaging through some of his childhood things we have in storage and among the GI Joes and matchbox cars that are still a bit old for you, he found a set of four rubber dinosaurs that are perfect for your age.  It took about four seconds for you to fall in love with these new-to-you toys, partly because you haven’t had much variety in your toys since your birthday last April, and partly because you’ve become enamored with a cartoon on PBS called Dinosaur Train.  It did this Mama’s heart good to see you and your Dad sitting in the still-green grass (it’s November!), playing with toys passed from father to son.  I know I’ve said this before, but your Dad is a really fantastic man, James, and anything you can glean from him, right down to his dinosaur toys, is a bigger blessing than you realize.

I think it’s fitting James, that as I end this letter I focus on something you’re really good at: saying bye-bye.  We hang up the phone and you say bye-bye-bye-bye-bye.  We close a door and you say bye-bye-bye-bye-bye.  We walk away from someone, anyone, and you say bye-bye-bye-bye-bye.  Leaving the grocery store or church has started to resemble that final scene from The Sound of Music where they’re slowly and agonizingly leaving the stage in Austria for the last time. You never have been short on drama. 

Though it breaks your Dad’s heart a little, you’re so used to Daddy leaving to go back to work that if he steps out the back door to take out the trash you automatically start chanting bye-bye-bye-bye-bye.  But this month your Dad and I took the first steps to a lot less bye-byes on Daddy’s part; your Dad signed a contract to work for a clinic after he graduates from residency next year.  And though it was tempting to pursue a position with a higher compensation in exchange for a bigger time commitment, the thought of less bye-byes and more chances for you to run toward the backdoor shouting “Da-DEE!” at the first hint of a key in the lock; well, it was no contest James. 


Love, Mama


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