A Painted House

Posts Tagged ‘Dear James

Dear James,

Can it be that you’re three years old?  Oh, how you’ve grown over the past year both physically (You outgrow pants in the amount of time it takes me to make dinner.  I start to brown the chicken and you’re appropriately dressed; I turn to put the casserole in the oven and you’re wearing capris.) and intellectually.  I started writing these letters to record the things about your childhood that you won’t remember, but I’m not sure there is anything you don’t remember.  Your mind is always churning, always processing, and you never.forget.anything.  We had not been to Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s house for over six months, a pretty significant portion of your short life, and when we told you a few weeks ago that we were going to visit you immediately rattled off a paragraph about the ping pong table in their basement (which you had only seen once before), their ceiling fans, the DVD player you get to use in the car on long trips, and the toys Grandma has for you to play with.  Astounding. 

Speaking of ceiling fans, your obsession continues.  Three years in and you’re just as in love with ceiling fans as you ever were.  We were watching the movie Cars last week and during a pivotal scene you focused not on the dozen talking racecars on the screen, but on the animated ceiling fans whirring in the background.  And much to your Dad’s pleasure, your favorite store to visit is Menards because they have a gigantic ceiling fan display section.  You’ve even picked out a favorite fan…..which just happens to be the same fan that hung in our bedroom in our old house and under which I parked you every day so I could take a shower.  I don’t think you even know why it’s your favorite, but you gravitate to that fan every time.  It makes me wonder what else you’ve stored away in that brain of yours from these first three years of your life.  Do you also remember the hundreds of bowls of oatmeal you ate until you could tolerate solid food, the time you smashed your thumb in the door at the doctor’s office and had to get it x-rayed, or when I stepped out of the room for thirty seconds while you were coloring with markers and you turned your arms, legs, and neck purple?  How about the time you projectile vomited from the backseat of the van all the way to the dashboard, at seventy miles an hour?  Good times, sweet memories.

And it’s not just fans, you find anything that spins completely fascinating.  Pinwheels, the oscillating sprinkler, washing machines, my kitchen mixer….if you can turn it in a circle you’re enamored. Your tricycle spends more time upside down so you can spin the wheel, than it does upright.  You ask me every.single.day. if we can put the box fans up in the bedroom windows so the wind will spin the blades.  And every time we play with sidewalk chalk you ask me to draw you a fan.  We often wonder how this will translate into a career choice.  Will you be a washing machine repairman?  A helicopter pilot?  The person at Lowe’s responsible for turning off and on all the display fans?  Heaven help us if you become a professional ice skater; your long and lean form might not lend itself to triple toe loops but your spinning would be fantastic.

You also have a strong affinity for music, James.  This is one talent I can get behind. (Though not one on which you may try to base a career.  Unless of course you’re good enough to qualify for American Idol, in which case I’d get to live out every mother’s dream of having her son’s beautiful face flashed up on a TV screen, swooned over by preteen girls nationwide, and associated with a cutesy four digit phone number…To vote for James, text the word VOTE to….Really, it’s all a Mama can hope for).  Anyway. You have a large repertoire of songs stored away in your head and often break into song without warning.  And you’re pretty good too; you can hold a tune, recognize songs just by the notes even without words, and remember a seemingly endless stream of lyrics. You can also hum the tunes, in order, from every musical toy both at our house and your friends’.  You know everything from Old McDonald to Jesus Loves the Little Children, but nothing holds a candle to your favorite song: Jingle Bells.  It may be April but that doesn’t stop you from bursting into Christmas Carols while taking a bath.  You’re a boy after my own heart.  The most impressive aspect of your musical education comes straight from your favorite TV show: Little Einsteins.  You’ve learned the musical terminology for fast, slow, and everything in between.  And I love the look on peoples’ faces when we’re swinging and you ask me not to push you faster, but to push you Presto.  In fact you ask me to start you out Adagio, then Moderato, then Allegro, and finally Presto!  Or when you start humming classical music.  I just soak in the moment of motherly pride and don’t tell them that all the credit for your genius goes directly to Disney Junior.

In the year since I wrote your two year letter you’ve received a promotion, James.  You’re not only my firstborn son, you’re also now the oldest son.  You’re a big brother to Edison who was born just after you turned two and a half.  Kid, you are the best big brother.  You’re sweet to Edison, including him in conversations and asking him to play trucks with you.  You get concerned when he cries and are very upset if you don’t get to be the first person into his room in the morning to greet him.  A couple of weeks ago Edison was fussing after being laid down for a nap and then a minute later I heard your voice on his monitor, too.  I clicked on the video to see your head and hands peeking over the edge of his crib as you checked to make sure that he was ok.  And just last night as we were taking a family walk with the double stroller, you heard him start to whine a bit in the seat behind you and maneuvered yourself around to ask him, “What’s wrong, Edison?  Do you need your paci?”  And then you reached back and gave it to him.  Melt.my.heart.  Your little brother adores you, James; all it takes is a word or a glance and he wiggles and grins with all his might.  I’m a big sister myself so I know the responsibility that comes with having younger siblings who look up to you; everything you do, he will want to try and how you treat him can make or break his spirit.  It’s my hope that you continue to embrace your Big Brother role as he grows and becomes increasingly annoying in your eyes.  And then someday you two can work together to turn on every faucet we have in this house simultaneously and flood every level at once!  Hurrah for brotherly love!

If there’s one negative to your turning three, James, it’s that you’ve discovered your physical and mental independence.  It’s as if you realized that for three whole years you’ve been compliant and sweet and obedient and have decided to test the waters and see what else is out there for you.  The past couple of weeks have been challenging as you push the boundaries to see how much, if any, defiance will be tolerated.  (It would save both of us a LOT of headache and in your case, bum-ache, if you would just accept that that amount is NONE.)  It’s been hard for me to see my sweet child turn argumentative and to have to intervene with correction when you decide to tantrum rather than obey.  But I know that testing the rules and learning to submit your will to that of your parent is all part of growing up.  And I figure if God can be so gracious as to put up with me and my never ending string of defiant thoughts and disobedient actions, despite the known consequences, then I can do the same with you.  It seems that three is the age at which you begin to find out what it truly means to be an individual, a person, sin nature and all.  And nothing is more important to me, James, than that we work through that learning process together so that you come out with a strong sense of your self, a firm grasp on what choices God would have you to make, and a love for Him that helps you to make the right ones.

Happy third birthday, Sweet Pea.

Love, Mama

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: April 16, 2010

Dear James,

Happy second birthday, James boy!  And a little boy you are, no baby left in sight.  You charge full-speed-ahead through your day, alternately narrating your (and my) every move, and begging for things we were stupid enough to let you try once.  Your Dad and I have made many rookie mistakes in parenting you these past two years, James, but none quite so big as assuming that if we let you try something once, you would then forget all about it.  Hah.  Hah hah.  Poor naïve first timers, we are.  Turns out if I let you sit on the counter and splash in the water one time while I do dishes, you will want to do it every minute of every day for the rest of your life.  You’d think we college educated ones would have picked up on this trend when we let you touch the ceiling fan just once before you turned one and now, over a year later, alternate responding to your consistent requests to “Touch it?  Tooooouch it?  Touch’a da faaaan?”

This month we marked another stage of your growth into a big boy by switching you into a toddler bed.  I was a little worried how that transition would go, as you’ve been emotionally entangled with your crib from an early age.  It’s the only place you’ve slept soundly since you were just a few months old and you frequently ask to be put inside during your waking hours, just to play in there.  Yes, for the record, that’s a little weird.  Not that I’m surprised, I happen to have an unhealthy dependence on my bed and you know those kind of addictive behaviors are genetic.  But all my worry was for naught, as you latched onto the idea of a Big Boy Bed with glee.  You looooove being able to climb in and out by yourself and have even nixed our nightly rocking and singing routine, to expedite the process.  Sniff.

Not to say the transition has been completely smooth.  We made it three weeks with only the occasional bedtime snafu, where you’d come waltzing out of your room minutes after being put to bed.  But earlier this week you made up your mind to see if perhaps Mom’s limit for naptime indiscretions was lower than you thought and you were only two tries away from covert playtime.  WRONG.  And yes, that was me laughing into my arm out in the living room after busting you out of bed and watching you turn and hightail it back, pop gun trailing behind you and toy hammer tossed over your shoulder like discarded dead weight.  Turkey.

The largest change to happen to our family this month will have perhaps the biggest effect on you, James.  A few weeks ago we found out that in seven short months we’re going to welcome another member of our family!  I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about this addition come November, when suddenly you are not the only small person requiring Mama’s time and energy and attention.  To be honest I’m a little nervous about how it will affect you; I’m afraid you’ll be resentful of the new baby and upset with me for turning your world upside down.  But I also know from experience that siblings are the greatest long-term gift a parent can give their child.  The brother who shoves you and tries to stand on your head will someday stand next to you at your wedding and nudge you forward to take your bride’s hand.  And the same sister who calls away your Mama’s attention will call you on your birthday long after your Dad and I are gone.  So James, I’m willing to risk some of your two-year-old resentment in order to assure that for the rest of your years you will have someone bonded to you by blood and a mutual love of nacho cheese.

Love, Mama

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: March 26, 2010

Dear James,

Last week you turned 23 months old.  This month has brought the outdoors back into our life which is a more welcome addition than a swimming pool filled with nacho cheese.  You had completely forgotten that a whole world of play exists outside of our four little walls and watching you rediscover it with full abandon has been a joy.  The first time the snow melted enough that you could see the edges of your outdoor toys you took off in a dead run across the frozen yard yelling, “Lawnmower!  Laaawnmooower!” with all the elation of a reunited long-lost family member.  And then you mowed nice neat little rows in the snow-dusted driveway, much to the pleasures of your vacuum-lines-in-the-carpet lovin’ Mama.

Last year your Grandpa Pierce made a wagon for you for your birthday.  We’re only two weeks into what is now being called “wagon season” and I’m pretty sure you’re going to owe me for shoulder surgery sometime in your early adulthood.  You’re a wagon addict, James.  The second your feet hit the driveway you begin begging for the wagon and before the garage door is all the way up you scoot under and start pulling on the handle.  If only Grandpa had installed an odometer on that wagon because I have a feeling there’s a record somewhere for most miles covered in a Radio Flyer and we could give it a serious run for its money.

This month we’ve made some serious strides in your eating habits, James.  Last week I watched you shove forkful after forkful of green beans and mashed potatoes into your mouth and then hand it to me and ask for more. And make no mistake, that sentence reflects more celebration than if you’d suddenly started reciting the Periodic Table.  Your Dad and I realized that we’d become guilty of leaving the TV on during each dinner; a technique that once provided a good distraction as you’d mindlessly shove bites into your mouth.  But now it had become a distraction from eating so dinners have become a quiet family time where we talk and concentrate on eating and each other.  And surprisingly, you’ve responded so well to our new routine.  You eat without complaint, you try almost anything on your plate at least once, and you’ve even eaten the occasional vegetable or fruit without throwing it back up.  That’s progress, I tell you.  And each time I see you put that fork in your mouth willingly and without coercion or tears, I thank God that it’s one less time we will have to wage a battle of wills to ensure you get adequate nutrition.

An added reason for restricting what you see on TV is that you’ve become a little parrot.  You can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jesus Loves Me, Itsy Bitsy Spider without prompting and spit the entire verbiage of Goodnight Moon back to us verbatim.  You can imitate almost any sound and we have great fun hearing you try and repeat “rhinoceros”, “refrigerator”, “helicopter” and “Worcestershire”.  What we did not expect was how quickly you’d pick up phrases from our TV shows.  A couple of weeks ago your Dad and I were watching a sitcom and one of the characters used God’s name in vain.  And you, playing with your refrigerator magnets in the kitchen, loudly repeated the phrase in perfect diction.  My eyes shot to your Dad’s, he clicked off of the TV, and just like that we were done with grownup TV while you’re around.  It’s our job as your parents to protect you from negative influences, James. Even as we coerce you into repeating, “I have a booger nose” just one more time.

Love, Mama

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: February 18, 2010

Dear James,

A couple of days ago you turned 22 months old.  And in many ways this has not been an enjoyable month.  Not at all due to your age, in fact every new month seems to bring out a new little facet of your personality that leaves your Dad and I shaking with laughter or shooting each other sentimental glances over your head.  This month has just been plagued with sickness, even more so than the last, and so when I look back on it my largest memory is of holding a feverish and wimpering you as you shifted and struggled to get comfortable in any way.  You had a nasty bout with RSV, a respiratory virus that left you coughing and gagging, unwilling to eat and unable to drop into uninterrupted sleep.  And no sooner did you start to feel better than I came down with a stomach virus that put me flat on my back.  But as of today we’re virus-free and feeling good and life, like the sky outside, finally, finally looks a little sunnier.  So let’s move on, because frankly I think reliving those weeks of misery is making me all twitchy.

Your Dad is immersed in his last weeks of being overworked on call at the hospital so you and I have spent a LOT of time together this month, just the two of us.  It thrills me that for the most part, you don’t seem to have grown sick of my company yet.  You always want to be where I am, see what I’m doing, touch what I touch.  You’re my constant companion, James, ever curious and eager to narrate our days as we go.  You’ve learned the concept of helping and anytime you see me trying to accomplish a task you try and try to find a way to get in on the action.  When I’m dusting you grab any cloth you can find and dust with me, when I’m sweeping you wriggle in to hold the broom too, and should I be loading the clothes washer I better keep a diligent eye on what else might be added to the load because you’ll pick up anything in reach and toss it in. And though I’m sure my tupperware, your blocks, and various canned goods could all use a good scrubbing, I’m not sure that our clothes need to be washed with a can of tomato paste.

Oh, are you going to miss the canned goods cabinet when we move.  Right now our house doesn’t have a pantry so the biggest lower cabinet in our kitchen is where I store all nonperishable food items.  You absolutely love playing in that cabinet, stacking and rearranging the cans.  Often you’ll pull them out one or two at a time and run them into the living room.  Thirty minutes and twenty trips later you’ve created for yourself a little grocery store of teetering canned goods, stacked one on the other until to your delight, they come crashing down.  (And yes, we’ve had more than one toe-squashing incident when a particularly dense can landed on your tootsies.  Much crying ensued and we thought you might learn the lesson not to stack them so high.  But no.)  So we’ve added grocery stockboy to your list of potential careers.  We figure with your penchant for sweeping, dusting, and stacking we might someday be the proud parents of the Kroger Employee of the Month.  Be sure to get Mama a bumper sticker.

James, you are such an obedient child.  Several times in the last months we’ve left you with friends for a couple of hours while your Dad and I breeze through many potential houses at a much quicker pace than if we were buckling you in and out and keeping you from shoplifting from strangers’ homes.  You love to play at friends’ houses and with other people your size, and most of the time don’t even look up when we arrive to retrieve you.  And the thing I love to hear the most when we pick you up is how good you behaved.  You’re polite, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, ceasing to do things when you’re told not to, and coming when called.  We’ve worked so hard on raising you to be a respectful, obedient, joyful child that to hear from others how well you’re doing makes my heart swell.   I’m probably daring God to prove me wrong, but I honestly can’t remember the last time you threw a tantrum.   Not that you don’t have a defiant nature at times; your little sin nature shows through loud and clear now and again.   One of the funnier parts of raising a toddler is how clearly your thought process is written across your face.  Often when we tell you to do something, to come here for example, you tilt your chin back, raise your eyes to the ceiling and very visibly consider whether you will obey.  And should you be leaning toward ‘no’, you enact several techniques to draw our attention away from that fact.  First, you act cute; smile and bat your eyes and do a little dance.  When that doesn’t work you switch to diversion tactics.  “Look, a light!”  Nice try, dude.  Your parents may be getting old, but you have a long wait before we’re senile enough that a lightbulb will prove so distracting that we let you run around naked in February.

Love, Mama

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: January 20, 2010

Dear James,

A few days ago you turned twenty-one months old.  I will come out and admit that this letter is late because frankly, I forgot.  Sorry.  My excuse is that I’m still recovering from the misery that was last week.  Ten days ago an illness snuck up on us, tackled us to the ground, gave us wedgies, and stuck its wet finger in our collective ear.  After nearly three days of fever, not sleeping, not eating, and round-the-clock medicine, I took you to the doctor and where you were diagnosed with Strep Throat.  You felt horrible James and I felt horrible for you.  Of course even your extreme discomfort couldn’t squelch your excitement when we pulled into the parking lot of the doctor’s office and you recognized that this was the place with the FISHIES!  FISHY!  FISHIEEEEES!  And then you proceeded to entertain the receptionist and other patients by continually making fish faces at the aquarium until they called us back.  By the way, James, I think I speak for every mother when I ask that if I have called to make a last-minute appointment for you because you’re so miserable you can’t even stand upright and I haven’t showered in two days because I cannot detach your sick little self from around my neck, then please have the decency to ACT SICK when we get to that urgent appointment.  It’s not nice to wreak such havoc on our home life, sleep, and sanity and then top it off by making Mommy look like a fool with her chattery, energetic child at the doctor’s office.  Even if you did get a diagnosis and a prescription.  I’m just sayin’.

Also, antibiotics are my new favorite facet of modern medicine.  It used to be the epidural but now I realize that without an epidural the pain will be intense but it serves a purpose and will be over in a few hours.  However a child with an infection, and thus his family, will live and not sleep in misery for days and days on end with the big reward at the end being a feeling of….normalcy.  Antibiotics trumps epidural every time.  It seems you feel the same way, my little junkie, because you now routinely ask us for “mecidine”.   Who knew it’s possible to be addicted to grape flavored Tylenol and bubblegum amoxicillin?  Your little bird mouth flies open when you see that pink syringe coming and you lick your lips to get every last drop.  Last night you were reading bedtime stories with your Dad and the book asked you to point out and identify the ambulance amongst a line of vehicles.  You did and your Dad said, “Yes, that’s right, James!  That’s an ambulance.”  You: “Ambulance.”  Dad: “It’s for when people are sick.”  You: “Sick. (pause)  Mecidine?”  Dad: “Yes! You get medicine when you’re sick.”  You: “ME-CI-DINE?”  Me: “Oh! Medicine! You need your medicine.”  You: “Mmmm!”

The past three weeks have also been busy because we’ve started packing up and preparing our home for sale.  When your  Dad and I bought this house you were still just a dream, a hope of a future family.  And then not quite a year later you arrived and backed the U-Haul straight into our driveway.  You are the best decision we ever made as a couple and we welcomed you and all the stuff that came with you into our lives with open arms.  And our cozy little house became cozier.  But now, nearly two years, to Christmases, and one birthday later…..well, opening your arms and not smacking something or someone has become a challenge.  The evidence that a happy, imaginative tornado named James lives here is strewn from one end of our house to the other.  And as we’d like to someday welcome another baby into our family, we figured that it’s time to find a place to live where we won’t have to take turns at who gets to play with you on the living room floor because there’s literally not space for all of us.  Plus on the off-chance that you get a sister this next time and a  U-Haul full of Barbies, Polly Pockets, dresses, and tights backs up to the house I’m afraid we’d have to move your Dad out to the backyard.  And we’d miss him.

It saddens me to think of leaving the house to which we brought you home, the place where you did all your ‘firsts’.  This place will always be special in my memory because it’s where I rocked my firstborn to sleep.  It’s where the delight of my days learned to smile and walk and throw a ball.  I know that no matter where we go or how many new memories are planted in my mind, I will always come back to these first years of parenthood and remember nights in your tiny nursery humming hymns in your ear, watching you totter across our back yard in the sunshine while I hung laundry out to dry, hearing you chatter away as you followed me up and down the hallway dropping toys and treasures in your wake.  More than anything else that has transpired in the past 2.5 years, this has been the little house where James began. 


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: December 17, 2009

Dear James,

Yesterday you turned twenty months old.  I’m just going to come out and say it: you’re a genius.  I know, I know, somewhere in the Mommy Contract they make you sign before you can give birth there is a clause stipulating that I must think you the smartest child that ever existed even if all you accomplish in your life is continuing to breathe.  But I promise I’m not just saying that to fulfill my contractual obligation; you really are a smart cookie.  Case in point: at twenty months old you can repeatedly and correctly identify nineteen of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.  Do you hear me, James?  At the age of one, YOU KNOW WHAT AN ‘F’ IS.  You’re just a letter or two away from recreating at an even earlier age, that iconic family moment when your Uncle Josh read for the very first time, choosing an off-color phrase off an overpass.

I wish I could take credit for teaching you your letters this early, claim my title as Mommy Extraordinaire, but to be honest I think the credit goes to PBS.  I let you watch an hour of television each morning while I do my devotions, drink my coffee, and get myself together.  Unlike you, not everyone wakes up like they’re springing out of the starting blocks at the Olympic finals.  And Last week when Super Why asked you, ‘What letter is this?’ you matter-of-factly and correctly answered, ‘S’.  I whipped my neck around so fast my head twisted off.   Just now, sitting on the piano bench, you took a break from plunking the keys to point out and identify each of the letters in KAWAI.  Genius, I tell you.

You also know your numbers.  You can count to ten with little prompting, though you prefer to skip right to nine.  You know that when you reach ten we cheer and clap, and the rest of the numbers are just a means to an end.  Why expend all that effort traipsing through all those other numbers when you can take the express lane right from nine and start the party early? 

It’s Christmastime James, and you’re enjoying your second Christmas season much more than your first.  A year ago you were all preoccupied with not crawling and the holiday just slipped right by you.  This year you’re old enough to destroy appreciate the Christmas tree, not touch the ceramic nativity scene, ask for and dance to Christmas music, and swipe Christmas cookies off of the counter.  You haven’t figured out what all those pretty boxes under the tree are all about; all you know is they are NOT used for climbing on to look out the window or stacking and toppling over while you yell, “KNOCK IT DOWN!”  I can’t wait to see your surprise when you realize that those boxes which are NOT stepstools actually contain toys! For you!

Although really, who needs toys when you have the recycling bin?  Boring parents that we are, your Dad and I haven’t bought you much of anything new to play with since your birthday last Spring. And so you’ve improvised, making new playthings out of empty milk jugs and juice containers.  Earlier this morning you rescued the carafe from the broken coffee maker set aside to go out with the trash, and have been pouring me imaginary cups of coffee all morning.  Maybe you’re smarter than I even realize and have made the connection between that magical cup Mommy carries around and her willingness to let you bang on the pots and pans as loud as you can first thing in the morning.

It does this Mama good to see you make new connections, to watch the light of understanding brighten your eyes.  You’ve always been so little, barely holding your own on the growth chart and in comparison to your peers.  And your recent experiments in the field of I’m Not Hungry Thank You, No Really, ALL DONE aren’t doing much to help that fact.  But when I see you learning, absorbing information from the world at a faster rate than I can keep up with, I rest a little easier knowing that chicken legs or not, you’re growing.  This year you’ve made the connection that everything and everyone has a name, you can recognize shapes, understand instructions and tell us what you want.  Next year you might be old enough to understand the story of Jesus and how he came to this earth to be born as a little boy just like you, and save us all.  Only Jesus probably didn’t throw a temper tantrum when his mother told him not to spit out his mashed potatoes.  Just some food for thought.

Love, Mama

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

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: October 16, 2009

Dear James,

Today you turn eighteen months old.  And it’s cold outside.  It seems we’re not getting a Fall this year, the weather skipped straight from Summer to Winter faster than you can hide the remote.  I’m afraid that the change in seasons might soon reduce your monthly letters to, “This month we stared at the same four walls and counted the individual strands in the living room shag rug.  There are exactly four million, six hundred thousand, and twenty-eight.”  I fear our days of playing outside are nearing an end for this year and oh, how you’re going to hate losing the only space in which you can really run.  But never fear, even when we’re caged birds in the dead of Winter, we’ll still have the bumps on the textured ceiling to count.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?

One nice thing about the cooler weather is the reappearance of footie pajamas.  There’s something about a tiny person wearing head-to-toe fleece that just makes your insides go all squishy and sparks the urge to smother said person in kisses.  Notice I said a tiny person, lest your Dad read this and then peal out of the driveway on his way to the fabric store for some discount fleece, probably in Hunter Orange.  And James, I don’t know if it’s just your age or the coziness given off by the footies, but suddenly you’ve become a cuddler!  My independent, put-me-down, wriggler has suddenly decided you know what?  It’s not so bad being settled in next to Mama on the couch.  In fact you often INITIATE THE CUDDLING.  You love to sit on our laps and read books or snuggle in with Blankie to watch cartoons together; in short, it’s parental bliss. It’s almost enough to make me forget about the Chronic Mealtime Pandemonium.

(Side note:  you’re eating Big People Food now!  You have a very limited palate mostly consisting of carbs and protein, but YOU’RE DOING IT!  Putting actual food in your own mouth!  And chewing it!  Then swallowing!  James, you have no idea how this thrills me; I wasn’t sure this day would ever come and oh, how I’ve prayed.  If it was in the budget I’d hire the Goodyear Blimp to circle the city with a banner proclaiming, “MY SON EATS SCRAMBLED EGGS!”)

So, Chronic Mealtime Pandemonium.  What’s that, you ask?  Oh, that’s where you take every mealtime but breakfast, for some reason you looooove breakfast, and turn it into a game of Can I Have That?  Here’s how it goes: we all sit down to eat. You eat three to four bites of whatever food we’ve put in front of you and then begin pointing at everything on the table, asking that it be handed to you.  Condiments, drinking glasses, silverware, lit candles, the contents of our plates, you want them all.  And man, do you get upset when you can only have half of those things.  Steak knives and fire, ok fine, but I draw the line at my chicken nuggets; a mother can only give so much.  And with all that pointing and insisting, who has time for actual eating?  It seems most days you’re perfectly content to exist on just that one meal a day plus seven-ish additional bites of sustenance throughout your waking hours.  You’d prefer not to eat at all thankyouverymuch.  Apparently food is for sissies.

Another mealtime conundrum: you’ve put yourself on the Atkins Diet. Carbs, cheese, protein?  Check.  Fruits and vegetables that don’t come in cereal bar form?  I think not.  And even when we DO give you that much-loved ham and cheese sandwich or mac n cheese, you only want them every now and then.  Today?  YES PLEASE!  Two days from now?  Ick, blech, I’d rather starve.  Pizza is the exception to this rule – pizza will be consumed with gusto at any time.  That’s my boy. 

James, parenting is more humbling that you know.  And like all parents preceding me since the dawn of time, I hope someday you will know.  Healthy eating habits and mealtime behavior has always been my Worth the Battle issue for my children. And I’m sure God giggled to Himself when he planted a picky eater in my womb.  See, the terrifying thing about parenting is this nagging fear that what you allow today will ruin your lives forever. Letting you get down after eating just three bites of sandwich today just might, down the road, result in our being The Ones No One Invites Over for Dinner, Not Ever.  Or being banned from Steak n Shake for life. Tragedy!  But equally nagging is the wondering if it’s worth the struggle today when the phase will pass on its own, tomorrow?  I do promise you that if necessary, when a little older and better able to understand, we will sort through all these issues so that you’re a compliant eater with well-rounded tastes and little-to-no complaining.  Can’t you just SENSE my joy and eager anticipation of that day?  But for now, in this time of trying new tastes and learning what it is to finally eat real food, I’m learning lessons in humility and flexibility and just rejoicing in what successes we do have.  If you eat, you eat.  If you don’t, we’ll try again later.  If I have to apologize because your eighteen-month-old self spits out someone’s delicious casserole, I will. And someday, if we’re very lucky you might consider putting a piece of fruit NOT ensconced in a cereal bar, in your own mouth.

Love, Mama

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: September 17, 2009

Dear James,

Yesterday you turned seventeen months old.  This month has passed so quickly that I have to take a minute and remember what has happened since your last letter.  We made another trip out to Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s for a long Labor Day weekend and Grandma and Grandpa Casper and Uncle Brad came to visit you last weekend.  And in between I’ve been doing my best to keep you from running off every last calorie you’ve ever consumed and disappearing in a poof right before my eyes.  You’re busy, James.  Busier than any kid I’ve ever known and when we’re out among people I am often asked, ‘He’s more relaxed when you’re at home, right?’  No James, you’re not.  You’re always busy, always curious, always moving.  I often wonder if The Flight of the Bumblebee is playing on repeat in your head and you’re just desperately trying to keep time.

When we’re at home I let you go about your business, knowing that we’ve child-proofed the important things and while you may unroll a pile of toilet paper, transport my shoes from room to room, rearrange the contents of the kitchen cabinets, steal the computer mouse or try to dismantle your CD player, none of those things will bring you harm. I check in on you every few minutes, especially if your unnatural quiet sets off my Parental Alarm System, indicating that you’ve likely found contraband and are at this moment stealing every blessed second you can with the most desired of possessions – the Windex bottle.  But I know that should you find yourself in an unsavory situation, like say, stuck between the bed and the wall trying to reach Daddy’s alarm clock, you’ll let me know. 

Lately I can keep track of your from room to room because you’ve found your words.  Oh, how I love to hear that little voice narrate everything in a steady stream of babble punctuated by a few recognizable words. The words you can say include Daddy, Mama, ducky, hi, light, slide, stand, bath, ball, monkey, fishy, and outside.  That last one isn’t so much as said, as demanded.  You often hand me your shoes and yell, “SIDE!” in hopes that I’ll heed your subtle request to venture outdoors.  And should you catch a glimpse of an open door, someone going out without you, oh the agony.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth.  So great is your disappointment at having been denied a trip to the driveway that I think seismographs in California might register it as distant earthquakes in the general region of Northern Indiana.

Equally as great as that disappointment is your elation at spotting and pointing out a light. A light! It’s a light!  Do you see it?  IT’S A LIGHT!!!  You’ve become remarkably adept at recognizing lights in all forms – overhead lights, night lights, street lights, porch lights, the sun and stars, even illustrations in books.  We were reading Goodnight Moon and each time we turned the page to the picture of the nursery you pointed to the drawing of the fire in the fireplace and said, “It’s a light!”  That your little mind had recognized a line drawing of a fire, the concept of which you were only recently introduced via the charcoal grill, and understood that that 2D drawing of flame was the same as the dancing fire you cannot touch but have correctly labeled as a source of light…..well, my jaw dropped wide enough to encompass a Ford Taurus.  You amaze me, kid.

James, I love to hear your voice. Your Dad and I have waited a long time to hear you begin to label the world around you.  We encourage you to try new sounds and say new things, coaxing as much verbal dexterity as we can from you.  Each morning I go in to get you out of bed and you greet me with sixteen paragraphs worth of words you’ve stored up overnight.  Someday I might even understand them.  At night we lay you down and you chatter us out of the room, trying to fit in a few more thoughts about duckies and baths before sleep overcomes.  And on mornings like this one, when your Dad has been away at work since yesterday, you eagerly round every corner calling for him by name and I assure you that Daddy will be home later today, I promise. 

If there’s one thing about speaking I will try to impress upon you as you grow into an adult, James, it’s to speak wisely.  One of the many things I love about your Dad is his way of speaking in measured, thought-out words.  Your Dad isn’t one of those quiet, stoney types, he definitely has plenty to share, but when he speaks it’s to say something not just fill the quiet.  In this way as in so many others, aim to be like Daddy, James, because he aims to be like Jesus.  Ecclesiastes says, “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious but a fool is consumed by his own lips.  At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness – and the fool multiplies words.”  Use your words to uplift, not tear down.  To reason, not to rage.  Tell the world about the hope of Jesus, not the hopelessness of self-reliance.  Think first then speak and the world is more likely to hear.  But no matter what it is that you have to say, I will always, always, always listen.

Love, Mama

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: August 19, 2009

Dear James,

A few days ago you turned sixteen months old.  This month’s letter is a bit late because on your sixteen month birthday we were on vacation, far away from home, computers and civilization in general.  We went on vacation with Grandma and Grandpa Pierce, Auntie Amy, Uncle Derrick, and even managed to squeeze in some time with Aunt Allison and Uncle Josh.  Kid, over the course of last week you were loved on and catered to and played with, squeezed and chased and kissed within an inch of your little life.  You thoroughly enjoyed waking up from your nap to a crowd of people eagerly greeting you, loved finding someone around every corner who wanted to play with you, openly embraced having that many more people with whom you could share the thrilling news that there was, in fact, a ceiling fan up there. When someone walks into the room your first instinct is not to run to them, shout a greeting, wave your arms.  First, before any of those things can take place, you make sure they are aware that they once again, stand in the presence of a ceiling fan.  You’re all, “Hi. Look up please, and acknowledge the ceiling fan. Which, by the way, goes round and round, the noblest of acts. Ok, now you may give me a hug.”  Either that or we’re sorely mistaken about your priorities and you’re actually the world’s youngest evangelist, with all the pointing Heavenward.

The lake house where we spent our week of vacation was far away from here, encompassing about twenty-two hours in the car round trip.  You’ve always been a decent traveler James, nightmarish air travel incidents not withstanding, but this many hours in your car seat in one week’s time was more than we’d previously attempted.  I’m thrilled to report that you handled the trip like a champion; hardly any whining, sleeping for decent stretches of time when it was naptime, eating at travel plazas and rest stops.  And though I’d love to take credit for your stellar behavior, I’m afraid it doesn’t belong to me.  Your near perfect travel etiquette is solely a bi-product of The Magic CDs.  A few months ago I found a website where I could download 150 children’s songs for a grand total of $.99.  A better dollar has never been spent, James, because at the first hint of car time crankiness we pop the CDs in and those annoying little voices singing The Ants Go Marching and The Muffin Man soothes your soul like a balm in Gilead (I’ll take Obscure Baptist References for 1000 please, Alex).  After the first thirty minutes your parents might be arguing over who gets to jam the windshield wipers in their ears, but by golly you’re as happy as can be.   As a bonus, your Dad and I can now sing all 150 songs in their entirety including Waltzing Matilda, The Flee Fly Song and my personal favorite, Weenie Man.  I guess really it’s true that children give more than they take.

Have I mentioned that your Dad and I tend to live….um, frugally?  We’re cheap, James, and trying to find ways to save a little money on the unimportant things is hobby we both enjoy.  It’s why we’ll probably die slow deaths via paper cuts from living surrounded by Savings Account statements, and without ever having purchased Cable TV despite my crush on HGTV and your Dad’s faithful pining for the History Channel.  So this month when you needed another haircut, we thought perhaps we could save the regular expense and do it ourselves.  After all, your Dad has been cutting his own hair for years and I have a fairly steady hand with scissors.  How hard could it be, right?  James, someday we’ll show you one of those rodeo programs where the cowboys try and chase down an apparently rabid sheep, sit on it, and hold it still long enough to tie it up.  Because replace the cowboy with your Dad waving hair clippers and add in a lot more righteous indignation on the part of the sheep, and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture.  Even after Dad managed to run the clippers over your entire head, I had to try to trim your sideburns, bangs, and around your neck.  The irony was not lost on me that I was literally chasing you around the house with scissors which in a few years will be a punishable offense of the highest order. By the time we gave up you looked just a bit like that forlorn sheep, sheared and slightly uneven in places and jerking away from any sudden movements lest we jump out from around the corner and try cut your ears off again.  We’ve learned over time, James, that some things in life are worth paying a little more for; chocolate, bed sheets, jeans, coffee.  We’ve now made the executive decision that for the time being your haircuts are one of those things, lest you have to go through life with only one ear lobe.

James, I’ve noticed this month that you’re turning into a real boy.  Not in a Pinocchio, you-were-previously-made-of-play-doh-and-bendy-straws kind of way, but in the sense that you’re no longer a baby in any way.  You don’t want to rock before bed, when you’re thirsty you get yourself a drink, and you refuse to hold my hand, preferring independence.  You also seem to constantly sport several hard-earned bruises and scrapes. (Incidentally, your coolest boo boo came from falling head-first into the corner of the kitchen cabinet which left a wicked lightning-bolt shaped bruise on your forehead.  After I got over being concerned and calling your Dad to make sure I shouldn’t be high-tailing you to the hospital and checking you for a concussion and retina damage, I was able to appreciate your stellar Harry Potter imitation.)  As I’m typing this you’re sitting on the living room floor, all long legs and big boy haircut and concentrated expression complete with protruding tongue, trying to smash your trucks together in a head-on collision.  I often catch a glimpse of you out of the corner of my eye and wonder who replaced my baby boy with this grownup kid who climbs and runs and is growing at a rate that’s almost visible to the eye?  And then you fall over your own feet or misjudge a step and run to me with your arms reaching up for comfort and I think, ok, maybe we’ve still got time.

Love, Mama

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