Letter to Max at two years

Dearest Max,

You are amazing.

You enchant me everyday.

And it’s not just your beautiful smile and your kissable cheeks. You have grown so much this past year. All of a sudden you can count to ten (and count backwards from five in Spanish) and say the alphabet starting with h. You know so many letters by sight, too. The love affair with Elmo continues, but you have expanded your horizons to Winnie-the-Pooh (whom you insist on calling “Winnie Poop”) and Dumbo. “Max and Ruby” is your absolute favorite show right now, even though you also enjoy “The Backyardigans”, “Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Curious George”, “Yo Gabba Gabba”, and “Sesame Street”. “Ponyo” was your favorite movie until recently. You haven’t been asking for it lately. In fact, your dad and I took you to see it at the Alamo Kids Club this summer. That was your first time in a theater since I took you to Baby Day to see “Whip It!” when you were two months old.

You don’t have a clear favorite with books right now. You like them all. You were a bit obsessed with the “Harold” books for awhile, but you aren’t asking for them quite as much these days.

I love the way you say, “Mommy”. You have started calling for me when you wake up in the morning and from naps and I have to restrain myself from running in to your room sometimes.

I can’t believe you are already two-years-old. The first year of your life went by rather slowly sometimes, but the second year … it FLEW. And what a year it’s been.

We went to the beach.

You visited Albuquerque (Daddy’s hometown) for the first time.

You learned to walk on your own last December.

You can talk a mile a minute and repeat virtually everything you hear, but also be the quietest kid I’ve ever been around.

You give kisses and hugs.

You learned to say “Don’t worry, be happy”.

You sing along in the car and have also started singing in music class a bit.

You are learning to play nicely with the kitties.

We had your second birthday party. Elmo was a strong presence, of course, but this was your first party with friends of your own. Although you were overwhelmed by the guests at first, you ended up having a blast.

So many people love you, Max, simply because you are you. You are sweet and smart. You have a good memory. You keep trying when you want to figure something out.

You are starting to test your limits a bit and trying to be more independent. You love to help unload the dishwasher and the dryer and to throw your diapers away in the trash can and the Diaper Champ. You are actually quite good at cleaning out the lint trap. I have really improved my time unloading the dishwasher because I have to grab the dishes before you let go and reach for the next one!

You just started your first swim class without me and you might be starting a Mother’s Day Out program soon. You’ve been to two Super Waterbaby classes so far and you’ve done so wonderfully. The first time you cried most of the time, but the second class you only cried a couple of times. You are so brave. You stuck it out even though you didn’t understand why Mommy wasn’t with you or why you were in a different part of the pool with a different teacher. You did a six-second swim in class this week and are doing very well with kicking your legs in the water. The smile you get on your face when you emerge from the water, when you know you’ve conquered something you were afraid of, melts my heart.

You are still so well-behaved. You have been showing some signs of stubbornness and have thrown a few fits, but you are mostly a sweet, easygoing kid.

It has been an interesting summer. We have had about 75 straight days of triple-digit temperatures with no rain. Between that and Mommy being pregnant, we haven’t gotten out to the park more than once or been able to play outside much at all. We have made it to the pool a few times and used your wading pool, but there has been more TV-watching in the house than I would like. But at least I get  to cuddle with you while we watch sometimes. And we do make it out to the backyard to play with your swing and your slide some mornings before it gets too hot.

Before you were born, Max, I remember being a little worried about having a son. I did not have much experience with little boys at all before you and I wondered whether I had what it took to be a good mother to a little boy. I was never a tomboy. In fact, I am a feminist and I worried that that would come across to you as man-hating or keep you from feeling proud of being a man. It amazes me the number of jokes and negative conversational tropes that have become commonplace in conversation about men. Being your mother has made me more aware of that and has changed me for the better. I never want you to feel anything less than proud of being a man and being yourself. I promise that I will do everything in my power to help you with that.

Only time will tell if I am doing a good job as your mom, but I can’t believe I ever worried about having a son. You are sweet, adorable, fun, and just plain wonderful and I have a blast being with you. I never thought I would have fun racing cars on the floor, but I do. Also, buying clothes for you has been much more fun than I was led to believe it would be! I love dressing you up and buying you things I know you will like. The “monster” shirt and dino Converse I bought for you this week are already a big hit.

You are my little pal and almost-constant companion and I don’t know what I’d do without you. You will always be my special, wonderful, amazing firstborn who changed my life. You turned me in to a mom. I have benefited so much from having you in my life and your new sibling is going to benefit from you breaking me in. 😉 I just hope I can pass those benefits on to you and your brother or sister as you grow. I will never stop trying to be the best mother I can be to you and to set the best example I can. I love you so much, my sweet boom.

Love, Mommy

 

 

 

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Grandpa

My grandfather, Tom Lowder, died on July 9 of this year. He was born August 14, 1923, in Lake West, Oklahoma. He grew up the youngest of seven during the Great Depression, losing his father when he was only 2-years-old. He fought in World War II, earning three bronze battle stars. He raised five kids, while working for the Sohio Oil Company for 43 years, retiring in 1985.

He was a success professionally and personally. He never went to college, but he worked his way up to regional superintendent of the Sohio Oil Company. When he retired, they named a building after him.

He worked hard and played hard. He loved his family and life more than anything. Two of his other passions were music and tending his yard, both of which he indulged to his heart’s content after he retired and in his spare time before that. I like to think I inherited my love of music from him. Many people in our family love music, but he LOVED it. And so do I. Some of his favorites were the Bee Gees, Frank Sinatra, and Neil Diamond. My earliest memories are to a soundtrack of Barry Manilow, the Bee Gees, the Pointer Sisters, Wham. Grandpa had the most eclectic musical taste of any grandfather I ever knew. He loved that I liked some of his favorites, like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and would willingly lend me CDs or make copies. I always felt proud when I liked something he liked or introduced him to something new he liked. In fact, one of my proudest moments was when he told me the CD Chris and I made as a gift for out-of-town guests at our wedding was “great”. That made my day.

We also shared a love of Humphrey Bogart and old movies in general. I gave him a copy of “The African Queen” for one of his birthdays. Again, it was a proud moment, because he was hard to buy for. He invited me over to watch it with him and we watched it together on his big screen TV. I felt very lucky that, even as a college kid, I still had interests in common with Grandpa and enjoyed hanging out with him.

He was renowned for his yard, which had beautiful azaleas and crepe myrtles. He was very protective of it, to the point where most of the family was afraid to park in the driveway for fear of accidentally driving over the grass! I never risked it until I was in college.

He was meticulous about his appearance, never appearing for breakfast until he was completely dressed and ready for the day. In fact, my mom said that they had to wait to open their presents on Christmas morning until he was dressed. While I do not get dressed first thing, I like to think I take forever getting ready because I take after him. 🙂

He always made me feel so special. He was always so excited to see me and even at the end, his face still lit up when I came in the room. I talked to him on the phone for the last time three days before he died. Even though he was so weak, he still said, “Helloooo, Sara” as cheerily as he ever had.

I know he was proud of me, but I want so much to live up to being his granddaughter. I want to live life with the gusto he did, to enjoy it as much as he did. To have such a positive impact on so many lives. He is so loved and respected, so greatly missed.

I learned so much from him and I am more determined than ever to make him proud. In honor of Grandpa, I am going to love life, live it fearlessly, and never let anything break me. He never let anything break him, not the Depression, or World War II. Not even having his wife and half of his children precede him in death. He kept going through it all and his smile always came back.

I am grateful I had him for 32 years. He was at my graduations and my wedding. He knew my son Max and was there for his first Christmas and his first birthday. He knew there was going to be another baby. I am so grateful for all of that.

I wish my son and his new sibling had a chance to play with Grandpa on the floor. I wish they had known what it was like to nestle into the crook of his arm in the red leather armchair and watch the evening news and Looney Tunes. I wish he wasn’t gone.

But every time I sing, he lives.

Every time my nephew Thomas dances to Neil Diamond, he lives.

Every time I look at my son’s face, he lives.

Every time azaleas bloom, he lives.

Every time a family member retells one of Grandpa’s corny jokes, he lives.

I am the granddaughter of an extraordinary man. For the first 14 years of my life, he was a father to me as well as a grandfather. Thank you so much for your humor, your grace, and your zest for life, Grandpa. Thank you for the example you set and for your love. Thank you for everything.

Grandpa as a little boy

Grandpa as a young man

A professional photo with my grandmother. I used to stare at this for hours as a little girl.

One of Grandpa's favorite poses

Posing on the boat at Kentucky Lake

I love his smile in this one.

Leaning on Grandma

With my mom

Enjoying music with Uncle Bill and Mom

With me as a baby

Playing with me on the floor

Happy to see my Grandpa

Telling Santa (Uncle Ben) what he wants for Christmas. It was usually his two front teeth. 🙂

Celebrating his catch with Uncle Don

With my brother Chase in the red leather armchair

Cutting the cake with Tiny at their wedding reception given by the family after they eloped.

With me at my high school graduation. I don't remember why he had the neck brace.

With Chris and me at our wedding

With Max at his first Christmas

With Max at his first birthday party

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