Letter to Max at three years

Dear Max,

You said the most complicated sentence I have ever heard you say today, “It kind of looks like a backpack.”

You have an amazing vocabulary and repeat most things we say. Which can be dangerous sometimes, although we are pretty vigilant about what we say in front of you.

Some recent funny phrases: asking me to “sound it right” when you want me to turn the TV up and saying there was a “package ding-dong” when a package is left at the door and the delivery person rings the bell.

You still love Thomas the Tank Engine. Right now, you are very into dinosaurs, fire trucks, and construction vehicles, especially cement mixers.

You sing all the time. You remember songs I used to sing to you at bedtime a year ago. Now you make requests at naptime and bedtime. You have started requesting original songs. You’ll say a random word, such as “snuggle”, and expect an original composition. You started with “Pretty little pigs” and then “Pretty little alligators” and went from there. In fact, “Snuggle” has become standardized (It took awhile.) and is in regular rotation now.

I love how you spark my creativity. I learned how to draw a train (a rudimentary one) because you asked me to. And I compose original songs nightly because you ask me to.

That’s one of my biggest dreams for you. That you will be creative and spontaneous and unafraid to be silly. So, I am venturing outside of my comfort zone to model that for you. In trying to teach you, you have taught me. And that is one of the greatest joys and gifts of parenting.

Everyone says how smart you are. That makes me so proud and I hope you will enjoy the gifts of intelligence and good looks that have been bestowed on you. But don’t let them paralyze you. Don’t think your only assets are gifts given by the whims of the gods that are essentially beyond your control. You are developing many other traits that will serve you well and will, I hope, make you proud in life.

You are persistent.

You are kind.

You are curious.

You are eager to learn and do things for yourself. (Although I still hear the phrase “Mommy can do it” or “Mommy can help him” a lot. 🙂 )

Believing you can adapt to any circumstances necessary, learn anything truly important to your life and well-being, and find satisfaction and contentment in whatever life throws at you – those are the assets that are truly important. I am going to do everything within my power to make sure you have those assets. It’s not straight A’s or a perfect smile that matter. It is friendliness, empathy, and hard work.

You have developed the adorable new trick of trying to hide your smile. It is hilarious to watch you trying not to smile when we do something funny or tell you not to smile. When you found out I thought it was funny, you did it over and over again.

In many ways, you are such an independent little guy. I forget sometimes how important I am to you. But then I get a little glimpse. Your pleasure when you do something that makes me smile or makes me proud. Your hand tugging at mine, doing your best to lead me into the playroom.

You have a little sister now. I won’t lie to you. Even though you were probably the easiest baby ever, I have had an easier time with her. I am in a much more confident, happier place now than I was during much of your first year. Part of that was first-time motherhood. Part of it was postpartum hormones. A large part of it was that I had learned to live in fear and had a deep distrust of myself. I constantly worried over doing the right thing and was way too hard on myself. I did not let myself enjoy the wonderful little gift I had been given.

I am happier now than I have been in years and I think it’s because you inspired me to do the hard work that was needed to repair the damage I had done to myself. I do worry at times that my fears and anxiety might have had an adverse effect on you. Whether they did or not, I am making up for any time that might have been lost. I have so much fun with you, Max. We do puzzles together, read books, sing, draw, play with trucks, and watch TV.

You are an amazing big brother. You have been infatuated with your sister since the beginning. There were a couple of days of standoffishness, but then you glommed on to her and haven’t let go since. You ask to wake her up first thing in the morning. You smile so hugely every time you see her. (And she does the same when she sees you.) You have an endearing/annoying habit of holding her ear. It seems to comfort you. I’m not sure why.

I miss having time for just the two of us. Now that Lucy is older, we are able to have more playtime together again. We’ve even had some outings just for us. We went to a Mother-Son Date night and we’ve gone on some errands alone.

You are so like me. You inherited my cautious nature and my crazy memory. You love to read and sing. You are even starting to be able to carry a tune.

I have noticed a strange phenomenon since you turned three. You are sometimes a pain in the ass. You contradict almost everything I say. You can flip a statement from negative to positive and vice versa and come up with an opposite to ANYTHING. (My pride in your verbal skills and odd relief at seeing you act like a “normal” kid leaven my annoyance.) You are loud and active and chatter constantly. You want my attention whenever I try to do yoga or talk on the phone or watch a show I like on TV, but push me away when I try to snuggle you sometimes. It’s like you got the memo about the threes being way worse than the twos.

Yet, somehow, I love you more than ever.

You may be willful and negative and testing your boundaries constantly. But you are also developing empathy. During the past few days, you have showed concern for your baby sister. I have seen you comforting her. And you are trying so hard to make friends with the cats. I showed you how to hold your hand out to Fort and let him sniff it. You listened and watched carefully. Then, you screwed up your face in concentration, tip of your tongue sticking out between your teeth, balled up your cute, still dimpled hand, and slowly held it out to Fort. You actually kept it still while he sniffed it. I could tell you were trying so hard to restrain the urge to move and grab. You were so proud of yourself. A few days later, after we returned from a trip, you moved your face close to Fort while he was sitting on the kitchen table. Fort leaned down and sniffed your face, what we call “giving kisses”. We were both so excited. Now you have your sights set on Angus, but you have yet to grasp that chasing Angus and trying to pet him is the wrong approach.

I can be so angry with you and then you say something and crack me up. I had forgotten how hilarious three-year-olds are. Your father and I were arguing while we were trying to get dinner ready and you were harassing us as usual. Then you said you wanted the “brown yogurt”, referring to chocolate pudding. You cracked us up and we forgot all of our annoyance.

You are funny, smart, sweet, stubborn, contrary, and incredibly dear. And you are making me stronger every day. I can literally feel myself getting tougher as we butt heads everyday. Learning how to be your mom has made me feel like I can do anything.

Three has been both tough and wonderful so far. You are more challenging than ever. But we’re going to make it through, kiddo. I won’t let you down. Each year has been more exciting than the last with you. Here’s to another. 🙂

I love you, my boy.

Love, Mommy

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




Max’s law

Today was going to be simple.

But then there were three nap attempts, only one of which was successful.

A food sample was spat in to a shopping cart.

There were cherry tomatoes all over the floor of the floral department at HEB.

And I just stepped in prune that somehow escaped our cleanup after Max’s dinner.

We plan, our toddlers laugh.


Letter to Max at eighteen months

Dear Max,


one personalized storybook at the bottom of the hamper

A Munchie Mug lid in a tote bag

A set of clean, folded bedsheets at the bottom of the dirty towel hamper

A pacifier on my closet shelf

A set of rhythm sticks where my flats should have been

About eighteen months ago, I usually knew where things were at any given moment. Now there are (mostly) delightful surprises lurking everywhere. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

The most amazing development the past few months has been in your ability to communicate. All of a sudden, you actually say words and phrases we understand and we can answer you! We’ve actually had a few conversational exchanges.

You also mimic most words you hear. So far, this has not been a problem. It is just adorable and hilarious. You just learned how to say, “Why?” You also know how to say “hello”, “night-night”, “kitty cat”, “shoe”, and “meow”. You have a few funny exclamations in your arsenal “Oh, my!”, “Oh, no”, and “Oh, shoot” among them. In fact, every time we do anything that displeases you lately you say, “Oh, no, no, no” in the most pathetic voice. You say so many cute, funny, smart things. You amaze and amuse us constantly.

You learned how to kiss about a week ago. We ask you to send us a kiss and you make a kissing noise with your mouth. Funnily enough, when we actually get you to kiss us, you still do the open-mouthed toddler kiss. Either way, we can’t get enough.

You are walking up a storm. You started at the beginning of December. You’re not running yet, but you tirelessly toddle everywhere and hardly ever are still, unless you are in your booster seat, your crib, your carseat, or standing right in front of the TV. You love to watch “Sesame Street”, “Max and Ruby”, “Yo Gabba Gabba!”, and “The Biscuit Brothers”.

You have been a big reader for several months now. Well, you love to be read to, but I can tell you know some of the stories. You love “Potty” by Leslie Patricelli and several “Max and Ruby” books. (That’s what led us to the TV show.) You also still love the “Llama Llama” books by Anna Dewdney and a new favorite is “Too Many Cats”, which Nana bought for you during a recent visit. (Thanks, Nana!)

I have been sick all week and you started running a fever yesterday,  but that hasn’t stopped us from having a memorable week. On Monday, I let you experiment with an almost full container of Yo Toddler yogurt. I don’t know what possessed me, because I have never let you do that before, but it suddenly seemed like a good idea. I’ve worried that I am too careful and am holding you back from learning to feed yourself as fast as you otherwise might. I don’t know how much you learned from this session, but it sure was fun.

You had a BLAST. We both did. And it reminded me that we need to let loose and explore and make a mess every now and then, because it is so much fun and it leads to more fun at times. In this instance, it led to us taking a bath together in the big bathtub in Mommy and Daddy’s bathroom. We hadn’t done that in months. And I am so glad we did. Once again, we had a blast. You discovered that it is awesome fun to hold your hand right under the faucet while the water is running and spray water all over the bathroom. And my heart melted when you gazed up at me and smiled adoringly while I was washing your hair.

We broke from our routine last Monday and had one of our happiest mornings in recent memory, despite the fact that I felt sick as a dog. Making you happy made me so happy. I hope I can remember to break the routine and the rules a little more often and experience the crazy side of life with you as much as possible.

Here’s to eighteen months of life outside the womb for you, Max, and eighteen months as parents for me and Daddy! Eighteen months as a family! What an achievement! I am so proud of us and of you. I love you, sweetheart.

Love, Mama

Just finished reading (with Max)

Big Little by Leslie Patricelli

We love this book. I have now added everything she has ever written to Max’s wishlist on Amazon. Because I am obsessive-compulsive and addictive like that.

Crankiness loves company

Oh, today. Crabby, rainy, impatient-with-my-child today. Max was a handful today. I’m not sure if he was cranky because I was cranky or I was cranky because he was cranky. Or both. Either way, he was climbing on, grabbing at, and occasionally biting both me and the cats.

I was pretty impatient with him a few times. I’m human and it’s frustrating when I’m trying to cut his nails so he won’t hurt himself and he cries and writhes like I’m trying to cut his fingers OFF. Even “The Biscuit Brothers” didn’t completely distract him. I guess I shouldn’t have been trying to cut his nails right before his nap, but there never seems to be a good time to do these chores. He’s always about to take a nap or eat or we have to get out the door.

Speaking of food – this has not been a easy week. The vomit I have cleaned up. Max threw up three meals in a row on Monday and Tuesday, so I felt I had to take him to the doctor even though he didn’t seem sick. He’s not. We just had to go back to feeding him one, smaller bite at a time. Just when I had gotten to where I could put a small amount of food on his tray and let him go to it and not have to feed him every. single. bite. Sigh.

Max the genius

I asked Max at naptime what book he wanted to read for “night-night”. He not only handed me a book, it was his Sesame Street “Nighty-Night” book! He’s only thirteen months old! He’s a genius.

Let’s talk about sex … or not

I turned on a rerun of “Friends” earlier today. I don’t watch that show much anymore, since I have seen most of the episodes a million times and I have all of the seasons on DVD. However, I thought it might be a harmless way to decompress for a few minutes between finishing Max’s bottle and starting his dinner.

There were three sex jokes in the first few minutes we watched. Max probably doesn’t understand what he’s hearing and, even if he does, he doesn’t know what it means yet. But it made me really uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to turn it off.

What’s the problem? I asked myself. You watched “Golden Girls” with your mom and grandparents every weekend when you were little. You watched “Roseanne” every single week. It all went over my head. I was shocked at the content when I starting watching the reruns in college. They’re not that racy by today’s standards certainly, but they are family shows and were on during the family hour. I don’t think it was wrong for my mom to let me watch them, so I wonder why I felt so uncomfortable with Max. (Of course, I was school-age, not a toddler.) Especially since I watch “The Golden Girls” around him with no problem. “Roseanne”, too. (Although I have gotten a bit fidgety during that one.) Does the sitcom format make it seem less serious? It’s a joke, so that makes it seem more appropriate. They’re not actually SHOWING sex, so that’s ok. Is it? (Just a note that I am talking about whether it’s ok for my son’s viewing. As far as I’m concerned the shows can do what they want. I don’t have to watch.)

I don’t think sex or talk about it is embarrassing and I don’t want to convey that impression to my son. He is only 13 months old, though. He’s too young for it. But he doesn’t notice the racy talk yet. And he probably won’t for a long time. And if he does, he’ll probably ask questions, which means he’s ready for some sort of honest answer. (Of course, there are degrees. A three-year-old doesn’t need as much detail as a six-year-old or a nine-year-old, etc.) Is it ok if they’re just talking about sex or joking about it? Is it ok if he doesn’t seem to notice it?

And while we’re on the subject, what is UP with the racy and/or violent commercials on family channels during family shows?? Yeah, I’m talking to you ABC Family.

My little vampire

I don’t like being bitten. Shocking, I know. And I have a child who, for lack of a better word, is a biter. But not an aggressive, angry one. He seems to bite out of love. And therein lies the complication.

Let me back up a bit. Our son has a previous history of biting, but nothing that serious. We went through a phase where he started biting me while nursing. Not only did that hurt, but it totally stressed me out. It just sucked. I had to willingly offer one of the most sensitive parts of my body everyday to someone who was almost certain to bite it. And then grin at me like it was funny. He even started looking up at me right before he did it, almost as if he was seeing if he could get away with it. It was like offering my nipple to a piranha three or more times a day.

He did grow out of that, but nursing ended not too long after anyway. He would occasionally bite our fingers when we brushed his teeth or our hands, but it was never a big problem and it was limited to my husband and me.

Until the day my child decided to go all Twilight in playgroup. We went on a playdate with some friends from his music class. It was at the playscape at the mall and everything was going perfectly at first. However, we were already not having a good morning. We had to get up early and rush, which I, and I suspect Max, do not like to do. Furthermore, I had lost my patience with his squirming on the changing table and broken a sweat putting him in his carseat at 10 in the morning.

We get to the playscape and it is absolutely full of kids, older kids, despite the fact that the sign very clearly says it is only for children under 1. Plus, all of the parents are wearing shoes and it says no shoes! Grr. Anyway, Max apparently became excited and overwhelmed and started biting everyone. EVERYONE. First, his little friends, then their caregivers, then kids we didn’t know. He even tried to bite adults we didn’t know, but I managed to stop him. I was so blindsided and embarrassed. Thank goodness, his friends’ nanny and mom had seen him behave perfectly in music class for the previous seven weeks.

I cried buckets after we got home, from stress and worry and goodness only knows what else. He has continued to bite too much since then, although not with the frequency of that day. He is getting better, but I feel guilty, because I flinch too often when I see his mouth headed towards any part of my body. Or even just his head. I try so hard to wait and let him make contact and only pull away if he actually bites, but I just can’t sometimes. It’s an involuntary reaction and very hard to control. It’s natural to flinch away if you think someone is going to bite you, right?? But I think it is his way of kissing and showing affection and I am terribly afraid he feels rejected when I flinch away or nudge him away. I have gotten better and, ironically, he bit me kind of hard on the jawline when I was putting him to bed tonight (I was overwhelmed with love and hugged and kissed him tightly and he responded in his own unique way.) and that made me less afraid of the biting. Still, I wonder if damage has been done. We show him so much love and affection and he does not act like he feels rejected, but I worry about what goes on in that little head of his.

Does it make you a bad mom to not want to be bitten? Surely not. Heck, it’s gotten to where sometimes I’m excited when I see his teeth headed towards my skin, so I can give him a chance to show affection without biting. I want to not worry about biting. Just let whatever happens happen and handle the problem when and if it happens. I want to do that with pretty much everything else, too.

Letter to Max at one year

Dear Max,

You’ve been one-year-old for a week and a half now. I meant to have this letter ready for your first birthday, but it’s been so hard for me to figure out what to say. You mean so much to me. (Just typing that sentence brought tears to my eyes.) I can’t put into words how amazing this past year has been, how much you’ve enriched my life, and how much you’ve helped me become the person I want to be.

Maybe I should talk a little about what I want for you, the person I hope to help you become. I want you to be happy and kind and self-sufficient and to know who you are and what and whom you love. I want you to be brave in your pursuits and to learn, as I have, that there are many, many ways to be successful in this life and many of them have nothing to do with money. Oh, how I want you to be brave and confident and to love yourself. I have spent so much of my life in fear, little man, and I am only just now learning how to embrace my imperfections and to just jump in and try and make mistakes and learn from them. That is largely thanks to motherhood, so thank you.

I guess the preceding paragraph sounds a bit cliche. These are probably the things most parents want for their children. Maybe I should be more specific, but I just don’t have a specific vision for you, such as being a doctor or being President someday. I really just want you to live your life in happiness and peace. The only specific wish I thought of just now is that you will at least be kind to animals and maybe even love them, as I do. That smack in the face you gave Fort yesterday isn’t a great start, but I think you had good intentions.

Just know that your father and I love you so, so much. We fairly burst with it at times. We spend time at night discussing how special you are. You are such a thinker. You like to sit back and examine things and figure them out before you jump in. We took both swim and music lessons this summer and you were quiet and contemplative most of the time in both.

You are not walking yet, but you are very close. You practice everyday and flirt with letting go and taking off. You’ve fallen a few times, but, true to your cautious nature, you seem to be waiting until you’re pretty sure you have it down before you go for it.

Elmo seems to be your first celebrity “crush”. You get a smile on your face every time you see him. In fact, you were fussing today and you stopped every time you saw the tiny Elmo face on your washcloth.

Your favorite book is “Llama Llama, Red Pajama”. It is the only book you actually look at the entire time we’re reading it and you even lean towards the next page in anticipation. We think you like the vivid colors in the illustrations. I bought you a Llama Llama doll last Friday and you carried it all around Barnes and Noble, only parting with it so I could pay for it. You did seem just as enamored of the price tag you were chewing on as the doll, but you seem to love the doll now, even without the tag.

We have a sniffing game that developed out of my method of sniffing your blanket every night to ensure it’s clean enough for you to sleep with. It’s gone from me sniffing the length of the blanket to tossing it over my head and sniffing exaggeratedly around the room until I get to you and give you a big kiss through the blanket. You always smile in anticipation when I approach your crib at night and you laugh so hard.

You get laughing fits where you laugh silently, your face turns red, and your whole body shakes. Sometimes you laugh so hard you get upset, but it’s mostly worth it to see and hear those adorable giggles.

You love the windchimes Daddy hung over your changing table a few days ago. Grandma, Aunt Pat, and I like to believe that Grandma Lowder is talking to us when we hear windchimes and Grandma gave me those as a college graduation present. I love to see the rapture on your face when they ring. I am sure Grandma Lowder loves you very much and is watching over both of us and it means so much to me to see any little part of her in your life.

You’re not really talking yet, except for “Mama”, “Dada”, and possibly “No”. (We’re not sure about that last one.) You can imitate sounds wonderfully and have been able to since you were only a few months old. I swear I’ve heard you say “Uh-huh” a few times and even “cat”.

We bought many musical instruments for you for your birthday and you love them. You’ve been playing with your lollipop drum so much and you finally made a connection between mallet and drum yesterday. You were holding the drum backwards, but you still did it and were so proud of yourself.

There are so many adorable attributes I could add to this snapshot of you at one year. I don’t want to forget anything, but I know I will, even if that sounds impossible now. However, I will never forget how you delight me everyday and make me feel like the luckiest mommy on earth. I love you, Max Max sugar smacks. 🙂

Love, Mama

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