dear julian: on your third birthday.

my dearest, sweetest, big boy:

i will never forget the moment we first met.  both of us naked, crying.  strangers.  my body was your home, and as you were placed on my chest i immediately felt as if i'd been holding you all of my life.  but who was this little baby?  i had no idea.  what would you be like?  what would your strengths be?  what about your sense of humor, or your interests?  at three, i feel like i am finally getting a glimpse into the answers of those questions.  and it feels as if you've been like this all along.  

you are sweet and sensitive.  you notice others' feelings, especially in your family.  if i'm crying, you'll comfort me.  you've actually gotten out a tissue and wiped my tears away.  you've patted my leg and told me not to cry.  if your brother is crying you'll tell me what he needs -- 'i think he needs some milk!,' or, 'baby needs you, mommy!'  you can communicate with your friends and your brother when there is a disagreement.  'can i have a turn?'  you're always the first one to try and trade toys, or redirect to a new activity.  it's when i'm most proud of you.  at three you make conversation and ask questions.  you ask what the best part of my day was, or my favorite part of a special weekend.  you even ask your brother.  the other day as you climbed up on my lap as i peed, and you declared it the best part of your day, already, at 7:15 in the morning.  at three you've been sleeping in your own bed over a year now, and your baby monitor is no more.  if you need us in the night you run right into our bedroom and climb over daddy, right between us.  or, sometimes, prefer to cuddle with just him, right at the edge of the bed.  at three, you're potty trained, and accidents are surprisingly few and far between.  you have all your teeth, sleep through the night every night, and eat a shocking variety of foods (likes include smoked salmon, kale, scrambled eggs with spinach, salt & vinegar potato chips -- dislikes include red meat, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese).  at three you know your limitations, and tell us what you aren't ready for.  as your birthday approached, you told me you'd visit the mummy exhibit at your favorite 'dino museum' when you were three.  we've visited a preschool and think we've found a winner for this fall, and you're eager.  you're ready.  at three, we are supposed to have you off your schnuller, but we've put it off one more month, and you know it's coming.  you'll be ok, i just know it.  at three you are shockingly intelligent, methodical, and deliberate.  everything you do is for a reason.  

the biggest change this year has been your words.  you're talking, about everything, constantly, way above your age range.  we said goodbye to your beloved speech therapist three days before your third birthday, and she told me you were speaking at the level of a 5-year-old.  it's a dream come true.  you don't remember nearly any of the signs that were second nature to you, but you're learning once again as we teach your brother.  and not only are you talking now, but over the last week you've been singing.  we got an amazon echo for the kitchen and you know how to ask alexa to put on your favorite songs (she rarely listens to you, though, which makes you feel self conscious and ask me to do it), and sing along.  at three your favorite songs are yellow submarine, octopus's garden, and strawberry fields forever, all by the beatles.  you also enjoy the songs of daniel tiger and dinosaur train. 

DINOSAURS. oh my gosh, the dinosaurs.  you've said goodbye to your obsession with trucks (thank you!) and hello to the world of prehistoric creatures.  and in true julian fashion, you don't just know about stegosaurus and triceratops (though of course you know about those), you can tell us all about pachycephalosaurus and parasaurolophus, the difference between protoceratops and pentaceratops, the different eras they lived in, and which were carnivores or herbivores.  i'm constantly impressed by you.  at three your favorite show is dinosaur train, but you also love to watch episodes of planet earth.  sometimes there are scary parts, i think -- when the lions are circling the elephants at night in the savannah, and you ask me to skip this part.  you don't like when people are hurt or upset or crying.  it doesn't interest you and you want nothing to do with it.  

i surprisingly said to your dad the other day that i really enjoy spending time with you.  not just in a mommy-and-kid kind of way.  i really, genuinely enjoy getting to hang out and play.  you ask thoughtful questions, you listen.  you're one of my favorite people in the world to spend time with, whether we are reading a story, watching a show, or wandering around the zoo or dinosaur museum.  you're thoughtful and poignant sometimes, making observations about things i've stopped noticing long ago.  you make me think, you make me slow down and feel.  you make me a better person.  

i told you the other day that you made me a mommy, and you gave me your shy smile and hugged me.  you're making this life better, every day.  

oh julian, i can't wait to see what this next year brings.  your third year was our best yet, by far.  and i have a feeling this next one will be just as good.

i love you the most, you silly goof.

your mama. 

dear finley: one year.

my sweet, sweet baby.

 

what a year it's been.  i'm not quite sure how you're already a year old.  you still seem to baby like to me.  not that you aren't doing so much, or so well, and not that you haven't grown to be '... SO BIG!' [your favorite game to play at the moment], but that it's just gone by so fast.  when you first turned one month old, i remember thinking, 'how has it only been one month?!'  hours seemed like days and some days seemed weeks long.  when you wake up every 2 hours to feed a baby, there is no day and night, and days bleed into one another with no breaks.  but somewhere along the way, we found our groove.  we figured it out, you and i, and your daddy and julian.  and it worked so well that we lost track of time.  and here we are.  one year later.

finley, i remember how scared i was when i was pregnant with you.  no one gets two good babies, people told me.  and so i prepared myself, mentally.  you'd be the baby that never slept.  or never ate.  you'd be the baby with colic that cried all the time.  or never let me put him down.   when you were first born and vanessa pulled you out of the water and handed you to me, i clutched you and cried.  i was grateful to hear you cry and so unbelievably thankful for the pain of labor to be over.  but those first moments, you were a stranger to me.  you didn't seem particularly happy to be out of your warm and safe space inside my belly.  no, you were pretty grouchy.  in those first few hours you and i spent together at the birth center, i thought it would be true, that you would not be what people call a 'good' baby.  we thought we'd name you oskar.  oskar the grouch.  but then, we put you in the car and brought you home.  we wrapped you in blankets upon blankets -- i'll never forget sarah walking us out to the car and saying make sure you keep him warm! hats and blankets! -- and made you sleep in hats.  and before long, your noises grew familiar.  your face was a face that i knew.  and you were not grouchy, or upset.  you weren't cranky or fussy.  you were just finley.

and now i know you, fin.  now i know how happy you are.  you are the happiest baby i've ever met.  sure, you'd prefer to be held most of the time.  and when i look back, no, you never slept through the night quite like your brother did.  but it never seemed all that bad, or all that hard, even.  it just seemed like i was the luckiest mama in the world to get to spend all that time attached to you.  preparing dinner with one hand.  sleeping with you on one breast.  it has been my greatest privilege, and i mean that, i honestly do.  when you first came home, julian told us your favorite color was yellow.  sure, we nodded, and smiled to each other at how silly he was being.  but yellow is just like you.  sunny and happy, bright and cheerful.  your smile is infectious.  your laugh is contagious.  you have a temper sometimes -- i think you're a little hothead, like i am --  and you're much more mischievous than your brother is or ever was.  but i have to admit that i love that about you.  

finley, at twelve months old you are full of life.  you walk with any toys you can push around.  you call out mamamamama and dadadadada and love to make silly sounds.  you kiss with an open mouth on command and whenever you want to.  you love your brother something fierce, and i can already see how much you look up to him.  you sign more and all done and milk almost all of the time.  you nap well and you sleep well at night.  you are silly and have the best sense of humor already.  you love to play peekaboo and throw your hands up into the air when we ask, 'how big is finley?'  you climb up and down stairs, you love to sit in your own chair but more often than not you just use it as a ladder to climb up on to your favorite place, the couch.  you love balloons and pom poms and christmas tree ornaments.  you love, love, love elmo and the chipmunks christmas carols, your favorite one being rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  your favorite food in the world is vanilla yogurt but you love scrambled eggs, turkey and hummus, toast, and rice.  you often times eat more than julian does.  

i've said it before and i'll say it a hundred more times.  you are the best thing that happened to us.  you are the missing piece i never knew we always needed.  you made us a family, and you made my mama heart explode with more love than i knew it could hold. 

it's so bittersweet, this first birthday.  i'm not certain what the future holds for our family, and if there will be any more babies or not.  it's very, very possible you are the last one.  forever the baby, no matter your age.  i'm mourning the loss of these baby days, but at the same time i see what julian is like at two and a half and i can't wait to see you like that.  this next year will be so big for you.  i can't wait to see what you are like as you grow.  it's the best -- and hardest -- part of being a mama.

thank you, fin.  thank you for joining our family and thank you for showing me how much more love i had to give.  thank you for not making me scared of more babies, more messiness, more of everything.  you are my special, sweet baby.  you always will be.

i love you the most, little finley.

your mama.

dear finley: eleven months.

hi my sweet little boy.

today you are 11 months old.  it's the last birthday we'll measure in months.  it's so bittersweet for me.  each milestone, i feel overcome with pride and heartbreak at the same time.  there is a good chance you are our last baby, and right now i am trying to soak up every last drop of your baby-sweetness before you grow into a toddler.  it's going to happen so fast.  already you're walking with a baby walker, or holding our fingers.  you're just getting so close.  you're crawling up the stairs, catching yourself when you slip, but still turning around to make sure we're watching you. you're fiercely independent, but still want to be babied.  it's the best of both worlds.  

the hardest part of this month was taking away your milk overnight.  after cutting eight teeth, you were accustomed to waking up 2-4 [!!!] times a night, every night, to nurse.  this wasn't anything we'd ever gone through before, and i didn't feel totally certain that it was the right thing.  i was so worried you'd stop nursing, or be mad at me, or just not be able to handle it.  you were pretty angry the first night, but your daddy went in to soothe you and eventually you put yourself to sleep.  it's been pretty smooth sailing since then, and you're finally -- after 11 months -- sleeping like a champ.  but part of me misses those nightly cuddles, quietly rocking in your chair, your little fingers curled around mine.  this is how it always goes.  so excited to see you grow and change, but not always sure i'm ready to let the baby moments pass.

this past month you've started communicating with us so much more.  you let us know -- loudly -- when you aren't getting what you want.  you hate to wait, especially for food, or to be held.  you take things from your brother and want whatever it is any of us have.  you point at things you want to see and examine, where you want to go, what you want to hold. but more than any of that, you've started signing with us.  it brings me so much joy to see you squeezing your little hand open and shut to ask for milk, or clap your hands in that way you do to ask for more, or flap them around to tell us you're all done with your high chair.  you shake your finger 'no' at me when i tell you not to do something, you shake your head to mean 'no' when you don't want any more of something.  you wave hello and goodbye when we tell you to.  it's just so amazing.  even this second time around finley, it's ever any less amazing, watching you grow and learn and become your own little person.  

keep growing, little fins. just maybe not so fast.

i love you the most, little monkey.

your mama.