Archives for category: Babies

“I get to go in the attic!”

Yup. For her birthday, she got to go into the attic. (It’s right up there with getting gum for her Christmas present when she was two – what terrific, but unlikely, things to anticipate!) That was what she was excited about today. She got to roam around and poke in boxes and bags, standing at full height – unlike us – and looking like Alice in Wonderland, taller than real life. When asked at dinner if it was as exciting as she thought it would be, she said, “No.” We looked at each other, knowing how great anticipation can lead to great disappointment. But she wasn’t done yet. “It was funner!”

Climbing up

Climbing up

Alice - in Wonderland

Alice – in Wonderland

That – and her new fishing pole – might have been the highlights of this, her fifth birthday.

“…in that party dress.
Balloons and cake,
Two kinds of ice cream –
Guess [yes?] you’ll be a mess!

“Share the fun with your [little] brother
As friends go, he’s your best.

“Make a wish; it just might come true –
Blow those candles out.

I won’t forget the day that you were born
Five years ago
We were happy and excited
and we loved you so
You’re growing up so quickly
Now, I feel a little sad –
That’s to be expected;
after all, I am your daddy [mommy].”

Five years ago

Five years ago

Loudon Wainwright III’s “Five Years Old” – it’s the song for today.

And she DID have two kinds of ice cream – but she said she didn’t like the first, and she didn’t eat much of the second. She did eat her birthday dinner – she’d asked for bacon and hotdogs, and she got bacon-wrapped hotdogs and lima beans. Chocolate cake, white frosting with sprinkles – and a party dress, the kind she’s wanted, with a flouncy under-layer and a sash around the waist. And we did go out and get balloons, like we have every year. It was a full birthday!

Like Alice, she’ll continue to grow – but, we hope, at regular speed; these five years have already sped by, and I am not prepared for it to go by any faster than this. Happy birthday, Girl!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

He likes blocks – Duplo and wooden – although he doesn’t seem to love them like he some children do. Throwing them, yes. Building with them, only sometimes. But the building blocks of language? He’s totally in love with those.

“I do.”

We heard a lot of this last November or so. Trying out what may have been his earliest sentence, he exuded confidence, determination, and a strong independent streak. Of course, what child doesn’t want to do things himself? Sure, he wanted to feed himself soup, which sure as soup wouldn’t stay on the spoon. Sure, he wanted to run the bath himself, or climb into the tub alone, or put on his own shoes. Sure, he wanted to get into his car seat himself – never mind that he was as likely to just get in and sit down as he was to drive the car. (Now, he says “Own!” when he wants to do something on his own, like stand on the four-wheeled toy to pull the string of the lamp, for example…)

His vocabulary, which has seemed (to us, as the glowing, proud parents) quite large, continued to grow, and so did his repertoire of sentences.

To help soothe him to sleep while he nursed I’d often murmur repetitive sentences: “Boy goes night-night. Girl goes night-night. Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Maria goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night.  K-K goes night-night. Autumn goes night-night….Everybody goes night-night.”

This applied to other bodily functions, too: peeing, pooping, burping – lots of things were listed. (There’s a lot that we all do!)

And he began repeating them.

Sometimes, Daddy would drive him around to get him to sleep, and he’d chatter himself to sleep. “Daddy goes night-night. Mama goes night-night. Nannie goes night-night. Pepper goes night-night….Eveh-body goes night-night.”

He’s still a lister. The other day, he did one of his own creation after seeing a small, round, candy-coated chocolate. “M & M! Mama have M & M. Nannie have M & M. Daddy have M & M. Autumn have M & M….”

He’s built on his foundation.

For Christmas, they got a Duplo block base and an animal set – and brother and sister alike have been engrossed by this new way to create, the possibilities before them.

With language, too, the possibilities stretch before him (and her, of course!). What can we say to this, the march of language that pulls a small boy from babyhood to childhood?

I do.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

A cheery fire in the fireplace on a day heavy with snow.

Blackberry cobbler, straight out of the oven.

Mushrooms, meaty and juicy, coming off of a hot grill.

Water from the kettle when you’re brewing tea.

Texas in the summertime.

The plastic slide on a swingset on a late May day.


You never quite know what will stick, what comments made in passing will be repeated (coming back either to elate or to haunt you), what thoughts or lessons shared will root themselves deeply. You throw lots of darts at the board, but if you’re like my sister and me when we were kids, the wall and the floor each suffered unduly.

This makes it all the more surprising when you hit the bullseye.

We’ve been signing – inconsistently – with Boy. I’d used the sign for “sad” with him maybe twice, choosing the version in which you trace a tear down your cheek with one finger. Once he was ready for bed tonight he wanted to be picked up;  I lifted him up, and he rewarded me by slapping me in the face. “Hurt,” I signed. “That makes me sad,” I said. He looked at me, then traced a finger down his cheek.

Not quite so sad as I had been before. That one had hit its mark!

Bedtime, however, was long, and I did feel a little sad. As Girl was finally winding down after worrying about hearing thunder (“That was just the sound of the wheels of Daddy’s truck on the gravel,” I assured her), her mind roamed as it so often does.

“What did Daddy have before his truck?” she asked.

He’s had his truck since 2007, I think, so any “before” is also pre-Girl. What makes her wonder such things?

“He had a green car, and he had a red car before that, and another car…but I don’t know what color that was.”


“We can ask him.”

She was silent for a little while, and then she made her final comment of the night before rolling over on her side to go to sleep: “I hope we all die together.”

For someone who has never thrown darts, her aim is impeccable – and darts are piercing. I gave her a kiss, but really, if I’d learned anything from my own lessons, it was time to trace my finger down my own cheek.


2:30. Two thirty. Tooth-hurty.

That’s Matthew’s joke (that came from somewhere else), anyhow.

Yesterday, it was at 11:00. Not that I wanted to go. Not that I wanted to have a reason to go.

But I did. Rather, he did. Small Boy.

We’d gone outside and literally one minute after being out, he tried to step over a rock, didn’t make it, stumbled, and hit his tooth on a rock. Oh, I thought, I hope he didn’t cut his lip. He didn’t, or at least not much.

But what were these little white bits on his lip? What could he have fallen on? Tiny rocks, weird lint out here, what?

Bits of his teeth. *heart sinks, panic rises* BITS OF HIS TEETH! HIS TINY, PERFECT BABY TEETH!

Just the day before, on Girl’s birthday, I’d seen his seventh tooth, another bottom tooth, the one on his left of the two middle bottom ones. Just as I was celebrating his new tooth, he lost a chunk of an old one – and I use “old” in disbelief. He rarely even shows his teeth – no toothy smiles for this one – and now, his perfectly-imagined toothy grin is gone. There was much crying on his part, and I imagined all sorts of terrible things, the way parents do. (Why is it that parenting often leads to a worst-case-scenario imagination?)

In brief, the dentist said that the damage was limited and the tooth itself is OK (although trauma to teeth may, sooner or even years later, result in the blood supply being shut off to the tooth, resulting in a grey tooth). He said I didn’t need to worry; it’s not loose. The adult tooth wasn’t harmed. To me, it looks like a third of his tooth is gone. *shiver*

Today, he was eating a carrot. It seems to be OK. For now.

This parenting thing is not for the timid, as Matthew’s said before. Or the squeamish.

One year and one and a half days ago, we looked like this:

April 10, 2013 - late morning

April 10, 2013 – late morning

Not quite five hours later, we looked like this:

Being in the world requires a nap

Being in the world requires a nap

About seven and a half hours later (Baby Boy’s maybe three hours old here), he and his big sister met:

Baby and big sister meet

Baby and big sister meet

And he was small and beautiful and perfect:

Two days old

Two days old

Now he’s one year old

Carrot cake for the boy who loves carrots

Carrot cake for the boy who loves carrots

and we’re so excited to know him, to have spent this year together, to have learned more about this sweet-tempered, inquisitive boy.

We couldn’t love you more, Baby Boy, and we look forward to all that the next year – and the year after that, and the year after that, and…well, you get the picture, right? – will bring.

Baby Boy's first birthday

Baby Boy’s first birthday







There’s nothing more like music to a mother’s ears than being called “stick,” is there. Or is there? Wait, I guess “Mama” would be pretty nice, now that I think about it.

For Baby Boy, though, the world is new, full of sights and smells and objects just waiting to be named, whereas he’s been around me every day of his life, all 11 1/2 months of it. We name those things for him, and some, like “red” or “hat,” pass unnoticed, unremarked, much as we might ignore a word like “pulchritude.” (How is it possible that such an ugly-sounding word means “beauty,” and how could you use it without insulting the source of that beauty?) Others prove to be of some fleeting interest, like “Mamama” or “Da,” which we hear every now and again, just often enough to keep the embers of parental-name pride glowing. Yet others bring joy and rapture and repetition – and Saturday, two days ago, that word was “stick” (which, really, was still only in a tie with and did not supplant “kwuh,” his word for “squirrel,” which seems to represent for him all that is good and fascinating about the outside world. He points, he watches, he looks rapturously outside as he says “kwuh!”, but would he know a squirrel if one ran up to him and dropped an acorn on his head? I’m not sure. But he does love to say “squirrel”!)

It was naptime, and, as is more common than I’d like, Baby Boy was not napping. He was, however, fussing. We were outside, our family of four, with my sisters and their significant others (one husband, one fiance), at Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia. As we stood at the playground, a happy home away from home for children near and far, regarding the lake-turned-giant-puddle from the film Dirty Dancing and watching Preschool Girl play, Baby Boy’s fussing continued. To distract him, we held up a stick. (Given the options at our feet, it seemed better than the sand.) “Stick!” we pronounced, as if it were a gold medal, something to be prized and cradled. “Stick!”

“‘tick!” he repeated excitedly.

And then WE seemed like the ones learning the word, because we delighted in the game, each saying “stick!” over and over again.

The trouble with the game, though, is that when you are eleven and a half months old, it is not enough to say the word “stick.” It is not enough to see a stick and know it as a stick, in all its this-used-to-be-part-of-a-tree glory. No, you say “stick!” because you want to hold the stick. You want to hold the stick aloft. You want to brandish the stick in ways that endanger your vision and that of the person holding you. As a responsible parent, then, one must take away the stick. You, the eleven and a half month old, will be bereft. You will cry for your stick. You will call for your stick (since you now have a word for it). You will mourn for the stick you have loved lo these past three minutes. Whoever said it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all has never taken a stick away from a baby. It is a moment of crisis.

And then, thank goodness for the aunts. “Squirrel?” they say.


The crisis is over, for now, with the reminder of another word, another part of the outside world to focus on. Maybe, one of these days, “Mama” or “Dada” will make it back into the regular rotation. We’re outside with him too, right? I guess we just need to grow bushy tails.

Daddy, Baby Boy, and Uncles on the AT

Daddy, Baby Boy, and Uncles on the AT


Aunties, Preschool Girl, and Mama on the AT

Aunties, Preschool Girl, and Mama on the AT

Last night, the boy had a terrible night’s sleep.

So did his parents.

He was up and unhappy from midnight (the new midnight, darn that daylight savings time) until 1:30. No amount of nursing, bouncing, or singing made any difference. He’d quiet down, he’d stop wiggling – then he’s start up again. At long last, he slept, and so did we.

This morning, I wondered aloud to Matthew whether the boy was building up to walking and that’s why he’s sleeping so badly. He turned to the boy and asked him to walk – and, in something like a Jazzercise grapevine maneuver to his right, Baby Boy took his first steps! Three of them with his right leg (and so three with his left, too). He then sat and crawled on his merry way, to the cheers of his audience of three. Hooray!

He gave a repeat performance this afternoon in his sister’s room, upping the number of steps to five. He’s on his way. He’s on his way!



My daughter has been beautiful since the day she was born, and I’ve never questioned that. My son has been beautiful since the day he was born, and I never questioned that, although I had to get over the shock of the fact that no, he was not my first-born all over again.

Beautiful, they were.

And nearly bald.

We marvel now, at ten and a half months, at how much hair the boy has, compared to how much hair the girl had at the same time. Really! In real life, it looks like more!

Benjamin crawling

About to get ready for bed!

Maggie Lu in crawling pose

Books! (Photo by Cortney Smith)

But we marvel at her hair now, too, how much there is, how we worried that it would never grow in. When did that happen?

It snuck up on us. Beneath the hair we could see, a new fringe would grow – like Snorkmaiden’s fringe. Beneath that new hair, more would grow. The new fringe would march across her face in rows, serious, intent, focused. It took its work seriously. Row after row marched, growing, like a child, from tiny to long. Now, we have a girl with a full head of hair. It’s still fine and silky, slipping out of ponytail holders and barrettes, but her scalp hides behind it like a plate beneath the bounty of Thanksgiving dinner.

Life with two children is like that, too. You look away for a minute – you read the news, you watch the Olympics in Sochi, you shower – and by the time you look back, there’s more, a bounty of childhood delight. You realize that your son has six teeth (at least!) in, that he knows to turn around and back off of the bed and can stand on his own for a long time, that he has, for more than a month, been making the sounds “Mamama” and, for weeks, “Dadada,” and that he can mimic all sorts of mouth sounds. He has been clapping for a week. You notice that, just the other day, your daughter first said the letter “f” in a way that someone outside of the house would understand. That her imagination has kept Diego, Baby Jaguar, and Alicia as her nearly-constant companions. That in spite of so many changes, she still loves to sit on the floor to look at new books, legs stretched straight in front of her, back straight (but now, a little curved, an early hint of the teenager slouch, perhaps?), intent and focused, eyes marching across the pages.  She showed the same intensity yesterday at her first play, Go, Dog. Go! Baby Boy cried at each startling noise, so we spent much of our time in the lobby. Not her, though. She sat with Daddy, rapt. Afterwards, she spoke to several of the “dogs” and hugged some of their legs, too, ever the social creature. In the lobby, our son, a social boy himself, sat and waved at passersby, and one couple, to his delight, even came over to greet him in return, practicing, they told me, for when they would become grandparents themselves in the fall. In the path of the shining sun, his hair was aglow.

Beautiful hair, growing straight down a girl’s back or in a whorl around a boy’s head. What else will sneak up on us, will seem to be on the fringe before popping into full view?

My math for the day: Months in = Months out. Nine = Nine. A balanced equation with nothing to solve for. (Apologies to my preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence hating mathematician of a husband.)

Today, Baby Boy, formerly known as Baby Baby, is nine months old. Sure, if you want to quibble, my math isn’t exactly right: He was born at 40 weeks + 1 day. That would be January 18th. Some two weeks of that were pre-conception, however. 38 weeks + 1 day would put us in the past, on January 4th.

So I made a choice. Life is often about choices – what to eat for breakfast, which shirt to wear, whether you can find enough calm in you to gently admonish your shouting daughter while trying to lull your son to sleep. This time, I choose to celebrate today in two ways: happy nine month birthday, Baby Boy, and happy balancing day. Right now, your story arc makes a perfect “v”; soon, one side will grow longer…and longer…and longer. And longer and longer, if my hopes become reality.

For the moment, I’m enjoying the balance. Nine months = Baby Boy = happiness.

Who knew carrots were soothing?