Monday, March 26, 2012

A Letter to Charlie at 15 Months Old

Dear Charlie,

I write you letters in my head all the time.  All day long it seems you are giving me reason to compose sentences about your fat, little perfection.  I take little word snapshots throughout the day that I know I should stop and capture in a notebook, but instead I choose to simply run to the sink to rinse the peanut butter off my hands.  This is the truth of my days.  I want to be a master historian for my boys, snapping, cropping, and mounting photos of lunchtime giggles, unexpected car-seat naps, and the days when that one ringlet in the center of your head has extra, extra bounce to it.  But more often than not, rather than sit down to the word processor, or the photo editor, I either collapse in a heap on the couch, or I hurry to bread the chicken nuggets before dinner.

And now you’re one.  Well, almost fifteen months old, actually, and the storm is moving in.  So, I better hurry, right?  I  better hurry up and write it all down while I feel a sense of quiet and rest because there’s a rumble beneath my feet that tells me the ground beneath them is about to give way.  Hurry up and write it all down before everything that is normal is all squished up and packed away with a coat of bubble wrap and a strip of packer’s tape.

So before I forget, before I turn around and you are eighteen months old and then twenty months old, and I realize I have never told you about what you are like when you are simply just one, let me whisper in your ear, just this one little thing, Charlie:  I love watching you eat a sliced banana.

I try to make the slices small, but sometimes they’re a little too thick and you pick them up in your fat, little bear paws and stuff the whole big slice into your mouth at once.  And I watch.  With tremendous joy.  As you puff out your cheeks and pucker your lips and chew and mash and chew that sweet, soft banana to a nice slippery state, so that you can gulp and smile and put your paw back out to do it all over again. 

I love that.  I love that like I love just about everything you do.  You should know though that I love so much of who you are right now mainly because you’re fat.  If you were skinny, I’d probably only kind of like you as one likes a casual acquaintance.  I’d give you forced smiles, but I wouldn’t razz your belly as much.  Because it wouldn’t be fat enough for me to really get in there.

[Side note:  I just realized that this point is totally without truth or merit because your brother Finny has always been a skinny little thing, and I would swallow him whole if I could.  Man, I’m getting hungry.  Must take a pretzel break, so that I don’t eat my sleeping children.  End side note.]

You are in many ways like the late, great Chris Farley, minus the cocaine and all the other tragic stuff.  The main similarities are that you are fat and funny and that you can’t help but stick your gut waaaaaay out when you waddle across the kitchen looking for a refrigerator magnet to chew on.

Right now, at the tender age of fifteen months, you have six little hilarious teeth that pop out when your big duck lips curl up.  And you have the best baby fat calves on the planet, which I am only now getting to really, fully appreciate because you wear these ridiculous baby shorts.

But here I am beating around the bush, when the point is, the real heart of the matter is:  I love you for your hair.  Any man off the street could walk up to me right now and say, “Excuse me, Ma’m, I’d like to offer you this truckload of gold bars, I’ll drop it off next to the grass here, if you’d just give me the curls off your one-year-old’s head,” and I’d slam the door in his face.

Because A:  What a weirdo.

And because B:  It is one of the great highlights of my little day to walk into your room in the morning and discover how your hair has ended up after a full night’s sleep.

[Sidenote:  If you have not had a full night’s sleep, like last night when you decided to party from 12:30-2 a.m., I am slightly less interested in your hairstyle and a little more interested in getting back that hour and a half of sleep you robbed from me.]

Much like your brother, you are a friendly little guy.  I’ve struggled all through toddlerhood to keep both of you out of strangers’ laps at the library and the park, and last week at the grocery store, after learning what it means to say, “Hi!” you greeted everyone who came within earshot with a, “Hi!  Hiya!  Hi!”  And of course, everyone who passed fell to pieces over your head of carrot-top curls and your friendly little teeth.

You say other things too, not so much words as your own adorable sounds.  These include such gems as:  “Bidoh, biday.”  “A-bee, a-bee, a-bee, a-bee.”  “Meea, meea, meea.” And our personal favorite, “NnnnnnnnnnnAAAHHH!!!”  You really rev up for that one and it’s always a sure hit.

You say, “DA-DAHHHH!!” with the fervor of one who is not greeting his daddy, but rather his old fraternity brother who used to dance with Christmas trees after keg stands.

And you say, “Ma-ma” in the sweetest, most delicious, most genuine way that I blush every time and then devour your cheeks with kisses.

You should also know that you are not just my baby.  You are not just Daddy’s baby.  You are Finny’s baby too.  He pushes you over a lot.  He takes toys from you.  He hits you.  And sometimes even if you are minding your own business, he seeks out ways to taunt and torment you.  But, he also loves you.  He looks out for you.  He hugs you.  He delights in making you laugh.  And he talks to you a lot.  Even though you can’t understand him, he is often explaining to you about how he will save you from the whale that's going to swallow you whole or making sure that you know that the purple Hot Wheel is the red Hot Wheel's wife.  He is a good big brother and he can’t wait until you’re just a little bigger and can really play with him, you know, without trying to eat the sidewalk chalk.

You are still a bit of a puzzle though, Charlie.  There is no doubt you are a mama’s boy right now. (My aching back is testimony to how often you want to be picked up and held these days.)  But, even though, you want to be held, you are a tough guy to console when you’re unhappy.  I can still charm Finny into a trance with a gentle sweeping of the hair across his forehead, but you, sir, are a different story.  When you’re unhappy, you don’t want to be held, but you don’t want to be put down.  You don’t want to sit or lay or rock or eat.  You will toss your milk cup across the room and you will thrash and kick and cry, cry, cry, and you want nothing to do with anything.  So, at a loss, we all just sort of hide under the kitchen table and pull our knees to our chest until you decide to simmer down and join the civilized again.

I guess you think you’re a tough guy.  A tough guy who looooooves his mommy.

I could write about you all day long, about everything from your toes to your great delight in throwing the yellow ball across the room, but you’re awake now and I have to go get you.

Know this, Charlie:  There are people who bring the fun and people who wait for the fun to arrive.  People are going to be waiting for you, Charlie VanHimbergen, and they’re never going to want you to leave.

I love you and I’m going to climb the stairs right now and eat you up.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Letter to Finny at Three Years Old

Dear Finny,

Wednesday afternoon you would not go down for your nap.  You kept knocking on the door, saying, “Mom, I can’t sleep!” over and over again.  You just started calling me “Mom” on Wednesday.  Before that, it has always been “Mama” and “Mommy.”  Please don’t grow up so fast. 

So, I went up and told you to try to sleep because I knew you would be tired if you didn’t and because I need to rest too at nap time.  Finally, I went up at 3 p.m. to get you and when I saw how tired you seemed, I asked you if we could snuggle together for just a few minutes before we went downstairs.  You were asleep within just a few minutes, snoring beside me, so I stayed and stared at your face.  There was a little sunlight that kept peeking in from the blown shade of the open window and it laid across you and danced a bit across the bridge of your nose.  You looked so little, so perfect.  It occurred to me that at three and a half years old, that makes you the longest job I’ve ever had.  And I wondered, how did you get to be three?

They say this time flies, they say blink and you’ll miss it, they say they’ll be grown up before you know it.  I believe them.  I believe that I will find myself suddenly staring at my grown boys towering above me and wonder how it happened so fast.  But I also know that right now, with a three-year-old and a one-year-old, sometimes time seems to be ticking by at a snail’s pace and I’ll dream of a day when I can sleep in again, when I can write again, when I can clean multiple rooms in my house in one sitting, when I can some day feel like a productive, put-together, showered human being.  But as soon as I start wishing for all the time in the world, I realize how quiet my day will be without you and I miss you.

I love being your mommy.  And you love being my little boy.  Early in the day, around lunch time, you are already putting in your request that I read you your bedtime story.  At first, I would resist this because it’s helpful to me when Daddy puts you to bed; then I can get a few things done.  But, lately, I don’t resist because I love it.  You fill the house with chatter and imagination all day long.  You can pick up any two objects and begin a story.  Often times it’s your crust of bread and your apple peels, which leads to a looooong breakfast or lunch.  You never want to stick around for dinner.  Thursday morning I heard you putting one of your toys in time-out using the exact dialogue that you and I had had when I put you in time-out the day before.  It was hilarious.

You spend a lot of time in time-out these days.  Mainly because you don’t listen to me when I ask you to do or stop doing something.  Mainly because you knock Charlie over a lot.  Earlier in the week, I thought you and Charlie were playing nicely on the rug, until I looked over and you were furiously trying to close the sliding glass door as fast as you could and lock it.  When I went over to see what was going on, there was Charlie, sitting underneath the patio table looking in at us. 

Charlie adores you and as he gets older and more playful, I think you are starting to like him too.  I love hearing you try to explain things to Charlie as if he has any idea what you are saying.  You get pretty frustrated with him sometimes because he wants to play with you but he doesn’t understand the rules.  I guess that’s why I get frustrated with you sometimes too.  We both need to be gentler with those who love us who are littler than us.

A few days ago as I was strapping you into your car seat, you looked at me and said, “Mommy, you’re my best friend.”  I loved that.  There are certain things about you right now that I would bottle up and keep forever if I could so that some day when you’re grown up, I could just pull them down off the shelf and experience them again.  I’d keep your little legs.  You’re such a skinny, wiry little thing.  I’d keep your big-mouthed laugh and your contagious tummy tickling giggle.  I’d keep your mischief.  I’d keep your forehead, so that I could rub my hand across it.  I’d even keep some tears to wipe off your soft, little cheeks.  I’d keep you singing Michael Jackson in the car.  I’d keep you doing Zizzer Zazzer Zuz somersaults in your bed.  I’d keep your little butt when you pull down your pants to pee in the most inappropriate places (i.e. outside church).  I’d keep the conversations you have with your circus elephant and the little voice you’ve decided your elephant likely has.  I’d keep you punching the tigers at the circus, sitting on my lap, your hand in the popcorn box.  I’d keep you in the fort, laughing with Charlie.  I’d keep every last question you ask me.  I’d keep all these things and I’d get them all down and I’d snuggle with them and I’d laugh with them and I’d hug them as tight as I could to my heart.

But I’d just want this jar for visiting from time to time.  You, Finny, my little boy, you, I want to grow.  Keep growing.  Keep learning.  Keep doing more and more exciting things.  I want to experience them.

It’s hard to put into words how much I love you.  But I have to try.  Because even when I’m a mean, nasty, tired, grouchy, frustrated mommy, even then, there is nothing more precious to me in this world than your little face looking back at me.  Even when you’re lying about the fact that you did indeed just push Charlie over.

I love you, my Finn.  Always.  Always.  Always.