Conversations with Michael and Flora

“Mama, whose that black bad guy?”
“What?” Thinking, are we about to have a talk about racism here?
“That black bad guy? He’s got buttons.”
I have no idea what my son is talking about.
“What show is he on? One of your TV shows?”
“No. He’s the big black man. He has lots of buttons.”
“Do you mean Cyborg?” From Teen Titans Go!
“No, Cyborg has guns. He just has buttons.”
It clicks. “Do you mean Darth Vader?”
“Yeah, Darth Vader. How does he kill people?”
Of course this is what he needs to know. “Well, he can use his mind to strangle people. And he’ll just straight up shoot you if he wants.”
Flora pipes up. “He’s got a light saber, too, Mom.”
“Right. The light saber.”
Michael: “What can that do?”
Flora: “It can cut you right in half!”


Michael to Flora, this morning in the kitchen: “Fora, Fora! Do you take naps at school?”
Flora, matter of factly: “Buddy, we’re too old to take naps.”
Me, making M’s lunch at the counter: “You’re never too old for naps!”


The radio is on in the car; I believe we were listening to Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies.

Michael, from the backseat: “Mommy, did you already have your birthday?”
“Yep, Michael, I already had my birthday this year.”
“Why didn’t you have a party?”
“I did have a little party, with some grown up friends.”
“Do you remember the last time you slept over Bella and Tadone’s. Niece and Nephew where there?”
“That’s when I had people over.”
Flora: “Who did you have over?”
“We had Annie and Stevo, whom you guys know from Cook Forest. And Aunt Jen, and —”
“Mommy! Turn off the radio!”
(I turn off the radio.) “What’s up, bud?”
“Nothing, I couldn’t hear you. Start over.”

M asleep -- the only time he is quiet.
The only time he is silent.

Have you had any interesting conversations with children lately?

Number 4

My dear Michael,

I have so many words — much like you — I cannot even think where to start. You don’t worry about starting; you wake up, and start talking, and you don’t stop unless you are pouting or asleep.

You would think I would get used to your chatter. It still surprises me, usually on a Saturday morning before I’ve had coffee.

You have thoughts. You have opinions. You have questions, although not as many as your big sister Flora. You want to have conversations. That’s exactly what you will say. “Can we have a conversation?” The other thing you say most often is, “Mommy, watch this.” And I really do have to get better about stopping and watching that. I vow to do better. After all, you are suddenly 4, and I am starting to realize all you children just keep getting older. Pretty soon, you won’t be asking me to stop and watch. So I better get it in now.

You like building toys (Lego and Duplo), cars, super heroes. You like to pretend. You like your sisters, and you get upset when they don’t want to play with you or share with you. You are able to play independently, you just don’t always want to. You are paying Kate back in karma points for all the times and ways she has harassed Flora. You like routine.

Your teachers at daycare LOVE you. We recently took a field trip with your preschool class to a pumpkin patch. As you sat for story time, I spoke with one of your teachers. “Michael is such a sweet boy,” she told me. “He’s polite and helpful. He’s such a nice little boy. Is he like that at home?”

No, I told her. No, he is not like that at home.

And you aren’t — you have temper tantrums, you fight with your sisters, you tell me I’m dumb. But not all the time. You are sweet, and helpful, and polite, too. But you aren’t afraid to be angry, or sad, or stubborn. You also give hugs and kisses, very often unprompted. You will throw your hands around my neck or climb up on the couch for impromptu cuddles.

I probably spoil you a little bit. I lay down in bed with you waiting for you to fall asleep. Some days, I ask the girls to *please* share and *please* play with you just so you won’t have a fit. Although, I am trying to get better at letting them have their space from you. But you are my last baby; thus, I baby you. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

You won’t wear anything with buttons. You’re not the greatest eater, although it’s more out of distraction than dislike of food. When you are hungry and focused, you will demolish a meal and have seconds. You are agile and active without being hyper, although you do sometimes bounce off the walls.

You are hard to put into one word. But you are fun and funny, and you are sweet, and you are my boy.

Happy birthday, my boy. And many, many more.


The 4-year-old

Happy Birthday to Me!
Happy Birthday to Me!

X, Why, Z

Here are a few ways that my boy is different from my girls (so far).

1. Eating. The girls ate pretty much everything as babies and toddlers. They got pickier, but even so, they ate. Now when they don’t want something, they will make their own sandwich or fry an egg. I’m fine with that.

I have to chase M down sometimes to get him to eat. He will pick at breakfast and dinner, but inhale lunch (or pick at breakfast and lunch and inhale dinner). He’ll eat pasta and tofu one day, but not the next. Thank goodness he eats fruit and drinks milk, because I’m pretty sure those are the only consistent healthy calories he gets in him.

Except for candy. My boy — much like his daddy — has a definite sweet tooth.

2. Books. My girls picked different books almost every night as toddlers. M prefers the same few books: Baby Cakes; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; Good Boy, Fergus; Peas and Thank You. Maybe one more… Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?. He tells me what book he wants, and he’s already taking them to bed with him (although I think he just cuddles them along with his stuffie).

3. The “why” stage. This maybe is hard to believe, but the girls did not go through a “why” stage. Flora asks questions (her first sentence was, “Wat dat?”), but she never said, “Why? Why? Why?” Neither did Kate.

M has just entered the “Why?” stage. You know the one. “Let’s put shoes on, Michael!” “Why?” “We’re going outside!” “Why?” “It’s nice out!” “Why?” “Because it’s summer!” “Why?”

After a while, you get to a “why” that has no easy toddler answer. So that’s fun. At least Flora’s questions I can google.

4. Vehicle spotting. M will tell you about every truck and motorcycle he spots whether from his carseat or in a parking lot or when we’re at the park. Every. Single. One. It’s cute. I don’t think my girls noticed anything that much when they were 2. (Maybe dogs.)

5. He is a hitter *and* a biter (for when hitting’s just not good enough). He will lose this habit before he goes back to daycare, so help me. (Firm “no”s and timeouts are the strategy. Googling toddler boarding school is not out of the realm of possibility.)

Are these boy things? Or M things? Or a little bit of both?

Gender Difference

Since we found out Michael was a boy (about 32 months ago now — what WHAT?) I have wondered how he would be different.

Not just different in his temperament and personality — my two girls are so different, it was hard to imagine how he would be different. We tend to hold Kate and Flora in contrast to each other. But of course there are millions of personalities in the world. I wondered what kind M would have. I was also curious to see if certain traits were “boyish” traits. I tend not to be a gender absolutist. Being the mother of two girls and one boy, I still hold that children are different because they are different, not because they are of one sex or the other.

That all being said, here are some Michael differences I have noticed:

1. He’s a terrible eater. It’s not that he’s picky, even, he just doesn’t want to bother. If everyone is sitting down eating, and there are not outside distractions, he will apply himself to food. Otherwise, he is not interested in food.

My girls would sit and eat when it was meal time, and they were good eaters who liked everything. M will taste everything, but not necessarily eat much. All three of my kids are grazers (I am too). Which is fine with me, and why I keep a lot of healthy snacks at home.

2. Constant noise. Now, all of my children do certain things to make noise almost all the time. I used to wonder how there could be any words left in the world when Flora was 3 and 4. She talked all. the. time. M is stunningly verbal for a 2-year-old. Kate was super quiet until after her ear tube surgery (at 27 months). Since M had tubes placed at about 14 months, he didn’t have the hearing barrier she had. He now talks all the time.

Flora whistles. Kate sings. M punctuates everything with car noises: “vroom” he says, “whoosh”. He’s not necessarily playing with cars. He’s playing in the bath, or I’m carrying him down the stairs. He started with car noises as early as 15 months. I’m pretty sure this is the most “boy” thing about him. It must be encoded on the Y chromosome, because he knew what to do and how to make these noises without any assistance at home.

3. As far as constant movement (this is the one I heard all the time: “Oh, boys are so much more active than girls!” To which I used to say, “Yes, but I have a Kate.”) M may be a touch more active than Kate was at 2. But it’s danged close. Plus, he started walking two or three months later than the girls (13 months to their 10).

Honestly, it’s a wonder I can think with all the noise and activity in my house most of the time. I am hoping that once they can all read, things will settle down a little bit!

4. M is temperamentally different from the girls, but I attribute this much more to him simply being a different child. He’s generally easy-going and cheerful, amazingly affectionate, fairly compliant (‘uh-kay!’). He’s starting to have his incredibly willful moments, and he wants what he wants RIGHT NOW, but those are hallmarks of toddlerhood. He’s a little sensitive — laughing at the wrong time or yelling too loudly can bring him to tears. Cuddling can cheer him up again, usually.

5. He is much more stubborn about getting dressed, and has a stronger opinion about what he wants to wear than the girls EVER were or did. He dislikes pajamas, so he either sleeps in his diaper or in whatever shirt he’s already wearing. He outright rejects certain items of clothing; I’ve noticed stiffer fabrics do not sit well with him. Some days it’s just easier to let him decide which shirt or pants to put on than wrestle him.

6. He’s been taking his diaper off at night sometimes, which the girls never did. He’s a side sleeper, too, which the girls weren’t at that age. They were stomach sleepers (butts in the air).

At this point, I simply don’t notice that M is particularly A BOY in many things. A unique personality in our family of five to be sure.

Life would be boring if we were all the same!

Do you notice things about your kids that you attribute to their sex?

24 Months

Michael! YOU’RE TWO!

What the heck?

I went back to last year’s birthday post for you, so I wouldn’t repeat myself too much in this year’s birthday letter.

Some things are worth repeating: You complete us. You are utterly delightful, laid back, easy going, charming.

You are funny.

Of course, you are growing into your own person. As a result, you have discovered what a “time out” is. You do well with time outs — they are in your room, on the glider, door closed — and when I come back to get you after two minutes, you are happy and smiling again. So, thus far, they are working. (Knock on wood.)

You have gone from one word to lots of words to short sentences. Usually these sentences are orders (“C’mere, mama.”) or questions (“What dis, mama?”).

And yes, you say mama. You say mama *a lot*.

I’m okay with it.

You are a pack animal. Oh my goodness, you get up with your sisters’ names on your tongue. “Foe-wa Kate? Foe-wa Kate?” You want to know where they are, what they are doing, why you aren’t there, and how fast you can be with them. If they have something, you want it too. Especially if it is a ‘staw’ (straw).

When the passel of children is on The Compound, you can be seen trailing diligently in their wake as they travel from yard to yard. You are not frustrated and you are not to be discouraged.

You know *everyone’s* name. Niece and nephews, all the grandparents, all the aunts and uncles, the contractor doing our bathroom, your daycare buds, your daycare caretakers, the guy who cuts our hair — you know them all, and can easily list them out without pause.

You are also keenly aware of ownership. Most of the time, you will authoritatively declare “Mine!” Other times, you will ask: “Mine?” And if it is not yours, the owner must be identified. “Mama’s cup?” “Foe-wa’s banket?” “Kate’s ball?” You are very interested in who belongs to what. Also, if they will share with you.

You have needed three haircuts since turning 1, and frankly, you are overdue for another. Why do boys always have the fastest growing hair?

You are strikingly agile. Last year at this time, you weren’t even walking all that much. Now you climb into and out of your high chair, you walk down stairs, you jump, you put blocks and puzzles together.

Last year at this time, you were prone to ear infections, like all of my children. This has changed, for the better, because of ear tubes. Again, let’s knock on some wood here.

You adore everyone. You are especially attached to your main pack (mama, daddy, Foe-wa, Kate), you want to check in on Bella and ‘Done often, you want to see Nonna and Pap-pap. But, even when you are initially shy, you are quick to charm.

You say, “Uh-huh yep.”
You say, “Ukay.”
You say, “Lub you.”

I love you, too, my precious baby boy. Happy birthday.


Random Thoughts: The Cute Explosion

Lately, Michael has been too cute for color TV (as we say in my house. No idea what it means.)

In the mornings when I go in to get him, we do Eskimo kisses through the crib slats. He (usually) wakes up in a pleasant mood, babbling to himself and then smiling at whomever comes in the room for him.

Dan loves me to bring Michael in our room after he’s been changed, and put him in bed. They play pick-a-boo under the covers, and he will kiss his daddy upon request. It’s adorable.

When he gives “five”, if you hold your hand up for a “high five”, he’ll head butt it.

One evening, he was all bathed and ready for bed. He was patiently standing in the kitchen as I made his bedtime bottle. I handed it to him (intending to scoop him up after I put the milk away), and he looked up at me and said, “dankoo.” (Thank you.) I melted into a puddle on the floor.

Another night, Flora came up the stairs as I was getting Michael ready for bed. Michael spotted her from his bedroom. I had just gotten a clean diaper on him, and was getting his pajamas. Flora started acting like a “monster” coming to get him. He started jumping (as much as a 14-month-old can jump), squealing, and laughing. He was turning in circles trying to figure out where to go.

First he ran to me. And I hugged and hugged him. I let him go to see what would happen next. He kept squealing and turning around and around as Flora came closer. Then he dropped down to his hands and knees and scooted under the guest bed. Flora and I cracked up. He kept peeking out from under the bed skirt, and I could hear him laughing under there.

He has been such a joy to our family, I can’t believe he was ever a question. I am fascinated watching him. He loves to do stuff with his hands. He’s already figuring out the buckle in his high chair. He will sit on the floor with these metal kitchen bowls and stack and unstack them over and over again. He eats well, and he’s sleeping well, although I know that latter can change in an instant. The ladies at daycare tell me what a pleasant boy he is.

And I believe them. He is incredibly pleasant. He’s learning to communicate (can sign “more” and “all done” regularly); he plays independently at times. He usually has smiles and hugs for everyone (except for my poor babysitter. He bursts into tears when she shows up. He gets over it, but it’s a little heartbreaking.)

Love, ya, buddy. Keep up the good work.

12 Months

Dear Michael,

You are a 1 year old today.

You say duck (“uck!”), and what a duck says (“kak, kak, kak!”). That’s about it for words, although you’re working on other sound combinations. (It’s “ma” “ma”, baby.)

You walk in that endearing toddler leading-with-the-belly way. And you don’t really walk that much yet. You much prefer cruising, still, or crawling. Sometimes, you shuffle around on your knees, which is pretty damn cute, too.

You are the only baby I know who sleeps on his side.

You love your big sisters unreservedly. You are amazingly tolerant of rough-housing with Kate, and she better watch out, because I have a feeling you’re going to give as good as you get. Flora can make you belly laugh more than anyone else so far, except for when your daddy tickles your belly with his beard.

Generally speaking, you are a delight. Laid back, easy going, not terribly demanding. You are a total mama’s boy, though.

And now that you are sick, you are a whiny, clingy mess. Which is okay. You’re sick, and if I could, I would be with you again today. Letting you cling to me and wipe your snot on my shoulder.

For your birthday, we went to Children’s ER yesterday. You have a bi-lateral ear infection (that means in both ears, buddy), and you’ve been running temps ranging from 100 to 104 since Sunday. You also got a giant shot of antibiotics in the thigh.

Yeah, happy birthday. We’ll do better today. Maybe. I guess it’ll depend on what the doctor says later. You were very unhappy this morning, and you will be spending the day with Bella and Tadone.

Maybe I’ll get you a little cake for later.

Please, please, please feel better. You are breaking your parents’ heart being sick on such a happy occasion. As your Daddy tells you often, he’s been waiting 30 years for you. I haven’t been waiting quite that long. But I do know you are the baby that made our family complete. I want my easy-going mama’s boy back instead of the little bundle of snot, fever, and tears you’ve been this week. I love you no matter what, but I like your belly laughs a lot better.

Happy birthday, little boy. Feel better so we can have a big party!

All my love and hugs and kisses,

One More Month


In another month, you will be a year old.

I can’t stand it. How fast time has run from me.

On the other hand, you aren’t running yet. You stand now, and you have taken half-steps. I am simultaneously delighted and excited (for you) and terrified (for me). Old story.

For awhile, you were sleeping beautifully at night. Lately, though, notably the last two nights, you have decided that 1 a.m. is an excellent time for another bottle and a snuggle with mama. Mama loves the snuggle, buddy, but would like to return to normal snuggling hours (i.e. before 8 p.m.) and go back to sleeping through the night. Okay? Okay.

One more month of your infancy. One more month of your enthusiatic crawling toward me whenever I come into sight. You’re going to move onto concentrating on moving those feet, and I know it will make us all (your sisters and dad, too) cheer and laugh.

As long as you continue to come to me and throw your little arms around my neck, all will be well.

And learn that my name is “Mama.” You’re getting there, little man. You’re getting there.

9 Months (and 1 day)

Michael, I will have a lot to tell your pediatrician today. You have been a busy, busy little boy.

You crawl, you pull up on stuff, you cruise, and you climb.

You play “peek-a-boo” usually with your towel at bath time. You *love* bath time, and you *love* peek-a-boo. I love all the baby belly giggles.

You babble and make consonant noises (mostly “da”s and “ta”s), you blow raspberries, and you tongue-click at us when we do it do you. No “ma”s yet, though! Get on that.

You prefer finger foods to anything pureed, and you’d rather feed yourself (or stand up in your high chair) than let me feed you with a spoon.

You are starting separation anxiety/stranger danger, which makes leaving you with a babysitter super stressful. You are mama’s boy, and if I am in sight, you must be with me if not on me in some way.

You like to bang things and you like to explore. You will occupy yourself (read, “crawl around in search of things to open, bang, or put in your mouth”), and it’s fun to watch you.

You still have an incredibly pleasant personality. You are fairly easy going — or have been until this point. You’re starting to voice displeasure when I stop you from doing something or take a toy away from you.

But mostly you just cry when you are tired, and you *usually* sleep through the night. You will doze off on your own, no CIO for you! You went through some kind of sleep regression about two weeks ago when it seemed that you thought 1 a.m. was a dandy time to be awake and have a conversation with mommy. Mommy differed on that opinion, let me tell you.

You have eight teeth. Eight!

You look… different. Your face has changed, somehow, so it’s looking more boyish than babyish. I’m not quite ready for this development — this movement of yours into toddlerhood. I’m trying to brace myself.

In the meantime, I will take every drooly kiss you give me, every hug you squeeze around my neck with your little arms. I will take every time you light up when you see me, and I will always lift you into my arms when you come a-crawling. I will help you fall asleep in my arms with a bottle, and I will always love on you and love you very, very much.


Six Months and Forever

Dear Michael,

You have been here, in the outside world, for six months.

You have one of the most pleasant personalities I have ever encountered in a baby. You smile easily, and you are a shameless flirt.

You are *lunging* for things these days — not scooting, not crawling, but laying on your belly and pushing, hard, with your feet. You are fast, too, you little bugger. I have cracked out the playpen — a tool I didn’t employ with your sisters. I had to; it’s the only way I can keep you safe and still get things done. You don’t seem to mind too much, but I’m sure that will change as you become even *more* mobile.


It feels like you have been with us longer than these six months. Mostly in a good way.

Sometimes it feels longer because of late nights. Sometimes it feels longer because of long days.

I swear, sometimes you get up at 2 a.m. just to have a cuddle with me. You will fuss in your crib until I come get you, change your diaper, and plop down on the couch with you and a comforter. After an ounce or two of a bottle, you are snoring in my arms. Dude, it is super adorable, but at 2 a.m., I have to admit, I would like to be sleeping.

The long days are because you are absolutely determined not to go to bed until your big sisters do. Even when you doze off at 7 or 7:30, you pop awake — sometimes in an outraged fashion — an hour later. You want to be a part of bath and bed time with your sisters, darn it all!

But it seems you have always been a part of this family. We have been expecting you, I guess, our third baby to raise, our second son. It’s a weird feeling sometimes, and hard to explain.

When you are parents of a still baby, and you go on to have more babies, you know that no baby is a replacement for the lost child.

And yet, somehow, you and Gabriel are conflated in my mind. Sometimes you wake up in an unfamiliar setting — because our social calendar doesn’t always conform to your nap schedule — and you look around, a little confused, a little pissed off. I think, “Well, ya should have come along first.” But that of course wouldn’t have worked out so well. Because it didn’t.

It’s like you are our family’s missing piece. I knew, after Kate, that we weren’t done, that we didn’t feel done. You complete us; as soon as I knew I was pregnant with you, I knew you would be my last baby. Which is why I’m so glad things worked out. To put it mildly.

Of course, that feeling — that we weren’t done — is going to always be true, in some way. You are our missing piece, and yet, we still miss a piece of our family.

This is garbled and confusing and it doesn’t quite get to the root of what I am trying to say. So let me just leave it at this:

We are so happy you are here. You fit with us. You are living large: literally, at almost 20 pounds, and figuratively, with two big sisters who make you belly laugh and who want to feed you (as long as it doesn’t interfere with play time too much). Your daddy and I love nothing more than to kiss your cheeks and have you fall asleep in our arms. You are amazing and beautiful and I’m glad we have been given the gift of you.


Your Mama