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!

Double Digits

Dearest Flora,

“Technically,” you said to me as sat on the edge of your bed to say goodnight last night, “I don’t turn 10 until 11:11 p.m.”

You are a precise 10-year-old, concerned about rules and propriety, correct information, facts.

You are independent, intelligent, and inquisitive. You read voraciously and ask questions endlessly. You also like quiet alone time, watching TV and playing on the DS, and making LPS videos. You make lots and lots of LPS videos. And you draw — no blank pad of paper is safe.

You get moody and irritated sometimes — Kate can still get under your skin like no other. You got cranky with me when I made you put on a nicer outfit for school today.

You are doing well in school, academically and socially. You love science and social studies. You have good friends whom you enjoy being with, and you are friendly to everyone. You asked to go back to violin after the summer off, and you joined chorus. You also played soccer again, and you are a good, tenacious defensive player — and you are *fast*.

Zombie Flora
Unless you are being a zombie. Then you drag one foot.

Aside from your inquisitiveness, my favorite thing about you is your goofy joy. You love showing me novelty tee-shirts. “Look, Mom!” you’ll say. “Be Alert. The world needs more lerts.”

And you will laugh and laugh.

Novelty Teeth and Little Brother
Novelty Teeth and Little Brother

Your biggest worry right now is puberty. You have a lot of questions about physical changes, one of the biggest being “WHY?” I’m glad we got The Care and Keeping of You, Part I, because it gave you all the information you wanted, and you came to me with any left over concerns.

Your biggest loves are “weird but true” books, LPS video shoots, Rhett and Link, and (new this year) Nancy Drew. Your biggest hates… well, I don’t know that you hate anything per se. You are not fond of math homework (too bad), noises your sister makes — ironic, since you walk around the house WHISTLING and you sing in the shower — or being told you have to do something. You are slowly adjusting to chores, which I give you credit for. It’s a big change!

All I can say is: stay true to you, my dear Flora. You are totally and completely fantastic. I love the person you are, and the person you are becoming.

Flora in glowstick glasses
My Goofball of Joy

Happy 10th birthday, rainbow baby.


The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

If you don’t understand the title of this post, you should read some Douglass Adams (rest his soul).

And get off my lawn. (I kid.)

As a birthday gift to myself, I’m off for a spa pedicure this afternoon. I’ll be meeting my children and parents later for dinner.

There will probably be cake at some point.

After much reflection, I also came up with an über-list for 2013 (h/t @observacious, who writes here).

Read 50 books. (I am going to track them at GoodReads
At least 20 of those books should be non-fiction.
Write on this site three times a week.
Start a regular program to get some exercise.
Try one new recipe a week.
Eat more raw fruits and vegetables.
Have more fun as a mother.
Host a cocktail party.
Host an outdoor party.
Take a trip to the Children’s Museum.
Take a trip to the Carnegie Science Museum.
Go to the Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Go to the lady doctor.
Get a mammogram.
Spend a Saturday in the Strip District.
Paint my bedroom.
Go on a Just Ducky tour.
Organize the home office once and for all.
Paint stairway wall.
Frame and hang pictures on stairway wall.

My word for 2013 (and one of the reasons I wrote an überlist) is Focus. I need it in my life. I am scattered. I go several directions at once. I used to be proud to be a multitasker, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I was half-assing a dozen things instead of doing one thing at a time well.

In the comments, suggest some books for me! I’ve recently read (or am reading) all three of Gillian Flynn’s, and Columbine by Dave Cullen. I think I want to revisit L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Other than that, I’ll need ideas!

Doing 6 Right

My dearest Kate,

You read to me.

One book, The Foot Book, but you read it.

You are bright, a bright shining thing in my life. Everyone loves you, and anyone touched by your continually irrepressible spirit never forgets you.

You embrace everything and everyone. Sometimes this backfires on you. Sometimes you get a little too close. You don’t know how to deal with conflict yet – why would you? Everyone loves you!

You love being a little girl, but you’re not girlie. You polish your nails and immediately shred them. You have two Barbies and play just as often with Michael’s cars. You like to cook. You’re good at it, too! You pay attention, my goodness, do you ever. You believe in true love, already. You like to dress up, which doesn’t stop you from playing rough. You hide from scary scenes in movies. You hate – HATE – being alone. You trail after me and Flora endlessly. This is tough for us; Flora and I are cut from the same cloth, and we need to be alone to recharge.

You don’t. You never run out of energy. I don’t know how sleep stops you. It must sneak up behind you and club you over the head.

For your birthday, you made pancakes with Daddy, and I took you to your party at Chuck E. Cheese. CEC was your third choice. Your first was our house (no way, Jose — our house is still upside down from the backup in the basement and the holidays), your second was the roller skating rink (booked), CEC was your default. It worked. About 14 of your classmates came. The moms and dads looked at me like I was nuts, but you know what: they do it all for you, the kids have fun and haul home a bunch of plastic crap to eventually throw out, and I didn’t have to clean before or after. And I had plenty of beer at home to help me recover from the noise.

We stumble, you and I. I stumble, as your parent. You are spirited, more spirited than I know what to do with sometimes – a lot of the time. I am flummoxed by you, and I have to stop letting it show. But oh my goodness, little girl, you light up my life. You are fierce and feisty and, occasionally with me, fragile. And I have to learn how to handle you with care. I think back to being pregnant with you, how you scared us, how we prayed.

I will always pray that hard for you, Kate. You are my special epiphany, no pun.

You are 6. Six is going to be good for you. As your sister comes into grace, you will come into focus. You will come into your own.

I hope you had the Best Birthday Ever (So Far)TM. I love you, baby girl.


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 Day After My Favorite Day of the Year Edition

Yesterday, it was 61 degrees and sunny.

Breakfast with Dan, Kate, and Michael was blissfully uneventful. Until I spilled Dan’s to-go cup of coffee in the parking lot. (Sorry about that, babe.)

Kate received a glowing evaluation from her pre-k teacher. My favorite line: “I know you liked the Catholic program she was in, and I’m sorry it closed, but I’m so glad I have had the chance to teach her.” Kate is a bright, cheerful, enthusiastic child, which of course I know, and I was pleased beyond words to know that she is thriving and that her behavior in school is excellent.

Lunch with Flora was just as fun. We each ate our sandwiches and shared dried mangos; she showed me around her classroom, and was cheerful and chatty. She, too, is clearly thriving in school, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the Catholic school community our family is part of.

I decided not to shop, although I ran a couple of relaxing errands. (When you have time to run errands, they are relaxing! Who knew?) I had a beer at Bocktown around 3 p.m., and read the Stephen King book I got for Christmas. I went home, and made TWO dinners — one for tomorrow night. That seldom happens.

And I got message after message wishing me a happy birthday (including calls from my two best friends, my ILs, and my dad).

Say what you will about the Internet and social media the rest of the year: parenting wars, high school pettiness, yadda, yadda, yadda. On my birthday, it made me feel warm and fuzzy. I know that writing on a Facebook wall isn’t sending a card in the mail (where would they put the check?), but it’s still 10 seconds out of someone’s day to think about someone else and wish them a happy day.


I know it’s not cool to like your birthday. It’s especially not cool because I’m “of a certain age”, and a woman to boot, but you know what? I still like my birthday. Yesterday was just delightful. I am ridiculously blessed.

My dad called when I was in the grocery store buying my birthday cake. As we were hanging up he said, “You keep getting older. That’s your job.” And he’s got a point. I want to keep having birthdays. I want to raise my kids, and have adventures, and explore new things, and learn something every day. I can’t do that if I stop having birthdays. And when I’m 91, or 101, or 121 (medical science makes advances daily!), I hope I can embrace my birthday with the same level of joy as I have for most of my life.

And, you know, eat some cake.

Plans for Today

Drop off Flora, and get coffee and breakfast with Kate and Michael.

A parent-teacher conference for Kate.

Lunch with Flora. Yes, at her school cafeteria. (I’ll be packing a lunch.)

Some shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond. (I have a gift card.)

I need three pairs of shoes. So: shoe shopping, although I won’t buy all three pairs. I desperately need sneakers, though. I can’t even begin to exercise — and I definitely need to start exercising — because I don’t have sneakers. It’s a little ridiculous.

And foundation. I need a new, cream-based foundation.

Cake, probably after dinner with my children. Maybe brownies instead of cake. But something delicious that can hold a candle or three.

In other words, a quiet day full of treats. Exactly the kind of day a birthday should be as far as I’m concerned.

What do you like to do on your birthday?

Dear Kate: 5

My dearest second daughter,

Putting this letter together for you on this, the occasion of your fifth birthday presents its difficulty.

I don’t want to compare you to your siblings, not because you (or they) may look bad in comparison, but simply because you are incomparable. You are a force and a personality onto yourself.

We have made progress this year, and we (okay *I*) have made missteps. I do most of my parenting dancing with you. Because even though you are my middle child, I don’t want to treat you like my middle child (whatever that means). I want to give you the attention you need so that you don’t have to go out of your way to get my attention. Mileage varies.

You make an impression on everyone you meet. Sometimes literally.

Your teachers have nothing but praise for you. You have no shortage of energy or personality — except when you are sick. As a matter of fact, it’s about the only way we know you are sick: you are still, prone on the couch, quiet.

I know people reading this blog who have met you don’t believe such a creature — a still, quiet Kate — can exist. You are unforgettable, my dear.

You are also clever, mischievous, fun-loving, and you love to make people laugh. And yet you are not a people-pleaser. You don’t seek approval; you seek notice, on your own terms.

Our favorite thing to do together is cook. You are so focused in the kitchen, and you listen to me give direction. It’s our “thing”. Someday it may be pedicures, but for now I like the baking.

You are full to bursting. With life, with ideas, with things to tell me, with things to do. With love, love, and love.

I love you, whole-heartedly, right back. Happy birthday, baby girl.

Hugs and kisses,

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,