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I had a moment last week where I totally broke down. After a day of irritability to the extreme — everyone and everything was making me cranky — I lay in my bed and sobbed until the tears ran dry. There really was no one reason for it; more of an accumulation of things from of a really hard, really long month. I just felt done.

Immediately after returning to school after winter break, Owen came down with a horrible cough. He would be unable to catch his breath and as a result, he would throw up. In the kitchen, on the couch, in his bed. It lasted a week, and despite my best efforts to sanitize every thing he touched/looked at, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down. Without getting TOO whiny about it, my cold turned into a sinus infection that completely and totally put me out of commission. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would rather give birth than have a sinus infection. Especially when you can’t take any good drugs. At the height of it, I parented from the couch, moving only to put on another movie for the boys or go in search of some snacks for them. They ate pancakes for dinner twice in a row because the thought of getting up to make an actual meal was exhausting. Despite all the help he gave when he could, Michael had to work. No way around it. So it was just me and the kids and oh yeah, a polar vortex that kept us housebound and closed school more times than I could count. To say we were going stir crazy was an understatement. Ryan came down with his own version of the cold sometime in the middle of this. I’m really, truly done with kid snot. Really.

In total, at least one of us — mostly me — were sick for an entire month. It wasn’t until last week when I was finally able to take a strong breath, smell things and taste my food. It took a toll on us. As a mother, I felt like a failure. I was tired, grumpy, yelling. We did nothing fun. The boys fought and wrestled and yelled. Ryan climbed things and threw cars at his brother. Owen was defiant and pushed boundaries and yelled no all day long.

For a month, all I felt was guilt. I felt guilty when I sighed with relief after dropping Owen off at school, guilt for looking forward to nap time and bedtime like it was Christmas day. Guilt over the amount of television they were watching. (SO MUCH TV.) I felt guilty for not even smiling when Michael came in the door because I was just too burnt out. I was stretched thin and began to panic. If I feel this way now, how am I going to feel come June? Another baby, another little person with needs. That straw broke the camel’s back, and the tears came.

I woke up the following morning feeling better. Nothing was resolved, but it felt like a new day. A day where I could make a change. Now that I was healthy, it was time to work on my behavior and how I was relating to and dealing with the kids. The yelling, it needs to change. Look, I’m not naive. Sometimes I’m going to yell. Sometimes it will be warranted and hello, it’s part of life. But I don’t have to yell as much as I have been.

In my quest to Do Better, I stumbled across this post and it stopped me in my tracks. If you have a three-year old, you should look at that. Especially a three-and-a-half-year old. The behaviors listed are Owen to a tee right now, and made me feel SO much better. It’s not just him. It’s not just me. We’re all dealing with a crazy child at this age. Some of the less desirable traits (and don’t get me wrong, there’s some awesome stuff going on with him too. But, that’s now what this post is about. Ha!) that stood out to me were:

Three and a Half Years:

“Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simples event or occasion can elicit total rebellion

New- found verbal ability “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining

May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things

Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity

Mother-child relationship difficult but may also cling to mother

May refuse to take part in daily routine – may do better with almost anyone than Mother”

Oh yeah. That’s Owen right now. Throw in an equally strong willed 19-month old who is in a whiny stage, and you have a recipe for a crazy mother.

The follow-up piece to that post discussed dealing with those behaviors, and a big part of it was about how the parent handles it. I read this passage, teared up (of course), and the light bulb was turned on.

Which, of course, does not always mean that your child will “behave”.  Many attached parents feel like failures when their children hit three or so, as the child’s sense of self and an increased need for boundaries start to come out. As a parent, you cannot count it as a “good day” if your child doesn’t cry or melt-down or not have a temper tantrum… You can count it as a “good day” if you were calm, if you helped to de-escalate the situation, if you held it together. And even then, please be easy with yourself!  Living with small children can be challenging!  This is about the path your child is taking as he or she grows and becomes their own person, this is not about you versus them. – The Parenting Passageway 

So that’s where I stand today. I am determined to be a better mom. My poor little first pancake, Owen. I’m sorry I have to make the mistakes on you, buddy. You are blazing the parenting trail for me. Every day with you is something new and I want you to know I’m trying my best. Together we will make it through this crazy year — and all the crazy years that are to come. I love you, kiddo. So very much.

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If you don’t follow me on my other various forms of social media, you probably don’t know I’m pregnant again. So, surprise! I’m…21 weeks pregnant. With another boy. I feel as though I have failed you as a blogger in withholding this knowledge so long. My apologies! Here, I’ll summarize for you:

- thought I wasn’t pregnant. Peed on a stick to rule it out because I was meeting friends for drinks. Forgot about the test for 20 minutes. Went to throw out what was obviously a negative test…only it was positive.

- begin to show immediately. By the third pregnancy my abs just gave up.

- start to vomit on a multi-times-a-day basis for nearly three months. That was fun!

- finally start to feel better around December.

- find out we are having another boy, which shocks most people except me. I knew it! Owen cried when we told him because he wanted a girl to create his own version of The Fresh Beat Band, which has two boys and two girls. He sobs we already HAVE two boys. Explain the idea of an all-boy band and he converts to Team Blue. Ryan couldn’t care less, but likes to pat my belly and say, “baby!”

That pretty much brings us to now. Baby boy is kicking and squirming, landing some good punches right to my bladder. He has no name yet, but this time I feel little urgency about it. Can’t leave the hospital without one, so he will be named eventually.

I am overjoyed and totally unprepared for the reality of three children, but come early June that will be our reality!

Sorry for holding out on you, friends. Still love you!

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(Last week at 20 weeks. Complete with raging sinus infection and Breathe Right strip. Keeping it real, folks.)

I’ve come across mothers both in real life and across the Internet who, when talking about their children, simply melt into this giant puddle of starry-eyed goo. Their children are just so precious, just so amazing, just so awe-inspiring. They talk about their offspring much like a teenager does of a new crush. Those little angels can do no wrong.

It comes as no surprise to me, that these are the same women proclaiming they were meant to be a mom.

I was not “meant to be” a mom.

Now, let me clarify.

I love my children so forcefully that sometimes I think my heart my actually explode out of my body. There are times where I get lost staring into their big brown eyes, am dazzled by their intelligence, sweetness and laughter. The fact that I created them is not a small thing lost on me. In those moments, with all the pieces stacked neatly into place, it all comes easily and I know that I am fulfilling a really important role. In those moments, I’m sure I’m that woman gushing about my little sweetums. I mean, I adore those rascals.

There are also times when the day is endless. The kids are whiny and at each others throats. The toddler poops in the tub (while they’re both in it), the preschooler is drawing on my dining room table, and the house is a disaster. As they push each other down again and start screeching, I sometimes wonder, how is this my life?

I have to work at being a mom every single day. Some of it comes naturally. The love, for sure. But not all of it. Every day challenges me to do better, to BE better. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember and even at the worst of times, I would never go back. But there was no divine intervention, no choosing of me to be a mother. It’s a job I chose and one I’m damn good at (most days), but still, not “meant to be”.

Maybe those Meant to Be moms really do have perfect lives with children who fall right into that picture. I think they’re just showing the world their best cards, but who knows. What I do know is that this morning, as I literally scooped poop out of my tub with my (glove covered!) hands, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself that this was NOT what the mom brochure promised.

I don’t think there’s any shame with having to work at being a parent. I think the regular self-evaluation makes me a better one, actually. If you’re like me, you love being a mom. You LOVE your kids. You might have even uttered “meant to be” once or twice. I might have. Probably while my first born was itty bitty and sleeping on my chest. Maybe not when he was spitting up in my underwear.

Definitely not while the other one was pooping in the tub.

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This little birdie took his first small flight from the nest today.

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I cried.

This summer has been a real test of self-esteem for me. I don’t know what my problem is, but I never got around to buying a new bathing suit, so I’ve continued to wear the two-piece I’ve had for a few years. If we’re being completely honest, it’s not a good look. The top is stretched out from my boobs going from their 27-year old glory, to ginormous first time nursers, to slightly less ginormous second pregnancy/nursing vessels, to something that only vaguely resembles what I remember them to be.

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You know, when I was 22, my breasts were like right about there. Nice and perky. Gravity has taken them (sigh) to there. It’s like 22…28…22…28.”

It’s also not a tankini or a one piece, so my stomach is all out there. Now, look. For having two kids I guess it looks pretty decent. But I’m so NOT comfortable with it. When I’m standing in front of the mirror I’m all, alright. Not bad, lady. Looking good. And then one day I was on my hands and knees playing on the floor with the kids and I happened to notice my stomach looked like a weirdly deflated donut. My eyes pretty much fell out of my head. Where did THAT come from? I decided to only stand up for the rest of my life.

I’ve spent most of the summer either wearing a tank top over my suit, or strategically placing a child in front of me until I can get in the water. The most ridiculous part is that in truth, no one is looking at me or judging me except myself. At least, I hope not. But yet…

After Owen was born I dropped all the weight in just four months. By the time he was a year I had lost so much (too much), that I was in a size I hadn’t seen since I was 16. And the thing of it is, I didn’t have to really do anything do get there. It just happened. My postpartum body wasn’t the same, but it was pretty close. The second time around was TOTALLY DIFFERENT. After Ryan, the weight loss crawled at such a slow pace that I realized I wasn’t going to be so fortunate again. This time I would have to work at it. I joined a gym, started running and after nine months got back down to my happy weight. Then summer came and I put my membership on hold because I figured I would be outdoors and could keep up the exercise that way.

SNORT.

I chase the kids around, yeah. But exercise? Real exercise? I haven’t done that in three months. Which is why, despite my weight being where I want it to be, my abs have just surrendered into Mom Tummy.

The short-term solution would have been to just buy a new suit. And while I should probably still do that, I will know the donut is lurking beneath that thin layer of lyrca-spandex. And so I decided enough was enough. For real. No more pseudo-exercising. No amount of wishing it away, or sucking it in, or hiding it beneath clothes is going to firm up my stomach. I’m going to have to work at it.

And that suuuuccckkks.

Yesterday I started The 30 Day Shred (again. Again, again. I’ve done this a handful of times but have never actually completed it. I skipped level 1 this time and plan on doing levels 2 and 3 for a little longer.), and will reinstate my gym membership this fall. I am so determined to get myself to a place where I feel confident again. My body will never be the same as it was, I know this. But I’m pretty sure I can get it to a place I can be proud of. A body I can feel comfortable in again. A body that allows me to eat a donut instead of carry one around with me. Wish me all the luck!

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Exercising with children. Not always easy!

Dear Ryan,

I’m sitting down to write this two weeks after your birthday. Such is the plight of the second child, I’m afraid. I’ve been composing it in my head for much longer, though. One year…just like that.

The first things people comment on when they meet you is your hair, and your happiness. Both are pretty remarkable.

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Your hair is starting to get a little too long in the back and is threatening to become a mullet if I don’t do something about it soon, but the thought of cutting it makes me sad. I’m going to wait it out a little longer until it becomes a vision hazard.

And your happiness? Oh, Ryan. You are just the happiest. You are always smiling. Always! You flirt and laugh and give giant, wet, open-mouth kisses. You have pride in your accomplishments and give yourself a round of applause when you do something well, all while shrieking “Yay!!” Sometimes I find you laughing while flipping through a book or crashing a car because, life! It’s a blast!

Your nickname around here is “Trouble”, and it suits you. You are into everything, so very scrappy, and are already proving to be my wild child. One of your favorite “scare Mama” tricks is to push your giant stuffed lion next to Owen’s closet, climb on top of it and pull on the net of his basketball hoop. Can you at least put a helmet on if you’re going to do that? Over the past two weeks you went from taking your first step, to standing from the floor on your own, to basically walking around the house like you own the place. I forgot how startling it can be to have a small person round the corner doing his best Frankenstein impression when you’re not expecting it. I think Kodiak forgot, too, because you’ve startled him a few times.

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I’m hoping once you are fully comfortable with walking that your sleep will go back to normal. And by normal, I mean you used to just sleep all the time. Naps were done in minutes without a fight, bedtime was easy and essentially through the night. As you’ve been working on this skill (and working on adding to your four teeth, I suspect) though, you’ve been up a few times at night, wanting to nurse constantly and have been royally fighting your afternoon nap. I would really, really like to go back to you sleeping. Really. Trust me, we are all happier when everyone sleeps. I will say that you always tell me when you’re ready to sleep. When you’re tired you cry “nigh, nigh, nigh!” until we put you down for night night. Never stop that, ok? It’s adorable.

You are a talker, mister. You are constantly babbling to yourself or anyone who will listen. Your consistent words include: mama, dada, wawa (Owen), dog, book, ball, bear, dat (that), yay, bah (cup), nuh (nurse), night night, hi, uh oh, rum rum (which isn’t really a word, but the sound you make when you drive toy cars around), and believe it or not, dinosaur. It comes out as “dye-dye-dye”, but you only say it when you’re playing with and showing me toy dinosaurs so I know that’s what you mean. What a funny thing to add to your vocabulary. You smack your lips together when you want to eat and always use the signs for more, all done, milk, and have created your own for lovey, which is you touching your mouth with your open hand just like you press your lovey to your face. (SO CUTE.)

Speaking of your lovey, you are totally attached to it. It’s a white lovey with a sheep head that was gifted to your brother when he was a baby. Owen never took any interest in it, but you clutch it to you while you sleep and like to carry it around when you first wake up. It’s slowly going from white to…not so white, despite washing it. I guess it’s just well-loved.

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Owen continues to be your ultimate buddy and it’s clear you already idolize him. If he does it, you need to do it too, and that means imitating him in every possible way. You need to drink from big boy cups, and play with big boy toys, and eat big boy food (you did purees for maybe a minute around six months. Then it was “give me what he’s got”, basically.) (Oh yeah, you eat everything. Every. Thing. And if there isn’t food on your tray mere seconds after I put you in the high chair you shriek!) He loves you to infinity and beyond, even though he’s become very territorial about his toys. I don’t think he was quite prepared for all that sharing. The joy in both of your eyes when you play or spontaneously hug, or the peals of laughter from both of you in the back seat makes me know we’re all doing something right, though.

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See what happened, Ry Ry? I finally got to writing about you and now I can’t stop. There is just so much to tell.

I will stop, though. For today. Happy first (and two weeks) birthday, my not-so-little Little. Thank you for the joy you bring me constantly.

I love you through and through.

Love,

Mama

 

There’s a family member who likes to tell me my children don’t look like me. This might be true for Ryan, but there is no question with Owen. Owen has my eyes.

He’s also just like me. He’s cautious and sensitive. He can cry at the drop of a hat and he’s not one to jump into new situations easily.

Last week he started swim lessons. Knowing how to swim isn’t negotiable, especially living where we do. We talked it up the week before and told him how much he would learn; how fun it would be. We picked out his bathing suit and special towel and packed them all up ready to go. The night before his first lesson, as we lay in bed getting ready for the night, he turned to me and whispered, I’m a little nervous.

The first class started out exactly as I would have expected it to. Faced with the realization that he was expected to climb into the pool — the great unknown — and climb in without me, Owen burst into tears. He looked up at me with a mix of panic and sadness, waiting for me to rescue him from the instructor slowly guiding him to the platform. I knew this would happen, and I knew I had to let him go. Logically, I understood he had to get over the fear to start benefiting from the class, but my heart hurt.

By the middle of the lesson, he was doing great. Cautious and reserved, yes, but trying. And doing! I was so proud of him. The whole way home we talked about the class and how much fun it would be to go the rest of the week. And it was fun. He did great all week long and the growth both in skill and confidence was abundantly clear. We signed him up for the following week.

Yesterday was the start of week two, and the first day with an new instructor. This teacher is a whole different ball game, in a good way. Owen was immediately forced out of his new comfort and challenged to try more. This morning he hopped in the pool (alone!) and gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. Moments later the instructor dunked him under and he emerged in tears. Here we go again, I thought to myself. As the class move forward, I could tell he was feeling stressed, despite the teacher’s encouragement and wonderful soothing. The other three children in the class were clearly more comfortable — kicking around alone on their floaty dumbbells while Owen clung to his and the instructor’s hand at the same time. At one point, he scanned the room until he found me and when we locked eyes, I felt everything.

I know exactly what he was feeling right then because he is just like me. I can still remember the same fear and the same feeling of being unable to hold back tears, even when you desperately want to. Sometimes my emotions still get the best of me over little things, even when I don’t want my own tears to fall.

I did the only thing I could do, and gave him my own thumbs up and big smile. You’re doing it, buddy. You’re doing great.

The instructor lived up to her praise and at one point during a clear panicky moment, she made him laugh and kissed his forehead. Even from across the pool I could see him relax and, unsurprisingly, my eyes welled up. By the end of the lesson he was all smiles again, and as I dried him off I thanked her profusely. She modestly brushed it off, but I don’t think she understood how much I was thanking her for.

As I buckled him into the car seat, Owen looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was scared at my swim lesson today, but I did a good job!”

I’ve never seen myself reflected quite as clearly as I did in that moment, looking into my child’s eyes. Eyes that look just like mine.

“You did an amazing job, Owen. I’m so very proud of you.”

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I read once about children entering a state of disequilibrium every six months or so. How starting at around 18 months old, they cycle between — and I’m paraphrasing here — being easy, mellow and pretty sweet to be around, to infuriating shits. Ok, that’s not exactly the theory, but it sure feels like it.

Year Two has been a YEAR. Owen challenges me daily. He is so smart. I don’t mean this in an annoying, braggy parent way, I just mean the kid surprises me. He sings all the 50 states, then turns around and chews on his shirt and trips over air. Normal kid stuff, right? Only sometimes I think he’s too smart for his own good because the kid argues with me like he’s 16. Occasionally I have to take a step back from an argument and check myself. You are fighting with a small person who hasn’t even been on the planet for a full three years. CHILL, WOMAN.

It was as though a switch flipped at two-and-a-half. My pleasant and fun kid became a constant battle. From sleeping to eating to leaving the house, everything was a fight. “No!” was shrieked more than anything else and I found myself wishing away our afternoons for the silence bedtime would (eventually, after a fight) bring.

I get it, I do. I realize he is working towards independence and his little brain is working overtime as he grows and learns. I also realize that he deals with some jealousy when people fawn over Ryan, or I have to care for the baby (taking attention away from Owen). It was no surprise at all that as soon as Ryan became mobile, the issues with sharing began as well.

The knowledge that this was coming/is normal/happens to all kids has been the one string I’ve clung to over the past six months. The understanding that this too shall pass and that we would emerge virtually unscathed. His third birthday is the light at the end of a very bumpy tunnel.

I thought we had coasted into quiet waters two weeks ago when suddenly naps and bedtime were easy. Fight free. He started eating his dinner again and didn’t run away from me every time I asked him to put his shoes on. I THOUGHT we were there.

We’re not.

Once again, the battles rage on. With his birthday just eight days away I am willing the shift back to equilibrium to happen soon.

I love Owen something fierce. He is my light, my heart, my world.

I just wish he’d stop being such a shit.

 

 

Yesterday I spent the day in Massachusetts at my friend’s bridal shower. It was lovely to leave the mommy world for an afternoon and spend some time with some girlfriends and some mimosas. I was gone seven hours — the longest I’ve been apart from Ryan to date — and as much as I love my boys, I’ll admit that I didn’t miss them all that much. Mama needed a break. And enjoyed eating two (TWO!) cupcakes without having to share.

Practically everyone at the shower was wearing either blue, stripes, or a combination of the two, so I fit right in wearing a navy and white striped maxi dress which I bought a few days before at — well let’s just go ahead and get it out in the open. I bought the dress at Wet Seal. The store is across from the bookstore I was buying the shower gift in and I figured I would pop across the way and see if they had any cute inexpensive jewelry. They didn’t, but they did have the dress all cute and cheap at $16, and so I bought it. Thirty years old shopping at Wet Seal. Ahem.

Anyway, while I was at the party, the bride’s sister came up to me (Hi, Ronnie!) and was all, would you update your blog already? She told me she checks daily to see if I’ve written, and since I’ve gone so long in between posts lately, I basically figured no one was reading anyway. It was nice to hear at least one person was, so it kicked my butt into gear.

I’ve just had a touch of the Blog-itis lately. Life is happening — and quickly — and I just haven’t been able to put it down in words. Ryan is nine months going on, oh, who knows. The kid just wants to be big. He’s all over the house. Mostly backwards crawling and some sort of unofficial frontwards army crawl. It’s not what I would call traditionally crawling, but it does the job. When he’s not doing that, he wants to stand, stand, stand, and has started to cruise the furniture ever so slowly. Yesterday he took my cheeseburger right off my plate and ate it. It’s probably second-time-around parenting, because I never would have let Owen do that, but I barely even blinked. Instead, I broke some up into tiny pieces and let him have at it.

Owen is almost three and he’s busy, and loud, and smart, and sassy, and infuriating, and fresh, and amazing, and awesome. Looking at pictures from even just six months ago makes my heart ache a little because he has changed so quickly. He thought I looked “sooooo beautiful” in my Wet Seal dress, though, so that’s pretty cool.

Me? I’ve been getting into photography lately and have really enjoyed photographing my friends’ children along with my own. It’s become a fun hobby for me and one that gives me an outlet beyond the daily stuff.

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Ryan and my dad

The other day I uttered the words, why is the baby under the ottoman covered in poop?

That’s life, y’all.

Dear Ryan,

Hello there, my little due date baby. Today you have been out exactly as long as you were in. How we’ve already reached this mark is beyond me.

You are a joy, Ry Ry. From your sunny demeanor to your silly mohawk (which has earned you the nickname “Mohawka”), you completely brighten our lives. Watching you grow has been really fun. I naively thought that the second child would be so much like the first, that each time you do something uniquely you, I am surprised by it.

You continue to be a great sleeper, which is — wow. I mean, thank you for that. Your two naps are usually 1.5-2 hours long and if you go to bed at six that’s a late night. You wake usually just once at night to nurse and then sleep at least till seven. In the morning, I bring you to bed and after you nurse, you are all about your Dada. Owen will have joined us by then, and watching the two of you climb all over your daddy is the highlight of my day.

Your first word came right before you turned eight months old. It was Mama, and I’m not sure there’s a better sound than your child first speaking your name. Your tiny voice reminds me a lot of how Owen’s used to sound, so it’s a treat on multiple levels for me to hear it. It’s adorable, but you quickly learned that you can yell it from your crib, and so you do, at 3 a.m. “Mamamamamamama. Mama! MAMA!!!” Soon after, you followed with O-wa (Owen), yay, hiii, and most recently, Dada. I’m pretty sure you’re working on dog as well. You also clap your hands all day long and wave to people when you see them, and have recently started to give real hugs. Those are pretty awesome, kiddo.

You are going to be my daredevil, I just know it. You are seconds away from officially crawling, but you’ve been on your hands and knees for a while now and maneuver around the house pretty well. The other day I left you on the living room rug and moments later found you under the end table a few feet away. I was pretty sure it was going to be Owen’s waffle that finally inspired you to move your knees, but in the end I wouldn’t be surprised if you crawled first to the dog.

You refuse to sit still any longer, and will try and swan dive out of our arms to explore. We had to lower your crib mattress as you are now pulling up to your knees. You should have seen your face when I first discovered you like that — so full of pride and cheekiness.

You have solid food about three times a day now. Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach, pears, peas, apple sauce and yogurt are some of your favorites. You don’t really enjoy bananas. Your pincher grasp is great and you eat puffs, diced fruit and shredded cheese like a pro, and pretty much have the sign for “more” down pat. You’ve pretty much mastered the cup, too, and do that funny frat boy chug with your water. You have yet to cut a tooth, though!

Owen remains your very best friend and I can see how hard you try to imitate him. Your whole face lights up when he enters a room and you shake and squirm until you can reach him. If he leaves, you crane your head and yell “O-WA!” until he comes back. You have baby toys, but would much rather play with his trucks or blocks. You already steal toys from each other and have started to wrestle. It’s quite the glimpse into our future.

According to our home scale, you are just over 20 pounds. I had to weigh you twice because your brother was 19 pounds at four months and I have a hard time believing you aren’t bigger. I guess we will find out for sure at your well visit next week, even though I can see you are certainly not the chunker he was.

You are a love, Ryan. From your little laugh to your great big smile, I couldn’t have asked for a better second baby. I can’t believe my next letter will be wishing you a happy first birthday!

I love you through and through, Chickie.

Love,

Mama

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