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Everyone’s Birthday Should Be in Early October

When we were thinking about how to celebrate Ollie’s second birthday, we knew we needed to include certain elements. He loves to go bye in the car. He loves to be outside. He loves trees, rocks, animals, and water. He revels in nature, like many little kids. But he seems to take it to another level. He’s happiest in the giant, colorful out-and-about.

Hudson Gardens sprang to mind. It’s smaller and not as grand at the Denver Botanic Gardens, but it’s still lush and lovely with a charm of it’s own. Ollie loved our afternoon out in the brilliantly beautiful setting. We took the entire gang, which is something we don’t do very much any more. Everyone has separate interests and activities. Coming together for the littlest of the little brothers was important.

I think from now on, though, we will be calling it Huts and Gardens because one of our older kids thought, for years, that’s what it is called.

The day was so perfect, I am considering transferring my June birthday to early October. Everywhere, a feast:

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Dear Ollie on Turning One. And Two.

Dear Baby,

Next week, you will be one year old. When I realized this, I burst into tears. If you knew why, you’d accuse me of being silly, just like I accuse you of raving silliness when you try to give me your pacifier. It makes no sense, does it? Big people don’t use pacifiers and babies grow up much too fast. I can say no to the thoughtfully-offered use of your favorite thing, but you cannot say no to growing up, out, and eventually, away.

Who is the silly one?

And that’s why I cried. This spiraling of time is beyond my control. Like your curls. You splash in the tub and they melt away. I rub the towel on your head and you laugh. Maybe all that joy exits via your follicles and out the ends of your fine hair, making each strand curve into a smile. Curls. Yes, that must be the cause! You have taught me so much, baby.

After next week, you won’t be an infant any more, at least according to those baby development books I used to read when your big brothers and sister were babies. You’ll be a toddler, with toddler tendencies and toddler tantrums. The stores want me to feed toddler dinners to you while wearing toddler-sized bibs—the hard plastic ones to catch piles of slippery spaghetti mixed with yogurt and banana coins. You’ll resist when I wash your face and hands. You’ll talk to me using words. When you point at a dog outside, you’ll back it up with noises you couldn’t make just six months ago.

You just got your first teeth. You aren’t walking yet. You don’t use a spoon for spooning food, but you bang out songs on your highchair tray with them. I think about the chunk of cake I’ll place in front of you next week. I’ll bake it with you solely in mind. I’ll shake it out of the pan and decorate it with love and care. And then, I’ll expect you to rip it apart. What I made, tear it up, please. That thing I mixed in a machine, squish it in your little fist. What began as flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla is now decorating your cheeks. Some of it might make it into your mouth.

While you’re unmaking your cake, please know you made me.

Love,

Mama

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A year ago, I wrote that letter to our Ollie. I never published it because I thought it was too gushy. But over the last year, I’ve re-read it several times, thinking of the predictions I made along the way.

Ollie uses words. He can speak in sentences when his pacifier isn’t in his mouth. He not only walks, he runs. His mouth is packed with teeth. He uses a spoon and fork while sitting at the big table with the rest of the family. The high chair was dismissed months ago when he realized it set him apart from everyone else.

Over the past year, I’ve seen him striding and straining to be just like his eight big brothers and sisters. He’s their shadow, their mirror, their echo, their monkey, their source for unconditional brotherly love.

Tomorrow, he will be two. He still sleeps in a crib and drinks from a sippy cup. His sugar-spun curls are yielding to wavier, thicker hair. His baby fat is being replaced with muscle. Just last night, I held him in my lap and looked at his feet. They are the feet of a kid, with long toes and arches. Ollie strings together magnetic Thomas the Tank Engine cars and drives them on tracks he puts together himself. He scribbles on paper and claims the swirls are dogs.

I call him my baby and everyone is quick to correct my foolishness. He is not a baby!

But when he looks in the mirror, he says two things: Ollie. Baby. See, naysayers?

I have a prediction for the coming year. Baby is going to become Big Boy. I’m not going to lie. My heart breaks bit as we lay these days down.

On the brink of two

On the brink of two

These simple days

I sat down to eat lunch with Teddy, who at newly-four is brimming with observations and ideas.

“Let’s talk about chickens,” he suggested.

I nodded because I had just taken a bite of my one millionth hot dog and couldn’t scream yes.

“Some chickens are white. Some chickens are black. Some chickens are green.”

“Green?” I wondered.

“If they’re sick.”

“Oh, yes, of course.”

Teddy changed the subject to fish and their many colors. Then he saw a bird zip by the sliding glass door and pronounced it so funny. I missed it because I was facing the wrong way, but I believe him when he says something is funny. He’s an authority. Abruptly, he left but quickly returned wearing cowboy boots, two sizes too big, on the wrong feet.

“It’s beautiful outside!” he pointed.

I am always grateful and amazed when little ones notice beauty. I looked. It’s a brilliantly sunny day. Our backyard trees are swaying and stingily jettisoning leaves two or three at a time. “That’s what fall means,” he whispered. Just then, my mom called to check on Ollie, who isn’t feeling well. Teddy danced around me, asking to talk to her. After a few minutes of catching her up on his condition and other family news, I handed my phone to him and he strolled around with it, talking.

They have a tradition when they say goodbye. Teddy says, “Goodbye, crocodile!” and she’ll say “Goodbye, alligator!” and then he’ll think of another animal to call her. Today, it went on longer than usual with the back-and-forth goodbye census of an entire zoo. He was satisfied eventually and handed the phone back to me so I could say “Goodbye, mom!”

I put my phone down.

“Are crocodiles real?” he asked.

“Definitely!”

We could talk about them at lunch tomorrow. Sometimes, I catch myself delighting in my own life. It seems strange to say it that way, but I get to spend my days with small people who challenge me to consider the chickens, the leaves, the realness of crocodiles. Of course, there are days when they are loud, whiny, messy and I desperately miss adult conversation. But today, not so much.

teddy, chalking the patio

teddy, chalking the patio