Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Letter to Indigo at Six Years Old

Dear Indigo,

Here we are, six years old. You are taller, more confident, more grown up. I sometimes see a shred of my baby boy, when you let your emotions run over you at bedtime and release all your pent-up worries in a torrent of tears. I wish you weren’t such a worrier. I know how exhausting it can be.

You are doing awesome in first grade. I’m amazed at how quick you are solving math problems and reading. No more spelling words at Daddy that I want to keep secret from you, because you are going to pick up on all of it now.

Cyan just adores you. He was so excited to see you after a week apart. Remember you’re the big brother and he’s looking up to you. I know he can be annoying and loud and break things, but try to be patient. He’s learning how to human, just like you are.

You did great on our trip to Disney, other than a few melt downs. It happens. We all have moments where we get tired and overwhelmed. You made a great Beast. I love your confidence. It’s like you don’t even consider being nervous or scared of doing things. And Space Mountain? Yikes!!

Gymnastics is still super fun for you. You are a regular ninja out there! I’m so glad you found an activity you truly enjoy. 

I just love watching you discover new things and learn more about yourself. It truly is amazing to watch you turn into a full-fledged person, even if it means you are taking tiny steps away from me. You say you never want to leave home, not even for college, and while I know that won’t stick, I still enjoy hearing it. My arms will always be open for you, little boy, because you have stolen a piece of my heart forever.

Happy birthday!


A Letter to Periwinkle at Six Years Old

Dear Periwinkle,

You are six. How did that happen? How are you in first grade? I hope you always face the world with the confidence you do now. Don’t lose it, baby girl. The world may try to tell you that you have to, that girls shouldn’t believe in themselves as much as you do, that you shouldn’t do certain things because you are a girl. Just tell them to shove off, and do it anyways.

We just finished your first trip to Disney, and though you had moments where I wanted to pack you back up and send you home, you amazed me with your bravery. Space Mountain? The intense Mission: Space? Seriously? You are an adrenaline junkie ready to take on the world. Just stay safe while doing it.

And I was proud when your teacher told me that despite missing four days, you were the only one in class raising their hand during math class, and you got every answer right. You’re also doing fantastic at reading these days. You are a smart cookie, and I hope you continue to be proud of that fact. Don’t dim your brightness for anyone.

I do wish you’d stop instigating trouble, often with an attempt to hide a smirk and an indignant “What? I didn’t mean to do that.”Or that you’d admit when you’re in the wrong instead of doubling down and lashing out. But we’re working on that. Growing up is tough work.

I often forget that you are only six, just out of toddler clothes. You speak with such authority and attitude, especially about baking and horses, your two great obsessions these days. But then you believe with such passion that Mickey and Minnie are real, and that Cinderella actually lives in that castle, and that the Tooth Fairy really brought you all that money, and you are a tiny girl again.

Stay little as long as you can, baby girl. I’m not ready for you to stop believing.

Happy birthday!


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Letter to Cyan at One Year Old

Dear Cyan,

I remember so much about the week you were born with vivid clarity: looking over at you as you were weighed, snuggling with you in recovery, our perfect afternoon before it all went south, the debilitating spinal headache, and the rising sense that something was very, very wrong with the way you were eating.

The weeks that followed are more of a blur: mornings spent holding you in the NICU, listening to the doctors at rounds; nights spent watching mind-numbing TV shows until all hours just so I didn’t have to face that inevitable moment when I would get into bed and have nothing to distract me from worrying about you.

I look back on the letter I wrote to you during that time, when everything seemed hopeless, and it feels like yesterday. But mere days later we had the worst/best day ever, when I walked in and saw you with a tube again, and I broke down in tears. A nurse comforted me, handed me a homemade blanket to snuggle you with. The primary doctor who was caring for you told me “sorry” with such sadness in his eyes, and said they would keep looking.

Only hours later, that same nurse convinced the doctor that rerunning a certain GI test was a good idea, and then that same doctor entered the room with a huge grin: “We found the problem!” In what was both a rush of activity and a long wait, you had surgery, you were done, you were on your way to recovery. The entire team felt such relief at solving you. I am forever indebted to them.

I haven't looked at this photo since the day I took it, after your surgery. It still amazes me how small you were, and how strong. You impressed the doctors and nurses with how easy-going you were, how relaxed, and, of course, how cute. You are my little fighter, my trouble-maker, my heart. 

The months since you came home have been nothing but joy. You have a smile that attracts people from across the room. I can’t count how many people have commented on that smile in stores when we run errands. They smile right back at you, your joy now their joy.

You and I have had quite a year together. Quitting my job was one of the best decisions I ever made. It allowed me to watch you grow, day by day, minute by minute. We got to do library programs, swim lessons, go on walks, read books, cuddle on the couch (though there’s no keeping you still these days). We have become a bit attached to each other, which is why daycare was a good idea. I think you like it. I hope you like it. I do miss you, but it’s nice to be able to get things done in chunks longer than your naps.

You have recently figured out standing on your own, and lately clapping as well. You are a speed demon when you crawl. You have even take a step or two before falling into my arms. I’m still working on getting you to say “Hi” and wave. You really only say “mama” and “dada” and “baba” and “nana,” and I’m not sure you say any of those with intention, but I know you will get there. You love your brother and sister, and even though they sometimes say you are annoying I know they love you too.

You get very excited when we put on “Baby Signing Time,” and I’m not ashamed to say I use it to keep you occupied while I do some chores or cook dinner. One of these days you will start signing, but for now the way you jump with excitement when you know I am putting it on makes it worth it. You adore the cats, even though they are a bit wary of you. They have let you pet them, though, which is a Big Deal.

In short, you are exactly where you should be, despite your rough start. I cannot imagine our lives without you and that smile, that excitement, that giggle. You have taught me so much in only a year, and I can’t wait to see what your second year brings!


Monday, April 9, 2018

The Night Before Cyan's First Day at Daycare

Why does this feel so much harder than last time?

Could it be the 11 months Cyan and I have spent together, all day, every day, Monday through Friday (and then weekends)? Shopping trips, doctors appointments (his and mine), you name it, we were together. Not to mention his fraught first month in the NICU, which probably isn't helping either.

I only got three months with Periwinkle and Indigo, and it was basically survival mode. Was the bond just not as strong?

Could it be the way Cyan cries for me if he catches the slightest glimpse of me or hears my voice? Will he be crying for me all day? I know the answer is "no" but I can still picture it, him surrounded by strangers, hysterical.

Periwinkle and Indigo didn't get this attached until well after daycare started so it didn't feel so horrible dropping them off. And their attachment was equally to Blue. Cyan definitely has a mommy habit that we need to break or at least soften.

Could it be simply that he is the baby of the family, and quite likely the last kid?

Or maybe it is that this time it is much more a CHOICE. Five years ago I had a fulltime job in the city I had to get back to. My freelancing was not flourishing as it is today. They had to go to daycare. This time around, I/we have decided that maybe it's a good idea, two days a week (yes, just two days a week, and I'm still a bit of a mess), to let me have time to fully focus on work instead of having to work here and there in moments when he is asleep or eating in his high chair next to me, or at night, or while at the older kids' practices, or while they are at a library program. Maybe my sanity needs him gone two days a week.

And maybe he needs to learn to let go of me a little (break my heart). I know he will think the other babies are great fun, because he just LOVES babies. He needs some more socialization with kids. He needs a little less Mommy.

And so it begins. The slow, inevitable separation. The march toward independence that every parent knows is coming the second they first hold their child. Our job is to send them into the world. And so far I haven't had to. We have existed in a little cocoon, away from the world, him and me.

But it's time. We'll see who cries harder in the morning.

But then I'm going to the gym! Finally!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Letter to Periwinkle at 5 Years Old

Happy birthday, baby girl!

You are five going on fifteen, with all the attitude that entails. I'm not entirely sure where that is coming from. Even Grandma says I was never this feisty. I try to see it as you being strong-willed, smart, and confident. But often I want to tear my hair out, or throw you in your room, or just walk away. And this is only the beginning. Lord help us once you are a real teenager.

At the same time, you can still be incredibly sweet and caring, especially with your little brother, Cyan. In fact, sometimes the attitude comes out when you don't think I am responding to his cries fast enough. Hands on hips, head tilted, look of exasperation: "Mom, he's crying. Help him, will you?"

You are also a little mama to your "big" brother, Indigo. If you guys are fighting over something, and you see he is genuinely upset (like who got their face painted first at the fall festival), you will let him get his way. You know what he needs and you make it happen. I love that about you.

This year has been one of BIG changes: ending daycare, new baby brother, starting kindergarten, me working from home... and you are rolling with it pretty well. I think the increased attitude is probably the result, and the quick temper, but we are working through it.

This year has also seen you turn into quite the soccer player. You are faster than pretty much every body else, and usually score several goals a game. We are very proud of you, and also proud of how you make sure to pass the ball to your teammates a few times to give them a chance, too. I think you have found "your" sport, but let me know what else you want to try. You might be an awesome volleyball player too! And we haven't even gotten started with musical instruments yet... Daddy can't wait to get you guys learning piano or something else.

You also started Irish Step dance class. I'm not sure you will ever be called a natural, but you are working hard at it, and you love going every week. Maybe next year we will try something that allows a little more freedom of movement, but thank you for indulging my Irish soul this year at least.

In Kindergarten you are doing great. Your teacher has told me that you know so much already and are such a joy to work with. She is working to find ways to challenge you, and you are learning sight words like crazy. I expect you'll be reading everything in sight by the end of the school year. You are so smart (which we knew) and it's exciting to see you discover new things to learn about (math! science! music! gym!).

You are growing up faster than I'd like, but remember: you will always be my baby.


A Letter to Indigo at 5 Years Old

Happy birthday, little (big) man!

My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday that you were a tiny screaming thing, and now here you are... a big screaming thing (when you get mad). Perhaps I'm feeling even more nostalgic as your baby brother Cyan cycles through all your old clothes. As I dress him in this or that I can picture so clearly you wearing it, what we did that day, what you were doing development-wise. It doesn't help that he looks quite a bit like you!

You've been doing so great at being a big brother. Sometimes, I think maybe you hardly care. But then I will be making dinner and he will be crying, and I hear your sweet voice singing a silly song you made up, and it calms him, and I know that you love him, and he loves you.

Sometimes, though, I think your renewed interest in biting when you get frustrated has something to do with Cyan, and with starting Kindergarten. But that's to be understood, somewhat, given what a year of changes it has been. But dude, stop. Time to work on those coping strategies again, kiddo. But we love you all the same.

You've been doing great in Kindergarten. Your handwriting has improved so much, and you are quick as a flash with the sight words every week. It's so exciting seeing you soak it all up. I hope you are as proud of yourself as I am of you.

You've also improved a lot in soccer, though I still want you to try baseball in the spring. You've got a nice arm, and a pretty sweet swing. Maybe that is more "your" sport. You've also started going to open tumbling sessions at a gymnastics place. You are slowly learning cartwheels, roundoffs, and other fun (and heart-attack inducing) things. I think it's really helping your confidence that you have something that is yours, that you don't share with Periwinkle.

I can't wait to see what this next year brings, how tall you will grow, what new topic will ignite your passion (we know so much about sea life thanks to Octonauts now). Keep asking questions, keep telling your silly stories, keep making up those songs. With an imagination like yours, there are no limits.


Friday, May 26, 2017

A Letter to Cyan at 10 Days Old

Dear Cyan,

I want you home. I want you snuggled in my arms, not for a half hour or an hour at a time, but for an afternoon, cozy on the couch, watching you breathe. Watching you make silly faces and cute noises. Not watching you with a tube down your throat, with leads attached to you to monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse-ox, getting your day-glo-colored nutrition through an IV. Not watching them take more blood, do another ultrasound, take you away for a lumbar puncture. I have to just let them do it, because no one knows what's wrong with you. And all I want to do is grab you and run away with you and bring you home.

You've never been here, but I feel your absence. Your bottles are washed and ready. The stroller sits in the corner, Your car seat is in the car, ready for your first ride. Your crib is set up, filled with stuffed animals and special blankets. Periwinkle put one of hers in there for you. Every day, pretty much, she cries, "I want my baby. I want him home." And after she and Indigo are in bed, I cry too, many days. I have never felt so helpless in my life. In the middle of the night I am tempted to go back to the hospital, because you shouldn't be alone. You should have your mommy and your daddy with you. And it kills me that you are in that room without us so many hours of the day and night.

And as much as I feel your absence, sometimes it feels like none of the past nine months ever happened. Like I didn't do hundreds of blood thinner injections to get you here safely. Like I didn't spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter blissfully happy that you were coming. Like you aren't real.

And I know this isn't our first rodeo with the NICU. But somehow it's different. Last time we had one baby home, and a hurricane raging, and definitive goals for Periwinkle to meet. This time it's "We don't know"; "He looks so healthy"; "The tests aren't showing anything wrong." This time it's "Wait and see," and all I picture is you never getting better.

Everyone reassures me you will. And I know there are babies in that NICU worse off than  you are. But it feels like life is on pause until you are home. Everyone wants to hear how you are getting better, and I feel even more helpless, and hopeless, every time I have to respond that nothing has changed, or that that one step forward has become two steps back. I want to hole up somewhere and just hold you and love you until you are better. And I can't. And I'm sorry.