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One of the joys of parenting is watching my son discover how he fits into the world.
I have, in my opinion, a highly articulate 2.5 year old. He speaks in full sentences most of the time, although his standard answer is very 2-year-old-esque: “Because I can” or “Because I can’t.” Occasionally we’re able to get better sentences out of him. He has two new things. One of them is to tell us about something he wants to do, or something he wants to happen, and then end it with, “That will be a good idea.” The other new thing is to “match” things.
For example: “I wanna go see Skye and Brian and Papa and Nanny and then play with my race cars and then pet Lucky and that will be a good idea!”
He was laying on his Nanny’s bed, watching Dumbo with her. I brought him Friend-Ent, his favorite stuffed animal, a very tired Dumbo that has been with him almost every night since his birth. He held up his stuffed animal to the TV screen. “Look Nanny, it matches!”
“I want chocolate milk. That will be a good idea, Mommy!” To really feel the genius of this one, you have to mispronounce chocolate – think “cschok-lit.” He pronounces other C-words correctly, but Cschok-lit? I’m not correcting that one until he graduates high school.
For Christmas, his cousins Teresa, James and Mandy gifted him 2 really awesome Dr. Seuss puzzles. When he unwrapped it he got very excited. We asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Dr. Whouss!” Hmm. That’s another thing I’m not correcting. He thinks Dr. Who and Dr. Seuss are the same, and who am I to argue?!
He’s already put both puzzles together and taken them apart multiple times. One of the puzzles is from his favorite book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!“ The night he put it together for the first time we read that book at bedtime. He paused on the page that the puzzle is inspired by and said, “Look Mommy! It matches my puzzle! Let’s go put it together. That will be a good idea.”
Some days are crazy and insane. But some days end with him snuggled in my arms, and especially on days like those I find myself unable to articulate how lucky I am to be his Mommy.
Benjamin – on a natural christmas high from getting presents and being surrounded by family and love all day long.
Various friends and family – scattered throughout the house.
Papa and Nanny bought Benjamin a fake black and decker tool set for Christmas so Benjamin could “help” Papa work on stuff. He had cycled through all of his toys at least twice already that day.
Christmas night, 9pm, at home. Benjamin is playing in his playroom, there’s several people in the kitchen baking cookies and Benjamin’s parents and Aunt Charla are in the living room standing around talking about the days events. The weather outside is, appropriately, frightful. Low 30′s with a severe wind chill.
Dim lights. Three adults speaking to each other in murmured conversation as they hear loud footsteps. All heads turn to see the two year old running towards them, still in Christmas best, wild sugar-fuled eyes, small pupils, a large smile, and his left arm raised into a 90 degree angle with his hand holding a small plastic hammer. The child runs through the kitchen, deftly dodging the cookie-bakers, straight at the small group of adults. At the last minute he swerves to the right, still at full speed, towards the closed back door. Without a word he flings the door open with his empty right hand and starts to push against the cold breeze. The adults watch as the cold temperature registers in his brain and he steps back, slamming the door, and turns to look at the small group of adults who up until this point have been silently watching.
JUSTIN: Benjamin, what in the world are you doing?!
The child looks at his father with the wild, excited eyes of a two year old on Christmas night.
BENJAMIN: I WANT TO BANG THINGS!
JUSTIN: Son, that feeling will never go away.
The child, unaware of why his comments are funny, turns from the adults and starts to hammer away on the closed door. The outside chill, for now, forgotten.
These will only be funny to you if you are a Dr. Who fan who happens to watch Super Readers…. but I included links so you can get the gist of it.
From bathtime tonight, two brief glimpses at life with Benjamin:
Benjamin plays with a large camouflage bucket that will fit on his head. He puts the bucket on his head so that the main bucket is over his face.
“Mommy! I got a bucket on my head!”
“Benjamin! Can you say ‘are you my mummy?‘”
So Benjamin holds the bucket over his head, looks right at me, and says (with it echoing in the bucket), “Are you my mummy?“
Benjamin and I are playing Ducky Superheros with his three duckies. I realize he keeps spitting as he laughs.
“Benjamin! Stop spitting, that’s gross.”
“I can’t stop spitting.”
“You can’t stop spitting? Why not?”
Seriously. For anyone who doesn’t have a talkative toddler yet… hang in there. These days are amazing.
Two quick toddler quotes for you, although one is dialogue so you can get the context of the ridiculous.
“I can’t go potty, I’m crying!”
“Benjamin, what do you want for dinner? Do you want some chili?”
“Yeah! I want CHILI!”
“Ok buddy, I will make it in a few minutes.”
In the meantime, he proceeds to repeatedly ask for chili. I go to the kitchen and heat up the chili.
I set the hot bowl on the counter (out of his reach).
He reaches for the hot bowl, saying “Chili!”
“Benjamin, don’t touch that, it’s hot! Mommy is going to get you your own bowl.”
I get him his own bowl, dump half of the heated up chili in to it, and turn to him, bowl in hand.
“Benjamin, do you want cheese on your chili?”
He then proceeds to start crying. I was like, do whaaaa??
“Ok. Well, then here’s your chili buddy!”
He looks in the bowl.
“That’s not chili!!!”
I’m like, do whaaa?
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not chili!!”
“Benjamin, yes, that is chili, just like we ate two days ago!”
“No, it’s not chili!” He is adamant.
“Well, then, son, what do you think it is? What is this?” I point to the chili.
“It’s Rock ‘n Roll!”
He never did admit that chili was chili, and he eventually had soup for dinner. Ahh, two year olds are awesome.
This year has been a whirlwind of change, the least of which is not the leaps and bounds my child is growing in. I wanted to write a few memories down, just so I won’t forget them.
- A few nights ago we sang our bathtime song, which goes “Bath time, here we go! / Bath times a good time, you know! / Bath time, everybody LOVES bath time it’s bath time, you know!” and repeats ad infinitum. We sang it before bath time like we do almost every night. After bath, we were downstairs snuggling and playing and I told Justin that we needed to put Benjamin to bed, soon, so we could take a shower. Benjamin proceeded to look at me and say, “No Mommy, I need shower too, it’s shower time. Shower time, here we go! Shower times a good time you know!” Sorry, Benjamin, but it didn’t get you out of bedtime.
- I made whoopie pies for coworkers and as the cakes were cooling I gave Benjamin one. He enjoyed it a lot – “Yum, delicioso!” After a few minutes, he started whining, and I asked him what was wrong. His response? “I don’t have a cookie in my mouth!!”
- Did Benjamin get another cookie? Yes, yes he did!
- I feel bad sometimes, because I work so much and everyone else gets to be home with Benjamin more than I do. To combat that, I try to take Benjamin with me to social events that would drive me husband crazy. So the other day we went to a concert in a local park where they were playing 80s music. Benjamin and I danced and danced and danced. We had SO much fun!
- During the concert, Benjamin got antsy and wanted to get away from the loud music, so we took a walk. I followed him all the way to the edge of the park, where we played around. At the end of the walk I told him it was time to head back, and we could be like Dora and go “through the woods, across the field, to the concert!” So we did that, and midway through I made the mistake of saying “We need to keep an eye out for Swiper! That tricky fox is always trying to get out stuff!” So… we get ALMOST to the concert, and he turns to a random stranger and starts holding out his arm yelling, “SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING! SWIPER NO SWIPING!!” I was so embarrassed. Apologized. Moved on. Poor lady was freaked out…
- Last night Benjamin was cranky and overtired. It was a rough hour before bedtime, but we survived, and I was snuggling with him in our rocking chair before bed. I asked him if he wanted to pray, or sing, and he wanted to pray so we did. I said, after our initial prayers, “Benjamin, who do you want to bless?” He said Frankie (our dog). So we prayed, “Dear God, please bless Frankie.” Then I asked him, “who else do you want to bless?” He thinks for a minute. Lucky, he says, the other dog. “Dear God, please bless Lucky.” I ask him who else. He says, in the cutest voice, “Me.” Oh, Benjamin, you want God to bless you? “Yes,” he says to me, and my heart swells and gets all sentimental, and we pray a blessing over him too. I thought how brave of him, to be willing to ask God, but then I realized he doesn’t know any better. He is at the age where he can boldly go to the throne without baggage. What a lesson for me!
Last week you turned the big TWO!! I was reading the letter I wrote you at 21 months and it’s amazing how much you have changed. Even over just a few months you change and grow.
You still talk and talk and talk. You love to run through the house, play with swords, and tickle Mommy and Daddy. The dogs drive you crazy (especially Frankie), and when you and Frankie are energetic and chasing each other you both drive US crazy. We’ve been swimming half a dozen times this summer and if I put you in your swim donut you can swim around the pool yelling “Kick! Kick! Kick!” as your legs frantically propel you forward. It’s a joy to watch.
We had your birthday party the day after your actual birthday. Lots of friends and family came over. I made you chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. You started crying when I lit the candle on your cupcake and everyone started singing. I’m not sure why – maybe the attention? Maybe the singing? However, as soon as we were done and you got to eat the cupcake, you were much better!
You got some neat toys for your birthday and love to play with them. Lots of animals and blocks and cars and trucks. Puzzles and dinosaurs and oh, my, the vehicles. Our house has become a speedway and you are the driver of racing machines darting in, out, and over the couch.
We took a trip to California almost two months ago. We were worried about how you would do in the plane, but we shouldn’t have worried. You love any kind of vehicle, planes included. Daddy sat next to you on the plane and talked about how you were going to go really, really fast, and go up, up, up! You loved it. We rode in the car for ages and ages, and you rarely fussed about it. We drove through random subdivisions in Elk Grove, and you asked if we were going to Mae Mae’s house! It was the cutest thing, and you made Mae Mae’s mom giggle about it when I told her. We went to a wedding for my best friend Amy. You love Amy, and you loved dancing at Amy and Keith’s wedding. We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you had such a blast hanging out with your 3 cousins. We went camping (which you LOVED) at my old camping site in California. It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful to see you scale the same rocks I had scaled as a child. To see you in the “rock club” and down at the water’s edge was an incredible experience for me. Even though the water was freezing cold you stood in it until your feet turned to chubby little icicles, and you loved it. Watching you eat s’mores with your cousins is a memory I will treasure forever.
A few weeks ago we travelled to Senatobia, Mississippi to visit Papa’s parents. Mimi and PaPaw loved you, and we loved visiting them, and you had a good time running around their house and showing off. A mere week after that we went down to Houston for your cousin Austin’s graduation. Each road trip you demonstrated your willingness to sit still when needed, your love of movement, and your love of music. I love how you love music.
Son, I’ll be honest, because it’s my letter and I’m allowed to be: I don’t know what the future holds for you. What I do know is that you capture the attention of people – your joy, your mannerisms, and your movement. Watching you is like watching life take place – it’s like observing the best the world has to offer. Maybe you’re just like every other two-year old on the planet, I’m not sure. I hope that I can teach you to harness that attention-grabbing skill and use it to better the world around you. I know that living with you teaches me every day the meaning of slow down. Observe. Breathe. Love. Be patient.
Your Daddy and I talk about you, often, after you’ve finally given up and gone to sleep. We lay in bed, snuggled, and talk about whether or not we’re doing a good job (most days we think we’re doing OK). Recently we were talking about your exposure to television and video games. We don’t want to shelter you from the world and its issues, but we don’t want to desensitize you either. It’s tough to say “No, we won’t play this video game while Benjamin is awake, because it depicts violence too accurately,” but that’s exactly where we are at.
This world is dangerous and violent and broken, son, and you’ll have your whole life to learn that. I hope that we can teach you about the beauty of the world first, and it’s dark side later.
Eventually, Lucky will die, and you will learn grief. Eventually, you will ask where Mommy’s parents are, and you will see me cry. Eventually, you will ask why Jesus hangs on the cross, broken and beaten, and you will learn about sacrifice.
Our hope, though all of that, is to teach you about love. Love that shines through grief and brokenness, love that taught Mommy how to heal, love that makes Daddy get up even on the days when his depression beats his heart and soul, love that put Christ on the cross and love that triumphs all of the dark things in this world.
However, before you have to learn all of those things, I want you to know joy. I want to continue to see my baby boy, beautiful and full of grace and energy, running around squealing with laughter. I want to continue to love you so much it hurts. I want to see animals for the first time all over again, though your eyes. I want to continue to chase the dogs in the backyard until we collapse into fits of giggles. I want to dance with you in the living room until I’m sweaty and exhausted. I want these good and wonderful things for you so that when darkness seems to sneak in, you can remember the things from the light.
I hope you understand, one day, how hard it is trying to figure all this stuff out. I hope you have enough grace to forgive us when we mess up. I hope I have enough grace to forgive myself! But either way, we’ll muddle through this crazy adventure together. Being a Mommy is quite an amazing experience in general, but being Mommy to you – well – I think that’s my favorite job yet.
I love you son, happy 2nd birthday.
Last week was not a good week for working on my balance. However, it was an amazing week for working on my work-related development! I was able to take an instructor course that helped me learn how to create lesson plans, match a power point to said lesson plan (which I pretty much knew, but the review was beneficial) and teach within a certain amount of time.
Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear the hardest part for me was keeping it within a certain amount of time
Usually training is not very energy-consuming, but this class took up all of my time/energy/brain power to pass. It was very informative and definitely worth the effort, but I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with the family. I’m really looking forward to next week, which will be much less stressful and unbalanced.
It’s interesting how much more mindful I am of the “balance” of my life now that I’ve listed that as my word to focus on this year. I always had issues with resolutions, and this is much less of a resolution and much more of a constant reminder – it seems to be working so much better.
I have grown to love bath time with Benjamin when he’s not being a complete and utter pain. He eagerly wants to help us wash him, as long as it’s not behind his ears. And I know I posted this on facebook, but it bears repeating:
Justin and I tend to give Benjamin baths together. It is one of the few, precious moments where we can be together and enjoy each other’s company without someone running away (ahemBenjamincough). One of our favorite things to do with Benjamin is teach him words. Words, my friend, are power. Words help people communicate and ask for their way!
So we teach him words, especially animals because that is the age he’s at right now. And he loves it. He loves horses, dogs, frogs, fish, turtles, sheep, pigs, cows, bunnies, dogs, bears, monsters, and did I mention dogs? So we’re in bath, and Benjamin has this mat from Target (which I love because of the Octopus, which is sadly not pictured). We ask him, where’s the shark? He points to the shark. Good job, Benjamin! Where’s the fish? He points to the fish. He also identified the octopus and the yellow fish (hey, it’s never too early for colors!)…the yellow fish thing might have just been a good guess, though, because he couldn’t find the green fish (or red fish, blue fish, haha, just kidding Dr. Seuss).
Then Justin asks him to find the frog. He starts looking. I get a bit confused - I’m looking at this very clear underwater sea diagram and thinking “oh no, am I losing it? I don’t know where the frog is!”
But then I spot a frog, beautiful and tiny and green, on the washrag floating in the water by Benjamin’s left foot. I look at Justin. He grins. “Snnneeeaaakky!” I tell him with a smile. He shrugs, “I know. I want to see if he’ll find it.”
Benjamin, meanwhile, is staring furiously at the bath mat looking for the frog. He finally expands his search, his eyes travelling around the length and width of the bathtub. His eyes dart back and forth, his tiny perfect hands still with dirt under their nails searching the air and water for the frog. He is still at this age where he searches with all of his being.
Finally… he finds it! He points to it triumphantly and says “FROG!”
My heart swells. Such joy from such a tiny creature, such love in these tiny moments. When this stuff happens, when my heart grows to bursting and my tears want to fall at the beauty of everything… it is in these brief moments that I feel the most balanced.
p.s. If you have a child (particularly a son) I highly recommend reading this.
…Benjamin learned how to press “go” on his little ATV last night. We had a blast watching him vroom-vroom all over the house (and we let him into the backyard for a bit too, even though it was dark, so he could have some extra space!)
Can’t wait till he gets the hang of steering!
Times like this I really wish I had an actual camcorder instead of my phone – the quality just isn’t the same. If I’m extra lucky I’ll catch him tomorrow during the daylight hours. I want to follow him around with a camera and document everything so I can watch it when I’m 90. I don’t want to forget these precious moments~!
I liked the letter I wrote to you on your first birthday so much that I decided to do it every 6 months – especially while you’re in this crazy “changing dramatically every day” mode. And then I decided to write it after Christmas (instead of on December 15th, when you actually turned 18 months) so that I could talk about the holidays, and then I decided to wait until 2012, and then I decided that I was procrastinating and I just needed to sit down and do it. This is your Mommy, Benjamin: Procrastinator Extraordinaire!
Benjamin, I thought you were fun at 1, but I had NO idea how much fun you would be at 18 months. Seriously, kid, I realize now that this is what parents live for. This age right here. I might say that again in a few months or years, but your Daddy and I have enjoyed the heck out of you recently!
Your vocabulary has completely exploded and you communicate so much with us. Here are some words we hear a lot around the house:
Joots (Juice), Meel (Milk), Waber (Water), Mo’ (More), Uhh (used for both Up and Down, it really means “change of view, please”), Ludey (Lucky), Daw (Dog), Puh-ee (Puppy), Pope (Soap), Doir (Door), Ball, Truck, Car, Bike-el (Bicycle), Cake (I blame the holidays for this…), Cooey (Cookie. Totally my bad.), Chalk (Chocolate. Likes to use this to upgrade milk), Ap-pul (Apple), Nug-ee (Chicken nuggets), Thocks (Socks), Tooes (Shoes), Toes, Churt (Shirt), At (Hat), Pants, Top (Stop – usually used when Lucky is barking at the neighbors “top Ludey!”), Pool (as in Pool table), Blocks, Tye-er (Tiger), Hoar (Horse, with accompanying NEIGH noise), Cow (with accompanying MOO noise), Nuggle (Snuggle), and Boom (Fireworks).
There’s so many more. You can call everyone in the house by name and can usually tell the dog to stop doing what he’s doing. You demand food and drink on a fairly constant basis and ANY TIME you see an apple you become OBSESSED with it until you have it in your hands. It is ridiculous!
We have this awesome hat that is the face of a Tiger, and we have a house rule that anyone that puts the hat on has to pretend they are a tiger. It’s pretty adorable. You came up to me the other day holding the hat out to me, “Tye-er?” you asked, and of course I obliged. I put the hat on and instantly my face turned to a growl… I threw my hands in the air and growled “Tiger Mommy! Rawr!” and you squealed and ran away… I chased you around the house until I caught you and tickled you until you could barely breathe. Then I put the hat on you and said “Tiger Jams!” and you roared at me. I kind of melted a little bit.
For Christmas, we got you a basketball hoop and some books. You love the basketball but can’t really throw it in a particular direction just yet. You like “Mr. Brown can Moo, can you?” because Mommy makes lots of funny noises when she reads it.
I bought you a beautiful book about Noah’s Ark that has some sad stuff in it. Stuff like Noah shooing away some bugs (because he already had two) and elephants standing sadly outside of the ark as the rain fell and the water rose. It got bad reviews online, but I kind of like the idea of it telling the story honestly. Because there are things about my faith that are not easy, and I don’t want to pretend that they don’t exist. I don’t want to show you the world through rose colored glasses, I want to introduce it to you slowly, but honestly. I look forward to sharing the all the different aspects of my faith with you one day.
Anyways, your Nanny and Papa got you this awesome Power Wheels 4×4 ATV for Christmas. You can sit on it and steer and it has a button that when you press it, it goes Vroooom!
You, my dear son, staunchly refuse to press the button! You’re terrified of it! It is a source of frustration and amusement for us. You’ll climb a stepladder, dance on the couch, demand to stand on the pool table…but you won’t press GO on your power wheels. Crazy, crazy Jams.
I have this picture in my head of you I want to remember forever: You, wearing a diaper, right after bath. Hair standing straight up just like your daddy. Sitting all the way back in our pink rocking chair in your room. You’re holding a small child’s bible and a teddy bear in your lap and looking up at me expectantly. Your head is cocked to the side and you say, with question in your voice, “ree? ree?” Yes, Benjamin, of course we can read!
You dance ALL THE TIME. There is a 900% increase in dancing in the house since you turned one. If the music has a beat, you will be jammin to it… period. End of story. It is awesome to watch your dance moves change as you get older. You’ve recently added in arm movements and you really like to pump your fist in the air triumphantly while dancing. I love it. You get so happy when music comes on it’s hard not to get swept up into the mood.
I don’t want you to think it’s all roses and butterflies, but even when you’re upset about something you’re pretty adorable. If you don’t get your way (like, for instance, last night, when I wouldn’t let you drink my Airborne) you sort of collapse on to the floor and cry pathetically. You usually just sort of whimper for a few minutes, but last night you were angry so your wails were a little more pronounced. Right now we’re trying not to react so you don’t get worse, but sometimes it’s really hard not to giggle at you. Sorry, I know that’s not the politically appropriate answer, but what can I say? It’s hilarious when your little lip protrudes and quivers and you throw your head into your arms and collapse on the ground. I’ve started trying to teach you – “I know you’re upset, Benjamin, but you can’t hit the dog with a stick.” “Benjamin, even though you don’t want to go to bed you can’t hit Daddy in the face.” and so on, and so on. Does it help? I don’t know. Time will tell. Right now I’m practicing being patient.
I think one of my favorite things about you right now is how happy you make your Daddy. He absolutely loves playing with you. You guys wrestle (and I have to hold my tongue sometimes because I think he’s too rough, but I think that is a Mommy’s job, to worry…) and he throws you around and tickles you and you squeal so loud. You throw your head back and laugh at him sometimes and then he does the same thing and you guys are both so happy I just want to cry.
We went to Houston for New Years and everyone loved commenting on how well behaved you were. Even though you had to sit in the car for longer than you would have liked, you were a trooper. You absolutely loved the fireworks on New Years Eve – you stayed up till 11:30 and fell asleep in your Daddy’s arms outside listening to and watching the “boom.” The day before, my heart had broken just a tiny bit when we left you in the bedroom alone at Aunt Lynn’s and you woke up without us and started crying. Poor thing, you were so upset! Took us forever to calm you down. I think that is part of the reason why, when we got back from Houston yesterday, I took you to my bed to snuggle at bedtime. I had to be up early for work (4am, ugh!) and Daddy was going to put you to bed. That’s usually my job and I didn’t want to miss out on snuggle time, so you came to my room. I got all nice and comfy and tried to make you nice and comfy too… you immediately flailed around until your feet were in my face and your head was resting on my knee. But you were happy and I was too. Those few moments of peace are treasured and I want to remember them when you’re 16 and telling me how you know everything!
I heard that 18 month olds could be pains, but so far you’ve only done the expected amount of fussing and fighting. I’m sure more fighting and testing is on the way, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy this sweet boy who squeals with joy whenever he sees me.