Sunday, February 13, 2011


To my dear, sweet, son:

I have been obsessing about this post, and dreading this post, for a few months now. I have tried to start it more than once--to at least start a bullet-point list of the things I want to say. To make a list of all the things I don't want to forget.

Tomorrow is your fourth birthday. The first birthday you can count to. The first birthday when you understand the age that came before and the age that will come after. (Please stop reminding me that you will be five-years-old after you are four-years-old. It's giving me panic attacks.)

I have been dreading this post because I know that words do not do justice to who you are.
Hello up there
Deep thoughts. Strange goo.
Or who we are.
Red River Zoo
(I love this zoo. The animals seem very happy and have a lot of space.)
Zoo in Wahpeton. (Bad zoo. Ugly cages. Sad animals)
Or who you are becoming.
Zoo in Wahpeton
(I hated that zoo. Even the monkeys were depressed.
But the colors were pretty.)

Fort Abercrombie
I am afraid that I can never truly capture the joy you have brought me. You have made my heart grow and swell, the same way my body grew and swelled while pregnant with you. My heart expands to the point that I am sure it will explode. But it doesn't. And then it stretches a little more.
First day of preschool
You had a hard time going back to preschool last September. For several months, over the summer, you often climbed into our bed in the middle of the night, and I never turned you away. You were home with me all day, every day, in July and most of August. When you went back to school, it wasn't easy for either of us. I mean, sure, it was nice some of the time, but not 30-hours-a-week of the time.

One night, you asked to go to sleep in the big bed. I thought it would be for a night. Maybe a few nights.

You haven't slept in your bed for even an hour since.

It's okay, because it turns out that it's easier this way. You go to bed more quickly. You sleep more soundly. You sleep MUCH later in the morning. We hadn't coslept regularly before because I thought that it robbed me of sleep. True, you sometimes kick me in the face. Or ribs. Or cough in my face. Or get drool on my pillow. But I don't have to get out of bed to soothe you if you wake up crying. In fact, you rarely wake up. You talk in your sleep, but you rarely seem to have nightmares. Sometimes, you wake up and can't get back to sleep, but it's rare.

I was not opposed to cosleeping. I just thought it wasn't "for us". I wanted you to go to sleep in your own bed, even if that meant that you crawled into bed with us later. Turns out that it's easier for me to just let you fall asleep in the big bed. And it turns out that for some reason--maybe due to some extra boost of night time oxytocin--I have more patience with you. I always felt I needed that "break" from you and that sleeping separately allowed for this. I find that I like you more. This may be, in part, due to the fact that we are away from each other for several hours a week. Whatever the reason, I have grown to love the "family bed". It makes me sad to think of a day when you will sleep in your own bed again.

To be perfectly honest, I often let you watch cartoons in bed for 30 minutes to an hour before turning on your rain sounds (white noise) and telling you to go to sleep (if you aren't asleep already). But you don't fight going to bed. You don't fight going to sleep. Occasionally you will say you need a snack. Most of the time you actually eat it :0)

Also, if I am perfectly honest, you watch a lot of TV. Not really TV--we don't have cable. You watch DVDs or Netflix videos. Thus, we are not subjected to advertisements. You also play video games. Some of it is not age-appropriate--it's geared for children who are a few years older than you. I had a lot of guilt about this, but you're not having nightmares or hitting other children, so I'm just going to let it go. There's a long list of things I said I'd never do as a parent that I turned out to be totally wrong about. This is just one more thing.

You rode your first carnival rides this summer by yourself:

You got your first fishing pole and went fishing. We didn't catch anything, but had fun anyway.
Turtle River
You are funny. In the last few months, you've started to sing and dance. Many of your dances are best categorized as dramatic interpretations. I say this, because they are a combination of goofy, muppet-like dance moves and play-fighting choreography.

You are sweet. You are kind. When I am sick or have hurt myself, you stroke my face and say, oh honey, are you okay? It will be okay.

You are inquisitive. You and your dad went to AZ for a few days last May. While there, your dad stopped to visit his brother's grave (the uncle for whom you are named). He tried to explain that F was dead. You said, Oh, F is dead? It's okay. We can go to the store and get a new F. You said this because when a battery is dead, we buy a new one. (Well, we try to recharge it, but some batteries don't have rechargeable versions.) If only human batteries were so easily replaced...

You had your first "very own" pet this year. It was a beta fish. You named him "Moinxie". He died about 10 days after we bought him. This was a few months after the visit to F's grave. I'd like to think that this taught you about death, but I know that you are still too young to really understand.

You want to be a "cooker" when you grow up.

You learned to ride the neighbor-boy's mini-quad.

You learned to ride a bike. You are learning to catch a ball. You are learning to ice skate.

You planted a flower garden. Your flowers were beautiful. And so are you.

You like to eat fresh peas out of a pod that have just been picked from the garden. You like to eat summer squash, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, and tomatoes straight from the garden. You won't get near any of these vegetables once they are cooked. One more reason to garden.

You like fish oil capsules; you chew them up and swallow them. You like sardines; you eat them straight from the can.
You build things. Fantastic things. Cities.

Play-doh monsters. This one is from last summer. The most recent ones have several arms. Or tentacles. Or eyes. Or heads. The lighting in this photo is terrible, but your expression is adorable.

Bristle-block aliens.

You had your first "real" Halloween this year. As in, you picked your costume. You joined a trick-or-treating mob. You trick-or-treated until you could barely stand up. You are the Wall-E in the middle.
Beware: Child-mob ahead
This year, we had the first Christmas that was "our" Christmas. We stayed home. We didn't visit family. It was the first year that we bought and decorated a tree.
You had been asking for this robot since last May. Santa brought it to you for Christmas.
You starting drawing things in September. It has been the single best thing that has come from your preschool experience. At a few points during the school day, you have the option of doing "books, puzzles, or journals". Essentially, it is semi-structured free time. At first, you didn't want to draw, because you couldn't make things "perfect". Now, you draw all the time. I don't want you to be a perfectionist. It is a crippling trait. It makes you afraid to try new things. I hope you grow up thirsty to try new things.

You are also learning about yoga at preschool. I love your teacher so much for that.

First, your drawings were heads with legs and arms coming out of them. Then, robots (but not humans) had bodies. And very long fingers. You drew a robot for Santa. The stuff in the body is all of his doodle-oodle-oop, which I think translates to buttons.

You built your first ice-cave-slash-igloo this year.

You had your first dentist appointment this year. You liked it so much, you wanted to go with me when I had to go back in to get a filling.

You had your first round of antibiotics. It was for a sinus infection. Then you had another round of antibiotics for a nasty case of strep throat that involved puking up mucus and a full-on scarlet fever rash.

You can put away your own clothes in the right drawers. You can pick out your clothes for school. You can mostly dress yourself now.

You had your first school "performance" last spring. I was worried that you would cooperate when it was time for your class to be on (the little, only slightly elevated) stage. I was worried that you would just stand off in a corner and/or pout. Boy, WAS I WRONG. You stood right up there in the middle and sang and danced. You were a total ham. Pure awesomeness.

You gave up naps this year. At least, you gave them up at home. You still take them at school, sometimes. And every once in awhile, you'll let your guard down and fall asleep during the day.

You started using the potty this year. We used a token economy because I am, at the end of the day, a behaviorist at heart. To be a behaviorist is to believe that we are all unique individuals and that change is always possible.

You still wear a pull-up at night time. We tried just wearing underwear, but one night you had an accident and quietly changed your underwear and pajama pants and climbed into my bed. You didn't tell me you'd had an accident, and seemed embarrassed the next morning when I found the underwear. I decided pull-ups were better than feeling bad about wetting the bed. You just aren't ready yet.

You had your first boba tea in Fargo one day after we went to the (incredibly charming, non-stifling, animals-seem-geniunely-happy) Red River Zoo. You still remember the names of the men working in the tea shop. Now, every time I mention going to Fargo, you want to go to the tea shop. When winter is officially over, I will totally make that happen for you.

When I asked you what kind of cake you wanted for your birthday, you said raspberry. Not strawberry. Or cherry. Or chocolate. Or vanilla. Raspberry. With chocolate frosting. I asked if you wanted a train cake like last year, or a heart cake. I was hoping you would say heart, because the train cake takes a LONG time to decorate. Also, I don't think I have many years left before someone convinces you that hearts are "for girls". You said you wanted a love-you cake. You like to refer to hearts as love-you's.

(Psssst...The cake was actually vanilla butter cake, but there was raspberry jam in the middle, and those are real raspberries around the edges. Raspberries that have been rolled around in sugar. The cake and frosting were made from scratch. And oh yes, that pink frosting is chock full of red dye. You only live once.)

People say I'm crazy for making the whole cake from scratch. What they don't understand is that the whole time I was making it, I was meditating on the day we found out you were coming to join us. And the day you were born. And the days that fell between. And all the days that have come since.

Happy 4th birthday, my sweet little boy. Every day, you make me want to be a better person than I was the day before. I am so glad you are my son.

I love you,


  1. Awesome post! I love this little/big guy and miss you all sooo much.

  2. tears.
    so beautiful.
    i cannot believe FOUR (this means my indigo is four soon...gasp).
    i remember his birth day so well...hearing of the baby born on valentine's day.
    since i miss him so much, this was so wonderful to get an awesomely detailed update on all things albie. he is the same gem he was when i knew him as a chubby little 2 year old.
    happy birthing day to you, mama. revel. revel. revel.
    and yum on that beautiful cake!

  3. And you were worried to write this post? One of the BEST birthday mama posts ever! I am so amazed and proud of you - you are such a terrific mama and your strength can move mountains and grow little boys in ways terrific and beautiful. He has all of your and dad's light in his face and is just, well, CUTE.
    How I miss you all - I am so glad you come back to this dusty city now and then (for thai food) so that all of us missing you get our chances :) I will always remember his birth and your triumph and my crazy pajama pants :) xoxoxoxo

  4. So, I have no idea what possessed me to read this at work where everybody can see me crying over how beautiful you three are. I love you.