Four years ago, you took your first breath. You were placed in my arms and you just looked at me, not crying, just taking it all in, this strange journey you had just managed from inside to outside. I loved you from the moment I found out you existed, growing inside of me, but in that moment, untethered of me and your own self-existing human, I loved you more than I ever dreamed possible.
This past year has brought so many new milestones for you and this next year will bring your biggest one yet, your new role of big brother. You love to feel my belly to see if your little sister is kicking and when I asked you a few weeks ago what you want for your birthday, you said, “My baby sister.” I know getting a sibling will bring many new responsibilities and challenges, but I am so excited to watch you love her and teach her and guide her. She will be the luckiest little girl to have you in her corner.
It is a little bittersweet for me to see age two come to an end. This past year has been the most fun yet and my only hope is that three will be even better because, so far in your life, just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it always has. It’s hard to recap a whole year worth of childhood in one letter but I’ll do my best.
Before your second birthday, we ditched your pacifier during the daytime, limiting it only to the crib. This year, we got rid of it completely. You were very attached to it and we expected it to be a huge deal, but somehow, you completely surprised us. I think due to teething (molars?), you kept biting through the pacifiers and I was finally tired of buying new ones so when you bit through the last one, we tossed it out and told you that we didn’t have any more. You tried to negotiate a trip to Target to get another one, but I told you no and that was the end of it. You asked for it one more time later than night at bed, but never asked again and have been fine without it ever since.
Knowing your sister is coming at the end of this year, we had a few things we knew we needed/wanted to do: get rid of your pacifier (done), move you to a big boy bed/room to free up the nursery, and potty train you. A few months ago, I started working on your new room. The guest room got a makeover with new paint and a full clean out. We got rid of the full size bed in there and bought you a twin bed. I had so much fun taking some of the items you already had and adding to them to turn your new room into a more grown up room for you. When the room was done, you immediately asked to sleep in your “big boy bed” and, though I was nervous about it, I let you take a nap in there that day. You were given strict instructions to stay in the bed and, in the same manner as the pacifier situation, you breezed through the transition without any problem. You went to sleep on your own and stayed in bed even when you woke up early from your nap, just reading books until I came to get you. That night you wanted to sleep in there again so we tried it and, same! You’ve been in your new room ever since. You’re so proud of it.
Knowing we were 2 for 3 in successes for what we had thought would be challenges, we approached potty training just 2 weeks ago with some hesitation (as least, I did!). I can’t say that you’ve been 100% successful, but you’ve also done far better than I expected you to do and you’re so proud of yourself (as you should be). By the second day, you were telling us when you needed to go (some of the time; the rest of the time was by your “potty watch” timer going off) and by a week in, you started having dry diapers overnight. We continue to try to be consistent with it and are so proud of how great you’re doing!
When you turned two, you were hardly talking, saying only a few words (I think we counted maybe 4?). Our pediatrician, though not worried, advised that we meet with a speech therapist just to get some tips. So this past January, we had our first meeting with a speech therapist. It took a few weeks for you to get comfortable with her and then you just started bursting with words. Your perfectionist tendencies were in full view as I watched you become confident enough to try and, as soon as you knew you could do it, you didn’t stop talking. After just 6 months of twice monthly sessions, you were able to graduate, something we were told rarely happens that quickly. You are armed with a plethora words and are constantly surprising us with your funny phrases (like, “You got it, mama!” when asked to go pick up your toys and “Oh, dear me.” when you drop something). Just last week your friend came over and you were so excited you started jumping and shouting, “I am jumping for joy!” You like using big words like enormous and exhausted. It has been so fun to hear your brain in action and watch your imagination explode.
You still love books and I suspect and hope that you always will. We try to vary our lineup by going to the library a lot and I’m so looking forward to our second year of doing our Christmas book advent calendar. You have many of your books memorized so sometimes you will “read” to us and the way you get some complex pages correct word-for-word blows my mind.
You are 100% boy when it comes to things with wheels. You are obsessed with vehicles: trains, construction trucks (bulldozers, dump trucks, excavators, cement mixers, etc.), garbage trucks, fire trucks, farming equipment (tractors, combines, 4-wheelers, skid-steer loaders), and semis (which you love to count on the interstate from your bedroom window). Your daddy took you on a train ride one Saturday while I had a wedding and we all got to ride the Hawkeye train a few weeks back. You think all trains are the Hawkeye train now and they are all “going to Iowa City!” Grandpa and Grandma’s farm continues to be your favorite place to hang out. You got to ride in the combine this fall and you always beg tractor rides out of Grandpa. If it’s too cold to be outside on the real equipment, you make yourself at home with all the toy tractors and wagons that are inside. It seems like you never have enough time there and you are always sad to leave, no matter how many hours you have spent playing.
Henry, I cannot imagine our lives without you. You have brought more joy and laughter to us than we ever dreamed. I think I imagined that parenting would just be this big challenge (and some days it is!), but I never imagined that parenting would be such a joy and a privilege. Your personality continues to shine and I’m so proud of who you are. We know that we are leaders by example and, though that weighted responsibility is terrifying, we hope to continue to guide you to love others, seek out the lonely, and be respectful, gentle, patient, and kind towards all of humanity. You will never fail if you love God and love others, that I promise you. Your life has purpose beyond our wildest dreams and I am so excited to watch you grow into the plans God has for you.
Being your mama has been my highest achievement of honor. I love so very, very much, my child.
Happy birthday, beautiful boy.
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Loves: dairy products, “toast” (french toast bites), Puppy (your stuffed best friend), reading books, playing outside, anything with wheels, technology of any kind, “typing emails” which consists of using a keyboard, singing songs and listening to music, and painting
Wears: 2T and 3T in clothes (you are skinny and tall so it’s a challenge with pants!)
Two years ago on this day, I finally saw your beautiful face for the very first time. It was surreal and wonderful all at the same time.
When you were born, you didn’t cry. People say that babies should always cry when they’re born; that’s how you know they’re okay. But you just looked around, eyes wide, strangely calm and curious about your new world. Someone—a nurse?—placed you in my arms and we looked at each other, you and I, as I quietly introduced myself: “Hi Henry. I’m your mama.”
Those beautiful moments in the first few hours gave way eventually to sheer exhaustion, hormonal tears (even uncontrollable weeping at times), an achy, healing body, and a fear that I could never be all that you deserved. Those first many weeks are a hazy memory, a foggy time in my life where I remember very, very little except that I was so tired all the time and my even my brain hurt to try to think.
Hitting the 12 week mark was huge for us. You started sleeping through the night, my body felt normal again, and our routine was fairly smoothed out. I finally felt some confidence in mothering and that made a huge difference in how I approached each day.
I now have 2 solid years of mothering under my belt and I wish I could go back and tell the early version of new mama self that it would get better. It gets so much better. Sure, we are now entering the stage of tantrums and big emotions and a strong will, but this is still far easier for me than the newborn stage was. Back in the beginning, I remember having swings of panic thinking, “What have we done? I can’t do this big, important job. Is this how the rest of my life will be?” And I’m not at all perfect at it now, but I do know that somewhere along the way it became truly fun. And when my mentality changed from my new role being a burden to being a joy and an honor, I allowed myself the freedom to truly let go and mother you in the best way I could.
These past couple of years, particularly this last one, have been the best of my life. I remember feeling like we hit a huge milestone a year ago. One year old! So many things became easier. But if I felt relieved to hit one year, I feel sad to hit two. You see, this past year has been so wonderful that I don’t even want it to end.
You do so many things now that make me think you’re far older than you actually are. You have a tendency to walk around with your hands clasped behind your back and it makes you look like an old man out for a stroll in the gardens. You love to lay on the floor on your stomach with your hands propping your chin up while you read books or play with your toys or watch a show. You look like a teenager when you do that. The other day, you were watching your favorite kid’s show (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) and suddenly I couldn’t see you on the floor anymore. When I finally spotted you, you were sitting on the couch, propped up among the pillows.
You have always loved reading. We’ve been reading you books since you were a baby. And though you now beg to play with technology (iPads, phones, the TV…everything), you still love reading books. When we go to get you up from your nap, we’ll often find you laying in your bed, quietly “reading” books that you’ve pulled off the shelf and into your crib. You go in spurts where you’ll obsess over one book for several days, begging to read it over and over and over until we are all sick of it. Currently, it’s “Bread and Jam for Frances”. Interspersed with sing-song rhymes about jam, we read other favorites like “The Snail and the Whale”, Little Blue Truck”, “Dancing Feet”, “Click, Clack, Moo”, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”, “Giraffes Can’t Dance”, “Sheep in a Jeep,” and “The Pout Pout Fish.”
You aren’t talking yet aside from a couple of words (“cookie” being your first and favorite), but one of my absolute favorite things that you do now is say “yeah”. You say it with such grown-up confidence, like when you bring me a book to read and I say, “Do you want to read this?”, you respond with, “Yeah.” You use different tones for it too so sometimes it like “yay!” and sometimes “duh” and sometimes “okay”. But always “yeah”. I love hearing you talk and I find your little voice to be the most darling sound I’ve ever heard.
We keep your scooter in the house and you ride it around like a champ, careening around the corners like a crazy person, dinging your little bell. You finally like stickers, though it has just been in the last few weeks that you’ve come to terms with them. (They used to freak you out; probably something you got from me as I cannot stand them to this day.) You love going to the farm to visit your grandparents; there’s just so much to do and see there. After a lifetime of coaxing, you finally road the tractor with your grandpa and discovered, oh hey, this is fun! You love all dogs and try to pet them all, even ones that don’t want to be touched. You love to play with anything with button—the remotes, calculators, etc.—and the GoPro recently caught your eye. You held it to your eyes and said “cheeeeee” with a fake smile plastered on your face. It made me laugh so much.
While there have been a few times that either your daddy or I were gone over night, earlier this month was the first time that we’ve both been gone from you at the same time. While we were in Colorado, you stayed with my parents and, aside from a 20-second FaceTime gone wrong, you were (so we’re told) a really great kid, eating well, sleeping great, listening and obeying, and mostly, having so much fun. My heart ached being away from you, but I was so happy to know that you were having a good time. We got home on a Sunday night and drove straight from the airport to their church to pick you up. You were playing on the floor in the back of the church and when you spotted us walking in from across the foyer, you hopped up and started running to us saying, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” I couldn’t hold you tight enough.
We recently weaned you off of your pacifier during the day. It was during a course of a few weeks when you were chewing apart the pacifier wub-a-nubs and I refused to keep spending money on them when you’d tear through them in a day. (Gah, teething isn’t fun, kid!) In a full-sweep effort, we ditched the wub-a-nubs completely and gave you a plain pacifier without the animal attached while at the same time, asking you in the morning to leave your blankie and your “giraffe” (pacifier) in your bed. With theatrical dramatics, you lifted them really high then dropped them down on the mattress and left them there. We haven’t looked back. You still find comfort in having them when you go to sleep, but it’s a relief to be able to leave them in your bed.
Politics have been heavy in the world lately and all of it has made me so much more aware of how intentional we must be as you grow up. I need to be an example for you to follow; I want you to learn what’s right and what’s wrong. I want you to be gracious and loving; kind and forgiving; gentle and patient. You must know that it is never okay to bully someone. It is never okay to talk down to someone, even if they are different than you or different than most people around you. My prayer for you is that you will know God and love people. You will not fail if you do those two things. Your life has so much purpose and I’m so excited to see how it all unfolds.
Henry, you’re the joy of our lives and being your mama is hands down my greatest privilege. I love you so very much.
Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.
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Loves: cheese & milk (and anything dairy-related), “giraffe” & blankie, reading books, being outside, watching & petting dogs, playing at the park, anything with wheels, technology of any kind, crawl-through tunnels, washing hands, and playing with trains
Wears: 18-24M in clothes, size 4 diapers (size 5 overnight)
How do I put into words the joy you bring? I’ve been fumbling around, just staring into space, trying to figure out how to tell you all that I feel. I guess the fact of the matter is, you’ll never actually know until you have a child of your own. It’s a weird truth, but a truth nonetheless.
Summer is in full swing which means we are outside a lot and have been trying out new parks in the area (so as not to get bored), splash pads, the pool, and our own outdoor activities here at home like your water table and inflatable pool. You like both, but they can’t compare to the allure of the garden hose. We go for walks both with the stroller and your wagon (you like the wagon better; I like the stroller better) and you particularly love meeting any dogs along the way.
Speaking of dogs, you’re obsessed. It’s interesting to me because we don’t have any pets, but somewhere along the way you latched onto dogs and you think they are the treasure of the earth, along with any large-wheeled vehicles (city buses, school buses, construction trucks, garbage trucks, food trucks, UPS trucks, etc.). Whenever you see any of the previously mentioned, you let out this reeaaalllly high-pitched squeal of excitement. Luckily for you, we live in a neighborhood that has plenty of everything and our neighbor two-doors down has a bright orange food truck which lights up your life to no end. It’s easily your favorite sighting.
Being chased in your favorite sport and you’ll go tearing into our bedroom closet and hide until we come get you. It brings out the biggest shrieks of joy. You’re very shy around new people and people you don’t see all the time. The best way to get you to warm up is just to leave you alone and let you do it on your own. I’ve discovered that pushing you onto someone never works; you just cling to me even more.
A few random things: you love brushing your teeth and get so angry when we make you put your toothbrush away. You love pushing the buttons on your sound machine. It’s your favorite toy. You love dairy of any kid, but particularly cheese and milk. Sharing is a hard concept for you, probably because you don’t really have anyone to share with here at home. We’re working on sharing skills with your friends. When we ask how the bunny goes, you sniff your little nose and it’s so cute! You think saying “piu” is hilarious; it’s the best way to get you to laugh right now.
Summertime means more sink baths and laundry. It means more snacks and water and sunblock. It means a delicate balance of outdoor play while also getting inside to refresh because this heat index lately has been killer.
Summer also brings my busy wedding season with it so I’m working a lot. We’ve found a pretty great balance though with help from your nanny a few mornings a week as well as your continued rock-star naps. I can’t say it’s perfect, but it has allowed me to be able to get my work done as well as spend time with you, which is pretty ideal!
You are officially a toddler in every way, even though I still call you my baby. You are walking and running everywhere and rarely take a break unless we are reading books or you’re watching your favorite Super Simple Songs on YouTube or Daniel Tiger (you love!).
Winter has taken it’s toll on us, but we’re trying to get out every day it’s remotely nice (and even some days when it’s not). We have found several places for great indoor play, including a gymnastics studio, where you love the trampolines and slides. It seems like every day you’re just a little bit bigger with just a few more abilities. It’s mid-March now and the weather continues to improve and your love for the outdoors is greater than I had originally thought, as you like to throw a tantrum every time I make you come inside. (Another tantrum? Diaper changes. They are the new bane of your existence.)
Leading up to Christmas, the Amana Colonies has lots of festivities going on and when I heard about a live reindeer, I was all, “We should take Henry!” So this past Saturday, amidst the fog, we strolled through the shops, bought some fresh chocolate truffles from the Chocolate Haus (obviously), and were complimented by an older couple that our son was wearing a hat (while they simultaneously pointed out several “not responsible” parents whose children were not wearing hats).
The stroller would’ve been a pain to get in and out of the teeny-tiny shops and a lot of them also had stairs so we decided just to carry Henry around. He didn’t mind at all.
We couldn’t get close to the reindeer (“Prancer”, the woman said.), but we could stand on one side for a photo. So we did. Because I love a good photo opportunity. If only I could’ve perched Henry on the reindeer’s back…or kicking back in that antler rack.