You are one, and I am behind. The kitchen drawers need scrubbing, the closets remain unorganized, more than a half a year after we moved to our house on Oakland Avenue, and this…these letters…in all of it I am behind. Our days are so full; they start like a revving engine with cheerios and scrambled eggs and diaper changes and packing diaper bags, and they end like a photo-finish, your dad and I with our necks outstretched, reading books and rocking babies and bringing up water to your older siblings. There are so few breaks in these days – the naptimes don’t line up anymore, and we go from the beach to the library to lunch to scooter walks. I tell you all of this, not to complain, but to explain why four months have passed since your last letter, and also to give you plenty of documentation for future counseling sessions someday.
But you have been with us over a year now, and you remain an absolute delight. Your face is still shaped slightly like a square. You just have this solid look about you, and a lot of this has to do with your baby chub…but you’re getting stronger, sturdier. The chub is fading, but it is there, and I am clinging to it with denial. I stare at the tiny dimples of your knuckles, willing them to stay, I zerbert your bouncy belly as much as I can; I keep taking pictures of the backs of your legs, because your thighs are rotund and layered and jelly-like. It’s as weird as it sounds.
Your eyes are still such a bright blue; you have 7.5 teeth, with a molar on the way that has been making you scream at life like a baby pterodactyl. We cut your hair just after your first birthday. You hated it. Your dad held you, and I would sneak-attack you with scissors and cut one tiny pieces of hair, and you’d cry tears of betrayal. We did this for over and hour until you had a little-boy haircut, and then I cried because I’d eliminated baby-you forever, it seemed. You are wearing 18 month clothes, and are 23 pounds, and in the 97% of weight-for-height ratio, which seems about right. You weight approximately 4.5 pounds less than Elsa, who is 3 and a half.
Despite my lapse in letter-writing, I’ve been keeping faithful notes of all your milestones, so here we go:
At 9 months
You fell in love with balls. You’d pick them up and squeal and throw them down, somewhat back, to whoever was playing with you. As you slap-dragged your way around the house, you’d happy-pant when you’d discover a ball, and there’s little you love more than when someone gets down on the floor and rolls a ball back to you again and again. One of the very first times you and Elsa and Owen all played together was in our living room on a chilly spring morning. You’d throw a ball, and they’d race to retrieve it and chuck it back to you. All three of you were laughing. My mama-heart was full.
You continued to get faster and faster, turning your one-leg-back crawl into more of a scoot. You’d slap your two front hands down, and have one knee tucked under you, which you’d slide or scoot after you. You technically could crawl like a normal baby, which you’d often do upstairs on our carpet, but more often you’d resort to your much-faster scoot. In your ninth month, you learned to properly pull yourself to standing, which you could not get enough of. You’d hang on tight, but occasionally, let go with both hands momentarily, tempting fate, and laughing hard when you’d urgently grab onto whatever you were nearest.
I still think you’re my most expressive baby, and on April 5, at 9 months, I’m pretty sure you started to try to say Mama. You’d look right at me, or yell it when I’d walk in the room, Mamam! You love your brother and sister, you love other kids, and you especially this month, would light up whenever Ole was around…I hope you two will always be good buds!
Your desire to communicate continued…I’m about 97% sure than on April 17, you were trying to say Moo as we played with a stuffed cow. It sounded more like boooooo, but it was a an attempt, and I got hooked. I kept trying to get to you to say it, for days, for weeks. It seemed like when you would see any animal, you’d make the boooo sound. This entire month, you just continued to seem so deliberate with your sounds and words, looking right at us. I know there are words in there, rattling around in your brain trying to get out.
On April 17, you took your first steps with a walker toy we had. I don’t know – I just put one in front of you, and you stood up, pushed it, and took four steps like you knew exactly what to do. A week or so later, I caught you pushing a laundry basket across the kitchen floor.
In more third-child news, you fell asleep in the doorway bouncer this month. We were transitioning from two naps to one this month (so, so early, I know!). You’d taken a terribly short morning nap, and no afternoon nap, so by 4:30 p.m., you were done. You were squawky, but Owen and Elsa were in full-on witching hour mode, and dinner was demanding my attention, and the next thing I knew, you were sound asleep in your bouncer chair, all slumped over in your neglect. You probably slept for about 20 minutes, while I took approximately 1,300 pictures. It was cute and sad all at once.
Lewlee – we just enjoy you. All of us. You are just so good for our family, just what we needed. Your smile is broad. It is just the best. You light up when people are looking at you, and I predict that you will be that kid always looking to get a laugh, happiest when captivating a room with your antics.
I see it at the dinner table. You started to throw your food down to the floor this month. We warned you sternly. We gave your hand a gentle flick. But it was no use. Owen and Elsa were laughing, and you were hooked. Over and over, you dramatically flung food down to the floor while they laughed and laughed, and your dad and I hid smiles behind our hands. You loved it. It’s going to be an uphill battle to stop that habit, I can tell.
Your love of animals began in earnest this month. You started noticing our neighbor Cece’s dog, pointing, and one day, I was saying “dog! dog! Say woof! woof!” over and over again like a maniac, and out of nowhere, you said, OOF! It’s just so exciting to watch you get it. And you’re proud of yourself. Shortly after, we were standing by the stove, and I said “hot!” Which you followed with a breathy ha! Like mama, like son. This month, you also started giving out pretty intentional Mamamamams…or Mamams, or occasionally a demanding MOM! which I’m unsure at present if that’s a direct address or how you ask for more.
We took a road trip, just me and you kids, to Wisconsin. You were a champion on the way there. The way back was a little hairier (hello, 20-minute stop in Woodbury due to torrential rains and tornadic winds). It was there that you began to walk along furniture.
Back at home, near the end of the month, you made it up 4 stairs by yourself, before I noticed. I almost had a heart attack. You were, of course, chasing after your older silbings, and loudly voiced your displeasure when I pulled you off and shut your prison door, closing off the promised land of the second floor. You are really steady going up the stairs, but terrible at going down. You are a good climber – you know how to climb up on our swingset in back and raraely fall off. You are strong, and you are stable.
All of the sudden, you had so many emotions this month, Lewlabee. You learned about the bathroom and just how much of it was off-limits, and you somehow developed this sixth sense for whenever the door was open. I hear you, slap-slide-crawl-scooting as fast as you can from various corners of the house. You’re typically at the bathroom door when I round the corner in the hallway. You glance back and sprint-crawl away from me, just inches from Elsa’s frog potty, when I grab you, and carry you, screaming back out of there. You love the bathroom. You love the frog potty. You love the real toilet. You love to splash in there, and it is disgusting.
The tantrums are there. Oh are they there, Lewis. Sometimes the silent ones where you lay face-down on the ground (your signature move the MINUTE we try to put you in the church nursery), filled with despair and silent sorrow. Sometimes, you’re on the ground screaming. Sometimes, you just look at us and cry these sad, sad cries. Like when we pull you out of the fireplace for the seventh time. (You LIVE to crawl in there and drop things down the coal chute).
But happiness is your dominant emotion. You light up at the site of your siblings . You laugh easily. You think toys that light up or make sounds are amazing. You love the water – the pool, the beach, our kiddie pool out front. You love the sand. Whenever I carry you up or down the stairs of our house – or carry you into preschool – you laugh this expectant laugh like oh boy! what’s happening in here?!
Nursing you is still so sweet, but slightly more active than your newborn days. You paw at my shirt and give me happy-panicked huh-huh-hus as I get my shirt ready. You paw at me like a little baby bull, relief-laughing when you finally get on. You hum as you nurse, and it’s like you’re playing a little trumpet. You reach up to pinch my nose, grab my collarbone, stick your fingers in my mouth. It’s…interactive. But you suck away like a happy little piglet, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to stop nursing you, Lewlew. It has made me so happy to share this season with you, like with Owen and Elsa, to be able to nurse away your every hurt.
You are starting to see that the world is full of things to see, and you love it. I carry you down to the basement, and you squawk and squeal and laugh. We push the door open to Owen’s preschool, and you laugh this heh-heh-heh laugh of anticipation. I don’t know why. It’s not fun for you there, but it’s new, and therefore exciting.
This month, you also started doing some really loving actions. If I ask you for a hug, 50% of the time, you’ll lay your head down on my shoulder. When I pick you up from naps, you immediately put your head on my shoulder and shoot your arms down by your sides and just lean into me for a minute. It is just my favorite. You hum as you nurse, playing a little trumpet.
And then you were one. 12 months.
Just a week or so shy of your first birthday, we got your first word: UH-OH! You started saying it, with the most dramatic intonation, and then said nothing but that for about 4 days. You said it morning, noon, and night. You’d say it with and without cause, smiling hugely each time, like your brain new it had unlocked some secret key.
This month, you started bringing your hands to the sides of your mouth and grabbing on while nursing, like a little baby squirrel. You made me legit laugh once this month: I was nursing you in the dark before bedtime, and you used your free hand to lift up my free hand, and then gave me an enthusiastic high five…all while still nursing. You started giggling, and so did I, and all the while, you kept your mouth busy nursing. It was so sweet and funny.
And many times this month, if I was sitting on the carpet, you’d play and crawl around for a few minutes, and then crawl over and up into my lap for hugs/baby otter snuggles.
This month, you just started to understand so much language. Your face just beamed with awareness. Every single day, after your nap, I give you a hug, and usually say the word hug as I do. One day this month, I picked you up and said, “Can I have a hug?” And you immediately plopped your head down on my shoulder and nestled in for a minute.
Your hair has lightened up considerably, following the pattern of your siblings before you. It went from mostly brown to mostly blonde. Your eyes shine the brightest blue, though somedays, I see hints of hazel in there. Your face is round, so round…your cheeks still so chubby, though the closer you get to walking, your arms and legs aren’t quite so round and roly. Your belly…soft and zerbertable. Your cheeks are just so soft. Your feet are tiny, chubby hamburgers, and you still have dimple knuckles. You have eight teeth, though one tooth is quite a bit shorter than the rest – maybe it’s still coming? And you have one molar that’s poke through, with what seems like two more close behind. Your eyelashes are dark and long, and you have the warmest smile. So many people say that – and you really do. Your smile is big and warm and inviting and I think so indicative of who you are inside. You light up when anyone looks at you. You throw food and smile broadly as your siblings laugh, and your dad and I sternly hide smiles. You smile at every passing dog, at music that plays. I love your sweet smile, Baby Lew.
For your birthday, we kept things pretty simple. We gave you eggs and donuts and grapes on your birthday for breakfast. We sang to you about 10 times. You opened gifts from family: 100 balls sent from your Grandpa Joe and Grandma Pam. We gave you some new-to-you toys from storage – a bunch of cars and trucks, and a noise-making toy that you quickly fell in love with.
A week before, your actual birthday, we celebrated your and Owen’s birthdays with the Bergets. Since Owen had a friend party with a lego cake, we made this cake yours: a tennis ball sitting in grass, because you, my little one-year-old, love balls, especially bouncy ones. You got egg shakers and a cool interactive book and a truck that Ole picked out for you. You were celebrated and loved and you seemed to understand it.
I was really reflective the whole week of your first birthday: how close we thought we were to losing you, just minutes before you were born. The intensity of that moment hung with me for months after your birth, but has since been lost in the busyness of three kids and keeping you out of the toilet. But this week, I remembered. And I thanked God again that your red blood cells were healthy. For how you came out red and screaming. That you came out two weeks early, so the antibody in my blood had less time to do its damage. Lewis. I am so thankful for you, and I am savoring every bit of your babyness, in part because you are our last baby, and it all seems so special and fleeting, but in part because there is part of me that feels like we almost didn’t get to keep you, and so I am holding on tight to the moments I am given with you, thanking God for each one.
This month was a big one for your brain (aren’t they all?) You started really noticing animals. Going to the zoo was amazing. You pointed and made gravely throat sounds at all the animals. Your eyes widened hugeky when the big grizzly bear got up and moved across the window. But the goats, Lewlabee, the goats. We went in to where you can pet and brush them, and you made this guttural k/g sound the whole time, pointing, gasping. And then…we fed them I helped you hold food out for them, and you giggled and giggled each time one would lick a pellet out of your hand. I couldn’t tape it and hold you and feed goats, so I just held you and tried to memorize your contagious laughs. I could have stayed there all day.
Around our house, you’ve strated noticing squirrels and Henry and Pete the Cat. You point towards the window each time you hear Henry bark, giving out an aspirated k/g sound over and over. We’re not sure if you’re trying to say dog or if that’s just what you think words are for now, but you love seeing him out our window…or seeing any dog walk by. Petting dogs is just your favotite thing right now. You absolutely light up around them…or any living creature, really Owen has been in a pretty heavy toad-catching phase this summer, and you crawl over to his buckets of panicked toads and kg! kg! kg! over and over, trying to reach in, much to Owen’s dismay.
You get what music is now, and you do this riase-the-roof move and kind of hop up and down from a sitting position whenever it comes on. You and I especially get down to Despacito, an irredeemable pop song with an acoustic guitar beginning that makes you light up like the sun when you hear it.
You also discovered airplanes this month, and point upward anytime you hear one, which is approximately all of the time in our south Minneapolis house. You make the same kg sound at planes, so we’re not entirely sure what you’re trying to say. You love seeing them up in the air, and pointing them out to us with your chubby little pointer finger. The machines theme continued as you figured out how to make the brrrrr sound that now accompanies all your truck toys as you push them around the house. We first saw you doing this, sitting on the couch, looking at an Army machines book of Owen’s, making that sound over and over at an army helicopter page.
Your very favorite place to be in our house is up in the bay window, and you’ve figured out how to get up there from the couch, and sometimes even from the floor fairly well. Getting down, you flop from the window onto the couch and then sit on the very edge of the couch, with your legs hanging down, waiting for one of us to help you, though you are starting get the belly roll down.
You got the hang of waving this month, occasionally giving us a high-pitched hiiii! And walking – this month, you took your first wobbly steps, one, two, or three at a time. Still slap-crawling most of the time, but it started in earnest this month!
14 months Throughout the month, you kept walking more and more, And on August 8, at just under 14 months, one day you woke up and were just walking. More than crawling. You just walked from one thing to another, not really falling. And now, as I write this en route to Wisconsin, I can’t really remember when you crawled last. You just kind of have it down and want to be walking all of the time. It’s bittersweet for sure.
I feel like we’re just on the cusp of really getting to know you, to know your personality, to know what you like and don’t like and what you think is funny and beautiful. But we really can’t call you a baby anymore, and the idea that this house is done with babies is still honestly really sad for me. I see you losing your chub. I see your hair turning into little-boy hair. I see you racing after your siblings and away from my womb every single day. And all of that is right and good, but each and every time you fall asleep nursing, which is getting further and farther between, I just stop. I stop what I’m doing for ten or twenty minutes, and I just hold you and try to remember the weight of you with my arms. I breathe you in and watch you breath and settle backwards into the rocking chair and try to rest in these moments.
Lewis, you were a gift at your birth, and you are still a gift now. We love you so, so much and can’t believe you’re ours.