The best milestone

I don’t have a ton of time this morning – between work and CPE and a birthday party to plan – but I just have to tell you guys something. The dumpling just hit the best milestone.


The dumpling is battling some low-level crud this week. This makes his mornings particularly cough-y and that’s how we woke up this morning, to the sounds of coughing. I went to get him, bringing a cup of water for him, and was greeted by an especially NO filled toddler. Everything I did was no. Hand him water – NO! Take the water back out – NO! Turn off the sound machine – NO! Try to help him out of his zippy since he already had a hand shoved out from the neck – NO! Zip the zippy back up – NO NO NO NO NO! I could go on, but you probably get the idea.

So it seemed a small miracle when I managed to get him out of the crib and into the living room a few minutes later. He requested to watch Drake, so I got the TV turned on and perched lightly on the couch beside him. I still needed to get up and get him his milk, but he started angling down towards my lap. It seemed as though he wanted to put his head in my lap, so I scooted back and allowed him to snuggle down into my lap. He’d never done that before – lay down on me like that – so I just enjoyed stroking his head and his feet. He adorably started kissing my arm, the one that was wrapped around his front. Then:

“Mama!”

“Yes baby?”

“I love you.”

[!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

(To clarify the milestone part, this is his first unprompted “I love you.”)

Fittingly, Facebook had a flashback photo for me this morning. It was from November 1st, 2016, just days after the dumpling was born. And it’s a crazy thought, that the tiny, squishy, old-man of a baby in that photo is now able to tell me he loves me.

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Two

My sweet dumpling turns two today! Our official* party is next weekend, but I did take some cupcakes in to school today for his class to enjoy. I hope they sing Happy Birthday to him, because he loves that song.

In looking back, this year doesn’t seem as momentous as the first. I mean, that first year of life, there’s just SO much happening. So many milestones and such a visible, tangible change in a child’s life. This year though, I know he’s made developments (huh, hello??? talking???), but they don’t seem as life-changing as that first year. Perhaps that’s because I had so much adjusting to do. Anyway, as I browsed back through my photo reel for this year’s inspiration, it surprised me to see how small he looked at the beginning of the year versus now. Similarly, by the time I’d made it to the current photos, it surprised me how child-like the dumpling looks now. When exactly did he get so big? When did he stop looking like a baby and start looking like a little boy? Even glancing through, I can’t pinpoint the day or month.

Less surprisingly, there are far less photos this year as compared to last year. Part of the reason is that we’re just far busier doing things now (even if those “things” are just keeping up with a toddler running full-tilt across the house all day). I’d argue another part is that he simply won’t sit still for photos now and has no patience to be my monkey if I’m trying to capture a song or word or phrase. Still though, I searched for a few memories for today:


I occasionally snap a photo of him while he’s asleep in his crib and, beside his own growth, that’s probably the biggest change of all. Earlier in the year, he slept with absolutely nothing in his crib, per infant sleep guidelines. He was nestled in his zippy, but that’s it. Then, it started. First the humidifier cap, then (more suitably) the stuffed puppy. The dumpling adds a new thing every once in a while, which brings us to the current count:

  • Puppy
  • Kitty
  • Blanket (monkey)
  • Blanket (striped)
  • Blanket (fuzzy)
  • Zippies (the two he’s not wearing, or all three if he’s not wearing one)

It’s…. a lot. But, he seems to love it. And as a person who is still sleeping with a maternity pillow so I can snuggle it to death, I can’t really judge him.


Speaking of Puppy and Kitty, I’ve watched him giving them kisses and chatting with them in the mornings (while he’s still in his crib). Sometimes, when we go get him, he’ll give me one of them to hug. This morning, he was giving Kitty kisses on the nose. Yesterday morning, he pretended to tuck them both in, placing a blanket over them and saying “night night.” It was adorable.


There are no forgotten moments this year because I’ve scrolled through my photos a hundred times in pursuit of videos. I don’t think I’ve mentioned his obsession with watching videos of himself, but he was seriously OBSESSED. For probably a few months, judging by which videos I know the most. Because of this, I introduced him to Daniel Tiger on PBS (really Amazon Prime Video, FTW!) because he would inevitably get annoyed with my directing the videos and he’d swipe out at the phone and next thing you know, we’re calling my brother. Anyway, I taught him to ask for the different videos as “watch Daniel” and “watch [himself].” Soooo cute. We’ve added “watch trucks” for Amazon Prime’s The Dirty & Stinky Show and “watch Drake” for … well … the walk through of Uncharted 4 on YouTube.

You see, one weekend, Luffy was playing and the dumpling was enraptured. Nothing had ever held his attention for so long. Afterwards, he started to request it (“watch dada”) except that Luffy wasn’t always around to play. So, we found a full walk through on YouTube without commentary and we play that for him. He loves it. We fast forward through particularly intense scenes, but since so much of the game is puzzle solving or climbing through the jungle, it’s actually a pretty beautiful game to watch.


And that’s it for now, I think. He’s emerging as such a sweet, funny little person. He tries my patience, time and time again. He knows exactly how to push my buttons (yanking all of his shirts off the hangers) and two seconds later he’s making my heart melt (getting breakfast bars for each of us and passing them out – one for dada, one for dumpling, one for mama). There are days when nighttime comes that I simply don’t want to put him to bed yet, because we’re having such fun. Of course, there are other days when bedtime can’t come soon enough. He’s learning so many new words now and making strides towards full sentences and each day brings a new discovery.

Happy birthday my sweet dumpling!

*I totally wasn’t even going to have a birthday party for him this year. I mean, he’s two, it’s not like he cares. But then my mom asked if we could have it on Nov 2 because she’d be in town. And my neighbors offered to grill something up as a sort of payment for the smash cake. And – oh fine! – I’ll throw him a birthday party. I think I’ll make cupcakes.

Wedding wishes

As you might recall, Luffy and I went on a little trip recently. I think I mentioned it, once or twice. I think I also mentioned this previously, but we were there for our wedding anniversary. Our fifth one in fact. (Quick! Get us something wooden!)

Five years since we said I do.

It was a big year for us, really. I had started a new job just a few months before. We traveled abroad for the first time (together). We bought a house. We got married. We moved into said house. We had a small flood in said house. Fun stuff like that.

Anyway – fifth anniversary! Big thing!

One of the things that I set up for our wedding was a wedding wishes – er – thing. I collected five wine bottles (lol – like that was hard), cleaned them up and labeled them with 1, 5, 10, 15, and 25. The numbers represented a year and I provided our guests with sharpies and slips of paper. The idea was for them to write us a little wish or note and slip it into a bottle. The number on the bottle corresponded to the anniversary on which we would open the bottle. I’m sure this is by no means ground-breaking as far as Pinterest-worthy wedding ideas go, but I was pretty proud of myself. And it’s been fun! The one-year bottle was enjoyable but the five-year bottle was even more fun.

Luffy and I dug all of the scraps of paper out of the five-year bottle over the weekend. It was entertaining reading the notes. Some were applicable (I bet you’ll have at least one kid by this point!), some were a sweet surprise (the one from my paternal grandmother, who almost didn’t even get to come to the wedding). We got one with a piece of advice from a now divorced couple. We had one that was signed with a reminder as to who on earth this person was (the intern!). We had one that left Luffy and I scratching our heads as to who on earth this person was. But mostly, we read a lot of love from our friends and family, wishing us the best on our fifth anniversary.


I need to figure out what to do with the slips of paper. The ones from our one-year bottle are still sitting in a decorative bowl on our computer table. I put the fifth-year ones in a plastic bag and added them to the heap as well. However, I feel like these little wisps of paper are only going to get more precious as the years go by. I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like to read these little well-wishes from our friends in ANOTHER five years or ten years or twenty years. I want to figure out a way to display them or keep them, though it’s challenging because they’ve all been folded and twisted to get them into the bottles in the first place.

…. I know, I should probably go browse Pinterest for this rather than lamenting my woes to you guys. I’m off to go dig through ideas!

Back in the US of A

We’re back!

It’s a rainy Tuesday here, which I’ve taken off from work as well. Do you do that? I needed an extra day to decompress from my holiday. I had planned to spend the day unpacking, although our luggage didn’t make it from Boston to Dallas with us. I suppose if there was a leg for it to get lost, this was the best one.

Anyway, since I have the time, and it’s all fresh in my mind, I figured I’d jot down some of my favorite memories from the trip:


For our journey to Positano, we had three flights lined up: DFW to Boston, Boston to Dublin, and Dublin to Naples where we would meet up with our friends for a private transfer into Positano. We left for the airport around 8:00am that Friday morning and we arrived in Positano about 4:00pm, local time, Saturday. The downside of our itinerary is that we left for our “overnight” flight at 5pm DFW time and landed in Dublin at 11pm DFW time (4am in Dublin), which meant we were trying to force ourselves to sleep when we were (a) in a plane, which is always challenging under the best circumstances, and (b) when we were used to being awake anyway.

We landed in Dublin an hour earlier than scheduled, then proceeded to spend the next three hours waiting for our flight to Naples in what had to be the coldest indoor space I have EVER been in. The temperature in Dublin was about 47 degrees when we got there and I’m pretty sure the airport itself might have been ten degrees warmer than that. To top it off, we had to cross the actual tarmac to board the plane, in case I wasn’t cold enough at that point. Luckily, the weather in Naples was much warmer.


When the four of us arrived in Positano, we were all various degrees of jet-lagged, tired, hungry, and sick. Though our travelling partners were arriving from Switzerland, one of them was suffering from a head cold. Their flight had been delayed a bit into Naples as well. Then there was Luffy and me, who were valiantly trying to rally after 24+ hours of travel. My memory of the car ride into Positano is a bit hazy for me, as is the drop-off. However, I can very clearly remember walking down steps to get to our apartment, each step bringing us closer and closer to the ocean. When we finally arrived at our apartment, I think we were all absolutely flabbergasted to find our apartment literally ON the ocean. We couldn’t believe our luck in finding this gem of an apartment, plus our luck in getting assigned the closest apartment to the ocean (this particular property owner had probably five or six apartments in one tower/home). I’m so, so glad that we spent the majority of our vacation in this particular space. It had two balconies (since it was multiple levels), a spacious living room and adorable kitchen, as well as two bathrooms. It also happened to be literally 100 steps or so from the ferry port and the beach section of Positano. It was truly the perfect place to stay.


On our second day in Positano (the first day we visited Minori and Ravello, which I jot down primarily because Luffy and I struggle to recall what exactly we did when on our last trip to Italy five years ago), we decided to take a cooking class at a fantastic restaurant a few minutes outside of Positano. When we arrived, we discovered that the owners actually live alongside the restaurant, so the cooking class was held in their personal kitchen. It was quite the experience. We made stuffed cannelloni with handmade crepe-type shell, fresh gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, tiramisu, and a completely original dish that I’d liken to carbonara with zucchini. We started cooking about 10:30am, after devouring some tomatoes, eggs, and homemade cheese – all fresh from their farm – and got to eat all of it for lunch around noon. It was delicious and an incredible experience.


Our last full-day in Positano, we spent an amazing day on a private boat charter, cruising along the Amalfi coast and dinking a bubbly beverage or two. We actually had some bad weather, but chose to try to wait it out with a long-lunch at a restaurant accessible only by boat. There’s not much more to say about this, because it was an exceedingly lazy day, but it was glorious.


In a torrent of amazing foods and delicious meals in Positano, there is one dinner that stands high above the others: dinner at La Sponda. In the heart of Positano, there is an exceedingly, stupidly fancy hotel called Le Sirenuse. La Sponda is its Michelin-starred restaurant. We had no idea what to expect from this reservation that we had literally booked months before. We sat down and were immediately offered champagne. We weren’t given menus until after we received a first welcoming bite, leading us to wonder if we were even going to be deciding what we were going to eat or if it was more of a chef’s menu type thing. I decided on the lobster tonnarelli and I must say that I won the food war for the evening. It was amazing. Truly. Afterwards, we decided to share a chocolate tart for the table, then wound up with too much dessert (as if there’s such a thing) when our friends surprised us by telling the restaurant that we were celebrating our anniversary. They brought out a delicious mousse and cake confection. Then the restaurant brought out an adorable three-tiered, mini-dessert tray. As if that wasn’t enough, the restaurant sent the ladies home with a cute little box of a light, almondy cake. I had it for breakfast the next morning.


Rome was delightful, with most of the highlights being food. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant Luffy and I had previously been to where the waiter decided to select courses for the table. We also ate some of the best gelato I’ve had and ate lunch at delicious place we’d gone to last time we visited Rome. We did a ton of walking, which helped with all of the aforementioned eating.


The last stop on our tour was, of course, the wedding in Dublin. And oh what a wedding (and venue!) it was. The wedding took place at Luttrellstown Castle. I admit to being a tad skeptical when the bride told us all it was at a castle. Like, oh sure, a castle. Ok. Then we showed up and it truly a castle. It was a beautiful wedding and the pictures (even the ones I took!) are gorgeous.

It was a very late night, followed by a very early morning and a very long day of travel, but we’re home now!

Buon giorno!

Hello from Rome!

Oh! Where to start? We’ve had an amazing week and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I’m writing on my iPad right now, which hampers my flow more than I realized, so I won’t be telling you all about our week right now. Just thought I’d say hello.

We’re enjoying a quiet morning in Rome right now. Our friends left this morning to head back to the states, so it’s just Luffy and me. It’s actually our anniversary (5 years today!), though we’ve really been celebrating the entire week. Plus, I was beside myself with excitement and gave Luffy his anniversary present literally the day we arrived in Italy. You see, I am a horrible present giver, mostly because I get so excited by finding the perfect thing that I want to give it to the person immediately. I’ve had Luffy’s present since August, but I’ve been working on it since June. And I kept it a secret until we got to Italy. That’s got to be some kind of record for me.

[Complete aside, but I’m sitting by an open window in our AirBnB and I can hear the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way drifting over the courtyard of our building. Nostalgic.]

Anyway, back to my gift… I stumbled across this website called LoveBooks. You go in and create your own book by creating the characters and then each page is a scene. It’s drawn in the stick-figure style, so it’s nothing intricate, but it’s fun and pretty incredible at what all you can create. I decided to tell the story of how Luffy and I met, since we both love to listen to that. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

And that’s all I’ve got time for this morning folks, since it takes me a hundred hours to tip-tap-type on this stupid iPad. First world problems, ammirite????

Ciao!

Little Light

Luffy was out of town this weekend for a bachelor trip. I was a little nervous as it would be the first time he’d really been gone since we had the dumpling. I mean sure, he’d had a business trip here or there, but it was always during the week, when I would at least have daycare to help with the care-taking load. But here, I was looking at two nights and two solid days of just me and the dumpling. Would he be a handful? Would I be able to keep up with him by myself? Would he drive me bonkers?

I needn’t have worried though; we ended up having the best time.

Sure, Friday night was rough, as Friday nights tend to be, and we had some power struggles, as toddlers are wont to do. But overall, we just had the best time. And, it sounds kind of bizarre, but I just fell so much more in love with my sweet boy. From little things, like the way he just played and played and played at the park. Or the way he carried our groceries to the car Saturday afternoon (never fear! it was a single bag with lightweight items). Or the way he would always give me the last ball to toss in our game of toss-and-retrieve.

I spoiled him a little, with the holiday weekend and all. He asked for a popsicle Saturday after he woke up from his nap. We didn’t have any, but I took him to Dairy Queen for a popsicle there. He was very confused as we were driving because “mama, you said popsicle and yet I have no popsicle…” I wasn’t even sure Dairy Queen still sold popsicles and was relieved to find that they still do. I got him a cherry-flavored, star-shaped one that was bigger than him. You guys should have seen the smile he gave me when we sat down with it. He beamed up at me from his seat on the bench, like a little light. We sat there for a good half hour, watching people come and go, as he ate his popsicle. An older man was delighted by him and stopped by to say hello.

We went to the park on Sunday morning and he astonished me by hanging out for almost an hour and a half. He was a little hesitant, at first, because we went to a different park than we usually do. He warmed up pretty quickly though and was running around in no time. He’d peek out at me from behind the bars and dissolve into giggles when I’d spot him and go “boo.” He watched an older girl bunny hop through a little obstacle course and a moment later I watched him go through the same course, with this little jig. I think it was his attempt at bunny hops and it was absolutely precious. We walked the big kid’s play area and we swung together. He was completely worn out, yet it still took me a few tries to get him to peacefully leave. After an early lunch, we sat down to play with blocks in the living room. He gathered some up and came to sit in my lap, humming Go to Sleep Little Baby to himself, which is how I knew I’d worn him out!


He’s just looking more and more like a little kid now. We’re really getting a peek at his personality as well. He’s observant and a little reserved. He’s sweet and caring. He loves to help, whether it’s feeding Jas or carrying groceries. He loves to sing and dance. He’s an amazing little person and I can’t wait to watch him grow.

 

Eyes on me

I’ve been having a lot of dreams that involve Michael lately. Sometimes it’s casual: we bump into each other, say hi/bye, and go about our business. Sometimes it’s bizarre in a typical so there I was, fighting a fire-breathing dragon, and Michael runs up to me and kicks me in the shins dream way. Others are negative: we bump into each other and he starts accusing me of ruining him or being a bitch. One was downright unnerving: we bumped into each other, but I had the dumpling with me, and Michael laid into him for his muddled lineage and told him what an awful person I am.

Shudder

I’ve always had vivid dreams. I can usually remember them too. Sometimes I can tie the vividness to something (Sudafed is often the culprit, but watching crime shows can be another). In this case, I think the trigger is a billboard.

You see, there’s a billboard that’s currently up all over DFW. Along my route to work. When I went to pick up pho last night. Near my exercise facility. It seriously seems to follow me. It’s an ad for an ambulance chasing lawyer, which is exactly what he does/is (pretty much). It features the lawyer in a suit and a cowboy hat and the guy looks startlingly like Michael. Like, I have to do double- and triple- takes just to make sure that it really isn’t him. And since I feel like I see him everywhere now, he’s been on my brain lately. And in my dreams, though I wish that would stop. I can’t wait for the billboards to come down.


Humans are weird. Our brains are hardwired to seek out patterns. We look for the familiar, we try to predict based on the past, we try to make sense out of the random. It also means that we see things from our past, things we might not want to. That’s what makes me laugh (in an uncomfortable sort of way) over the concept of “trigger warnings.” It can be such a personal thing. I mean, sure, talking about rape may bring up painful memories for a rape survivor and you might feel obligated to place a trigger warning on the discussion, but there are so many other triggers, far more painful triggers, that would need to be cautioned if what we’re going for is to truly limit someone’s pain. I can discuss emotional abuse without really linking it to myself but don’t you dare try to offer me a particular flavor of Extra gum. I can manner-of-factly tell you my story and why I stayed and why I left, but this song (especially the movie version) from Tangled makes me so uncomfortable I can hardly listen to it. The word “fluffy” is, just now – seven full years and this adorable character later – starting to lose it’s negative connotations. You see, it always meant my midsection.

Time softens the blow, as it has a tendency to do, but some memories refuse to be buried by the sands. There are things, reminders, that I wish I could forget, a la Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. A specific joke, for instance. He always told it to me at a specific, intimate moment and it jumps into my head at random moments with Luffy. I would pay good money to never think about that joke again, to never have it pop into my head. I live in fear that I’ll accidentally say it one day, though I’m not sure why. Luffy knows my past; he’d understand, I’m sure. But the simple fact that the joke still swirls around in my head is proof of the fact that the owner of the joke is still in there too. I can’t imagine my reaction if I actually heard someone else say that joke now, especially since it’s – ahem – sexual. I can tell you one thing for sure, it would absolutely kill any sort of mood they were trying to create. I’d also probably either run from the room or slap them, but who’s to say.

I don’t really have a nice, neat bow for all this. I’m hoping, as I did once before, to purge my mind of the intrusive thoughts. I hope those billboards come down soon.