The Great Outdoors

Lakefront, outdoor

Here in Wisconsin we’re experiencing some unusually warm weather for February. It couldn’t have come at a better time. My morning sickness is finally waning and my energy levels have improved so much. I’ve been able to spend several hours a day outside soaking up the sun and letting my son run wild for the past week and boy oh boy has it helped both our dispositions. We’ve been taking two mile walks each day followed by a trip to a playground or playing in our yard. We’re also taking picnic lunches down to the lakefront, which is now my son’s favorite activity. He wants to take all our meals outside now.

For me, just feeling better and being able to take my son out to play has boosted my spirits, but the vitamin D sure has helped too. After a very overcast and dreary past few months, I could sit in the sun all day. My son, too is reaping all sorts of benefits from his outdoor excursions. He’s behaving better now when we are indoors, less likely to throw tantrums or disobey me. And his sleeping has improved too. Instead of fighting his naps and bedtime for an hour or more, he’s willingly laying down and asleep within thirty minutes of lights out. He’s sleeping better, too; more soundly and less likely to wake in the middle of the night. Suddenly toddlerhood doesn’t seem quite so challenging. A few hours outdoors each day is the perfect prescription for an active curious little boy.

Playing outside is so much simpler, too. There’s no pile of toys to clean up and I don’t have to think of ways to entertain my son since he finds plenty of things to do on his own outdoors. From running wildly to digging in the dirt, there’s always something new to explore outside. And mom even gets a chance to read while he plays; what a great bonus!

I don’t know how long this nice weather will last, but I plan on continuing our outdoor play as long as we can.

Baby #2 Is On Board

Baby Heartbeat

We are happy to announce we are completing our family and I am pregnant with baby #2. I’d like to be a bit more enthusiastic, but you’ll have to forgive me as these past 13 weeks have taken their toll on me. I thought I was tired with my son, but that was nothing compared to the all-draining 24 hour exhaustion I’ve experienced this go around. And I won’t even get into the morning sickness aspect of it. Let’s just say I lost weight this trimester rather than gained it.

But as the first trimester has come to a close I have begun to feel more human again. The morning sickness is infrequent and my energy levels are returning. By returning I mean I have a great deal of energy for the first four or five hours of the day before the exhaustion sets back in. But at this point I’ll take any energy I can get. It means I can start cooking real meals again for my family, get the household chores accomplished, and even sneak in a quick workout if I time things correctly.

This pregnancy has been different not just physically, but also emotionally. With caring for my 2.5 year old, I am unable to obsess over this pregnancy the way I did with him every minute of every day. But, on the flipside I get to share the joy and excitement with my son who talks about being able to help dress and bathe the baby when it’s here. I am so excited to see him as a big brother and I love seeing him grow more and more independent every day. He’s also been the sweetest boy when I’m sick; constantly patting my head and saying “poor mama” and “you’ll feel better soon.” He’s already a caregiver so I know he’ll do wonderful with the baby.

I started this blog to chronicle my pregnancy and my son’s early life and now I am expanding it to include my experiences with our second little one. I look forward to re-experiencing some of the great joys of infanthood and seeing the differences between my two children. I’m also hoping that I’ll be better at updating the blog more regularly now. I love this blog and re-reading my entries always brings back so many (mostly) wonderful memories so I am hoping to get reinvigorated and return to my love of writing and recording life with my kids.

The Disposable Nature of the Baby Industry

baby shower gift table area

I’ve always tried to be conscious of the environment and prided myself in limiting my use of plastics and disposable products when possible. And then I had a baby. And I quickly realized how wasteful and damaging the baby industry is. The manufacturers of baby products realized how profitable it is to make products disposable, thus ensuring repeated business from parents. And they market the items as “easy to use” and “quick cleanup” to tempt parents into buying them to save some precious time.

It’s hard not to be wasteful after having a baby. There is so much to do that trying to protect the environment falls pretty low on the priority list. And the industry is definitely catering to a disposable culture. But there are simple steps you can take to limit the amount of waste you and your baby produce. And you will always save money when you limit the amount of disposable products you buy. I’ve compiled a list of common disposable baby items and their reusable counterparts here. No one expects you to be an ecowarrior and commit to all of these, but just by changing a few of your habits you can help decrease your negative impact on the earth.

Disposable Diapers vs Cloth Diapers:

The biggest disposable offender of course is the diaper industry. And there’s a reason for that. They are REALLY convenient. We chose to cloth diaper and I’m very glad we did, but I have no disillusions; cloth diapering is not for everyone. When people say things like “we only had cloth diapers in my days” they are usually referring to times when most houses were comprised of a working father and a mother who stayed home to rear the kids. Although I have known some amazing parents who have cloth diapered while also working full-time, the reality is cloth diapering isn’t very practical unless you have a parent home full time. Many day cares will not accept children in cloth diapers, cloth diapers must be changed more frequently to prevent leaks, and finding the time to launder the soiled diapers make it very hard on working parents.

But the impact of disposable diapers on our environment is also a BIG issue. It’s estimated that 20 billion diapers end up in American landfills every year. And the time it takes for them to breakdown in a landfill is estimated at 500+ years!!!! Cloth diapers aren’t without their own issues too, as the cleaning of them requires lots of water and energy. But we can limit that impact by using eco-friendlier detergents and using energy-efficient machines.

Cloth diapering is also somewhat addictive too. The variety of types of diapers and fun patterns and designs of cloth diapers make it more enjoyable. Even though I have enough diapers for my son I still love to look at all the cute designs whenever I’m in a shop that sells them.

If you want to make a big impact on the environment once baby comes along consider cloth diapering. Or even just cloth diapering on a part-time basis helps. Now that my son is 2 years old, we use disposable diapers when we’re going to be out of the house for many hours at a time because we were running into issues of him leaking and we got tired of having to change his outfit several times a day.

Disposable Wipes vs Cloth Wipes:

If you end up cloth diapering you will most likely also use cloth wipes because they really go hand in hand. Throw the cloth wipes in the wet bag with the dirty diapers and you wash them all at the same time. Easy. I also like them because they clean much better than disposable wipes (1 or 2 cloth wipes do the job that may take 4+ disposable wipes) and have never irritated my son like some disposable brands do.

Now I’m not going to say I don’t still enjoy the ease of disposable wipes because I do. They are in my purse for any on-the-go diaper changes and work wonderfully for cleaning sticky hands and faces. But by using cloth wipes at home I can honestly say we have only purchased wipes three times in my son’s 2 years (we buy the large box of wipes from Costco that have about 1000 wipes).

If you are going to buy disposable, try to buy in bulk to limit the amount of materials used in packaging. The ones you buy from warehouse stores (Costco, Sam’s Club) contain large packages of wipes with a reusable plastic wipes case rather than a lot of smaller travel-sized packages.

 

cloth diapering is love

Wet Bags vs. Disposable Plastic Bags:

If you cloth diaper you are bound to have wet bags. These are reusable waterproof bags used to store soiled cloth diapers in. They come in all sizes. We have a couple large ones that act as a diaper pail at home and several small ones we keep in purses or in the car for when we are out and about.

Even if you chose to use disposable diapers I still suggest investing in one or two wet bags. They are perfect for putting wet or soiled clothes in and if you change a disposable diaper but find yourself in a place with no garbage can available you can zip it in the wet bag until you come to a place to dispose of it. Instead of using a plastic shopping bag or a “disposable diaper sack” (essentially overpriced plastic bags that are often scented) pick up a wet bag. They come if fun patterns and colors too! When they get dirty just toss them in the washer.

Disposable Bibs vs Traditional Bibs:

I’m not really sure why these are a thing. Someone thought to take the wonderful and very useful bib and find a way to make parents buy them over and over again. These bibs are made of thin plastic and are meant to be used once then disposed of. Yes, I get that kids are messy. Sometimes REALLY messy. But do we really need to buy bibs we throw away when reusable bibs are made to be wiped clean anyway? And if your kid is extremely messy you can always remove their shirt when they are eating. Heck strip them down to the diaper and let them eat. If you’re eating out at a restaurant use a reusable bib and throw it in that handy wet bag you bought to be cleaned at home.

Disposable Placemats vs Silicone Placemats:

These are on the same level as disposable bibs for me. They are plastic sheets usually with an adhesive side meant to be stuck to the table then peeled off and thrown away. I see them used in restaurants by well-meaning parents trying to reduce the mess their kids make. It is commendable for sure. But there’s no reason to buy disposable placemats when there are great reusable ones on the market. We purchased a great silicone placemat that sticks to tables and is easy to clean. It’s even dishwasher safe. When we’re done we toss it in the wet bag or roll it up and clean it when we get home.

And if you really want to save money don’t bother purchasing a placemat. You can easily use your napkin or a couple of wipes to clean up the table. I’ve even grabbed a towel from a busboy to wipe it down when it was embarrassingly dirty.

Disposable Changing Mats vs Reusable Changing Mats:

I get the appeal of disposable changing mats. When you see some of the places you have to put your kid to change them when there are no changing tables available you see why the idea of putting down a plastic sheet to protect them is handy and why throwing it away afterwards is equally as attractive. But again, there are so many reusable alternatives. They are generally much sturdier and more comfortable for the baby anyway and can be wiped clean or thrown in the washing machine. By purchasing two or three of the reusable mats you can be sure to always have a clean one on hand when they are needed.

Breastfeeding vs. Bottlefeeding:

This is not a debate over the merits of breast vs. formula. But breastfeeding is the more environmentally friendly option so if it is something you can do, wonderful. If not, no worries. You can help the environment in other ways.

Breastfeeding requires no materials. No bottles, no formula, no packaging materials. Of course many who breastfeed will need some of these materials if they plan on pumping milk, but a breastfed baby will still require less bottles than those who are formula-fed. I chose not to pump since I was staying home with my son so my son has never used a bottle and thus we don’t own any. I was saved the inconvenience of pumping, storing the milk, and preparing bottles. Again, this was only possible because I stay home with my son, but I’ve known lots of working moms that are able to breastfeed for at least some portion of their infant’s life and even a few months of breastfeeding can help. And of course it helps save on expensive formula.

 

Disposable Nursing Pads vs Cotton Nursing Pads:

If you nurse your child you will probably invest in nursing pads. These are the inserts you put in your bra to prevent leaking. They come in both disposable and reusable versions. I had both when my son was born. What I found was the disposable ones irritated my skin, didn’t fit as well, and provided less protection than the cotton washable ones. I didn’t even finish using the box I had, I switched over full-time to the reusable ones. And there really isn’t any inconvenience to the washable pads because you can toss them in the washer with your clothes.

Individual-Sized Snacks vs Bulk Snacks:

Kids will eat a lot of snacks. I mean, A LOT! It will feel like you are constantly getting your kid a snack. And on busy days when you’re running from place to place they are one of the only things that will help prevent meltdowns (although this is never a guarantee). So the convenience of individually packaged snacks is not lost on me. And yes, we do purchase some of these ourselves. But in general I try to only have one box of prepackaged snacks in my home at a time and only use them when we’re outside the house. In the house the kiddo will get raisins, crackers, cheese or applesauce served from the larger boxes or jars. This saves us a lot of money and also helps limit the amount of junk food he eats. A lot of the snacks marketed towards babies and toddlers are full of sugars and have very little if any nutritional benefits.

Other ways of helping the environment where snacks are concerned is to use the bulk bins more at supermarkets to reduce on packaging materials being wasted and to use reusable sandwich bags. Like cloth diapers these are made from washable materials and often come in fun colorful patterns.

 

There are lots of ways of reducing our impact on the Earth and these are just a few that I thought of. Please let me know what tips you and your family have for reducing waste in the comments section below. I’m always looking for new ways to help.

 

Toddler milestones

The first year of my son’s life were marked by many significant milestones. These were the milestones that everyone thinks of when they think of babies: sitting up for the first time, the first tooth, the first step. Big and significant developmental stages. But as my son nears his second birthday I am blown away by the subtler milestones I’m observing. These are the ones that only mom and dad notice because we know him so well. They are advances and changes that are shaping his personality and his interests and I’m loving every subtle one I observe.

Today I took Kenji to his weekly playgroup where I instantly noticed three new developments that lead him further from babyhood and more and more into the little boy he is becoming. His independence grows and grows with each passing day and I was happy to find I captured these fleeting moments in pictures today. Quite randomly, too. I’ve been taking far less pictures of Kenji in recent months because playtime now revolves around chasing after him or engaging in active play with him and I forget to snap photos. But today I decided to consciously try to take pictures and as I was looking through them I noticed the following developments.

  1. He conquered the slide! He’s been trying to walk up slides for ages now but has never been able to, but today he did it! And once he knew he could do it he did it about a dozen times.

Conquering the slide

 

  1. He figured out how to use the pedals on the tricycle. I’ve shown him before and he watches the bigger kids do it, but he never tries to do it on his own. Today, however, he did and he was somewhat successful. If he were just a bit taller I think he’d already have it down pat, but at least he understands what to do.

Pedaling

 

  1. His playgroup always has a craft the kids can do, but Kenji has never wanted to participate, opting instead to ride the bikes or jump on the trampolines. Today though he sat down and made his first art project.

Masterpiece

I am grateful I was able to capture these moments and experience them with my son. Watching his personality rapidly develop is one of the best parts of parenthood, in my opinion. These milestones may seem insignificant to others, but to us they mark Kenji’s journey from babyhood to childhood and are both amazing and bittersweet. I miss my tiny baby, but am in awe of what a funny, loving, and conscientious kid he is becoming. I’m looking forward to what his next year brings us.

My Son the Force of Nature

It has been quite a while since I last posted on this blog. Part of this is due to my work schedule and part of this (most of it) is how busy I am with an active 18 month old son. Working from home gets a lot harder when they no longer sleep all day or sit happily in a swing or bouncy chair. Most days I call it a win if I can check and respond to emails during the daylight hours and nearly all my work is now being done in the evenings after my son is asleep or on the weekends when my husband is home.

Despite the time management challenges I’ve encountered, my son has made it completely worth it. Some days I miss the tiny baby I cuddled in my arms all day, but most of the time I am too in awe of the personality and developments I see growing every single day in him to dwell on it. New expressions, new words, new gestures, and new games are being created every day and it’s amazing to see such rapid development.

And as he grows, his personality is coming out in full force. Part cyclone, part cuddle bug this boy keeps me BUSY! I was just telling my husband how completely at sea I feel most days. Just getting meals made for us seems to be a heroic feat and the housework is definitely suffering.

After talking to a friend last night I was reminded though of how fast this time goes by and how truly short these stages last. So I’ve decided to embrace the chaos and let my little force of nature be himself. That means our living room/playroom will always be strewn with cars, trains, balls, and various kitchen items he has ferreted away. It means that there will be drinks spilled on the carpets, food mashed into hair, and sets of keys that disappear and are found (usually) in a shoe or buried in the ball pit. It means chasing this ball of energy down the sidewalk or across lawns multiple times a day as he squeals in delight. It means letting him climb (and occasionally fall) from different pieces of furniture. And it means reading a book four or five times in a row. It also means answering his favorite question “What’s that?” about a million times a day.

My climber Painting with Avocado Stomping

All of these activities are helping him learn about the world around him and as aggravating as some of them may seem to me, I know they are helping him make sense of his environment. Too often I think we (parents) tend to try to control children’s behaviors when they are far too young. And while it is important to lay foundations (we ask our son to say please and thank you and understand that shouting is not appropriate in all settings) it is also just as important to let children naturally explore causes and effects. This means they will climb on things, or shake cups full of milk, or spit water out, or throw toys to hear them crash. Think of it as science for toddlers.

In several years I’ll look back and long for these days so I’m going to get the most out of them now. So remind me friends if I complain to you about the library book that got scribbled in or the tiny mud tracks all over the floor. Remind me to look at the big picture and not sweat the little stuff. I think these may be some of the biggest and most important parenting lessons to be had.

Dollar Store Hacks for Parents

 

Not everything is truly a bargain at the dollar store and for the most part you get what you pay for regarding quality, but every now and then I find great crafts and hacks that are really worth my time and effort. Here are a few things I’ve found useful.

Car Storage – My car may not get washed and vacuumed as much as it did pre-baby but it’s just as tidy inside (as long as you don’t inspect the inside of the car seat too closely). I can’t stand clutter so I was determined to keep my car neat despite the hurricane that is my son. And I found the perfect solution at my local Dollar Tree. A pair of collapsible storage bins were just what I needed. They come in a few colors and two sizes. The smallest size slides perfectly under the front seats to provide extra storage that doesn’t get in the way. I store baby toys in one and supplies (think diapers, wipes, extra clothing) in the other.

Under front seat  Hacks for parentsstorage

Bath Toys – Shower storage space always seems to be a problem. I hardly find enough room for shampoos, conditioner, soap and razors so what was I going to do with all my son’s bath toys? The Dollar Tree came to my rescue again with a pack of three mesh laundry bags. The bags are small and just the right size to put bath toys in. I also bought a pack of suction cups from the dollar store and initially hung them on the wall of the shower. I have since moved it to hang on the shower caddy to take up less room. And when the bag starts to get moldy or discolored from soap scum you can wash it or use one of the others in the pack.

mesh  bags   Parenting hacks

Cooking Set – My little boy loves to pretend to cook and he was always taking all my pots, pans and cooking utensils to play with. Since the dollar store is full of cheap cooking supplies I bought a basket and filled it with supplies. Now he has his own set of tools when he wants to cook. I will say that I am uncomfortable purchasing any baby products or items a baby will put in their mouth from dollar stores as some studies have shown that dollar store items contain dangerous amounts of potentially harmful chemicals like lead, but my son is largely over the “everything goes in the mouth” phase so I felt comfortable buying these cooking tools now. Six months ago I would not have.

Hacks for parents from dollar stores Happy kid

I know some of you have some great dollar store hacks of your own. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

No One Tells You About the Whine Year Old Stage

 

Courtesy of dollarphotoclub.com

Courtesy of dollarphotoclub.com

Does anyone else feel like their one year old does more whining than anything else? My son seems to whine about everything. He wants something to eat, or drink, or he wants to be allowed to climb onto the highest piece of furniture he can find. When he wants something he seems to go straight into whine mode.

And I understand it’s a result of his being unable to communicate his desires. He’s in that in-between phase where he’s unable to articulate his needs while at the same time his needs and desires are growing in leaps and bounds as he gets more mobile, strong and inquisitive. His whining is his attempt to tell me what he wants. He is also beginning to understand social interactions more and his whining is one of his first attempts to “speak” to us.

Now everyone has their own way with dealing with the incessant whine of a toddler. Some choose to ignore it, while others may choose to correct this behavior. I find we (my husband and I) fall somewhere in-between. We do not want to encourage the whining because it’s so annoying to hear all day long, however we also do not wish to ignore his attempts to communicate.

When our son is clearly whining because he wants something like some food or assistance with a toy we tell him to “Ask nicely” or “Say please”, knowing full well he cannot utter these words. He has learned, however, that he must not whine when we say these phrases if he wants to obtain his desired goal so now he smiles and laughs adorably when we say those lines. Eventually as he develops a vocabulary I am sure we can swap the laughter for a polite “please.”

Now if he is whining because he wants something he cannot have, such as our coffee, we let him know it is not something he can have and if he continues to whine that is when we ignore it. Eventually the whining does seem to grow old to him too and he will stop. I’ve learned that although he may not be speaking yet, he definitely understands a great deal of what we say to him.

I know the whine year old phase will eventually pass. It’s yet another stage he must go through. And we have to admit it’s so funny to ask a kid to say please and get a giggle in return. So we’re going to grin and bear it while it lasts.

Staying Busy

It’s been several months since I’ve written a post. Things have gotten busy around here since our little boy is no longer a baby. Gone are the moments I could write a post while he rocked in a swing, jostled in a bouncy chair or scooted around in a walker. Now it’s all hands on deck at all times during the day so my blogging is suffering. I also began working with my former employer again on a part-time basis so my evening hours are no longer free either.

Despite the hectic schedule I am as happy as ever. Working regularly again has given me an outlet for my creative side and let’s me feel like an adult, not just a mommy. And our son is becoming more and more fun with every passing day. The rapidity with which they develop new skills at this time is just amazing.

Food has become the ultimate obsession for our boy. He loves to eat and we have yet to find a food he won’t eat. If I know we’re going to be running an errand that will keep him confined to sitting too long I always bring a plethora of snacks to entice him. Nearly all meltdowns can be avoided at this point with the appearance of a snack cup. I’m enjoying this while it lasts.

He also began kissing last week. He started off by only kissing me but now has graduated to other people, the pets and inanimate objects. Pretty much anything is fair game to this kid right now. I caught him kissing a side table last night, no kidding.

We also just recently took our first road trip with him (I’m not counting the cross-country move when he was 5 weeks old because he was basically a lump at the time).

staying busy on the road

We were so happy to find he was amazingly good natured throughout the 14 hours we spent in the car. We found as long as we stopped every 4 hours or so and let him run around outside for fifteen minutes he was pretty content. It also helped that he is getting his premolars in so he is sleepier than usual. He would stay awake for an hour or so at a time in the car and then fall fast asleep. The journey was so much simpler than either my husband or I anticipated. Hopefully he remains as good of a traveler as this for many years to come. He was also great at his first wedding (the reason for the road trip). He sat through the ceremony just fine and made lots of friends at the reception. All in all it was a fantastic family trip.

Dressed sharp for the wedding.

Dressed sharp for the wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our days are spent outdoors mostly (getting in as much time outside before winter arrives). We walk around downtown, hangout by the lake and visit various playgrounds.  Kenji also enjoys walking our dog too. I’ve begun scouting out indoor venues we can use during the cold winter months because this boy does not want to stay home all day.

staying busy outdoors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a fun time for us right now. We’re busy and tired more days than not, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The First Birthday Party

First Birthday Cake

Last month our son turned one and we ushered in this milestone with a small but wonderful party. Realistically we knew he would not remember this day so we aimed to throw together a casual low-cost gathering with close friends and family. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves so all in all I would call it a success. It was easy to plan, low stress and didn’t financially set us back much. Here are a few tips to keeping the party planning simple for one year old birthdays.

Location:

First Birthday Location

One year olds are happy just about anywhere so choosing a location doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. Host it at home to save money or find a local park or playground. We opted for a park since our home is not suitable for large numbers of guests. We reserved a covered pavilion since we knew it would be hot and sunny which meant we had to pay. You may be able to find a suitable park that doesn’t require rental fees. These are generally first come, first serve so plan to arrive early to secure tables or areas.

Games/Activities:

One year olds don’t need much to keep them entertained. We chose a beach theme for the party and setup two kiddie pools for the kids to splash in. We also had some bubbles, beach balls and bucket and shovel sets for the kids to play with. In reality they spent most of the time running around the grass.

First Birthday Pool Time   First Birthday Fun

Most small kids aren’t interested in party games yet so there’s no need to plan or overthink what the kids will do. If you are going to have older kids attend you may want a couple options for them, but otherwise skip the games and just let the toddlers free play.

 

Food:

We opted for an afternoon party and provided snacks and cake. We bought a couple platters of sandwiches, fruits and vegetables from Costco. The cake also came from Costco. They have very reasonable prices and great quality food. We also bought chips, pretzels and dips to nosh on. And for the kids we had juice boxes and various flavors of gold fish (cheese, graham cracker, and vanilla cupcake).  Our good friend Katie made our son’s personal cake and even made a personal cake for my husband and I (to celebrate our one year anniversary as parents)!

First Birthday Boy Cake

 

Gift Bags:

One year olds won’t know if they get a gift bag or not so they are not essential. However, if you do decide to give the kids something keep it simple. We went with pails and shovels and put a rubber duck and book in each. The pails and shovels came from the dollar store and the ducks and books were bought in bulk making them super cheap.

Timing:

The hardest part of planning a one year old’s birthday is when to host it. We made it short (two hours) knowing toddlers’ attention spans aren’t long and selected to have it in the afternoon. There is no one time that will work for everyone since napping schedules vary so much. Our party started at 2 pm and by about 3 pm most of the kids had shown up. We had guests without kids though too so our son had guests the entire time. Just know that the guests will filter in and out depending on their children. It’s pretty hard to plan a lot of activities because of this so keep it simple.

In the end we spent about $250 on our son’s first birthday party. It would have been far less if we hadn’t had to rent a pavilion, but we were glad to have the shade that day. We had a great time, the kids who attended had a blast and we made some wonderful memories. It doesn’t take a ton of money to make a party good, all that is required is the good company of friends and family.

First Birthday GuestsGuestsGiftsBabys  First CakeIMG_8286IMG_8305

First Year of Parenting: A Letter to Our Son on His 1st Birthday

1st birthday

It’s hard to believe you were born one year ago. It has gone by so quickly, and yet I feel as though I’ve known you far longer than a year. Could it really only have been 365 days ago when the most exhilarating and profound moment of my life occurred? I still remember how amazing your little body felt on my chest when the nurses first handed you to me and how you looked up into my eyes so calmly, so trusting, so aware.

Our first meeting

I was a first time mother, completely unsure of how to care for such a helpless being, but you made it easy on me. Your calm demeanor inspired me to be confident and I slipped into the role of mother far easier than I thought possible. Without speaking a word you communicated to me every day exactly what you needed; milk, rest, comfort or diaper changes. Within weeks I had learned so much from you. I always knew parents were responsible for teaching their children but I never imagined how much we could learn from you.

You have grown so much in twelve short months. We look at pictures of you in the first couple months of your life and can’t help but smile at those sweet memories. And then we think about how a year from now we’ll look back on pictures of you as a one year old and have the same reaction. It makes us wish we could freeze time for a bit.

In your first year of life you have been such a joy to parent. You’re one of the happiest kids we know, always ready to laugh or smile at us and show off those precious dimples. You’ve been a relatively calm boy, making it easy to spend hours away from home with nary a meltdown in sight. You are learning to share and you almost have the whole “being gentle” thing down; at least our pup, Archie no longer flees at the sight of you. You’re so inquisitive too! You are absolutely fascinated with any machine that has buttons or levers you can tinker with and objects with wheels are a big favorite of yours. Cars, trains, trucks, strollers, carts, the vacuum; if it has wheels you will love pushing it around or flipping it over to watch the wheels spin.

And the noises you make are so heartwarming and hilarious. Your dad and I are constantly smiling as you sit in the living room surrounded by various toys that you babble and yell at. You’ve recently begun making what I have dubbed the “monster voices” in which you make grunting and growling noises. Your dad thinks you picked this up from the dog.

You are our big eater. You love everything we give you. Fruits, veggies, seafood, hamburgers, chicken; you name it and you like it. You really love grapefruit, saltine crackers and salmon roe. You’ve got good taste (like your parents). You are also generous with your food (yes I see you handing bites to Archie). You may not always be this amendable with foods so your dad and I are enjoying it while it lasts.

Yum yum

What else can I tell you at this point of your life? You began walking at ten months, you really love to walk backwards right now (which often results in you falling when you bump into things), and you have 7 ½ teeth as of today. You were awesome with your first haircut, not afraid at all and sat still (mostly) for it. You also did great at your one year photo shoot (for the first half anyhow).

Over this past year we have watched you grow and seen your personality begin to take shape. You were an active baby in my belly and eager to be born (born 2 weeks early) and we see that same determination and gusto for life in you today. You wake up ready to play, you love being outdoors, you’re happiest when we cram the day full of new and interesting experiences and you’re CONSTANTLY on the go. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I must tell you that it’s not just you doing all the growing. Your father and I have both grown immensely this year. We have had our world change and our priorities shift dramatically in the past 12 months. We have learned what it means to be truly selfless, the importance of being patient, and the strength of the bond between parent and child. It hasn’t always been easy, but that doesn’t matter. Not when we see your joyous smile or hear your infectious laugh. You encourage us to be better parents, better partners and better people in general. You have added a new dimension of meaning to our lives that we never realized we were missing until you arrived.

So on you first birthday we just want to say thank you. Thank you for being the joyous, content, precocious boy you are. Thank you for making every day a treat for us. We love you more than we could ever truly express and look forward to watching you become a silly toddler, moody teenager and spectacular adult.

Kenji and Ma MaKenji and Da

Love,

Ma Ma and Da