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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Zachary Joseph: 2 Years



Dearest Zachary,

I sit here tonight trying to think of exactly how to capture the little ball of energy, attitude, and love that is you by simply using words. You see, words are not yet your expertise. And yet, there is soooo much about you that needs capturing at this stage in your life. I'll do my best.



Last night I lay in bed, thinking back two years ago, and I remembered being sooooo anxious to meet you. I was thrilled to be welcoming another little person into the world. And yet, I was also so worried. I was worried about how I would find room in my heart for TWO little people. I worried about how Ryan would adjust to having a baby brother. I worried about how Daddy and I would balance caring for two sweet boys, when we'd just started to feel like we'd mastered caring for one. (Little did we know we'd be welcoming a third little boy less than two years later!) I had so much worry in my heart that night, and it was all for naught. The moment you were born, you just fit perfectly into our life. My heart grew and was filled with more love than I could imagine! You continue to carve out your niche in our family every single day. You are your own little person; truly unique and special.



Zachary, you are full of passion and emotion. You feel strongly about so many things. As I mentioned above you are not yet a masterful talker. Don't get me wrong. You have LOTS of words and you learn new ones every day. You are putting two, and occasionally three words together now and every day you come up with new combinations. Just the other day you started saying, "No, no, Mommy," with such conviction and "I love you too!" The "too" is new and the way you say it just melts my heart. But, because words are not yet your strong point, you often get so darn frustrated when you can't communicate what it is you want to say or when we don't understand what you're saying. You sometimes get so frustrated you just throw yourself down on the ground and yell. You don't really thrown "tantrums" per say, but your little body just can't bare the frustration and you collapse into a puddle. I'm sorry we don't always understand you. But now, and as you get older, I promise I will always do everything I can to understand you and help you no matter what you're thinking, feeling, or experiencing.

You also get so frustrated when Ryan, your ever trying to be helpful big brother tries to talk for you. Sometimes he is able to figure out what you're saying when no one else can. But other times he thinks he knows what you're saying and he's wrong and this makes you so mad. I hate seeing you get so frustrated. But, I am also glad to see you always keep at it. It would be easy to just give up and not try to get your message across. But you don't. You always keep trying. You're very persistent, and we almost always figure it out. I hope this persistence will serve you well throughout life.



But it is not just frustration that you feel so strongly. Zachary, you are innately loving, caring and compassionate. You took to being a big brother immediately when Connor was born. You loved him from the moment you met him. When Connor cries, you get very worried. As long as you know someone is addressing his needs you're fine. But at night, sometimes when I am snuggling with you before bed Connor may start to cry. You always say, "Baby? eye-ing!" (crying). And I assure you that Daddy is taking care of him. When we're all downstairs, if Connor starts crying and I am unable to get to him immediately you always come running and say, "Mama! Baby! Eye-ing!" Sometimes you try to help him yourself. You'll try to put his passy back in or you'll wipe his mouth with a burp cloth if he spit up. You constantly check in on him, and are perpetually telling me if the baby is awake, "wake!" or asleep, "baby, night-night!" You are ever aware of your baby brother and it is heartwarming to see. You seem to have a far greater sensitivity to his needs than most kiddos your age do for their little siblings. I hope you remain a sensitive, caring, and compassionate boy always.



Its not just Baby Connor who is the beneficiary of your kindness. Ryan, too is a lucky boy to have you as his brother. Anytime I am getting you a snack, or on occasion, a treat, before I even have a chance to say anything you always say, "Eye-an?" As in, "Make sure you give me some for Ryan." And if I give you two of something, you always give the second one to Ryan, even if I intended them both for you. When Ryan is at preschool and we go to the park or to watch trucks at the construction site, you always ask about him. You say, "Eye-an? Home?" (When will Ryan be home?) Its like you know he's missing out on something fun and you want him to be a part of it. You love your big brother fiercely. You love playing with him and typically, if you and I start to play a game or read a book its not good enough to just have me involved. You want Ryan to be a part of it too. And he, being the great big brother that he is usually obliges you, even when he doesn't really want to. You're lucky boys to have each other and I hope the love you share never, ever fades.





I couldn't effectively capture you at this fun age of two without talking about what a Mama's boy you are. You've always been a pretty clingy little guy. You've always loved being held and snuggled, especially by me. But ever since Connor was born and I was away from home for three nights your "Mama's-boy-ness" has magnified times a thousand. You won't let Daddy tuck you in at night or give you breakfast in the morning and for a while you didn't want to let Daddy change your diaper or get you dressed. "No! Mommy!" is a phrase that probably broke Daddy's heart a few too many times in the past months. And I'm not gonna lie, I love you to PIECES but if you'd let Daddy be a little more involved, that would make life a lot easier. And yet, I know this phase is fleeting, and so, I'm trying at the same time to soak it in. Being a mommy is such an exercise in dichotomies and you seem to constantly put those dichotomies on display!




Speaking of Daddy, even though there are some things you refuse to let him do, there are others that he does best! You love to play the "Mouse" game where Daddy runs around chasing you with the little wind-up mouse that makes a funny noise. Often, when Daddy is at work you will go to find the mouse and say, "Daddy? Home?" You would never even consider asking me to play this game with you. It is Daddy's game and you know that. It is sacred territory on which I will not tread! You also love when Daddy does the "Up" game in which he sits you on top of his head and then flips you down. You love to go to the park with Daddy, to help put out the recycling, to put in the laundry, and to get the mail. These are all "Daddy activities," and you smile from ear to ear whenever you do them with him.



I have to give Daddy credit. He is tremendously patient with you, and tries really hard to find ways to connect with you and have special time with you despite your mommycentric behavior. You love your Daddy and Daddy loves you sooooo much!


Speaking of people who love you so much, I couldn't write this letter without talking about the special relationship you share with NeeNee and PopPop. You just adore them. As I write this letter, I realize that you, for such a little boy, have done an amazing job of creating unique relationships with many of the people in your life. What I am going to say next is going to make it sound like you love NeeNee and PopPop just for the things they give you. And that is not true at all. Anyone who sees you with them will clearly be able to tell that you just feel comfortable and safe in their presence. But you also look to them for gum (from NeeNee), popsicles (both), and granola bars (PopPop). They give into your every whim and you know it! They practically can't walk in the door to our house or you into theirs without you immediately asking for something! But, like I said, you feel comfortable and safe when you're with them, and this was most clear when I was in the hospital after Connor was born. You certainly weren't thrilled with being away from Mommy for those 3.5 days, but you held it together, and did great, and that is a testament to the relationship you share with NeeNee and "BopBop." You are one very, very, lucky boy.




I keep having to pause and think as I write this letter. I don't want to miss anything. I want to make sure I accurately capture the engaging, happy little boy that you are.

In addition to the many people I have talked about that you love, you also love trains (boy do you love trains!), Elmo, and Curious George. You love playing with my iPad, even though I don't let you do it very often. You love playing with trucks and reading books, especially ones about, you guessed it, trains. You love all things sweet (you get that from your Daddy) especially "pops" (lollipops), "dunks" (donuts), and cake.



You are able to play independently quite well. You will sit on the floor and look through books by yourself or push around your trucks and cars all by yourself without a care in the world as to whether anyone joins you. This is IMMENSELY helpful when I am getting dinner ready. And yet, at the same time, often, you will notice that I am making dinner and you then immediately want to help. Sometimes I can convince you to cook dinner along side me at your play kitchen. But sometimes that is not good enough. You want to be in on the action with me. And you're actually a pretty good helper! You follow directions very well, and if I didn't have to worry about you falling (off the chair you're standing on so you can see) you wouldn't be much of a hindrance at all.

You are rather physically adept. You climb and run and throw a ball like you've been doing it forever. You can nearly keep up with your big brother on the playground, and when you can't boy do you try! You have little to no fear, and while its fun to watch you play with reckless abandon, its also a little nerve wracking. But, as a Mommy to three boys I am learning to put my nerves aside and let you run, and jump, and play with all the energy you can muster.



Another word that comes to mind when trying to describe you is "imp." I just went and looked up its meaning, as its one of those words that I just know what it means, and yet couldn't describe it well. The definition is "a mischievous child." And if I had to add to that I would say, "a mischievous child who knows they are being mischievous." I remember one day when you, Ryan, and Daddy had gone on your weekly grocery shopping followed by Dunkin' Donuts trip. You had brought me back a Donut which was sitting in the bag on the counter in the kitchen. We had all been playing a game together in the family room when suddenly I realized you weren't with us anymore, and you were very quiet. Where did I find you? Sitting on the counter eating my donut. When I walked into the kitchen you just smiled the biggest smile with half a donut still hanging out of your mouth. There could simply be a picture of you next to the word "imp" in the dictionary!



Zachary, you are a kiddo that doesn't hold back. You express love and anger, and joy, and frustration with your whole self. You express it with words and action. You are fiercely loyal and devoted. You are kind and sensitive. You are playful and silly. You are my little boy, and I love you so very, very, very much. You are a wonderful son, brother, and grandson. In a few years, as you begin to truly develop relationships with your peers I know you will become an amazing friend as well. We are so glad you are a part of our family. We wouldn't be the Cam Fam without YOU!



Happy 2nd Birthday, sweet boy! I love you so!

Love always,

Mommy




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ryan James: 5 years


My Dearest Ryan,

Today you turned 5 years old. Before writing this letter I went back and watched some of the videos from the first days after you were born. Watching those, raw, new moments, I can feel the emotion of those days all over again. The elation, exhaustion, and overwhelming realization that we were now wholly responsible for a living, breathing, BEAUTIFUL little person. I remember the pride I felt in being able to call you "my son." I remember finally realizing what Elizabeth Stone meant when she said, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Momentous it was indeed. 



Ryan, my how you have blossomed in the past 5 years. You have grown from a wriggly, tiny little baby to a joyful, compassionate, sensitive, kind, caring, smart, curious, snugly, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and fun boy. A boy!! While you will always be my baby, you are no longer a baby. You are a boy in every sense of the word. From the way you seem to constantly be in motion, to your love of all things trains and rockets. To the way you just adore your Daddy to how you still delight in nightly stories, snuggles, and songs. You are an amazing little boy, and as I told you tonight at dinner, someone I am so, so, so very proud of. 


 

This year, you took on the role of being the oldest of THREE little boys. It's not always easy, and there are times when I am certain you long for the days of having Mommy and Daddy all to yourself, but you truly are an amazing big brother. You just adore little Connor.
Through you I see my own parenting reflected back at me. The way you talk and coo and care for Connor is because you are watching me and Daddy and trying to figure out how to do it just right. And while in so many ways you want to be a grown-up who can hold and care for Connor, you are still very much a boy. A boy who is at times not fully aware of his own body and thus I sometimes fear for Connor's safety as you and Zachary both just want to smother him at times. You clearly just want to be physically close to him, and yet, you don't realize how much bigger you are than him. But any of your interactions with Connor, even those that make me nervous, all emanate from a place of profound love. I cannot wait to watch this relationship develop through the years. I see you very much being a kind, protective, and yes, sometimes bossy big brother. No matter what, I know Connor will look up to you and adore you, just as Zachary does. 

Yes, Zach adores you. You might not realize it, but he does. It is the reason why he drives you crazy at times. He wants to do everything you do and he wants you to do everything with him. He wants to play with your toys, he wants to know all about trains, he wants you to watch Cookie Monster with him, even when you'd rather be learning about Volcanoes and Bullet Trains, and Planets. Just as you look to Daddy and me for validation and praise, Zachary looks to you. When he finds something fun, funny, or exciting it is "Eye-an" he wants to share it with.  "Eye-an! Eye-an!" he calls. Looking to you to say, "Oh wow! That's cool!" or, "Yeah! Good job!" When he wants to tell a knock-knock joke you're first he goes to tell it. 
And yes, this experience of being a big brother to a toddler is at times overwhelming. Just yesterday when we were watching a video all about trains, Zach, every 5 seconds would say, "Eye-an, train! See! Train!" and he would keep saying it until you said, "Yeah! That's right, Zach! A train!" And every time, you did it. You didn't let him down. About midway through the video you said, "Mommy, its annoying to have to talk to Zach through the whole movie! I just want to watch it." And I said, "I know, Ryan. You don't have to keep talking, you can just listen." But you know what? You kept talking to Zach. You put his joy above your own. And moments like that, Ryan, are when I am most proud of you! When you show that you can be selfless and caring. That you can put others before yourself. That's when I stop and think, "Hey! We might be doing this whole parenting thing right after all." 



And Ryan, never in my life have I ever wanted to do anything more right than to be your Mommy. Your Nee-Nee has often said, "If you get it right with the first one, the rest will fall into place." And well, I think she's mostly right. I don't say that to put pressure on you. It's a pressure I place on myself. As I described above, you already have a great influence over your brothers, and so, I know that helping you to become the best person you possibly can be is not only the best thing I can do for you, but also when of the best things I can do for Zachary and Connor. And so, every day, I try my very, absolute best. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I yell (I hate when I yell). Sometimes I am not as patient as I should be. Sometimes I am easily distracted by your brothers, the telephone, or life in general and I don't give you the time you deserve. Sometimes when you and Zach both do something you shouldn't, I unfairly get more upset with you than with him. And for these, and many other mistakes I have made, I am sorry. But I also know I will continue to make mistakes despite my best efforts to learn from them. And I hope that in making mistakes and acknowledging them that I will help you learn the gift of asking for and giving forgiveness. You're getting to an age now where you clearly point out the mistakes I make or injustices I display. Please, please don't ever stop calling me out on these things. This is how I learn and how I will become a better Mommy. I promise, I will always, always try to do better. 




Speaking of always trying, I love watching you in school. You're in your second year of pre-school this year. Your teacher is Mrs. Scott-Kem and you just adore her. Because your school is a co-op, I get to go to school with you sometimes. I love how you are always engaged and eager. You listen and ask excellent follow-up questions. You are excited about all the projects you do and you play so nicely with the other kids there. You love school, and you love learning. You're beginning to read, and I hope you will grow to love reading as much as your Daddy and I do (even if I don't read nearly as often as I would like to ever since having little people to take care of). Reading opens up a whole new world of adventure and possibility and I can't wait to watch those doors open for you. 
You and your amazing teacher! 
Every year when I write this letter I always struggle to determine if I have really captured you in this moment in time. And tonight as I think about capturing you, I can't fully do that without talking about all the family members whom you adore. One of the best things about being a Mommy has been watching you (and Zachary and Connor) develop relationships with NeeNee and PopPop. And what a relationship you share. They adore you and you, them. Today they played "Cat In the Hat-I Can Do That" with you. And as I watched NeeNee get down on the floor to wiggle underneath the "trick-a-ma-stick" I thought about how very lucky you are. I watched you snuggle into the crook of PopPop's arm as you watched a video about Volcanoes. You are simply at ease with them. NeeNee and PopPop would do anything for you. And I think you know this. And not just in a self-serving "can I have a Popsicle or a piece of gum or whatever kind of treat you can think of" way. No, you deep down know you can depend on them and trust them, and the fact that you have that kind of relationship only serves to make you a better person and helps me be a better Mom! 

 




You love your Grandma and Grandpa fiercely too. You ask to call and talk  to them often and when they visited recently for a very brief period you truly mourned their absence when they were gone. The next day in a sad, quiet voice you said, "I miss Grandma and Grandpa." I know because they live far away in CT that they worried about being able to develop a special relationship with you and your brothers. When you were a teeny, tiny baby I told Grandma about my own Grandma who lived in Massachusetts and how I had such a special relationship with her exactly because she lived far away. It made the time with her so very, very special. I see a similar relationship developing between you and your grandparents and I couldn't be more pleased. 

You also just adore your cousins Caitlin and Julia. When we get together for family gatherings you always ask, "Will Caitlin and Julia be there?" And when they are, you are just overjoyed. You are the three musketeers (with a side-kick named Zach). You play together so nicely and I just love watching these relationships develop. I hope you will always love and depend on your cousins for fun and friendship and learn that you can turn to them when you need support, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. 


Your little cousin James is another favorite. He'll be soon joining the band of crazy kids at our family gatherings. Right now he sits patiently as you and Zach ooh and ahh over him. And while you can't yet play with him fully, it is clear how much you love his "little pumpkin head" as you so lovingly called him in his earliest days. 



Your Aunts and Uncles adore you as well. Auntie Cindy, Auntie Catharine, Uncle John and Uncle Mark all called you today. And every time you talked with them directly or listened to a voicemail from them you just beamed. Ryan, you are surrounded by so many people who love you so fully, for exactly who you are. Do not ever forget how loved you are! 

Ryan, you are such a special boy. You're confident and assertive. When you need something, like a cup or a straw when we go to ZuCoffee for Hot Chocolate, you go and ask for it yourself. You walk confidently up to the too tall for you counter and say, "Excuse me," until they hear you. You then politely ask for what you need, always saying please and thank you once you get it. During the Holidays when we would go to the train garden at Homestead Gardens you had no problem asking the Engineer to put a different train on the track. I taught you that it never hurts to ask because the worst thing they could say is "no." And yes, sometimes they did so no, and you always took this slight disappointment in stride, just saying, "oh, ok. Thanks." Never ever stop being assertive. Don't hesitate to stand up for yourself and for others. I see these qualities developing in you and I couldn't be more proud. 

And Ryan, as proud of you as I am, this isn't to say you are perfect. You are a little boy who is full of passion and desire to do things well. As such, you sometimes get easily frustrated when you can't do something "the right way" the first time. This makes you grouchy or irritable. You get appropriately (and sometimes unfairly) frustrated with Zachary. You don't always listen the first time you're told to do something, and sometimes you even ignore me on purpose. You're not perfect, and I would never expect you to be.  As I tell you often, even when you've made a mistake or a poor choice, you're always a good boy. And I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS love you. 



Ryan, today we celebrate your 5th birthday, and the day, 5 years ago when I became a Mommy. You, you my sweet boy, and you alone made me a Mommy. It is an honor and a privilege to be your Mommy. It is the most important role I will ever play in life. 

Never stop loving so fiercely, Ryan. Keep being the joyful, kind, energetic, thoughtful little boy that you are. Happy 5th birthday to my beautiful son. I love you more than you will ever know.

Love always, 

~Mama 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 3 Months!

(Apologies that I didn't get your second month letter written. Life is busy with three beautiful boys! But I did not forget to take those pictures!) 




Dear Connor,

 

Today you turned three months old. And even though I say this every single time I write a post like this (for you, or for either of your brothers) I will still say it again: its hard to believe you are already three months old, and yet, it seems that you've always been a part of our little family. You are such a joyful, easy-going addition to our family.




You are just such a little love-bug. You smile constantly and easily. You give the most smiles for Mommy, Daddy, Ryan, and Zachary, but you smile at anyone in our family. I did realize the other day though that when one of NeeNee and PopPop's neighbors came over to say hello that you do not in fact smile for just anyone. In fact this unfamiliar face made you start to cry! You're growing and developing and beginning to discern between the familiar and unfamiliar.

Speaking of smiles, Ryan and Zachary practically compete to see who can get you to smile more. Anytime you smile at Zach (and sometimes even when you don't) he beams with pride, points to himself and says, "Meeee! Meee!" as in "He just smiled at me!" Ryan practically just has to glance in your direction and you will toss a smile his way. Its one of my greatest joys as a mom to watch the way you love your brothers and they love you. You bring out a gentle, paternal, side of Ryan and Zachary that we wouldn't see as much without you here.



You've also begun to giggle. You gave your first giggle and belly laughs to Mommy on December 21st when I was bouncing you up and down while holding you out in front of me as I hummed "Teddy Bear's Picnic." I even caught it on video. It was pretty darn cute if I do say so myself!


 For a week or two, you'd giggle anytime I bounced you like that. But now its effect has worn off and you're more stingy with the giggles. Thus, I'm determined to find the next thing that makes you laugh like that, because truly, there are few sounds more wonderful than that of your own baby giggling.

You are generally a very, very social baby. You coo and "talk" so much. Anytime someone gets close to you and talks you coo right back. You and Daddy especially have some great conversations in the evenings after Ryan and Zachary have gone to bed. Its as if you know that the big brothers are asleep and that this is "your time." You soak up Mommy and Daddy's undivided attention in that hour or so before you go to sleep for the night.

Hanging with Mommy and Daddy watching Love Actually

And sleep at night you do! You typically fall asleep for the night around 9 and then you sleep until 7:30/8:00ish only waking once or twice to nurse. But when you do nurse you go back to sleep immediately. You're a breeze of a baby. I would not change a thing about you!

It was a joy to have you along for the ride on Christmas. You just hung out most of the time and watched the chaos ensue around you. You never lack for entertainment, that is for sure!


Connor, we all love you so very, very, very much. I always thought I wanted three children, and I sure am glad we had three. You complete our family in a way I never found possible. I look at you, and I know you are my last baby, and that it was meant to be that way. And yet seeing what a joyful baby you are makes me want to have all the babies! You're just so much fun! But, don't worry. You're the last here in the Cam Fam.

Happy 3-month-day baby boy! I love you so very, very, very much!

Always,

Mommy






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1 vs. 3

Being the proud new Mama to my third beautiful (if I do say so myself) boy, I have had many experiences lately that have caused me to pause and think about how different it is parenting a third child as compared to the second and especially the first. One incident the other day made these differences abundantly clear. 

And scene: Baby has just had a giant blow out that goes all the way up his back (aka: a poop-plosion). He is wearing a onesie, so a shirt that is not easily removed and must go over his head.

FIRST KID: Carefully remove the shirt, trying desperately not to get poop on his face or in his hair, even though it's unavoidable. Promptly give baby a full bath. Scrub the shirt to remove stain from oh-so-stainable infant poop. Soak shirt in Oxyclean for 12 hours, then wash. 
KIDDO #1, Ryan after post poop-plosion bath. 

SECOND KID: Remove shirt as carefully as possible knowing he's going to get poop on him. Give him a good wipe down with a few wipes. Toss shirt in the laundry and hope the stains come out.
KIDDO #2, Zachary, clearly anticipating what he deems will be a less than adequate clean up of this poop-plosion. 

THIRD KID: Cut shirt off with scissors and toss in trash. Change non-poop-covered baby. He's as good as new!
KIDDO #3, Connor, in said onesie just prior to being cut out of it :)