Letter to E: Year Four

Music: “Rollerskate” by Call & Response

Dear E,

You grew so much this last year. At the beginning of the year you still had a bit of toddler shyness about you but now you are very much a big little boy.

You love going places; every morning when you get up you ask me where we’re going today. Your favorite places to visit are the dinosaur museum, the library, and your Aunt Jan’s house. Weekends when our family gets to spend all day together are your favorite.

In general you’re still fairly well-mannered but this year you’ve grown a little sassy. Sometimes when I tell you do something you don’t want to do I’ll hear you muttering, “okay, okay, oKAY” under your breath. And when you keep asking “why?” instead of doing what I asked I find myself channeling the frustration of parents throughout the ages and across the globe and the words “Because I’m your mom!” burst out of my mouth.

But that same sprightliness that makes it difficult to get out the door on time also makes you a lot of fun to have around. I sincerely like going places and spending time with you. You crack me up. You also love being your dad’s little pal and you can’t wait for him to come home in the evening so you can hang out together.

You have an acute sensitivity to the feelings of others that is very endearing. If you sense that someone is a little down or tired you’ll ask them “Are you happy?,” your face full of concern. And if someone bonks their elbow or gets hurt you’re the first to rush over to see if they’re okay and to plant a kiss on their owie.

This year you’ve finally outgrown your crib so we bought you a twin bed for your birthday. We had never had a problem with you climbing out of your crib but I was a little bit worried that you would have issues staying in your new bed. But you transitioned awesomely and now lie down like a champ for your nap and for bedtime.

Your imagination has really bloomed this year. You like to name all your toys “Dommas” which we’re mystified by. You make us songs and silly jokes (current favorite: “How does a monster count to 13? On its head!”) and like to pretend your a robot or a super hero. When we watch Batman cartoons you like to run around the room during the opening credits jumping off the couch and pretending you’re Batman. My favorite part is how you put on your imaginary Batman costume–the gloves, the mask, the pants–before you jump around.

Your imagination can get away from you, though. Halloween really threw you for a loop this year and now you’re afraid of monsters. Going to bed is a little hard because you’re worried about them but we put imaginary force fields around your room and the house which seems to help.

These last couple of months you’ve been more anxious in general. Besides worrying about monsters you don’t like to be separated from your dad or me. Last week, after going to your primary class at church happily for months on your own, you flat out refused and preferred to sit in time out on a metal chair rather than leave your dad’s side.

I think it’s because you’re just starting to realize just how big of a place the world can be, that with your growing sense of independence you need extra reassurance that your mom and dad are here and that we’ll always keep you safe.

It is humbling to see you take these steps towards growing into your own person. It throws me for a loop to realize I have memories from when I was your age. In some ways it feels like dress rehearsal is over and now we’re playing for keeps. I know that I’ve made mistakes as a parent and that I will make many, many more but I hope that as you grow you will view them with same generosity and love that you show us now.

Your dad and I love you so much.



Letter to E: Months Forty-Two and Forty-Three

Dear E,

From here on out you might probably notice that most pictures of you also include your baby sister. It’s mostly because 1) it’s difficult to use my camera and hold a baby at the same time 2) lately when I have any free time I’ve been preferring to curl up with a novel rather than get out the camera and 3) when I do get the camera out you beg and beg for me to take pictures of you next to Mimi. So as you can see, it’s clearly mostly your fault.

Speaking of Mimi, you’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with your baby sister these last couple of months, for better or for worse. You get such a thrill out of making her laugh but your efforts usually consist of getting right up in her face and shouting nonsense words, pulling on her arm, or covering her face with a blanket. I’m not expecting you to have a new set of material every day but c’mon, I’m pretty sure you can step it up a bit. You don’t need to get all avant-garde or edgy. Just try a few things like, oh I don’t know…maybe speaking in an inside voice? Or soft animal sounds? I don’t know, I just thought I’d give you a few notes.

In other news, you’re progressing quite nicely with potty training. I probably should have started you on it last year but I wanted to wait until after we went to Korea and then the holidays hit and then Mimi was born and wow look at that, you’re almost three-and-a-half and still in diapers and kids at the playground notice and think you’re a little weird.

So one day after you had become good at sitting on your little potty chair I just put away your diapers and stuck you in underwear. We had a number of accidents that first week but then you pretty much got the hang of it. For a few days you had a horrific bout of diarrhea that I still have nightmares about (don’t worrying, I’ve taken the carpet cleaning bill out of your college fund.) but you are this close to getting the whole toilet thing down pat.

You are such a funny little guy. The other day some boy scouts were sitting in our living room explaining a fund raiser they were doing when your dad came home from work. When he walked into the house you gestured toward him and said to the boys, “Hey guys, this is my dad.” And it blew my mind. Look at that, you’re a real person! A person who sometimes still poops in his underwear, but A Real Person! And my heart swelled with pride and love for you until it felt like it would burst.

And then an hour later you were shrieking about how you DON’T WANT TO EAT CHICKEN FOR DINNER! and I found myself clenching my jaw and explain to you for the three-thousandth time why we use nice voices when we talk to each other, etc… Sometimes the emotional roller coaster ride gives me whiplash.

But luckily for us, you are still a joy to have around. You’ve been testing your limits more lately and sometimes outright ignore or defy us but when you calm down you’re still our sweet little guy. At times I can almost see the wheels in your head turn as you’re trying to figure out how the world works and what your place in it is. Sometimes when I’m down in the trenches of mundane everyday life I have to remind myself of it but it really is a privilege to help you find your way.



Letter to E: Month Forty-One

Dear E,

You’re in kind of a funny phase right now. Maybe you’re just trying to help us out by giving us a preview of what life with a hormonal 15-year-old girl will be like so we’ll be able to handle it when your sister hits puberty because, um, YEAH.

You are often, as your Uncle Ken put it, all id. You have such strong (and often conflicting) emotions and sometimes struggle with how to channel them. You want to be independent (which you often mistake for contrary) and yet want to please at the same time. I try and give you choices whenever I can but they usually go down like this.

me: “Do you want strawberry or peach yogurt?”
you: “I want to watch a show!”
me: “It’s time to eat breakfast right now. Do you want strawberry or peach yogurt?”
you: “I want to watch a show!”
me: “If you don’t choose, I’m going to choose for you.”
you: “I want to watch a show!”
me: “Ok, you can have peach yogurt.”
ME: (strangled scream)

(AND scene)

Fortunately even with all the drama you continue to be a great big brother to Mimi. If she cries you try to help her by popping her binky back in her mouth and if she’s fussy when we’re in the car you tell her, “It’s okay Baby Nomi, don’t cry. Look–a truck! Look–a excavator!” It’s very sweet to see that you already love your little sister and want her to happy.

You have been really into superheros lately. Sometimes we’ll watch a Batman cartoon with you and you have a lot of fun bopping around the family room pretending to be Batman. But anytime there’s conflict on the show you get really sucked into it and like to pretend you’re a bad guy which usually translates to scowling and glaring at us and announcing, “I’m a bad guy!” We implore you to be a good guy but you already seem to sense that sometimes it can be more fun to be naughty.

This last month definitely had its rough moments: you threw more tantrums than you did in the last six months combined. I’ll admit it, at times I lost my patience. It was hard dealing with a new baby and with you acting out. I tried to remember how drastically your world had been rocked and that your behavior was just you trying to deal with feelings that you couldn’t articulate or control. It’s been hard dealing with you as you vent your frustration at us but it’s definitely to your credit that you haven’t tried to take your angst out on the baby. It has definitely been a lesson in patience for me as I’ve tried to look beyond your acting out and give you the extra attention you needed. Some days were more successful and some days I counted down the minutes until your dad came home.

Fortunately, I think we’ve turned the corner. The tantrums have decreased and you seem more confident that even though the baby’s here you still have a place in our family–You always will.



Letter to E: Month Forty

Dear E,

This last month it seemed like you took giant bounding steps towards boyhood. It’s not just that you seem so big compared to your new little sister, although you do. You just seem more like a kid rather than a toddler.

This month the concept of needing money to buy things (toys!) crystallized in your mind. We were at the drug store getting some cough medicine for you and you and your dad were browsing the toy aisle and you saw a toy gun called The Popzooka that shot little foam balls. And you wanted it SO much. We told you we weren’t going to get it and you cried about it a bit. We explained that we didn’t have money to spend on a Popzooka. So the next day you went into my bag and pulled out some dollars and brought them to us and explained that now we could buy the Popzooka. (Sigh, and so it begins.)

Another big kid thing you’ve learned recently is how to say Not Nice Things. The other night we all went to Chick-fil-A and you didn’t want to stay with us while we ordered; you wanted to run right into the playroom. I was holding onto your hand to keep you from pulling away and you turned to me, scowling, and said “Stupid Mama!” I was shocked.

Your dad immediately hauled you away to have a discussion while I stood in line and by the time I joined you guys you sweetly apologized. You tried it again a day or two later (This time it was “Stupid Daddy” so at least you’re an equal opportunity offender) but after another immediate time out you seemed to get the drift and haven’t called us names since.

You’ve been needing a haircut for a while and your dad has been teasing you by smoothing your hair down over your eyes and saying “Hey E, you’re a little Bieber!” (look up Justin Bieber circa 2010) and every time you scowl and exasperatedly state “I am not a Beiber, ANYMORE!” as if you’re sick to death of us reproaching you with your tawdry past.

Things were been pretty crazy with your sister being born and then with her getting RSV and having to be hospitalized for a few days. While I stayed with her in the hospital you and your dad hung out at home watching movies and doing Reckless Boy Things like you cramming yourself into a clothes hamper and your dad picking it up and swinging you around the house in wild circles.

It was such a relief when Mimi recovered and was able to come home. I could tell that it was stressing you out to have the two of us away in the hospital and to see Mimi hooked up with wires. When we came home it was like a tightness melted out of you. You are already a great big brother, always wanting to know where “Baby Nomi” is and trying to help her if she’s crying.

You make us proud.



Letter: Month Thirty-Eight

Dear E,

If you’re reading these through in order you’ve probably noticed that last month’s letter is missing. What can I say? It seems as though the weeks are flying by and it’s only by making a big effort that this month’s letter is getting written (and it’s a couple of weeks late at that).

Things have been pretty hectic around here with us getting things ready for the baby. For a while when we were shuffling furniture and stuff around from room to room you were a little freaked out. But you also wanted to help which was very sweet.

This month saw your first sign of sibling jealousy. You’re still sleeping in the crib I made and since you don’t climb out, you still take a two-hour nap, and you play quietly in there before naps and falling asleep I decided not to mess with a good thing right when the baby comes and just leave you in there for now. So for the first couple of months the baby will sleep in our pack and play and then we’ll get you a twin bed and put the baby in the crib. We got out the pack and play to set it up in the baby’s room you pointed to it and declared it “E’s little bed!” When we told you that baby sister was going to sleep in it you fussed and shouted “Mine! My bed!” And then I have a flash of what the next several years and then some are going to be like.

Lately you’ve been really into rocket ships and robots. Around Christmas they showed WALL-E on tv and we recorded it on our DVR. You LOVE it and would watch it several times a day if we let you. You like to pretend you’re a robot (and that your dad and I are robots) and run around the house making robot noises and acting like you’re blasting into space. Pretty cute stuff.

Even though you still sleep like a champ you’ve started stalling when it comes to bed time and other things you’re not excited about. If we tell you it’s going to be time for bed in 5 minutes you without fail ask “How about soon?…How about not right now?…How about just kidding!”

You are a great little guy to have around. I know that in a couple of weeks the new baby is going to need a lot of my attention but I’m hoping that you’ll adjust without too much trauma. Fortunately you and your dad are great pals and have a lot of fun together in the evenings and on the weekends which I think will help you adjust to the baby. Watching the two of you together makes me feel very blessed.



Letter: Month Thirty-Six

Dear E,

You recently turned three with a vengeance. Suddenly you are all about doing whatever you can for yourself. “E do it!” is your favorite catch phrase right now. You insist on climbing in and out of your high chair and your car seat by yourself (but sometimes you like to push my buttons by clambering around the backseat instead of getting in your seat) and if you are interrupted heaven help us all but you have to start the process from the very beginning and do it over again ALL BY YOURSELF.

You’re filled with an overwhelming sense of confidence that can be both endearing and frustrating. Yesterday I was trying to tie the laces on your sneakers when you decided that it was something that you could do on your own. You weren’t going to let the fact that you’ve never tied a bow before and don’t have the coordination to do it yet stop you. On one hand it’s kind of admirable but on the other hand–SERIOUSLY?

But along with this stubborn independence other aspects of your personality are emerging. You have quite the imagination now and love to pretend you’re a superhero, a spaceman, a doctor, a chef. You love pretending to pick food up off from the pages of your books and eating it or feeding it to me or your dad.

This last month was a big one for us, mostly because of our trip to Korea. Parts of the trip (i.e. the flights to and from) were kind of rough but for the most part you were a trooper. I love the sights and people of Korea (and the food!) and it made me so happy to be able to share them with you. I know you probably won’t remember any of it when you’re grown but at least we have the photographic proof. You were so cute and charmed pretty much everyone around especially when you would bow and say “An-young-ha-seo!”

Your third birthday had me feeling kind of sentimental. Not to be overly dramatic but lately it seems like a chapter is ending for our family. You’re not a baby any more; you’re a little boy. And with your baby sister on the way at the beginning of next year all of our lives are going to change in a big way.

I’m so excited to welcome this baby into our family and I know that you’re going to be a great big brother. But I’ll always fondly remember these last few years that it was just the three of us.

I know I’m far from perfect as a mother but now I feel like at least I know what type of mother I’m striving to be. And that’s because of you. Your sister will totally owe you for breaking us in for her but something tells me you won’t ever forget to rub it in.



Letter: Month Thirty-Five

Dear E,

As I write this long-overdue letter you’ve finally fallen asleep in the next room here in Korea. You quickly realized that you are quite able of climbing out of the portable crib we brought along for you and I had to keep putting you back to bed over and over. After the eighth time I finally gave up and lay down on the twin bed with you so you could relax. You had gotten used to sleeping in the same room as your cousin Dylan and with him having left for home today you didn’t want to be alone. You’re usually not one for cuddling but tonight you nestled into my side and stared into my eyes until your blinks became longer and longer and finally you were asleep.

I know I should focus on what happened in September but our trip to Korea is what’s on my mind right now (since it’s um, still happening and all). It has been great to see you take so much in stride. When I think about how little you still are I’m amazed at how well you’re behaving. It’s true that you have your struggles, but those are mostly related to you not getting as much sleep as you’re used too and that’s on us, not you.

But so far you’ve loved riding around in the car with Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Ken, and Dylan and seeing the sights. You especially love all the Buddhist temples we’ve visited with their brightly painted eaves and lovely statues. At one temple we went to the courtyard was full of people praying by bowing and chanting in unison and you enthusiastically joined much to the delight of everyone who saw you. The sight of your tiny bum in the air as you bowed to the ground cracked me up.

But before we left on our trip some other things happened too. I tried to cram in some end-of-summer fun and so we took you to the state fair and to ride a train up in the canyon. You had a lot of fun at both of those outings.

Your dad and I also left you at home overnight with a sitter for the very first time. We had a last-minute chance to go to a music festival in Las Vegas so your friend Jenna came and stayed with you over the weekend while we were gone. It was so much fun to spend time away with your dad but you were always in the back of my mind. I could practically hear Jenna rolling her eyes at me over the phone when I called a couple times a day to check up on you. But you did wonderfully with her like I thought you would. And when we came back you seemed to have aged at least a month in the two days were away.

Maybe it’s because I’m thinking more and more about the baby girl we’re going to have in January but you seem to be growing so quickly lately. You pick up new phrases every day and every day you seem to get a bit more adamant about doing things on your own.

When you were a newborn I had a hard time imagining what you would be like as you got older. But now I know you so well that I can see you in my mind’s eye at five, at twelve, at thirty…I know there will be ups and downs and plenty of surprises but I’m grateful that I have a front-row seat for the show because I know it’s going to be amazing.



Letter: Month Thirty-Four

Dear E,

This has been a really fun month. You and I flew up to WA to visit family and we stayed at my parents’ house. You took full advantage of the open floor plan and loved running laps through the kitchen. You quickly had Meemaw wrapped around your little finger. They don’t wear shoes inside their house, Korean-style, but she didn’t even blink when you persisted on clomping around on the white carpet in her shoes. The only thing she was worried about was that you might trip. And when your cousins gave you a popsicle and I found you eating it on the couch I expected her to chide at least one of us but she just cleaned up the drips and smiled.

Luckily you were a trooper on the plane. You love flying, particularly taking off. For a week after we came home you pleaded everyday to go to the airport and fly on a plane. I hope that your enthusiasm for flying is still around in a month when we go to Korea. 17+ hours on a plane or at the airport would tax the best of them but I think you’ll be okay. I hope so anyway.

It’s fun to to see your imagination blossom. When we were at my parents’ house you saw the wind rattling the window blinds and you told me to “Listen! It’s a ghost.” And then you proceeded to look all around the room trying to find the ghost. It was so cute.

I had always heard about the “terrible twos” and I think you’ve hit that stage. You’ve started glaring at us if you don’t get your way, sometimes even crossing your arms over your chest and pouting, “Hmph!” In the last week or so you’ve also started exclaiming, “It’s not fair!” when you’re upset which totally blows me away. How does my baby even know those words? I thought I had at least a few more years before you got to talking back.

But you’re also very sweet. You’ve started telling your dad and I that we’re “the best.” Sometimes after I do something for you you’ll say, “Thanks, Mama! You’re the best!” And I then I melt. And you’ve started spontaneously saying “I love you” and giving hugs.

You love playing with your cousins and other big kids. When we took you to a playground in WA you mostly wanted to hang around some big kids. You tried to insert yourself into their conversation by imitating their gestures and words but they blithely ignored you. It made me smile and tugged at my heart at the same time because I know you’ll be a big kid all too soon.



Letter: Month Thirty-Three

Dear E,

This month has been a busy one. It’s was pretty crazy for me work-wise and I feel like I wasn’t able to be there for you as much as I normally am. Let’s just say that you watched more Nick Jr. than normal. But you’re a resilient kid and seem to have emerged from a few weeks of semi-neglect with your good humor in tact.

Everyday you say something that cracks me up and makes me wonder how you got so big all of a sudden. The other day you were twirling a wooden snake around with your arm and I was was worried you were going to smack yourself in the face so I told you to be careful. You stopped and looked at me and nonchalantly said, “Don’t worry, Mama” and continued (without any face-smacking incidents). I was a tiny bit miffed that you dismissed my concern so gallantly but couldn’t help being charmed. If you ever take up skateboarding or some other injury-prone pastime I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to watch.

This month you went pee in your potty chair for the first time. You were running around without a diaper and you sat on the couch and I told you it was time to go to the bathroom so you looked down and peed a little (I should have been more specific about the location). We rushed you to your potty chair where you finished. You’ve done it a few more times but not very willingly. It would be nice to have you out of diapers but if you aren’t ready I’m fine with waiting a little while more. I think it might be more convenient if you were still in diapers when we go to Korea in the fall, anyway. I don’t know what it’s like now, but ten years ago some public bathrooms (like in subway stations) still had squat toilets.

Yes, we just bought our tickets to go to Korea a few weeks ago. I can’t wait to show you the things I love about Korea. Your dad and I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for our shared connection to Korea and it seems fitting that we go there on our first international trip as a family.

Speaking our family, we’re expecting a new baby at the end of January/beginning of February. Your dad and I worry a bit about how you’ll adjust. You can be pretty jealous of my attention sometimes. Since you still have a very basic understanding of time we haven’t really told you yet that we’re going to have a baby but we’ve talked about babies in general and about how they’re nice and it’s nice to give them kisses. You seem amenable to the idea but we’ll see.

I know it will be a big adjustment to have another baby but I’m not as worried as I was about having you. I’m far from perfect but these last few years with you have given me enough confidence that the thought of having two kids doesn’t make me want to run for the hills; it makes me excited. You’ve helped me grow into my own skin as a mother and I’ll always be grateful to you for that.



Letter: Month Thirty-Two

Dear E,

You’re growing so quickly. Every day you seem more like a little boy and less like a baby. You continue to love music but now express your own preferences. Lately you really like upbeat power-pop with strong bass lines or drums. Whenever I play Together, the latest CD by the New Pornographers, in the car you flip out and start wildly drumming your hands on the sides of your car seat and shaking your head from side to side.

You’ve started singing along with songs that you know. Actually, you’ll sing along with a song even if you don’t know it and it’s the first time you’re hearing it (I think you inherited that particular talent that from me). You also still love to dance and have started following along with the routines you see on Yo Gabba Gabba which is pretty cute to see.

You’ve really gotten into pretending lately. You’ll pretend you’re a dinosaur, a baker making a cake, a kitten, or a train conductor. It is so fun to see the world again fresh through your eyes and to have an excuse to be silly and pretend to be a monster and chase you around the house as you shriek gleefully.

Your cousins from Oregon came to visit this last month. You had a blast playing with them and at night when we say prayers you are sure to include “Eve, Nelanor, and Sammy.” I think it was during their visit that you picked up the habit of calling your father “Dad” instead of “Daddy.” It makes you seem suddenly so much older.

I know it’s a small thing and likely to change soon and that I shouldn’t really care but I’m secretly glad you still call me “Mama.”