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I am on chapter 2 of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”! Chapter two, people! I can’t even remember the last non-parenting book I read – it was definitely pre-Max.

Bella my dear,

You are growing so fast but mommy is soaking in every minute. And not in that obsessive-overly-concerned-about all the details-way I did Max, but in a relaxed and confident manner.

Every part of your personality is screaming, “I am not Max!” and this especially is true in terms of nursing. Your independence amazes me! I had no idea that a baby would refuse the breast when not actually hungry! Nursing is strictly an “as needed” thing for you – very little comfort nursing goes on as far as I can tell. You are too busy rolling around, touching everything within reach, and going after Max’s dinosaurs to waste time curled up in mommy’s arms. Oh, and when Max is around you can’t take your eyes off him!

This is all so exciting for me to be a part of – your life as a baby. So precious. So short! And let me tell you, the smile that is on your face when you first look at me in the morning, when you watch Max doing his silly robot dance, and when you laugh that full-body laugh that is just like mine, mmmm yummies! I can’t help but to shriek with excitement right along with you. That kind of happiness is contagious.

You are only months away from becoming a toddler and as much as I love you now, oh how I love the toddler years. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say and seeing what you have to show. I’m such a lucky mama, Bella. Happy 6 months.

Love,

Mama

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Dear Max,

I have been thinking about this letter for over a week. You are just the kewlest kid ever and I want you to know exactly why I think this. I know a day will come when you will ask me, Mom, what was I like when I was a two year old? So, when I say, You were the coolest kid, Max. Here is why…

Things you do at the ripe ol’ age of 32 months/1 week/6 days old:

  • You love to kill ants that are in our house. With your finger. You use to kill them while outside, too, until I explained that when we are outside, we are in their home. You figured out quickly that it wasn’t nice to kill bugs for fun when outside.
  • The nursery rhyme, Old Mother Hubbard, is in one of your books. When you took a close look at the dog in the picture and realized that it was hungry because Old Mother Hubbard didn’t have a bone for it, you broke out in tears. Once you calmed down, you wanted to look at it again. I told you that she eventually finds food for her dog and feeds it. It took you about five looks before you stopped crying at the sight of that dog.
  • You sometimes use the words, God Damn, Damn, and Fucking. All in their proper forms. You know that you are only to say those words in front of mommy and daddy because other people may get upset and punish you. Though, I’m fully expecting you to slip-up at some point because we all do. I don’t react when you say these words but can’t help but to privately laugh when I hear you say, “Where is my damn Tyrannosaurus Rex???” With the appropriate emphasis on the word, damn.
  • You love to shoot me and your toys with your pretend spider web. It is the easiest way for me to make you laugh. I can lay in bed and shoot you as you try to hide in the hallway. Its all very funny and relaxing. You’ve never seen the movie, Spider Man, but have been privy to old episodes of the cartoon.
  • You love it when I lay in the pool with you. The pool is pretty small and mama is pretty big so we spend the entire time snuggling, laughing, and playing – usually as I lay on my side.
  • It has been a little over a week since I weaned you from nursing. I am in full belief that you are capable of nursing for much longer (I’m talking 5-6 years old). It has been rough for you and at least once a day you will ask for num-nums. However, everyday is getting a little easier for the both of us when I say, no. As a substitute, one you thought was quit poor in the beginning, I hold you close – we snuggle. It’s starting to grow on you. You often ask me for a hug or to snuggle and I happily oblige – no matter what I am doing. Sometimes, we hold one another for long quite minutes. Those are some of the best minutes of my life.
  • Around the same time I decided to wean, we transitioned you into your own bedroom. Papa and I believe these two major changes caused your world a lot of turmoil. You started having melt downs upon waking up after naps. Needing mommy was always the focus. Papa has been sleeping on an air mattress in your bedroom every night since the first night we put you in your own room. He plans on staying there until you are comfortable enough to make it through the night in your own bed. Papa’s presence has grown on you. Now, when you wake up in the morning you call for daddy and don’t even try to open the bedroom that Bella and I are sleeping in. The two of you go into the kitchen to start the day with your breakfast rituals. Even waking up from naps is getting smoother. These are really big moves in your life and we are here with you every step of the way. As I expect we will always be.
  • You love your dinosaurs. You play with them every day. Sometimes for hours at a time. You make houses for them. Fight them. Line them up in a row or in groups. Name them. Send them to the store. Keep Bella from putting them in her mouth. Love them.
  • You also like to build stuff with your wooden blocks.
  • You love books. Both when they are read to you and looking at them by yourself. Your favorites right now are Dinosaurs, and all of our Dr. Seuss books.
  • We play “who can yell the loudest” every day. You yell, NO! And I follow your lead by imitating your tone/voice with, YES! You can yell much louder than I can. The game always ends in laughter.
  • You are very possessive over me but will share me with Bella. You insist that I don’t love daddy, I only love you. I always assure you that I do love Papa and I love you, Bella, and Camus, too.
  • You like to pull my pants and underwear down to my ankles when I’m on the phone.
  • You love to look at pictures of dinosaurs on the internet.
  • Sometimes you get so mad when I come downstairs to write and only entertain yourself for a few minutes before insisting on sitting on my lap. I usually get annoyed by this and give up on the computer and we either go outside or back upstairs. However, there are times when I’m finding it to be necessary to sit and write. We usually bicker when this happens. I almost always manage to finish my writing and you often end up in the playpen in order for me to do this. Naturally, you do not like being confined.
  • You love your Nana, Lola, and Grandpa with all your heart.
  • You also love Auntie SheShe, Uncle Ryan, and Liiiiiiiiiz.
  • You speak very clearly now and are very social. A bit of a show-off, actually.
  • You talk non-stop.  Occasionally, I try to make you stop by covering your mouth.  You just laugh and keep talking.  Usually, I enjoy the talking and find you to be great company.
  • You always give Bella kisses and if I even so much as suggest you kiss her feet instead of her face you say, “no mama, I want to kiss her on her cheeks.”

I am so lucky to be staying home with you and Bella during your early years of life. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel this way – even on those hard days when we butt heads. I know being a stay-at-home-mom isn’t for everyone, but it sure is for me.

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Dear Monica,

Hi. I know you are no longer here with us (unless you are hanging around waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and say, Boo!) but I had to write you this letter. I was up for hours last night composing it in my head. Remembering all the details of our 15 year friendship was like watching a mind-film, it came easy. There is so much I want to say to you, all of it equally important to me, all of it stuff I wish I would have said before you died.

I think I will start with your death. Why? Well, I guess I know why. You had a chemical dependency to the prescription medications you were taking. You went too far. You took too many. I hope there was no other reasons that drove you to overdose. I hope that I didn’t make you sad. I hope that you can forgive me for putting so much distance between us after Max’s birth, after we last spoke (fought), and for not telling you when I became pregnant again, for not inviting you to the birth of my daughter. I hope that if you knew all along (because you were secretly following my blogs) that you can let go of the hate you must have felt towards me.

I guess it is a little too late, now, to explain why I put so much distance between us. I know explaining it is more about me healing and forgiving myself than anything else. I think I’ll save those words for later.

You admitted it to me – once – that you knew you were a “drug addict.” We talked about it quite frankly, even discussed NA meetings in your area. You made a slight effort to get involved with NA. It never happened, though. Their answering machine asked for your name and number and you hung up, never to call back. Forgive me for not setting up an intervention to save you from yourself. I wish I would have.

I had a dream about you the other night. We were attending Hal’s cousin’s wedding that was being held in a theater. We sat next to one another and complained/laughed at how cramped we were (not enough leg room). When we got up to leave we had to walk through a weird path that took us onto the stage. Somehow we got separated and I couldn’t find you again. That morning when I awoke, the dream still fresh in my mind, I cried. Hal was there for me. He held me tight in his arms, speechless over my suffering.

I remember your dreams. Your dream to be an actress. Not just any actress, a FAMOUS actress. I remember the play you were in. This was when you were dating Ricky, the guy who physically and mentally abused you for four years. It was a miracle that he “let” you do the play – you had to fight to make it happen.

I was so happy when you two broke up. Knowing what I know now, I probably could have been a better friend to you during those years. I didn’t understand abuse or why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship so I was probably pretty harsh on you. We didn’t speak much those four years (during our early twenties). He isolated you from your friends and family. You isolated yourself. However, when you two broke up, we reconnected like there was never a separation in our friendship. That was the second time we came back together after a period of estrangement.

The first time we took a break from one another we mutually agreed we needed time apart. I was 17 or 18 years old. I remember being so frustrated with you because I felt suffocated by your love and need for our friendship. It felt like I was breaking up with you. You were equally frustrated with me because I wasn’t being the kind of friend you needed me to be. You also wanted space from me. I remember having “the talk” with you as we were walking from the gym at MCC to our next class together. I remember when the conversation ended we walked our separate ways. I think that break from one another lasted a couple years. When we became friends again, you introduced me to my future husband. Though, at the time, he was the dude you wanted to hook up with. Lucky for me he wasn’t the aggressive type, didn’t move “fast enough” for your liking. Lucky for me, another guy came along and caught your eye. I remember, and I know you do too because we often would laugh about it years later, you telling me, “you can have Hal, Michelle, I’ll let you.” And to that I say, thank you.

There are so many things I could write about. So many things spread out in my memory right now. Topless time, Ricky (movie theater manager), Chicago (and how cynical I was while narrating your video footage), looooong conversations over the phone throughout our entire friendship, crying in my shower the first time you overdosed, fishing, public telephones (I’ll leave it at that, but you know what I’m talking about!), Cypress Cove, the back massager (I won’t say anymore on that one, either), all your secrets, the book you made me, the poems you have written me, the awe you frequently expressed over how many times I have changed throughout our friendship… and so much more. I have a lock box in my heart filled with thoughts of you, of us.

Now that I am a mother, I so wish I had been there for you when you became a mom. I wish I could have brought you home made dishes the way my friends did for me. Hal and I were living in Chicago when Darren was born. I still have the Polaroid you took for me of your mama-belly.

I was disconnected from you as a mother. You never talked to me about being a mom or talked about your son. We would spend hours on the phone, yet, I knew nothing of your life as a mom. I remember you telling me that that was why you loved talking to me so much, because I allowed you to talk about yourself, your life – separate from your child. Everyone else seemed to only care about your son (your perception) and never asked how YOU were doing.

I’m glad I was there for you during those times the way you needed me to be. I’m happy to know that I was a good friend to you for some fraction of the time we knew one another. I just wish I knew more about what mothering was like for you. I’m so sad that I won’t have an opportunity to tell you about Bella’s birth. That I will never see you healthy again -like you were when we first met. I’m sad that I will never know the woman you could have been. I’m sad that your son will never know that woman.

It is so hard to not believe in heaven, hell, God, or an afterlife when you loose someone you love so dearly. I want to believe so many beautiful things but you know how I am, Mrs. Cynical – the one who is comfortable with “not knowing.”

At your funeral I spoke with your Uncle Bill. Oh, that uncle of yours. He told me that you were standing in the church service looking at all of the people who came to honor you. He said you were happy and that you were with your first true love, Darren, and an unidentified person. I wanted so badly to believe him. I let myself believe him, even though as I was looking into his eyes I wondered if he was crazy. I want to believe you are no longer suffering. I want to believe that when we die we are released from our bodies and our spirit goes down what-ever path it is meant to take. I want so badly to believe that you overdosing the day after my daughter was born is just a coincidence. I want to believe that we are all spirits and not just this clump of flesh and bones – the bone-dust I watched the priest pour into the ground and your family throw dirt on. I want to believe that I will see you again and we will give each other the biggest hug ever.

I love you. I will never forget you. I have more to write but this is it for now.

Love,

Michelle

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Dear BellaGrace,

Bella, you are 3 months old today! You are growing so fast and everyday you become more and more beautiful – something I never thought was possible the first time I laid eyes on you. Max is so thrilled to be your big brother. Yeah, I know that every once in a while he bites or pinches you, but for the most part he is just smitten with his baby sister. He showers you with hugs and kisses all day. So much so that mommy gets a little jealous of how often you pay attention to him!

I cherish our quiet moments alone when time stands still and your heart is bright for mommy. I love gazing into your eyes and wondering if they will stay blue or turn light brown like Max’s did. I wonder what gifts I will be able to give you as you grow into womanhood and what wisdom you will give to me.

Your little fingers and toes are long, slender, and girly – nothing like mine. Papa and I think his Sicilian blood shows well in your features. Yes, it is true that mommy is having a hard time these days but I assure you that when I look at you, care for you, hear your baby breath whistling in and out of your tiny nose – I feel like the luckiest woman alive. I love you so much. Happy three months!

Love,

Mommy

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Dear Maxamilian,

You, my sweet baby boy are no longer a baby. You are two today. And, I can’t believe I am momma to such an amazing person! Yes, I am one lucky lady. Max, when you came into my life I had no idea how much you would change my world. You have been teaching me lessons that the years I lived before you had not even broached. You have given me a love that is untouched by any word I could choose to describe its power. You are my little Buddha in so many ways. I can only hope that as you grow I can return the gift.

My world as I knew it was flipped upside down and folded inside out the moment I went on the journey of labor with you. New and fantastic emotions blazed through each rush. A strange and celebrated world beamed through your eyes the instant we met. This morning, two years ago my son, I gave birth to you and you birthed a mother in me.

Since you joined our family making us “three” you have grown and changed so much. Your light within guides me graciously through every challenge that arises with mothering. At the same time, I lovingly hold you up as you tackle your own new skills each and every day. Each floret of knew knowledge, you have celebrated right along with me. I owe this life I’m living to you. Your perfect entrance into our world, your perfect first cry, the energy and awe that filled our bedroom that morning… still to this day moves me to tears of joy when I ponder it all. They are memories that will forever mark the beginning of a love I will always cherish so unspeakably deeply. How can such a small being bring so much love with him? What is your secret my dear son? I would like to give it to others.

You are no longer an infant or a baby (though you will always be my baby). You are walking, talking, and constantly showing me what it means to live both independently and symbiotically. You are a vibrant toddler. That inner fire of life – that I have never seen in any adult – burns so strong within you. When I look into your eyes I melt with feelings of gratitude and grace.

As a toddler, you have become insistent on doing everything on your own. “Me do,” is something I hear several times a day. This, undoubtedly, makes me so proud.

Time and time again you show your papa and I just how well you pay attention to what is going on around you and just how well you understand it all. You are starting to show a strong interest in music, language, art, nature, and other children. You love to sing and dance. Every morning I awaken to papa and you singing in the living room while moving your hands and body in rhythm to the words coming out of the speakers. Papa will probably be the one to cultivate a love for music in you. I tend to keep the house quite throughout the day.

Every day words grow from your lips like vines that plan to reach the sky. Papa and I read several books to you every day. Our morning routine is breakfast, singing, dancing, and then reading a few of your favorite books. No word is too difficult for you to tackle and just about no sentence is too complex for you to understand. Your intelligence amazes me every day.

Admittedly, your papa and I were a tiny bit worried for a while because we thought you were not speaking as early as you should be. Well, you showed us one night when you walked out into the living room and said to papa clear as the night’s deep blue sky, “where’d mommy go?” You were 20 months old. Now, language fascinates you. Momma really has to watch what she says!

For your second birthday papa and I are giving you an easel with a dry erase board on one side and a chalk board on the other side. We also made an art box for you that is filled with all kinds of fun art supplies. Now that you are starting to say “no” (sometimes) when I ask you if you want to watch Sesame Street (who’da thought that would ever happen???), we wanted to give you something creative to do with your hands, eyes, and mind.

Momma and papa are going to have to find a way to make a space for you outside. That is our goal for this year: to turn our back yard into a play area for you (and BellaGrace when she’s old enough to join you in outside play). Right now your love for nature shows in your fascination with animals. You even know what a sloth is!!! Momma and papa don’t buy an excessive amount of toys for you so we have to make the one’s we do buy really spectacular. Without fail, you love any toy that is animal oriented. I’m hoping this love for animals will make it easy for you to understand why we don’t eat them.

Ever since you turned 18 months old, you have consistently amazed me with how socially gentle and wise you are. You are the kind of child that other people love to be around. Once at the library a woman who also has a toddler told me that meeting you made her want to have another baby – and she is dead set on only having one child. That was the highest of high compliments a mama could ever get. And I have to say, having you made me want to have more children, too.

You are my big boy, now. And you make sure I know you’re not a baby anymore by telling me, “I not baby, I big boy.” Momma and papa love you so very much, Maxamilian.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

Love,

Momma

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