Baby Hell Is The Drive-Thru Car Wash

It’s Memorial Day Monday, a lovely sunny day off with the hubby, and he decides it would be a perfect time to drive my dirty company-car-turned-kid-hauler through the car wash for me on our way into town. I never take the time to do it on my own, as I am either rushing home from work to pick up the baby, or I have the baby in the backseat and I am rushing home to feed him/change him/get him down for a nap.

“Great idea, honey! I need fuel anyways,” I agree, so we pull in to the closest Holiday and fill her up, then head over to the carwash entrance.

Well, maybe it was a good idea, but there are already 3 cars in line ahead of us, we have an impatient 1 year-old baby strapped in the backseat, and this mama hasn’t had breakfast yet.

“No way,” I declare, “this is not happening today.”

“But I have soap all over the mirrors already,” my sweet, well-intentioned hubby informs me, “so we’re committed! It will go quick-it’s all good.”

Famous last words.

27 minutes and a whole tub of cheddar cheese lil’ Crunchies later, we finally pull into the carwash. I wrap up my rant (that lasted the last 10 of those minutes) about why on earth the old lady in front of us in the immaculate Chevy even needed a carwash anyways! Doesn’t she know her pickup isn’t even dirty? And that it really pisses off the people behind you in line who actually do have dirty cars that need washed and have to wait for your sparkling Silverado to get 9 minutes of hydro-therapy? And can’t she imagine that there might be a BABY in the Tahoe behind her who really REALLY hates sitting in a car that isn’t moving?

“Yay, this will be fun, Hankers!” I exclaim as happily as I can to the wide-eyed baby in the backseat, as the door lowers behind us.

WHOOOOSH WHOOOSH WHOOSH. The rocker panel spray kicks on, full-bore, and Hank has about a two-second delayed reaction before-WAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

“THIS is why I never wash my car when the baby is in it, honey,” I growl towards the hubs through gritted teeth.

“Oh, he will like it, kids love car washes! He will love the soap!” Hubby the optimist says, cheerfully, and I turn around in my seat to try to soothe the demon baby screaming in the car seat behind me.

Rinse Cycle:

Baby’s screams of terror grow in volume in direct proportion to the proximity of the spray arm to his window.

Soap Cycle:

Baby does NOT, in fact, love the soap. Wrong-O, daddy.

Rinse (again!) Cycle:

Baby has not gotten any happier about the typhoon of water circling his car bubble, yet again.

Colored Soap Cycle:

Seriously? The plain old white soap wasn’t good enough? And surprisingly enough, RAINBOW COLORS do not make him like it any more; in fact, I think he likes it LESS. Judging by the fact that he is turning his own new color, a deep shade of pissed-off purple.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

Rinse (here we go again) Cycle:

Baby suddenly stops crying-probably to avoid passing out from continuous screaming- Could this finally be the end? Please be done please be done PLEASE BE DONE- 

ANOTHER FREAKING RINSE CYCLE:

Oh for heaven’s sake! But wait – this one is quiet and calming, with a lovely fine mist. Thanks be to God and all that is holy. Baby whimpers-exhausted and defeated. I also whimper, turning back around, and try to massage some blood back into the fingers the baby has had a death grip on for the last six wash cycles of CAR WASH HELL.

Suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel appears, and the exit door begins to open-

“SCREW THE AIR DRY HONEY, GET US OUT OF HERE NOW!!!”

Baby, catching his breath, smiles out the window when he sees that it is being sprinkled with his favorite little dots of. . .you guessed it. . . RAINWATER.

Mama needs a cocktail. And a better weather app too, apparently.

I Get to Call Him Daddy Now, Too

I always felt weird calling my husband “Bill” when I talked about him to his boys. It felt so formal. I didn’t feel comfortable referring to him as “Dad” though, either, like they did, because I wasn’t “Mom.” To them anyways. They already had a Mom, and I have always been perfectly happy being “Step-mom” or “Dad’s wife” to them (although they usually just call me Erika). I like that more than “Step-mom” anyways; Step-mom just has such an awful stigma to it. Thanks a lot, Disney movies, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for making us all wicked! (Even though some of us are really nice!)

I realize I am the only one in my modern family who probably gives any thought to what we call each other. But I did for a long time, (probably from all the step-family parenting books I read back when I was dating Bill which TOLD me I should think about it,) and so I settled into referring to him as “your dad” to the boys. Not Dad, not Bill, but your dad.

Hey guys, where’s your dad?

Or – Yeah, you better ask your dad about that.

But then Hank the Tank came along.

Suddenly, I was Mom. Hank’s mom. And Bill was no longer their dad, he was suddenly just Dad. No more possessive pronouns in our house. And I had no idea how much that one little grammatical change would mean to me.

Being able to refer to my husband as Daddy is one of the biggest privileges I have had the honor of experiencing in our marriage. It’s a whole new level of awesome – being this much of a team. He is that much more my best friend now. Of course, hearing that wonderful man, and our amazing little boy, call me Mama is music to my ears and an honor as well. I wasn’t sure I would ever get to be anyone’s mama, so now I am savoring it!

This Father’s Day will be a special one. Last June, we were still in the post-partum tailspin and I don’t even remember processing the fact that Bill was now suddenly Daddy again, or how this time, I was in on the deal. I am not even sure that I remembered to get him a card. But the past 13 months have been life-changing for me. And since I have had some time to think about things other than when the baby needs fed next, or if I will ever get any sleep ever again, the true significance of this upgrade to our relationship is sinking in.

My first Father’s Day with Bill was an odd one, because I hadn’t even met his boys yet at that point. He was still sizing me up, making sure what we had was built for the long haul; that I was good enough for his remarkable children. But I already loved that man fiercely, so I felt like I needed to celebrate his fatherhood somehow. I bought him a funny card and what I thought was the most perfect gift – a set of Star Wars pancake molds and a batter bottle so he could make the world’s most awesome pancakes for them. And in doing so – I thought maybe he would be even a little bit more perfect in their eyes. They were obsessed with everything Star Wars, so I figured it would be a slam dunk.

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May the force be with you

My dad makes us Darth Vader pancakes. Can your dad do that?

It worked. He sent me a text with a picture of the most adorable Yoda-shaped pancake that Father’s Day morning, so my heart swelled for him. He was proud of his culinary masterpiece and told me about how cool the boys thought it was! (In hindsight, I probably could have skipped the batter bottle though, as I later discovered that it had been re-purposed into a bath toy.)

“Please tell me this doesn’t go back and forth between bath water and pancake batter, does it?” I asked him when I saw it sitting on his bathtub ledge a few weeks later. He said no. I think I believed him.

Giving Bill Father’s Day cards in the years that followed – once I had actually gotten to know his boys – still seemed important but always felt more like a back pat, like I was simply telling him good job at being a good daddy to his own kids. I couldn’t thank him for what he was doing like a mom would – appreciating his help raising kids together – because they weren’t my kids. It wasn’t my place to thank him.

It is also hard to find an appropriate Father’s Day card, I later found, when you are married to a dad but you are not the mother of his children. (Apparently Hallmark needs a card writer who is a step-mom! I may have to look into that for a side gig!) I have spent hours scanning over cards in the ‘To My Husband’ area of the aisle, reading the messages and putting them all back, frustrated.

Dear Hubby, Thanks for not messing up our kids too much! Haha. . .nope.

To the Father of Our Children. . .no again.

To My Loving Husband on Father’s Day. . .Ok this sounds promising, until I read the four flowing cursive stanzas inside about (yet again), being the father of our precious children.

Happy Father’s Day, Good job raising those kids of yours!  Love, Your wife, (Even though she’s not their mom).

Said no card, ever.

So, once I finally give up on the ‘To My Husband’ department and enter the generic ‘Dad’ card aisle, I have these remaining options: Dad the Super-hero, Dad the amazing golfer, or Dad-champion of burping/farting/drinking beer/changing the TV channel in the La-Z-Boy. You know, the classy Father’s Day cards.

That said – by the grace of God, this year is different. I DO have a new appreciation for him, because we are finally in this together. We are equal parts Hank’s parents. I can finally grab one of those Father’s Day cards that reads like Mom high-fiving Dad. Because I am finally Mom, and he is (still) Dad. But not just his kids’ dad. He is our kid’s dad now, too. Just Dad. And I finally do get to say thanks (with all my heart!) and not just good job. I owe him the moon and the stars, for giving me the gift of our son. He is kind to him, patient with him, funny, loving, sensitive, and strong – everything a Daddy needs to be. Hank is completely enamored with his Daddy. And I am so grateful for this simple fact: Along with all the joys that come with my new shared role as a parent with my husband, I get to call him Daddy now, too.Daddy reading to Hank

Marks on the Wall

It’s crazy how much one little pencil line on the wall can mean to a person.

I finally started our measuring wall, in the laundry room, where it’s perfectly out of the way but at the same time, perfectly located so I get to see it every time I come in with a hamper or leave with a pile of folded clothes. Which is often, in my big busy family full of ALL boys. Every time I see it I am reminded of my blessings – and especially the fact that I finally have my own little life to track in pencil lines on the laundry room wall.

Growing up in my family, we always marked our height on the wall in the kitchen. Our tradition was shoes off, back against the wall, stand up straight, and mom would make the mark. Then our name and age – to track us. It was always such fun after we saw our new “marks” – comparing and wondering.

I had no idea that this simple tradition would mean so much more to me once I became a mom. In my own house, with my own little boy’s life to track. My little boy who just learned how to walk, and who understands enough to actually cooperate when I say, “Come here, Hank! Come stand by this wall for mama, we’re going to see how big you are!”

And he does. And I put that first beautiful mark on the wall and I almost don’t believe it’s really there.

There are five other marks on my wall now, too, that make it even more special. Hank’s three big brothers, who he looks up to (literally!) and tries so hard to keep up with, have their own lines and names higher up on the wall. And his sweet cousins, who we are so blessed to live right down the road from, are tracked by the other two marks on my wall. I have watched my niece and nephew grow up right before my eyes, the last 11 (and 7) years, and it always blows me away how fast they change.

With my own little one now, it is even harder! With Hank, it is like the movie is on fast-forward. Every day he does something major that he couldn’t do the day before. This week it was nodding his head yes and saying “yeah!” when I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride with Grandma.

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I’d flex, but I like these jammies

Another new thing this week is not fitting into his 24 month sized sleepers anymore. I am not quite ready for him to be sleeping in big boy jammies – so daddy and I cut the sleeves half off so we could get those huge paws and Popeye arms into them! That ought to buy me a few more weeks, anyway!

I am so excited to watch Hank’s mark catch up to those first marks of his three big brothers and his big cousins. Even though it will be way faster than I want it to be. And as soon as I can talk daddy into backing up to my wall, he will get the most important mark of all. I know without a doubt, that his will be the mark that all four boys can’t wait to catch up to. (Or maybe even beat by an inch or two!)

Oh, Boy

So this afternoon was another crazy day in paradise!  I was lucky enough to get escorted to Wal-Mart by two handsome dates, Hank and his daddy.  Bill hadn’t been with us in a while, so I laughed as he got another chance to experience the adventure of shopping with Hank.  Which meant consuming half of a not-yet-purchased tub of Lil’ Crunchies in the front of the cart, (doled out two at a time from Mama), and shouting “NUM-NUM! NUM-NUM!” whenever he ran out.

We passed another mama pushing a cart with a toddler sitting down in it, and a similarly aged little boy in the front with his little bare legs dangling, just like Hank.  Only there was a major difference between them.  That little boy was quietly, peacefully, munching on a snack of his own, but he was holding the bag himself.  All by himself.  He was in complete control of his grocery store snack, and he was nailing it!  Not a crumb was hitting the floor, he wasn’t trying to shove three crackers into his mouth all at once, he wasn’t throwing them at his mama or his sister, or into the cart, and he certainly wasn’t screaming.  In fact, he wasn’t making a peep.  Just munching on his little bag of crackers, one by one, while his mama shopped leisurely.

Am I missing something?  If I gave Hank the whole tub of crunchies, (which we have tried, so I am not just hypothesizing) the entire aisle of Wal-Mart would be coated with cheddar cheese powder and crunched up Gerber goodness.  I started to wonder if perhaps our child is a little more of a handful than I may have realized.

“Did you see that baby in the cart eating his snack so quietly?” I asked Bill on the way home.  “Holding his own bag?”

“Yep. I saw him,” was all he had to say.

Hmmmm.

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Hank’s first cart riding experience – at 8 months 

Well, I got another dose of Hank help as I was trying to put the groceries away.  Bill was shuttling grocery bags to the top of the stairs and setting them over the baby gate, and I was unpacking and putting them away.  Well, that was the goal anyways!

Crunch. Crunch. CRUNCH. 

What is that?  

Oh, Hank!”  Hank found the brand new party-sized bag of Wavy Lays and decided he needed to see what kind of sound it would make if he pounded on it a few times.  Sorry boys, your chips may be a little more, well. . .Hank-sized now.  Sure glad we gave him that hammer and nails set to play with! 

I guess that’s why we call him Hammerin’ Hank!  I pulled him away from the Wavy Lays and put the limp bag remains in the pantry.  As soon as I turned around for another grocery bag, he had beaten me back to them yet again.

Oh perfect, he found a fruit squeezy pouch!  He loves those.  Maybe that will keep him out of trouble for a bit so I can put these away.

“Num-Num!” he said and handed it to me, so I unscrewed the top and gave it back to him.  Relieved, I went back to my unpacking and got exactly one bag put away before I noticed that Hank was mysteriously quiet, so I went around the island to look for him.

There he was – squeeze pouch in hand, just a-squeezing away, and sucking. . .only the problem was, he had turned it upside down!  So, purple fruit puree oozed down his clothes, onto his bare feet, the floor, and the rug.  When he spotted me, and the look of shock on my face, he cracked up!  And Hank cracking up while standing on his new, wobbly legs means only one thing, falling over.  So he fell right into the purple puddle.

“Don’t judge, Daddy, when you see that your son is now purple,” I said to Bill, who just happened to be walking in with the last bags.  “We had a little mishap!”  He just laughed.

I love that man.

I got Hank cleaned up and plunked him in front of my last resort – the spice rack.  My back-up baby-sitter.  This will work, I thought to myself as I put away a few more bags and watched him shake-a-shake-a-shake all around the kitchen with a lovely sounding jar of minced onion.

Wow, I am almost done!  Why didn’t I just give him that to begin with?  

I turned around to throw the empty bags in the bin and I almost fell over when I saw my son, and my kitchen.  That’s why.  Apparently I had forgotten about his new-found ability to open spice jars with his teeth – like the ground cloves!  Little white minced onion flakes were sprinkled across the entire kitchen floor, and all under the dining room table.  It looked like it had just snowed.

“Honey?  Can you grab the broom?” I hollered back to Bill in the laundry room.

Well, that wonderful man came out with the broom and dustpan, shook his head knowingly, and laughed while he swept up the mess for me.  Without saying a word.  And I held Hank because it is impossible to sweep a room if Hank is in it.  (He insists on riding the broom.)

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Hank riding the broom on a cleaner day

God, I really, really love that man.

And that helpful little boy who looks just like him.

Christmas in June

After I got baby all tucked into bed, I walked out to the kitchen.

Why does it smell like Christmas in here? I haven’t baked anything in a long time – 

Oh boy. I know why. Those darn CLOVES! The cute little red jar of cloves that Hank was rolling all around the kitchen earlier, while I did the dinner dishes? Yep. Well, apparently he mastered the skill of biting the top open with his teeth tonight, and I didn’t notice, because it was now sprinkled across my kitchen floor. Of course, he couldn’t have chosen the whole cloves (you know the nice big ones you stick in oranges?) That would have been so easy to clean up! But oh no, not Hank! He picked the GROUND cloves to dust the entire kitchen with.

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What are we baking today, mama?

But clove dusting aside, it was a big day for Hank! And mopping up those cloves gave me some nice quiet time to ponder on my two big Hank ‘Firsts‘ from the day! One was really great; the other, well – not so great.

The great First:

After almost 13 months of trying to get my son to love books, and failing miserably, I finally had a successful story-time!

Well, let me back up and clarify that first statement a little bit. Hank has always loved books. He loves slobbering on them, chewing on them, biting holes out of the covers, tearing off the ‘flaps’ that hide the cute little surprises, and most of all he loves chucking them across the room as hard as he can, with a big “hiyaaaah!”

But tonight, he gave the frustrated teacher-mom in me some much-needed hope. Hank walked over to his book crate library, picked out Where’s Spot?, crawled into my lap, and let me read him the whole thing. And he thought that was so great, he had me read it a second time! And he laughed his adorable bald head off every time I opened one of those darn little flaps, and we saw that Spot wasn’t under it! I almost couldn’t believe that he didn’t try even once, to sneak his little ninja hands on a flap and give it a tug.

Thank God, maybe there is hope after all!

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My little future reader (hopefully!)

The not-so-great First:

Our other surprise tonight, was not quite as much fun as story-time was. Hank got his very first goose egg! Remember when I said how I needed to get my running shoes ready, so I could keep up with him? Well, I didn’t realize I needed to get them this WEEK, but it looks like I better get some rounded up!

So, Hank decided he wants to disprove the saying that you have to learn to walk before you can run. Tonight was a failed attempt, sadly, and I certainly didn’t earn my Mom-of-the-Year badge tonight, either. Like every bath night, I had a good laugh while he frolicked around his room in his post-bath, diaper-only freedom. BUT – I was so entertained watching his new little skip-hop-step attempt at running, that I didn’t anticipate the header into the side of the crib that followed! Or the goose egg that popped up shortly thereafter. Once Dr. Daddy had inspected his little melon and told me it was nothing to worry about, I felt much better, but I was already starting to pull up a google search about head bumps and babies on my phone.

I was hoping to not have a repeat of a night earlier this week, when I remembered an article on Facebook that struck a chord with me (about some child who died from secondary drowning.) Suddenly, mid-bath, I panicked. I was sure that Hank had just swallowed a dangerous amount of water while splashing like a maniac in his 2 to 4 inches of 97-degree bath water. I mean, he kept burping! After splashing in the tub! So that means he must be trying to cough up water, right? His eyes even started to water!

I can’t tell you how many times I checked on him that night, clicking the monitor on and off, making sure he was moving and breathing normally. That was exhausting. And while my day brain told me that he only drank a tiny bit of water, and he isn’t in the 1% of kids who actually have this happen, my night brain was still a nervous wreck about it. Because it was nighttime, daddy was on the road for work, and our precious little life was depending on me and me alone, to not let him die of secondary drowning from splashing too much in the tub!

Whew. Even just typing that out was exhausting.

So, here is my rambunctious 1-year-old, teaching me another life lesson. I am going to take the story-time success, the fact that my kitchen now smells lovely, and the positive report on the not-too-serious goose egg as my “Christmas in June” presents from Hank. And I will be giving myself another, equally fabulous present – a vow to myself as a mother in The Age of Social Media. I vow to myself, that I will no longer read all the articles on Facebook warning me about every possible injury/disaster/illness my child might encounter and the 57 million ways to prevent them. 

I have common sense, right?

I know that somehow, my parents raised me and my brother, in the good old 80’s, without reading any articles warning them about secondary drowning. And they taught us to water-ski at age 4. In a lake. I am sure I swallowed some serious water that summer. But I survived!

I grabbed my phone, and clicked close on the tab of my “head bumps and babies” search window. And with that, came peace of mind. And with peace of mind, can come sleep. So I better get some, because who knows what exciting adventures will be waiting for me tomorrow with my (almost) RUNNING baby!

 

 

20 Minutes in the Life of Hank

“Hank is that you? Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“You’re supposed to be napping! Mama needs to take a shower! And you need to take your nap so we can go watch big brother’s game! Lay back down and go nite-nite.”

Lay baby back down in crib, put paci back in his mouth, pat him and try to sneak back out of nursery.

“Hank. Ank. Ank.” Baby says, rolling over and standing back up in the crib.

“Hank? You said your name! When did you learn how to say your name? Way to go buddy! Hank Hank Hank. Ok fine, you’re not tired, we will nap after mama takes her shower.”

Take baby upstairs to bathroom and shut the door, setting him on the floor with toys. Start to brush teeth.

“Hank where are you? Mama can’t see you. . .Oh no! Did daddy leave the toilet lid up? I hope you’re not – Oh NO!! No we don’t play in the toilet! Are your hands – Oh jeez your hands are all wet. Oh no. Let mama wash your hands with soap. We don’t play in the toilet, that’s a no-no-no.”

Dry baby’s hands and start to carry him downstairs.

“Num-num,” baby says and looks at me with that look that says I know I shouldn’t be doing _____ but I am doing it anyway.

“Num-num? Why are you saying num-num? Is there something in your mouth? Open your mouth Hank!”

Sweep baby’s mouth with finger to get mysterious foreign object out.

“Carpet? Why is there carpet in your mouth? Where did you get that? Carpet is not a num-num Hank. No-no! Icky! We don’t eat carpet!”

Let’s go change your clothes, since these ones are covered in yucky toilet water. Oh, and you are stinky now, too! Let’s get you a new diaper.”

Lay baby on changing table, pull off jammies. Open diaper and start to clean up baby’s poopy bottom.20151218_133924

“Wait a minute – how did your face get all wet too Hankers? Did you – Oh NO! You are covered in pee! Did you just pee? Oh Hankers. Now you need a wipey bath too!”

Naked baby giggles and sucks on his toes while he gets a baby wipe sponge bath.

“What am I going to do with you, Hank?”

“Hank. Ank-ank.” Says giggling baby.

(Sigh.)

Maybe it’s going to be one of those no-shower days. Ball cap and ponytail? Check.

Nap-time. Take Two.

Walking Around With My Heart

Today, after weeks of clumsy stutter-steps and tip-overs, my baby boy is walking. Walking. On his own. Across the kitchen, across the lawn, across the deck-all he wants to do now is walk. He reaches out his hand and squeaks at whoever is closest to him, as if to say, “Hey, you, help me get started!” Then he pops up on his chubby little feet, gets his balance, and he is off. Three, four, maybe six steps and then he flops back down onto his hands and knees, looks for the nearest person (or wall) to help him up, and he is off again.

All he wants to do all day is walk. And all I want him to do is curl up in his little muslin swaddling blanket and be three months old again, sleeping on my lap in my rocking chair.

So now I remember that anxious feeling I had for a few weeks once baby Hank was finally here last May. Seeing him actually walking now, not only do I miss my tiny baby, and the fact that he spent most of his time in my arms, but I even kind of miss being pregnant. In my tummy he had everything he needed-around the clock-and as long as he kept kicking me, I knew he was ok!

I loved being pregnant.  After so much time wondering if I was even able to get pregnant, I was half-surprised when I did, so I made it my mission to do everything just right! I ate a ton of healthy things so I could grow that big baby up healthy and strong. I stayed away from caffeine and my beloved nightly glass of wine. I slept as much as I could. I drank tons of water and took all my vitamins. And I felt like in my safe, huge tummy I could make sure he was alright, because I could make all those choices for him. Control freak? Yep! You bet I am, but I own it 100%!

The tiny part of me that doesn’t want him to be walking yet is that same part who was terrified once he entered the big scary world. He spent most of his first week of life in a plastic rolling bassinet parked under blue UV lights with goggles on-because he was so jaundiced-and I know for a fact I cried as much as he did that week. I couldn’t pick him up to soothe him other than when he needed fed; his daddy and I just had to sit by his little “bed” night and day. We tried to talk to him through his relentless screaming to let him know we were at least close by, until he fell asleep. We would crash right alongside him, grateful for a break from feeling sad for him. I couldn’t fix it for him, and it was the most horrible, helpless feeling I have ever experienced. I made up for those missed snuggles in the weeks that followed, but I still felt that same helplessness every time he went in for another of his million heel pokes to keep checking that bilirubin level.

Motherhood is hands-down, the most wonderful, scary, exciting, stressful, rewarding, and bittersweet thing I have ever experienced. I get it now-what all the other mothers meant when they told me about their own babies growing up. They told me it would feel like my heart would go walking around outside of my chest. All of a sudden, mine is, and it is terrifying.

I realize I can’t wrap the little tornado up in bubble wrap, but I sure wish I could!  I am thrilled for him and love nothing more than his proud little face and those adorable little squeals of both pride and frustration, but part of me is mourning, too. My baby boy is gone. And in his place-overnight-is a wild and crazy toddler. A TODDLER! And I better get my sneakers on, because this kid is about to hit the ground running. I just hope I can keep up!