• A Third Letter to my Son

    To my baby boy,

    I first met you three years ago, but I’ve known you for a while. You were in our hearts for years, and then for months you and I shared a body. I felt your kicks, your hiccups, your stretches. I fought mastitis and clogged ducts in order to feed you for a year. I rocked you back and forth in the wee hours of the night until you were old enough to fall back to sleep on your own. 

    You’ve learned so much in the past three years. You now know how to write the letters “A” and “O,” you can sign several letters, and you can read/spell your name with ease. You know your colors in Spanish and how to count to “twenty-ten.” You know how to cut with scissors and how to do a perfect somersault. You know when it’s time to be silly and when it’s time to sit criss-cross applesauce.

    You don’t understand yet, but someday I hope you realize how loved you are. How we’ll go to the lengths of the world for you. How much we enjoy your silly, sometimes-sassy attitude. How we hope you grow up to be considerate, independent, and happy. How we hope to teach you everything you need to know to navigate this crazy world.

    We love you so, SO much. Happy third birthday, Leon Maddox ❤️

  • Bedtime Upgrades

    Last weekend we took a road trip to visit my family in Missouri! I was a little nervous because it would be our first road trip since potty-training Leon, but he did great and honestly, due to my coffee habit, we had to stop more for me than for him. There was only one hiccup during the trip and it was at our first stop — Leon was afraid of the loud fan in the bathrooms and wouldn’t relax enough to go, so I had to take him to the side of the gas station building with his potty chair. Other than that, he peed at each stop and had minimal tantrums during the ride itself. We even learned during our stay in a shared hotel room that Leon was waking up in the night when he had to pee, so he may soon be able to ditch the one diaper a day and be 100% potty trained.

    I think my family had fun seeing Leon — and likewise, as he was all smiles the entire trip. He got a ton of new books and enjoyed playing outside with his second cousins. Thanks to Elmo Doll, his toddler pillow, and his Sesame Street blanket, he still felt comforted at night in the new space.

    The night we got back, after Leon was put in his bed, he shouted that he had to poop and tried scaling his crib to get out. I really wasn’t ready to move to a toddler bed, but as Minh pointed out, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We put the mattress on the floor that night, and the next day Leon came home to a big boy bed. He was pretty excited about the new sleeping accommodations, but come bedtime he became apprehensive. I’m not sure if he was scared of the dark or of being alone, but it was tough to hear him crying like how he was. On the one hand, we want to instill independence and the confidence that he can work through his troubles — but on the other hand, Minh and I both remember what it’s like to be scared of the dark as a kid, and it sucks. We took a moderate approach the first few days and stayed with him for a while before leaving the room, then consoling him through the baby monitor. It only took a couple minutes before he calmed down enough to go to sleep.

    Anyway, Leon’s becoming a chatterbox and actually has a few jokes. His favorite joke, which he picked up after reading a Sandra Boynton book, is putting his clothes where they don’t belong (sock on nose, shoe on head, etc.). Another joke is “Where’d [daycare owner] go?” The answer is “To see [teacher]!” Cue giggles. We’ll have to work on his sense of humor.

    My favorite thing to hear him say (besides “Good night, Mommy — I love you!”) is “Mommy silly!” Granted, it’s not difficult to make a two-year-old laugh, but it sure is a good feeling.

  • Mom Comparisons

    Leon’s got a huge vocabulary and understands two- and three-step commands. So I was shocked when a couple dozen moms in one of my Facebook groups commented with funny sentences their 20-month-old toddlers had been saying. Full sentences!

    I had never compared Leon to other kids his age up until that moment. He had always been ahead on the developmental timelines so there wasn’t much to think twice about. I knew he’d figure out sentences eventually, and technically he has until 24 months to string two words together before we need to even think about worrying. But I was suddenly thinking about early interventions and speech pathologists and language therapy. Was reading 5-10 books to him each day actually enough? Is it OK that we read the same Arthur book over and over for 45 minutes at a time? Should I insist that we talk more about what we see in the pictures? Would he benefit if we actually let him watch a decent amount of TV?

    When Minh and I picked Leon up from daycare yesterday, his teacher gushed about how much Leon’s been talking lately. With that Facebook thread in mind, I asked if she’s heard him put two words together. She said yes! — “he says ‘thank you’ and ‘no thank you’ and ‘I love you’ and…” She was so excited I didn’t have the heart to tell her that phrases that we’ve taught him don’t count.

    Last night for my birthday celebration with Leon and Minh, we went out to eat in Plano and took pictures with the sunflowers in the field behind the restaurant. On the way back to the car, Leon confidently shouted, “Car blue!” I was so shocked and excited that I didn’t even correct him that the Jeep was actually black. On our walk home from the playground after dinner, Leon exclaimed, “Dog brown!”

    I’m so excited that he’s now able to use two words at a time twice. All that time I was worrying he was actually so close to figuring it out. That’s what I get for doubting him!

    Here’s my two favorite dudes in the sunflower patch last night. #cuuuuuuute

  • Mama Brag #2

    As soon as Leon and I entered the exam room for his 18-month checkup, he pointed out the butterfly (“bababa”) and clock (“dock”) on the wall. We waited for a while, long enough for Leon to spray pancake crumbs in every crevice of the exam table and tell me that the cow in the wall mural says “booooooo.”

    He’s meeting motor skill milestones for 24 months. He can easily kick a ball, stand on one foot, and walk on the balance beam with his teacher’s help. He’s been trying to jump lately but hasn’t quite gotten it yet. He’s been able to scribble back and forth for a couple months now, so I’m secretly hoping I passed some artistic gene down to him. He loves books and asks to be read to pretty much any time we’re in the living room. He can turn one page of his book at a time, and he’s careful to go back if he notices he turned two pages instead of one.

    Regarding communication, the doctor asked me how many words Leon can say. I said I stopped counting at about 30, and she seemed genuinely impressed, telling me that the average at this age is 15. I mentioned that they’re mostly protowords, but she assured me that over the next six months he’ll start articulating more and stringing two or three words together.

    I expressed concern about colorblindness because he knows quite a few shapes, animal noises, and body parts yet thinks every color is “yellow,” but she just chuckled and told me that many parents share the same concern — he may just be focused on learning other things. (I’d come across this article before, but it was reassuring to hear it from a doctor too.)

    Leon passed his autism assessment, despite me having to check “no” for “handles loud noises well” — but if we’re being honest, Reese’s bark is very ferocious and scary.

    And no shots this time, so a great visit all around!

  • Mama Brag #1

    ​This is Mama Brag #1 because honestly I’m sure there will be more. Sorry not sorry — this is my blog about my kid.

    Anyway, it amazes me how quickly Leon is learning.

    ​​Just a few minutes ago, he brought me his shoes (he loves going outside). I told him that we could put his shoes on, but I reminded him that socks go on his feet first. I asked him to bring me his socks  (mostly because I’m lazy) and pointed in the general direction of them, and he actually brought them to me! It just showed how much he’s really understanding — he knows that socks and shoes go together for what he was wanting to do (go outside), and he was able to bring them to me when I said their name. Just a few months ago he couldn’t understand anything and now he can distinguish “sock” out of a sentence of other words.

    We’re at the point where I’m spelling out words like “hungry,” “snack,” and “food,” otherwise Leon will chime in and suddenly demand “MUH!”

    And earlier this afternoon, as I was picking the globs of dried fluid out of his ear (and they say motherhood isn’t glamorous), he told me he was “all done,” complete with adamant signing. Kid’s still got crust in his ear because I’m not about to deny someone’s body autonomy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


    His new language skills maybe cancel out the fact that he was messing around with the baby powder earlier and got a face full of cornstarch. Maybe.

  • I’m. So. Done.

    I reached my goal, and now I’m done.

    When Leon was born, I wanted to try breastfeeding for one month. I didn’t anticipate being able to breastfeed at all since I had read so much about how difficult it was, but the nurses in the hospital were helpful and encouraged trying. I was pretty shocked we survived the first few weeks, so I pushed our goal out to three months. Then six months. Then a year.

    But I recently realized breastfeeding was no longer enjoyable to me and I was looking forward to the day I would wean. I battled so much momguilt after that realization because I know that Leon prefers breastfeeding over drinking from bottles. But now he’s able to drink cow’s milk since he’s over a year old — and he loves Minh just fine despite his non-lactating nipples, so I figured he’ll be fine without mine.

    We made it. One year without a drop of formula.

    And was it worth it?

    Probably not, actually.

    I spent so much time in the early days power-pumping around the clock to increase my supply, washing pump parts with that stupid pipe-cleaner brush, and massaging so many painful clogs. I escaped every few hours we were apart to hook myself up to a machine for 30 minutes. I got mastitis and had to go on antibiotics twice. I had high lipase milk and had to scald everything I pumped on the stove before I could freeze it. In the first few months I frequently laid in bed at night, unable to sleep because of the pain from my chapped, cracked, and/or blistered nipples. I was sick several times since I started my new job, but couldn’t take the medicine I’d need to feel better. I got bit almost every nursing session lately. I stressed daily about whether or not I’d have enough milk for the following day. And for crying out loud, I haven’t had any caffeine since before he was born.

    And Leon was sick constantly, so it’s not even like he has a shiny immune system to show for it. But hey, I probably saved a few bucks, so there’s that.

    I gave it a try. And it was a good try. So a pat on the back to me and a pat on the back to Leon, but now it’s time to move on.


    Here’s a cute photo from Leon’s birthday party as alms for reading about my boobs.

  • A Letter to My Son

    To my sweet boy,

    A year ago today, after 19 hours of labor ending with an emergency c-section, I met the baby who made it all worth it. In just 365 days since, you have taught me how to love unconditionally and how to enjoy the “little” moments.

    This past year has been the most enjoyable year of my life. I watched this flailing newbie grow into a beautiful, happy, curious boy who likes chewing on his socks and dances to The Office theme song EVERY time. I’ll never get tired of popping into your classroom at daycare and seeing your face light up when you notice me. I love watching your sense of humor blossom every day — it’s ALMOST like you’re a little 28″ version of your father. You’re so present in each moment and so creative in how you interact with the world.

    We’ve had our share of challenges (a NICU stay, 10ish months of sleep deprivation, an ambulance ride to Children’s…), but your persistently happy outlook has taught me a thing or two about thinking positively and holding on to what really matters.

    Happy first birthday, little monkey — I feel like I’ve known you for so long already, yet at the same time I can’t wait to learn you as you grow older.



  • First Steps

    It’s been a minute since I’ve last posted (homeslice has gotten me sick twice in the past three weeks #ThanksLeon), and this little man has changed so much recently!

    He took his first steps about a week ago. He’s only taken a step once since (that I’ve seen), but I’m sure he’ll be running around before we’re ready no matter what. He can stand for about 5-10 seconds at a time, and he can cruise furniture and walk around using only one hand for balance.

    Despite the fact that I bought a fuzzy stuffed monkey ages ago to be his lovey, I guess his socks have filled the role. He puts them in his mouth and crawls around with them, and I can typically distract him for a solid 60 seconds by giving him one of the half-dozen socks strewn around the house. There is a chance I have been encouraging this because I think it’s funny.

    He’s getting really good at eating with his fingers. In fact, since he’s started the transition to the First Steps room at daycare, he’s shunned purees since he sees his big-kid friends eating with their fingers. (This is cool, but I hope he’s not as easily swayed by peer pressure as a teenager.) He loves freeze-dried fruits – and I love them too, because they’re easy to grab on the go. He eats sooo much — typically he’s shoveling food in his mouth consistently for a good 30 minutes before we cut him off so he doesn’t get a tummyache. So far his favorites are chicken, bananas, and black beans. (He did love avocados until one day last week he decided mid-meal they were the worst and he hasn’t eaten them since. Kids, amirite?)

    He can sign “more” and “all done,” but he often gets frustrated when he’s hungry and forgets to do them. But he can say “mama” and “dada” very clearly. He loves giving Minh high-fives.

    His left front tooth has poked through, and the right one will break through the gumline any day.

    His school pictures came back — look at this handsome little goober.


  • Leon’s Adventures

    ​I’m starting a new job tomorrow, and I happened to have a few days off for the transition, so I promised my family we’d visit them up in Iowa. It was a three-day visit including travel, so unfortunately we didn’t have much time with either side, but considering it was Leon’s first time traveling longer than an hour away from home I was fine with a “trial run” trip.

    We started off by flying to Minneapolis. I nursed Leon on takeoff and we both slept soundly until even after the plane landed (probably because we both had been awake since 3:30…). We rented a car and drove over three hours to my hometown, and Leon slept all but a half-hour of that.

    He’s at a fun age, so I was thankful that my parents got to see his new tricks from the past few months: feeding himself, pulling to stand, putting small objects into larger objects, signing and asking for “more,” pulling things off of where they’re supposed to be and then just kind of putting them back (my poor brother was traumatized that his DVD collection was tampered with).

    He slept pretty well at night on the trip, all things considered. The last day of the trip he was extremely fussy and screamed the entire time we were at the airport. I chalked it up to teething because he was also drooling and pulling on his ears.

    He cried all day yesterday. Thankfully we had a 9-month wellness check this morning, where the doctor immediately showed me the ulcer in the back of his throat.

    Poor baby. I feel horrible giving him ibuprofen because I’m sure that only made it worse. No wonder he’s grumpy. He ate a slice of bread and a few grapes this afternoon but nursed all day long. I think the breastmilk is helping though, because he’s significantly calmer and is drooling less.

    I’ve been getting little sneak peeks of my happy baby here and there. Earlier today he was excited that I let him play with the remote, even though he had just spit up on the couch. I’ll take it.

  • Oblivious to Danger

    When Leon first learned to crawl, Minh arranged the furniture in the living room to section off a baby-safe corner of the house. The new arrangement insulted the house’s feng shui* — but it achieved its purpose of keeping Leon reined in, so I tried not to complain too much. But as time went on he would scream like a banshee when we set him down in his play area because he knew he was stuck there. So before Minh got home on Friday I rearranged the furniture back to its original position, and Leon’s been cheerfully cruising around the house ever since.

    We’re still getting the hang of having a danger-oblivious munchkin at our heels. This morning I opened the door to let the dogs out, and when I turned around I found Leon wrist-deep in Six’s bowl, happily sucking on a kibble of dog food. (Mind you, this wasn’t the first time he’s eaten dog food since the furniture rearrangement.) Yesterday Minh did the same and ended up fishing a dried leaf out of Leon’s mouth.

    Between his mobility and his fearlessness, we’ve had to keep a careful eye (and hand) on him at all times. For example, I was giving him a bath a couple days ago and he thought it was hilarious to lurch forward and slide around in the tub. Giggle, rinse, repeat. What he didn’t notice (or care about) was that I was clutching his arm so he didn’t fall backwards and smack the back of his head on the porcelain. During his bath yesterday I think he realized it wasn’t quite as fun to slide around in a bathtub that has anti-slip bath decals. Leon: 0, Mom: 1.

    He’s definitely developing preferences, not just for danger, but also for “toys” (cups, flat objects like books, doorstops, lids — not any of the toys I actually spent money on) and foods (butternut squash, chicken, blueberries, grapes, melon, dog food). This weekend he kept shouting “Muh!” in his high chair. I was so excited that he could articulate the “m” sound — was he actually saying “mom”?! But Minh quickly pointed out that he was consistently yelling “muh” whenever I wasn’t putting food on his tray fast enough.

    More. He was saying more.

    My son’s first word is a demand to keep shoveling food in his mouth.

    * Just kidding. It was mostly just a pain to crawl over furniture every time I wanted to sit down and watch TV.