Dearest Don Raine,
When you were an infant, I opened the first page of a special journal and wrote to you. I never picked it up again after that; my apologies. You will learn that habits need at least 30 consecutive days to establish themselves definitively in our lives and I certainly didn't give it 30 days. I was disappointed in myself for a while because I kept a diary as a child and was always faithful to writing throughout the years. After four years, I thought that I could still write in this special journal; I could go back and write from memories stirred by photographs and videos.
So here we go.
I am starting my 30 day attempt to journal about you in front of everyone in the internet world (just this once).
And I am beginning with the present day.
This month we celebrated your 4th birthday. You had a Paw Patrol themed party on Sunday the 9th and on the 11th, your actual birthday, we surprised you after daycare with pancakes for dinner and a mountain of presents piled high at your seat. What I want to remember most about this birthday was how happy and sweet you were. You were thankful and excited over every single gift--toy, clothing, game, or book. You were as equally grateful for (the most obnoxious but, yes, cool) remote control Batman transformer as you were a simple rake to go with your gardening tools. (We will see if the wheelbarrow can make an appearance by harvest time....?) You talked about your Paw Patrol party and your birthday and your wish list for at least six months prior to the actual festivities. I was slightly concerned you were going to be disappointed and bored once it was done. However you are a pure four year old delight these days. You happily play with your toys, laugh with daddy and me, and continue to make friends with everyone you meet. You are proud to be potty trained and have had swimming lessons. You are growing up, fast.
When I was your age, I remember just a few things.
We had our tv in the basement of our house, where we received the Disney channel for the first time in 1984. I remember that I couldn't wait to finish dinner to go downstairs and watch it. Now we have a TV turned on in our living room or you have an iPad at the dinner table while you eat. Your favorite things to watch include Disney/Pixar movies, a cartoon called Animal Mechanical, and other families'/children's videos on YouTube of opening and playing with toys. You can watch those YouTube videos for such. a. long. time. If we let you.
In the attic of our home, I slept in a small room with my sister. We each had a twin bed and your Grandpa Don would play his ukulele and sing sweet songs to his girls at bedtime. One of them was simply titled "Rachel and Leah." I loved the sound of his voice and the strings of the instrument while tucked safely in bed. At bedtime now, daddy and I cuddle with you in your queen size bed (Rocco, too, and all of your stuffed animals--"buddies") and we each read you a book, tell you two stories, and we sing two songs. After our routine, you request that daddy hang out with you for a little bit. I leave the two of you to giggle and talk. I am so glad that you have that time with daddy because for a while he wasn't able to tuck you in at night. It was just mommy. I do love bedtime and the cuddles and songs. We try to make you laugh--it is a very silly time. There are a lot of fart jokes. Which you love. You fall asleep hard and fast once you have all of your "buddies" tucked in and your turtle nightlight and string of star lights are twinkling.
I remember car rides when I was your age. I remember how hot the leather seats in our station wagon were in the summer. I remember how my stomach flip flopped in the same exact spot every time that we drove from Washington to Pekin to see Grandma Noni. I never knew that calling Grandma Noni was redundant. I thought her nickname for Ethel was "Noni." At Grandma Noni's house, I liked to play in the back yard and hop on stones around the garden or hide behind the garage. I observed her flowers, the sprinkler, squirrels. Inside I was not allowed to go upstairs but I could go downstairs, where the basement smelled of oil paints and canvas and my older cousin, Vicki, lived there with her closet of beautiful clothing and shelves with exotic knick-knacks. I remember playing with my Fisher Price people and Care Bears, sneaking vanilla wafers or Oreos from the cookie jar, and spinning round and round in one of Noni's living room chairs.
You haven't had a chance to build very many memories yet at the homes of your grandparents because we live in Oregon. However you do see Grandma Char a lot. She has traveled to visit us many times as well as Grandpa Jim. Grandma Mary and Grandpa Don have only come out twice but the first time was when you were born. Grandma Mary was there in the delivery room! You seem to know them all well, however, because we have done a lot of video phone calls (Facetime) with them and visits have been memorable because you don't feel like an only child while we stay in Illinois. You have Logan, Lexi, and JD to run around with. You LOVE that but you are also happy when it all goes back to you, me, and daddy back at home. Here it is your domain and you know every blade of grass, rock, and slope of the lawn. You have your gardening tools, water slide, kiddie pool, and toys--like your color-changing Hot Wheels race track or your Jake and the Neverland Pirates ship.
The only thing I remember about being four was that things were pretty simple. At age five, I can recall much more tension and change. I hope this is not the case for you. As your mama, of course, I want you to feel as excited and unbothered as long as you can. I love your innocence. It keeps me grounded and also optimistic. That is one of many, many reasons why I love you. You are incredible....
of the two of us.