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Dear Ezra: Months Fifty-two-three-four

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Dear Ezra,

On my birthday, you turned 4 1/2. You can see 5 on the horizon, kindergarten in your hazy future, but for now, you are right in the thick of 4 and enjoying it all. The emotional tumult of 3 1/2 has finally simmered down a little. You are beginning to be better at recovering from a disappointment, rolling with a change in plans, reasoning through a disagreement.

You are very interested in becoming more independent and forming relationships on your own. After a few weeks of me taking you into school every day, you noticed that some of your classmates were happily walking in on their own, and after watching a few times, you suddenly told me you were going to do that too. You noticed that some of your classmates carpool, and have been so excited the few times you’ve gotten to ride in a new car, too. And the realization that the world was not divided into playdate friends (i.e. the kids of my friends) and school friends, but that school friends could come over for playdates, was earth shattering. So excited have you been to play with school friends outside of school that I’ve had to carefully help you calm it down so you don’t overwhelm them with your puppy dog energy.

You enter every party at full tilt these days, and if you don’t know anyone, you make new friends. You have a wonderful sense of trust that if I have brought you to a place, then everyone there is your buddy. If there are kids, that’s great, if there are no kids, you make a grown up friend instead. Sometimes you take it too far — I’ve had to take you off a few laps of strangers — but mostly it is a lovely trait. You seem at home everywhere you go.

You have very specific ideas and plans about how things should be. You decided very early that you and Zella would be an elephant and zebra for Halloween because E is for Ezra and Elephant and Z is for Zella and Zebra. I mean, duh, what else could you have been. You love watching Busytown Mysteries, and for months determined that you were Huckle and Zella was Sally and I was Hilda and Dada was Lowly Worm. When we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you became Charlie Bucket. When we listened to Little House on the Prairie on CD, you became Mary and Zella was Laura. I called me and Dada “Ma and Pa,” and you reminded me that we were named “Caroline and Charles.”

And once you find your thing for the day or week or month, you are incredibly loyal to it. At the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, you could have watched the Rube Goldberg machine for hours. You slowly worked your way around the whole thing, stopping for long, careful stretches of watching. You find favorite records and listen again and again and again. You put on the same costume every day for weeks. Zella is your greatest fan, and when she sometimes seems calm and focused beyond her years, I am sure that it is because she is learning from you.

Your memory continues to amaze, and sometimes, as when you point to the exact spot on your blanket where you barfed a few nights before Thanksgiving, to disgust. On a class field trip to Didier Farms, you remembered the rides from the year before and immediately got in line for the biggest roller coasters and fastest spins. When you watch Busytown, you can tell me what episodes you want from memory, including episode number, season, and plot outline. You’ve memorized whole books, and within two days of having a few new Frog and Toad books, you can tell me which stories are in which books and in what order.

You are desperate to learn to read. All day I field questions about which letter blends make which sounds. You don’t quite have the thread of sounding out words, though. A few times we’ve tried a series of rhyming words and after I do a few (“H-O-P, hop! T-O-P, top!”) when I ask you to try, you often overcomplicate it (“P-O-P, puh, ah, puh. Puapa!”). But you are never discouraged.

If I could change one thing about you, my darling boy who I love so much, it is that, without fail, when we go on a vacation, you will not go to sleep. You are so excited, having so much fun, and you cannot shut your brain down, and then it’s midnight in Indianapolis and I want to burn down the hotel. I love how easily you jump into the fun of new places, new faces, new friends, new swimming pools. I just want you to learn that the fun is always still there in the morning, and that you and your poor parents both need some rest.

Your ideal day at 4 1/2 seems to be wearing shorts in the house, piling all the couch cushions into a lopsided pile and then jumping on it, seeing some friends, playing crazy 60s folk records on the record player, bingeing on Dinosaur Train, and trying on your new tap shoes.

And then doing it all again tomorrow.

Can’t wait.
Love and hugs,
Mama (AKA Caroline, Mrs. Pteranadon, Hilda the Hippo)

Posted by sarah on 19 Nov 2012

Dear Zella: Month Twenty-one

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  • Commenters cousin caroline

Dear Zella,

OK. That’s your word this month. Pronounced “ho-kay” with a little catch in the middle that makes it sound as if you are taking a moment to resign yourself to whatever crazy plot your father/mother/brother is suggesting. We often find ourselves acquiescing to your crazy plots: pretending to be sleepy (“cheepy”) over and over again, playing peek-a-boo, or singing your new favorite songs to you over and over again. “Mo’ Kana-o-kana,” you demand, thrusting the Hanukah book that came in the mail a few weeks ago into my face.

Posted by sarah on 18 Oct 2012

Dear Zella: Month Twenty

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Dear Zella,

In the middle of this month, you were suddenly the same age that Ezra was when you were born. I keep repeating that fact, saying it in different ways (Ezra is exactly twice your age), and it still seems totally improbable. We keep trying to figure out if you seem older or younger than Ezra seemed at this age. You’re so much smaller, but you talk so much more. You don’t have to adjust to a new baby, but you do have to hold your own against your big brother.

Posted by sarah on 7 Oct 2012

Dear Ezra: Month Thirty-nine

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Dear Ezra,

This month (which is now last month, since this letter is grievously late), you started a new preschool. Last year you went to a program at Nana and Papa’s synagogue in Evanston, and you adored it. I was anxious about moving you, but we got into a preschool in our neighborhood, and it is closer and cheaper and more convenient in all sorts of important-to-mommy ways, so I decided to try it. When I dropped by the school to pick up your paperwork, you and Zella waltzed in like it was a friend’s house and just started playing. You found a cash register and a giant truck and some fish and a puzzle and learned your new teacher’s name, Miss Laura.

Posted by sarah on 21 Sep 2012

Dear Zella: Month Nineteen

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Dear Zella,

At 19 months, you are full of opinions. You now say yes and no in answer to questions, and it is intensely cute to quiz you: Do you want an apple? No. Some cheese? No. An avocado? Yeeeaaah! This month you know which shoes you want and when you want them, and the rules are byzantine and constantly changing. You have opinions about which clothes to wear, which seat you want to sit in, what book you want to read, what spoon you want to use. When you have an extremely important opinion to share, you do it by putting our faces together, eye to eye, nose to nose, and saying “yeah,” while nodding seriously and blinking meaningfully.

Posted by sarah on 5 Sep 2012

Dear Ezra: Month Thirty-eight

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Dear Ezra,

This month I have loved watching your understanding of time evolve. You have started to repeat time cues I’ve given you, telling me, “we’re going to do that at 4,” or “Mia is coming at 8.” You don’t have any idea what that means, but it sounds so official. For you, everything that actually happened, or that you wish had happened in the past happened “last night.” Last night you might have seen your babysitter or your best friend or eaten pizza or gone fishing. You might have been at a swimming pool or at the beach or on a bike. Things you remember from a year ago and things we actually did this morning seem equal to you, all possible all the time. This seems like an immensely satisfying way to see the world.

Posted by sarah on 17 Aug 2012

Dear Zella: Month Eighteen

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Dear Zella,

For months and months, I’ve been putting you to bed. We would go in to the room you share with Ezra, just the two of us, and nurse a little, maybe read a book, sing a song, and into the crib you would go. A little while later, Sandy would bring in Ezra for his book and song from the iPhone, and you would barely even notice, either staying asleep or gazing quietly in our direction. This month, you let us know that you are done with baby bedtime. Nursing before bed is for suckers. You would like the fun times with the lights and the music and the brother and the giant bed, please, thank you.

“@JenniferBrandel @santheo Aw, thanks. I think my sister's cuter, though.”

Tweeted by ezra on 10 Aug

“Hey look at that, my mug's on the @WBEZCuriousCity http://t.co/NDCZULWx (keep clicking the left arrow).”

Tweeted by ezra on 10 Aug

Posted by sarah on 31 Jul 2012

Dear Ezra: Month Thirty-seven

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Dear Ezra,

This month was all about stories for you. Suddenly you were interested in all the classic tales, as if some developmental pin just dropped, causing you to want books about threes (pigs, billy goats, bears) with repetitive phrases and a clear beginning, middle, and end. Panicked by my inability to remember the plot to the Three Little Pigs, I found a kind children’s librarian who showed me the whole aisle of folk tales, so now I know where to go for your next pile of storybooks.

Posted by sarah on 19 Jul 2012

Dear Zella: Month Seventeen

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Dear Zella,

You can talk. Suddenly this month, your vocabulary has expanded from a series of “ma” and “ba” syllables to a pretty large set of clear words. I mean, they’re clear to me, in context, if I’m looking exactly where you’re looking, and I’m really lucky. These words include mommy, daddy, hi, bye, nose, nurse, ears, knees, toes, blueberries, baby, more, milk, up, book, ball, shoes, ice (as in cream), and beer. Yes, beer. Your dad lets you stick your finger in his, and you adore it. Your first sentence, we hereby admit, was “more beer.”

Posted by sandor on 5 Jul 2012

Dear Ezra: Month Thirty-six

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  • Commenters Nana Adrienne, cousin caroline

Dear Ezra-

I understand you have turned three. I find this difficult to believe. If you’re three, that means I’ve been a parent for three years, and that certainly can’t be true. Who would let that happen? In any case, congrats to you, and to Mom and I, on making it this far.

“Who loves Totoro and spaceships and trains and just turned three? THIS GUY. http://t.co/gdKVmSJy”

Tweeted by ezra on 20 Jun