*I know you will never believe me, my little one, and that's okay--but I really did write this in June. The thing about you, Ben, is that words are so utterly inadequate in capturing just how much joy you bring to our family and how sweet and dear and perfect you are. And so I've sat with this as a "draft" for months, trying to find some way to do your sweet little self justice. And then today I realized you are 16 months, and if I don't accept the "best I can" explanation of the joy that is you, you will grow up and it won't be documented at all. So here is my best, but please know you are so much more than I can ever express or explain.*
You turned one this summer, but I can't believe we ever lived without you and your beautiful smile. You are our sunshine!! You bring so much happiness and joy to our family, filling our home with your sparkly eyes, contagious laugh and good nature. You forgive quickly, laugh easily, wake up happy, fall asleep without a fuss, and you make everyone feel special.
Everyone (including you) was sick on June 9, so a week later we had a proper party complete with a little cake just for you. You loved it, and you dug in without hesitation with your beautiful, perfect, chubby hands.
This spring and summer were full of milestones for you. You took your first step on May 29, and now you're running across the park and climbing up the slide backwards trying to keep up with Jon. You have four top teeth and three bottom. Your first word was "Mama" followed closely by "go," and now you've added a few more: "Dada," "baba" (bottle and pacifier), "Nay Nay," "Boba" (Vova), "Buh" (book), and "Doddie" (doggie). "Woof woof" is another word you use for dog.
You've also embraced sign language, much to the relief of everyone who loves you and just wants to give you whatever you want! You sign milk, cracker, eat, book, thank you, more, ball, dog, bird, frog, bear, mom, dad, airplane, baby, drink, juice (for the breakfast smoothies you love), wash hands, and please. You also nod for "yes," and shake your head for "no," which aren't true ASL but they get the message across loud and clear! You revel in your recently-discovered ability to communicate and have some say in what happens to you.
You absolutely and whole-heartedly adore your big brother in the most devoted way imaginable. You are crushed when he goes upstairs to bed without you. You run circles around our living room together, and it's always unclear who is chasing who as you both laugh and giggle until you fall over. Then you wrestle, which makes your mom and dad cringe, but you both laugh and smile as you roll around on the floor so we hold our breath and let you bond until someone cries. You fly your airplanes together, hold hands in the car, and make silly noises with your mouths at each other. Jon is your devoted protector, not letting anyone push you down or whack you (except for him, of course), and studying very suspiciously any adult admirer that comes your way. Jon reads to you and youlook up at him as he does with the sweetest expression of pure love. He loves to feed his treats to you, and you prefer to sit under his chair at the table during snack time waiting for him to drop something for you--even though there is food waiting for you on your highchair tray! You chase Jon on the playground, and snuggle up when you share a bed in hotels. I absolutely love watching you love each other.
You love, love, love animals. You woof like a dog, growl like a tiger, and happily sing along to "E-I-E-I-O" with anyone you can persuade to sing it. You stand on the driveway, signing dog and woofing, hoping that our neighbor's dog will come out and bark at you. And anytime you see a dog, at a park or a restaurant or walking past our house, you will follow it with laser-like focus until I intervene... stopping you from following it into the street or out of the park. You love your stuffed animals almost as much as real animals. If one of us hands you a stuffy, you promptly bring it up to your shoulder and give it a squeeze and a snuggle on your cheek. Your most-beloved stuffies include "Lamby" (a little stuffed black lamb from the UK), "Doggie" (a little bulldog that Jon had but never cared about), "Bird" (a penguin Nay Nay bought for you at the zoo), "Tigey" (a little blue tiger), "Ben Bear" (a little gray bear), and "Monkey."
You are easy-going. You ride in the car without a fuss, you contentedly ride in the cart at the stored, you play by yourself easily, and all you need to fall asleep is a quick cuddle. On more than one occasion I've walked into the family room after doing the dishes and found you laying down on one of your stuffies on the floor, fast asleep. You happily play in the bath, putting your face in the water then coming back up laughing. You were perfectly content and happy even when we drug you and Jon all over the UK: 9-hour flights, 4-hour car rides, a new hotel almost every night, full-days of walking with you strapped to dad and me... and you practically spent the whole trip smiling!
Little Ben meets Big Ben
The only thing you are not easy-going about is diaper changes, because you are a go-er. You can't stand to hold still for that long when there is fun to be had and you love to escape mid-change for a breezy run down the hall naked any chance you get. You love to go, and explore, and play, and run, and slide, and roll--all the while smiling, laughing, and cooing. You love new textures, new people, new experiences, and even new foods.
Grass or sand won't slow you down--you love to explore everything!
You are so good. People continue to comment that you have a "goodness," a "gentleness," or a "peacefulness" about you that is just there. People who know you, or people you just watch you at a restaurant or a store--everyone is struck by your good, good soul. It is so hard to explain, but you just radiate goodness and wholesomeness in a way I have never seen in a person before.
Your kisses heal my soul.
You complete our family in a way that is hard to describe with words. You bring us balance, laughter, joy, and peace, yes... but it's something more than that--you bring us a goodness and contentment that we had no idea we were missing. You bring me, personally, a level of joy I simply cannot ascribe words to. Let's just say that Jon, Daddy, an I absolutely and completely adore you!
Thank you, thank you, Ben, for coming to our family. Happy Birthday!