Through the Muck

Dear Cruz, 

It's been awhile since I've written you a letter.  I'm just one half day away from summer break, on the brink of my final day as a teacher at Price Lab School.  My car is packed with boxes of office supplies, and I just took the last of my pictures of you off my bulletin board.  They were my favorite pictures from last summer break, pictures of my tan chubby boy in his Captain America one-piece, sitting with your toes in the grass at Pipac Lake, or swinging at the park against a backdrop of bright blue sky.  I always made sure to fill my office with great memories from the preceding summer break, I guess as a sort of reassurance during the tough days.  See, teaching comes with its fair share of challenges, and the pick-me-up of summer break is an always present motivator when the days get long and the stacks of papers get high.  

This summer break is perhaps sweeter than ever before.  It's been a rough semester for all of us, even though I've done my very best to cultivate a sense of normal at home.  It's hard enough being a working mama, but when you add the stress I've encountered this semester, there were times when it's been hard to forget about it at night and focus on my most important job --- raising and loving you.  I've always prided myself in being able to handle my fair share of muck - to keep things together and hold down the fort, even when life gets a bit more hectic than usual.  This semester, however, I began to feel like I was losing my footing and forgetting how to manage it all.  But, thanks to the help of one amazing daddy, and one amazing little boy, we trudged through the muck and came out on the other side --- battle wounds and all.

Today, I've made it to the top of this crazy hill.  I'm standing here, looking down at the steep climb I've managed to conquer this semester, amazed at how tall and rough it was.  And although I'm still a little skinned up and scathed from the terrain, the wounds won't last long.  While I'm not sure what the next climb will entail, for the time being, I'm going to enjoy this beautiful landscape in front of me --- just me, you, your dad, and three months of summer bliss.

I am so excited to spend this summer break at home with you.  This stage you are in, almost 20 months old, is absolutely one of my favorites.  You are this miniature person, along for the ride and excited about everything we do.  Little people are truly the most amazing gift, as they become constant reminders for us big people about how to live, how to love, and how to find joy and excitement in the simple blessings and pleasures of this life.

I watch you and am immediately happy.  I hold you and am immediately comforted.  I talk to you and immediately feel like all is right in the world. As you figure out more about the world around you, I stand amazed at how blessed I am to be part of that world.
A few things I love about you...

---the way you can completely decipher between what you want and what you don't want.  Your soft little hummingbird 'no,' and your absolute, without-a-doubt 'yea' are so cute, that I find myself asking you questions even when I already know the answer.

---your current phrase of choice - 'oh man!'  I'm not exactly sure where you picked up the southern accent that goes with it, but it only adds to the hilarity of the phrase.

---your snuggles, and the way you still tuck your arms in when we hold you against our chest.

---your fearlessness in the water.  You'll dive right in, and rub the water out of your eyes with your two little fists.  You are a little fish and oh so brave.

---the way you run.  It looks so clumsy, yet, you rarely fall.  Your face has such a look of determination on it, and your feet go a mile a minute.

---your animal sounds.  Your lion 'roar' is my favorite, and your little kitty 'meow' is precious.  

---the way you giggle when I give you piggy back rides.  You discovered a love of piggy back rides last week, and think it's hilarious to run through the house and dive bomb our bed.  That giggle of yours is one of the best sounds in the entire world.  

---your newest made-up word - 'applegate.'  It's plain as day, although we haven't the slightest clue what you mean to say. 

---the way you look in a backwards baseball cap...cute like daddy.

---the excitement in your voice when you yell 'hi' to someone, and flutter your little hand above your head.  Whether it's the daycare girls at the end of the day, the check-out lady at Hy-Vee, or a random passerby at the mall, you are quite the little greeter.  I think you could get a job at Wal-Mart. 

Thank you for being a trooper this semester, little one.  I can't wait for the summer of fun that awaits us.  For afternoons at the pool and s'mores by the campfire, ice cream cones with sprinkles, driveways full of sidewalk chalk, and sand castles on the beach. 

It's going to be a good one, baby.

Love you forever...

Your mama