"time for your check-up!" "stop singing that, mommy. you're not doc mcstuffins. you're mommy."

This past week has been our Doctor Week. Every day, another appointment. Mine have been of the post-loss variety and have been typically stressing me out. I've been looking forward to Ethan's visits, a nice break from the stress and sadness. Time to reflect on how healthy he is and how much he's thriving. Ethan was pretty stoked for his check-ups -- physical from his pediatrician and his first dental cleaning -- until we were in the car on the way to them. That's when his tune changed and he'd peep a little "I'm a little nervous, mommy" from the backseat that eventually morphed into full-throttle screaming. Age three has already turned my mild-mannered, quiet, sweet-as-sugar little darling into a screaming, yelling, shrieking toddler tornado. Age two was a testament to his sweetness but three? Oh boy, I think I go to sleep with my ears ringing from the screaming. Typically pulling him onto my lap and rocking him while breaking out in song can calm him down but, really, there's only so much of that I can do while driving a car.

Ethan's three year check up had been the first time we'd seen his pediatrician since we lost Wylie. Our pediatric office has three doctors and all are absolutely wonderful, so we're never picky with who we see on a sick visit when we don't really get the flexibility to stick with our main doctor. I like our well-visits because it's a time for us to catch up with our amazing pediatrician. Ethan was excited about this, too, all morning, even drawing a picture of his doctor listening to his heart with a stethoscope. Once we stood in front of the office doors, it all sort of morphed into a screaming fit before I could even do damage control. My sweet friend Nicole (who runs The Striped Fig clothing for kids -- check it out!) was Ethan's nurse for the day and, boy, did he make it clear he wanted nothing to do with his check-up. Actually, the last couple of times Nicole has been our nurse, Ethan has turned himself into a red-faced, hoarse-from-screaming tantrum-thrower. Sorry, Nicole. Despite rolling on the floor, pretending he can't stand upright and screaming as we tried to weigh and measure him, Ethan eventually calmed down once his doctor entered the room and engaged him in conversation about trains. Actually, she had asked him if he was reading a book about Thomas and he matter-of-factly corrected her that it was not about a Thomas train, but a different one (it was The Little Engine That Could). That's the other thing about age three: the know-it-all condescension. Which, I'm not going to lie, I totally love. Ethan has overnight turned into some mildly cranky old man and I think I will be sad when this phase ends. (The "MOMMMM-MAAAAAAY" screams, however, not so much.)

Ethan checked out beautifully on his physical and without me having to ask, our wonderful pediatrician ensured me that his heart was fantastic and flawless. It was something I worried about, even going as far as to wonder if his drawing of the pediatrician listening to his heart was some kind of eerie premonition. Being a super neurotic person by nature is even worse once you experience a loss like ours. I now worry about everything about fifty times more intensely than I did before, when I already worried about everything to begin with. I resorted to bribery to get Ethan to simmer down at his check-up (I know, for shame) and told him he could pick any fun activity he'd like if he would just let the doctor examine him. He ended up picking Chuck E. Cheese. Cringe.

The day prior to his check-up, my sister had convinced me to take the two of them to Chuck E. Cheese and despite dousing them in OnGuard, I couldn't stop picturing all of the germs festering on them with each game they touched or breath they breathed. Still, Ethan had an absolute blast playing games and seeing "Chuck E. Cheese the mouse, mommy. He's a mouse." After his check-up, we made our way back to Chuck E. Cheese where Ethan spent $5 on tokens that earned him enough tickets to pick out his very own plastic spider ring. We gave a hug to Chuck E. Cheese himself, had a mini-pizza and retreated back home where he could rave about how much fun Chuck E. Cheese is endlessly until bedtime.

We closed out Doctor Week with Ethan's first dental cleaning. I was spoiled growing up, always having the perfect teeth. The ones that never had cavities, were spaced just perfectly, never needed braces or much at all. Of course, once most of my adult teeth came in I flipped off a hammock and knocked pieces of them all out, and my mom's depressing retelling of that story has probably added to my neurosis about Ethan's teeth. That, and the fact that my husband needed a whole lot of dental work for his big teeth in his crowded, tiny mouth. I'm no dentist, but it was pretty easy for me to tell that Ethan inherited his big teeth and tiny, crowded mouth. Of course, the actual dentist confirmed that braces would one day be in Ethan's future, but also that I was doing a great job with his brushing and flossing and his teeth looked great. It was validation of sorts because I knew I was solely responsible for the care of Ethan's teeth and would probably beat myself up for months if the dentist had anything constructive to say.

Still, we left the dentist with Ethan's goodie bag of a new toothbrush, toothpaste sample and a sticker of a Golden Retriever.

Then he conned me into a trip to the science museum.

It's as if his check-ups seal the deal that he is officially three. And something about age three seems so big. I'm sure I said that about age one and age two as well. I'm sure I'll be saying it every year until he's eighteen. Heck, I'll probably be saying it way past then. Ethan has always been my little buddy, my partner to spend the days with, but lately he's an actual tiny companion. He never stops talking, wondering, asking, imagining. It's like he's become an actual little person, one who cares for me as much as I care for him. "Make sure you take a breather, mommy," he reminds me before I set out for my exercise class without even raising his eyes from his breakfast.

Three so far sort of seems like the crossover from toddlerhood to childhood.

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