Little ballet shoes twirling through the living room.
The dreams we have for this little one twirls with the shoes. A blonde head charging down the football field like his dad or racing on a track like his mom suddenly turns and twirls towards a stage with a red curtain rising.
Two boys with a girl sandwiched in the middle means blue and pink toys filling our house. Dolls and action figures, trucks and play makeup. Most often, in the state of normal chaos, these toys are mixed together in bins and baskets, mingled among a million gender non-specific toys or random items that are not toys at all.
I find myself in a different place with my second son than I did my first. Nine years ago I bought blues and trucks and action figures, never considering the pink things sitting on store shelves. I encouraged soccer and lacrosse and then baseball and football as he got older and his natural athleticism became more apparent.
But now this second boy has a choice of toys with assorted colors and themes. And while nine years ago I would have likely encouraged my first with “that’s a boy toy” or “well, that’s for girls,” I find myself in a different place this time around. Not just because of birth order or gender but also because we live in world with much more awareness now than we did even nine years ago. And setting our children up to live in the world of the future means purposefully making a choice on how we present things now.
Right now it's about pink or blue; but it's also about color not mattering. Right now it's about playing with barbies or playing with trucks; but it's also about my daughter having the same options as her brothers. Right now it's just about wanting to dance or play soccer; but it's also about being comfortable in their own skin and standing up for the right of all humans to be comfortable in their own skin.
So in this world of social media that quickly spreads the reality of a world where racism and hate still live, where a #metoo movement is necessary, where being transgender means not being welcomed to use a public restroom, I can only hope these little minds we are raising will be part of the key to change.
So I stop myself from telling him he can't wear that because he's a boy. I correct my daughter when she comments that girls can't play that. I explain it to my oldest when he asks how a boy can marry a boy.
And I buy the tiny ballet shoes for the little blonde-haired boy.
On Friday, my baby walked down the familiar steps of his beloved Ms. T, yelling behind him, “bye bye Ms. T!”
A split second of time that brought my heart to my throat.
He and his sister have been under the weekly care of Ms. T since each was four-months old. Now almost three and his sister over four, it seems like a lifetime of making that walk across our two yards.
I guess it is a lifetime…their lifetimes.
I first made that walk four years ago, with my little baby girl cradled in my arms. Sixteen months later that walk often meant carrying a bag of diapers and pumped milk, with my little girl in one arm and tiny infant boy in the other. Over the past four years, Ms. T has seen my children during the weekdays more than their father and I have. She has loved them, nurtured them, taught them, potty-trained them, disciplined them, fed them, hugged them, kissed their boo boos, and simply adored them from 7am to 5pm almost every single day.
And let’s not forget the fact that she most definitely saved my daughter’s life.
There is a lot of change happening for my little family right now. And change, although sometimes necessary, can be hard.
For the first time since either him or his sister existed, I am taking the summer off. And while I doubt either will complain about Mama being home for a few months, they will both be starting a Pre-K daycare program at a local church in the fall. My daughter will be in kindergarten the following year, so this is a necessary move for her. Being as life right now is all about trying to make things as easy as possible in a world of difficult, we decided it was best to move her little brother as well.
My sweet boy did not understand that Friday was the last time that his normal would be "the normal". I had to fight back tears listening to his squeaky voice yell goodbye to one of the few people outside of his father and I who he trusts without reserve.
I wasn’t sad because we will miss our Ms. T. Of course we will miss her; but she’s also our next door neighbor and we have seen her no less than five times since that moment on Friday.
As my 25 pound, messy blonde-haired boy tripped down those stairs, I had a vision of the future. For a split second, I could see that little boy grown and walking across of the stage of a high school graduation. I could see myself in the stands, tears likely streaming down my face. For a split second, I had a glimpse of the future and the moment that I would think of the past; a flashback to now. A flashback to when I watched my baby walk down the stairs of his Ms. T, blissfully unaware of how life constantly throws you changes and how he was about to face the first big one of his little life.
To all my friends who are experiencing those flashbacks in real time during this season of change- I see you. I see you and your pride and your love. I see your heartache. I see you look at the amazing adults your sons and daughters have become, while still seeing that baby you once carried in your arms.
I see you; because in a few years that will pass by like minutes, I will be in your spot and I know you will see me too.
Our Ms. T with my girl and her best bud, who has also been lucky enough to be under Ms. T's care.
I mean, come on guys- who else lets two silly little girls paint their face like this?!
Shared with permission from best bud's Mama, of course=)
My husband is pretty amazing.
He puts on his muddy shoes in the middle of the living room and leaves a path of dirt to the front door. He throws his dirty clothes on the floor next to the hamper and leaves his dirty plates in the sink next to the dishwasher. His shaving habits always seem to take place in the five minutes after I've cleaned the bathroom and unless I ask him specifically to do laundry, he can walk past an overflowing hamper without a second glance. He burps at dinner and can clear a room with his farts- even the toddler who is still in diapers will exit with exclamations of how "dada stinks."
In conclusion, he is pretty much like 95% of the male species. So ladies, if your guy doesn't fall into that description in some way-know you've snagged a rare and mystical beast.
But despite the fact that if I keeled over tomorrow, my husband would likely live in a house of filth, dirty dishes and unwashed clothing; he is pretty amazing.
Let me tell you why.
My husband makes me laugh. And not just a chuckle- I'm talking about the kind of laughter that brings tears to my eyes. And while it's not always intentional on his part, he doesn't seem to mind if I'm laughing with him or at him. In fact, in the moments when I can't speak or catch my breath, he will start laughing too. And there is something to be said about a guy who is okay being the butt of an unknown joke, if it means making his wife laugh.
My husband tells our daughter that she is his number one. He tells her this straight up in those words... but he also shows her in how he treats her, how he speaks to her, how he guides her. He takes her out on "dates" and makes her belly laugh. Of course he's amazing with our boys; but there is something about the relationship he is continuously trying to foster with our daughter that melts my heart. I will always be okay with being his number two if it means she is his number one.
My husband passes out when someone talks about his loved ones being hurt. This isn't a metaphor-I really mean he passes the f*%$ out. When I was pregnant with my daughter, we had to go to a high risk doctor to talk about some risk factors that were caught in the 20 week ultrasound. When the doctor started describing the process of an amniocentesis to test for genetic conditions, my husband grabbed my arm in a vice grip and then PASSED THE F*%$ OUT.
When he got his head elbowed open at basketball, blood dripping down his face, he was just fine. When he dislocated his ankle at baseball and then popped it back in place, he was just fine. He passed out at the doctor's because it was his wife the doctor was talking about sticking in the belly with a needle. And while there was really nothing cool about awkwardly holding up my passed out husband while half naked and with ultrasound goo all over me, there is something strangely endearing about the fact that his body shuts down at the thought of me (or our kids) being hurt.
My husband is a team player. Maybe this is because he's an athlete and grew up playing sports. Maybe it's just because he's a good guy-I don't know. What I do know is that when his stepson suddenly expressed extreme anxiety about something, he was on board with the change that would help ease that anxiety; even when it meant a significantly longer and more frustrating commute for him. He was not only supportive of a change that meant more chaos for him; he was also instantly spitting out ideas to help make that change easier for my son.
He is always focused on what is best for our kids and doesn't dwell on the sacrifices he has to make to support them; even when those sacrifices are solely a product of the selfishness of other players. I know that he does this just as much to support me as to support our kids. What I'm saying is: my husband is a team player, even when his teammates are not.
So I may complain about him at times. I may sometimes curse him out in my head while wondering why I feel like I have four children instead of three. He is messy. He is sometimes stinky. He definitely doesn't share in my need to always be moving or checking off items from the list of things to do.
But my husband is pretty amazing.
I love a great photo. Beautiful children in matching clothes. A perfectly poised living room. Delicious, healthy, colorful meals cooked for the family. Being an artist, I appreciate a well taken photo. I also love taking them- when the light hits something just right and the kids are being cooperative.
The problem with social media is that it can often misrepresent real life. We post a picture of one quick moment and it hangs out there forever. It's so easy to look at someone else's moment and misunderstand what real life looks for them. It's easy to assume that this parenting thing is so much easier for someone else when reality is that the one moment of perfection captured in a picture was literally the ONLY moment of perfection the entire day... week... or even month.
So let me give you a little taste of my real life...
Dinner. Never peaceful. Usually at least one child is crying, usually we don't really know why. It's loud and messy, much like a school cafeteria. There is usually fighting. In this moment only two of three kids was crying, so that was a win.
My house. I'm a clean-freak, perhaps even a bit OCD about it (at least if you ask my husband). This does not go well with having children who enjoy dumping all of the toy bins onto the floor more than they actually like playing with the toys.
I wish I could say "Mommy is going to run on the treadmill" and it would be that simple. Alas, it is not. It is instead a side stitch 5 minutes in from answering 437 questions about how long I have left, mid-stride lunges to push little bodies away from the belt, and little eyes staring at me the ENTIRE TIME.
Now, I really do love braiding my girl's hair and the feeling must be mutual because Ms. Wiggly Worm has always been cooperative about it. This combination of patience can make for some really cute styles... but please know that any pictures that have been posted of her super cute hairdos were snapped mere seconds after completion. Girlfriend plays HARD and even the tightest of braids don't stand a chance against this little tornado.
And apparently, this is a genetic condition.
Potty training. You'd think it would be easier the third time around. I bought my baby some pretty awesome Paw Patrol undies, hoping he'd be motivated to wear them. Instead, he's just been piling them onto this play trolley and wheeling them around the house. Oh, and one time he put a pair on his head... so there's that.
If I had the time to snap a picture during all moments of our day, 99 percent of them would look like these. Just like what I suspect is true for most of us that post on social media, my life is just as much a mess as the next; and if you need any further proof just head on over my bio page and take a look at our most recent family photo attempt.
It. Is. Awesome.
Earlier this week, I had to go into downtown Annapolis for an appointment. When I got there, the office was not yet opened so I stood outside of the door and waited in the winter sunshine.
A man spotted me from across the street and called out, crossing the street in the middle of cars. He walked with a slight limp, had very few teeth and was carrying a paper bag molded to the shape of a bottle. In broken speech he asked me how I was doing. I politely answered; not exactly comfortable but trying to remind myself that having not done anything but ask me how I was doing, he deserved a respectful answer to the question.
Maybe it would have been better to be curt or dismissive... because he appeared to suddenly believed that he knew me and inched closer and closer as he attempted to guess my name. Several guesses in, the owner of the office I was waiting for arrived and quickly opened the door for me. I politely said goodbye and closed the door, ignoring the fact that he attempted to stick his hand in the door as it closed.
An hour and a half later, I walked out that door and headed towards my car, which was parked in a garage several blocks away. I looked up to see the same man ahead, with his back to me. Slowing down, I watched as he turned left and crossed the street. I breathed a sigh of relief as I crossed straight and went on my way.
Suddenly, he was behind me again... he must have seen me, crossed back over the street and was now following me, waving his arms and calling, “Hey! You!”
I walked a little faster, refusing to turn around or acknowledge him. He continued to shout and follow me. I came to a parking garage a block before mine. When I glanced in and saw the figure of a person standing in the attendance booth, I dodged into the lot and approached the booth. The man followed me in, still shouting.
The woman in the booth did not see me but she saw him. She busted out of the booth, yelling to him that he needed to stay out. I got the impression that it was not her first encounter with the guy. He seemed to think about it for a minute, then turned and left. I quietly called out to the attendant and explained that he had been following me, that I was sorry but I didn’t know what else to do.
Initially startled to see me standing behind her, she quickly smiled at me and said, “oh honey, it’s no problem. I’ve seen him before and you can never be too safe. Here, let me just walk you to your car to be sure.”
And that, my friends, is exactly what she did. She left her post during her work day, walked me another block to my garage, down four flights of stairs and across the garage to my car.
As we walked, we talked about how we want to give people the benefit of the doubt but unfortunately it doesn't always seem safe to do so. I told her I had little kids and she said “oh honey, you can’t take your chances. Better safe than sorry.” When we got to my car I asked for her name and if I could give her a hug. As we embraced, I thanked her and she smiled at me and left.
Her name is Ceil. The garage she works at is owned by Loughlin Management Group and she has been an employee there for 32 years. I know this because I called them and spoke to the owner of the Annapolis branch.
Calling her boss still doesn’t seem like quite enough. Perhaps it seemed small to her, but it was no where near small to me. She didn’t NEED to help me. She didn’t NEED to drop what she was doing to ensure that this semi-paranoid mama felt safe. Yet she did- without hesitation.
My kids may get great grades, they may become awesome athletes, earn scholarships to the best schools and eventually have jobs that make them lots of money.
I will always be proud of them for any accomplishments they achieve, big or small. But to watch them grow into adults who will willingly and selflessly help a stranger- now that is what will make me feel like we did a decent job with this parenting gig.
Thank you, Ceil from Loughlin Management Group. Thank you.
16 months, 10 days and some odd hours and minutes.
That's how far apart my youngest babies came out of my womb.
When my son turned 16 months, I was shocked to think about my daughter having been so little when he was born. Yet looking back at pictures, she was... a baby holding her baby brother.
We didn't plan for only 16 months. We both wanted three, but I hadn't thought to myself, "boy would it be awesome to breastfeed for three years," or "I'd love to just not sleep again... ever."
But it happened like that- guess we weren't really not planning for 16 months either, since we are grown-ass adults and surely know what birth control is at this point.
People keep saying that someday we are going to love them being so close in age.
Ahh, they are going to be best friends!
It will be like having a live-in playmate!
Having a sister only 20 months younger than me, I know there is truth in these well-meaning words. Of course my sister and I are close, especially since we jointly had six kids in six years. But I'd bet that my mom would have lots to share about how great that went 36 years ago.
Truth is, I feel like I'm losing my mind most of the time. The constant bickering between two highly emotional toddlers. One always wanting the other's toy. Someone always upset about what the other gets to do or doesn't have to do. Always a competition about who gets to sit closest to Mama, who gets to go to the store with Mama, who gets to have their teeth brushed, who gets dressed, who gets their butt wiped by Mama.
And the never ending tattling and telling... I mean, I'm pretty sure that at this point they simply enjoy getting each other in trouble.
The only time they seem to be on the same page is when they are both starving and absolutely cannot wait for one more second. Or when one of them sleeps in but the other is up at the crack of dawn. Or when their bathrooming business is in sync down to the minute. And of course there is the tag team effort to destroy the entire house in .024 seconds.
I know it'll get easier. I can see that in the sweet (if not quick) moments of cooperative play. I can see it in the giggles when they are laughing at something together, rather than at each other. I can see it in the hugs and kisses I sometimes catch them giving. I could see it tonight when my daughter called her brother into her room, telling me he's her "buddy."
But damn... it sure is exhausting right now.
My line of work can sometimes present a dilemma as a parent. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one, as I've had the conversation many times with my colleagues-how easy it is to think about the reasons behind behaviors from 8:30 to 4:30; yet how difficult that becomes when we arrive home to our own children. It is SO HARD!
Years of experience, education, research, and reading has lent itself to a mindset of always thinking about the "purpose" behind behaviors. It's understanding the purpose that can lend itself to supports and interventions to help change behaviors that are disruptive or unsafe.
But good lord is that hard to do at home.
It is so difficult to step back from the difficult, loud, time-consuming and sometimes just plain annoying behaviors of our own offspring for long enough to think about the purpose. What comes easily at work is absolutely the opposite of easy at home.
What is easy at home is to get swept up in how inconvenient and frustrating a behavior is. It's easy to react, to overreact or to engage in any desperate attempt to just MAKE IT STOP. I cannot tell you how many times I've been in the throes of dealing with a tantrum and have thought to myself, "I do this for a living... how the hell do I feel like I know NOTHING?!"
I started working on an article with Sumitha from A Fine Parent quite some time ago. Her website/blog is simply amazing- the articles are detailed and research based (my kinda thing); yet reader friendly and relatable. The writing not only focuses on helping the reader think about parenting in a different way, but provides action plans that can actually be carried out in our millions of tough, real life parenting situations.
I'm thankful that Sumitha took a chance on my writing and this little idea I had to turn my "work mode" mind into something that can perhaps be helpful to parents.
Without further ado, please take a peak at How to Alter Your Child's "Problem" Behaviors Like a Specialist.
...and make no mistake-it is also a much needed reminder to this Mama!
Please check out all the other writing on A Fine Parent- there are others far better than mine! This article about how to stop judging other parents was particularly impactful. Cause, be honest- we all do it!
I’ve done this drive a million times.
It can be slow and painful, my vision filled with the red blur of brake lights.
This morning it was quick and calm, the road empty and open.
Sometimes it is dark, the sun asleep and the world lit by the moon or nothing at all.
This morning the sun had just risen, the cold wind making the trees dance and my car swerve.
Sometimes there is a brunette or blonde head in my rear view mirror, nonstop chatter and giggles.
This morning I’m solo, only Christmas music in my ear.
Often this ride leaves me anxious, butterflies in my stomach at the thought of having to say goodbye.
This morning the butterflies came in the form of excitement; anticipation of the surprise on faces as Santa lives on.
The drive. The drive. The drive.
Many families wake up to presents, half eaten cookies and coffee in pajamas.
We do too. But first we gotta do that drive.
To all my fellow coparents and blended families out there- know I'm with you on that drive.
Right there with you.
Much love and Merry Christmas!
Let me tell you about my day.
Have you ever gotten into bed at night and wondered if it was possible to have a do-over? Like that movie with Adam Sandler where he can use his TV remote to rewind or fast forward parts of his day- what's it called? Oh yeah, Click.
I wish I had that remote today.
It started mundane enough. The normal, stubborn toddler who doesn't want to put a shirt on, wants mom to carry him everywhere and oh yeah, doesn't want to wear that coat either. The usual 8-year-old who can run a football field at lightening speed, but is as slow as a sloth eating molasses while sitting on a turtle in the mornings. And the cute pig-tailed girl whose first tattoo will likely be "looks can be deceiving."
Let's not even go into detail about the fact that I don't have before school care for my son right now (long story), or the ridiculous commute and traffic we sit in to get him to school (even longer story), or the fact that work lately has consisted of days that feel like they last forever, yet still end with a "to do" list that is longer than when the day started.
Let's just fast forward to the moment I got a text that surprise, my son has basketball evaluations this evening. At his school. Which, as previously mentioned, is a ridiculous commute with horrible traffic. Which meant that the only solution was to rely on his dad to get him there, cut my one night to go to the gym down to a workout that pretty much consisted of walking into the gym and then walking back out, rush to get home, rush to grab basketball shoes, rush to get above mentioned cute pig-tailed girl buckled in behind me, rush to grab a super healthy happy meal and lemonade and rush to... sit in traffic.
And then let's fast forward to the exact moment of the day that made me wish I had Adam Sandler's magical remote.
The moment that I looked at my son on the court and could see the nerves breaking him, tears streaming down his face. The annoyance I felt welling up in me- because he's eight and he's an athlete and he's good at this stuff and damn it, he's too old for this shit. And at that exact same moment, a squeaky 3-year-old voice saying "Mama, I sorry, I sorry," as I feel a tug on my jacket and look down find myself standing in a small lake of lemonade.
That moment... and the emotional and physical cleanup that ensued... lasted all but a few minutes. My son got himself together and went back on the court. The lemonade was cleaned up. We moved on and went home. Eventually, I sat down at the computer to tell you all about this horrible, awful, no good, very bad day.
And then I realized something.
That 8-year-old tumbled out of bed this morning and immediately sought out a big bear hug from his mama. That cute pig-tailed girl belly laughed as I made her teddy bear talk and dance while helping her get dressed. And my baby boy- he reached for me from his crib and snuggled his blonde head into my neck as I carried him to the living room.
There were I love you's and kisses and hugs. There were phone conversations in which two people are so familiar with each other, minimal words are needed but "I love you" is always how it's ended. There was laughter with co-workers, small successes and things crossed off the list (even if more things were added).
And I realize, sitting here and typing this, how easily we can let one moment overshadow the entire rest of the day.
Because this really wasn't about a horrible, awful, no good, very bad day. This was about one small horrible, awful, no good, very bad moment.
And just like all moments do, it passed. And that one moment was surrounded by lots of pretty great moments.
So take a breath, Mama (and Daddy). The crappy moments will pass and the beautiful moments are plenty.
Even if you are walking around with sticky lemonade shoes for the rest of the evening.
I was at the doctors a few weeks ago, discussing a headache that just wouldn't go away. After doing an assessment and determining that I wasn't going to keel over and die on the spot, the doctor asked me if I was stressed out.
I have 3 kids, a full time job, a not-so-simple co-parenting situation, football and baseball, speech sessions, forever waking toddlers in the middle of the night, and a basket of laundry that is like some magically filling pit of despair.
Na, I'm not stressed.
Despite the slight sarcasm that I couldn't cover up in my answer, the doctor went on like she didn't notice.
Do you meditate?
Well, doc, I run.
She looked at me. I looked at her.
She half smiled, as if I had told a joke.
No, I mean do you meditate... like do yoga to help relieve stress? Running isn't meditation.
I’ve been a runner for a long time. It started with my mom telling my sister and I, as elementary school kids, to run laps around the house in an attempt to cure our nighttime restless legs. I started running middle school track in seventh grade, varsity cross country and track as a freshman in high school, and then on to Division I at one of the colleges that recruited me. I’ve been privy to some crazy-hard training programs and insanely tough workouts. There is nothing easy about running.
But that doesn't mean it always falls short of meditation.
Back in my prime training days, there were workouts so tough that it wasn't possible to even think about anything other than the pain. The burn in your legs, the gasp of your breath. It took every corner of your thoughts to keep putting one leg in front of the other. And while I can easily say that back then I didn't have nearly as much stress as I do now, there is something to say about an action that forces you to offer up every little part of your mind.
The day my parents dropped me off at college, I laced up my shoes the minute they left. It was either that or allow myself to be overtaken by the fear that comes with knowing life had completely changed. By the time I stepped back into my dorm room, sweaty and out-of-breath, I was ready for the challenge.
I worked through my divorce with my feet pounding on the sidewalk. I mourned the death of my grandparents while sweating out tears. I've mapped out future conversations with a million different people to the white noise of my feet hitting the pavement.
I’ve questioned how much I’m screwing up as a parent and reassured myself that maybe I’m not doing that bad all over the course of some miles.
And then there are those runs that just happen. When your mind is blank and your body syncs with the road. The feel of a cool day with the smell of leaves in the air. The feel of your muscles working together, reminding you how very alive your body is. The miles pass by, erasing worries and concerns with each one. You suddenly reach the end and realize that you had not had a thought in miles.
And although your legs may be heavy, you feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
I don't run competitively anymore. I do 5k's because I love that my 8-year-old will do them with me. I look for fun races that involve costumes or glow sticks or powdered paint blasted at your face. I register for them, not thinking twice about what our splits will be.
And when my son glances over at me with a grin on his face and takes off in a sprint for the last 100 yards, I laugh and chase after him; wondering why it's so damn hard for my legs to move that fast.
Yet after all these years... after a million injuries, after 3 babies and hernia surgery, after many pairs of orthotics and shoes, knees that sometimes hurt and sciatica pain that often flairs up... I'm still meditating.
Just not in the form my doctor expected.
And a hell of a lot slower.