This Month's Topic: Focus on Finance

The First 5 Minutes of Naptime…

…through the eyes of a monitor that switches rooms every 10 seconds.

I arrive downstairs, make myself a water and switch on the monitor.

This is what I see:

Noah: Singing/chanting/rapping a song in gibberish.

Sophia: Saying, “We’re going to Cleveland today.” (We are not. Not for two more days, anyways.)

Max: Sucking on hand.

Noah: Still singing. (What is this song, by the way? Eminem?? I really need to censor my music in the minivan.)

Noah

Noah

Sophia: Saying, “We go to Cleveland a lot.” (This is true.)

Noah: Drumming on bed rails.

Max: Still sucking. (Kid loves his hands.)

Sophia: Saying, “We go to Cleveland. That’s very silly.” (Is it? Why?)

Max: Goes quiet and still.

Noah: Yelling, “I have the hiccups!” (He has them during at least three naps a week.)

Sophia: Saying, “NathanIMG_4097 (her cousin in Cleveland) gonna say ‘hi’ to me.” (That one makes me smile.)

Max: Arms up, sound asleep.

Noah: Looking for his water cup to cure his hiccups. Downstairs.

Sophia: Saying, “That’ll be so, so, so AWESOME!”

Max: Sleeping.

Noah: Saying, “I tripped” after a loud thud and, through tears, climbing back upstairs and into his room. (I promise that I checked on him, and he was fine.)

Sophia

Sophia

Sophia: Yelling, “I’ll help you in a second, Noah! Oh, no, I can’t… .” (Hahahaha)

Max: Still sleeping. (Against all odds.)

Noah: Climbing back into bed.

Sophia: Saying, “I think Noah needs something. Something that he likes… .”

Max: Breathing deeply.

Noah: Twirling his lovey, Winnie the Pooh. (See, I told you he was fine.)

Sophia: Singing/chanting, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.” (Apparently, Sophia couldn’t find something to give to Noah that she was willing to share.)

Max: Soundlessly waving to the sound machine.

Noah: Twirling.

Sophia: Saying “I, Sophia,” and then laughing. (Perhaps a little too hard.)

Max: Grunting.

Noah: Standing in bed looking around.

Max

Max

Sophia: Switching from a high-pitched voice to a growl, acting out some sort of scene.

Max: Moving.

Noah: Looking for something in his room and out of his bed.

Sophia: Goes quiet and still.

And Max starts to stir.

Yep. That’s about right. Oh, and if we’re counting? Sophia totally won this round.

Summers are Overrated

Yeah. I said it.

Summers aren’t all what they’re cracked up to be.

Especially summers with toddlers.

IMG_4399Don’t get me wrong. There are some wonderful things that happen in the summer: grilling and eating outdoors, vacations, no early wake-ups for school, packed lunches at parks, fresh fruits and veggies, isolated thunderstorms, cousin playdates outside of the house.

But for the most part, summers are just too much. Too much work. Too much humidity. And too much guilt.

Here are my top eight reasons why summers are overrated:

  1. It’s hot. And from my own personal, super-fun experience, when kids get hot, they get whiny. They get clingy. And they really get on my nerves. The last thing you want when you’re hot and sweaty is to have a hot, sweaty kid whining for you to pick them up.
  1. Summer sun isn’t a joke. Especially if you have skin like my kids and I do. Judging by my freckles, my kids have some fair skin in their genes. Fair and sensitive skin is not the summer sun’s best friend. Unless you are equipped with some top-notch, extra-sensitive, mineral-based sunscreen that’s SPF 98, good luck!IMG_2979
  1. It’s buggy. See the picture of my poor Sophia from last summer after being attacked by a few mosquitos. Need I say more?
  1. It requires a lot of work and a whole lot of stuff. You can’t just run to the pool for an hour or so at the drop of a hat. It requires serious planning and organization. You need to pack suits, swim diapers, puddle jumpers, sunscreen, towels, dry clothes, toys, etc. And don’t get me started about unpacking when you get home. With your hot, whiny, clingy kids. Who want you to carry them.
  1. The grass needs to be cut. There is nothing that bums me out more as a stay-at-home mom in IMG_4697the summer than when the weekend comes and all I’m thinking of is the help I’m going to get from my husband and then he says the dreaded words: “I need to get the grass cut at some point.” AHHH! Oh, and I can’t even bring myself to think about yard work… Let’s just say I can’t wait for my kids to get old enough to actually help with the mulch, instead of just looking cute with gardening gloves on
  1. Bathing suits. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve seen the blogs about being proud of your body, owning your imperfections and all that jazz. And believe me, I’ve loved them and admired the women writing them. But when it comes down to it, it’s still me in a bathing suit. And I have to deal with that every single time I pull the dreaded suit out. Not to mention all the fun positions you are forced into while dealing with kids. There is no graceful way to pull your child out of his car seat or pick a crying child off the ground while wearing your bathing suit. It just isn’t a pretty sight, no matter who you are.
  1. The days IMG_4340are longer. I love my kids. I do. And I actually really love summer evenings. They’re cooler, no sunscreen is required, and Adam is home. If it weren’t for the bugs, they’d be perfect. But these lovely, almost-perfect evenings mean the kids go to bed a whole hour or so later than usual. And an hour or so later really cuts into that quality alone or married time. By the time the kids are finally in bed, the day is over and all I want to do is collapse in my bed. Productivity takes a real hit in the summer.
  1. It brings on some serious guilt. I swear, on rainy summer days, I literally sigh with relief at the breakfast table. A rainy day means I’m off the hook for fun outdoor activities. When I wake and the sun is shining its beautiful light, the grass is glistening with dew and the birds are singing, I instantly feel the pressure to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING outdoors. And based on a number of the aforementioned things that make summer not so great, sometimes I don’t want to bask in the summer sun. But I feel like I’d better not take those beautiful days for granted. It’s quite the conundrum.

Now, in all honeIMG_4745sty, about 90 percent of the time, I really love summer. The hard parts are mere blips in the radar when I look back on the day. The memorable moments are so sweet among the sunscreen, bugspray, sweat and insecurities that make up summer.

Like when you glance over and see your oldest child halfway up a huge pine tree in your backyard, and you’re partly scared to death, and partly super proud of him.

Or when you watch him really get the hang of riding a bike.

And then there’s the sweet sight of your kids swinging next to each other and giggling about some inside joke.

IMG_4936And when popsicle juice is dripping all the way down to their elbows and they’re grinning like crazy with bright red lips.

Or that first time your baby gets in the pool and his rolls are out in all their glory. And then giving baby a bath afterwards, here are some bath tub recommendations by Baby iDesign.

It’s even memorable when your son runs up to the self-declared “pee bush” in the backyard and you unexpectedly see his naked, very white tushy in the sweet summer sun.

IMG_4943And there is nothing cuter than your kids in sunglasses and hats.

So, maybe summer isn’t overrated. Because as I finish this blog I started writing this afternoon, I find my mood has changed now that I’m writing these words at 10 at night. And on summer nights, when the kids are all in bed, the swimsuits are hung up to dry, the ceiling fan is blowing cool air on my very tired (but a good tired) self, these days seem really sweet. Hard, but very sweet.IMG_4693

Ok, I guess I like summer a lot. Or maybe I hate it. It just depends on when you ask me.

 

The ‘Tude, the Mood and the Max

Hello out there, cyber world!

Sisters have taken quite the leave of absence from the old blogging universe, but I am ready to get back to it!

So, to catch you up, I am currently the mother to a boy named Noah who will be 4 in about one week, a girl, Sophia, who is 2 and a half years old, and a new little guy named Max, who is 2 months old.IMG_4374

Life is hectic but, for the most part, really lovely.

But let’s cut to the chase. Those three little people are more than just their ages. They are the ‘tude, the mood, and the… well, Max. And one of these little personalities may just send me to the old folk’s home early.

Max, to be fair, has been a really sweet baby. Not quite the sleeper that Sophia was (that girl was born to sleep), but as 2 month olds go, I cannot complain. He eats well, sleeps large chunks at night, and is, for the most part, a happy little guy. OK, Max, today, June 11, 2015, you get a pass. I will not blame you for any gray hairs… today.

IMG_0031Oh, but Noah and Sophia, we have to talk. I am at a loss!

Noah is like a hormonal teenager. I cannot keep up with his mood swings. He’s either laughing like a hysterical maniac or crying like one. He’s high, he’s low and he’s never just in between. He’s on this emotional roller coaster, and he keeps dragging me in the seat next to him. The problem is: I’m just never able to buckle my seat belt before it takes off.

This boy who before the age of 3 was the most amicable, good-natured, even-keeled kid, has turned into someone I fear. Not because he’s angry or aggressive. No, no. He’s just one wrong look away from a complete meltdown.

I seriously walk on eggshells around him. I try to keep my voice calm and pleasant even when he’s in trouble because I normally don’t have the energy to discipline an emotionally distressed little boy AND talk him off the ledge.

My sister tells me her 3 year old is acting dramatic, too, and while I take solace in that fact, my mom also tells me that I was exactly the same way as a child, and it took me a long, LONG time to grow out of it.

So, there’s that.

And then there’s my girl, Sophia.

Or, as I call her, Ms. ‘Tude.

I walk on eggshells around this one, too. Only for totally different reasons. I just can’t trust her. The girl is manipulative and, at this point, seems to be lacking the empathetic, remorseful gene. Don’t get me wrong. She loves and she loves hard. She loves her family, especially Max. In fact, she loves Max a little too much. She’s always in his face, always kissing and touching him. She even will stop in the middle of her own little tantrums to say, “Hi, little baby,” as she caresses any part of him she can reach. It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so NOT funny.

The girl is throwing me for a loop. I’ve gotten used to my little Noah. Well, up until this past year. I am familiar with the rule followers, those with an innate fear of adults, and those who cry when they’re in trouble. I am a stranger to the kids who think, “Is she looking over here?”, “I wonder if she’ll follow through with that threat?” and “Trouble? Ah, who cares!”IMG_4115

Oh, Sophia cries all right, but I’m starting to suspect that behind most of her tears is manipulation, topped off with a little scheming. Most of the time, she’s a suspicious millisecond late to begin the crying – as in she quickly assesses the situation to see if she can get anything out of shedding some tears. If she can get an extra hug, treat, Band-Aid, or someone else yelled at, she’ll go for the all-out wail. If she sees no plus side to tears, she’ll shake it off.

I’ve got to say, I don’t like that little personality feature one bit.

And she never cries when she’s in trouble, unlike her “sensi”-brother. (He’s totally J.D. from “Scrubs”). No, no. She’ll merrily skip to her time-out corner, that spot that Noah DREADS, cheerily call out, “Start counting!”

Yikes.

My mom says that I was a lot like her, too, when I was little. Only my mom calls it “spunky.” I guess the rose-colored glasses are a gift when you become a grandmother. ‘Cause this girl isn’t just “spunky.”

So, these two extremely different kids have got me thinking about the whole nature vs. nurture phenomenon. On the one hand, they have been blessed (blessed?) with a few of my fun (fun?) qualities and, on the other hand, they are SO, SO different. Is there really even a battle between nature vs. nurture or are these two actually friends who juIMG_4305st add whatever qualities they deem fit (or entertaining)?

I shudder to think about what fun-loving combination will be worked out for my happy little Max. I’m sure there’s some fun stuff left from Adam and me that will show its ugly (UGLY!) face sooner or later.

For now, though, I will find peace in one thought: Even though I surely don’t know what to expect or how to handle these darling, newly developed personalities (although I will continue to work on that), these two sure know how to handle each other. They are truly BEST FRIENDS. They just GET each other.

Just another reason I thank God for siblings. They’ll always have each other when I just can’t stand them.

Things that go beep in the night

Your heart rate instantly quickens. Your breathing shortens. Your blood pressure rises. All because of one noise. One noise coming out of a little box next to your bed. The monitor.

Not my actual kid on the monitor, but I'd watch this one neurotically too if need be.

Not my actual kid on the monitor, but I’d watch this one neurotically, too, if need be

I don’t know if I’m just a light sleeper or if, perhaps, I’m a tad bit crazy, but for me, that monitor rules the night. The monitor rules me.

It doesn’t matter if the kids move around in bed, make a soft noise, whimper a little or start to wail, the same reaction happens every time. It’s automatic and just terrible.

And once that automatic reaction occurs, I’m up for at least half an hour. It takes that long for my body to settle back down. I’m wide awake (at least my body is). And if my body is wide awake, my mind starts to race. And when that happens, good luck. It could be hours before I sleep again because I start going through my to-do lists, my plans for the next day, and, then, the general, completely irrational fears that I keep in my back pocket for just such occasions. OK, I guess I am more than a tad bit crazy.

However, I think what bothers me the most is that, as upset and disturbed as I am by the noises coming out of the monitor; my husband has no reaction whatsoever.

Take last night, for example.

The time: 1:23 a.m.

The culprit: This time, it wasn’t either kid. It was the actual monitor that ruined my deep REM cycle. You see, it wasn’t plugged in. Da Da Daaaaa.

So, at exactly 1:23 a.m. (I know because that’s how quickly I go from deep sleep to wide awake, I actually think to look at the clock and remember the time the next morning), the dreaded dying battery beep rang out loud in the room.

I paused and waited for Adam to react. The monitor is actually on his side of the bed, mostly because I become so paranoid about the darn thing that it actually disturbs my sleep even more when it’s next to me if that’s possible. I am constantly making sure I’m scanning, clicking the video button to check on the kids, checking the volume… you know, the usual.

I love the man, I really do!

I love the man! I really do!

Anyways, as I laid in bed waiting for Adam to react, the thing beeped again. Very sweetly and very gently, I tapped Adam and said, “Could you please plug the monitor in? It’s dying.” I swear I was sweet. I swear because I’m very cautious about monitor wars in our house. If I make Adam too upset about the whole thing, it will end up back on my side of the bed. That cannot happen.

So Adam stirred and turned toward the monitor. Then all went quiet. He’d fallen back asleep. The thing beeped again, and I gritted my teeth. “Adam,” I said. He moved again, this time I heard his hands on the table. Good, I thought.

Then, once again, nothing. The man is a freaking LOG! The monitor went BEEP. My blood pressure went up a little higher. “Adam,” I called, not so sweetly, but still softly, “could you please plug the monitor in?”

I heard a scuffle, something fell to the floor, more movement and then a BEEP again, taunting me and, apparently, lulling Adam back to sleep. OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

“Adam! Plug the darn (only I didn’t say darn) monitor in, for God’s sake!” He was up that time, the monitor was plugged in and, I swear to you, the man was back asleep before you could say, “Monitors are the worst.”

So, there I was, wide awake, muttering to myself and to sleeping Adam, just a ball of stress and frustration. So much for a decent night’s sleep.

And Adam? Well, Adam wouldn’t even remember the incident in the morning.

Lucky bas…

Anyways, I know that my monitor hatred is only matched by my monitor love. The monitor helped me let my kids cry it out. It tells me if my kids are making noises in their sleep or if they’re wide awake. It’s basically my peace of mind.

Until it’s the reason I’m losing my mind.

But love makes us all crazy sometimes, right, Adam?

A New Year, a Forever Friendship

I’m sitting here, Jan. 1, 2015, listening to my kids play a top-notch game of pretend. People are getting captured, there’s an ocean involved, and I’m pretty sure I watched Sophia grab a toy frying pan on her way into a major battle in the princess tent.

IMG_3788All in all, life is good.

These past few months haven’t been the easiest for me. Pregnancy is not my friend, it seems, which I knew from my pregnancy from Sophia. I can’t blame anyone for the situation but myself (and Adam, of course). We knew what we were getting into this third time around. Our eyes were wide open. I knew I would be pretty miserable, and I am. It turns out my body is great at growing babies. I grow them big and I grow them strong, and I’m so proud of that. But, it also turns out that my body takes a pretty big hit for it (like everyone else’s, I know). My pregnancy woes run the gamut, but I won’t go into too much detail because you don’t need to hear about it. Let’s just say, Adam gets an earful most nights, and he will definitely help me remember why we will not try for a fourth. I have made sure of that.IMG_0524

But amidst all the pain and discomfort, I know we have made the right choice in going for a third. I know by the friendship my kids have formed and the wonderful times they have together. Not with me, not with Adam, but with each other. I actually think the pregnancy has been a big proponent of this friendship. The less fun I am, (and I’ll be honest, most of the time, I’m a pretty big drag), the more the kids depend on each other. It’s actually pretty perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, there are REALLY tough times, too, between siblings. Just this morning, I found myself screaming, literally screaming, from the bathroom to “Leave each other alone!” Not the best way to start the new year… .

IMG_0623And, I also know the happy moments don’t last long. In a minute or so, I will hear a thump, a cry, and an argument of who-did-what will ensue. It’s inevitable.

But I do know that this Christmas my kids received TONS of gifts, too many to count (it was kind of ridiculous, really), and the gift they have enjoyed playing with the most this last week has been each other.

So get ready, little boy in my belly. You have two best friends eagerly awaiting your arrival. And although I’ve tried to explain to them that you won’t be able to really play for a few years, I’m pretty sure you’d better come out prepared to take a ride on a boat (laundry basket), through the ocean (sunroom), and onto the island (couch) upon your arrival home from the hospital. Mommy will be supervising the whole thing, I promise.IMG_0424

These next three months will be the longest ever, but another sibling means I get to hear more of Noah shouting, “Let’s try this again, Sophie!” or “I’ve got you!” with such delight. And, when I ask Sophia what she wants to do that day as I lift her out of her crib and she responds, “Play with Noah,” I’ll know it’s all worth it.

IMG_3202Man, is it worth it.

So my New Year’s resolution is to survive the pregnancy, and then, even when I’m feeling better and more up to the challenge of playing pretend and crawling on the floor and through tents and tunnels with my kids, I want to remember to step back and let them do their own thing, too. They don’t always need me.

They’ll have each other.

What’s with all the ‘Tude?

I love my kids. Obviously. We all do. But these days, the rose-colored, “isn’t-she-just-the-cutest,” “isn’t-he-so-funny” glasses have been ripped off my face and scary little monsters aren’t just for Halloween anymore.

IMG_0161The scary little monsters have invaded my house and, even worse, invaded my kids.

I love blogging. I’m so glad we picked it back up, and, even though we’re starting out slowly, I really hope we continue to blog for years to come. I love that I get to share fun anecdotes about my kids. I love to hear from others that they are going through similar issues with their own kids, and I love to feel that sense of camaraderie, that I’m putting something out there that someone else might relate to or appreciate.

But mostly, I love that these blogs have forced me to keep records of my years with two, soon to be three, young kids. My sweet husband even printed off all of the blogs from the last year and half and gave them to me in a binder. There are times where I pick up the binder, turn to a random page, and am immediately sent back in time. I gush and sigh and sometimes even cry when I think about those little moments, moments I would certainly haIMG_0090ve forgotten about had I not written them down. Moments I can’t wait to share with my kids one day. I can picture us sitting around this binder, laughing and pointing at each other, like the families you see in magazines. So happy.

But as many fun little anecdotes and cute little stories my life has been filled with, recently it seems it’s equally full of some tough little moments, too. Especially lately. When all the ‘tude entered my house and invaded my little darlings.

The ‘tude, you ask? That’s a whole you-know-what load of attitude. So much attitude, in fact, that you can’t even call it that. You have to short-hand it, and you have to say it while pulling a face.

The ‘tude.

It hit Sophia first. My sweet little Sophie. You know, the one I wanted to speak up more. Yeah, that one. Well, she must have decided to heed my advice because she’s speaking up, alright. She’s got something to say about everything: bathtime, brushing her teeth, getting in the car, climbing up the stairs, going down the stairs, reading a certain book, eating certain foods. The ‘tude is strong in this one.

Too cool for me, that's for sure.

Too cool for me; that’s for sure.

The worst case of ‘tude was at the grocery store a few weeks past. It’s only now that I can write about it without experiencing PTSD. It was bad. The grocery has these carts with the cars in front. Great, right? Well, most of the time. But Sophia had a bad attack of ‘tude that day and decided she didn’t want to sit in the car with Noah. And I, being a complete idiot, took her out, informing her she would be sitting in the top part. In retrospect, I should have kept her in the car, even if it meant stuffing her chubby little legs and arms back in every few steps to keep her from whacking them on the aisles while attempting to escape.

Well, it seemed that Sophia wasn’t all that stoked about sitting in the top of the cart either; she’d actually preferred to just be carried, so we had what ended up being a stand-off. I’d put Sophie in the seat, and she’d whip her head back so fast I’d have to catch her before she really hurt herself.

I was determined to win the fight, though. I was 13 weeks pregnant at the time, and I take my kids to the grocery store with me every week. It was not the time to start carrying Sophia around with me while shopping.

I was also in a predicament. I had picked up a roasted chicken for dinner that night (I really stink at making meals in the early months of pregnancy and, let’s face it, those chickens are better than anything I can make), and it was sitting in the cart, along with 20 other items, many of which were produce. I didn’t know how I could, in good conscience, abandon the cart and leave the store. And what about dinner? What would we have for dinner?

So, we ended pulling over in front of the raw chicken and had a full 15 minutes of meltdown. It was AWESOME. Some people ignored us and kept walking – God bless them; others gave a sympathetic smile – I think I sneered at those people; and then there were the people that walked past with nothing but judgment and disdain all over their faces – I think I actually growled at them.

We ended up leaving, paying for the groceries we did have with a screaming Sophia on my hip. The sweet checkout lady offered stickers and I think my response was, “NONE FOR HER! ONLY FOR HIM!” (Yes, I realize I sounded like a crazy person, but, seriously, do you think she deserved a sticker?)

As we were walking out, Sophia kept saying, “Sticker? Sticker?” Noah had a strip of about five. I said, “Sophia, if you sit in the cart, you may have a sticker.” The crying instantly stopped, Sophie happily sat, took her sticker and, if it weren’t for the blotchy face and tear-stained cheeks, you would have never known she’d just been through a battle. A battle she’d won.

I loaded up the car, sat in the driver’s seat and cried. Cried hard. The kids were quiet while I did this. Sophia sat and admired her sticker and I think Noah, so exhausted by the whole event, fell asleep. I think their total lack of empathy made me cry even harder.

This picture was taking right before a meltdown. It's amazing how quickly things change.

This picture was taken right before a meltdown. It’s amazing how quickly things change.

The ‘tude beat me. Beat me good.

And then there’s Noah. That’s right, Noah. Don’t think I’m letting you off the hook here.

Ever since Noah started school, he’s been a… (how do I put this delicately) terror. Life’s different and he’s learning to cope with all the changes. I get that.

What I will not sympathize with is the attitude he’s gained from all the changes. Noah was always pretty even-keeled. He may be more sensitive then other kids, but for the most part, he’s easy to please and easy to distract when things aren’t going his way.

That all seemed to change this month. School started and so did the ‘tude. Maybe he’s just more tired than normal, and since he’s refusing to take naps (makes me cry just typing it), he definitely gets a little crabbier than he used to, but it isn’t just the tiredness that has changed in my son.

He yells. He argues. And most of the time, he directs it all at me. Sometimes, I feel like he’s literally giving me the once-over, eyeing me like I’m the enemy and he’s trying to find a way to defeat me.

I’m not joking. I’ve caught him with that look several times now. I usual counter it with an “I love you, Noah” (you know, to remind him that I’m not the enemy; I’m actually the mother who loves him).

But the fact remains, our relationship has changed. I’m the mean lady who makes him do things, and he’s the poor, oppressed little boy.

For instance, the other day, we were running late for school. Lots of things had happened that particular morning that helped run out the clock and, at around 8:45, I had finally gotten everything together and was about to head out the door to make it to school by 9 when I realized Noah was missing. Where was that boy?

“Noah?” I called. “Where are you?”

“I’m upstairs!”

“Well, come down. We need to get in the car and go to school!”

“NO.”

“Yes.”

“I’m not coming downstairs!”

“Noah, if you don’t come down, we’ll be late!”

“I WANNA BE LATE!!”

My crew- happy because Daddy's around. They save up all the 'tude just for me.

My crew, happy because Daddy’s around. They save up all the ‘tude just for me.

Wow. That escalated quickly. And I was in a pickle. My 3 year old was OK with being late, and I was stuck trying to find an argument as to why being late was a bad thing. Let’s be honest: It was no skin off his back if he was late, and, thus far, he had had a nice, easygoing attitude about school. Far be it for me to impart some of my neurosis and crazy, stressed-out attitude about school on him. Maybe he could be saved from that. So, how do I make him fear being late without equating that fear to school?

In the end, I think there was a threat, perhaps a bribe – I really don’t remember, it’s all a blur – and we ended up making it to school just a few minutes late. I apologized profusely to the teacher, who really couldn’t have cared less, and Noah skipped into the classroom, completely unfazed.

Ahhh, kids. They’re the only people in the world who can get your blood pressure up blisteringly high and then, with a quick hug and peck on the cheek, melt it away.

So, maybe we’re just going through a phase. Maybe with school getting underway, we’ll find a healthy balance. Maybe it’s a warm-up for Halloween. You know, they’re giving me all the frights I need so I don’t have to watch all those scary movies that keep me up at night. Maybe this is God’s grace, giving me a chance to deal with all the ‘tude before our new baby arrives in March.

I just wish the ‘tudes would occur at different times of day. I can handle one screaming kid at a time, but when they’re both melting down and yelling, that’s when I feel like my life is an acutal horror flick and I just want to shout at myself on the screen: “Run, Sarah! Get out while you still can!”

I never would, though. I always have to see how those scary movies end.

A First Day of School Pep Talk

It’s finally here.

Tomorrow’s the big day. We’ve been talking about this day all summer long, for months now, and yet, I can’t believe it’s actually here.

IMG_3183You start preschool tomorrow.

I know. I sound dramatic. And really, it’s not going to be that crazy. It’s a three-day-a-week, two-and-a-half-hour-a-day program.

Should be nothing in the grand scheme of things.

But the fact that you will be out of my hands and participating in activities that I haven’t carefully orchestrated and watched over myself is just crazy. For three-plus years now, we’ve been together.

Yes, I’ve had some nights out, some weekends away, but I’d say for about 99 percent of your life, I’ve been there. And tomorrow, an entirely new era will begin.IMG_3242

You’re ready for it. I’m sure you are. You love playing with other kids at gym class and on the playground. You love learning new games from your older cousins. You can handle yourself pretty well in almost any situation. You’re potty-trained and you speak clearly enough that most can understand what you’re saying. But the biggest telltale sign is that you are thirsty for knowledge. You are eager to learn things, things that I don’t always know. You can’t get enough books read to you and you can’t ask enough questions. You’re ready.

I’m just not positive I am.

I was never the happy school-goer type. I was the child that cried. A lot. I was the kid who had to be pried out of the car, who fought tooth and nail every time my mom pulled into the parking lot, who marched onto the bus and through teary eyes greeted the bus driver. I was a… delight.

I worried about my mom. I worried something would happen to her while I was away. I was worried that she would miss me terribly, be bored without me or, worse, sad. I was worried that she would do something really fun and I’d miss out. Mostly, I just wanted to be near her always.

Looking back Noah, I have to laugh at myself (and apologize profusely to my mom). How wrong was I? In retrospect, I’m sure my mom reveled in the time alone in the house. She was a stay-at-home mom, too, and, as much as I’m SURE she loved almost every minute of it, it had to be lovely to have some quiet time in the house by herself. A trip to the grocery store alone, folding laundry in front of a show SHE wanted to watch; heck, just a solo bathroom break.

IMG_3168I know because I’m living that life now.

However, I also know that I was a little bit right. I know that my mom missed us when we would leave in the morning. I know that she probably felt a little lonely from time to time throughout the day. I know because when we’d come home, she’d give us extra long hugs, make us a special little snack of peanut butter and jelly saltines and make us tell her about our days, never losing patience or interest.

I just happen to also know us being gone for a little bit was exactly what everyone needed.

You need to be on your own, to start thinking for yourself, answering questions without quickly looking at me for an encouraging nod.

I need to know you’re OK on your own, that you have your own mind and thoughts, and that you can answer those questions all by yourself.

So, know that I will miss you. I’ll miss you a lot. By the time you can read and may read this I know you’ll be thinking, C’mon Mom! Geez. It’s just two and a half hours. But, baby, believe me, I will miss you very much for those measly two hours.

And when you come home, I’ll make sure to give you extra long hugs, kiss you a few more times than you’d probably prefer, make you a special lunch, and want to hear all about your day without looking away.

Just know that I’m not going to be lonely or bored. Sophia keeps me busy enough, and she needs this just as much as you and I do. We might even do a few fun things together, but don’t worry, nothing will be nearly as much fun as what you’ll be doing at school.IMG_3363

So, go! Have fun. Be good. Listen to the teacher. Make friends. Be nice. Ask questions. Raise your hand. And try to remember it all.

Because I will want to hear every last detail when you come home.

[An afterthought: Upon re-reading this, I realize now that this was a pep talk for myself. Noah will be fine. Fortunately for both of us, I don’t think he was “blessed” with the same sort of “delightful” qualities I was that made me such a sad, sad being when it came to school. It’s crazy, but 27 years later, I still need to be reminded that all will be OK and school is a wonderful time, not an end-of-the-world thing. Even better, I was a primary school teacher for four years, and I still need to talk myself into this whole school thing. Wow. Old habits die hard, huh?]

In Pursuit of the Perfect Picture

I really like taking pictures.

And, being that I’m a mom and I think everything my kids do is probably the cutest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world, I really like to try and capture those moments.

But, alas, my camera and I rarely see eye to eye. And getting that perfect picture is my white whale. (Captain Ahab, anyone?)

Yes, try as I might, I never seem to be able to take the perfect picture: the picture I dream up in my mind of my two kids, holding hands, walking down this beautiful meadow, and, even though the sun is beaming right into their faces, they both manage to look at me and smile the biggest, happiest smile.

Sigh.

A girl can dream.

And yes, it will always be just a dream because my pictures always seem to turn out a little off. There is always one thing that goes wrong – one sad face, one blurred person, one drippy nose – that makes my pictures less than perfect.

For example:

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Yes, cute picture. Until you look closely. Both kids are covered in snot. Lots and lots of snot.

And this one:

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I was going to title this one, “A Day at the Beach,” and I had the whole thing planned out, until Jill decided to make sure the kids were looking by pouring sand out right in front of the camera. Scratch that one.

And then there was this:

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OK, this one has many things going against it. But look what I’m dealing with here. I have a daughter who can’t keep things out of her mouth and a son who, if looks could kill, I’d be dead.

And then there was this lovely, little photo session from today.

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In the first one, Sophia falls. The second one is blurry. And in the third, it’s Sophia with her hands in her mouth again. And these were my best ones…

And if you’re thinking it’s only kids, it isn’t. This past weekend, my mom, sisters and I went on a shopping trip to Easton together. It was LOVELY! However, here are the two pictures from our trip.

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OK, so they’re not bad, but God love my mom. The only  thing she had to look at was the camera, but she picked something else off to the right and thus, the picture is a no-go. The picture of Colleen and me? Well, to start, Colleen’s hair takes up 75 percent of the picture (Good Lord, woman!) and really, exactly how much wine do we have in front of us? (That’s a flight for two, just in case you didn’t know. We sure didn’t.)

And so, I rely solely on the professionals to get the job done. And by professionals I mean, ANYONE WHO ISN’T ME.

Here are the best three pictures from our trip to JCPenney’s Portrait Studio:

Sophia 2014Together 2014Noah 2014

 

 

And we were there for literally 10 MINUTES!!!

Oh, well.

So I can’t get the perfect picture. I don’t know if I ever will. And until I finally cough up the dough to pay for Photoshop (ahem, Adam?), or pay a professional photographer to follow my kids throughout an entire week (Adam?), my pictures will remain imperfect.

And, let’s be honest. Those pictures are the ones that are real anyways. When I look back at these pictures, I’ll laugh and nod my head, because I’ll remember that Sophia had a runny nose that whole darn winter, and Noah’s annoyed face was pretty brutal. Those pictures are pictures of my family: the good, the bad and the very snotty.

And I know that I’ll be so thankful to have documented it all and not airbrushed any of it out. Not even 25 percent of Colleen’s hair.

Sophia and the Stairs

I fear that my daughter has a death wish.

Either that or she will be the female version of Evel Knievel in a few years.

Seriously, the girl lives for danger. Or, she just lives without fear. Either way, she’s got me scared to death.

She was an extremely content little baby, I know I’ve said that. But that relaxed, easygoing personality, when mobile, simply means that she doesn’t know how gravity works and could care less to learn.

IMG_1879She does a lot of things that just terrify me.

She throws her head backward on the couch and stares up. Fine. But sometimes, she’ll do it and misjudge the proximity of the couch. It isn’t pretty. However, the worst is when she does it on our laps or in our arms. She has me in a constant state of readiness, and I’m always especially tense when I hold her. Which just isn’t fair when she’s sooooo relaxed.

We recently discovered another terrifying habit of hers while visiting the playground. Because she has been walking for awhile now, I thought, sure, let’s help her up on these super cool playgrounds at the park. What fun! Yes, it’s fun. It’s better than lugging her around on my hip, and I’ll be especially glad of that in the heat of summer. However, my fearless girl isn’t worried about heights and, once again, gravity doesn’t worry her. So, my girl walks up on those awesome playgrounds and attempts to walk right off of them, as well. Super!

Speaking of playgrounds, let’s talk slides. Sophia has no hesitation when it comes to the slide. She dives in headfirst. Literally. She thinks she’s Superman. Or Wonderwoman. Whatever!

Lastly, and the most petrifying, is her fixation on the stairs. It’s all my fault. I was so happy when she finally took an interest in climbing the stairs. Awesome, I thought. I don’t have to carry her and all the drinks/bottles, toys and clothes up the stairs all the time. Hallelujah. Well, she took to climbing the stairs and never looked back.

Now, we’ve got the house on pretty good gate lockdown. There’s a gate at the top of the stairs, a gate at the bottom and two gates that keep the kids contained to the three main rooms of the house. But, all it takes is one time to forget to close the gate and up she goes, in a matter of seconds. And, even if we do remember to close the gates, the gate at the bottom of the stairs has a little space to crawl under, which she does.

One time, Adam and I were home together, and Noah needed to go potty (which is outside the main three rooms). Sure enough, a minute passed and, in all the excitement of Noah going potty, we lost track of Sophia. We scrambled around the house and, upon not finding her, raced to the stairs. There she was. Sitting at the very top, smiling down at us.IMG_1816

It happened again today. I asked Noah to close the gate, and I swear he did, but when I ran a pair of sunglasses out to my sister who stopped by to pick them up, Sophia discovered the gate was ajar and off she went. Fortunately, I wasn’t outside for longer than a minute, and I caught her on the second step.

I have nightmares about my little girl all the time. At the pool, at the playground, on the steps, anywhere, with her just stepping off the ledge. I wake up in a cold sweat, and it takes some serious effort for me to realize it isn’t real.

Because it could be totally real.

Our pediatrician has said at the kids’ last few appointments that the only real thing she warns parents of toddlers about is safety. Forget the exact amount of milk they should be drinking, how many viruses they’re going to catch. What you should be most worried about is keeping your kid safe. Boy, is she right!

Especially when you have a little Evel Knievel as a child. Then, you should just have the house covered with padding and bubble wrap.

Oh, yeah, and the playgrounds and swing sets, too.

A Winter to Remember

Well, it’s official. Noah’s moving onward and upward. He’s out of diapers, into underwear and the wall to the crib is off. It’s been a big winter.

It all happened very quickly, and I honestly don’t know if it was because he was ready, we were ready or we were all getting bored of the winter and needed something new to focus on besides how ugly it has been outside.

The Big Boy Bed

The big boy bed

Whatever the case, it is done.

The little boy has slept in the bed with only three walls three times now (two naps and a bed time) and so far, so good.

The Underwear Wearing and I Can (Kinda) Dress Myself Boy

The underwear-wearing-and-I-can-(kinda)-dress-myself boy

I can’t believe we’re here. I can’t believe it’s finally happened. Those two things (potty training and the big boy bed) have been looming over our heads for months and now that we’ve finally done it – taken the wall off and packed the diapers away – I can’t believe how easy it all seemed to have been looking back.

I remember in January, stressing to my mom about potty training.

“Mom, he has to be potty trained by September or he won’t be able to go to preschool! What should I do? The child needs to go to preschool. OK, I need the child to go to preschool.” I was pretty frantic on the phone.

And my mom, in her never-ending wisdom, (the wisdom you gain from raising your own kids and then secretly kind of enjoying watching them attempt to do the same) assured me, “You still have plenty of time. Believe me, it’ll happen and when it does, you’ll wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.”

It’s almost a little aggravating how right on she usually is.

I think that’s how much of parenthood goes. When you’re in it, you’re in it and it’s really hard to see past the troubles of right now. But once you’re over the hump, whatever that hump might have been, you can’t even remember how you got there. It’s like a roller coaster: You go so slowly up the hill but then the rest of the ride is such a whirlwind that when you get off, you want to go again, remembering only the exciting parts of the ride and feeling the high of completion.

For instance, Sophia turned 1 last month, so I’m slowly getting rid of her bottles. No matter what I know from my experience with Noah or what I hear from very experienced moms around me, I’m still stressed about it.

The Birthday Girl

The birthday girl

What if she’s not getting enough to eat? What if she’s dehydrated? What if I’m hurting her with hunger pains?!

The Walking Girl

The walking girl

But in the sane part of my mind (and I swear it exists), I know that in a month or so, when I look back on the whole ordeal, it’ll feel like it happened in the blink of an eye. I also know I will tell anyone who asks that it wasn’t a problem at all. And I’m truly not lying or trying to sound like a super mom – seriously, we’ve covered the contrary on here so many times before that what would I be trying to prove? – it’s because I actually will believe that it was no big deal.

I know that women were actually built with hormones that make us forget a lot of the pains of childbirth. Well, I’d bet a pretty high amount that we’re also built with hormones that make us focus on our successes as a mother and quickly forget about the difficult climb to achieve them.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s the hormones. Or the wine.

But the point is, you do forget. And that is a big blessing. But it’s also quite a scary thing. Because when it comes down to it, I know in my heart (and because people say it all the time) that even though the days are long, the years are short. Because of that hormone (wine), a lot of the hard times and struggles will be swept under the rug and forgotten, making room in our minds for more exciting, happier and sweeter memories.

That’s a good thing, I guess. If not for it, Adam and I wouldn’t even be considering having more kids.

So, even though this winter was a long one, I know, looking back, when I think of it, I’ll only remember a few things:

Sophia learned to walk. Sophia turned 1. Noah started wearing underwear. Noah moved into a big boy bed. Oh yeah, and there was an anniversary and a couple more birthdays in there. (Am I really 30? Oh, for the love of…) Anyways.

Yes, the winter of ’13/’14 was a big one. However, I’ll remember it not because of how long and draining it was, but because of all the huge milestones we’ve reached during it.

It truly was a winter to remember.