Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The last first day

Being a mom of three, the emotions that I had as a new mom dramatically changed as I became a veteran mom, especially when certain milestones came along.  Hudson's first day of school was when he was 3.5 years old. I couldn't bear to think of him in a big, scary school any younger than that.  To be honest, I could barely stand the idea at 3.5.  The anxieties clouded all other thoughts.  "What if he misses me? How will the teachers know what he needs? What if he's scared?" Over time, I was able to calm my worries and see how great the experience was for him.  Maybe that's why when I sent Hadley to school (at 2.5 years old, no less), I didn't even shed a tear.  I was excited for her.  With Hayes starting school this year (also at 2.5 years old), I didn't expect any big emotions for me.  We went to orientation yesterday and I stayed with him in his classroom for an hour.  He played. He explored. He protested when it was time to leave.  We went back today. He ran in, straight for his favorite items that he discussed at bedtime last night.  He was ready for this adventure, as was I.  Today, I stayed with him for 15 minutes then had to leave.  No problem.  I've done this twice before.  This time around I didn't even think once about this moment for days leading up to it.  So you can imagine my surprise when I walked out of the classroom, and like a freight train collision, the emotions slammed right into my heart.  I was crying before I even got to the front door of the school.  What was happening??  Right then, my heart was crying over this last first.  My last baby was going to his first day of school without me.  I was leaving my last baby for the first time.  My last baby, without me. As if potty training and pacifier weaning haven't already told me, that separation symbolized the reality that Hayes is growing up.


Friday, February 27, 2015

The minds of children are fascinating

Last night during bedtime stories, Hadley turned to Ryan and asked "Daddy, I know everything about Frozen.  What do you know everything about?"  After Hadley was fast asleep, Ryan was telling me about their sweet conversation.  So today after I picked her up from school, I asked her about it and what Daddy's answers were.  She said "Daddy knows everything about technology, computers, and coding".  I smiled knowing that was likely the answer he gave her.  Then she says "Mommy, what do you know everything about?"  I'm thinking and thinking and don't have an answer lined up so I just say "well, I know a lot about being healthy and cooking healthy foods for the family" (I'm on day 10 of a Whole30 which is likely why my brain went there).  She corrects me and says "no Mommy, you know a lot about love".  Beaming, I just hug her and say "that's right Hadley.  I do know a lot about love".  She continues by saying "everyone knows a lot about love.  All the people.  Except the bad people.  Like the people who hit the planes into the twin towers.  They don't know about love.  No body teached them".   I was just flabbergasted. I can't imagine how she thought of 9/11. And to see her understanding of love, just left me in awe of her natural innocence and empathic nature.


Monday, February 23, 2015

An emotional end

There are so many "firsts" and "lasts" that come with being a parent. I found that I have celebrated the firsts without acknowledging most of the lasts.  However, I am drawn back to this blog (which has been neglected for months) to celebrate/acknowledge/mourn the end of a very special period of my life.  Last Friday, February 13th, 2015, I nursed Hayes, my last baby, for the last time.

The end to our nursing relationship was unplanned and rather abrupt.  Hudson became ill and Ryan fled to his parents with Hadley and Hayes in tow in an attempt to keep them germ free. What was meant to be a 24 hour period (after which I would have easily nursed Hayes again) turned into a three day separation.  The morning that they were to return home I cried (and cried and cried) while washing dishes because I knew that now was the right time to wean, despite the emotional turbulence it was causing me.

At 27 months old, I knew Hayes no longer needed the fact, I don't think there was even any milk left for him to drink.  But nursing was our calm.  It was our solution to scraped knees. It was our comfort against big feelings in his little body.  It was our warmth when the cold overwhelmed.  It was our bond.  And it had been for his lifetime.

A small part of me was sad for Hayes.  I knew that he would want to nurse and I would have to tell him no.  I wasn't really sure how he would handle it, but I was okay with him being a little upset and angry with me.  So fear of his response wasn't what was causing my reaction.

The most difficult part was the thought of a very important chapter in my life closing forever.  It took me six days to find the strength to even right this post and I'm still sitting here typing through tears.  I was "one of those women" who LOVED everything about being pregnant and breastfeeding.  Watching my belly, my family, and my life grow before my eyes gave me a feeling of pride, strength, and true happiness.  Feeling those baby kicks was magical. Friends and oogling strangers were welcomed to touch my belly, ask when I was due, and congratulate me.  I loved the attention to the miracle that was taking place and proud of my part in it.  When the baby came and I loved getting to meet him/her.  That first rooting of the mouth looking for the breast combined with the knowledge of what the baby needs and that I can provide it is empowering beyond words.  The first few weeks came with their hurdles as my body and baby's worked together to figure out how to get this right.  But after that, we were smooth sailing.  All of those times when I wasn't quite sure what the baby needed, I would offer my breast and he or she would take it, gratefully.  All of those images of a milk-drunk newborn sleeping on my chest.  All of the signs (in sign language) for "milk". All of that warmth, those connections, those bonds, and the foundation of my relationship with each of my children. And all of those times have come to an end.  I am proud of myself (and my children) for nursing for approximately 67 months.  Five and a half of my 35 years have been dedicated to nourishing my children with milk and with love.  We have done a great thing together, me and my children.  And I am grateful for each and every one of those minutes.  I offer a saddened farewell to my childrearing years and know that the next time I feel this connected with a baby won't happen until I welcome grandchildren.

If the shortened pant legs and the expanding vocabularies weren't enough of a sign, then certainly this last drop of milk is.  My babies are growing up.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Deadly Lion King

Despite being connected 24/7 and having a video camera available on my iPhone at every moment of the day, it always seems that there are moments that I would love to capture for all of eternity yet they sneak by.  Man, what I would give to have this moment on video to watch over and over again...

Let me set the scene.  Hudson is taking piano lessons at school and has been since February.  He's not a big fan of piano and getting him to practice at home is liking pulling teeth.  He has a recital coming up and we've been working on Ode to Joy with him.

The school had an informal showing for the parents.  I totally messed up and forgot to mark my calendar so I get a call at 5:37p asking if we are coming (the showing started at 5:30).  I hurry up, tell Hudson put on nicer clothes, throw Hayes in the stroller and make Hudson and Hadley run with me to school (only a block away).  We rush in and the other students have just finished their pieces, so Hudson is up.  In the rush to leave, I grabbed my camcorder (is that what they're still called?) since I knew my phone would run out of space.  Hudson stands up, says his name and the title of his pieces, plays, bows, and sit back down with the other students.  I got it all on tape right before the battery dies. At this point, the piano teacher asks the students if they have any other pieces they would like to share.  Three students raise their hands.  One of them is Hudson.  HUH??? My mind is racing to think what other pieces he might remember.  Since he hates to practice, nothing really comes to mind.  So....

The first student walks to the piano and introduces her piece.  She said she will now play Fur Elise and busts it out.  With no sheet music.  Beethoven.  I look over at the mom and smile.  She smiles back and said "I taught her that at home."

Okay, now I'm panicking a bit because what the F*&# is Hudson going to play.

Ms. Cassie, the teacher, asks for volunteers again, and again, Hudson raises his hand.  Another student is asked to come up.

The second student walks up and my mind is racing so I'm not sure what she says she's going to play. She sits there, with no sheet music, and plays this long, beautiful piece.  I watch her focus and count beats by nodding her head, pausing when appropriate.  Everyone claps.

Once again, Ms. Cassie asks if anyone has a piece they want to share.  Hudson walks up.  "Oh man, this is going to be epic" is what goes through my head.

Hudson says "My piece is called the Deadly Lion King". Ummmm, what is about to happen?

He sits down and starts to play on the low end of the piano and then the high.  Then a few notes on the low end and a few more on the high.  This goes on for what feels like 10 mins.   It's taking everything I have to not bust at the seams.

People clap, I'm cracking up, and Hudson is proud.

As we walk home, I ask him about his piece.  He tells me that the low notes were for the Daddy (he was Mufasa in the school play) and the high notes were for the Mommy. I complement him on his creativity and kick myself for not having this performance on video.  I still crack up every time I replay it in my mind. "My piece is called the Deadly Lion King". OMG, I love this kid.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

My heart is in the work.

Some days, parenting is just hard (okay, most days, parenting is hard).  The majority of the tough days come from a combination of whines, cries, defiance, and fitting everything in during a 24 hour period. But then there are the days like I had a few days ago.  The days when difficulty arises from our anxieties about parenthood, about our choices, our values, and our abilities to pass those on to our children.  I am a firm believer of trusting my gut, while at the same time being an intentional parent and not passive in my decision making. This approach requires a lot of work. I do my fair share of research on a topic, internalize and process what I learned, then make an informed decision based on what the "experts" say (the researchers and authors) and the true experts on our kids (me and Ryan).  I try to determine when there is hype and where there is validity. The perfect example is sleep training.  I've read the books. I've read the research.  I've listened to other's sob and success stories.  In the end, we had to go with our gut and choose what is right for us.

Despite all of my research and thought behind parenting, there's a fine line to walk.  You have to be mindful and not get swept up in things that may seem to matter, but really don't.  Your kid is saying his ABCs at 18m?  Great, but I'm okay if my kid isn't.  Your kid is reading at age 4? That's awesome, but it's not going to make me judge my kid if he/she isn't.  In fact, it seems that "kindergarten is the new first grade"; we are getting so caught up in the race to doing things earlier, faster, and better, that we often aren't thinking about the impacts this has on our children.

Ryan and I discuss our thoughts and goals for raising our children and then base our actions on all of this.  As you can imagine, it's work.  A lot of it.  When approaching all of parenting this way, it's near impossible to fit everything in.  Some things slide.  The other day was just a reminder for me that I was slipping and needed to get my feet back on the ground and get back to work.

I don't think Andrew Carnegie had parenting in mind when he said "my heart is in the work", but there isn't a role that fits that quote better than the work of being a parent.  My heart is in it, fully dedicated and committed.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sometimes you just get it right.

Living in a world of excess, I often struggle with how my kids will learn gratitude.  I don't give in to every request, but more often than not, my kids just get things because they can.  Maybe it's the $3 Mario minifigure that Hudson requests when we are at Target, or it's the $10 marker set that I pick up for Hadley just because I know she likes to color.  Not because it's their birthdays or Christmas.  But just because...well...why not?  It's easy to justify by thinking "eh, it's the same price as a cup of Starbucks and it will make them so (temporarily) happy".  I'm trying to be more mindful of this and constantly talking about how much the kids have to be grateful for.  While it's easy to give material examples to satisfy their need for concrete reasoning, I often wonder if I'm cutting them short by not discussing the more abstract "things" to be thankful for.  Either way, I'm trying harder and harder to implement a sense of gratitude.  One way I've been doing this is in their nightly prayers.

We have a routine of saying prayers like this:
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
That angels watch me through the night
Until I wake in the morning light.
Dear God, Thank you so much for this wonderful day. Today we....  And now we're getting ready to go night night.  We pray for all of our friends and family like Mom Mom and Pop Pop, Grami and Pappy, Uncle Kevin and Colleen, Uncle Bobby and Baby Riley, and Uncle Joey. We pray for Mommy, and Daddy, and Hudson, and Hadley, and Hayes, and Ruby.  We pray for all of our friends and teachers in Baltimore and all of our friends and teachers in New Jersey.  We pray that we have a great night's sleep and a wonderful day tomorrow. Amen."

At the end of the summary of our day, I've been asking the kids what they were thankful for that day.  On the first night, Hadley thinks for a minute and says "You.  I'm thankful for you." (I'm tearing up just typing that).  Then she continues "Actually I'm thankful for our whole family.  Daddy and Hayes and Hudson too".  "Wow", I tell her.  "Hadley, that is a wonderful thing to be thankful for".  Not to be outdone, Hudson hears the praise I'm giving her and says "I have a good one too.  I'm thankful for Old Pap."  My grandfather, "Old Pap", passed away in November.  (Someone please hand my mom a tissue.).

Wow, I thought, wow.  Maybe I'm doing something right.


So, I started this post a few days ago and didn't get to finish.  Last night, we went through the same routine.  Again, when asked what she was thankful, Hadley pointed to me. "Awww, thanks Had.  I'm thankful for you too".  But then she starting shaking her head.  She does this thing where she doesn't want to talk so instead does a series of grunts and noises to try to make a point.  She grabs my necklace and says "ehhh".  "My necklace?  You're thankful for my necklace?"  "UMM HUH!!" Then my rings she grabs "ehhh".  "And you're thankful for my rings?"  Nodding happily, "UH HUH!!"
Okay so maybe we have to work on the material possession thing.  She did say she was thankful for me before she said she was thankful for diamonds....

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The consequences of an unattended toddler

Remember in my last blog post how I said that I couldn't take my eyes off of Hayes?  Let me show you why...
On Friday morning, I took him upstairs so that I could get dressed and he got into my perfumes.  He smelled like a mixture of every scent possible. Then he refused to take his morning nap which is when I usually make breakfast and have coffee.  Since he didn't want to sleep, I had to go out on a limb and focus on cooking and not on Hayes.  This is what happens:
Hayes decided to get the party started a little early and dump a full bottle of vodka on his feet and the floor.  The mixture of the perfume and the vodka now made Hayes smell like he was working the late shift at the Hustler club.
Yes, Hayes.  I was looking longingly at the bottle at this point as well.  It was 9:40am.

So, I started to clean up the vodka, leaving Hayes unattended once again.  As I threw away the last paper towel, I started to look for him and couldn't find him.  Because he decided to go INSIDE of my coat closet. 

I did a better job of monitoring him until that dreaded moment came: I had to go to the bathroom.  I'm always stuck in a conundrum here, weighing my options.  Do I bring him in the bathroom with me, knowing that he will take the plunger, wave it around the room, throw a tantrum when I take it away, then get up and climb onto the stool in front of the sink to grab and squeeze toothpaste?  Or do I just leave the door open and hope for the best?  I opted for #2.  It got really quiet.....

He found a pacifier and climbed up the steps onto Hudson's bed.  I could not believe it and told him "no Hayes, it's not safe to go up there!!!".  He smiled and crouched down on the bed, so that I couldn't see him.  "No", now that the meaning is understood, has started to elicit that type of response - let me look really cute and sorta hide so she can't be mad at me.