September 2, 2014
Even though it’s back-to-school time, I’ve been thinking about my summers growing up. When I was a kid the last day of school was epic. Knowing that I didn’t have to do homework or read textbooks or wake up early for a couple of months was the best feeling. I also felt excitement for the start of a new school year. Not necessarily the homework and early wake-up calls, but shopping for a few new outfits, picking out school supplies, learning who my teachers were – all of that mid-August fanfare.
My mom stayed at home for a big chunk of our school years, or at most worked part time. We were a modest middle-class family, happy and well provided for. Not a ton of frills, but that was fine with us. My older brother was wheelchair-bound, which is one of the main reasons my mom stayed at home when we were younger. But as we all got older we were more than capable of fending for ourselves when she went back to work part time.
I remember my summers as a kid, before I was old enough to have a part time job to keep me busy. The first week at home was a lot of sleeping in, watching TV, and running around outside with the neighborhood kids. We’d pop home and eat a sandwich, then head back out until dinner time when we’d return sweaty and dirty and exhausted. Some days my mom would drop me off at the neighborhood pool to meet up with friends, or stick me with my little brother if he was bored. There was always one week at the beach, a week of day camp like Vacation Bible School, or an overnight camp when we got older. It was fun and simple and got mind-numbingly boring by the time August rolled around.
Sometimes I find myself a little bummed that Junior won’t get to experience that kind of carefree summer. I work full time and don’t see an end in sight, so he won’t really have a chance to deviate from his regular school year schedule. He’ll still be up early so I can drop him off at daycare and he’ll stay there until I pick him up after work. When he gets older they call daycare “summer camp” since that’s pretty much what it is for the school-aged kids. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fun environment with stuff planned every day and I’m grateful he’ll have the opportunity to be there. But there’s a part of me that wishes he could have a less scheduled summer, running around the neighborhood until dark, sleeping in, vegging out in front of the TV on a rainy day.
Admittedly, I’ve worked full time since Junior was 10 weeks old, and I really have no experience with that stay-at-home lifestyle. Would I be satisfied planning activities for my kids? Being the chauffeur? Hearing the griping when they’re bored at the end of the summer? I’m not sure. I have very fond memories of my summers at home and the bookends of excitement around summer’s start and summer’s end. Does my mom have the same fond memories? Hahaha maybe I should ask her… Any way you slice it, times are different now. We want more “stuff” which means we need more income. Even the kids who do stay home all summer are in so many activities. I’m not sure it’s even possible to recreate the summer vacations of the 80’s and 90’s. One day I’d like to give it a try though, even for just a little while.
Happy back-to-school season everyone. I can still remember the great feeling of satisfaction when I found the perfect Trapper Keeper and coordinating folders. Can you smell the vinyl? Can you hear the Velcro? I can…
July 24, 2014
Today I’ve been thinking about my kid’s head. It’s a nice head – full of unmanageable blonde hair and a little big compared to the rest of his body, but overall it’s a keeper. It also takes a beating. I don’t know if it’s a boy thing or if all kids bang up their heads on a regular basis, but Junior’s a pro.
I remember his very first substantial knot; he was maybe a year and a half old. I was helping him step out of his pants and into his jammies when he got tripped up and smacked the back of his sweet head on the knob of his dresser drawer. A walnut sized lump popped out immediately; he wailed and I was traumatized. I was right there but somehow I couldn’t grab him before he hit the deck. I rushed downstairs looking for frozen peas, crying because I was such an awful, irresponsible mother. He recovered quickly and I beat myself up for hours.
And they kept coming. There’s that time we were heading out to catch a ride on the Christmas trolley… He was walking along when he hit an uneven section of sidewalk; since his hands were in his pockets the only way he could break his fall was with his face, right into a brick wall. Oh. My. God. The howling, the purple goose egg on his forehead, the bloodied lip, the trolley passengers staring… Fortunately a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sighting was a well-timed distraction. What a weekend. Needless to say our Christmas pictures were not as attractive that year.
Whether it’s a forehead to the wall, a tumble off his bike, or most recently a golf club to the face, it’s clear that young kids’ heads are made of concrete. Somehow his mishaps have only result in bumps and bruises, no open wounds or stitches (how’s that for jinxing myself?). And even though I’ve become somewhat immune to it now, there’s always that initial “oh shit” gasp before I slow down and gain my composure. You know the feeling — the internal struggle of “do I apply frozen vegetables or take him to urgent care?”
Peas, cuddles, and a juice box usually do the trick for him, but I always spend a few minutes berating myself for being a sucky parent. Why can’t I protect my sweet boy from walls and sidewalks and sports equipment? What’s wrong with me? Fortunately it’s not too long before I see a post on Facebook about another kid’s stitches or a busted tooth or a broken arm and I realize that we’re all experiencing the same adventures. I guess a hard-headed kid isn’t such a bad thing after all…
June 26, 2014
The blog drought is over, for now at least. How long has it been since I posted something? There’s no real reason for the hiatus; the crappy winter resulted in nothing interesting to write, so I didn’t waste my time or yours. What’s fun about a weekly blog on parent/toddler arguments? Nothing, so I’ll just sum it up real quick.
Age 3 has been much more of a parenting challenge for me than 2 ever was. Between 3 and 3½ I got a hard and fast lesson on stubbornness, defiance, backtalk, and crankiness. I know it’s all part of Junior’s growing up, learning how to express himself, having an opinion, yada yada yada, but some mornings I contemplated walking out of the house and going to work in my bath robe just to escape it.
The funny thing is, Junior is only a grumpasaurus at home; he’s an absolute prince when we’re together with friends and playing with other kids. So my friends literally don’t believe me when I tell them that he throws tantrums, swats at me, and loses privileges on a fairly regular basis. A little junior Jekyll & Hyde I suppose. I’ve taken the liberty of creating a top-10 list of Junior’s greatest (and most illogical) anger-inducing situations. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy experiencing them.
10. Syrup placement: God forbid I drizzle syrup ON his pancake instead of on the side for dipping.
09. Get dressed before we come downstairs for breakfast? Hellz no!
08. What? No cartoons during dinner? Mommy should be deported.
07. Runny nose = tissue only. Toilet paper, napkins, hankies and any other absorbent items are contraband.
06. “Junior, please pick up your shoes.” “No YOU do it mommy!” Uhhhh, what?
05. “Junior, I need to wash your hair because it smells like a trash can.” (SCREAMING) “I WANT to smell like a trash can!” This bathtub episode was great – I got it on video.
04. When and where I blow dry my hair can be a major issue on any given morning. Tread lightly…
03. Daddy does the occasional morning daycare run. LOOK OUT.
02. Well let’s face it… Daddy tries to do any of the usual Mommy stuff (excluding wrestling, tickling, and watching vintage Muppets shows online) and there’s backlash.
01. SOFT PANTS. Dear Lord, the child wants to wear some form of sweat/jersey/athletic pants every day and doggone it I want him to wear khakis every once in a while. So we finally came to a mutual agreement that seems to work: soft pants on Mondays and Fridays, and “handsome” clothes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. DEAL.
I’m laughing as I write this because the conflicts we have are so ridiculous. Fortunately as he approaches 4 he is definitely easing up on some of those idiosyncrasies. But even if we start the day arguing about sweatpants it’s good to know that the nights usually end with snuggles and story time and bedtime prayers. Not always, but usually. He’s an opinionated guy, what can I say? He’s particular about the order of things; he appreciates a process. He also falls down and bumps into things a lot, so I’m guessing my DNA is really taking charge in there. Poor guy – I know how hard it is to be a klutzy type-A person who wishes she could wear sweatpants every day.
December 17, 2013
I can’t believe I’m about to do this, but here it goes. I am republishing a prior blog post for the 3rd time. No, it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s not because I can’t think of anything else to write. It’s because there are no other words in my life that are more relevant right now. Today I contemplated changing my son’s name to Chardonnay or Zinfandel because every time he starts whining I crack open a bottle of wine. Well, not at 6:30 AM but you get my drift…
Grammar Lesson (originally posted 7/16/2012)
hom·o·phone [hom-uh-fohn]: A word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not. Courtesy: www.dictionary.com.
Back in middle school we were given some common examples to illustrate this phonetic term: “carat” and “carrot”; “two” and “too”; “there” and “their”, to name a few. I’d like to introduce a new, more relevant example that is applicable in my adult life: “wine” and “whine”.
Wine is a delicious beverage that often encourages feelings of happiness and relaxation. It can be red, white, or pink, but careful consideration must be given to the pink variety as it can be tricky… Wine can vary greatly in price, but my experience typically falls in the “$10 or less” category. Wine is a bright spot in one’s day; the more wine, the brighter the day becomes, until things turn hazy and that means there’s been too much.
Oh how things change when you add one single letter – h – to that lovely word: wine becomes whine. Whine is also a regular occurrence in my life, yet it does not lead to feelings of happiness or relaxation. It comes in one variety only: annoying. If I could pay to make it stop I would definitely branch out of the “$10 or less” bucket. But unfortunately it is a free service provided by my toddler, one from which I cannot unsubscribe, much like junk mail and the Yellow Pages book that still shows up on my doorstep.
It should be noted that there is a distinct cause-and-effect element in play. Whine (the bad kind) very often leads to wine (the good kind). Unfortunately that’s not appropriate at 7:45 on a Monday morning, but sometimes I wish it was. In the evenings, however, a good dose of whine may be matched by a good dose of wine. And that’s what makes homophones fun.
October 30, 2013
Just over a month ago my baby boy turned 3. We decided it was time to give him a real birthday party at the house with friends, a bounce house, cake and ice cream, and all of the chaos that comes with it. It was a blast, and I told my husband that I think I had more fun planning his party than I did planning our wedding. I have a little Martha Stewart buried deep inside of me and it comes out in full force when I know people are coming over, even people under the age of 4.
Junior is a pirate fanatic at the moment, so naturally we had a pirate-themed party. A pirate bounce house, pirate tablecloths, super cute bandanna hats, eye patches, a homemade treasure chest birthday cake, and buried treasure for the kiddos to take home. I found a great website for all of the decorations and favors, www.purepirate.com, so if you have a pirate-obsessed child and need some swag you should check it out. At first I was worried that it was a site dedicated to adults with a weird pirate fetish – and maybe it is – but they had party favors so I went with it…
After a long, beautiful, fun fall day of bouncing, running, laughing, eating, and post sugar high crashing, Junior started planning out his life’s adventures when he turns 4. “When I turn FOUR I can yada yada yada…” Wow. Do you remember how much fun it was to turn a year older? So many things to look forward to… Starting kindergarten, being “double digits” when you turn 10, becoming a teenager at 13, drivers license at 16, being able to say “well I’m an adult now and I don’t have to listen to you anymore” when you turn 18 and argue with your parents, drinking (legally) when you’re 21, car insurance rates dropping at 25…
Like many people, that stopped for me at some point. My birthday is exactly 2 weeks after Junior’s and I turned the big 3-5. I don’t really have an issue with getting older, but I certainly don’t feel excitement about it. I wonder what it would be like to happily say “when I turn THIRTY SIX I can do this and that and this and that…” I started my 35th birthday by dusting the wood blinds downstairs. And since it was raining Junior and I took a nice trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some necessities. I’ve never been that person who celebrates a “birthday week” and expects a lot of fanfare and grandeur, and maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I should show a little more excitement about the day I entered this world instead of being so neutral about it. I should take some cues from Junior who is so excited about what’s ahead for him in the coming year, and how much better life will be when he hits his next age milestone – 4.
Maybe I’ll get a bounce house for my 36th birthday.
We’ve all had those periods of time when life seems out of control. For me, it’s leading a pseudo-single mom life while my husband’s job keeps him away from home most days during the week. It’s my precious toddler, just shy of his 3rd birthday, who thinks everything is his way or the highway right now. If he doesn’t get M&Ms after dinner he hops out of his booster chair and swats at me. Bedtime means nothing; he’s up 2 or 3 times with every excuse imaginable from “monsters in my room” to “I have to poop.”
I don’t know about you, but eventually I hit my wall. Granted I’m not the most patient person in general, but I do try to temper it when it comes to Junior. Tonight I actually told him that if he got out of bed one more time I was going to cancel his birthday party next month. To a kid so damned excited about turning 3 that he can barely contain himself, that was pretty mean of me. He did stay in bed after that though. So as I cleaned up one of a thousand messes tonight, I stopped to reflect on how I react to things and realized that I should actually try to be grateful for the crap that drives me nuts.
In the last year or so I’ve become acquainted with a great company that gives people an easy platform to raise money for any cause that’s important to them. Since there are no limitations on what someone can fundraise for, you see a diverse range of campaigns. Everything from church mission trips, to Susan G. Komen, to pet rescue groups, and they’re all fantastic. The ones that really strike a chord with me though, are the ones that center on families – families just like mine – trying to raise money for their children. Expensive cancer treatments, stem cell therapy, adoption, wheelchairs, you name it. Yet these are things I never have to think about.
Everybody has problems and frustrations, things to complain about. Nobody’s life is peaches and cream all the time. But I think it’s important to put things into perspective; to recognize that some of the things you gripe about could be a blessing to somebody else. My son has the ability to crawl out of bed and roam the hall upstairs, but there are other kids his age that can’t. Does this mean I should feel guilty? Absolutely not. But when I get particularly crabby it does cross my mind.
At the end of the day every family has its own definition of “normal.” I grew up with an older brother who was confined to a wheelchair from a young age due to Muscular Dystrophy. Others may have looked at our family with sadness or pity, but to us it was normal. I hopped on the handicapped school bus with him every day for a number of years and didn’t think twice about it. My parents were active with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and we were granted a Disney trip from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m sure my parents felt more stress than they let on, and as a child I was certainly oblivious to it, but I know that they found great joy in their less-than-picture-perfect lifestyle. And I know that the families behind the fundraisers I just described also feel great joy, even if their lives appear less than ideal from the outside looking in.
So tomorrow morning I will look at my sleepy boy with crazy bed head and tell him his birthday party is not in jeopardy. When he swats at me like a brat I will discipline him, but also feel grateful that he’s able to swing that hand. When he sasses at the dinner table I will correct him but remember that I am lucky that he communicates so well. The next time he loses his mind in a fit of rage I’ll remind myself that his presence alone is a blessing. But in all fairness I’ll still be annoyed and wonder why my life has to be so crazy sometimes. That’s normal isn’t it?
*For more information about the fundraising company and its active campaigns, visit http://www.bonfirefunds.com.
August 1, 2013
Every now and then I catch myself looking at Junior, now 2 months shy of his third birthday, and wonder how (and when) he got so big. I had to leave town for several days last week and when I got home it’s like I was looking at someone else’s child. Did he get taller between Thursday morning and Sunday night? It’s made me really start paying attention to the little things…
His vocabulary. He’s my first child so I don’t have much to compare it to, but some of the things that come out of his mouth are mind boggling. Not just because they’re so crisp and clear, but because they’re so grown up. A recent example, stated with the clarity of a polished orator: “Mommy can you stop? You’re annoying me.”
The water fountain. He can reach it at daycare. For months I’ve had to give him a little boost to reach the stream of water. Now he puts his sweet little face right in there and slurps away. I don’t know how it happened.
His sales pitch. He’s a better negotiator than I am.
Junior: “Mommy can I have some M&Ms?”
Me: “No buddy, not until after dinner.”
Junior, turning to his father: “Daddy, you’re the best. Can I have some M&Ms please?”
Mimicking Mommy. It’s no secret that I love having Junior work with me in the kitchen. I’ve found that he translates the things I do in the kitchen to the “cooking” he does in his own little places. For instance, at least 3 times a week he makes me soup or macaroni in the bathtub. And almost always he samples his bubble-laden recipe and informs me that it “needs a little more salt.” So he takes a pinch of salt from his imaginary bowl and sprinkles it into his recipe. Then he’ll taste it again and say, “It needs some pepper Mommy,” and crank his imaginary pepper grinder like I do in the kitchen. He is so serious about it, and is overjoyed when I taste the final product and tell him how DELICIOUS it is, and seasoned just perfectly… It is absolutely precious.
Independence. Now that we converted his crib into a toddler bed he thinks he can set his own agenda when it comes to going to bed and staying in bed… My once late sleeper has now decided that chirping birds are his sign to get up and start the day. Mommy wholeheartedly disagrees. But it’s a tricky situation because he’s potty training and I want him to feel like he has access to the bathroom, or to me, should he need to go. Quite a conundrum… I do find it comical that he thinks he can get up and stroll around the house at night after he’s gone to bed. Not too long ago I was loading the dishwasher at around 9 PM, and I looked up to hear him say, “Hi Mommy. I’m going to play in my fort now,” as he waltzed into the family room. Do what?
Affection. With all of the ups and downs, milestones and challenges, the amount of affection we get is the best part. I’m not an overly affectionate person by nature; my closest friends and family know how much I value my 3 feet of personal space… But the big bear hugs I get from Junior are out of this world. He tells me he misses me when I’m gone. And he still wants me to hold his hand as we go down the steps. I know that won’t last forever so I’m happy to oblige as long as I can.