Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Butting Out

I stood in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner tonight, listening to two very happy little people giggle and scream and laugh. One big person was prompting all the excitement (hint: it was not me). See, Jack loves to wrestle. Molly loves to sort of wrestle while making up rules for the wrestlers. I don't love to wrestle. I don't love rules about wrestling. I can pretend for about three minutes but then I get worried someone is going to smack his head or my mind wanders to who exactly I'm picking up tomorrow or hey look! A squirrel. If anyone wants me to read a book or make friendship bracelets, I'm your gal. If you want me to wrestle... wellllll... Anyway, even though we usually split the dishes or do them together, I really didn't mind doing them solo tonight. I listened to shrieky laughter and I enjoyed the few minutes where I wasn't on. I knew that no one was going to ask me to hold her underwear (like earlier today at gymnastics because god forbid one wears underwear under her leotard) or to find something that is ten inches from his face but still mysteriously lost AND I was still able to enjoy all the people being happy. Because I'm with my little people for many of their waking hours, I get used to my ways of being with the kids. When John "comes home" (i.e. he walks upstairs) from work, sometimes I forget to shift into the "we are four" mode with two parents to solve conflicts and squabbles and two parents to make people smile and two parents to hear about the school day. Frankly, I make the mistake of staying the go-to parent. But tonight, I realized that it's not important for me to be in the middle of the melee to enjoy their giggling. In fact, it was far better for me to be out of the picture and let the three of them have their own thing. And it was good for me to have waking moments of not being the go-to person. This is all stuff that I've been very aware of since we became parents but it was a lot easier to accomplish when we had babies and toddlers whose needs were largely concrete. It was easy to divide tasks because their wants were simple and easily fulfilled. As they get older and their needs become nuanced and complex, it's more challenging to remember to sit back on some things and assess who might be better to address a specific topic... or who might be better to distract them from it. Look, I'll always spend more time bandaging injuries -- emotional and physical -- because I'm the primary, stay at home parent but it doesn't mean, by any stretch, that I'm only one who is able to do it. Really, butting out of the wrestling session was right by everyone. John was on to soothe any accidental bumps and to finish out the day laughing and doing something they all enjoyed that didn't involve or need my pesky presence. Obviously, this happens many other times since, despite what my hair looks like, I do go to work and do other things on my own. We're equal partners on this roller coaster. But I spend so much more time physically with these crazy monkeys that sometimes, and this is on me, I forget to physically remove myself from the scene and let their other very capable parent be #1. John is very good about stepping in when I'm going bananas and need someone else to mediate exactly who stepped on whose pinky toe for the forty eleventh time today. But it's the fun stuff that I also need to step back from and that's harder to do. Tonight, though, I realized that being a bystander to other peoples' joys is wonderful too. Bearing witness to happiness is a gift to be savored. And my kids have a dad who, according to expert testimony, is much more fun than me. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I actually love wrestling... when I'm not involved.
Hey look, no snow!

 Pride is winning weird stuffed animals for your kids.

Seriously... not sure who is having more fun.

Privilege is raising these two loons.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Put Your Hands In The Air

We're all tucked in and ready to ride out the blizzard of the 2015. With little else to do besides frantically refresh the NOAA website, I realized it was high time to post the answers to Molly's annual questions about her future and her breakfast choices. I also decided that next year I'll still ask these same questions but I'm going to add in a few more... because we're transitioning out of the "what's your favorite food" stage and into that meatier part of life -- like what her favorite books are, what are her favorite songs, activities. We're shedding more and more of the concrete, small kid stages each and every day...

1. What is your favorite color? RAINBOW (All of them)
This has stayed remarkably consistent. Girly likes her colors. And patterns. Preferably together in ways that are questionable on the matching continuum.

2. What is your favorite toy? LEGO (Lego Friends_

Yes and yes. We've thankfully ditched some of the Lego Friends for a more comprehensive array. 

3. What is your favorite fruit? POMEGRANATE AND CHERRY (Mango)

Whatever... kid likes to eat health. Thank the lord since the other one? Notsomuch.

4. What is your favorite TV show? WILD KRATTS AND FRESH BEAT BAND (Cat In the Hat)
She is remarkably happy sticking with hokey shows. She knows I hate Barbie and loves to tease me about turning it on. She wouldn't dare, though...

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? BLACKBERRIES, POMEGRANATE AND TURKEY (Tuna) 

I love this for its patent falsehood. In no way is this her favorite lunch on any day other than the day we were doing these questions.

6. What is your favorite outfit? PINK DRESS WITH GOLD SPARKLY STRIPES (My patching PJs with my doll) 

This is sort of true. It's more true that she likes something with stripes and her gumball leggings. See #1 for the penchant for mixing all sorts of wackadoodle combos.

7. What is your favorite game?  SUBWAY SURF (Candy Land) 

Aaaaand the iPad is like crack. Awesome. Still, I'll take it over the stick-my-eyes-with-a-hot-poker game AKA Candy Land.

8. What is your favorite snack?  SNACK BOX ON THE PLANE (Goldfish)

Perhaps the first human known to advocate for plane food. On purpose and not under duress.

9. What is your favorite animal?  DOLPHINS (Bunny)

I honestly don't think she gives a whoop about animals... so not her cup of tea. Except... the other day she wrote a hilarious set of letters (asking for responses) requesting a hamster. 

10. What is your favorite song? WICKED AND SOUND OF MUSIC (Mr. Grinch) 
Being an ardent lover of show tunes, this melts my heart. Her dad's? Not really. She is also a big fan of Taylor Swift. And Macklemore... oops.

11. What is your favorite book? IVY AND BEAN AND LEGO FRIENDS  (Little House books) 

Sounds good to me. I'm just happy she likes to read.

Okaaaaaay... hey, why limit yourself?

13. What is your favorite cereal? CHEERIOS WITH FROZEN BLUEBERRIES AND HONEY (Strawberry Os) 

The more frozen the berry, the happier she is. 

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? PLAY ON THE SWING SET (Monkey bars)

Yes, yes, yes. Still likes to just hang. Preferably something higher than wherever I can reach her... tree limbs are also a favorite.

16. What is your favorite holiday? EASTER VALENTINE'S DAY CHRISTMAS AND HALLOWEEN (Christmas) 

I do not get the V-day enthusiasm. I like decorating for it, I guess... which reminds me...

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  PILLOW AND DOLLY AND PRINCESS LOLLY (Dolly) 
Some things never change. And that's fine with me.

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  CHEERIOS W/ FROZEN BLUEBERRIES AND HONEY (Toast) 

See above. 

19. What would you like to have for a special birthday dinner? STONEHEARTH MAC AND CHEESE (Lemon shrimp pasta)

Girly is a very helpful meal planner. I especially like when she suggests take-out.

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  TEACHER (A doctor or a famous figure skater or a rock star scientist) 

Bless her... we need good teachers.

BONUS QUESTION: What is one wish you have for the year? THAT I HAVE A BUNNY (That I could take tap)
hahaha... not happening. And I love bunnies. But I also owned a bunny and those cages stink. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lucky Number Seven

We have arrived at seven. I say some form of this every year and I mean it every year -- this girl keeps us on our toes. I've been on my toes for seven years. She can make strong-willed and stubborn children look weak-kneed. With each passing year, her independence becomes less of a streak and more of, oh, I don't know... her entire personality. Okay, that's some hyperbole (kindasortamaybe)... she is also hilarious, kind, interesting, creative, focused, emotional, loving, obstinate, fun, forward-thinking, and wacky as the day is long. She can sing the pants off me (not surprising and not much of a competition), she draws and cuts and colors and tapes anything that isn't moving. She creates scenes and moves stuff around ( she is my child) and makes up stories. She does math for fun and devours books. Her focus is not always on, shall we say, the more mundane aspects of life (things like remembering to wear underwear or not walking out the door without a coat) and I often feel left in Pig Pen's wake. Her head is most certainly in the cloud more than earth. She drives me b.a.n.a.n.a.s. many days but inevitably it's because she's found something that is far more interesting to do than whatever it is I'm asking her to do. Frankly, taping together a "newly released" song book is indeed more fun than emptying the dishwasher. I hear "wait just a sec, Mom" more times than I blink in a day. But it's those, ahem, dare I say maddening qualities that are ultimately the ones that will make her flourish and succeed. Her wackiness and creativity and insistence that she knows what the hell she and everyone else should be doing at any given moment are the very things that will take her so, so far in this life. It's a balancing act as she gets older -- to know when to reign in some of the out-of-bounds stuff so that she can function responsibly and ably in this world. But, function and thrive and grow and master -- she'll do all that with her own blend of sass, strength, and smarts.

Parenting beyond the toddler and preschool years is incredibly rich and rewarding. I loved the chubby legged waddles awakening of two and three and four (okay less three... but loved two and four!) but older kids are interesting and fun and independent and beginning to be really nuanced and multi-faceted. This stage we're moving into is exciting in different ways. For one thing, I'm less funny and a little more embarrassing. We also become more outward facing and incorporate more external influences in our lives. This brings along a host of challenges but growing our community and our knowledge base is fulfilling. Notions pop out of Molly's mouth now and I wonder "where the heck did that come from?" but it offers so many opportunities to talk about things. And while I'd like to pretend we talk a lot more deeply about some of these subjects, we probably don't really delve yet. But the foundation is being laid for some of those crucial conversations that shimmer on the horizon (why Barbie makes me want to poke myself in the eyes with a hot stick, for instance, is the first layer about confidence and how we relate to our bodies and why she does not need Ken. Or Skipper for that matter. That girl is just a hanger on. Just for instance...). The trick at this age is to keep getting them to come back and talk. It's figuring out how to keep the conversation going for the long haul. Admittedly, it was easier when the world was black and white and I could dictate when the sun rose and the moon set. But easy gets boring and sticky stuff makes life worth living. With Molly, there's never a shortage of sticky stuff.

I don't mean to imply anything but love and respect for my first born. Because, at the end of the day, we have our ups and downs but she is one big ball of delight. I would not, absolutely not, change one single cell in her body. She's a tough cookie that flies so, so high. I'm proud of her, I'm proud of our relationship, I'm proud to have her stand up for herself, to feel strong and free. Yes, sometimes, I wish she would empty the dishwasher the first time I ask her to or that we had worked out a situation with fewer grimaces and grumps, but when I make my mental tally at the close of business, love always wins. Always.

Happy birthday, Molly.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boys Boys Boys

The little guy is a full five fingers big. He made his birthday-loving Grammy so happy with his excitement about his birthday month, week, minutes, milliseconds. SO excited. He's a little ball of joy, that one. And while he is akin to a puppy in so many ways (poor judgment around playing ball in the house, a strongly held belief that shoes are good for anything other than wearing, a need to run run run), he's also clearly (I hope) a little boy who makes the world brighter by just being in it. Jack is so stinking charming (I believe you can find that fact on Wikipedia) and has a heart bigger than the sun. His preschool is mixed age and he loves the littler kids in his class; he takes his role of ambassador very seriously. He is as happy to play with a two year old (especially if they're cute little twins two doors down from us) as he is to play with a nine year old. And while he should probably hire a social secretary, he's also fairly content to bum around with me or by himself. We have the afternoons to ourselves and he's still my little book snuggler so we spend a lot of time at the library, wandering the stacks, browsing books... he's rarely (or NEVER) in a rush. My little man would prefer that sustenance came entirely from wheat, peanuts, and cow milk -- rarely does anything of the flesh pass muster, though he does consent to fruits and vegetables if he must (which he must).

In the past year, he's learned to ride his two-wheeler, is starting to sound out words, learned to control the TV better than me, still loves hockey, baseball, and soccer. He likes jokes (the punchlines are often still ambiguous), puzzles, and competing with Molly to be the slowest person to get out the door in the morning. Trains have largely given way to Hotwheels, he thinks he's a Wild Kratt many days, and Rescue Bots are ah-maz-ing, in his opinion. He and his buddy Will play fight in the most destructive and unfun looking way imaginable but they are such happy little puppies, er, boys who are entirely in sync with their kicking/shoving/chasing/grabbing/tackling games... until one of them gets kicked in the eye. Speaking of which, he's the kid with four thousand bruises at any given moment. He whacks his head, kicks himself in the face, and bangs his elbow with alarming regularity. He can fall down standing in one place but he's remarkably coordinated on the field or in the net.

My boy is determined in that typically unshowoff-y manner of a second born. He's cautious but confident. I hope there is never a day that he loses his charm, his wit, his kindness, his brains. He's smiley, happy, genial and still, thankfully, my sweet, sweet boy.

Weight: 46 lbs
Height: 43 inches
1. What is your favorite color? Light Blue Blue and Yellow 
2. What is your favorite toy? Rescue Bots Thomas
3. What is your favorite fruit? Banana Pineapple 
4. What is your favorite TV show? Rescue Bots and Wild Kratts Thomas and Wild Kratts
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Bagel with cream cheese Peanut butter and jelly
6. What is your favorite outfit? Batman costume Striped Thomas shirt and cozy pants 
7. What is your favorite game?  Cat in the Hat Thomas chugging on the rails 
8. What is your favorite snack?  Fruit leather Chocolate granola bar 
9. What is your favorite animal?  Guinea Pigs Monkey 
10. What is your favorite song? Lego Movie song Chuggington 
11. What is your favorite book?  Bats at the Library Superhero books 
12. Who is your best friend? Jackson, Josh, Sam, Will Theo and Levi 
13. What is your favorite cereal?  Strawberry Cheerios Strawberry Cheerios 
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play Wild Kratts Play hockey 
15. What is your favorite drink?  Orange juice Milk 
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas Thomas holiday... 
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Spider Man stufy Horton 
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cereal Bagels 
19. What would you like to have for a special birthday dinner? Pizza Pizza 
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?  Spiderman A real hockey player 
BONUS QUESTION: What is one wish you have for the year? I hope Molly's birthday comes this year See Joshua

Monday, October 13, 2014

Big, Bigger, Biggest

The posts get fewer and further between because the milestones don't come with the rapid fire frequency that they used to. But still, teeth are lost and Lego masterpieces are built and homework is finished off so it's not like cool stuff isn't achieved -- it is just at this different rate. The day to day isn't as remarkable except when you step back and look at the depth and breadth of all that we do in the aggregate. We bounce through our daily lives with normal English being spoken instead of the cute little gobbedly gook of toddlers so we don't spend as much time deciphering or trying to figure out what a frustrated little person is trying to get across, exactly (though let's not pretend that we don't have tantrums any more). I love the gobbedly gook... and I love understanding 90% of a conversation. It's all such good stuff.

We looked back at old pictures and videos tonight and it made me miss some of those little people-isms and the funny antics. It also made me so happy with the amount of sleep I get these days... I loved being with babies and toddlers but I also love our big people and all the cool stuff we get to do now that our babies aren't, well, babies. Lucky for me, I get to rent out friends' babies and toddlers so I still get drooled on, and get ridiculously excited when I three words are strung together. I'll never get tired of all those antics. But I also won't get tired of Lego masterpieces and the whatever comes next. Here's to stages and ages!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fly Like An Eagle

I see the end of a chapter approaching. With just nine short months left of our preschool years, we are turning the final pages on one era and beginning to think about what awaits us in the next chapter of our parenting lives. I'm watching things gear up at the beginning of this preschool school year knowing that it is the last time I'll be a part of these events and this community. While preschools are cozy, warm sweaters that are forgiving and that you can wrap around yourself and find comfort in, elementary schools are more like jeans -- a little stiff, a little hard to find the right fit, a little unforgiving at first. And while cozy sweaters may seem like the more appealing choice every time, they really aren't. They are a time limited item. Jeans, however, are universal and long-lasting and once they are broken in -- holy mama, they are great. So while it's a little scary to ditch the cozy warmth of the enveloping preschool, it's liberating and exhilarating to move on to the next step. We watch them move away from us and we become just one of many influences in their lives. But for them, they move towards a fuller picture of themselves. They move towards self-realization and agency and their own definition of who they are versus the one that's been externally constructed for them. It's the continuation of the individuation process that has been inching forward... and now we'll watch it explode and encompass many other people. 

As exciting as it is to watch our people put the skills that we've consciously and unconsciously taught them into play (I hope that the utterance of "GOD DAMN IT" that I heard from the playroom recently will get put to good use...), it's also terrifying to watch them drift out of our direct orbit. It's so exciting to hear about the good stuff that happens during those six hours of school (when you actually get to hear it and not just the sound of you attempting to extract metaphorical teeth to find out one measly thing about the day) -- to hear about the successful reading group or new playground skill or the fun lunch time friends -- it's excruciating to hear about the cliques and the frustrations and the struggles. It takes all of our parenting willpower not to put on our capes and fly in to fix the playground squabbles or deal with the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or make up for some bad behavior. But it's, slowly, not our job anymore. It's their job to right their wrongs to figure out how to navigate choppy waters. We are there, of course, to support them, but we're not there to step in and solve every problem anymore. We've already taken off the cozy sweater and put on the jeans and that means that they own their highs and their lows more and more each year. But you know what? That's awesome. It's awesome to see them earn their own accolades and find their niche and figure out what they're good at. It's awesome to hear how they turned a bad situation around. We have laid solid groundwork and they get to fly from there. It's the long game that matters more than the short game in this case. 

So, I've got one more year where I hear a daily report on what happened from the teachers themselves and not from my questionably-able young reporter. It will be hard to lose those tabs but I'm also ready for it. I'm ready for the next step and to see what happens when my information source is five years old and not fifty. I'm not wishing away this year but nor am I unrealistically attached to it. It's important for me to feel ready for the next stage, sure, but even more importantly, my kids need to feel ready for it. And because I sense my little guy is set and eager to be a leader this year and then climb on that big yellow school bus next year, I'm okay with being on the final pages of this chapter. I'm okay enjoying the cozy sweater knowing it'll get packed away, but not forgotten, in several months. I know the school-aged journey that we've barely begun is a good one so I'm excited for all that comes with it. I'm excited for band instruments and homework and writing workshops and science fairs. As I straddle this line between elementary and preschool, I'm grateful for both. I'm grateful for where we came from and where we are going. I'm ready for my kids to be carefully watched over and I'm also ready for them to soar. I'm just glad to be on the journey because I hope we've prepared them to be good navigators.

It's good to know that I'm still needed when it comes to fashion tips...


Monday, August 25, 2014

The End Is Near

We're staring down the the final week of summer, determined not to let it go without a fight. I think many of us are having a familiar internal conflict -- sad to see the unscheduled warmth of summer days dwindle away but also ready for fall's consistency, backpacks, soccer, and new school friends. I loved starting school when I was a kid and I think my own kids may crave the familiar pattern of September as well. But, we have plenty of time for the fall rituals that await us. Before we head down that autumnal road, though, we were happy to give ourselves over to a final hurrah of summer loving.

We're pretty lucky ducks with our parents choosing to live in some pretty rad summer places. This month, our circus gave Maine a workout. We squeezed in a party, a play, a day trip to Rockport with moms and babes, cousin time, hangout time, mini-golfing, biking, and a final weekend of camping. Other than a few random one-and-done puking sessions and a little less sleep than I'd prefer, it was a perfect end cap to our summer.

These days were certainly lovely and I really have no complaints (outside of the puking) as we put the summer of 2014 to bed.

Five of the six blond monkeys

Not sure why this game was fun but it lasted a long time

This one seemed even stranger

This little cutie and I might just be very serious, very good friends now.

Until Jack unseats me and takes over the BFF role.

Choking? Hugging?

Meeting the characters after the play.

Evening bike ride while camping.

Looking out on Frenchmans Bay.

I think all tents should be sold with s'mores.

A quick stop on our bike ride in Acadia.

Looking out on Penobscot Bay from the only bridge tower observatory in the country. Who knew it would be in Waldo county Maine?

Another hug/choke?

 Exploring Ft Knox.