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Finding Moments

It’s been a long, crazy weekend here.  Grateful for sun after three days of rain and the coolest spring I can recall since moving here, we kicked off the weekend with strawberry picking at one of my favorite farms.  Saturday morning was a raucous game of soccer, or as close as can be had with a bunch of three-year-olds.  And still drunk on blue sky and warm breezes, we came to realize that nothing would make the weekend more perfect than a night spent under open skies.

Really, there was no “we” in that realization.  I have this idealist vision of camping, memories of my mom cooking a huge breakfast on a griddle while my dad helped me and my brother find worms and nightcrawlers for fishing.  When I was a kid we spent a lot of time in campgrounds and took first our truck camper, and later Winnebago, all over the country.  I’ve either blocked out the bad parts, or it was AWESOME.  I dream of a pop-up camper; so far the furthest I’ve gotten is convincing my husband that sitting around a campfire and sleeping in a tent a few times a year won’t kill him.

Anyway we packed up Big Blue, got the dogs and kid in the car (J, at sixteen, was just way too cool for camping),  and headed outside the city.  Of course by the time we got there, set up camp, scavenged enough wood to start a fire, made dinner and made our way back and forth to the communal bathroom several times, T was so exhausted he was crying to go to bed even before making “fo fo’s” (marshmallows).  As the fire started to burn out and the temperatures dipped, we noticed we didn’t have the tarp for the top of our tent.  We huddled together on the air mattress that managed to spring a leak since the last time we used it, staring up at the stars through our unimpeded view.  And finally, finally, the squirrels, deer, bears, mountain lions, and other guests stopped their partying long enough for me to fall asleep…only to wake and repeat the chaos of toddler-caring, fire-making, food-preparing and the rest of it.

Batshit crazyBy the time we packed up I was more than ready to go.  T had been whining non-stop for nearly two hours, I found myself repeating and REPEATING simple directions such as “stop throwing rocks!” and “stay away from the fire, it’s hot!” and I wanted nothing more than to be home and the sweet solace of T’s naptime.  And I’m sad to say that, while I strive to use kind words and toddler-level reasoning with him every day, by the time we got in the car my frustration and short temper were starting to spread like toxic mold.

We did make it home, an uneventful trip except for the ginormous spider I found crawling on my shirt (seriously, I almost died).  A too-quick nap and T was awake and still acting up, incapable of listening out of shear exhaustion.  But as I tried to get some of the laundry started and dishes washed and camping carnage put away, I kept passing him lying, quite peacefully, on the couch, watching a movie.  And I recalled that it can wait, all of it.  I have not doubt that pile of greasy pans will still be in the sink after he goes to bed, or even tomorrow morning.  But for this moment, of T being three-and-a-few-months and just the two of us lying together, watching Toy Story, still smelling like campfire and sunshine, I have no such guarantee.  So I took it, and he put his hand on my head and smiled, and life was good.

Camping.6.2014

 

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Three!

My sweet son –

Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.

I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.

You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.

As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in family, Parenting, Remember

 

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Kid Stuff

This week was a blur and as I sat down (!) this evening I realized it’s been a while.  So here I am.

My husband and I have always maintained very active lifestyles.  Whether it was getting up early to head to the farmers’ market, thrift shopping, or road trip, or heading out late to hit a concert or meet up with friends, we were pretty much non-stop.  And we walk – a LOT (one of the benefits of living in the city).  When I was pregnant with T, my dad was constantly asking how I was doing, wondering if I was working too hard or staying up too late or not getting enough rest.  I did my best to reassure him (i.e., white lies about earlier bed times and restful weekends) but I think T got used to all the activity that was actually taking place.  That kid is definitely mine – he’s up at the crack of dawn and wants to be moving every minute he’s awake. 

Photo credit Getty Images

I am reminded this time every year why I love city living and why I’m glad we have the good fortune for our kids to be raised in this City in particular.  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is grab the picnic basket and a bottle of wine and hit the free concerts in the park.  DH hates these musical events (likely because I make him carry the basket) which, unfortunately for him, are a nearly weekly occurrence.  There are outdoor movies on the Pier, festivals for every nationality, bocce tournaments, wine and jazz festivals, baseball, more concerts, block parties, boat races, yoga in the park, free swimming pools, fireworks, corner snowball stands, and celebrations for all sorts of historic events.  And we do all of them – and more – as a family.

Our kids haven’t slowed us down and bit.  Oh sure, there are changes – scheduling around nap times and play groups, more breaks for snacks, missing that last inning when it is well past bedtime.  And we’ve cut out a lot of our bar-hopping (because really, who brings a baby to a bar?).  But other than the time we no longer spend drinking and, er, recovering, it was a pleasant surprise to realize we still do most of the same things.  As a bonus, we get to act like kids along with our boys – my husband can swing to his heart’s content without anyone pegging him as the creepy guy at the playground, and no one thinks twice about a woman singing or dancing like an idiot when her toddler is in tow.  I’m sure the day will come when the boys want nothing to do with us, but for now I just hope they are having as good a time as my husband and I.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in family, Parenting

 

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Social Graces

It’s come to my attention that T may need some help meeting kids his own age.  He’s very social, always attentive to what’s going on around him, makes eye contact, and can hold his own in “conversation.”  We never really worried about finding playmates because we bring him with us almost everywhere and he’s exposed to a diverse network of people, places and events.  Then a few weeks ago I caught him running to the door “wo-wo”ing in unison with our barking dogs when Daddy came home.  A few days later I noticed him playing tug-of-war with a stuffed animal dog-style, shaking it around in his teeth.  At this rate, the first day of kindergarten will be filled with some pretty embarrassing questions.

As if the pressure to find playmates for T were not enough, my husband has made comments in recent weeks about his shrinking circle of friends.  To be clear, my husband’s list of “friends” includes nearly everyone he’s met since he was in high school, if not before, so I’m taking his complaints to mean he doesn’t spend enough time with them, rather than the number is actually dwindling.  That said, his gripes are not without merit.  I think most people go through a transition of friends when they become a couple; some are lost, some are gained, and couples tend to spend more time with other couples that are a good match for their own relationship and personalities.  When the status changes from “couple” to “parents,” our experience has been that the social transformation is both immediate and stark.  Afternoon happy hours now require a delicate dance of “who will stay home with the baby?”  Dinner or brunch with an infant is distracting, for lack of a better word.  And carefree nights out, once so common, now require strategic planning akin to scheduling security detail for a Presidential trip to the Middle East.  Couples are fluid, integrating in and out of social life seamlessly.  “Couples plus” are more like a hangnail in their otherwise childless social circle, tolerated but requiring that much more attention, courtesy and accommodation to be a nuisance.  Unfortunately DH and I know few people with kids, and even fewer (okay, none) with kids near the age of ours.

All of this, sadly, has left our little family kind of lonely.  Well maybe not so much lonely as sick of each other and in search of someone else with whom to talk and spend time.  We live in a family-friendly neighborhood and, at least based on demographic information and the posts to the local mommy listserv to which I belong, the place is crawling with kids.  How to meet them is a different matter.  I remember when I first brought home my dog, Oscar, feeling like the neighborhood opened up to me; constant puppy potty breaks tend to reveal all manner of early birds, night owls, bar crawlers, church goers, athletic types, and fellow pet owners.  Unfortunately, outside dog-walking, much of the daily pattern of urban family life seems to remain more indoors than out.  Sure, I can tell you what time the mom down the street arrives home with her youngest child in tow, but they disappear so quickly into the confines of their rowhouse that I’m left wondering if it was really just a mirage, a figment of my imagination brought on by the desperate need for companionship.

So I did what any city-living mom would do – I stooped.  As in, parked on the front stoop with a glass of wine, tossed some toys out on the sidewalk, and let T have at it.  This plan is brilliant in its simplicity, I assure you.  For one, there is an open window in which to scope out who is coming and going, and which of those may be people you want for your team.  Two, the sidewalk is now your hostage, and potential passers-by have two choices – break ranks and retreat to the other side of the street and the safety of a childless sidewalk, or a direct attack through the middle of your compound.  The retreaters are now on notice that this is a Child Zone and to enter at their own risk.  Third, and most importantly, you’ve created a minefield of toys and people (and sometimes dogs) which forces people to slow down as they pass.  This gains precious time in which to attempt to captivate  these unwitting pedestrians with witty banter and a few flashes of T’s four-toothed grin. 

It’s a bit early to tell, but I think my plan is working.  Sure, we occasionally notice that someone with whom we shared a few laughs now crosses the street as they turn the corner.  But more often than not the same people walk by and stop to chat.  The other day while chatting with the parents who have a little girl, we simultaneously stopped talked when we heard the unmistakable sound of two toddlers howling at the fire engine coming by, sirens blaring.  Her parents may have their own embarrassing questions to answer when she heads to school, but I’m going to mark that as the day T made his first friend.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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First Steps

My son turned one a few weeks ago.  For 362 days my husband and I watched him in amazement, reaching all those milestones that make the first year so momentous.  And then, in the days just prior to his birthday, he did it again when he started walking.  I sat watching him, realizing I hadn’t seen him resort to crawling for a few days.  And he’d stopped cruising, clinging to furniture or legs or dogs when he needed a little extra support.  That kid took those first few steps of freedom and literally ran with it, squealing in delight.

I’ve never really held the opinion that I live my life with abandon.  Calculated risks?  Sure.  Leaps of faith?  Of course.  But actual abandon, the stuff that allows a tiny being barely two feet tall to just let go and move forward into the enormous world, sight unseen?  Not so much.  But seeing the joy on his face as my son took those first unfettered steps, that was enough to make me want to take my own. 

Writing for me is a double-edged sword – I tend to enjoy it, unless someone else will be reading.  Maybe it’s the idea of my words shuttling off into unknown territory, the inability to know whether they will find friend or foe, acceptance or rejection, criticism or support.  Fear of a potentially scary world greeting my thoughts has kept me in “cruise” mode for years, not willing to let go.  Many thanks to my sweet peanut for showing me the way – today I take my first steps.

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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