A little update

After two months of ridiculous amounts of snow, really cold weather and sick kids (with the related ear infections, coughs and no-sleep nights), I’m finally starting to feel some Spring optimism. Mostly that means I’m able to stay up past 8:30 p.m. to tackle some of the backlogged items on my to-do list. That includes: reducing clutter and getting some clothes that fit my post-pregnancy body (especially now that I’m prepared to accept the inner-tube shape of my waist).

I’m also hoping to pay more attention to this blog space. My goal to post something once-a-week went the way of joining an aerobics class, learning to knit and meeting new people. Good intentions, always. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s survival mode all the way when you have young kids. You do what you have to do (and what I have to do is sleep). 

I thought I would kick off my blog revival by sharing a couple of things that are rocking my world currently. Hopefully they will do the same for you! 

1.) I admit this book sounds like a chore to read, but I’m actually really enjoying it.

The author, Marie Kondo, is an organizing/cleaning expert in Japan and shares her fool-proof method for getting rid of clutter for good. I’m really good at resorting and organizing, but that doesn’t really solve the clutter problem at our house.

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral.” 

My massive basket/storage container collection stands as evidence of my clutter band-aids, and I’m pretty tired of spending my free time picking things up off the floor, moving piles on the counter top and throwing things in the back of a closet. So I’m ready to downsize our belongings. Kondo talks about the relationship we have with our stuff and allowing yourself to let go of things – I’m already quick to toss things out so she’s speaking my language, but I think it’s a good read for anyone on the clutter-reduction spectrum. It will change the way you view your clothes and other belongings for the better! 

2.) Due to the aforementioned inner-tube waist, I’m on a mission to find flattering, comfortable clothes. The Dynama series from Mountain Hardware features a stretchy knit waistband that brought back fond memories of maternity pants. I tried the skirt and shorts and was pretty thrilled with a waist that fit with no pudge spill-over (it’s the little things, right?). This is definitely a more athletic type of material and look so best for casual wear. Since that’s all I own, it works great!  I, for one, am happy to support a company that makes things with a stretchy waist. Available options here.

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Next up on my Spring bucket list: purchasing bikes for Ed and I (and then actually riding them). I’m just waiting for it to be above 40 degrees. No dice on that one so far. 

What I’ve learned about brothers

Alex and Charlie holiday photo

In just a couple of weeks, my littlest monkey will be turning 1. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I started sobbing looking at the totally unexpected pink lines on the pregnancy test (those were panic tears). At the time we had a handful of a 14-month-old and had discussed waiting at least another year before trying to have a baby so we could spread out daycare costs a bit. So much for that.

At first, I was a little concerned about introducing another tiny person to the family. As Alex’s preferred parent (daddy is second-fiddle at our house), we have a close relationship. I knew I wouldn’t be as available to him, and I had a hard time visualizing how an extra person was going to fit into what felt like a pretty perfect family of 3. It seemed hard, and a lot of work, and maybe even a lot of misery for Alex. I felt pretty guilty about that last part, even though I am pro-sibling as a general rule. I expressed my concerns to my BFF since middle school, who said she felt the same way when they had their second, but it all worked out great and seeing the affection her kids had for each other was beautiful to watch. She’s usually right about these things, so I assuaged the guilt by buying Alex condolence vanilla bean Frappuchinos.

Mommy and Charlie

When Charlie arrived, I fell in love with the little peanut. I called him my kitten piglet — he was pretty small, and his crying sounded like little kitten mews. Even the nurses commented on it. We brought him home just a couple of days later, and so began a pretty amazing year of sibling affection. Maybe it was because Alex was barely about to turn 2, but we didn’t experience any of the jealousy and regression you worry about when bringing home a new baby. He was sweet to his baby brother (when he wasn’t ignoring him all together — there were toys to be played with and Thomas the Tank Engine to watch, after all), and I could tell Charlie enjoyed interacting with his big brother.

When Charlie got to the magical 6 month stage, when you can park your kid sitting up somewhere, I couldn’t help but notice that Charlie watched Alex. A lot. He was interested in everything he did, and found what he was doing to be pretty funny. Curiously, he especially found Alex tackling him to be funny, which made said tackling difficult to police. I remember constantly thinking “wait, you’re WAY to little for parallel play,” but that’s what the two of them were doing. I don’t remember Alex ever “playing” with other kids, but Charlie pretty quickly became Alex’s baby sidekick. 

Today there are lots of games of “chase” (or Alex’s modified version which involves lapping crawling Charlie several times over). Lately we’ve been dealing with Alex climbing in the crib and sleeping with Charlie. And Charlie continues to think Alex is the BEST THING EVER. There is no doubt in my mind that Alex enjoys the encouragement and attention from his brother. 

Okay, so it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

Okay, so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

The biggest lesson for me in all of this is that love grows. What I thought was a heart already brimming with love for Alex was actually only the tip of the iceberg. There was more room than I imagined. Not just in me, but I saw it happen in Alex’s small toddler-centered world — a space grew for Charlie, and with it came lots of hugs and kisses and concern for his well being, something I absolutely would not have expected to see from a two-year-old. Empathy? Worry? Those are pretty big concepts for a little kid, but they were there all the same because he allowed love to grow. I’m truly humbled by watching that process happen over the last year. It was a good and necessary reminder for me. In this imperfect world, sometimes it feels easier to harden my heart and stifle growth, but I bet I’ll miss a lot of beautiful moments that way.

And with that, a few words for my sons as they approach their first and third birthdays:

Charlie pic

Charlie: Knowing you are likely my last baby, I have savored so many moments of this last year, and sniffed your head countless times. Apologies in advance because I will continue to cuddle and sniff you. I love your serious and playful sides, and I can’t wait to see your personality shine over the next year.

Alex pic

Alex: Charlie is super lucky to have you as a brother. I can’t even begin to imagine the fun you two will have.  I am so, so proud of you for being kind to your brother, but for the love of Pete, would you please stop climbing in the crib. I’m afraid you’re going to step on your brother’s head. 

 

 

Field Trip Fail

Due to some confusion about where the student mailboxes were located in Alex’s new pre-school classroom, we didn’t find out about his apple picking field trip until just a few days before, when they were looking for permission slips. I hardly had time to process the fact that my 2-year-old would be going on a field trip WITHOUT ME, let alone the fact that he would be riding on an actual school bus WITHOUT A CAR SEAT. I had misgivings, so I did what any parent would do and signed up to chaperone. Rookie mistake.

We left the house in the usual chaotic fashion, dropped Charlie off with his baby friends in the infant room, and headed up to the pre-school classroom to wait for the bus. Alex went into his typical hysterics when we got to the room, in spite of my repeated assurances that I was staying. The cling monster didn’t let up until it came time to get on the bus.

Check out this ecstatic bus face.

Check out this ecstatic “I’m on a bus!” face.

Still, I was proud of my little munchkin as he calmly boarded and waited patiently for the kids to get buckled in (this bus had seat belts at least, thankfully). He laughed with delight as the bus got moving, and smiled for the first 5 minutes of the trip, just because of the bus excitement. I thought, “this was so worth it. That look on his face – that’s what this is all about.” Oh, optimism. I guess it’s nice to know I still possess it this far into raising a toddler.

Misery ensued the moment we stepped off the bus. We had to wait. Wait for potty trips, and wait for the tractor that would bring us to the apples. And then we had to get off the tractor. And the tractor left. It was too much. For the next hour, Alex pulled out all the trantrum stops: refusing to walk, crumpling to the ground, screaming. Out of the 25 children on the field trip, do you know which one lost it because he couldn’t drive the tractor? Do you know which one ran off repeatedly? Do you know which one refused to have fun? Yes. That would be my kid.

Visions of apple picking

The morning ended up being pretty miserable. I kept checking my phone, counting down the minutes until it was time to board the bus again. I tried not to give into the tantrums, but I still ended up carrying Alex pretty much everywhere. When I wasn’t carrying him, he was in a heap on the ground crying. So, fun times.

He rallied toward the end, and was pretty quiet on the bus ride home. I’m sure all that falling on the ground gets tiring. And this story does have a happy ending. Both boys took a 2-hour nap, a rarity for Alex these days. I even snuck in an hour nap, which is hands down my favorite thing in the world. I heart naps. We may have also gone out for milkshakes.

Alex is actually pretty good at school, as his teachers confirmed. I guess I’m glad he saves his punk behavior for me — I made him, he’s my problem. I just don’t understand what I’m doing to make the tantrums an option for him. We’re supposed to be having fun. Why aren’t you having fun, small person? Why??

Conveniently, I read that one of my favorite blogs, Momastery, is hosting a three-session webinar with the author of “Parenting Without Power Struggles.” I’m thinking about signing up so someone can fix my parenting. The tantrums are just getting longer as Alex grows and apparently develops the ability to remember life’s injustices. So much for waiting the tantrums out.

Time for a new plan. I may be exhausted and exasperated kiddo, but I’m not giving up yet. We WILL be a happy family with slightly less screaming, so help me.

Taking Back Date Night

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It seemed like an easy goal. One date night a month. Every four weeks, 12 times a year, Ed and I would do something fun for an evening.  This brilliant plan failed the first time I instituted, it and each and every time I re-instituted it.

I failed to appreciate how often small children get sick. Alex and his daycare cohorts swapped germs like there was no tomorrow. The viruses always seemed to show up on Friday or Saturday, which made for some fun weekend doctor visits. When Alex felt better, I just wanted to catch up on sleep, preferably before the next cold virus paid a visit.

On the rare occasion we had a free evening and found a babysitter, I couldn’t stop watching the clock. I kept a mental tally of how much the date was costing us. I remember distinctly sitting in a theater watching the Muppet Movie sequel, and feeling angry because the movie wasn’t great, and the babysitter meter was up to $30. Things did not improve at dinner. We ended up at a Chili’s because of long wait times everywhere else. (I’m pretty sure their business model is built on being everyone’s third choice.) At that point we were up to $60 on the babysitter meter, plus movie tickets and chain restaurant quesadillas. This did not inspire going to the effort of setting up more date nights.

My goal was simple. Ed and I needed to do something, just the two of us. Something to remind me that he was more than childcare relief and the guy who takes out the garbage. In a note that came with my birthday flowers, Ed mentioned that I was his best friend. I teared up a little, because in the small-child-chaos and my 24/7 state of sleepiness, I forgot about that.

We had to reclaim date night, and we needed something we could do at home. I saw suggestions online for dancing together (too mushy) or just holding hands (puh-lease). Seriously, am I the only one who needs some hands-off time after having a 2-year-old somehow attached to me for the day? Toddlers do not respect personal boundaries. Toddlers laugh at boundaries.

Prior to having children, Ed and I went out to eat a lot, which I enjoyed. That practice has been suspended indefinitely, pending Alex’s ability to sit for more than two minutes without the aid of Chuggington episodes or ice cream. So, to reclaim a small part of that, I thought we could try getting take-out on Friday nights after the kids go to bed.

We avoid the usual kid-friendly suspects, like Panera and Five Guys, and try to pick a restaurant we haven’t been to. One of us heads out to pick up the food, and then we sit down together to eat while catching up on shows we recorded five months ago. No one is dropping food in their milk. No one is melting down over the “no television during dinner” rule. No one is sitting on my lap and eating off my plate, having rejected the exact same food served to them. It’s heavenly.

I love your faces, but mommy needs a break.

I love your faces, but mommy needs a break.

When I make the food run, I do occasionally feel some jealously toward the people who are actually able to eat at a restaurant after 8 p.m. And I somewhat reluctantly leave the bustling energy behind for a quiet house with (fingers crossed) sleeping children. But even though it’s just dinner, I really look forward to Friday nights now. It’s less about the food, and more about consciously making time for one another outside of our parenting duties. However, thanks to the real Mexican restaurant in the next town over, I rediscovered my love for queso dip and now eat that several times a week. I’m obsessed. So there are lots of benefits to this date-night-in model.

What do you do to connect with your spouse? I promise not to judge you if it is dancing or holding hands. Most people probably have greater affection reserves than I do.

Meet my busy kid

He said it rather nonchalantly, but Dr. Cooper’s observation of “he’s busy,” was something of a defining moment. Not hyperactive, not out-of-control. My kid is busy. It sounded like an okay thing, while we watched him inspect the cabinets, exam bed, rolling chair and everything else in the room. I needed to hear that, because raising a busy 1-year-old who also was not the world’s greatest sleeper was taking every ounce of patience and fortitude I had. And of course I was wondering if it was all somehow the result of some fault in my parenting.

I kind of knew I was in for it. Alex spent the latter part of my pregnancy kicking his legs seemingly nonstop. You could actually see his little feet poking out. As a baby, the kicking continued. He would kick his legs super fast and screech, because that’s fun.

He was a little late to the party on rolling and crawling, but when he figured out how to stand up on his own, it was fast-track all the way to walking, then running, then climbing. And most recently, requests for “fly!”

Some things have gotten easier with time. We can communicate with each other better. He’ll sit and watch Thomas the Tank Engine or Barney so I can get something accomplished without worrying about him being in mortal peril. But at 2.5, the meltdowns are pretty dramatic. And there’s the flying. I’ve found that with parenting a busy kid, things get easier over time, but there’s always a new challenge waiting in the wings. Long story short: never a dull moment.

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Alex’s little brother, Charlie, joined our family 7 months ago. I said it as kind of as a joke to my husband, but really very seriously, that it would be unfair for me to have two busy kids. The universe agreed, and delivered to me a quiet, sweet little boy. I am so grateful for his peaceful spirit. It’s keeping me somewhat sane in this season of raising young children. I continue to enjoy watching Alex grow and develop into a little person, and I can’t wait to see how Charlie turns out. I know it will be (quietly) epic.

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I decided to start this blog in part because I needed a better evening hobby than playing Candy Crush. There are probably some useful things I could do around the house, but 2.5 years into this parenting gig, I can tell you that I don’t make super productive use of my time after 7 p.m. This way I can be creative, and perhaps put my other addiction - Pinterest - to good use.

I thought about joining the mommy blogger fray in the past, but I didn’t think I had anything new or interesting to add to the discussion. It’s true there is a lot out there on parenting and raising kids, but there’s just one me and one Alex and one Charlie, so that’s something. And if I can build a little community of tired-out moms who love their busy boys (or girls!), then all the better.