An August hello

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I never write anymore, I know. I suppose there is a life span to most blogs, and mine has pivoted from Crohn’s, to infertility, to children, and now the weeks tumble by without any overarching dilemma (other than finicky flare-ups health-wise, the ever-present question of, “What should I make for dinner?”, and an ongoing battle with my Excel illiteracy). Every good story needs a hurdle.

I’ll write about the good stuff: Sam is sleeping next to me, napping, two middle fingers in his mouth, sweaty and sweet. He will be three in October and is a jolly oddball: he chirps and grunts and sings and has vibrato, I swear, his little three-foot body is alive with promise Sometimes he quietly tinkers, or we find him half-asleep on the couch (he never fights bedtime, unlike his sister). Sometimes he’s the class clown, hamming it up for his inner circle. He loves his people: us, his grandparents, Julie his care-giver/teacher/wonder woman. He’s also a burgeoning little smartass.

His big sister is wholly a daddy’s girl (I hate that phrase), but in this case, it’s true. (So true, in fact, that she told me she loved her father one-thousand times more than me. She then made the critical error of asking what I was making for dinner, to which I replied, “Why don’t you ask your precious daddy?!” and went upstairs to shower.) She often says Sam and I are a team, and she and Matt are a team. I know she didn’t understand it, but after one of these bouts I pulled her close and said, “Don’t you see? We fight because we’re one in the same. Stubborn and hot-tempered and willful and sensitive.” She looked at me flatly. She didn’t buy it.

We found Annie a pre-K class for three days a week. After touring three schools, we settled on one nestled on the Main Line (so there’s a high probability Annie will learn about au-pairs and Swiss skiing holidays). I called Matt a “Tiger Mom” because this one has a more academic focus, whereas I just wanted the cheapest option (never mind the cheapest one was an offshoot of an evangelical church and we are not religious; a little indoctrination never hurt anyone if if saves us a few bucks is my mantra). I told him she doesn’t need academics – she needs to play – and like that our personas were reversed for a minute. Matt is always the lax one, and I’m the worrier who is often uptight, but here he was saying she needs more structure to ready herself for kindergarten. I should add that Annie has been asking to attend her own school for quite some time: her two girlfriends from Julies are off to kindergarten. “No one my age is going to be at Julie’s,” she said. We agreed.

“I’m just growing up so fast,” she told me yesterday. We were lounging in my bed talking about school, and about how, no, she couldn’t bring her beloved PB&J sandwiches because of allergies. “I love peanut butter sandwiches even more than Chinese food,” she giggled, before adding, “But not better than the egg rolls.” Then she was off – downstairs – to play checkers with Matt. If there’s nothing else – if we fight and holler over every blessed thing – I know we can break bread over General Tso’s.

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Leaning Out

Matt and I had one of those esoteric conversations about life and work that’s always in hipster movies but never happens in real life the other day.  It was essentially about, how, intrinsically, work is not fulfilling on so many levels and what can we do and change to bolster it so it has similar richness to that of raising kids, having a spouse, whatever.  But, hello, it’s work.  And maybe if you’re truly following your passion, your calling then maybe it adds a deeper meaning.  I don’t know.  So, anyway, I said work is work for a reason, let’s not get all deep here, it allows you to pursue other pursuits when you’re not working and that is reason enough why it’s precious and that was the end of that.  And then I had a pitiful day today.  When I had bad days I replay the events.  I brood.  I feel badly about myself.  Which makes me get to the real reason: I’m sitting here, thinking about work (argh, which is the worst), and I realize I need to take my own advice and use it just a vehicle to do other things and I need to actually go out and do other things. Which is sometimes hard, because I’m endlessly tired.  

I wrote that over a year ago. It’s funny how the mind finally reconciles what the heart already knows: how my job is good for me (my health, my schedule) in this time and place and ego has finally taken a back seat. Matt is in that place, too: taking a 9-5 steady gig a few months ago over the excitement of a start-up. He still wrestles with that decision a little: we all know life is a string of choices leading to the next, often times not right or wrong, but what is needed in the present. Neither of us is particularly “leaning in”; we’re too busy getting ice cream in our PJs.

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And getting our teeth cleaned:

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And playing with friends:

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The kids are 2.5 and 4.5 years old. They are often exasperating and exhausting: Sam picks at his dinner and leaves 30 seconds into it, wandering off into the living room to play. We tell him dinner with the family isn’t optional and to “get in here!” He grunts at us. So it goes.

He’s fully potty-trained (day and night): we’re tired of waking in the middle of the night to his calls to take him to the bathroom, so we put his little potty next to his bed. “If you go here and back to bed without calling for us, we’ll give you a chocolate in the morning.” Sugar is the only form of currency they know and they are constantly begging and bartering for ice cream and chocolate.  He agreed with this arrangement but then (and this is not hyperbole) subsequently did five “micro-poops” and called us in after each one demanding his treat.

“No, in the morning, tell us.” “Okay!” he giggled. He doesn’t keep his promises, but he’s wholly sweet and so often agreeable when the stubbornness fades. Julie gushes how much he tries to help, and eagerly shares with his little friends.  “He showed Nico how to play a new computer game today!” she beamed. (It’s always a computer game.) Matt smiles and tells me we’re going to be a “gamer family”. There could be worse things.

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Annie is a dominant force.  Here she is at Kalahari, an indoor water park in the Poconos. The kids loved it and ask to go back weekly.

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She possesses such warmth and empathy: she’s driven to console, but it has to be on her terms (tormenting her brother is OK in her book most of the time).

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Not content to sit at home, she’s always asking about “girl time” (when we go off and do something, just the two of us) and her world all comes together when it’s both me and Matt who pick her up: she knows we’re off to the library, or the park, or a picnic dinner. She’s an eager explorer of the world, ready to make it her own.

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The kids are with their Mimi and PopPop right now. Matt is coding (for fun, I suppose I should add – although anyone who knows him well will already understand) and I’m reading and writing and stretched out on our old red couch, decidedly, blissfully “leaning out”.


Weightly Matters

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I don’t like to talk about my body because, like for many women, it’s a tired topic. Who the F cares.  And I have children and I’m determined that not one iota of their being and self-worth is going to hinge on a number on the scale or the BMI index.  But also since entering my thirties, I actually don’t care as much: it’s a vehicle, I think I’m attractive, and it’s more about preserving my health as I flow into mid-life.

However, I’ve gained weight throughout the last year (the same weight I lost the year prior).  I work in a food smorgasbord (and I perfected a “must take ALL.THE.LEFTOVERS.HOME system by keeping Tupperware in my drawer – fo’ real).  Then there’s the weekend bagel bashes, and shared chocolate bars on the couch nightly with eternally-slender Matt. I love food: it’s the perfect accompaniment to all of life’s hues.  I love thinking about my next meal.  But then my brain did a little pivot when the following happened:

1-     “Your tummy is so fluffy!” – Annie’s daycare companion (and, in my book, mean girl)

2-     “Congratulations!” exclaimed a co-worker. “On what?” I asked. “On your pregnancy!” she replied.  Oh, I’m not pregnant I continued.  And this is the kicker: “No, seriously Kathryn, congrats!!!” (Mean girl grown up.)

3-     Since I tell everyone everything, I immediately recounted this to every coworker who would listen and agree that I certainly did not look the teeniest bit with child. Then a guy – mid-twenties, didn’t understand the shared pact that you HAVE TO AGREE WITH ME, and replied, “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say pregnant…” (Emphasis on the ellipsis…) Thanks, Jonathan. (Name not changed because you only change names to protect the innocent.)

4-     Getting dressed this weekend, Annie asked me why my stomach was so big. I took the opportunity to explain how I carried her and her brother for nine months in that very tummy. I took the opportunity to dispel any notions that a stomach needs to be flat, and that wasn’t it powerful that a women can grow a baby and then feed that baby? I got down on her level and felt very powerful and felt a growing kinship with my little girl. (A lot of our conversations lately have been about how we’re electing a new “king” or “queen” for the United States and how we haven’t had a queen before, and isn’t that, like, ridic? Annie totally agreed.) So here I was, all, I am woman hear me roar!, and she responds with, “Yeah, but, you don’t have Sam or me in your belly now, so why is it still big?” Whomp whomp.

This is all to say to please keep me away from the cupcakes. I’ve only had one Cadbury egg this week (that’s SUCCESS, damnit!) so I think I’m well on my way to Gisele Bundchen-ness (or, more likely her mother…or grandmother…).

In other news, we took a side off of Sam’s crib to make it into a daybed. He was very excited until we heard a loud, resounding (and I swear, house-shaking) thud at 1 am that night. Since our parenting skills are top notch, we didn’t place anything near the crib opening after the first fall (it’s like a mere foot, relax). So, you know, another thud was heard at 4 am. (There’s now a large chair there but we’re replacing the missing crib side because he’s been waking up throughout the night.)

In Annie news, she is getting sassy and much prefers Matt to the likes of me. For example, the other day we had a gun discussion with her (you know, if you ever come across one, don’t touch it, tell an adult, and all that jazz).  Later in the day when I chastised her for back talking and asked her why we were butting heads so much, she said, “Don’t worry, Mommy. I still love you. I mean, I love you more than a gun.” It was just as sinister as it sounds, people.

On Matt news, he started a job that HAS A MILKSHAKE MACHINE. For free! Obviously, I harangued him each and every day for a milkshake. He was all like, “I don’t understand, how am I supposed to bring that home? Wouldn’t it melt?” I told him these are simple logistics and honestly, they’re pitiful excuses because if he just got it RIGHT BEFORE HE LEFT it would be OK for his thirty-minute commute. Notice how I haven’t mentioned anything else about Matt’s new job because it’s completely irrelevant when there is a free milkshake machine involved. And don’t you dare mention my promise to eat healthier. Free milkshakes trump everything.


December has come and gone…

1) Having kids makes you realize how goddamn short life is (groan – I know, cliche cliche cliche).  Annie’s baby years are already a hazy memory and the fog is already enclosing on barely two-year-old Sam. That ephemeral nature of childhood makes me realize how fleeting it all is: it’s startling and scary and makes me confront my own morality all the time. (I surely can’t be the only one, right?) I know this is what makes us, US – this is the fiber of the human existence, and the melancholy that sets in when I think about all of this means I HAVE IT GOOD. I don’t want it to end. It’s done me favors: my idea of professional success has morphed from titles or money to balance and contentment. I allow myself to eat ALL the cookies, because, damnit, life is short and cookies are everything. I put down the iPhone and listen to the kids because toddler chatter and negotiations are pure comic gold. Like, the other day, playing with blocks, Matt says, “Hey, look, I made a pig!”  Annie glanced up and in a very nonplussed way said, “No, Daddy, that looks like a chubby mole,” and went on her merry way.  Meanwhile, Matt and I were in hysterics.  How does she know the definition of chubby? When has she seen a mole?!  See – they are growing up fast.

It really does look more like chubby mole.

It really does look more like chubby mole.

2) The Christmas season has come and gone (and I’m generally ready for it to begin and end – first, the anticipation! then – the clutter!). This year both kids “got it”, so for two parents who are the point of like “so I’m buying something for you that you can get yourself out of our shared bank account and you’re doing the same?” jadedness, sparks of magic began to take hold.

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A local bank sponsors a Christmas party (complete with Santa, toys, treats, and a movie) at our local downtown theatre.  The kids love it:

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The next day our local wildlife center / Audubon Society opened its doors for crafts, cookies, and general frolicking on the grounds.

Some of Sam’s early modeling work, circa early December, 2015:

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We also went to Longwood Gardens with Matt’s parents, and thanks in part to global warming (sigh) and El Nino, it was almost balmy:

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Poppy and the kids (and Fern) watching Elf:

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We even hit up the playground because it hit 70 (let me state that again – 70 – which is both amazing and terrifying in that dystopian way):

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We had a blast this holiday season – taking in local parks and lights right up to Christmas:

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And we made cookies for Santa:

On Christmas morning the kids were the most excited about a 69 cent bag of mini marshmallows I picked up at Aldi and were generally unenthused about the Pinterest-worthy grocery store I put together from a yard sale find (until Annie found money in the cash register – those fake dollar bills piqued her interest…she probably thought she could buy more marshmallows). Behold, the power of marshmallows:

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Kiddie capitalism:

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Oh, the Easy Mac was also a hit. (Note to self: cap next year’s Christmas budget at $5.00).

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Fern got a hex bug (at least their new wood blocks got some use):

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We spent Christmas day with my family where the kids (and Matt) had a blast with my dad’s old train set:

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And then visited the Please Touch Museum before our membership expired at the stroke of 2016:

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On New Year’s Day the kids spotted “Rudolph” out our living room window. I’m taking it as a sign of good things to come.

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Happy birthday, Joanna!

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You are me and I am you and we push and pull until we’re ripping our hair out.  It took me a bit to sit down and write this because we’re at a crossroads: both temperamental and stubborn, both flippant, but you have something I always wished I possessed: you can turn it off and come up for air.  In the middle of a knock-out time-out session, through tears and teeth grit, after you said I was the “mostest bad mommy in the world,” you then added, “Mommy, I love you.  But I just don’t like you right now.”  It was after I yelled (your father just said this week that we’ve become a household that just yells all the time now – oh Annie, we both really are trying).  I started crying too, and said, “Me too, Annie, me too.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.  What can we do to get past this?”  Maybe that’s not a fair question to ask a girl who is just turning four, but I see a lot of wisdom in you.  We hugged, the time-out ended, and I asked you to help bring the plates from dinner to the dishwasher.  Tantrums tumble and roll into the next hour, day, week.

We adopted a kitten the other week and named her Fern. You carry her around everywhere (the poor thing): you cradle her, nuzzle her, cuddle her. That damn cat has brought so much love to this house and so much stress: “Annie, support her from the bottom!  Sam, don’t pick her up from her HEAD! Kids, leave her alone –she is EATING. STOP PULLING AT HER – YOU HAVE TO SHARE THE CAT!” But then I came downstairs on a Saturday and you were there with her, on the couch, cuddling and whispering. Your emotions are big and bright and you take no prisoners, but your capacity for empathy and love can outshine it all.

I have no doubt all of this will serve you well when you get older. Julie says you’ll be a little CEO one day. She’s very diplomatic. I often wonder if your no holds barred approach will continue in kindergarten: it’s easy to rule the nest with your small group at daycare, or at home with your little brother. That’s the joy and burden of being a parent: there’s so much we can’t control as you grow into your own.

Yesterday I took you to Wegman’s, our local grocery store, where they have a staffed play area so parents can shop in peace.  It’s become a thing with us: you go to the play area and I shop and then we enjoy a hot chocolate in their little cafe afterwards.  We call it “girl time”. You never once were hesitant about going – you love it and look forward to being dropped off.  You were never much of a clingy child: you live for weekends at the grandparents and always ask where we’re off to when I pick you up at daycare (sorry, kid, we’re just going home).  You love the idea of kindergarten and taking the big yellow bus you see in the neighborhood to the big kid school.  As a parent, that makes us proud.  Onward and outward, Annie – you have a whole world to explore.  But just as I’m waxing poetic about your independent, feisty spirit you back-talk us again and I’m brought back to the daily battles.  Thanks for always keeping it real.

Everyone says we’re spitting images of one another (people say the same about Sam and your father). And I know that’s not where it begins and ends: after a drag-out battle, I’ve turned to your father more than once and asked, “Where does she get this?” and, more than once, he stops and gives his incredulous look – like, this open up your eyes, Kathryn, look – and says, “Where do you think she gets it from?” with a smirk (his kind eyes make up for the smirk).  With whatever blueprint you’ve been given, I have no doubt you’ll be the architect of your own life.  You wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now take it easy on us.  And the cat.  Oh, and last but not least: happy birthday, Joanna. We love you.

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Falling into fall

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1) Annie got an “invitation” for a mail “Sticker Club” which is essentially a pyramid scheme: you send stickers to someone and then send out six of the same chain letter to six sucker parents to do the same.  The whole thing makes me very stabby.  Somehow, everyone is supposed to get 36 (please) sets of stickers from kids (er, coerced, guilt-ridden parents) from across the country.  Isn’t this what modern motherhood is the best at?  Guilting mothers into doing asinine shit like this.  EDIT: I wrote this a few weeks ago and just saw on FB women posting the same, “Let’s do a holiday gift exchange.  You just need to buy one present and you’ll get 6-36 in return! Tis the season!!”  NO.

2) I read a lot of posts about upper-middle-class working mothers trying to get homemade, organic and nutritious food on the table every night.  (I write mothers because, again, I think its the moms who do this to themselves).  To combat this, I present “Crockpot Slop” which I concocted today in less than two minutes (you won’t be so impressed in a minute) and which even my picky kid ate: throw a couple of frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot with a can of cream of something soup,  Add some dry stuffing mix and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Stop with a bit of salsa and some sour cream and a can of water.  BAM!  I served over some BROWN rice (I am emphasizing the brown because hello, the children!).

3) I get a lot of, “What school does your child attend?”  Then I say it’s an in-home daycare and get, “Well, what about preschool?”  It’s hard to stay true to yourself – and your values – when you feel like catching up is needed when your kids are not yet kindergarten age.  I’d like to combat their snobbiness with this fact: my daughter is growing leaps and pounds maturity wise because the other day when I told her she wasn’t going to get a story if she didn’t pick up her mess she retorted, “Well – fine.  I’ll pick this up now, but just so you know, I’m going to make a mess on another day.  And I’m not picking it up then.”  See?  Three going on thirteen.  She’s already mastered talking about, the sly retort, and a perfect look of disgust.

4) The other day while picking up the kids at daycare Annie’s little cohort said to me, “You have a BIG tummy!!” Obviously I wanted to slap that little brat upside the head, but I responded with, “Why, yes, yes I do,” because no one heard and it’s not my responsibility to parent another kid (it’s exhausting trying to parent my own). I think Annie may have overheard, though, because I noticed a glimmer of embarrassment.  And so it starts: both parental embarrassment and body issues.  On our two-minute ride home I tried to balance what being polite means, what can hurt people’s feelings, and also how we should be proud of our bodies and all they can do.  It was a feeble attempt, and I’m not sure she was buying it – or fully understood – because she asked what was for dinner.  At least she was delighted it was pancakes and eggs (don’t knock breakfast-for-dinner, yo).

5) There were a lot of teary-eyed posts back in September on FB when parents were sending their kids off to school.  You know, “My baby is already in preschool!  Time goes too quickly!” followed by four crying emoticons.  I love the kids are getting older – I can actually have a conversation with Annie – and Sam is the most warm-hearted little guy.  Matt just yesterday said, “You know, he’s a good kid.”  I think Matt was talking about the kindness we can see in his heart. Anyway, I get it, I do, to a certain degree.  It marks the passing of time.  Life is short.  Childhood is short and magical and ephemeral.  But there’s so much beauty in watching them take the next steps.

6) I’m purposely trying to cultivate myself because I full well know these kids aren’t going to live here forever (and if I do, something definitely went terribly wrong in their upbringing so don’t listen to a word I say on this blog).  The other week the kids were with my parents and the fall foliage was coming into full bloom so I announced we were going HIKING.  I don’t hike.  I hiked one hike when visiting my sister in Seattle, but, as Matt said, “That was a novelty hike.”  (I seriously thought I was going to be a damn hiker and headed to REI to buy a raincoat but then declared my hiking career over when I saw the price of Gore-Tex.)  Anyway, this hike pretty much went the same way. We got to the top (which took like 20 minutes) and moseyed around until I suggested a burger and fries at a diner down the road.  Matt was sold.  But it was nice to be alone.  To take a little drive.  And, to you know, realize once again I’m more of a sitting type.

Happy autumn.  It’s my favorite.  Below are a few photos from the last month (including the kids first – and very successful – dental visit, a couple trips to the pumpkin patch, and a day at Dutch Wonderland, Halloween pageantry, oh, and that doozy of a hike).

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Halloween 2015

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To my dear boy on his second birthday

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Sam,

There is a magic in you that not everyone knows.  To see this magic is to know you: your sensitivity, your sweetness, your exuberance in the mischief your sister cooked up.  Giggles, two pairs of tiny, socked feet making dizzy rounds from the kitchen to the living room.  Shrieks during Blind Man’s Bluff.  Not quite getting Hide and Seek as you announce yourself with vibrato (well, as much vibrato as an almost two-year-old can muster).  Wide grin, dimples.  Duckies, choo-choos, moos and woof-woofs: your world is sound and action, always moving forward until two fingers find your mouth and you snuggle up: on our shoulder, on the couch, in a lap.

Yesterday we attended a birthday party at a children’s museum.  You spent half the time analyzing an air pressure exhibit. It was delightful watching you tinker, and even more delightful realizing you forgot I was there.  I asked your father what he cherishes about you: he said your agreeableness and your sense of wonder.  Like your sister, you’re almost always up for an outing or a task and your mouth actually forms an “O” in awe when you learn and experience new things.  If you asked me what I love about your dad, I just might say his agreeableness and sense of wonder, too.  It’s a beautiful thing.

You are starting to talk more and I don’t believe in indulging you kids too much, but it’s your birthday, and when you’re a kid your birthday should be EVERYTHING indulgent and adorned with sugar and wrapping paper, so we’ve talked about it every day for the last week.  “How old are you going to be, Sam?!”  “TWO!” you said today when I picked you up from daycare, strapping you in your carseat.  “Are you excited?”  “Uh uh!!” you said.  We asked where you wanted to go for your birthday dinner.  “Cheese!!!” you said, as in Chuck E Cheese.  Kid, I would only go to Chuck E Cheese for you, and when you nodded so surely, smiled so widely and pronounced your desired birthday destination so clearly, you make me want to believe there is nothing better.  Chuck E Cheese it is.  I asked your sister how you two know about “cheese”, and she said, in her typical three going on 13 way, “We saw it on TV, Mom.”  You just smiled.

Reading to you tonight I asked you again what tomorrow is.  You shook your head up and down with zeal.  With zest.  I told you that you needed your rest for such a celebratory day and you started panting and clapping and bopping and laughing.  It was perfect.  That’s all you need to know right now, Sam.  That you are loved.  That the cupcakes in the kitchen are for you (minus the few I’m eating as I write this).  That when you shout “two!” and you see all of us smiling (no one more than your sister, mirroring your excitement) it’s for you, too.

Happy birthday, Sam.  What the hell, let’s go to Chuck E Cheese.

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Summer in photos: June

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June in photos:

A visit with my mom and dad to Tyler Arboretum, strawberry picking, Annie’s artwork, a visit with Matt’s parents to Grounds for Sculpture, and a sprinkling of lounging and goat photos for good measure.


The kids from 10,000 feet up

Child labor.

Child labor.

Writing about your life and children is a whole lot easier when you’re at cruising altitude and your precious cherubs aren’t nipping at your ankles.  Matt and I are visiting my sister in Seattle and the kids are spending five days with the grandparents (five days with grandparents = 10 days of grandparent detox with the following sentiment muttered again and again, “I don’t care if you had ice cream for dinner with Mimi and Pop; eat your sandwich.”)

Annie and Sam are the cusp of their fourth and second birthdays and here’s the rundown of what they’re into: Annie –  Frozen (still…), yelling, “You can’t talk to ME that way!” and “I don’t like you anymore!” (that’s nice, you still can’t have ice cream for dinner), wanting either a guinea pig or a cat (one word: NO), pepperoni pizza, going to the fake grocery store at the Please Touch Museum (Dante’s little-known 10th circle of hell for parents), hide and seek, hurting and/or helping Sam (their relationship is a complicated one), and after all of that, being one of the most caring, spirited and up-for-anything kids you can meet. Annie still loves new experiences,and going going going (she’s perpetually crest-fallen when I pick her up from daycare and she learns we’re just going home – sorry, kid).  She loves overnights at the grandparents, and is discovering little delights in the world and English language (“Wait, wait, wait – Matt and that and cat all RHYME!”), and is compassionate (after a recent bad day she hugged me and told me it’ll be all right and let’s eat some freeze pops and cuddle because that always makes her feel better).  Come to think of it, maybe she just wanted a freeze pop; she is also very scheming.

Which brings me to Sam, who adores treats like any child, but really could care less about the rest of it: he is not food-driven at all.  He eats about 1/5 of our dinners.  He is obviously not my child.

Sam is into choo-choos (trains) and balls.  I worry a little bit because if there are two things in this world I could care less about, I very well would choose anything involving sports and/or balls and trains.  Sometimes we gather around Sam’s little wooden train set and he makes train noises and guides the caboose around the track while Annie personifies the cars and trains and has them hug and go out for ice cream (it’s always ice cream with that kid).  Matt finds the imaginative play tiresome (and it can be), but pushing a hunk of wood around a track is equally wrought.

Sam is also supremely smitten with ducks.  He loves “duckies” and “quack quacks” and goes positively ape shit when he spots anything of the avian variety.  Matt said it’s because he knows – quite innately – that dinosaurs evolved from birds and that’s a boy thing.  I think it’s just a one-year-old thing.

Sam is more clingy that Annie ever was, always nuzzling into us after a long, hot afternoon at daycare: he’d rather be with mom and dad, whereas Annie would prefer anything but.  But although Annie is generally more independent, it’s Sam she follows around on a crowded playground.  In groups, she’s often the follower  (we’re hoping she doesn’t get into a bad crowd because that girl is ripe for preschooler peer pressure).

Both kids have a lot of heart: Annie is often concerned about others’ well-being, and Sam is sensitive and eager not to upset: when we sternly scold him he often crumbles into tears, turning sideways and shielding his face from ours.  He is bashful and shy, but developing a mischievous streak and enjoying the pseudo-power of telling us, “No!”.   The kids are distinctly different and it’s interesting to watch how often nature triumphs over nurture.

I worry about them, too: about our political climate, gun culture and violence, cut-throat Main Line types they’ll be competing against, all of it.  I worry about them making their way like any parent, staying true to themselves, and not developing a love for football or the Republican Party.

For now, though, they’re none the wiser to all this real-world hogwash as they play and bicker and scheme against Matt and me: just as it should be.


It leaves a mark

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Sam bit his fellow toddler at daycare earlier this summer, and then again last week.  The boy he bit still – still, after almost two months – has crescent moons that echo the arc of his bite on the flesh of his cheek.  I didn’t realize until yesterday when picking the kids up, and there he was with his mom and I apologized, said we’re reading him a book about not biting, and she was perfectly diplomatic and nice, and said she realizes she can’t be mad at him.  He’s a baby.  But the scar lingers.

I cried in the car.  When Matt got home and I recounted everything to him and he said, “No, no – that bite was from last week, ” and I said no, last week he bit his friend’s hand.  And we stood there, in the driveway, while the kids ran circles around us, dinner waiting.

Having a child who harmed another child is….mortifying and embarrassing and just heartbreaking.  I felt ashamed of my child and then further ashamed that I’m upset with someone is not yet two and barely verbal.  We called our daycare provider last night: “What can we do?” we asked.  It’s hard to correct a behavior when it isn’t happening in your sight.  I put a hold on every biting book in our county library system.  Our daycare provider told us she’s keeping a closer eye on the boys and that the other child’s parents have asked to keep them separated more often.  As a mother, your heart just breaks: for Sam and for the other family. I don’t blame them for bearing wary of our boy.

The other mother was at pick-up today when I arrived.  While I was putting on Sam’s shoes she said she wanted us to know they’re not mad, just frustrated, and it’s hard for everyone, and her boy bruises easily and Sam didn’t break and the skin and again, “please know we’re not mad at you.”  And I thanked her for being so gracious and I apologized again and said how sorry I was that this was happening.  It feels awful knowing someone is disappointed in your child’s behavior.

Annie was a biter, too.  Once on the arm and then on a diapered butt – there is something so much more violent about a bite on the cheek, particularly one that lingers.

I want to stop here and say Sam is a lover: he is clingy (and lord help me, it drives me crazy at times) but he will cuddle with you and yell and search for you and then settle in your arms and never let go.  Annie was always fiercely independent and then there’s Sam, nuzzled up to your neck with his fingers in his mouth and his eyelids heavy.  He’s sensitive and our needier child, but also so very willing to help, so excited with the beauty of life, so tickled with the new words he’s learning.

As a parent, it hurts to see another child harmed and I hope we can do right by both children: they are great kids.

 


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