Sunday, March 27, 2011

date night with my sweetie

Spring break is winding down, and tomorrow it's back to work.  The days left with my students are limited--just 15 more days until my leave starts (unless the baby has other plans).  The days left as a 'mom of 2' are limited as well.  This past week was the perfect mix of busy, relaxing, entertaining, and memorable. 

Last night, Randy and I had the opportunity to have what we're assuming will be the last 'date night' out in Denver for a while.  I donned one of the least 'maternity' looking tops I have that's long enough to cover my ever-expanding belly, *stupidly* wore sparkling, strappy sandals, and accompanied my handsome hubby to LoDo (lower downtown to the non-Coloradoan). 

We chose a restaurant we found through an online city search, and our based on the reviews we read, we liked what we saw.  The menu looked interesting and tasty, and the wine list was comprehensive and fun (not that I could really enjoy more than a glass), and both the chef and sous chef have quite the resume (especially considering that the chef is just 29 years old!).  For the local readers...check out 1515 Denver and you won't be disappointed!

Our dinner...was fantastic.  I did not want my lamb dinner to end...and it was pretty evident as I practically licked the plate clean.  Randy ordered a strip steak, which was amazing (well, I have to assume so, as he ate every bite and didn't share--well, he shared the spinach--which was so yummy!).  We decided to split dessert...and I'm slightly bummed that we did.  We chose the chocolate tasting, which featured a milk chocolate pudding (omg), a *fun* chocolate cotton candy (o.m.g.), and a white chocolate panna cotta with dark chocolate 'caviar' (OMG!).  Why did I opt to share?  It must've been the glass of Malbec I enjoyed that lowered my inhibitions toward my obsession with chocolate.  Oh well...I guess we'll have to go back sometime (hmm...when will we have the time to do that?!)

After dinner, we decided to check out Peaks Lounge in the Hyatt Regency Denver.  I can't believe we've never been here in the six years we've lived out here (well, I guess I can...we have nights are rare!).  Amazing views of the city from 27 floors up, a fun drink menu, the appetizers and desserts sounded fabulous (too bad I was still full from dinner!), and the ambiance was ideal for a fun gathering of friends (30th birthday coming up soon, babe! ;) If you haven't checked out Peaks Lounge, you're missing out!  We want to check it out earlier in the evening next time, to watch the sun set over the Rockies.

Precious time started ticking away faster and faster, so we decided to stop by one more place before heading home to relieve our babysitter.  On 16th Street Mall there's a great little bar and grill called Appaloosa.  Each night, they feature live music starting at 10 pm.  We arrived a few minutes before 10 and were fortunate enough to get a table (my feet were absolutely killing me at this point...what kind of crazy lady wears stilleto sandals at 37 weeks pregnant and treks all over the city!).  The Grown Ass Man Band was playing, and they were awesome.  Their second song, a cover of Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues' gave me goosebumps and brought a couple to their feet to dance (no way that was happening for me!). 

Randy and I found the couple *interesting* from the moment they came in.  They were an older couple, however their attire suggested otherwise (possibly they raided their teenager's closets?).  They had a 'hippie/free spirit/Boulder' look about them, which resulted in an 'we-don't-care-what-anyone-thinks-about-us' attitude.  I felt badly thinking they were trying too hard to stay young, especially as I sat there watching them dance with one another.  They were totally 'into' the music, 'into' the experience, 'into' each other.  They were pretty inseperable, couldn't really keep their hands off each other (in a relatively tasteful manner, thankfully), and were thouroughly enjoying each other's company. 

Watching them made me starte to feel sorry for myself, sorry for my husband.  When we arrived at Appaloosa, I had text our sitter to see if 11 would be ok for her, so our 'Cinderella' clock was ticking (quickly).  The purpose of going out was to enjoy a rare time together where we were alone, out of the house, away from the responsibilities of kids, dogs, and homeownership.  Here I was, shifting my attention between the obviously-infatuated older couple and my watch, rather than relax a little and enjoy the music with my husband.  I felt like our *fun* evening out was winding down with a bit of a melancholy mood.  As the time ticked away, my responsibilities crept back and I wanted to make sure I was home in time for our sitter.  Randy was more relaxed about the situation.  While he knew we needed to get home, he was chill and enjoying the band (possibly the beer...most likely it's just that he's just the calmer one in the couple!)  He sensed my anxiety as I was maneuvering through traffic on Market Street.  I think he was slightly annoyed that I so easily switched gears from 'fun date' to 'responsible mom'.

The role of 'mom' is always prevalent, date night out or not.  I know this is true because I checked my phone all evening, just in case I missed a text (when we were at Peaks Lounge and I had no service, there was a slight bit of apprehension about the lack of 'open lines of communication' between us and home).  I know this is true because there were quite a few times throughout the night when we found the conversation shifting in the direction of our little 3 and 4 year old munchkins at home.  I know this is true because throughout the night, there were little feet, elbows, knees, and hands moving all about in my belly to remind me of the upcoming *huge* change we're about to experience.  All these reminders of our children while I was supposed to be dedicating the evening to the man with whom I share those children.  Don't get me wrong, I had a fabulous night out with Randy...and there's a part of me that feels badly because I don't want this to be misconstrued in any other way. 

I guess I'm feeling apprehension.  In a few weeks, we'll have three kids.  Three little people who rely on the two of us for everything...from refills on their sippy cups, to diaper changes, to teaching them how to make good decisions and be kind to others.  We've done the whole 'parent' thing now for about 5 years, so it's not a question of 'how' to parent.  It's more of a question of how to add yet another dynamic to our 'established' family.  I know we'll find our groove, get things figured out, and before I know it, I'll be posting an entry about how I can't believe our littlest baby is teething, learning to crawl, walking, turning 3...

I'm not doubting my abilities to be a mom of 3 little kids.  I know I'm going to be bananas on some days (or most), be exhausted often, be overwhelmed weekly (if not daily), smile a ton, and feel amazingly blessed every time I look at their sweet little faces. 

I'm not even doubting my abilities to be a good wife...but I am apprehensive about my abilities to be a fantastic wife.  One who remembers the moments that make us, 'us'.  Like last night, when I was splitting my attention between the 'totally in love couple', my watch, Folsom Prison Blues, my swollen achy feet, my handsome husband, and the lemon seeds in the bottom of my water...Randy leaned over in the middle of the song, put his arm around me, kissed me on the temple, and asked me how baby was doing.  I realized that moment I was spending too much time worrying about everything else when I really needed to  be 'in the moment', and focus my attention on my husband since we were blessed to have those few precious hours of just that 25 years from now, we might be that couple, dancing together at the Appaloosa, without a care in the world but each other...(but maybe we'll dress a little more age-appropro!) ;)

Love you sweetie :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning

"In this spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt"
                                   ~Margaret Atwood (and my husband)

I remember growing up, we would play outside  Our bicycles and rollerblades tracked more miles in a week than I drive in a month.  We spent hours upon hours in the sandbox out back.  My fingers were permanently stained with the rainbow colors of my Crayola box of sidewalk chalk.  The bottoms of my feet were a shade one can really only describe as 'asphalt', and were about as rough as the surface of the same name.  The evenings were spent at our neighbor's house, playing 'the Chip game' (hours of entertainment made possible by one of the plastic chips from my dad's local watering hole good for one free beer--psshhht, kids these days don't know how to 'play'!).  We'd really only be inside to address the basic needs: food, bathroom, shower, and sleep.

Randy was born in CA, but moved at a young age and essentially 'grew up' in a rural area of western PA, so despite the fact that I've described these things to him, he thinks that his experiences as a kid were a little higher up on the 'good ole' days' scale (is there even a scale for that?).  I think he finds it hard to believe that the woman he married ever ran around in the woods, got dirt under her nails, had mud smeared on her face, and donned scrapes on her knees. 

I can't really blame him for doubting the truth behind my childhood memories.  It must be hard for him to imagine me being ok with dirt and sand--especially since those are two things that are my biggest nemisis now that I'm a mom (that, and crumbs, and handprints on the windows, and dust...).  Additionally, with me being 9 months pregnant, the nesting instinct takes over in odd spurts and in odd ways.  My current obsession is wanting to take all of the blinds in the house down, and powerwashing them all.  I chose this task over scrubbing the tile on my hands and knees because I know my back will hate me when I'm finished--if not sooner. 

If you ask him, my husband will tell you that I don't let our kids get dirty, and if they do, I wig out.  He's not entirely 'off'...however I'm working on the way I react to things, and so to say I 'wig out' isn't accurate.  I'll cringe, I'll make comments, I'll sigh...or as he might say complain.  It's not that I don't want the kids to have fun and be's just...obnoxious, we'll say, to see the kids (and their clothing) coated in a film of filth.  Because I know that filth will inevitably be tracked inside.  Inside the house, inside the tub, inside their bodies (since they can't keep their dirty fingers out of their mouths!).  The thought is making me feel all itchy as I sit here and type...

Today was a gorgeous day.  The sun was out, the breeze was minimal compared with yesterday's gale force wind gusts; it was an idyllic spring day.  The kids accompanied me to a cake consult for a wedding cake I'm making in June and on the way home, we stopped by DQ for a treat since they were well behaved (and, well, let's face it...I'm 9 months pregnant...I'm not going to turn down ice cream!).  When we got home, we found Randy out on the back deck, recooperating from the dental work he had done a few hours earlier.  Pleased with his ice cream surprise, he perked up and joined the kids and I as we snacked at the patio table.

Shortly after finishing their snack, the kids found it.  The sandbox.  It's not really hard to miss...Randy built an 8' by 8' for the kids, requiring slightly less than a ton of sand.  Literally.  A ton.  A quarter of which I swear has found its way into the house during the time we've been so *blessed* as to have our own personal beach in the backyard.  The kids were determined to increase that amount today, as they lovingly dumped sand on top of each others' heads, down each others' shirts, and (unfortunately) down each others' pants.  Let's just say it was hard for me to maintain my calm.  Poor Brynn had more sand in her hair than she has hair on her head.  As a result, my specific instructions were to not enter the house until they were ready for bath time (yikes...another 'mom' phrase I never thought I'd say!).

The day went on, and the kids stayed outside (fearful of the boredom that would ensue when they came inside and realized I wouldn't allow them to play video games or watch tv), and the dirt?  Well...the dirt continued to collect.  Faces, fingers, feet...all caked in filth.  The white shirt Brynn was wearing started taking on a gray hue, while her nose was pink and yellow from chalk, and the bottoms of her feet were somewhere past 'asphalt' to a shade that is more accurately described as 'midnight black'.  Gavin's hands were rough, dry, and caked in dirt.  His jeans were no longer anything other than disgusting.  He had sand in his hair and his ears, he had spilled a bubble gum flavored slushie my friend had brought him all over himself.  There was brown grass stuck to his clothes and the kids 'lovies', revealing to me that they apparently snuck inside at some point to bring them out into a world of filth (they are currently in the wash awaiting the spin cycle--the lovies, not the kids!). 

As the sun was setting over the Rockies, the temps began to dip slightly, and the kids found their way inside for dinner.  The first stop was a brush-down at the door, a valiant effort at eliminating the outer 'coating' of sand and dirt that had accumulated on my darling children.  We then used about a dozen pumps of hand soap to scrub hands, fingernails, wrists, and lower arms so that we could eat dinner.  Again, I cringed as I watched their black feet pad across the floor I had mopped just a few hours earlier toward the dinner table. 

Before Randy was finished cleaning up the drop cloth, paint, and other devices he used to work on his bike today out in the garage, the kids were 'stewing' in a warm and exceptionally bubbly bubble bath with a thick coating of suds on top of their heads, shoulders, and knees.  When he came upstairs, he laughed and remarked, 'Mommy couldn't wait long enough, huh?' as he observed my OCD self scrubbing our children back to *normal*. 

I know.  I know kids are supposed to be kids.  There's even a saying that goes: 'Boy: a noise with dirt on it'.  But I know I was justified in my overwheming urge to soak my children in the tub for hours when even their dad said, 'it smells like dirty, wet kids up here...wheeew!'.

I know I sound like I don't let the kids play outside and get dirty...I do.  It just is one of those parts of mommyhood that I'm learning to accept as 'normal'.  I'm needing to remind myself of my own childhood, or Randy's childhood (because, as he points out often, there's nothing better than growing up in the country).  I need to keep my *annoyances* at bay, and realize that Randy is right.  Yes, hun, I said it.  You're right.  There's water, there's soap, and they can get clean.  They're kids.  They have one childhood, and why not let them enjoy the time when it's perfectly acceptable to dump sand on your head, run barefoot through a backyard that I can guarantee has dog poo scattered about, and lick your fingers that have been caked with chalk and general filth.  I guess it means I just have to buy Johnson's and Johnson's in bulk, stock up on the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, and breathe.  There's water, there's soap, and they'll get clean.

Happy Spring!

soccer is far better when you're playing it in the garden

a boy covered in dirt.  and the world is good.

he's attempting to look clean

barefoot, sticky, chalk covered, filthy, dishelved hair...what happened to my little 'princess'?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The eyes of a child

Up until recently I had a quote at the close of my work email.  We were asked to help do our part to reduce memory space, and were asked to remove any extraneous information in our email signatures.  After a few clicks of the mouse, my quote was gone and all that remained was the most necessary information.  Just doing my part, I guess :)

When I deleted the quote though, I read it for the first time in a while.  Sure, I send work emails all the time, but since the signature piece is automatically attached on the end, I don't read it over.  The quote I had chosen so many years ago when I started working at my current place of employment read, "Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child".  Originally I chose this quote because of the connection that I have to my career; a reminder of why I do what I do.  I teach for the kids.  It's not for June, July, and August.  It's not for the paycheck.  It's not for the hours of planning, grading, responding to emails, and data review that I have to do in order to be a more effective teacher.  It's for the kids.  Without them, I literally have no purpose in the school, except to have a great scope and sequence for how to teach reading, writing, and 'rithmetic...and no audience for whom to present the information. 

The quote kept me grounded.  It reminded me that when I have those stressful times in the school year when report cards are due, conferences are around the corner, our entire plan book for the week has been put through the wringer to accomodate the changes in schedule and routine...I'm there for the 29 (this year anyway) kids who will show up ready to learn, regardless of what craziness occurs during my planning period, before or after school.

Then I became a mom.  I definitely have read this quote since becoming a mom, especially as I changed grade levels and thus had to change information in my auto-signature.  But, I haven't really read the quote recently.  And by recently, I mean since my kids really started to view the world, or rather, interact with the world in the way they do now. 

We're past the 'learning to walk and talk and feed ourselves' phase.  We've learned colors, numbers, shapes, and opposites.  They both have the 'basics' down for the typical almost-5 and 3 year old child.  I've always been in love with watching my kids' faces as they learn and master new skills, tasks, and fun results about the world in which they live.  I want them to never lose that love of learning, that desire to seek out more information, the ability to view things from many perspective to gain a better understanding.  Sometimes I have the 'teacher fear' when it comes to the mastery of 'school skills', especially as kindergarten is right around the corner for my handsome dude. 

Today, I picked him up from pre-school and one of the papers in his folder had his name written on it, completely backwards.  As in, the 'N' was first (it was also written as a backwards 'N'), followed by the I, then V, A, and G (also backwards).  I cringed when I saw this, but only from the inside because it was obvious from his grin that Gavin was so proud of his shamrock picture.  My smiles on the outside didn't give any clue as the minor worry I had that he's 'losing' something in the days he isn't at pre-school.  That's when I stopped thinking, and started watching. And learning. 

Gavin doesn't really like to 'show off' when he's at school, (for fear that he won't be thought of as 'cool'?!) but he does open up a little more about his work once we've reached the car, and especially on the days Brynn is with us.  He absolutely thrives on taking the opportunity to keep his chatterbox of a sister at bay as he shares details of his day.  Today was no exception.  Brynn wanted to share every mundane detail of her day, but Gavin took hold of the conversation and started explaining the shamrock.  Last week, he had 'encountered' (of sorts) a leprechaun.  Up until this time, he was pretty oblivious to the whole St. Patrick's Day thing, mostly because we never generally did too much to celebrate (less the college years, when it was green beer, lime jello shots, etc, etc).  But last week, he was *captivated* by the concept of little green guys who caused mischief and left him gold wrapped candy.  Today, he got to bring home some of the work that he made for those naughty little leprechauns, and was proudly describing the picture he made.  Even Brynn was listening carefully...shocking, because the picture didn't have anything to do with her. 

I realized that when I first looked at Gavin's picture, I immediately went into 'teacher mode', 'mom mode', 'adult mode'.  I didn't go where I should have gone--into 'kid mode'.  Who cared that his letters were backwards?  Or that the hearts he used to make the picture were slightly 'off'?  They gave the picture even more 'charm' (pardon the pun).  Gavin didn't see any imperfections.  He saw a memory of one of what he had earlier described as 'the coolest days of school'.  In his 'child eyes', his picture was perfect, even if his letters weren't.  So basically, my almost-5 year old was inadvertently giving me some wisdom of the ages (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), and looking at the world through the eyes of a child at the same time...and at the age of not-quite-five.  (Can you blame me for thinking that this kid's going to do some amazing things with his life?!)

Earlier in the day, I had the *honor* of spending time with Brynn, as I'm on spring break from work (I know, boo-hoo to me, right?!).  Does this little girl know how to remind me to look at the world through the eyes of a child, or what?!  There were at least 3 dozen times that I found myself smiling at the sheer innocence of her adorable little rabbit-toothed smile and electrified hairdo. 

When I went to my 36 week appointment today for the baby (all's good...I even 'lost' some weight), they needed to do a finger prick to check my blood sugar (standard procedure for my doc at this appt).  When B realized what the nurse was about to do, she shouted, "don't hurt my mommy!!!" and proceeded to cry that she wanted to go home.  Both the nurse and I had to reassure her that it didn't hurt, that they were making sure baby is ok and mommy is ok.  The nurse was great, and let Brynn see the machine that read the results, let her hold the cotton ball on my finger, and helped her wrap the Band-Aid around my fingertip.  Her 'child eyes' viewed her mommy getting hurt, but thankfully the nurse's wisdom knew to have B help make me feel better.

After lunch today, we took advantage of the *gorgeous* weather, and B played in the backyard, blowing bubbles and playing with her new purple ball she picked out at the store today.  I was sitting on the deck with my feet up, and decided to start reading the new book I downloaded on my Kindle.  But, about 4 or 5 'pages' in, I stopped reading and just sat back to watch Brynn.  She was in her own little world, having an absolute field day swinging on her tummy, giggling and laughing as though it was the best thing in the whole entire world.  At first I was proud of myself for taking a little time to step away from the 'to-do' list that is always looming overhead, but as I watched Brynn, I realized that that 30 minute time period I was 'allowing' myself to experience wasn't truly what it should have been.  I still had the notes app on my phone opened and was adding things to it as I thought of them while I was 'reading'.  So much for relaxing.

But watching Brynn, she reminded me that sometimes it's important to swing the wrong way, stare down at the grass, and just laugh.  She spent time giving her new ball a ride on the swing, went down the slide nearly every possible way you can imagine, and enjoyed a multitude of cookies while taunting the dogs with her tasty treats.  And you know what she was thinking about?  Yeah, me neither...but I can speculate.  She was most likely thinking about the wonder of the moment, the way the wind took her bubbles to new heights, and how hilarious it was to see a giant purple ball sitting on her swing.  Not the 'to do' list she had lurking in the depths of her brain.  To her, 'to do' doesn't exist.  She lists her 'I wants'.  Things she would like to do, places she'd like to go, toys she'd like to have (she's such a toy-deprived child!). 

I'm glad that my work asked us to remove the extraneous parts of our signature, because I was able to be reminded to remove some of the extraneous *stuff* in my life.  Backwards letters don't matter, because the picture reminds us of a great memory.  Finger pokes can be really scary things until you realize you've helped make your mommy feel better.   Bubbles and swings and slides make laughter even 'gigglier', and to really, truly *enjoy* life, you need to forget the 'to do'...but focus on a little of the 'I want'. 

My kids will be kids for quite some more years, but I hope that they remember to always look at the world through the eyes of a child--no matter what age they are.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

a birthday post for Brynn

Three years ago tonight, I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of our *beloved* baby girl...and my anesthesiologist.  One promised a lifetime of happiness, smiles, frustrations, love, laughs, headaches, and memories...and the other, a temporary relief from the excrutiating pain I was currently experiencing (thanks to the dose of Pitocin administered to me earlier in the evening), so that I could properly focus my energies and meet our beloved baby girl.  (No, you don't *need* an epidural to 'properly' have a baby...but I did have one, for each of my kids, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I have amazing respect for moms who chose--or who aren't able to have the choice--to experience natural childbirth.  It's just not something that I was comfortable attempting, so I took advantage of my options.)  After two failed attempts at proper placement of my epidural, the anestesiologist was able to get the medication administered and I was one step closer to meeting our daughter. 

At 9:58 pm, Brynn Alexa made her appearance, weighing 6 lbs., 7 oz....almost a pound less than her big brother, but what she 'lacked' in weight, she made up for in attitude (and continues to do so!).  Her sweet little face, round little head, long limbs, huge feet (sorry, B...that's all from mommy!), and 'piano player fingers' (just the right size for wrapping daddy around!)...all perfect.  We were in love. 

little baby big foot!

the first of many grimaces toward her mommy ;)

sleeping beauty...she was born to be a princess!

It's funny though...that whole 'love at first sight' thing.  Love has a lot of different levels.  We have loved Brynn from the moment we knew we were expecting her (just as we did with Gavin), we were absolutely enamoured by her when we finally did 'meet' her, and over the past three years we have completely fallen in love with her sweet little personality, her darling little smile, her adorable and charming ways. 

We weren't rookies at this whole 'baby' thing...Gavin was 22 months old, so we had moved through the various stages of 'love' with him and were absolutely head over heels for our son.  So, what did that mean for our daughter?  Pregnancy provided me with plenty of opportunity to worry, to plan, to fear.  With Gavin, a lot of those worries, plans, and fears revolved around what to do with a baby(!).  But with Brynn, it shifted.  I knew 'baby', and was confident in my abilities as a mom to be able to meet my daughter's basic needs.  But, could I possibly love her as much as I do Gavin?  Could I show her love in the same way?  Was I a 'bad mom' for wondering these things?

New moms and dads spend a lot of time staring at their amazing little miracles, marveling at their faces, fingers, and features as their little ones sleep.  I can't speak for us all, but I imagine similar thoughts are swirling through our brains as we do this; and millions of them--the near future with our child, the distant future, and everything in between.  That's pretty much how I spent that first night after Brynn was born.  Well, that, and catching a few zzzz's in between.

The next day, we had the amazing opportunity that every mom and dad of more than one child has: we introduced our son to his baby sister.  I wish I could have read his mind, or that he was old enough to verbalize what he was thinking as he tried to process this new little person.  From the first few appeared to be love at first sight:

he likes her!

going in for a kiss...or maybe a bite?

our baby announcement photo

my adorable little family

That evening, Randy took Gavin home and it was just Brynn and me.  More staring, marveling, and wondering for me...more sleeping for Brynn.  Until just after 2 am.  I distinctly remember it, because it was at that moment when I had a fear pass over me...the question of "what did we get ourselves into?"...the tears silently sliding down my cheeks, hitting the pillowcase and echoing my fears and worries...

She was screaming...not just crying...screaming.   I went through the basic baby list: dry diaper? check. Full belly from feeing? check.  Warm and swaddled? check.  What was her deal?  Why couldn't I console her in the way that I could my little boy back home in his 'big boy bed'?  What if she could sense that I was questioning my abilities to love her as much as Gavin? 

I unwrapped her swaddle, unsnapped her little t-shirt, and lay her skin to skin on my chest.  I put a blanket over us both and cuddled my baby girl, sobbing at my failed attempts to calm her terrible cries.  I stared off into space, looking past the ceiling tiles of my hospital room, as if looking to the heavens for the answer...any answer.  I felt such a disconnect to her cries, which only intensified my own, as my concerns for my abilities as a mom grew with each wail. 

At some point in the night, the cries lessened (from both parties), and soon sleep took over.  I knew the nurses had told me not to fall asleep with my daughter in the hospital bed, for fear I'd drop her or roll on top of her, but the exhaustion from my mental anguish took over and I don't even remember the moment when I let my eyes fall closed and take in the sweet, blissful sound of my little girl sleeping. 

I remember that night often; whenever I hear of a friend having a baby, my memory takes me back.  I don't wish the (what seemed like) hours of crying on any new mommy, first baby, second baby, or fifth.  But I do wish the realization that I made that night on them: you can't love your children in the same exact way.  Sure, you love them all unconditionally, you love them with your whole heart, you love them no matter what...but the type of love, the level of love, the way you show love toward each child is different depending on that particular childs' needs.

My relationships with my children requires me to be a 'different' mom to each of them.  Their needs are met in similar ways, but also in very different ways.  As a baby, Gavin would cry, I would feed him, cuddle him, and he'd be content.  Now when he cries, he does have moments where he needs to be left alone, but then I can approach him and talk with him about his feelings, cuddle him, hug him, and we're back to 'normal'.  Brynn, on the other hand, requires a bit more mental effort.  She isn't comforted until she decides she's comforted.  She needs to get her cries out, her tears and frustrations.  She pouts and goes away and doesn't want to be bothered until she's good and ready...or until she gives up and falls asleep.  Even at 2 days old, she had that personality.  True, she couldn't 'go away' that night, but she did make sure I knew that her little fit of crying wouldn't be finished until she was ready.  Thankfully, because she's my daughter and I love her no matter what, I was able to stay by her side through it all, to mentally persevere and prove to myself that my motherly instincts did take over, did know what to do, and did work.

Three years ago tonight, my life was changed forever and for the better.  Brynn has added such a unique dynamic to our family, one that I can't even imagine existing without.  She may only be 3, but her personality and ability to change me as a person rivals that of older, wiser people I know.  So tonight, I wish my little girl a very happy third birthday.  Three fabulous years of loving her--just as much as I love Gavin--but in the way that works best for her.

the birthday girl!

Monday, March 7, 2011

welcome the unexpected

It's so amazing how having kids completely alters your perspective on essentially every aspect of your life.  For one thing, Randy and I have realized that, as parents, you have to learn (quickly) to expect the unexpected.  Because of this fact, my husband sometimes goes a little crazy with the 'over-preparation' that usually occurs before any outing--even to Target for groceries.  Moms learn quickly how to properly pack their diaper bags, purses, and even glove boxes in their cars to accurately respond to practically any situation.  MacGuyver would be envious of the stash of supplies I have in my purse on any given day.  In fact, just last week, while driving Gavin to school, I remembered that he had Show and Tell at school for the letter D.  Never fail!  While waiting at a red light, I was able to find a plastic dinosaur measuring tape (?I know, right?) in my purse.  Show and Tell was saved!

Ok, so I didn't 'prepare' for that particular situation. However, there was a reason that I didn't clean out my purse like I typically do at the end of the week, as it tends to become the meeting place for all kinds of bizarre and unrelated kid items.  I look at the extra 5-6 pounds of 'stuff' I've accumulated as just another way that I can be prepared and 'expect the unexpected' (like the need for a dinosaur tape measure). 

Tonight, I was reminded of another way I should 'expect the unexpected' with children.  The kids and I had a quick and easy dinner, and then they 'cuggled' on the couch to watch Blue's Clues under their blankets.

Since I *love* watching the same episode of Blue's Clues for the third time in the past month, I decided to take advantage of the peace and quiet and take a shower.  The kids were fighting, no tears, no talking. 

Not even ten minutes later, I finished drying my hair, and as I turned off the hairdryer, I heard a strange sound.  How was it possible that in the few minutes I was out of the room, things went from one extreme to the other?!  When I left the living room, I had two quiet and 'cuggly' kids, enthralled by the blue dog who sends his human on a scavenger hunt for paw prints.  Then...when I returned...I saw this...


pre-school humor

hysterical reaction to his brother's joke

drying the tears from her eyes

asking for another joke

You were thinking the worst, huh?  Yeah, me too.  I was assuming that the screams I was hearing from upstairs would mean that I'd be in for a teary-eyed tattle session.  But as I descended the staircase, I realized the 'screams' were actually 'squeals' and their tone was the exact opposite of what I had envisioned in my head upstairs. 

When I rounded the corner into the living room, I discovered that my previously 'cold and cuggly kids' had turned into 'loony little laughter boxes'.  Gavin kept cracking jokes of the pre-school variety; therefore they weren't funny in the least--unless you happen to be Brynn.  With each ridiculous and confusing punchline, Brynn literally dissolved into giggles.  She threw her head back, chuckled a lengthy and hysterical sounding string of laughs, and was practically breathless at the end of it all.  She was laughing so hard, she had tears streaming down her face.  They were so involved in their little brother and sister joke session that they were oblivious to me snapping photos to capture what I'm sure will become a rare occassion over the next few years--getting along and enjoying each other's company. 

At one point, Gavin told another joke and Brynn gave a very forced, very 'fake' sounding laugh.  Immediately, she stopped and looked right at me.  "Hey!", she shouted.  "My funnies are gone!".  Now it was my turn for giggles and tears in my eyes.  I asked B what she meant, and she said "I can't laugh anymore!  My laughing is broken!"  More giggles from Gavin and much so that when I said that it was bedtime, there were no tears.  There were no arguments.  They walked up the stairs, went into their respective rooms, helped put on their jammies, brushed their teeth without whining, and cuddled up together in Gavin's bed for their book.  (Ironically enough, they chose the Pout Pout Fish, which was totally the opposite of the mood in our house tonight.)

I realized tonight that it was 'just another manic Monday'...daycare and preschool drop offs, walking into work at the bell with my students, teaching all day, directing drama club, rushing to pick up Brynn, heading to the doctor for my 34 week check up (all's great with baby!), driving across town to get Gavin from preschool an hour later than usual...and my expectations for a stressful and busy evening to follow my stressful and busy day were unexpectedly changed for the better (even though I still don't get the jokes that Gavin was telling!).  Sometimes you can't expect the unexpected...but welcome it.

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
                                                      ~e e cummings

Thursday, March 3, 2011

outsmarted (once again) by a toddler

It's the month of St. Patty's so how about a limerick?

There once was a girl named Brynn,
Her potty training was a sin,
She was good for her dad,
But drove her mom mad,
And would pee in her pants with a grin.

Potty training with Brynn: day # 'I've-lost-count-and-my-mind'

Last week, a package arrived for our soon-to-be-birthday-girl.  Grandma had sent a message a few days prior telling me that Brynn could open her gifts early.  Good thing, too...because Brynn saw the colorful wrappings and was instantly intrigued.  Aside from the *delightful* noise makers that she sent for Gavin and Randy (thanks again, mom!), the package included a headband with long, pink hair to give our little 'princess' her dream of having a head full of beautifully long, flowing hair.  Brynn was in love.  She immediately put the hair on and began opening her second gift. 

she adores her 'hair'

As Brynn carefully opened the gift (oh...who am I kidding, she tore into the wrappings!) took me a moment to realize what amazingly fantastic treat awaited our *darling* little girl.  She handed the package to me, with a confused look.  "What is it, mommy?" she asked, her eyes lit up with joy and excitement.  "Brynn!  Do you know what this is?  It's a Potty Watch!!!", I informed my curious little girl--with apparently an overwhelmingly large amount of excitement, as Brynn's face changed from a look of sheer thrill to a look of sheer terror.  She was caught.  Trapped.  Bamboozled.  The 'jig' was up.

The Potty Watch.  This amazing little contraption had all the potential in the world of making my life easier, all the while slowly breaking down the foundation of Brynn's 'castle of manipulation'.  Or so I thought.  Upon opening the package, Brynn promptly took her new gift into her sticky little hands and dashed off into the next room while I read the directions, unaware that the little white paper I was holding essentially was Brynn's 'ticket to freedom'. 

After reading the basics, I followed the sound of giggles into the living room where I found Brynn seated on the couch, Potty Watch no where in sight.  The interaction went something like this:

"Brynn, where is your Potty Watch?"
"I don't know, mommy (heeee heeee)"
"B...really, where did you put your new gift from your Grandma?"
"It's gone, mommy"
"Gone where?"
"Gone out of here"
"Don't you want to wear your new watch so you can go potty when it sings you a song?"
"Umm...I went pee already"
"Brynn...let's play a game to find the watch.  First person to find it wins some M&M's"
"(thoughtful silence as she ponders the promise of candy coated chocolate treats) about we watch Dora, mommy?" 

It's about this time that I realized just when I thought my miniature master of manipulation couldn't get any craftier, she goes ahead and hides the tool that I was hoping to rely heavily upon to create a perfectly potty trained princess in the little time I have left before the baby arrives. 

Current score: Brynn--3,465  Mommy--3 (I earned a *few* points early on in her life)

Fast forward to the next day: Daddy asks his little girl where her potty watch is, and low and behold, she retrieves it from the hiding spot she used to drive her mother crazy and essentially help add yet another gray hair to the top of my head.  Before I could even process how I was so easily outsmarted by my toddler, she was wearing her watch, anxiously awaiting the song that would cue her to head for the bathroom. 

The time passes...the excitement (and hope!) build...then...the tune of 'London Bridge' plays, the lights illuminate around the face of the watch...and Brynn...hops down from the couch and shuffles her little legs into the bathroom!  Without a fight.  Without a debate.  Without a bribe.  Wooo hoo!  It worked!  It really worked!  She came out of the bathroom, beaming over her successful attempt at using the restroom.  We celebrated.  We high-fived.  We rejoiced.  I sang the praises of my ingenious mother-in-law.

All evening long, the tunes of the Potty Watch chimed every thirty minutes, and every thirty minutes we'd observe our darling little girl head for the bathroom, and emerge a few minutes later with a triumphant look upon her face.  I couldn't believe the magical wonder of this moment.  I went to sleep that night so happy that my prayers of having just one child in diapers (or diaper-like items) at a time were on their way to being answered.

a *fabulous* gift long as they're not mater manipulators!


Brynn had a very successful weekend, followed by three days in a row of using the potty on a regular basis, 'obeying' the beckoning calls of the Potty Watch, and having a fabulously low number of accidents.  The trend seemed less 'trendy' and more 'timeless'...until today.  When she fell back into the routine of wet pull-ups, less frequent trips to the bathroom, and a general lack of effort on her part. 

The common denominator?  Daddy.  Or, rather...the lack thereof.  See, today daddy went back on-call, which meant Brynn was at daycare, rather than being home with her daddy.  And after daycare?  Well, tonight daddy was at work, which meant it was just me.  While B loves her daycare provider and calls me her 'best friend', there is no one, not one single person, in this whole entire world who lights up her life and whose opinion means more to her than her daddy.  Don't get me wrong, when she willingly goes potty without arguement, I am so proud of her...I applaud and high five and dance around in jubilation.  But that's all for naught apparently, as I do not have the magic look of supreme adoration for anything and everything 'Brynn'.  In daddy's eyes, Brynn is the most adorable child to have ever graced this planet.  She knows this.  And she's using it as ammunition.  One rabbit-toothed smile and she has him hooked.  So of course, she wants to do anything to have him think she is the most amazingly perfect little girl. 

But that all goes out the window when mommy is in the picture.  The word 'no' enters her vocabulary, in addition to the ever popular temper tantrum, followed by the very audible and extremely obnoxious 'hmmmpf' sound that is accompanied by either angrily crossed arms, noisily stomped feet, or the oh-so-unpopular 'rag doll' routine. 

So, it seems that so long as daddy is the only person in the picture with this potty training fiasco, the Potty Watch wins...Brynn, the master manipulator, has been brought down by a tiny little device that lights up and sings.  I guess...if my husband really wants to make his pregnant wife happy...he'd consider taking his vacation now to complete this potty training hell we've been living in, rather than when the baby comes.  It's sad how I'm more frightened of my three year old's intelligence than I am of having to face the challenge of a new baby with two kids under the age of 5. 

God help me as she gets older.