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I survey the situation from my place on the couch, the cup of coffee I’ve already reheated three times cold again in my hand. The floor is littered with Matchbox cars, discarded stickers and various bits and pieces of other toys. Dog hair tumbleweeds around the furniture. I need to vacuum, but that would require buying some new vacuum bags, and if we’re being honest, last week I just pulled some old hair out of the last bag to make some room. The breakfast dishes are still in the sink; bloated, milk-logged Cheerios floating amongst coffee grounds.

It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. The older boys are still playing fairly well together, though very loudly, but I know the clock is ticking. Some time in the next 45 minutes their bro love will expire and they will transform into shrieking bear cubs tackling each other (and getting covered in dog hair). I know I should get up and start getting us ready for our day. The baby is napping — thank goodness — though it’s taken much longer to get him down than it did even a week ago. He needed to nurse more, had to poop, wanted to check out the world around him. When I nuzzled his neck before placing him in the crib, I noticed he smelled faintly of parmesan. I make a mental note to wash away the traces of spit up when he wakes up.

I’m tired. Six weeks of middle-of-the-night baby time coupled with refereeing the older two is catching up with me. The bags under my eyes can no longer be hidden by makeup. I avoid showing my face when we Skype with my mom so I don’t have to hear her say I look tired. I know I look tired. I AM tired.

I hurl myself up and head to my room. The clothing situation is bleak. I throw on a clean(ish) nursing bra, one of the few shirts that doesn’t emphasize the postpartum middle fluff, and a pair of stretchy shorts I got at Walmart for $3.77. I do my best attempt at eye circle coverage, and twist my hair into a top knot.

I return to the living room just in time to catch the tail-end of an argument over…blocks? A truck? World peace? I don’t even know. Whatever the reason, it involves shrieking, and I end up yelling at them to just leave your brother alone already! before hustling them into clothes and out the front door. Go. Play. Now. I reheat my coffee for the fourth time and join them outside.

They play. Eventually I hear Drew stirring and go to retrieve him. He screams bloody murder as I change his diaper (how DARE I?), but is content when we settle into the Adirondack chair to nurse. As we do, I occasionally have to shoo his brothers away from him, telling them to get out of his face while he’s eating. Repeat this process all day.

~

I know how this sounds. It sounds like I’m not so much into this three kid thing. Truthfully, it’s hard. It’s harder than I thought it would be. We are finding our groove and it’s certainly getting more manageable, but still. For ever easy hour there are a handful of tough ones. The biggest challenge? I’m just totally outnumbered. It’s nearly impossible to attend to everyone and once. I just don’t have enough hands!

Despite all that, this three kids thing is also pretty spectacular. Owen and Ryan absolutely adore Drew. The first thing Ryan asks for every morning is “Baby Dooooo”, and Owen has really begun to shine in his role as Biggest Brother. And Drew? Oh, my littlest boy. He is pure sweetness and everything that is good. He’s a bit fussier than I would like, but he sleeps fairly decently and graces us with big gummy smiles and coos. And when he doesn’t smell like parmesan, he smells pretty delicious.

I know eventually the postpartum pounds will drop away, I will sleep through the night again, and my boys will graduate from shouting “THAT’S MINE!” to at least not needing me to referee every fight. I know this is a season in life and one day I will look back on it wistfully. So I am doing my best to stay in the moment and navigate with grace.

Unshowered, sleepy, occasionally grumpy grace, but grace none-the-less.

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It’s been a long time since I stopped by here. No excuses or anything, it just is what it is. Let’s just dive right in then, shall we?

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Today I am 35-weeks pregnant with our third little guy. I feel fortunate that aside from a really crummy first trimester and the fact that I caught every single illness Owen brought home from preschool this endless winter, this has actually been my easiest pregnancy yet. I’m sleeping, I’m not really waddling, I’ve gained less weight than before and aches and pains have been minimal. Maybe this one knows I can’t possibly handle feeling like crap while chasing the boys around.

I am officially out of cool weather maternity clothes that don’t make me look like a sausage casing, though, so if this warm weather could stick around I would be grateful.

With five weeks to go (and I truly anticipate him staying in the whole five weeks. My babies tend to stick it out till the end.), it’s only just starting to hit me that he’s coming. Soon. Someone recently asked me if I was ready for him. I stared at her a few seconds and then said, I guess I will buy some diapers soon. And…wash some baby clothes? I mean, I do want to set up his nursery and all that jazz. It just hasn’t hit me as pressing yet. Talk to me next week and I might be singing a different tune. I always pack my “just in case” hospital bag at 36 weeks. You know, in case. I won’t need it, though.

As much as I’m excited for him to be here, I’m also not in any rush. Just like I wanted to savor the last days of our family of three before Ryan was born, I am feeling that way again. Before This Little Baby 3 arrives, I want time with my boys. My boys, who alternately drive me crazy and make me want to smother them with love.

Owen, at nearly four, is a BOY now. A smart and curious boy who is writing letters and trying to sound out words. A boy who joined a soccer team and has blossomed in preschool. He is an amazing big brother to Ryan and I am so excited to see him do it again at this age. He is excited for “his” baby and all the help he can give. While he continues to give me tons of “threenager” attitude and challenges my parenting daily, I am overwhelmed with love when I look at him. He is truly an awesome kid.

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At almost 22 months, Ryan is in one of my favorite stages. While he definitely exhibits some Terrible Twos-like behavior, overall he is fantastic. His language has really exploded and he talks to us all day long. Everything is “why?”, and he wants to do absolutely everything Owen does. Monkey see, monkey do. Because of this, he has already climbed onto Owen’s bike, is fearless in most endeavors, and would run head-first onto the soccer field if I let him. After a little rocky transition into a new room, we also moved the boys in together to free up the nursery. After the first month I can say for certain that it was the right idea. They bonded so much more and adore having each other there.

Ryan is my mama’s boy. He will be going a mile a minute, then instantly stop to climb in my lap for a snuggle. I know from experience he will adjust when the baby arrives, especially since he has Owen, but I do worry about him a little bit more. I worry about his transition from baby to big brother, from youngest to middle child. Hopefully it goes well!

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I’m so lucky to be mommy to these boys.

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And I know the gift of a sibling is the best thing I can give them. Come June, my lap and heart are just going to be so full. I can’t wait.

I had a moment last week where I totally broke down. After a day of irritability to the extreme — everyone and everything was making me cranky — I lay in my bed and sobbed until the tears ran dry. There really was no one reason for it; more of an accumulation of things from of a really hard, really long month. I just felt done.

Immediately after returning to school after winter break, Owen came down with a horrible cough. He would be unable to catch his breath and as a result, he would throw up. In the kitchen, on the couch, in his bed. It lasted a week, and despite my best efforts to sanitize every thing he touched/looked at, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down. Without getting TOO whiny about it, my cold turned into a sinus infection that completely and totally put me out of commission. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would rather give birth than have a sinus infection. Especially when you can’t take any good drugs. At the height of it, I parented from the couch, moving only to put on another movie for the boys or go in search of some snacks for them. They ate pancakes for dinner twice in a row because the thought of getting up to make an actual meal was exhausting. Despite all the help he gave when he could, Michael had to work. No way around it. So it was just me and the kids and oh yeah, a polar vortex that kept us housebound and closed school more times than I could count. To say we were going stir crazy was an understatement. Ryan came down with his own version of the cold sometime in the middle of this. I’m really, truly done with kid snot. Really.

In total, at least one of us — mostly me — were sick for an entire month. It wasn’t until last week when I was finally able to take a strong breath, smell things and taste my food. It took a toll on us. As a mother, I felt like a failure. I was tired, grumpy, yelling. We did nothing fun. The boys fought and wrestled and yelled. Ryan climbed things and threw cars at his brother. Owen was defiant and pushed boundaries and yelled no all day long.

For a month, all I felt was guilt. I felt guilty when I sighed with relief after dropping Owen off at school, guilt for looking forward to nap time and bedtime like it was Christmas day. Guilt over the amount of television they were watching. (SO MUCH TV.) I felt guilty for not even smiling when Michael came in the door because I was just too burnt out. I was stretched thin and began to panic. If I feel this way now, how am I going to feel come June? Another baby, another little person with needs. That straw broke the camel’s back, and the tears came.

I woke up the following morning feeling better. Nothing was resolved, but it felt like a new day. A day where I could make a change. Now that I was healthy, it was time to work on my behavior and how I was relating to and dealing with the kids. The yelling, it needs to change. Look, I’m not naive. Sometimes I’m going to yell. Sometimes it will be warranted and hello, it’s part of life. But I don’t have to yell as much as I have been.

In my quest to Do Better, I stumbled across this post and it stopped me in my tracks. If you have a three-year old, you should look at that. Especially a three-and-a-half-year old. The behaviors listed are Owen to a tee right now, and made me feel SO much better. It’s not just him. It’s not just me. We’re all dealing with a crazy child at this age. Some of the less desirable traits (and don’t get me wrong, there’s some awesome stuff going on with him too. But, that’s now what this post is about. Ha!) that stood out to me were:

Three and a Half Years:

“Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simples event or occasion can elicit total rebellion

New- found verbal ability “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining

May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things

Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity

Mother-child relationship difficult but may also cling to mother

May refuse to take part in daily routine – may do better with almost anyone than Mother”

Oh yeah. That’s Owen right now. Throw in an equally strong willed 19-month old who is in a whiny stage, and you have a recipe for a crazy mother.

The follow-up piece to that post discussed dealing with those behaviors, and a big part of it was about how the parent handles it. I read this passage, teared up (of course), and the light bulb was turned on.

Which, of course, does not always mean that your child will “behave”.  Many attached parents feel like failures when their children hit three or so, as the child’s sense of self and an increased need for boundaries start to come out. As a parent, you cannot count it as a “good day” if your child doesn’t cry or melt-down or not have a temper tantrum… You can count it as a “good day” if you were calm, if you helped to de-escalate the situation, if you held it together. And even then, please be easy with yourself!  Living with small children can be challenging!  This is about the path your child is taking as he or she grows and becomes their own person, this is not about you versus them. – The Parenting Passageway 

So that’s where I stand today. I am determined to be a better mom. My poor little first pancake, Owen. I’m sorry I have to make the mistakes on you, buddy. You are blazing the parenting trail for me. Every day with you is something new and I want you to know I’m trying my best. Together we will make it through this crazy year — and all the crazy years that are to come. I love you, kiddo. So very much.

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Dear Owen,

I was supposed to write you this letter back in September, as in just over a month you will actually be three and a half. You’ve already grown so much since September, but it’s important to me that I document this time.

Back when I intended to write this, you had just started preschool. I was nervous about your first day. You had a history of needing two or three times to get used to new situations. I had seen it firsthand at small things like story hour or toddler gym, and bigger things like swim lessons — so I prepared myself for your tears at the first drop off.

To my surprise, you marched in confidently and full of excitement, kissed us goodbye, waved, and went on your way. No tears at all. Except for mine, of course. I had to hightail it out of there without talking to anyone, because I couldn’t stop my emotions over my baby going to school from running down my cheeks. I had a good cry the whole way home, nervously waited those short three hours, and practically ran back to get you. When we arrived, you were sitting on the rug, and as soon as you saw me your face burst into a big grin. “Mommy!!!”, you shouted as you ran to me. My heart, Owen. Oh, my heart.

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School has been amazing for you and it’s been a real joy to see you blossom into this awesome boy. You’re smart and curious and want to know all the things there are to know. You will talk anyone’s ear off and are sweet and compassionate. It’s so interesting to hear the things you come up with now; the questions you are dying to know the answers to. I can see the wheels turning in your head constantly and it’s exciting to see what you come up with.

As your brother gets bigger, the two of you have gone from happy playmates to complete and total buddies. You are together always. Of course, this is not without issues, as we have been trying to work through some major sharing issues, learning to keep our hands to ourselves and how you are really scaring him when you roar in his face. Please stop that. Overall, though, watching my two little puppies wrestling on the rug (and it IS wrestling now. It’s full WWF Smackdown some days. This has got to be a nature thing, because I sometimes watch in bewilderment and think, where did they learn that?!) makes my heart swell. Yesterday on the way to school, you told me you just LOVED Ryan’s face. “Do you know why I love his face, Mommy?” “Why, Owen?” “Because it looks like my face. Because we’re brothers. And I love my brother.”

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I know you’re still little, but often when I look at you now, I can see the boy you’re going to become. In your jeans and button down shirts, the last remnants of your baby cheeks becoming a memory, you seem so big. Looking at Ryan, I swear that was just you, only moments ago. These little moments really do fly by.

I love you through and through, bugaboo. I love who you are and who you are becoming. You are so great!

Love,

Mommy

- Michael and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary last month. We celebrated by returning to our beloved New Hampshire for two whole nights SANS CHILDREN. Do you know what that means??

We NAPPED.

I also ate some open-faced BLT thing that was made from bacon, fried tomatoes, and guacamole on garlic bread. That was pretty amazing. But not as amazing as the napping.

- About a month ago, Ryan weaned. The other day Owen was looking at me with a perplexed look. I asked him what was up and he said, “if Ryan doesn’t drink mommy milk anymore, why do you still have those big things on you?”

I explained that all women have breasts, even if there’s no baby drinking milk. He started laughing and asked for some applesauce. Ooooook. Kids are weird.

- Ryan is finally starting to say more than “bah!” for everything. His recent favorite is “stinky” while waving his hand in front of his nose when I change his diaper. Boys and toilet humor. It starts young.

- Daylight Savings is kicking my butt. The first morning Owen woke up at the old 6, and Ryan woke up at the new 8:30. I don’t get it either. Since then, Owen has slowly been creeping to the new 6, emphasis on slowly. Today was 5:45. Child, no. He just comes in our room and announces he’s awake. Well, good for you. I am NOT. All should even out just in time to spring forward.

- I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around having a kid who can (kind of) write their name. Wasn’t Owen just born?

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This little birdie took his first small flight from the nest today.

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I cried.

There’s a family member who likes to tell me my children don’t look like me. This might be true for Ryan, but there is no question with Owen. Owen has my eyes.

He’s also just like me. He’s cautious and sensitive. He can cry at the drop of a hat and he’s not one to jump into new situations easily.

Last week he started swim lessons. Knowing how to swim isn’t negotiable, especially living where we do. We talked it up the week before and told him how much he would learn; how fun it would be. We picked out his bathing suit and special towel and packed them all up ready to go. The night before his first lesson, as we lay in bed getting ready for the night, he turned to me and whispered, I’m a little nervous.

The first class started out exactly as I would have expected it to. Faced with the realization that he was expected to climb into the pool — the great unknown — and climb in without me, Owen burst into tears. He looked up at me with a mix of panic and sadness, waiting for me to rescue him from the instructor slowly guiding him to the platform. I knew this would happen, and I knew I had to let him go. Logically, I understood he had to get over the fear to start benefiting from the class, but my heart hurt.

By the middle of the lesson, he was doing great. Cautious and reserved, yes, but trying. And doing! I was so proud of him. The whole way home we talked about the class and how much fun it would be to go the rest of the week. And it was fun. He did great all week long and the growth both in skill and confidence was abundantly clear. We signed him up for the following week.

Yesterday was the start of week two, and the first day with an new instructor. This teacher is a whole different ball game, in a good way. Owen was immediately forced out of his new comfort and challenged to try more. This morning he hopped in the pool (alone!) and gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. Moments later the instructor dunked him under and he emerged in tears. Here we go again, I thought to myself. As the class move forward, I could tell he was feeling stressed, despite the teacher’s encouragement and wonderful soothing. The other three children in the class were clearly more comfortable — kicking around alone on their floaty dumbbells while Owen clung to his and the instructor’s hand at the same time. At one point, he scanned the room until he found me and when we locked eyes, I felt everything.

I know exactly what he was feeling right then because he is just like me. I can still remember the same fear and the same feeling of being unable to hold back tears, even when you desperately want to. Sometimes my emotions still get the best of me over little things, even when I don’t want my own tears to fall.

I did the only thing I could do, and gave him my own thumbs up and big smile. You’re doing it, buddy. You’re doing great.

The instructor lived up to her praise and at one point during a clear panicky moment, she made him laugh and kissed his forehead. Even from across the pool I could see him relax and, unsurprisingly, my eyes welled up. By the end of the lesson he was all smiles again, and as I dried him off I thanked her profusely. She modestly brushed it off, but I don’t think she understood how much I was thanking her for.

As I buckled him into the car seat, Owen looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was scared at my swim lesson today, but I did a good job!”

I’ve never seen myself reflected quite as clearly as I did in that moment, looking into my child’s eyes. Eyes that look just like mine.

“You did an amazing job, Owen. I’m so very proud of you.”

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- On Saturday we had a birthday party for the boys. The plan was to have an outdoor bbq, but the sky threatened rain and the humidity left the air thick and soupy. We moved the 30+ people indoors, but after a while the sun burst through the clouds and people ventured outdoors. It ended up being a really beautiful day!

You may recall that while planning Owen’s first birthday party, I laid some pretty heavy mom-guilt on myself over — of all things — his birthday cake. I made myself feel so terrible that I, (gasp!) bought his cake rather than made it with love. Somebody should have told me to get over it. Really.

This time, I decided not to go crazy. I put a sailboat and some nautical language on the invitation, bought some red, white and blue table cloths, plates and napkins and called it a day. Nautical-ish. Patriotic-ish. Whatever, it totally worked. I also released myself from any guilt and for under six bucks made 48 funfetti cupcakes and you know what? They were DELICIOUS.

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My mom always threw us great birthday parties, but the ones I truly remember I was older for. I figure I have many birthdays ahead of us to go all out. I did splurge on one party thing, though — adorable matching birthday shirts for the boys. I’m so glad I did!

Owen:

O shirt

Ryan:

R shirt

Aren’t they sweet? (Psst…If you like those, check back on Monday for a super awesome giveaway !)

It was a really great, stress-free party and we have some wonderfully generous friends and family who spoiled the boys rotten. A great day.

- So, after the party comes the thank you cards. I’m a big believer of a handwritten card thanking the recipient specifically for what they gave. It’s always nice to receive mail and appreciation, no? I do my best to get them out within a week of getting a gift (my mama raised me right!), and I hope to instill that in the boys as well.

What drives me crazy, though, is what surrounds the giving of the thank you card. If the person mailed the gift, I often send a quick email to acknowledge we received it. I thank them in the email, then thank them again by card. But I always wonder if they think the email is the actual thank you and kind of tacky. I don’t know, I get all in my head about it. Sometimes it’s just a lot of work to say thanks for a pair of socks, or something.

It also makes me nuts when my mom (hi, mom!) will ask me if I’ve sent a thank you card. I totally get it, I do. She’s a mom. I’m a mom. Moms will do this. But I’m 30 years old and she’s the one who taught me to send the cards! Job well done, mom! So, mom. You don’t have to ask this time. I’ve been writing the thank you cards ;)

- Owen received a toy lawn mower for his birthday, and while he was playing with it he told us he was going to “unleash the power of technology.” We all kind of stared at him for a minute in confusion. Say what? Where did that come from? I’m still at a loss so if that sounds familiar to you please let me know!

- Bad TV I’ve been watching : Mistresses. Good TV I’ve been watching: The Newsroom, Season 1. Any recommendations?

Dear Owen,

Recently we’ve been ending the day by watching videos of you as a baby. At first you would laugh and say that Ryan was so cute! Look at him laughing! I would explain to you that no, that’s not baby Ryan, that’s baby Owen. That’s you! It took you a while to wrap your head around that.

I totally know where you’re coming from, because it’s hard for me to wrap my head around it too. When I watch those videos I can’t believe the chunkalicious, rosy-cheeked baby on the screen is the same awesome little boy watching next to me.

Today you are three years old. “One, two, THREE!” you tell me, holding up your thumb, pointer and middle finger.

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I wrote a few days ago about some of the less enjoyable things that go on at this age, but that’s really only a small part of it. There is so much awesome happening with you right now too. Like how you have started to pick up your feet on your balance bike and really balance, not just push with your feet. Or how you make up songs and build your own version of the Island of Sodor with your blocks and tracks while telling stories of where your trains are going that day. You can count to 30 and know the days of the week, the months and can sing all 50 states. You love to dance and will request everything from James Brown to country music to Mumford & Sons.

There are small things — like the sound of your laughter when the wind whips your hair in the car, or how you take my hand in the parking lot and tell me to look both ways — and big stuff too. Like how you tell us you miss us when we are gone, even for just a little while, because you love us so much.

You still love your cars and trucks, but now play with them as though they are real things and not just toys, building roads and hills for them to climb, garages for them to park in and tunnels for them to drive though. At any given moment there are at least two hiding behind every throw pillow in the house. You constantly want to play outside, love going to the beach and though it still makes you nervous, you are starting to venture into the water and are SO proud of yourself when you do.

You are imaginative and musical and funny and kind and sensitive. You are also an amazing brother. Sure, your sharing needs some work and I often have to remind you to be a little more gentle, but overall, watching you be a big brother to Ryan is just the most amazing thing. You beat me to his room every morning, scaling the crib and covering him in hugs and kisses. He chases you down the hall calling”Wa Wa!”, climbs all over you and leans in to give you kisses without being prompted because you are just the best of friends. You give him drinks from your cup and build pillow and stuffed animal forts to play in together, and I often find you sitting with your arm around him just because.

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In September you start preschool. I cannot believe you are old enough for that! You are excited to go and talk about it often, but are also worried that I won’t stay with you. It’s not uncommon for you to need two or three times to be comfortable with a new situation, but I’m hoping the transition from being home full time with me to three mornings away isn’t too hard on you. Actually, I think it will be great and I’m really looking forward to watching you grow and thrive there.

You are in the “why” stage, and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Your questions are endless and I often get to the end of a long stream of them and run out of steam. Sometimes I simply don’t have the answer and you don’t like to accept that. Recently, my friend asked you why you ask so many questions and you replied:

Because I want to know everything.

Well, Owen, I can’t really argue with that.

I’ve heard the theory that first babies are like the first pancakes in a batch; how parents make all the mistakes on their first kid. But you know what? I’m really proud to be your mommy, Owen. Your heart and smile are both so very big and I think our first pancake is pretty darn awesome.

Happy third birthday, bugaboo. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

I love you through and through.

Love,

Mommy

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I read once about children entering a state of disequilibrium every six months or so. How starting at around 18 months old, they cycle between — and I’m paraphrasing here — being easy, mellow and pretty sweet to be around, to infuriating shits. Ok, that’s not exactly the theory, but it sure feels like it.

Year Two has been a YEAR. Owen challenges me daily. He is so smart. I don’t mean this in an annoying, braggy parent way, I just mean the kid surprises me. He sings all the 50 states, then turns around and chews on his shirt and trips over air. Normal kid stuff, right? Only sometimes I think he’s too smart for his own good because the kid argues with me like he’s 16. Occasionally I have to take a step back from an argument and check myself. You are fighting with a small person who hasn’t even been on the planet for a full three years. CHILL, WOMAN.

It was as though a switch flipped at two-and-a-half. My pleasant and fun kid became a constant battle. From sleeping to eating to leaving the house, everything was a fight. “No!” was shrieked more than anything else and I found myself wishing away our afternoons for the silence bedtime would (eventually, after a fight) bring.

I get it, I do. I realize he is working towards independence and his little brain is working overtime as he grows and learns. I also realize that he deals with some jealousy when people fawn over Ryan, or I have to care for the baby (taking attention away from Owen). It was no surprise at all that as soon as Ryan became mobile, the issues with sharing began as well.

The knowledge that this was coming/is normal/happens to all kids has been the one string I’ve clung to over the past six months. The understanding that this too shall pass and that we would emerge virtually unscathed. His third birthday is the light at the end of a very bumpy tunnel.

I thought we had coasted into quiet waters two weeks ago when suddenly naps and bedtime were easy. Fight free. He started eating his dinner again and didn’t run away from me every time I asked him to put his shoes on. I THOUGHT we were there.

We’re not.

Once again, the battles rage on. With his birthday just eight days away I am willing the shift back to equilibrium to happen soon.

I love Owen something fierce. He is my light, my heart, my world.

I just wish he’d stop being such a shit.

 

 

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