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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.
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.
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.”
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!
- 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??
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?
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.”
- 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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
The last week or so has been a rough one. Let’s break it down, shall we?
How it starts: We load up and hit the road early for a 3.5 hour drive to my sister’s graduation. Knowing I’ve timed it just right, I figure Ryan will nap most of the way and Owen might even fall asleep as well. We will get to New York just around lunch time and both will be rested enough to enjoy the graduation before heading to my aunt and uncle’s house for lunch.
What actually happens: Owen immediately falls asleep and stays that way for most of the ride. Ryan naps for 40 minutes then proceeds to cry on and off the remainder of the trip. Since he’s hardly rested, he is exhausted by the end of the ceremony, yet refuses to nap the rest of the day. At all. He is in full-blown meltdown mode by the time we head back home that evening. Both boys sleep the whole way home and we arrive around 10 p.m.
What happens next: I bring the boys in and Michael lets Kodiak out the front door for a quick bathroom break before bed. It’s pitch black and pouring rain. He’s mad at us for leaving him during the day (even though Michael’s grandmother let him out twice). While Michael is in the garage, Kodiak saunters away into the dark and refuses to come when called. Fast forward through countless searching, both on foot and in the car and calling and calling him, and we give up, angy, and hope he comes home safely. At 1:30 in the morning I hear him bark to come in. I open the slider and as he walks into the house — BAM. I’m hit with it.
He’s been skunked. UGHHHH. We quickly put him in the garage but the damage is done. The house STINKS. It is so overpowering that I have to sleep with the blanket over my head just to breathe. He is so very much in the dog house.
How it ends: In the morning, I wash him twice to no avail. He spends the next three (thankfully sunny) days outside and sleeps in the garage until we can take him to the groomers on Thursday. He is still slightly skunky and will probably smell every time he gets wet for a long time. Did I mention that Sunday was Michael’s birthday? Happy birthday to him, huh?
Post-skunk bath #1. Pathetic.
How it starts: I go to get Ryan out of the crib in the morning and immediately feel how hot he is. I take his temperature and it confirms he has a fever. His spirits aren’t to bad, though, so we go about our day just keeping an eye on it. That night we hear a strange sound coming from the crib. When I go to check on him I find that he’s wheezing. Great.
What happens next: I take him to the pediatrician the next morning and he is diagnosed with a virus. Which basically means, sucks for you. Got to ride it out. He’s given a little something to help with the wheezing, but the fever continues for a full 24-hours. He is also now leaking snot and oh! Look at that. Cutting a giant tooth. Poor guy is a mess. I worry, because we are leaving the boys, Ryan for the first time, the next day to attend a wedding. I still want my mom when I’m sick, so I feel for my little baby.
How it ends: Well, this ending was just the beginning. Friday morning his fever is gone, but he is cranky and coughing and generally unhappy. I waffle about leaving him, but am convinced to go. We leave the boys with my mother-in-law at noon and leave for my good friend’s wedding. We have a great night away (there was a cheesecake bar at the wedding. I mean, nom.) but return the following afternoon to absolute chaos. My in-laws are loud people, so the house is a frenzy of noise and activity. As soon as I walk in the door, both kids burst into tears. Ryan is hacking a lung and snotty, and I know the minute I hold Owen that he is now running a fever as well.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday
How it starts: I…I don’t even know. The next few days are a blur of no sleep, bodily fluids and miserable, MISERABLE children. Michael had to work all weekend too, so it was just me and the sick. For days. I keep a detailed white board listing who took which medicine when. I try to find anything they will eat (Owen – some toast, applesauce and a popsicle. Ryan – boob. And then some more boob. And hold on, let me scream my head off for a bit and ok…more boob now), I run humidifiers, put mattresses on angles, offer cool wash clothes and warm baths and anything I can think of to make them feel better. It goes on, and on, and on.
What happens next: Yesterday, Ryan appears to be back on a normal nap schedule. This looks promising. My mother-in-law offers to take Owen for a few hours to get him out of the house and give me a small break. He has fun, but returns feverish and exhausted. He naps on and off for four hours and when he finally wake up, he seems a bit more like himself.
How it ends: I’m hesitant to say it HAS ended, but it looks like we might be almost there. Both boys slept through the night and awoke happy, fever-free and just a little congested. I managed a shower and even met a friend for coffee. Could this endless stretch of suck finally be over? Are we finally emerging?
OMG, I HOPE SO.
(Hope you all had a good Memorial Day. I’m hoping next year includes a bbq and beer instead of fevers and Advil.)
- Over the last few days my nose has become progressively more congested, to the point that now it’s just spontaneously leaking. I was all ready to blame those snot-nosed kids at story hour (not that my kids ever have snot, oh no) for hacking some germ on me, until my eyes started to itch and the sneezing kicked in and woe is me, I totally have seasonal allergies. Only, the hell? I’ve lived here how long and at my last check I was 30 years old. Why exactly am I just dealing with this now?
Well whatever reason, it sucks, and my face feels like a giant inflated helium balloon draining directly from my eyeballs and I’m blowing my nose every two minutes. And WHINING ABOUT IT. I’m not going to mess with any over-the-counter stuff while I’m nursing so that’s that. Hopefully whining cures allergies.
- The timing couldn’t be worse for me to be sniffing all the live long day, because Ryan’s baptism is Sunday. Nothing is worse than someone sniffing/sneezing/coughing in a quiet room full of people. Like, uh…a church, for example. I’m totally going to be THAT person. I will hopefully be able to convey with just a look that it’s allergies and not some disgusting plague brought upon by the grimy hands of children, all while mouth-breathing. My goodness, can you just picture how attractive I’m going to be?
- As like any formal-ish event, the whole what do I wear? dilemma has come up. Not just for me, but for the kids. I pulled out the next size up for Ryan yesterday and while I was digging through the totes I became confused. Their birthdays are only a few weeks a part, and yet I found hardly any summer clothes in the 12-month size. How could this be, I wondered. I swear Owen didn’t go naked the summer of 2011. He must have been wearing clothes.
That’s when I realized that I had an abundance of 12-18 month clothes. Emphasis on the 18. Oh, right. Owen was a butterball. Of course he didn’t fit into 12 months when he was ACTUALLY 12 months. Sigh.
Thankfully, I did discover that I had some really sweet polo shirts in a brand that runs small, so Ryan is all set. That left Owen, and I was able to run out yesterday and found an equally cute polo for him. I love having boys, but the only time I get real pangs for a girl is when I see their adorable outfits. However, once you have seen your little boy in Ralph Lauren and Dockers, there’s no fighting the omigod, so cuuuuuuutttteeee!!!! from coming out. Nope.
- A baptism is as good an excuse as any to make banana pudding. Bring on the fat!
- (OMIGOD, MY NOSE.)