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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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So….

Hi!

I’ve even gone a while. I have no real explanation except good old blog-itis. I want to write, only I don’t. Life had been happening, only I haven’t been documenting it. Same old story. It doesn’t help that any time I even think about siting down at the computer, one of the kids pushes the other one down (Owen), or scales the furniture (Ryan), or chases the dog (both of them).

I think I just need a blog restart every now and then. As much as I think that sometimes I’m done for good, I just can’t quit this space. I’m glad I can take the break and come back home.

If you’re still out there reading, stay tuned. I’ll be back tomorrow (Really!)

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(Cutest little super heroes ever on Halloween.)

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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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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Owning a dog means voluntarily setting yourself up for heartbreak. I mean that in the best possible way.

Kodiak is getting older. He’s nearly eight and a half. While he still has the energy of a puppy most of the time, he’s slowed down over the years; added a little more gray hairs to his chin. (The kids might have contributed to that a bit.) By all accounts, he is a healthy guy, but lately thoughts of the inevitable have been creeping into my head, and as much as a try to push them away, I can’t help but think about it.

People with children tend to roll their eyes at people who have no kids, but have a dog. You know the kind — the dog is their baby. Spoiled rotten, taken everywhere, talked about — and to — as if they could talk back. Jeez, those people, right?

Only, we were those people. Kodiak literally was the first baby and we treated him as such. While we swore it wouldn’t happen — as dog owners with kids do — the life he knew changed drastically once the babies came. Suddenly he had to wait, was underfoot, was no longer the center of attention. To his credit, Kodiak took it all in stride. He adapted to his new job as Fur Brother and loves those babies like they were his own pups.

But I know it’s not the same.

I spend a lot of the day shooing him out of the way of a crawling baby, or getting annoyed that he’s begging for food, or wanting to scream because there’s dog hair on the floor AGAIN. None of these things are his fault, but it’s easy to snap at him when life gets stressful. He won’t snap back. He never has.

Lately, though, I’ve realized that in not too distant future, relatively speaking, he won’t be here to snap at. And I know then that the guilt that tugs at me now will be multiplied over and over again. If only I had paid more attention, took him on a few more walks, let him bask for a few moments in his title of First Baby. When the time to say goodbye comes, I want to feel like I did right by him.

I told Michael I want to have a Kodiak Day. A day where he gets to go to all the places he loves (the beach!), gets a special meal just for him (cheeseburgers!). I know it sounds silly, but I want to do that for him.

This all sounds morbid, I know. We could have another 4+ years with him, and by god, I hope we do. And I’m going to try and use that time better than I have been. For him. For our Kodiak.

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- 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.)

Yesterday I spent the day in Massachusetts at my friend’s bridal shower. It was lovely to leave the mommy world for an afternoon and spend some time with some girlfriends and some mimosas. I was gone seven hours — the longest I’ve been apart from Ryan to date — and as much as I love my boys, I’ll admit that I didn’t miss them all that much. Mama needed a break. And enjoyed eating two (TWO!) cupcakes without having to share.

Practically everyone at the shower was wearing either blue, stripes, or a combination of the two, so I fit right in wearing a navy and white striped maxi dress which I bought a few days before at — well let’s just go ahead and get it out in the open. I bought the dress at Wet Seal. The store is across from the bookstore I was buying the shower gift in and I figured I would pop across the way and see if they had any cute inexpensive jewelry. They didn’t, but they did have the dress all cute and cheap at $16, and so I bought it. Thirty years old shopping at Wet Seal. Ahem.

Anyway, while I was at the party, the bride’s sister came up to me (Hi, Ronnie!) and was all, would you update your blog already? She told me she checks daily to see if I’ve written, and since I’ve gone so long in between posts lately, I basically figured no one was reading anyway. It was nice to hear at least one person was, so it kicked my butt into gear.

I’ve just had a touch of the Blog-itis lately. Life is happening — and quickly — and I just haven’t been able to put it down in words. Ryan is nine months going on, oh, who knows. The kid just wants to be big. He’s all over the house. Mostly backwards crawling and some sort of unofficial frontwards army crawl. It’s not what I would call traditionally crawling, but it does the job. When he’s not doing that, he wants to stand, stand, stand, and has started to cruise the furniture ever so slowly. Yesterday he took my cheeseburger right off my plate and ate it. It’s probably second-time-around parenting, because I never would have let Owen do that, but I barely even blinked. Instead, I broke some up into tiny pieces and let him have at it.

Owen is almost three and he’s busy, and loud, and smart, and sassy, and infuriating, and fresh, and amazing, and awesome. Looking at pictures from even just six months ago makes my heart ache a little because he has changed so quickly. He thought I looked “sooooo beautiful” in my Wet Seal dress, though, so that’s pretty cool.

Me? I’ve been getting into photography lately and have really enjoyed photographing my friends’ children along with my own. It’s become a fun hobby for me and one that gives me an outlet beyond the daily stuff.

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Ryan and my dad

The other day I uttered the words, why is the baby under the ottoman covered in poop?

That’s life, y’all.

After Hurricane Sandy and the four days we spent without power, we started talking about buying a generator. Michael started doing research on them, but the price tag and life getting in the way made us push it to the back burner. Which is why I started panicking on Friday when reports of 60-80 mile winds hitting the coast on top of two feet of snow started pouring in. If we lost power, we lost.

Not surprisingly, the power shut off that evening. In anticipation, we had cranked the heat up to nearly 80 degrees before it shut off, so it sustained us through the night. In the morning, I bundled the kids in multiple layers and Michael set about trying to get us some power.

There was no rhyme or reason to the outages this time. I saw reports of more than 180,000 customers without power, but by the luck of the draw, a lot of our friends did not lose it. Because of that, if we HAD to leave, we could — assuming we could drive anywhere — which was iffy. Thankfully, friends with a generator didn’t lose their power, and helped us out. By 10 p.m. the generator was running and though the house was cold (it had dropped below 55 by then), it gradually started to warm back up.

I am blown away by the kindness of our friends and neighbors the last few days. Those who could offered whatever they had. Heat, food, a place to stay. One neighbor spent the storm away, and when he returned he said his house was 39 degrees. I am so thankful I was in a position where I could keep my babies warm.

Scenes from Nemo: Happy dog in the snow, a little boy snow gazing, a bundled baby playing and a tired husband snow blowing his mom’s driveway.

Digging out has taken a while, and a slow drive to my mother-in-law’s yesterday painted an eery, cold and still picture of our town. Down lines, telephone poles and snowbanks scattered everywhere. Reports of a transformer blown off into the river. Forty-eight hours later, the power returned. It was bad, but it could have been worse.

Actually, the worse part was last night. After a day with a constantly running nose, Owen woke a few hours after going to bed gagging and burning up. He threw up for the first time and it was a scary experience for him. His fever broke a few hours later and he is a much happier kid today, but I’m ready to wash my hands of the entire weekend and start anew.

Needless to say, we are purchasing a generator.

 

When I lost my job in public relations it felt awful. I left a job and people I loved in the not-for-profit world for one in consumer electronics because I thought it would advance me in my career. It was close to home and paid much more than I was making, and so, after much back and forth, I took it.

The problem was, I wasn’t very good at the new job. The passion I held for the museum I left could not be replicated in the consumer world. I felt timid and confused and spent a better part of a year hoping to not be put on the spot, afraid it would reveal the truth.

Despite all that, getting fired was terrible. Although a part of me felt relief that I could just go, I still felt awful about my performance. It wasn’t the right job for me, but it was still my job. I should have worked harder. Done better.

My current gig is one I am passionate about. Being a mother brings me both joy and a sense of accomplishment. I’m good at this job, most of the time.

Lately, though, I feel like I’m slipping into the failing zone, and while no one can hand me a pink slip, I’m still aware I need to do better.

Two and a half is a challenging age. Owen argues with me, is defiant and fresh. He refuses to nap, pushes boundaries and tells me “no” all day long. At 6 months, Ryan is a happy little thing, until he’s not. Lately I spend my days more frustrated than happy. I feel burdened and unappreciated by my two small people. I am grumpy and annoyed easily and on top of that, I yell.

I could hear myself yelling more than I should, but when Owen called me out on it, I knew it had to stop. After getting out of bed AGAIN to go potty (he knows he can get out of bed for that), I snapped that it was ENOUGH.

“Why are you yelling at me, Mommy?” He asked.

“I’m not, bud,” I said, backtracking.

“Well, you were…”

Ouch.

I’m afraid that I’m so caught up in the endless minutiae of the every day, that I am missing the good stuff. I don’t want to miss a funny quote or a big cheesy grin because I’m mad that I tripped over a stray toy for the 10th time. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grumpy mommy who yelled over nothing. I want my words and tone to mean something.

I don’t like the mother I’ve been lately, but unlike my previous job, I’m going to do something about it. I need to take a deep breath, calm my blood pressure and start a new. One day my house will stay clean and no one will be fighting me over a nap, but that also means my babies will have left the nest. I need to focus more on the now and appreciate this time while they are still little.

And so, I have an opportunity to change the way things are. This time I can, I WILL, do better.

At least you can have an occasional drink at this job.

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(He’s laughing at me. I lose.)

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