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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.

 

 

A few weeks ago, Michael’s grandmother came by with a pop up tent for the beach. It was all folded up in a circle and came in a handy carrying case a little smaller than a hula hoop. It boasted that to use it, all you had to do was unzip it and toss! That’s it! A tent! Sounded good to me. I had been looking for a tent Ryan could sleep in during our beach days this summer and this appeared far easier than anything I had seen.

:::FORESHADOWING:::

Our first beach trip of the summer was going well. We joined friends and their baby on the sand and spent the morning playing and relaxing. When Ryan started to get tired I decided to use the tent. As described, it was easy as pie. I literally just tossed it in the air and POOF! Down came a tent. My friend gushed over it, begging to know where my in-law and found it. She wanted one for herself.

Ryan’s nap was short-lived (my little creature of habit will have to get used to a new nap local), but boy was that tent nice. Roomy, shady, and again…so easy! Here, let me show you:

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Oooooh. Ahhhhh.

When our day came to a close, I packed up all the zillions of beach things and went to close the tent. I hadn’t checked out the directions before because I figured, how hard could it be? It just pops up. It must pop back down.

NUH UH.

What followed was quite the show. I struggled to fold up the tent with one hand while reading the Ikea-like picture instructions with the other. No dice. I pulled, I pushed, I twisted. Nope. Not even close. One of my friends started to give me a hand. Surely the two of us could figure it out. NOPE, NOT EVEN.

While this was going on, an older man sitting in his beach chair chewing on a cigar kicked up his feet and took in the show. He laughed — loudly — every time we failed. After flashing him what I only imagine was a stink eye made only by mothers with whining children covered in sand, he stood up and offered to help. Laughing, all condescending-like, he strutted over, cigar still in his mouth, and tried to figure it out.

Only, he couldn’t either. OH, who’s cocky now, Mr. Strutting Cigar Man?

Finally, after far too long of this nonsense, the kids were DONE and it was getting late. My friend and Cigar managed to wrangle the tent into a shape just small enough for me to jam in my trunk and wrapped the cord around it. I was thisclose to being unable to shut my trunk, but managed to get it home. Friend: “I no longer care to know where you got this tent. Do not want one. Ever.”

Upon arriving home, I put Ryan to sleep in his crib and left Owen, who had fallen asleep on the ride home, in the car. (In the shade, with the windows down — obligatory I-did-not-leave-my-baby-to-roast-in-the-car disclaimer.) I dragged the tent out of the trunk, untied the string and POOF! Oh look! A tent! SO F-ING EASY.

The next hour of my life went something like this. I beg of you to watch at least a minute of this video because THIS WAS ME. Only, angrier. With curse words. Actually, start at the 0:33 seconds mark and proceed to watch the tent pop open in her face. Then feel my rage.

See how she’s trying to hold the tent (“hold all four poles with one hand…”) while trying to decipher those nonsense directions with the other? Know why? Because those directions are BULLSHIT. The written directions mean nothing and the drawings of the man folding the tent are drawn as though you’re standing behind him so you can see…NOTHING. Except his ass, essentially. And that helps NOT AT ALL.

This went on for an hour. AN HOUR. I would get so frustrated that I would throw the tent in a fit of blind rage, only to have it pop open in the air (OOOH! A TENT!) and float back down to the ground all tent-like. There wasn’t even any satisfaction in giving it a good toss because that only resulted in a tent and ARRRGHHHH. I DO NOT WANT A TENT.

Finally, I realized that there’s no way I could be the only person who has ever wanted to murder this particular tent, so I turned to the all-mighty internet. What I found, however, was practically nothing of help, until a random image search landed me on a YouTube page in…German. Which lead me to more videos in German. Tons of videos in German of German people closing this tent.

THANK GOD FOR THE GERMANS.

I watched about three videos and while it certainly clarified things better than those bullshit instructions ever did, I still couldn’t do it. I finally gave up, fresh bruises on my arms from the tent popping up on me multiple times, and left it for Michael.

Only, I couldn’t let it go. I stewed on it. By this point I was so invested in it, was so determined to conquer the damn tent that I started searching again. This time, I unearthed another German video and it was pure gold. The guy who made it was so thorough. I mean, he would shoot the same step over and over from multiple angles. This guy was dedicated to helping you close your Abbau Pop Up Strandmuschel. Which I’m pretty sure translates into The Pop Up Tent From Hell.

It took a few viewings, but finally, FINALLY, I closed the tent. I was so proud of myself! I had conquered the beast! WOO HOO! I went inside and poured myself a stiff drink.

FIN.

The tent is sitting in the family room waiting for it’s next beach adventure but I’m wary. Can I really close it again? I do not know. I will probably have to practice a few times before venturing out with it again.

Beware the Strandmuschel, friends.