I Really Should be Writing This Down

Today I went to the annual spring event at JC’s co-op. He is 7 now, on the very cusp of 8, and attends the drop-off program. This means several things. One is that he makes friends that I do not know well. I hear their names and stories about them each week. It also means we left behind friends that haven’t aged out of the parent-led sessions, where JC and I spent several years getting to know older and younger kids and I spent hours each week with their parents. They became my friends, and a few became my close friends.

Then I got pregnant, JC graduated into the drop-off program, and the time I got to spend with even the closest of those friends became minimal. In fact, the last time I saw most of these parents was last year’s spring festival, right after I’d announced my pregnancy and was sporting just the smallest of protruding belly bumps.

That bump, that little possibility of a person, is now a wriggling, jovial, roly-poly baby boy, desperate to keep up with his big brother even at 5 months old.

It was delightful to show him off to people who followed my pregnancy through Facebook and Instagram and stories from my eldest, who has apparently kept his co-op appraised of all things happening in our world.

Today I had people approach me and say, “are you JC’s mom?” And when I accepted that moniker, bracing myself for whatever was about to come next (because, let’s be honest: it could be anything from “your son just sang every word of ‘The Devil went down to Georgia’ for us!” to “JC told us all about how you went into pre-term labor at your baby shower and threw up just as the guests were sitting down to eat!”, both of which I heard today), I inevitably heard this:

How is it with 2 boys with such an age difference?

Well, I’ll tell you: it’s…fast.

Somehow I managed to go from barely pregnant to having a semi-mobile baby and an exuberant 2nd grader in a year that felt like it happened in a week. The breakneck speed at which my life seems to be going by is both gratifying and terrible. My days pass in a blur and I look up at dinner time and think, where did the time go?!

This is a stark difference to how those early days of first-time motherhood passed. When JC was small, I had not yet met my tribe. I had no other children, and some days, no reason to leave my house. I could spent hours contemplating his baby toes, his belly button, and I remember the late afternoons would stretch on for days while I waited for my husband to come home from work. With no older sibling to attend to and email and social media still a thing of the future (when JC was born I had a flip phone with a grainy camera and had no idea what life with unlimited talk, text and data would be like), life was slower. Now our days start early and I look up after both boys are in bed and realize all I’ve eaten all day is leftover Easter candy and an entire bag of mini carrots. JC has activities, there are math lessons and writing practices to be done, friends who make sure I don’t slip into introverted isolation, and family to share the moments with.

And yet, there is still time.

There is still time to marvel at the wonders of a growing baby: his unique and joyful personality, his chubby thighs, his infectious grin that showed itself at a mere 10 days old. There is still time for a snuggle and a story with JC, who despite his status as a big kid will still jump at the chance for coveted Mom or Dad lap time. There’s time to enjoy the connection my two sons have despite the age difference, then to wonder at the fact that I have sons. That I’ve been entrusted with the care of two fantastic and frustrating creatures. There is still time to think, man, I should be writing this down.

But just because there’s time to think it doesn’t mean there’s actually time to do it. There’s also no time to do laundry, meal plan, train for the marathon I want to run, or do much of anything outside the immediate requirements of motherhood. Some things, of course, must be done. Laundry, for example, or else the baby may be put to bed in an oversized “Someone in Colorado loves me and bought me this T-shirt” shirt and a pair of baby sweat pants (that may or may not have happened today). And, after visiting with so many old friends this morning and being reminded of the swift passage of days, there must be time made for writing, both for my love of it and for the record-keeping of the boyhood details I’ll forget one day as my kids get older. Which is why after I put the baby down after his 1:00 AM snack I picked up my pen to write.

I’ve got plans for this blog: a new name, a new layout, and a list of topics I want to write about motherhood and all it encompasses. But life happens while you’re busy making plans, so tonight as my family sleeps I jumped in with both feet. Because life is fast…and I really should be writing this down.

A special thanks to my readers who are still out there! I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you all. đź’™

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Is Target on Target or did They Miss the Bullseye?

You won’t often see me writing about current events and even more rarely about politics. Of course I have an opinion, but I feel like the internet is so full of people spouting off that I don’t necessarily need to add to the noise. However, this story has popped up on my news feed so many times this week, and it hits close to home.

Target announced earlier this week that it would be removing gender separation from its children’s bedding and toy section, meaning instead of having  “boy” and “girl” sections, it’s just going to be kids. They’ve been applauded for this decision by some and dragged  through the coals by others.

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As you all know, I have a son. I also have years of experience working with children in many capacities, so I’ve seen gender stereotyping–and the fight against it–firsthand for most of my adult life. I’m going to say this, and it’s going to tick some people off: gender stereotypes exist for a reason. They exist because, as a whole, little girls like girl stuff and little boys like boy stuff.

Before I lose half of you, let me point out that obviously this is not cut and dry. Take JC for example. He is obsessed with trains. And crashing them. He likes giant construction vehicles, dinosaurs and race cars.

Know what else he likes? Tucking his favorite stuffed animals in for a nap, rocking them to sleep if he deems them fussy, and making them food in his pretend kitchen–a play kitchen, I might add, that we received second-hand, and is a bright and glittery pink. I thought about spray painting it, and then I thought, why? It’s fine how it is. Why should JC feel like he can’t like pink?

He’s a boy. He likes “boy” things. And that’s okay. He also likes “girl” things. And that’s okay, too. Why can’t they just be “kid” things?

And that’s exactly where Target was trying to go with the choice they made–taking away the stigma between girl toys and boy toys. But since Target doesn’t manufacture many of the toys, all they’re doing is taking down signs. They can put Lego City sets next to Lego Friends sets and it’s still going to be clear which gender they are marketing to. If you really feel like you need to remove gender stereotypes from toys, the problem is much deeper than taking the signs down.

Why can’t we just let kids play with what they want to, dress like they want to, be who they want to? When we go to Target, or The Disney Store, or Toys R Us, we look at all the toys…because toys are fun. We never say, “no, don’t look at this because it’s for girls.” We let him choose what he wants, whether that’s a superhero lego set or a Doc McStuffins play set.  This Target decision is the tip of an iceberg that encompasses a lot more: like the fact that girls can be anything, do anything boys do, and be considered strong–but if boys want to take on traditional girl roles, it comes with a stigma. Like the whole #LikeAGirl campaign that popped up earlier this year. If you run fast and win the race, it’s okay to be #LikeAGirl. Go you! If you’re a boy and you do the same thing, you don’t get to celebrate–because, well, you’re a boy. It’s expected.

(Also, can I point out that the #LikeAGirl campaign was started by a feminine hygiene company? That’s just…backwards).

I got to grow up and be exactly what I wanted to be: a mother who gets to stay at home and write. Did I want to do this because I felt like it was my role as a woman? Nope. My three best female friends are all successful career women in their own industries, and I applaud them, because it’s what they wanted. I’m thankful that JC gets that point of view as well. He is surrounded by people who love him, and every single one of them is different. They run the gamut from traditional married couples, like myself and his father, to long-term unmarried relationships and same-sex marriages. Some of these people break gender stereotypes. All of these people are good people. And frankly, that’s what I really care about.

I suppose my point is that we need to stop focusing on doing what is right for our kids and just DO what is right for our kids. If you have a little girl, let her dress up like a princess. Princesses are pretty and it’s fun to be pretty. If you have a boy, let him be rough and tumble. Playing with sticks is awesome and sticks are free. And when the little girl wants to dig in the mud and the little boy puts the crown on his head, applaud and be happy they are figuring out who they want to be.

Do you think Target taking down the gender specific signs will make a difference? Do you let your kid play with toys that aren’t marketed to their gender?

Five.

long days

I remember the early days, the long hours at seemed to stretch on for eons. The way the afternoon sun would shine into the living room where we would sit, toys and books scattered around us. Those hours–lets be honest, those days–are all in my memory under a haze of new mom exhaustion. They are all in my memory as beautiful moments. Even the three AM ones, when I would groan in frustration when I heard that tiny baby cry.

There weren’t a lot of times when I left infant JC with someone else. I wanted to be there for everything and not miss a moment. Call it attachment parenting, call me overprotective and sensitive, call me just plain crazy–it worked for me. I didn’t know–still don’t know–if the universe would see fit for me to have more than one kiddo, and I wanted all the moments. Because I knew one day, that tiny baby would be blowing out five candles on his cake. I knew that he would want to play with his friends and not need–or necessarily want–my constant supervision. I knew that there would be other people he would learn to adore–and I’m lucky that there are people in his life he loves so much that when they walk into a room, it’s like I don’t exist. I knew there would be a time for baby-sitters and date nights for my husband and I and sleepovers with his grandparents, and I knew when that time came, I wanted to be able to give him his freedoms and not regret missing out on his babyhood.

I realize to some of you–nonparents and parents of older, college-aged children–I must sound dramatic. After all, he just celebrated his fifth birthday. He’s hardly calling home to tell me he’s going on a ski trip with his frat brothers instead of coming home for Thanksgiving. But he’s growing up. The days were long but the years are short. Suddenly he’s not a baby, or a toddler, or even a preschooler. He’s a legitimate big kid.

I’m thankful for his health, his sense of humor (which he only has when he’s in control of the situation), his creativity and his quirkiness. As much as I loved those baby moments, I’m ready to embrace the big boy ones, too.

It’s hard not to wax poetic on his birthday–to recall the day he was born, how I labored at home for hours after telling my husband to get some sleep, quietly spending those last few hours with my boy while I still carried him under my heart;  how the doctor laughed at me when I told him I didn’t take the birthing class and I was going to need a pretty specific overview of how things were going to play out; calling my mom at 5 AM and saying, “the nurse says he’ll be here by lunchtime, it’s for real this time!”; looking at him the first time and thinking, of course that’s him, and knowing I would have recognized him anywhere; knowing something was wrong with his breathing before the nurses did; the panic of having to leave him in the NICU and the joy of getting to bring him home a few days later.

Right now, JC loves hearing about the day he was born. He loves to pore over pictures with me, listening to the story over and over. I know one day he won’t want to hear it, he’ll groan “Mo-ooooom!” when I talk about the day he came into the world. So I’ll tell him as many times as he wants until that day.

After all, it’s one of the best stories I know.

Today I’m linking up with Mama Kat and her writing workshop and blogging about something sweet. 🙂 

On the Move

I’m back to blogging after a break in which we moved from our city apartment to a roomy house in the suburbs, and I have some things to report.

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Moving is hard. Especially for almost five-year-olds. Luckily, Grover helps.

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Hello Everybodeee!

As does shoveling packing peanuts.

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I really, really have too many books. This isn’t even half. You guys, the movers DID NOT like me.

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Moving isn’t the hardest part. Getting settled into a new house is the hard part. Yesterday JC stated, “Mom, I do not like this new house. You know why? Because your bathroom is too big.” And then he burst into tears. Luckily, playing baseball in his new yard eases the pain of his parent’s oversized bathroom.

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You find weird things when you move. While I was going through a box of my father’s old things, I came across this sugar packet from Disney World. From my parents honeymoon. in 1981.

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Not throwing it away. Nope.

Tomorrow is the start of our first full week in our new home, and I’m excited to start finding our patterns in a new space. And writing. And re-reading all the books I made the movers haul around.

How long have you been in your home? Any tips of transitioning a young child into a new space?

Imaginary Friends

Imaginary

You’d think I’d completely understand my son’s imaginary friends.

They say that children with imaginary friends are extremely intelligent. I take comfort in this knowledge, because my kid’s imaginary friend is quite the character.

Ansel is, without a doubt, a trouble maker. When something goes wrong in our house, Ansel is behind it.

Ansel does things that JC would never do. Like pull every container out of the cupboards and fill them with unpopped popcorn and my very fancy pink Himalayan salt. Ansel encourages very naughty behavior, like sneaking out of bed at 3 AM to swipe the iPad and watch train videos. He is the driving force behind all the bad words that come out of JC’s mouth, the reason he whines for oreos, and the mastermind behind the million selfies of JC sticking out his tongue on my phone.

These are the things we know about Ansel, via JC:

  • He’s usually a boy, around 11, an age which apparently boasts supreme wisdom. Occasionally he’s a little sister.
  • His favorite color is green.
  • Despite this color preference, he drives a pink Mitsubishi Lancer with the word “whatever” written on the side.
  • He has a Playstation 4 and an Xbox One, and no, he doesn’t consider than overkill.

In an interesting turn of events, JC informed me a few weeks ago that Ansel had been sent to jail due to his very bad manners. In his place, Christopher Casey–who hails from Hawaii, has more toys than JC, and excellent manners–would be arriving soon. He had, apparently, let JC know he was arriving via text message.

Sure enough, 36 hours later, Christopher Casey and all his imaginary luggage had joined our family. Christopher Casey has impeccable manners–even correcting me sometimes.

But being good all the time can get boring. Ansel, JC told me one morning, was “reformed” in jail and got to come home.

We are now a happy little family: myself, husband and son, and his two imaginary friends that serve as the devil and angel on his shoulders. They are constant companions–they even play with another little girl’s imaginary friends at playgroup– acting as guideposts and feelers for how the world should work. And even though Ansel still causes trouble that Christopher Casey cannot talk him out of–“Ansel TOLD me to squeeze all the toothpaste into the sink, mom!”–a little mischief does a 4-year-old good.

Just Try and Keep a Straight Face

Sometimes kids say crazy things, and it’s hard to keep a straight face.

I recently discovered this app called “Little Hoots”. It’s free (with some in-app purchases) and you can illustrate things your kid says and conversations you have. I love it, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

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This post was inspired by Mama Kat‘s writing workshop! Go check her out, she’s hilarious. 

Where Do They Get This Stuff? Oh Wait, I Know.

(Alternate titles to this post included, When Books Go Bad and The Bad Habits of Good Books.)

Bbears

About six months ago, I introduced The Berenstain Bears to JC. I was really excited about this for 2 reasons. One, I loved the books and videos growing up. Two, I knew I could use them to help facilitate discussions about everything from being kind to other people to visiting the dentist for the first time.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the bad habits he would pick up from Brother & Sister Bear and their friends.

For example, in The Blame Game, Brother and Sister blame each other for every broken vase, spill and accident that occurs in the Bear Family Tree House–until Mama Bears loses her cool and there is a big talk about working together to clean up instead of pointing fingers.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy, right? Well, it was until JC started imitating Brother and Sister whining. He thought it was hilarious. I did not.

Then when he realized he did not have a sibling to blame things on, he invented one. I believe I have mentioned Ansel, JC’s imaginary little brother who is the bane of my existence, before.

JC picked up obnoxious taunts and teases from Too Tall Grizzly in Double Dare. He spent a week jumping out from behind things and scaring people after we read Trick or Treat. 

It wasn’t that he wasn’t getting the moral of the stories–I know he was because we talked about them. It’s just that he was also getting the bad behavior, too.

I figure that he isn’t learning anything that isn’t typical kid behavior. And when the Bad Berenstain Bear behavior pops up, I have a lesson at the ready. And every now and then one of the many good qualities of the Bear Family will stick, and it reminds me why I started reading the books to him in the first place.

What are some surprising places your kid picked up bad habits?