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. 💙

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Roots, Wings, and the Places We Leave our Hearts

They say the most important things you can give your children are roots and wings. My parents did an excellent job of giving me roots. They run deep into the red soil of north Georgia. I very much love being able to go “home”: the place where I grew up, with familiar landmarks, people and patterns. My wings are akin to those of a penguin: I have them but they’re not terribly practical. 

My husband is the opposite. His wings want to soar. He travels light and often, whereas I overpack to go grocery shopping. 

We have managed to create a child who is a delightful combination. JC travels with excellent ease, but likes his “normal” routine in the morning and evening. As long as I can bookend his days with a semblance of his normal, he is open to adventure in between.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of home recently. We’ve had two household moves in less than a year, and we’re on the tail end of a month long business trip with my husband. His new job has locations in Hawaii and California, and when he travels for long periods, the boy and I get to join him. Next up is Fort Lauderdale. So needless to say, home is kind of a fluid concept right now.

 

Have buddies, will travel

 
I’ve really come to believe that home is less about where you hang you hat, and more about where you leave a peice of your heart.

It’s why home is a house on a hill in a small North Georgia town. It’s where I grew up, both literally and figuratively. It’s where I still run into people I know, and where the twang returns to voice no matter how hard I try to keep it out.

Home is a small campus in Covington, Georgia. Emory University started on the cozy Oxford Campus, and in a way, so did I. Oxford was the first place I lived away from where I grew up, and I love to return in the fall to see the leaves turn and make the campus it’s most beautiful. I always feel like I could run into a younger, more naive version of myself around every corner.

Home is a tangled mess of Atlanta city streets where there is always traffic and I still manage to get lost despite the fact I’ve lived there most of my adult life. Atlanta was the first place I consciously chose to dwell, and I love it. I still get starry-eyed over the skyline, and there are certain city spots that give me comfort like an old friend.

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

 
Home is a made-up place, where there’s a castle and a mouse and fairy tales unfold every day. Some people call Disney a tourist trap, but I call it home: it’s where my father walked me down the aisle, where my family and I go to focus on each other, and where I can shut out reality every once and awhile.

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And finally, I’m coming to realize home doesn’t have to be a place. It’s the way my husband knows how to hug me just the right way to make the stress of the day melt away. It’s the smell of my husband’s cologne. It’s the way I can just relax around my mom.

It’s sort of a comforting thought, to be honest, that home is not a singular place. That I can find home 5,000 miles away on a tropical island or on a phone call with a familiar voice. That it isn’t just where your heart is, but where you give your heart out.

Where have you left pieces of your heart?

Just Yell “Plot Twist!”

Oh, 2016. You are a doozie.

2015 was a very trying year for my family. I had hoped that when we ushered 2016 in, we would be done with transition and change. I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, my husband abruptly lost his job. No warning, no signs. Any time a job is lost, it hits a family hard. But when you’re a single-income homeschooling family, it’s a Really Big Issue.

The night we found out, I sat down with my computer and applied for every job I could find. I was so lucky and so blessed to find a job in under a week as an editor for an Atlanta-area publishing company. And I’m actually getting to use my English degree, which is awesome.

But it’s a huge change.

It’s a change for me, a change for JC, and a change for my husband. It’s a change for our schedule, our co-ops, and my writing. And, to put it lightly, I am change adverse.

I wish I could say that this was going to be the last change for awhile, and that my family was going to sail along smoothly through the rest of 2016. But I don’t think it it. I think there’s a lot more transition in store for us.

There’s a funny thing about being a parent: when things happen, or the sh!t hits the fan, or something happens that you need time to process…well, tough. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and slap a big smile on your face to keep things normal for your kid. And that’s just what I’ve been doing.

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We’re having a major plot twist right now. But every good story needs a couple of plot twists, right? That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it better.

There’s always a silver lining. I love editing, and I’m getting to put that fancy degree that’s hanging on my wall to use. JC is getting to experience different teaching styles and ideas while his dad pitches in with homeschooling. And I get a chance to be the parent he’s SUPER excited to see at the end of the day…which is pretty cool.

Have you had any major life changes happen recently? How do you deal with life’s plot twists?

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. 🙂 

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. 

Peer Pressure: Can it be Positive?

This weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about peer pressure.

JC is a really picky eater. As in, eats only three foods. Luckily for me, they are pretty healthy foods. While I don’t have to worry about his nutrition, I do have to pack up and carry around these three foods when we go anywhere, whether it be a play date, day trip, or vacation. When I brought it up to our pediatrician, she said to make sure he sees other people eating real food–especially other kids.

“They’ll make fun of him for eating like that,” she told me critically.

I have carried around her little nugget of opinion with me for awhile. JC has a little friend who is a really great eater, so the last the time we had lunch with her, I pointed out what she was eating and asked if he would like to try it.

“No,” he said firmly. “I like what I like, mom.” Fair enough, kid.

We have recently joined a preschool co-op, and one of the first things I thought about was that JC will get to see other kids eating their snacks, and maybe he would notice he was the odd kid out. Maybe it would encourage him to try something new.

Then when I thought about it, I wondered if I really wanted that to happen.

Of course, I want him to branch out on his eating. But do I want him to do it because other kids judge him and he feels different? Do I want him to change his ways because he feels left out? I don’t know about that.

mobmentality

My son doesn’t have a lot of experience with big groups of kids. He doesn’t have any experience with peer pressure or the mob mentality. Is the first lesson I want to teach him that he should do what the rest of the group is doing, and that if kids make fun of him, he should change his habits to fit in? Sure, the outcome would be positive–he might try new foods. Peer pressure, I suppose, can be positive–it can challenge children to try harder and be a part of a team. But I want JC to continue thinking for himself. I want him to fit in, but not at the expense of making his own decisions. So will I continue to encourage him to try new foods? Absolutely? But will I compare him to the other kids? No way. As much as I want this change for him, I want it to be one he comes to himself.

How does your child handle peer pressure? Has the mob mentality had a positive or negative effect on them?