Max

Away he goes…

IMG_4056

He has decided camo is cool. A decision cemented by the photo sent of two of his oldest friends as they were off to their school, all of them wearing camo shorts as if they planned it. He insisted on wearing his black high top Chucks, even though they are huge on him. His mind was set, they were his one back to school request so I made sure he had them, even if I didn’t know they ran really, really, really large.

His backpack was filled with all the forms that needed to be signed for the first day and his requisite PB&J was tucked in his brand new lunch box.  As we turned the corner to his school, he asked us to turn off the radio, he has done this every day since he started, as if he needs a few moments of quiet to ready himself for the day ahead. He was nervous about the crowds outside the front door. He prefers to be able to walk right in the school. I reminded him of last year when he was in Kindergarten and how on the first day all the moms and dads stood outside taking pictures and trying not to cry. The crowd today would be much larger than tomorrow’s. I reminded him he knew where he was going and the crowd was NBD, as we say.

IMG_4068

Before we knew it we were at the front of the line and he hopped out of the van, his jaw set with determination and we watched as he tentatively made his way through the crowd to the front door and then he was gone.

Watch out, first grade. Max is here.

 

Sometimes I have to pinch myself in order to believe Max gets to attend the school he does. Once again I am thrilled with the teacher he has been assigned, and he is really looking forward to his days. Here’s hoping that lasts and lasts and lasts!!

IMG_4061

SEVEN

Every year on my children’s birthday I write them a letter. This is Max’s seventh. for web (1 of 1)-40

 

My sweet Max,

Seven. Seven seems so big. This morning  we did your birthday mugshots and I was shocked when I placed them side by side with the ones from one year ago today. You have changed so much!

This year you conquered kindergarten like a champ. I was so worried, I admit I worry about you probably more than I should. You did so well. I did everything I could do to make sure you were in the right school and Dr. Williams put you in the perfect class with Mrs. J and then I had to trust you to fly. You did. This year I learned that  as much as I try to ensure you are in situations that allow your confidence to build and your self reliance to grow that YOU know yourself really well and I simply need to listen to you and take my cues from you. Your anxiety is still there, we still do “the thing” every night before bed. But this year there have been fewer acute attacks and very rarely have you exhibited stress tics.  I am so proud of you.

You even handled kids at school calling you a fraidey cat perfectly, and while simply thinking about it now- after the fact- makes me want to cry, you told them what they were doing wasn’t for you and then you shook it off. You are amazing. My promise to you this year is that I will release my, well, anxiety about your anxiety and let you be. I will let you breathe but I will be right there, should you need me.

This year I figured out that you are a bit like Dumbo and the magic feather, sometimes we just need to find that magic feather to help you trust your own abilities. You were afraid to go under the water till we gave you goggles, then you were ready to go!

for web (1 of 1)-6

You and Huck have alternated between having a great time together and fighting like cats and dogs. This has been a very hard year for Huck and most of the time you handle his tantrums and tears with love and support. The other night you two had a huge fight, you wouldn’t let him play with you. You told him he wasn’t allowed that only you and Piper could play.  There was pushing, hitting and a lot of tears involved. I sent you to Huck’s room to calm down while I cared for him. When I came in you were angry, you have been angry a lot this year and that’s okay, you started to launch into all the things Huck did wrong. But I stopped you.  I told you it’s okay to only want to play with Piper sometimes.  Then I told you something you didn’t know, Huck’s greatest fear is exactly that, that you and Piper don’t need him or want him. He has struggled with Piper’s arrival not really because I was busy with her, but because YOU were. I told you that when you said those words to him it hurt him. But because he is so little he can’t put those feelings into words, he can’t verbalize it the way you do. I told you he was like Tip in HOME. He was sad-mad. You looked at me like a light bulb went on in your mind, “OH! That’s why he gets so upset and hits! He is sad-mad!” you went to him and hugged him and told him you loved him. He idolizes you Max. You are his hero and he absolutely lights up with a kind word from you.

You guys play a game where you travel to Key West. I have no idea where you got it from but you guys play it regularly and it’s  hilarious. The only thing better than listening to you two laugh together is listening to the THREE of you. And you do a great job of helping this along by showing kindness to your brother. Piper practically wiggles out of her skin when she sees you, especially in the morning. You light her up.

You still love baseball and especially the NATS. This fall you move up to machine pitch and it cannot come fast enough for you. You practice all the time. I can usually find you setting up a field and running the bases! You draw intricate plans of the Great American Ball Park and Nats Stadium.

You also draw incredibly detailed drawings of The Cavern! Yes, you still love The Beatles!

You want a YouTube channel and I can find you pretending you are doing a toy opening video regularly. It’s basically awesome.

You change clothes approximately 292,756 times a day. Every activity needs wardrobe.

If you could spend all day every day at the pool,  you would.

Your favorite food is rice and beans and you drink seltzer water like a maniac.

My favorite time of day with you is bedtime. Being a kid can be hard with all those emotions and things to learn coming up so quickly. I shocked you the other day when you were having a hard time and I said quietly “Sometimes it is really hard to be a kid.” You looked at me like you couldn’t believe I understood and said “yes. it is!” But at night, no matter how grumpy you’ve been, how tired and cranky, how angry you got because you were embarrassed you made a mistake, at night you snuggle close to me and we talk about everything. You tell me about God, we talk about school and family and we laugh about what happened that day.  I feel so blessed to be your mother.

I cannot believe you are off to first grade in five weeks. I know you will be amazing, just as you were in kindergarten and I promise to relax and just let you be.

I love you so, so, so much.

Love, Mom

6-7^sucker punched by time, I tell ya.

You can read his earlier birthday letters HERE

Like Sands Through The Hourglass…

There are some memories from childhood that are so clear and precise they seem like movies to me.  My childhood is so ingrained with Dub’s that sometimes I am unclear whether it is a memory of something that happened to me or something that is her event but I was there, it’s like a woven blanket of our childhood, the yarns unravelable and multi-colored.

Such it is with the loss of the two front teeth. I can see our classroom clearly, I know where we were sitting at our desks together. I can see the front of the room with the little sink and mirror in the right corner of the room nearest the windows of the basement in the church where our school was held. The windows looking out, if you can say basement windows look out, on a green area with a creek and a tree. That tree was our imagination land for years. It was our home, our tower, our castle, our roller coaster…it was everything.

for web (1 of 1)

I can see Heather and I getting up from our desk in the middle of the room and going to the sink to check our loose front teeth twenty times a day. Twisting them around, feeling the metallic taste of tiny drops of blood as we wiggled them back and forth, that one last string holding on as those teeth stubbornly dangled like shutters in a storm. Leaning close to that safety mirror, wrinkling our noses, squinting as we worked squeamishly on those teeth.

Then one of us, maybe both of us, lost one. Right there in the classroom over the sink. So exciting, so weird. I remember us looking at each other so excited talking about how the Tooth Fairy brings more for front teeth.

On my death bed I will be able to recall this. And I wonder, will Max always remember sitting on our stairs as we all screamed with joy and freaking out as he twisted his tooth around. When I touched it and told him Oh that will come right out if you pull it and how without even a tug suddenly his big front tooth seemed so tiny in the palm of his hand.

Front tooth lost, one more giant childhood milestone passed.

 

Somehow we keep growing, keep moving forward, even if sometimes we wish we could rewind and re-live.

Thank God for memories.

{ETA We will all remember how the next day at Huck’s fourth birthday party the lone front tooth turned sideways, flipping this way and that causing squeals and eeks from every one until it popped out right as we got in the car to go home.}

for web (1 of 1)-2

 

This is what I get when I say, give me a cute smile so we can see your teeth….boys.

Little Windows

 

IMG_2895

He does his best sharing with me right before he sleeps. At almost seven, his days are spent being big, strong…brave. Everything between even the best of friends is a competition. Who is the tallest, fastest, the best counter to one hundred. Every second of his day is graded by increments of achievement, even though we the parents encourage the growth rather than the goal. It takes a while to shed this skin of bigness, it takes coming home, relaxing, bathing, and finally being tucked into bed and suddenly, again, he is little. Well, not really little but smaller. Released from competition he snuggles up next to me, places his forehead right against mine.

 

It is this time of day that is my favorite with him, it is this time of day he spills out all the stories he has to tell.

 

This evening his eyes grow cloudy in the dim light of the baseball night light illuminating our cocoon. I remember when he was born thinking I had never seen eyes that color, eyes that are truly cerulean blue. Once walking through an art gallery with him when he was tiny a woman stopped me to tell me what beautiful eyes she had. When I told her he was a boy, she said shaking her head what a shame. I thought that was a silly thing to say, as if beautiful eyes were wasted on a boy.

 

He furrows his brow, the smattering new spring freckles spattered across his nose barely visible and whispers, “I have something to tell you.” He is very serious and I prepare myself. There have been troubles at school with a boy in his class. Last week he tackled my son to the ground twice telling him he wanted him to stop breathing, and later that he wanted him to die. We’ve been talking about ways he can stand up for himself without making the situation worse and my heart aches that kindergartners can cross the line from play to cruelty so easily.

 

He takes a deep breath, ready to talk after a long  pause. “I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t want to hurt your and grandma’s feelings.” I reassure him that he can tell me anything and remind him that if he feels he can’t tell me or someone says he shouldn’t tell me, those are the most important things to share. Then I reassure him that grandma and I are grown ups. That it is very sweet that he wants to protect our feelings but that is not his job. Our job is to protect him, not the other way around. While I am saying these words, whispering in the half dark, my mind is racing. What on EARTH could he be about to say. Finally, he is convinced I won’t be mad and I promise I will tell grandma for him. That’s my job, I say and kiss his still sun warmed forehead.

 

“I am just over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You and grandma always buy me turtle stuff and I am over them, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I know you buy it for me cause you love me and think I love them, but I don’t anymore.”

 

It’s hard not to laugh one of those oh that is the sweetest thing laughs, but I don’t because he will think I am laughing at him, another newly introduced concept thanks to this boy at school. “Oh honey!” I say “I am so glad you told me that. You’re right we do get it for you because you liked it. But it’s good you’re growing up and moving on to new interests! Never be afraid to tell us who you are right now! Grandma and I love YOU no matter what you like! ”

Such a small thing to me, such a large worry for him. We spent the rest of bedtime chatting about his new interests and what he likes now. I am not sure how to make sure we always have these little windows of time where we can talk like this, I know as he grows older and more independent the opportunities will shrink, at least for a while. But for now I am grateful to lay forehead to forehead and stare into those beautiful blue eyes as he quizzes me on all the names of the Skylanders.


I’m doing pretty good so far.

My Happiness Project

IMG_5464

I finally finished slogging through We, The Drowned. Dang it was good…but for some reason it took me ages to finish reading it. At one point I actually had to look up how many pages it was (I was reading on Oyster) and it was only 700. I would have guessed it was twice that, easy! Whew. So If you’re looking for an opus to read, check it out. It’s wonderful but takes a  while!

So anyway, I finished it and decided that I needed a book that was light, what I call a ‘palate cleanser’ book.  I saw Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and clicked on it. I read the first chapter and just felt…inspired? Encouraged? I am not sure but I immediately texted my husband and sister and was like you guys need to be reading this with me. 

I love how she weaves research into her stories as lightly as she is saying “may I have an aperitif?” And I was stunned at how quickly applicable it was.

Mornings here can be rough. Huckie is a hangry little thing in the a.m. he needs to be hugged right now and also milk right now and don’t leave me right now but get me cereal right now. Add a baby who needs to be held and a kindergartener that needs to get to school and it can be a recipe for frustration and yelling. I hate that. I hate starting the day like that.

Max was crawling on the kitchen counter, then to a chair at the table, then to another chair then to railing… I let out an exasperated heavy sigh and he immediately looked at me, eyes wide, ready to get in trouble.
I told him to stop.  But that look stayed with me.

A few minutes more he repeated the pattern. I caught him looking at me, knowing what was to come once he was standing on the kitchen table chair.  A lesson from the book popped into my head and instead of yelling I said “Trying to get to the playroom without touching the ground?” “yes” he said.

“when I was little, about your age, the carpet in my house was RED. Can you imagine?”  he couldn’t because who picks red carpet??  “Auntie Dub and I used to pretend that the carpet was hot lava and try to get all over the house without touching the ground. We actually used to lay out clothes and toys we could step on to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. ”

His eyes lit up with delight at the image of his mom and aunt his age and doing the same thing…only more elaborately.

“It used to drive my mom CRAZY! She just didn’t understand that the carpet was lava and we couldn’t step on it!”

We both started laughing and it just changed the whole tone of the morning. Instead of being angry he was doing something that- let’s be honest- isn’t really that big of a deal, we found a common ground and we both ended up happier.

Instead of heading off to school grumpy, we ended up closer. And no kitchen chairs were injured in the making of the moment.

I don’t know about you but I would rather laugh than yell. So I am calling day one of my happiness project a massive success.

A Bruce by any other name…

 

 

 

IMG_2838WMWe guard what in particular, my oldest son, watches on tv. We’ve recently had to put limits on even the Today Show, when you have a child who has anxiety you never know what might trigger an attack, and sometimes it’s the most unthought of things that can set your child into terror.

But sometimes they still hear something, and sometimes it’s good. And sometimes they teach us-well, me- something great.

The recaps for the Bruce Jenner interview were all over and he happened to key in to one of them, paying close attention. Then he had some questions. I have never, nor will never, discourage any questions about gender, sex, behaviors etc. So when he asked what was happening to Bruce Jenner, I surprised myself by finding it pretty easy to explain to a child. Obviously this was a simplified explanation, but age appropriate.

“well, what are you on the outside?’

“a boy.”

” And what do you feel like on the inside?”

“A boy!”

“Well, sometimes people are born a boy on the outside but are a girl on the inside. Or they are born a girl on the outside but are a boy on the inside.”

Without missing a beat he said  “Oh. That must be hard! Probably easier just to change the outside. The inside is what makes you you!”

We teach our children from an early age to be kind, to be patient, to understand other’s differences. Then we grow up and make it complicated and frequently cruel with judgement.  It was so simple to him…just go ahead and be a girl. It’s okay. Be who you are…girl on the inside? Well, then you should be a girl on the outside! So easy for his logic.

Thank you Bruce for sharing this with us, with our children. You said you wanted to save lives…that is was funny it was YOU of all people to deal with this. The absolute symbol of male physical perfection and accomplishment. But I see the clear hand of God in this.   You ARE going to save lives and change minds.  The ease at which the little ones grasp this concept is proof.

Thanks Bruce.

And thanks Max, for breaking it down.

The best laid plans…

10885506_10152379016955876_5247431454786915395_n

I had grand plans of Piper’s first Christmas. Yes, they all had matching PJ’s and I was going to bust out the big camera and do it RIGHT! The tree was packed full of presents. With both Huck and Max fully into Santa and the magic of Christmas we all got a little carried away… but…but…the flu, you guys.

10847862_10152379825100876_5922832810241973708_n

And it was vicious. First victim was my sweet Max. Max rarely gets sick. But they called me to come get him from school before the break and dude went downhill quick. Three days of 103 fever and he was slowly on the mend. Just in time for me to get it. With my sister and nephew arriving for a long anticipated visit I basically handed the baby to my husband and said I AM GOING TO BED. Then slept for 48 hours. I was still icky but feeling okay. We wiped the entire house will all manner of lysol and toxic flu killing chemicals and welcomed my sister hoping we had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Not so much. We had a few good days and then it hit Huck like a Mac truck. He is the one we worry about, everything ends up in his lungs, just like mama. So we are still crawling out from under this bug. I hate it and wish it would die already!!

But Christmas was lovely nonetheless. I truly am one of those people don’t understand. I’d love to have my kids home allllllllllll the time. I am so selfish and want them and their awesomeness all to myself.

Except when I want to get away.

So now, the tree is down. My sister is gone and I am cuddled up with a not feverish but still coughing Huckleberry…

Back to life.

Max’s Beatles theme birthday

IMG_3346-1

This is the second year in a row I have neglected to write about Max’s birthday. Shame on me. Max is very particular in what he wants and his party this year was no different. He wanted a Beatles themed party with cardboard guitars and a jam session.

DONE!

When I asked what he wanted for his birthday he said “A mandolin and a YouTube Channel.” Well, he got a mandolin, just like every six year old boy. I love him.

His friends gathered and played and hung out and ate and celebrated my sweet, funny, kindhearted, musical boy. He is so very special and it was lovely to see how his friends accept and love him for who he is. I hope that continues and he offers the same to them.

PicMonkey Collage1

And the food? You. Guys. I don’t want to brag, but I do have the best girlfriends in the world and two of these best girlfriends in the world happen to be two of the best cooks in the world. When I was pregnant and had HG I would send my girls Bridget and Kelly pins of food and say “When I can eat…I am eating this.” And one of those things was a meatball sub on a stick. And Bridget made them for the party and I ate them all. Kelly brought her John Lemmon bars and OMG I am not even one for lemon and I ate about a billion of these. The Yellow Submarine cake was of course made by my awesome sister in law and it was rainbow trippy inside.

 

PicMonkey Collagefood

Someone, who shall remain nameless unless you look at the URL of this site, managed to slice her ring finger to the bone while cutting the very first cardboard guitar the day before the party so my father in law-after shuttling me to urgent care for stitches- came home and cut out about 20 cardboard guitars. I think he would agree that it was worth it!

All of it was worth it, including now knowing what my knuckle joint looks like and sacrificing a ring that had to be cut off my finger.

This face?

IMG_3432-1

WORTH IT!

One of the weirdest things about motherhood…

 

pipwm

When Max was a tiny cherub of a breastfed baby, I swear to you his tiny baby poops smelled like roses. Everyone thought I was crazy but I swear it was true. (Recently my very brilliant friend Stefanie remarked that baby poops smell like roses and that validated my theories) Anyway, Max had poops of roses. Sweet and precious!

Huck came crackling into this world a little sparkler of a person, long and lean where Max was round and chubby. His poops did not smell of roses, oh no. Rather they smelled of hot buttered popcorn. I promise you this is true.

Now, Piper. Precious, sweet a mixture of both of them. Quickly leaving her tiny newborn-ness behind and assuming full blown cherub status. Her sweet little breastfed baby poops smell neither of roses or hot buttered popcorn. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what they smelled like.

Finally I remarked to my partner in crime, Max, that I couldn’t place the smell but that it was familiar. (are you jealous of the conversations I have with my children?) He said with utter certainty “they smell like wine.”

um….what? But here’s the thing; they DO. They smell like a good red wine.

Now lest you go thinking I am sort of lush, I didn’t eat roses with Max and popcorn upsets my stomach. I have had a grand total of 4 wicked apple ciders and one Summer Shandy since Piper has been born. There is no more reason that her poops smell like wine any more than Max’s smelled like roses.

As for how Max remembers the smell of wine? Well, we did let him take a whiff when we were having a glass like ages ago. That kid does have a hell of a memory.

But they do. So sayeth Max. So sayeth us all.

 

Motherhood is crazy.

You’re gonna kill it in Kindergarten, Shorty.

“you can leave”

IMG_3908-1

Just moments earlier he had screwed his face into his “I am mad/scared face” as I tried to convince him clippers would make this much protested back to school haircut go faster. “no clippers!” he wailed, his eyes tearful, his chin quivering. We acquiesced, me and the slightly grumpy stylist at the local Sports Clips. No clippers. He giggled and squirmed as she sprayed his hair with cool water then sat still as she began to comb and cut. “you can leave” he told me.

I waited in the lobby until he was done, looking ten years old suddenly and I praised him for surviving the dreaded chopping of the locks. After Huck was done we headed out for frozen yogurt.

The night before he started Kindergarten he was too excited to sleep. I had been prepared for extra cuddling, extra reassurances and perhaps one of the early morning panicked wakings. He put the fan right on his face and cocooned up in the blanket on the other side of the bed from me, not his usual as close as I can possibly get to you position and after our good night ritual he told me it was okay if I left to get some water. He hasn’t fallen asleep without me by his side, usually tightly gripping my arm in two years, excepting when I was in the hospital with Piper. But that night he let go.

“You can leave”

I got water. I showered. I crawled back into bed expecting him to roll towards me as he does…like a sleeping homing device draws him to  my side. Nothing. I nursed Piper and finished my book and resisted the urge to grab him and pull him toward me. Perhaps I should have. I know I felt a sense of accomplishment that all our encouragement about school had led to this day and he was excited and only a little scared as opposed to sobbing and terrified. He was okay. I also know I wanted those cuddles. I wasn’t okay.

I took a picture of him before he woke. He looked so small and still and I knew today was a marking point in our lives. My mother always said 5 is the best age because it’s before you send them to school and they get told that all things that make them special actually make them weird. Its the time they are the most themselves. I mourn this. I pray his specialness won’t get stomped on and I pray he won’t stomp on someone else. He is silly and sweet and funny and he celebrates everything and every one and I hope to God that is treasured by others the way we treasure it.

Once he finally woke, Dad brushed his hair and got him ready. Max put on his backpack and paced around the hall. Ready to go. Ready for this adventure. He was focused and I could see him pep-talk himself a time or two, but he was ready. Finally we got in the car and headed out to the schoo. Then he was off. He lined up with the other kids as the paparazzi snapped a million pictures. His teacher had them wave to us and tell us not to cry…

IMG_3919-1

…and  he left.