Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Never say never

This week I am watching another little guy. He is a few months younger than Holden. Before this week, I have been bothering Stephen, saying, "have we really closed the door on having a third child?" not because I want to have one right now, but because maybe one day I will and there isn't a word I hate more than "never." And I might have even roped Brandon into this madness, by asking him whether he wants another brother or a sister or if he wants our family to stay as it is. And he always responds that he wants a sister. Just six months ago, he didn't want to share me. Now, he has not only acclimated to having a brother, now he wants to try out the other kind of sibling, too. Whether or not Steve and I are willing to admit it, Brandon has quite a bit of pull around here.

It was only five or six weeks after Holden was born that some of us women were talking about whether we planned to have more kids. That was back when Steve and I had agreed that we wouldn't and that I wouldn't even bring up the topic anymore (whoops). That was when Holden's scary emergency C-section was fresh in my mind; the scar still crusted over with that surgical glue that I didn't yet know I could peel off. So I shared that we wouldn't be having more kids. That this was it. Two boys. All we ever wanted. And another woman said she could never say she was done - that she would never again raise up a baby to become a beautiful, happy, adjusted adult. And a few months later, I totally get what she was saying.

Perhaps Steve hoped that with me watching another little one this week, I would go back to our original plan of two and done. That I would be so overwhelmed that I would be listing our jumper and playpen on Craigslist before the week's end. While I'm not saying that watching a third child has made me want another one, I'm not saying it hasn't, either. I do so enjoy him curling his hand around my finger while I feed him. Or the way he cries not because he's hungry or needs to be changed, but just because he wants me to hold him. I do miss the dependence a little baby has on me, the being needed and being of utmost importance. Holden has already outgrown most of this. He has been as independent as he possibly could for a long time now.

What this week has taught me is that I can do it; watch three kids simultaneously, and them all end up fed, rested, and clean(ish) at dinner time. I have long fantasized about children's names, since long before I was pregnant or even dating or out of high school; I could certainly come up with some good options for a third baby. And this time, there wouldn't be any pressure. With both of our previous pregnancies, Steve and I were dead-set on having boys. This time, we could be one of those couples that don't even find out the gender that used to make me so nervous (how can you be so spontaneous and unprepared?!?).

If it was a boy, we would be ecstatic. What boy wouldn't want more than one brother? And we know what we're doing with them (sort of) and have all the correct colors of things for them. If it was a girl, we would be ecstatic. She would be special, standing out in this sea of boys (yes, anatomically I am female, but I have no doubt that by her third birthday she would already be aware of my unwomanliness - she would be appalled by my ashy knees and asking me if it would kill me to put some lotion on). Steve would be such a great father to a girl. He has that perfect dad blend: good example of a man and tenderness that every girl's father should be. I would bawl my eyes out in twenty-some years as he walked her down the aisle. And of course, they would be crying, too.

I'm getting carried away. Now there is a couple decades and an implied fiancé involved when I was really just trying to say that I'm not ready to say "no." Or "yes," but certainly not "no."
"Never say never," was one of my mom's catchphrases when we were kids. It never (old habits die hard) made sense then. I would say something like, "I'm never going to like broccoli" and she would say, "never say never." But in this scenario, it totally makes sense. I think that was one of my mom's other catchphrases - "mothers are always right."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

bugs, shades, and a shitty selfie

 We received our first insect pet today. "She" is a caterpillar Brandon has named "Butterfly."
 Cruisin'
 Made Steve snap an iPhone pic of the sunset on the way home from dinner last night. How cliché.
I tried to convince Brandon that Butterfly would prefer to sleep outside tonight, but he told me she was scared.
 Holden had his six month appointment on Wednesday. He is a buffet kind of boy. Maybe linebacking is in his future.
 When he smiles for me, I melt.
 Brandon can now complete his 100-piece puzzle with help. Which I find extremely impressive, because I'm a bit of a Puzzle Queen and I find this one a little difficult.
 Anyone who ever says I'm not creative hasn't seen my work with playdoh. I mean, the details are astounding! Chiquita label, anyone?
 
 Holden is starting to sit up on his own. I am grinning from ear to ear about how much easier my life is about to get. It's ironic how with a second baby you're always in a rush to get to the next stage.
 Brandon is an accessories master. A little girl at Target told him, "sweet shades." Of course, her dad told her to say this, as she was two years old. But a hip looking mom told me the same thing. Compliments about being cool seem to mean more from people who we deem cool themselves.
 
It's hard to get one when we're both looking in the right direction. I seriously can not understand how to look at the camera correctly. I'm not a selfie kind of girl.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Man of character

You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don't plan for it!
~"The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams

One thing that most young people who fall in love don't do is think with their head. Of course, love is a decision, not just a feeling, but in the beginning, the romantic feeling part of it seems to be what controls us. I met Stephen 12 years ago, and he was my first boyfriend. It was my first time being pursued, getting love letters; in a romance. Of course, we didn't get married or engaged when I was 19. I moved away, we dated other people, and then, after the romance feeling had died off and our heads were back in control, we did get married. This first romance of mine worked out. But only because Steve has character.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. In Anne Frank's diary, she starts a slight romance with the teenage boy who is also in hiding with them. She knows she would never marry him because he is weak and lacks character. And it got me thinking about how many people I know and am so glad I never married for that exact same reason. Imagine if I would have married some deadbeat that expected me to carry his weight and didn't have any firm convictions. A strong marriage includes a mutual respect, and I wouldn't have that with someone without character.

A man of character, to me, is someone who is head of the family. He works hard to provide for his family. He constantly seeks to better and improve himself. He knows what he believes and why. He has a clear definition of right and wrong and instills those values in his children. He always wants the best for his children. He loves his children's mother. He isn't petty or superficial. Despite the unexpected situations that arise, he will find a way through. He makes everyone feel safe, protected, and provided for.

I am so thankful I have that in Stephen. I have a man that planned for the future to evolve into the present. I have a man who is working towards his Master's degree in the evenings. I also have a man who doesn't believe everything he hears, but weighs all sides equally before reaching a decision. I have a man who is open-minded, who loves my family, and who would do anything for our children. I have a man that loves me, 12 years later, for the person I've evolved into as well as all the worse versions of me that came first.

My past has not turned into everlasting regret because of the present and future I have with my family.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top 10 Lists

The other night Steve and I made our top 10 celebrity crush lists, as if we were bored high school kids. Here's what we came up with:  
Then I got really carried away and decided to make all sorts of top ten lists. Here are my top ten fiction books (had to specify a genre because I love books too much to narrow it down to ten books total):
 Top ten movies:
I don't love movies the way most people do. But TV...TV I love. I had to break it into two categories. Top ten TV shows (scripted):
 Top ten reality shows:
 Top ten female recording artists:
 Top ten restaurants:
Who knows, maybe I'll make a few more today.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

my daily grind (if you can call it that)

Here's what made me smile this week:
 My boys are really starting to love each other. Holden laughs while Brandon entertains him. Every morning, Brandon asks to go see Holdy.
 This kid's smile
Brandon uses anything he finds as a bucket. I know my son is getting bigger because his toys are getting smaller.
It's hard to get a picture of this kid with his pants on these days. He picked out purple frosted cookies at Eileen's. Earlier, on one of the few days that I actually used my hair straightener (I rarely wear makeup or do my hair or primp at all now that I don't work), he pointed at is and said, "look mom, a crocodile!"
 The rosy cheeks. The full lips. The folded over ear. All of it.
I look at this picture and realize just how big my little baby has gotten. When did those fingers get so big? Those legs so long? This is Brandon's fort. He will be appalled to learn that one day soon he'll have to share it with Holden.
I snapped this today before Steve's twelfth alarm roused him out of bed. I love his curly hair. And his beard. And his hat line from golfing without wearing sunscreen.
I started reading this book upon finishing Anne Frank. It is profound and funny and relatable. I was looking for something light after two biographies, so I found this on my bookshelf. I didn't know it was about cancer. But even still, it is interesting and not depressing (so far).
I have a full library here of books, many I haven't read. I always browse the Half Price Books clearance section and pick up memoirs or best sellers or other works by authors I know. But even still, I occasionally reserve books at the library - the three week deadline seems to speed up my very slow reading pace. I decided to read some of the books that will be movies soon. So I went and picked up a couple yesterday and realized once I saw the covers that one I already had, sitting in my own library - the Nick Hornby one (he also wrote About a Boy). While going through my library, I found the picture above in a book. Gracie made this for me years ago.

My life, although I am only 31, has already been full. This man I get to call my husband, the three beautiful children I have given birth to, and being able to watch the two boys grow and learn every day. 

Steve and I don't get much time together just the two of us. But when we do, and we're not doing chores, we sometimes have these interesting and deep conversations that I look forward to and look back on with joy. The other night, he said to me that he barely gets to see his boys. "What do you mean?" I asked. "You live with us. You see us every day." 
"I know," he replied, "but I'm at work all day and I get jealous that I'm missing out on what they're doing. That you get to be with them all the time every day and I only see them in the evenings."
It made me tear up. That he is jealous of me and that it is because of him that I get to do exactly what makes him jealous in the first place. These kids are pretty great. I would be jealous of anyone who got to spend more time with them than I do, too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

opinionated, stubborn, and bossy

I just read Anne Frank's diary again. I could write 20 blog posts on it. I am astounded by the precociousness, honesty, and self-awareness that came from this 14-year-old girl. "The young are not afraid of telling the truth," Eleanor Roosevelt writes in the introduction. It is sad that we grow into adults where we feel compelled to dishonesty and secrets because of social conventions. That it is rewarded with the prizes of promotions and friends.

It is disheartening the secrets we keep from each other because of what we want people to believe about us. It has always bewildered me the shame of being yourself. The book that I am writing in my head is about that. About how we are two different people - our organic selves and the facades we show to other people. About how always keeping up the facade weakens the real you into a shadow and the facade becomes someone even you begin to believe is you.

I don't think it is a crime to be your organic self. Of course, it is unpopular. People prefer certain characteristics over others: agreeable over argumentative, pretty over ugly, funny over dull. So we work hard to be more likable. To be someone other than who we are. When I am around people too long, I get emotionally exhausted. Because organically, I am quick to respond and opinionated and hot-tempered. And people don't want me to be any of those things.

People want to be listened to and agreed with and not reacted upon unfavorably. After spending too much time with people, I just want to go home and take a bath and be alone, where I don't feel constantly judged and discussed for things I did and said. I don't want to think about people saying how unsocial and bitchy I am for wanting to be alone. If I could separate myself from my inherent need to be liked, or at least accepted, I could be myself.

Now that I am a parent, I see this from another paradigm. I think about my sons, and how I want them to feel free to be themselves, not stifled. I don't want them to think that men don't cry, because if they want to cry, they should be able to sob it out. If one turns out to be serious, I don't want him to try to be funny to be more popular. If one is a musician, I don't want to force him instead to be an athlete. If they have unpopular characteristics, I want to celebrate the good in those.

I am opinionated, yes, but I am also decisive. I am stubborn, yes, but I am also determined and motivated. I am bossy, but I am also a born leader. I am hot-tempered, but I am also aware of my emotions and allow them an outlet. We tend to focus on what is negative, rather than what good can come of it. I can already see manifestations of some of my characteristics in Brandon. And I don't plan to tell him not to be those things. I plan accentuate them by introducing him to positive ways to use them. Who we tell our children they are is who they believe themselves to be, good or bad. And damn it, my kids are the best. They don't need any fixing.

He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characterizations can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I'm not even sure what's true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version.
~ Kelly Corrigan writing about her dad in The Middle Place

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dollars and sense

I panicked the other day, thinking Holden is almost six months old. Because Steve and I have discussed me returning to work once Holden turns one. And thinking of being halfway done spending each day with my boys was so sad to me. I don't want to think of an end in sight. I want to blissfully enjoy each day from now until they go to school. And then I will cry my eyes out over how big they've gotten and that now I have no excuse but to go back to work.

I thought to myself, well, I couldn't start them in daycare in April. That's right before summer and I want to spend the nice weather outside with them. 

And then I thought, well, I couldn't start them in fall, because that's when colds start going around and I don't want them to get sick as soon as they're not home with me. 

And of course, I want to spend the holidays with them, so winter is out. 

And I couldn't start them at the beginning of a calendar year, because how could my resolution be to spend less time with my kids? 

And then it's almost their birthdays again and that would be a terrible present: "Surprise! Bye bye!"

So when Steve returned home from work I told him I couldn't bear the thought that I could already be halfway done staying home with my boys. And he made me so happy when he said, "we don't have to rush anything. We'll see where we're at next year."

Then yesterday while driving, I heard Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five" and I smiled at those terrible work memories and that I'm not making any more of them now. Just the good ones, until I am forced back to work by necessity.  I am so grateful my husband sees the value in me raising our children and doesn't only focus on dollars and cents. Some experiences, after all, really are priceless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hammers and bubbles

I am the mother of a toddler boy:
  • He plays with balls, trucks and animals. 
  • He likes shirts with space rangers, trains, and pirates. 
  • When he falls, he gets right back up. 
  • He loves to jump on the bed and says, "Geronimo!"
  • He has Toy Story and Oliver and Company memorized. 
  • Orphaned sticks and rocks always find their way inside with us. 
  • He drives the car from the garage. 
  • He has already distinguished our three remotes. 
  • When he hears football on, he runs to the TV and yells, "Dolphins!"
  • Any object can be used as a hammer. 
  • We openly discuss poop and farts. 
  • His first instinct after a burp is to laugh, rather than say, "excuse me." 
Yet...
  • Today he evacuated all his toys from his Cozy Coupe and got out shrieking for me to kill the spider on the steering wheel. 
  • When he blows bubbles, he likes to follow them to see where they land ("go see them" as he calls it). 
  • He says, "All safe for Holdy, nothing can hurt him," while patting down the curtains for him - the same thing he used to have me do for him during a thunderstorm. 
  • You'd think his toys were nanopets the way he makes sure they get to eat, drink, sleep, and play.
  • When one of us is sad, he comes to make it all better with a kiss. 
  • When someone hugs in a book or on TV, he turns to me with his arms outstretched and says, "big hug!"
  • When he saw polar animals in the snow in his book, he said, "polar bear is cold! He needs a blanky."
Boys are mysteriously tough yet tender creatures. So blessed to have two of them!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family pictures

 
 
We have the pleasure of knowing an excellent photographer. Her boys are friends of ours. She doesn't live here, so when she comes to visit, I solicit her for some pictures, even though it is her holiday with her family and she obliges. She is a kind-hearted person.
I didn't have a single picture of my family four. And only one of our family of three, and that was taken the only other time we've seen a photographer. Someone always has to be holding the camera, so one adult is always out of the shot.
But Donna fixed that for us. She took some beautiful pictures of our beautiful kids. And let me tell you, it isn't easy to get four people coordinated enough to do anything at the same time, especially when one is a five-month old baby. Thanks Donna!
I'll leave you with the notorious Carter scowl. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

bubbles, football, fall

A few months ago,  someone recommended I take a picture every day. That's a good idea, I thought to myself, but I never really did it. I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to take pictures and I have beautiful boys to be the subjects of said pictures. Then a few friends suggested I join Instagram so I finally did (I have not yet found it to have the annoyances that Facebook carries). And what do you know, it was just the kick I needed to start taking a picture every day.
 
This kid could chase bubbles all day. 
He's only quiet when he's asleep lately. 
Football is back. My dad asked me if I'm ready to be a football wife again. I completely understand that September to December is a man's time to watch his games, and when the games aren't on, to speculate on them, analyze them, and discuss them over beers. Dolphins won the first game of the season yesterday against our biggest rivals, those &@*& (couldn't pick which obscenity I wanted so fill in the blank) New England Patriots. I taught Brandon to say "Fins Up!" and he can't say it without jumping.
After four days of feeling awful from this damn sickness, I am back to myself again. Which means coffee and donuts. Brandon stole my coffee away from me, and when he saw his little brother sitting up in the Bumbo, he positioned himself in his own chair and sat down to enjoy a nice drink. I had to crop out the bottom because he is at that age where pants are a nuisance, not a necessity.

I have a to do list a mile long. No one can take four days off of their regular life without getting behind on something. I have so many chores to do and I need to work out. I feel like a slug. The air here is cooling down, football is back, and my diseased ash tree is already shedding leaves. I love fall! Putting the wreath of leaves on the door today!

Friday, September 5, 2014

misery loves company

I rarely get sick. Seriously - I"ll get a sore throat here and there, maybe some sniffles or a migraine, but I'm rarely out of commission. In fact, the only sick day I ever took off of work was for Tucker when he was puking all over the place.

But starting Wednesday night, I felt a sore throat coming on. No big deal, I thought, just a sore throat. But then yesterday around noon I started feeling woozy and I got a low-grade fever and then the chills. I could barely swallow, which made eating enough food to make me productive rather difficult.

So I went to bed at 10 last night and slept until 7:30. It was fitful sleep because I think too much to sleep, so I kept willing myself to get more sleep in so I was better today. But this morning, I could barely talk and my glands felt all swollen. I don't go to the doctor usually, but today, I did.

I have no idea how stay-at-home-moms are supposed to be able to go to the doctor and take care of themselves while also taking care of two young kids. It's difficult - one of them always needs you, sometimes both. When Brandon asks me to dance and I feel like puking and haven't eaten, I feel so bad telling him "no." Holden's teeth are out now - those jagged little guys cut my finger. So we're miserable together.

I just keep telling myself, "this too shall pass." And the worst is over. I sure hope it is, at least.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

no naps and new teeth

Something I've learned in these past two and a half years about parenting: it's not for the faint of heart. Your children will try your patience and willpower and sanity unlike any other person can. I just keep telling myself I won't give in. 
But it does make me wonder how many people who are now institutionalized are parents. 80%? 100%? But of course, obligatory gratitude message: (since no one can actually say how hard it is to be a parent without also saying this) it is so incredibly rewarding in a way nothing else is, as well.
We went to Target last Wednesday and we got soaked running from the car into the store. Once in the store, I asked Brandon what we needed. He immediately answered, "an umbrella." This kid is smart and witty beyond his years. I can't believe just two years ago he was drinking bottles and taking naps. 
Speaking of, I'm afraid naps are gone for good. Which is a huge bummer, since that's when I did my yoga and pilates. But on the plus side, Brandon did fall asleep at 7:30 tonight while Steve and I were running with the jogging strollers. I guess I will find some time alone here or there, if I try hard enough. Sometimes I just want a day to myself. Maybe in 17 more years. Or 10, if I can convince Steve that summer camp is a staple in all childhoods. 
 
I have to do a before and after of Holden eating baby food. I mean, c'mon. How could I resist? 
 
Holden has two little teeth popping through his bottom gums, so I understand why he was crabby all day. At 5:15, I finally got a smile out of him. Remember what I said at the beginning about kids trying your patience, willpower, and sanity? Yeah, I was just talking about him today.