The first weekend of solo-parenting

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Have I mentioned before that Kristin is doing a yoga teacher training program in Chicago this fall, and that she’ll be gone for nine weekends? I’ve been incredibly anxious about it, and it kicked off this weekend. To be honest it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I had plans Friday night and getting ready for the sitter and getting out of the house was much harder on my own, but the days went by fairly easily for the most part, and the weather has been so cool and beautifully fall-like that I was happy to skip the usual weekend field trips and stay home a bit more. Continue reading

The last days of preschool

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We’ve been counting down to summer since the days were in the twenties. Now the board reads “1 Day” and a strange combination of excitement and crushing sadness and worry is bouncing around in my brain. I’ve been worrying about tomorrow all week long; it’s Jonah’s last day of preschool, forever. It’s also the last morning for two months that I have to worry about getting all of the kids up and fed and dressed and out the door in time for me to get to work. And it’s the start of the long daylight evenings with no concern (ok, less concern) about bedtime, nights of catching fireflies in the yard and eating popsicles on the patio. It’s also the first summer that I’ve felt like we really have a growing number of friends here, lots of people I’m excited to spend time with all summer long. Continue reading

The beauty and the chaos

In my post the other day about gardening and being outdoors I mentioned that things hadn’t gone entirely as I’d hoped. By the time Monday rolled around things had gone from “not as planned” to “the wheels are off the bus.” I shared some of the more specific details of my overwhelm with a colleague on Monday and she said, “please blog about this when it’s over.” I hadn’t really considered that until she suggested it, but I know how important it is to share the hard stuff and not just the magic. Continue reading

Kids with guns

Jonah woke up under the weather today, with a low-grade fever and a headache, and a lack of appetite that’s the opposite of everyday-morning-Jonah. We aren’t sure what brought it on because he was 100% himself all day yesterday, but I’m watching him sleep from where I’m sitting and have spent time alternately stroking his head and back and bundling him up in blankets throughout the day.

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Last night we attended a “crappy dinner party” at the home of some friends. It was raucous and lovely, a house full of kids (four of theirs, three of ours, and four belonging to another family) and was the first time that we’d met their oldest child, a sweet boy of nearly eleven. Jonah focused in on him as well as two other boys, and inquired about his nerf gun arsenal. Jonah couldn’t wait to show me the secret nerf gun cabinet (hidden in the wall of their midcentury modern home), and towards the end of the evening all but the two youngest children suddenly made the collective decision to play outside (despite the 40-degree temperatures).  Continue reading

A million jumbled thoughts about kindergarten

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Last night was kindergarten orientation, and I’m not ready. I’m not ready to have a big kid; I’m not ready for him to not be a baby any longer. I’ve been dreading this day for well over a year, ever since we attended last year’s orientation on the slim chance that we might send him early (but didn’t, because why rush them through their childhood if we don’t have to?). It was clear to us then that he was beginning to really thrive in his Montessori-style preschool and that he would do far better there for another year than in the outrageously disappointing public education system. But we knew even then that he’d end up in public school the following fall, because the public schools are a big part of why we moved here, and this particular public school is a part of why we chose this neighborhood. Continue reading

The meaning of quality time

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If things people write on the internet are a good barometer for the collective consciousness, absolutely no one was disappointed to see January come to an end. While the latter portion of winter is always rough for me, I don’t remember past Januarys feeling quite this gloomy. For much of the month I found it challenging to create magic or even come up with ways to spend time together that don’t involve folding laundry or yelling at the kids to stop vaulting onto the couch. Continue reading

Jonah at five

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You are five now, and in lots of ways I marvel at how much of who we are is clear from the very beginning, but in other ways I’m amazed by the ways you’ve grown and changed over the past year.

At five you seem a bit more sure of yourself, more willing to try new things (unless it’s food) even if those things might be challenging, you seem comfortable in your skin and where you are.

You’re also more patient and sometimes more generous. Gigi and Papa Doc got you a big new crane truck for your birthday, a toy that you said was, “the best toy I have” and one morning when Jude stumbled into the kitchen still sleepy, the first thing you asked him was, “Jude, do you want to play with my crane truck?” then turned to me and said, “he likes to crank it up and down.” When he inevitably did it wrong and pulled the string out of the spool, you walked over calmly and said, “he always breaks it.” Fixed it calmly, and went back to what you were doing, leaving him to continue his play. A year ago you would have yelled, perhaps grabbed him in frustration and anger. This is a beautiful turn.

Your independence is also growing and you’re much more willing to do things yourself without help, like picking out your clothes and getting yourself dressed (things you used to insist on help with). You seem quite proud of the things you’re able to accomplish, and it makes us proud to watch you.

You care about rules and how things are done or how they ought to be. You get upset when Vivienne sings the wrong lyrics to a song, or when someone plays with a toy or a game incorrectly (according to you). It’s clear that you’re detail oriented and truly believe that there’s a right and a wrong way. You remind Jude and Vivienne of house rules when they break them, and if someone forgets to switch laps at bedtime story time (the one who chooses the book sits on the reader’s lap) you remind everyone of the proper process. More often than not you do exactly what we ask.

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You’re compassionate. In the Detroit airport in the early morning you took Mama K’s hand and asked her to go with you to find a staff member to help some birds trapped in the terminal. When the man behind the bar told you that they have names and that he leaves food and water for them under the bar because they’re too difficult to catch, you were satisfied with his answer. I don’t know if any of it was true, but I know that you wanted those birds to be OK.

You can still be brooding and pensive and quiet at times, but when your friends came over for your birthday party it was almost a surprise to see the silly energy that they seem to bring out of you. When you’re with other little boys at school there’s a different goofiness in you, and it’s a fun new version of you.

You love books and being read to. When you opened a pop up dragon book for your birthday when we were in Charleston you stepped away from the chaos of the family party with your cousins to sit on Mama K’s lap while she read it to you. When a colleague of Mama K’s gave you and your siblings an early Christmas gift yesterday you said, “I hope it’s a book!”

You love to bake with us, and are proud of the apron that Gigi made just for you. Rolled sugar cookies with me, and apple crisp; pancakes with Mama K.

You love machines and different parts that can be linked together and tinkered with. Ropes or cords with a hook, things with magnets, strings with carabiners, suction cups that can be affixed to the ends of things.

More often than not you seem to really enjoy playing with your brother and sister. You play with them on the playground at school, and while you all fight sometimes, as siblings do, very often the three of you keep one another happy for long periods at home without interruption. Being a big brother suits you.

You’re still my baby in a few ways. Still a snuggle bug who needs to touch my belly whenever you’re feeling tired or cuddly. You still come find me halfway through each night, sometimes stroking my face until I wake up before asking me climb into your bed with you. You’re loving and kind and still like to sit in my lap. On the morning of your birthday, when I told you that I loved you you said, “Every time you say you love me I feel like the only cutest kid in the world.”

It’s hard sometimes to see you grow up so quickly, but I’m so proud of the person that you are. You’re the best thing I’ve ever done.

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How quickly time passes

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My first baby turns five a week from tomorrow, and I’ve been dreading it for some time now. Not because five is a horrible number, or because it means he’s reached some awful turning point, but just because time passes too damn quickly and I wish that he could stay little forever. I also associate the age of five with kindergarten, and I have all kinds of feelings about the kids graduating from preschool and moving into the public school system that I don’t exactly think well of.

I’ve also decided this week that I’m going to try to finally make the twins’ baby book as one of their Christmas gifts. I have a Chrome extension that allows me to have a to-do list on a new tab, and pretty much ever since we brought them home from the hospital it has said, “Start the twins’ baby book” but I have yet to start it; they’ll be three in February. So of course I’m going through old photos and of course those also include Jonah when he was tiny, so I’m feeling sad and nostalgic about how quickly they’re growing up. I’d also intended to make a year-one baby book only, but once I started looking through images I realized that they’re all in New York. So now I’m thinking that it needs to be a birth-through-the-move baby book, because I want them to remember New York (not remember it exactly, but you know what I mean).

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I didn’t start blogging until we were leaving New York, which means that while I did an OK job of capturing little notes about Jonah when he was tiny (because I worked on his baby book one month at a time as he grew) I still didn’t write a lot of narrative or get everything down. And then the twins came along and suddenly we had three kids under three and I stopped taking notes on anything at all. There are so many things that as a parent feel so significant and memorable about your children, and it’s astounding and crushing to me how easily they can be forgotten as time passes.

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It makes me feel like I can never write enough to record everything that I want to remember. Like the way Jonah, who has been very articulate since he was like one and a half, makes up words every so often by blending other words (and doesn’t realize he’s making them up) and they’re cute and funny and I never want to correct them. Words like “laundry hamster” (hamper) and “prickamore balls” (sweetgum seed pods) and “skyser” (geiser).

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We’re headed to Charleston for Thanksgiving next week, and the other night I was thinking about all of the people who will be there with their small children and I imagined someone throwing a child gleefully into the air, and I realized that I don’t know when I last threw Jonah into the air. When did he get too big for that? How long ago was it? And Kristin pointed out recently that Jude has stopped sucking his first two fingers and we don’t know quite when he stopped, or why.

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For years I’ve had anxiety about not spending my time in a quality-enough way, even well before having children, and while I’ve worked on moving past that fear and being more mindful about what’s happening right now, seeing how quickly children grow brings all of that fear back up again. I want to get it all right and I mess up about a million times a day and I feel like there isn’t enough time to get it right for them, and they deserve to have the best of us.

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This morning I ended up yelling and lecturing again, because no one would listen even though I asked them to do things like finish their breakfast and get dressed and put their shoes on a million times, and then Jonah told me as we were finally getting into the van that I needed to ask more kindly (something he’s surely heard from K and I over and over) and I just about lost it. Because I had asked kindly, dozens of times while they ignored me. And then we got to preschool and as I was helping Vivienne put her things into her cubby one of the teachers came up to me and said, “I just have to say, you are so patient with them, you and Kristin both.” I almost burst into tears. I thanked her, but admitted, “you should see me in the morning trying to get them out of the house.” She said that everyone yells sometimes, and I told her that being a mom is my absolute favorite job, even when I do lose my temper. She replied, “It shows.”

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I wish that I could slow down time though; I want so much more of this. And while I know that the people they’re becoming are just as wonderful as the babies that they were, I’m not ready to let this phase go.