A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Lazy Weekend Mornings…

My three-year-old little man didn’t wake especially early, but the rest of the house was still asleep. I’d been up for an hour enjoying the easy quiet of the house…wasting time as Mommies do when no one is around. It was too early for me to be roaming the house, but the lure of no one else around was too strong, and that’s why caffeine exists.

Eventually, my son treks downstairs, eating his banana in front of the sofa where I continue to lay. Upon finishing the prelude to his breakfast, he walks to the bookcase housing almost the entirety of our children’s reading collection, and chooses his latest passionate obsession.

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Mr. Man climbs into my arms, snuggling close. My son has the tale mostly memorized…at least the first few pages, so he begins until it is my turn to take over. In a relatively hushed utterance I read each page, my son rapt. He periodically stops me to inquire about the illustrations…the reflection in the water…the rings around the fishing birds’ necks…asking if Ping looks happy. Small inquires like that are typical to my curious little boy. My son continued to burrow into the snuggle, telling his love for me during breaks between the repetitive story renditions.

Little Man and I agree to change his diaper after I read one of his favorite pigeon books.

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But, just as the story concluded and Mr. Man sought the solitary image of the eaten hot dog among the tantalizing complete ones on the back cover, he heard Daddy stirring upstairs. The spell was broken. My son rushed to meet his hero. Simultaneously, Warrior Queen announced her awakened state with cries to join the morning rumble. I guess the diaper will wait…

A Forest…Some Trees, and the Peace with Possiblity

It was a challenging several weeks, but life is like that. The end result of the turmoil not what I hoped, but life is like that. So, I move on to better, or at least other things. Much to simmer excitement in my belly, even if a piece of me needs to heal on some level. And, with everything occupying the various spaces in my gray matter, it took excessively long to focus on my posts…stringing words taking increasing amounts of time. But, things should begin to lighten. Little by little I am able to remove pieces from my lengthening list of obligations. Perhaps in the nearing future I will create my post buffer that allows me to publish my work in a timely manner. Perhaps still I will return to my monthly goal for piece submissions to other sites. Maybe I will even receive financial reimbursement for a few as well. Ah, ’tis the life of finding…and sometimes failing…my balance. But, alas, it isn’t all bad. I am not globally unproductive. I like to think I have an impact in other realms of my life, so I try to make that enough given my forced elasticity of late.

The focus during the torrent inadvertently my children…because I have no choice. Though sometimes I crave time alone to process my experiences as a unique entity, I cannot perseverate too much…because I have no choice. I might become angry with this aspect of my existence, but I will almost never regret it. My children changed my very fabric, and I will forever be grateful for the bustling plaid of my current character. I had never realized my very dull shade of beige. I was delusional thinking my former personality had much color at all, not even a faint, hard to distinguish striping by comparison. I stay home with my toddler and infant children. I feared for so long the ramifications of such a thing…losing myself. I couldn’t imagine the feathers to emerge. I no longer recognize myself, and nothing is more pleasing…maybe thrilling and simultaneously a gruelingly challenge.

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(And, Pinterest hasn’t even seen me appropriately caffeinated!)

Raising my children as primary caregiver I was confronted with the parameters for the model in me they will see. I’ve had to evaluate my actions, and what communication of desired values resembles to my budding bystanders. My personal overhaul is far reaching, but not the focused effort it seems. Small changes and considerations over the past few years. Responding to my children in tiny, almost ignorable gestures. But, the blocks build on themselves, stacking unexpected and beautiful structures.

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(Even the Taj Mahal is a sculptured series of marble bricks.)

It isn’t so much that I was unkind before, but communicating kindness to my children with the hope they might possess such a trait as part of their disposition is an entirely different and unsettling beast.

Initially it was a purposeful pursuit, somewhat unnatural. Since Little Man was a little little wee man, I’ve sought ways to be kind to anyone and everyone…even if the anyone didn’t deserve it. If I had a kind thought of another, regardless of what it was, I shared it with the individual. I looked for reasons to be pleasant and engaging. As cold as my area can be, it’s been rare to find anyone unhappy to be part of funny or empathic dialogue. For three years now I practiced, and practiced some more…kind gestures regardless if I felt inspired to do so…regardless if my children were around…regardless if I felt a genuine gumption to care for anyone but myself.

When my son turned approximately eighteen-months, his awkward toddler bumbling prompted a significant increase to my haphazard engagement with others. With the increase I began noticing my actions were absorbed by all sorts of sponges littered in his direct radius. All the observing eyes had me convinced the smallest of gestures matter, and I have no way to fathom the yield.

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(They inspire action, don’t they?)

But, even with the eerie feeling existing in the throws of perpetual observation, perhaps these daily, small kindness gestures I’ve pursued are the answers to some of society’s most vexing issues.

Furthermore, as I’ve committed to my miniscule acts of kindness, I’ve found a very deep, profound, and unexpected satisfaction knowing I’ve contributed to improving someone’s day. I can’t speak with any authority of my effect on others, but I can attest to the impact of kindness bestowed to me. One instance climbs to the surface as I write this post. Some months ago when I was gaining my bearings shepherding two small children in public, I was at a local mall ordering food for my toted trilogy. As I attempted to pay, I found that I left my wallet in the car. I instantly knew what happened. I’d stopped for gas, visualizing the cup holder where my wallet resided. I recognized in the moment things could have been worse, but it was still a drag. I asserted to the cashier that I needed to return to my car…across a substantial building. Eh, shit happens. But, a random woman overheard my exchange with the cashier while she was spending time with a friend. Immediately after the event her face was forgotten in my mind. But, she paid for my order, telling me she’s been there, and subsequently returned to her conversation with no further commentary or engagement. Such a small, insignificant effort to her, but I will forever remember her generosity of spirit; and while returning to my car would not have been a day killer, this lone stranger paved the way for a solidly good day in a standard infrastructure of annoying ones at the time.

It’s moments like these I’m reminded that villages haven’t disappeared despite parenting blog commentary. It is in our overt and nonjudgmental kindness that our villages persist. And, I’m reminded of how connected we all can be every time my three-year-old looks sideways at an escalator before a stranger intervenes because I struggle to keep in pace with him from time to time.

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(Nope, LT Elevator, not daunting at all...)

Contributing my part to the village isn’t about receiving gratitude or acknowledgment of any kind, but when I have a grueling several weeks as I did such a short time ago, I’m reminded that we can rumble along in our own forest dismissing beautiful trees, even if they are sprouting all around.

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(World Wildlife Fund is just one devastatingly beautiful green and sturdy scape.)

The periodically tunneled view of dirt as we roam our lives isn’t a judgment. It’s impossible to be grateful at all times. I for one use gratitude as a weapon against personal feelings of misery, as though I have no right or justification for periodic unhappiness at any depth. It’s foolish, but I doubt uncommon. I see it throughout bitter and uncharitable comment sections.

I’ve found, however, prioritizing small, kind gestures to others allows me to remain present in my moments…sometimes step out of myself even if only for a diminutive instant. My day may very well be craptastic with a side order of overtired toddler and teething baby, but forcing an effort to be kind…to have some small notion of generosity or perhaps a friendly, empathic word with a stranger; for the briefest of moments I am lifted. And, if I think about the possibility of my deed or interaction providing a foundation to another having a better day than I, sometimes I find peace. Truly, my day continues to suck, but it feels more temporary…like maybe my son will sleep and my daughter will smile soon. And, a beautiful tree will shade me, and I can bask in the good once again.

Growing Relief

It’s always interesting to me that big events are buried among mundane daily experiences…easily forgotten if it weren’t for a conscious effort to immortalize them. We went to a small localish fair that included a petting zoo today. Usually such things are more appealing in theory, but this one was pretty swanky. There were oodles of chickens my son adored. Some had rather interesting head feather assortments that reminded me of my high school freshmen existence before I understood the purpose of gel and allowing thick curly hair to remain thick and curly.

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(The Mama Load clearly knew me in high school.)

There was a mighty handsome turkey looking for a hook-up…all plumage and boisterous gobbles.

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(I bet you’re hard pressed to consider any other fowl with greater sex appeal…)

There were couple meandering goats within the small pen bumping into confused roaming children…a pony, some rabbits, ducks, and a pig. Hard to deny a good time had by all, and generally I’m a profound fan of any attraction that entertains a three-year-old Mr. Man.

I was wearing Warrior Queen. Currently, she lacks the gumption to walk…rather indifferent to cruising around furniture, but she is an ambitious crawler, so there’s that. I consider this stage of babydom annoying for outings. Warrior Queen isn’t quite mobile enough to be part of outdoor gallivants and some indoor diversions, but she isn’t the portable lump of last year either.

The site of this fair included an impressive playground. Warrior Queen isn’t old or sturdy enough to enjoy anything but the swings, but at least I had a few minutes to rest my shoulders. My fierce sprite loves a swing almost as much as her brother. But, to be fair, I don’t think anyone has a passion for swings like he. Most occasions it doesn’t matter how fabulous the surroundings for this exceptionally active toddler, often he wants to be pushed for forty-five minutes before going home. Warrior Queen enjoys the wind in her hair and the thrill of the pendulum, but unless the swing includes a snuggle on my lap with her gripping my shirt, she tires of the experience within ten minutes.

Surprisingly, we remained at the fair for an hour, Little Man trotting about with me and my husband maneuvering behind him. My son enjoying a shoulder ride on Daddy while returning to the car. I wasn’t even sweaty once I buckled into the passenger seat of my car…It was perfect!

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(That amount of moisture including an impressive amount of boob sweat is hot, right Daily Mail?)

Returning home I attempted to wait on my son’s bath until after Warrior Queen was fed…no such luck. Immediately upon entering the house, Little Man made his way to the upstairs bathroom, efficiently dropping trough in his procession. My husband was planning to mow the lawn, but there is no arguing with the pre-trantrum of a little boy in desperate need to shed petting zoo funk. Mild spritzing rain outside hinted at foiling my husband’s effort at exterior maintenance anyway.

I’ve been telling anyone who asks that I plan to have Little Man go to high school in diapers. It becomes an awkward joke because I’m not entirely kidding. There have been marvelous technological advances in adult diapers of late, and the prospect of potty training terrifies me.

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(Diapersamerica.com agrees such a thing is totally reasonable and would in no way cramp my son’s emerging adulthood style.)

Generally, I see the process of potty training as a development milestone, rather than me formally and hard core teaching my children to use a toilet. So, per discussions with my children’s physician, we have a plan to include unpressured offers to use the potty periodically or enter the restroom for his required privacy while pooping. But, such actions are more about planting a potty option seed in my son’s brain than formally training him to use the toilet. And, really, there is no rush. In my state it is against the law to require children be potty trained to attend school…either private or public. The belief behind this mandate is that there is no way to determine if the continued need for diapers is due to a special need/disability. Depriving a child of their education for an inability to use restroom facilities is considered a discriminatory practice.

It, however, doesn’t matter my rationale. In increasing frequency I’ve been on the receiving end of judgment by family elders regarding my potty training approach. Apparently, if I don’t get on the stick immediately, my son will be ten-years-old, and still in diapers. But, family pressure aside, my friends with threeishish-year-olds are getting their heads in the game, which provides its own unnecessary guilt ridden head trip. Fortunately…or unfortunately…my son hasn’t had much interest in the potty…until today. Big Little Man used the potty for the first time scant hours ago. My husband following my son up the stairs for his post fair bath was asked to use the potty. For the past couple months or so my son declined when asked. Even on the rare occasion when he’s agreed to sit on our custom seated toddler throne, he’s never actually accomplished anything. But, today was the day! After his bath, my growing boy entered our multipurpose playroom beaming and telling me, “Daddy hold my peanuts.” He was so proud…apparently he hasn’t quite grasped that he needs to push down his junk when using the potty, but it seems Mommy has some new work cut out for her…decidedly before high school.

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(National Retail Federation knows how to celebrate an official first toilet use!)

Shocking Accolades

It’s been a swirling time in these parts. I continue to be fairly consumed with the hope I will have relief in the next couple weeks, but it’s hard to say. I hope to share a bit more than cryptic commentary at some point, but for now it’s been on my mind the sparse entries of late. I’d love to say I will be able to resume the frequency I’ve mostly maintained for some time, but in all likelihood I won’t have the intellectual capacity for a while yet. I can’t promise anything particularly profound within this post, but an incident happened the other day that compensates for the sheer doucheydom of which Mr. Man is capable these days.

It was a birthday party for another three-year-old. To say he is an acquaintance of my son is generous. Little Man has seen this boy a mere few times in his life; the last was a year ago…at this boy’s last birthday party. The establishment creating the party merriment is good with this type of thing…oodles of stuff on which to play and a formal program that shepherds the children through an hour-and-some-change variety of stuff in which we tired parents can chill in the background, kibitz, and watch our kids combust. Plus, they have a trampoline…Mr. Man loves a trampoline.

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(This has to be how my son sees the prospect of trampoline festivities.)

But, in true fashion, my extraordinarily active son met his fill of the bubble fog…jumping, climbing, and swinging within thirty minutes, choosing to avail himself of the food assortment while his peers maintained a steady flow of ruckus and ruach.

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(Dailymail must have caught a glimpse of my son at the party.)

We cut him off just as he asked for a fourth slice of pizza, but he also ate the entirety of a fruit cup first and without prompt. I think that earns me some kind of parenting award. Interestingly he opted to forgo the juice box. That is often the case, and it surprises me every time. We don’t really give him juice. He adores it, yet passes whenever it is offered outside our home. That should earn me some kind of parenting award as well…or not. After his fruit and pizza, he scarfed an impressive slice of cake. But, to be fair, it was pretty incredible cake…certainly worth ripping a hole in my stomach after consuming delectable homemade Indian food. No wonder my friend’s son refuses to eat anything else, his mommy is an absolutely amazing cook. Warrior Queen also couldn’t get enough of the potato samosas.

But, before the dining my family fully enjoyed, there was one activity of note…for a couple reasons. It struck me as odd, but maybe I’m too sensitive…or whatever the correct label would be. It was creative play with a thick rope led by the two young women in charge of the mayhem. A cluster of three-year-olds like my son surrounding them eagerly awaiting what was in store. All of the children were instructed to rub their hands on the carpet in a false attempt to generate static electricity. The express purpose was for each child to grab the rope and “electrocute” one of the women. It just seemed so macabre…maybe scary?Image result for electrocuted woman

(It might be that I have an overactive imagination, but kinda weird, right?)

As each  of the children took their turn, she danced and jumped around, feigning the shock of an electric charge. She, fortunately, was not all that convincing. I halfheartedly urged my son to participate. Immediately from the explanation my sweet boy refused, anxiously shaking his head almost backing away with slight watery eyes. He was under the impression that he would be harming the woman, and couldn’t bring himself to do it.

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(My son would blow Milgram out of the water…)

I don’t know if something like that comes from my influence or if it spontaneously generated from his natural constitution, but I think I’ll go ahead an accept that as some type of parenting award.

Rebel Yell

Many swimming things in my mind the past couple weeks…some with the potential to be incredible…some notsomuch, but all have delayed my writing. I ran through my comfortable reserve with no motivation to cobble together the post that has consumed real estate in my gray matter for a month. Finally, here I am, and I hope it is worth the exceedlying long wait.

I posted Warrior Queen’s love of my singing shortly after her birth, something quite shocking to me…my voice is terrible, and generally I’ve never particularly had much yearning to break into song.

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(Nope.)

But, music is good for kids, so I buried my dignity in the backyard and danced on a field in the mountains with the rest of the crazies who get this shit. So imbedded in my routine throughout the last two years that I incorporate music instinctually all the time. It’s actually quite ridiculous. I find myself singing to myself whenever the kids are around regardless if I believe they are listening…Aren’t they ALWAYS listening?

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(Friendship Circle understands the cloak and dagger innate in small children…especially when it’s most inconvenient.)

I make-up random songs for random reasons. Sometimes it’s to announce a transition of little importance. Sometimes to urge Little Man to progress anywhere faster than a glacial meander…or move at all. Shockingly it works a good chunk of the time, and I have absolutely no idea why. Sometimes I’m simply excited…like the arrival of nap time…three-years-old Mr. Man continues to nap two hours in the afternoon. At times my son will ask me to repeat one of my spontaneous little ditties, and I usually can’t remember the lyrics for the life of me. Some occasions my inability to recreate vocal magic prompts a tantrum, but they are typically reserved for when I have a headache or desperately need to use the facilities. All in all, I’m surprised that my singing skill has improved, which is helpful for our broken glass budget allotment.

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(Opera singers…and Pinterest…have nothin’ on me. We started using plastic dishware long ago.)

Warrior Queen benefitted from my singing practices while residing comfortably in my uterus for thirty-seven-and-a-half weeks. Often I would feel her flip or move a certain way while I sang…or read. She was quite active throughout the pregnancy, but there was something unique to her movement during Little Man singalongs or story time. She always knew, and I always loved it. It’s one of the few positive memories from her wretched pregnancy. Consequent to the frequent occurrences of my singing, she’s primed to enjoy my melodious song renditions now that she exists in the outside world…lucky girl.

Her first word in the ten-months neighborhood was, “MMM…Meh…Mmmm…Meh.” It’s her version of Mommy, and I’m not kidding when I say it counts as a word. Warrior Queen utilized this specific speech pattern whenever she needed me. Now that she is mobile, she wails it throughout a pained crawl just to ensure I understand the depth of her displeasure, willing me to prepare and act accordingly. At this early stage it’s about the association. If she said /b/ while pointing to her bottle, that would be another word.

A few weeks ago, however, I witnessed her first and only sign. Little Man had a speech delay, so I’ve never experienced this phase, and let me say, it’s lovely. Having birthed two children, it seems a child rearing standard in our household that all the monumentally wonderful things first happen on the changing table…intelligent design perhaps? Warrior Queen at eleven-months is generally opposed to diaper changes, and forcefully asserts the degree to which she would rather not experience the situation. She doesn’t quite respond to playing with toys during the process like her brother two years ago. But, one morning she was decidedly unhappy with my diaper change pursuit, complaining quite vocally and squirming to grab the plastic bag we use to collect non poop wiping articles. I often sing to my children on the changing table. But, for whatever reason when I began singing my somewhat unique version of “Wheels on the Bus,” Warrior Queen snapped her head to look me in the eyes, absolutely delighted. I ran through the first verse to which she enthusiastically signedmore.” She is little, so it looks more like applauding than anything else, but it is marvelous nonetheless.

Since that first instance, Warrior Queen continues to urge my continuation of music, but she’s discovered that she will be awarded other pleasant things at her request…like ice cream. My favorite moment of late was during my own relatively rare ice cream indulgence. My husband holding our fierce sprite of a girl, but she was facing me staring down my mug of ice cream with a slightly protruding tongue movement that is akin to slow motion lip smacking. I suppose it is never too early to salivate for something as grand as ice cream, and my daughter is certainly a budding foodie like her big brother…and mommy. After a few of my spoon to mouth taunts, Warrior Queen signed “more;” naturally I obliged.

An interesting result I wasn’t expecting as I dusted off my baby signing form of communication; Little Man began doing the same. It isn’t the complete breadth of vocabulary he used before the floodgate of chatter emerged a little under a year ago, but he periodically throws random correct context signs I haven’t introduced to his baby sister quite yet. At times it’s like he forgets he knows how to speak…or his hands move magically without his conscious thought. Sometimes his sparsely signed words are in response to conversation in the background while he sings something unrelated.

Little Man may very well have a gift for music…possibly perfect pitch. He certainly didn’t receive such a skill from me. Warrior Queen is beginning to communicate beyond her wails of displeasure and giddy chuckles. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it as such, I wonder what gifts she will bring.

Schooled

Little Man began “preschool” roughly a month ago. It isn’t quite a regular preschool program, but the differences between the two aren’t worth the effort to differentiate. It is a private program, not our original intention. I hoped we would enroll him in our town’s preschool, but considering we drew 109 out of a possible 113 lottery slots, it is more likely pigs will fly and I will lose my taste for chocolate before we will be called from the waitlist.

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(Church of Halloween processed our paperwork.)

In general I prefer public education. Certainly, there are quality private ones, but there isn’t necessarily the same level of accountability and oversight in the private sector as there is in the public. The ease of terrible, weird shit occurring is a topic absent from discussions about charters and privatizing our nation’s education. There is also the issue that our town’s public preschool is a fraction of private school tuition. It’s easy to see the seeds of socioeconomic disparity and academic achievement even at this early stage. Quite crudely, our children will benefit greatly from our means…This shit is expensive.

The school we chose for Little Man is middle of the road in terms of cost. It is also the one a friend in a neighboring town sends her two older children, and probably the younger one when the time comes. An added bonus is that her middle child, a close friend of Mr. Man’s, may very well be in the same class come fall. My friend raved about this school. I also know of another woman in my town who sends her older child. He was somewhat recently diagnosed with a brand of Autism that makes him a challenge to manage behaviorally. Paired with his large frame, it’s been a struggle for the family. I’m not friends with her, only interacting with her a MPOTUS sized handful of times. The last occasion I ran into her was by chance. I’m not sure how the discussion occurred, but she also raved about the school. Our tour was a good experience, but there aren’t so many options for me to be choosey. If we want him enrolled in preschool, this is it. I’m lucky this is the positive option it is.

One day a week Little Man is carted to school for a three-and-a-half hour morning. Hopefully, we can add a second day before school is out for the summer. It’s a play-based program, which was most important to me…A budding preschooler needs play above all else for his education.

I’ve been told my son has strong attachment. He’s never exhibited any type of social anxiety, even a normal level of it. I’m not sure what gives, but Warrior Queen is almost a year-old, and while she is quite feisty, she appears to be chill like her brother in this same regard…We’ll see if she continues on a similar path as her big brother. I knew dropping Little Man to school wouldn’t be an issue. The peanut gallery was noisily fretting because it is quite a long morning for such a small person, but I knew he would be fine. My son struggles with transitions, so we spent a week or so discussing school. He was with us for the tour a few weeks prior. By the time the big day rolled around, he was ready and couldn’t have cared less that I left. He trotted off, and Warrior Queen and I went home. It was a weird feeling stepping into our house…I felt like I was forgetting something important.

I arrived on time to retrieve my big man to the chorus of, “We had a scheduled fire drill this morning.” Yikes, poor kid has trouble with certain, random loud noises. I was told by multiple adults that he was trying to “keep it together” through the process. He managed just fine otherwise. His teachers went to great lengths to tell me how exceptionally well he did for his age on a first day. I heard many comments to the tune of, “Talk about go with the flow…” Sigh, that’s my sweet little man. But, the look of excitement on his face upon seeing me makes all right with the world. For as little as he cares that I leave, he is dichotomously excited I’ve arrived to retrieve him.

Little Man has been attending school for a bit over a month now. In that time I’ve heard him detail exciting play events…a puppet show…sandbox…painting…some kid named James. But, as much as the activities thrill him, most weeks have included some type of horrible loud noise that chipped away at my brave soul’s stubborn grit. The second week was uneventful…the third the fire alarm was mistakenly awakened by workmen…the subsequent week an electric drill frayed my son’s resolve.

In general I try to make a point of not promising things to my children that are out of my control. I never told my son the next school day would be without a fire drill. I would say it probably won’t occur, but it might. So, conversation would focus around discussion of said drill, and what transpires as a result. He seemed okay with the fire drill, but the tool was something else. I hadn’t realized the extent to which he was bothered by this specific noise…or maybe it was a culmination. He chatted about the “regular drill” the entirety of the weekend, but he often focuses on random things…telling stories of specific interest to him. Another item on the top of the list was his excitement to tell one of his teachers he dressed himself in his quiet time pants all by his lonesome.

But, during our morning wake-up routine my son chatted with increasing distress about a random thing. It didn’t take long to realize he was quite freaked about going to school in the event of another rendition of “Workman Drill in Loud Vibrating Sharp.” My poor sweet boy began crying, repeating the phrase, “It was a regular drill, not a fire drill.” The school is in the throws of a never ending construction project; I certainly can’t insist his day will be drill or bothersome noise free, but he was so terribly upset. My little man so cheery and optimistic about adventures was trying his best to persevere, but in the process reluctance and fear oozed from his small stature. Clothed, I pulled my sobbing son on my lap, and we made a plan. I would speak to his teacher about him traveling out of the area in the event he encounters another drill during the day. That was enough. Residual tears continued to leak, but he prattled on about some of the more interesting possibilities he might encounter…interchanged with what we discussed for his drill plan.

We pulled into the parking lot; my son repeating his special plan on a liquid courage loop, becoming increasingly distressed as we wound our way to his classroom. Interesting, he never refused or tantrumed…always the one to confront his fears. I admire that about him. We arrived a bit early, running into one of his teachers as she exited the room…I told her of his distress as my son stood there trying to keep his cool. But, as I relayed the weekend and morning, and about to launch into my proposed plan; the lead teacher spied us. She probably overheard something, because she announced there would be no drilling…They spoke to the workmen and arranged for such pursuits to remain on hiatus while my little man was in attendance.

My son calmed in progressive intervals before I left the area, but I called an hour into his day just to be sure. Even as I felt confident he was having a grand ol’ time, I needed the reassurance…I received it, and planned a normal pick-up time for a boisterous and excited toddler.

It’s the weekend again, and he still mentions the drill periodically, even if there isn’t the same edge as last weekend. I’m not promising him a wonderful repeat of last Monday. I’ll speak with the teachers in the morning, and hope. But, my son and I resurrected our plan…just in case. He’ll be okay…so will I.

But, here is a pondering concern that nags at my peripheral mind. While I am so very proud of my son’s risk taking…his inclination to be strong in the face of adversity even as such a small child; I worry I am communicating to him that it is a flaw to feel vulnerable…to cry or break down in fear. Certainly, I want both children to be fighters, but I don’t want either to shirk or judge themselves harshly for moments of frailty. I don’t want them to treat themselves they way I treat myself…Perhaps I’m over thinking it. For now my son enjoys school…sans drill. So, in a couple days time I look forward to another drive home filled with tales of a puppet show…sandbox…painting…some kid named James, mingled with broken toddler statements that there was no drill of any kind.

Read Along

My soon-to-be-threenager loves a story. Scratch that, he is absolutely passionate about a story. It doesn’t matter the quality; Little Man does not discriminate. I read to him so often that he has the entirety of his bookshelf memorized. I don’t remember him on this front when he was Warrior Queen’s age. Newly mobile, she is too consumed with exploring to sit for a tale. My best shot is when she is partaking in a bottle or solids meal. I have her feed herself a bottle in her car seat bucket with a towel supporting the bottle for when she has difficulty maneuvering her beverage. It’s become her preferred bottle method, the independent sprite she is. I came to realization yesterday that phasing out the use of her bottle in a scant month or so will be a nonissue. My daughter much prefers non liquid foods, and would gladly do away with bottles altogether if she knew what to do with the sippy cup.

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(We use a Munchkin sippy cup. It doesn’t cause the same transition or dental issues as a typical sippy cup.)

I imagine she will get it once the time comes. I’ve stopped fretting on such things, as my kids always manage to do things like this in their own time as long as I don’t get in the way of their progress. If I’m a strong enough Mommy to let them be independent, they usually rise to the occasion, and it breaks my heart a little every time.

But, I digress…meals are the only time Warrior Queen will attend, unless her brother is reading to her…Mr. Man will take a tale whenever. It is a common site to have baby sister in her high chair, and big brother on my lap. We will all be snacking or nibbling something, and I will be reading from a collection my son chose and carted over to the kitchen table. Little Man will have a selection of certain favorites each week. Some of the books so practiced he will “read” them after my run through. Sometimes we alternate pages; sometimes he will recite sections randomly before requesting me to continue. I’m surprised of my love for a read aloud, even when the repetitions are tiresome. The best stories are the ones with an easy, rhythmical cadence; and I have to say I’m quite a good story orator.

I’ve found that Little Man quotes excerpts from his stories randomly throughout the day. One particular prized usage is from one that is tops on my list.

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Basically, the pigeon in this series is a toddler…and hilarious…because I don’t have to discipline him. My son’s preferred quote to throw at me is from this book, “It’s not fair. Ducklings get everything.” Usually the life context is correct even if there is no duckling…or cookie involved. If he isn’t particularly distraught with his situation, he will continue a bit further with the dialogue.

Several months back I schlepped a box of books up from the basement. Our shelves were becoming cluttered, so we temporarily retired some of the books I read to my son when he was a baby. Since my fierce sprite is older, they were called back into service. Mr. Man was absolutely delighted and pilfered the selection on the regular for a couple weeks.

The bucket feedings, however, are the purist opportunity for me to read to a captive baby audience, even if she demonstrates no literature preference just yet. The other day is an example of a moment I want to recall easily for the remaining days of my life. Warrior Queen was in her bucket enjoying her bottle. I was sitting on the floor next to her, Mr. Man on my lap. He chose two among the week’s favorites, and as I read Brown Bear my son bobbed his head to the predictable rhythm of the words each and every time I read the story.

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When I read Llama Llama Red Pajama, he laughed to himself at each of his favorite parts of the book.

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Warrior Queen was rapt on the pictures, drinking peacefully. It was such a small memory, one that would likely evaporate in my family’s story. But, I have these words, and one day when I sit with my mug of tea, I will come across this, and the clearest picture will rush to my mind’s eye. For that brief moment my children won’t be quite so independent…quite so distant.

Immortalized Nostalgia…and a couple of asshats

I began this blog when my son was almost a year old. As his first birthday approached I penned a post about my delivery. The entirety of my daughter’s existence is within the confines of this site, but there is one particular event I’ve decided to make a permanent fixture within my documented parenting history. It wasn’t hastening a departure from my mind regardless.

I’ve spent so much time working with destructive populations that I’m desensitized from horrific events and stories in profound ways. My threshold for the disturbing is quite high, yet I can no longer stomach the horror movies I used to love…go figure. I’m told this situation is horrible and terrifying. I don’t remember it as such, but I recall it as odd and stupid.

I had difficulty conceiving our second, but nothing major in the grand scheme of things. I’m geriatric by conception standards…my husband more so. Consequently, over the course of seven months I lost four pregnancies in a row very early on. It was gut wrenching at the time, but now having my little girl, the process lost its sting. From time to time I compare sibling age gaps in other families, but mostly the impulse flows over me with little consequence.

My husband and I attended our first session with a fertility doctor when I happened to just be pregnant with Warrior Queen. It was in the five week neighborhood, and I felt this time was different, but I was terribly afraid to embrace those thoughts. A couple days before the weekend my blood was drawn for a whole slew of genetic collections, as well as a pregnancy test. I can’t recall exactly how often I checked my online status, but I learned every result within twenty-four hours, except the pregnancy one…They forgot to submit it. Sunday rolled around, and the suspense was eating away at me. Some time during the solitude of a two hour return drive from a family event, I decided to buy a home pregnancy test.

It isn’t all that often I have time to myself. My husband is wonderful, so most weeks I’ll have part of a day to gallivant by my lonesome, but even including these hours, I am infrequently unencumbered by small children. I was anxious to purchase the pee stick, but not so anxious to rush the drive. Plus, I was thoroughly enjoying a Moth story on NPR. I can no longer remember anything specific about it, but I remember it as funny. It’s always when things are most enjoyable that traffic signals are green.

Exiting the highway I expected to stop. I remember feeling disappointed it was a delayed green left arrow. I followed the car in front of me barely needing to slow for the turn. A quarter of a mile down the road…through a rotary, I pull into a local drug store lot to purchase whatever store brand pregnancy test I could find. I listened to the remaining couple minutes of the story, and exited my car in my own focused world.

It was summer, still quite light outside even as the day was ending. I did not expect a mammoth black truck stopped right behind my car, blocking a possible escape. Two men sitting in said truck waiting for me to look up, windows down.

I can’t remember the exact dialogue, and, really, it was frustratingly circular, so the specifics aren’t important. I don’t know where they came from, but they were convinced the person in the car in front of me and I ran a red light. They chose to follow my car to reprimand me. What transpired I immediately recognized as intimidation, even if this type of interaction style wasn’t a formal plan by the two men. I note this because the efficacy of intimidation preys on emotional wherewithal on the recipient…or lack thereof. More specifically, identifying intimidation intellectually as it is occurring breaks the emotional power it holds, and allows one to think clearly, even if one is stuck in the situation. These interactions are quite scary the first few times one experiences them…they are meant to be, but situations of this nature are somewhat old hat for me working with a criminal or generally sketchy element of society. I can’t identify why exactly, but I did not perceive a threat beyond what was occurring. I did, however, recognize they were hoping for me to flood with guilt, start crying, and beg their forgiveness…an emotional, frazzled, and scared response. If I were a man, this event wouldn’t have happened, and that irked me even as I was experiencing the interaction.

Neither man accepted that they were wrong with their assumption; that it was, in fact, a green light no matter how much I asserted the reality of the matter. I remember one aspect of the conversation that continues to strike me as amusing. The driver of the truck informed me that me arguing with them was telling. I can’t remember the word he used. I don’t know if I fully heard it at the time. As he became increasingly frustrated with me, his sentences became incomplete. The descriptor of me that he garbled was the first of his deteriorating dialogue, and I remember it took every ounce of willpower not to counter him with something to the effect of, “You followed a random person a quarter mile down the road because you thought you saw a traffic violation, and I’m the one traveling to crazy town?” Alas, I said nothing of the sort…but really wanted to. Seriously, these assholes were keeping me from buying my pregnancy test!

There were a couple more back and forths in this power struggle that would continue for much longer in the same vein as its own inertia. I was starting to lose my cool, so shut down the exchange, “I get that you get off intimidating women, but it was a green light.” It’s been my experience that those using intimidation without physical violence forethought often do so under a veil of self righteousness. Often framing the interaction as a negative against the individual forces their retreat…or sudden end to whatever interaction is transpiring. But, I say this as someone who works off of an experienced gut, and I wouldn’t hand off my approach as a recommendation for others. As soon as my comment left my lips, the driver yelled back through gritted teeth, “I don’t,” and sped off rambling that he hopes I get caught next time. I commented within the earshot of the couple staring at our exchange a couple cars away, “Sorry to disappoint, but they don’t offer commendations for obeying simple traffic laws.” I muttered some type of colorful adjectives as I walked into the store reeling.

I called my husband to tell him what happened, and I was cautious leaving the store. I didn’t think the men circled back, but one never knows.

Within the hour my pregnancy was confirmed.

Food and Thought

My son is a good eater…not a perfect one. Often he will engage in random tantrums because he can’t have more tomatoes, broccoli, or some other food that has me mentally fist bumping and busting a finely choreographed move. The only way I was able to get Little Man to stop pilfering all of the bananas…sort of…is by driving into his expanding brain that too many bananas will interfere with his ability to poop, which is funny. Mr. Man has absolutely no trouble in that department. Bananas might actually do him (and me) some good. I try to remember these primary food preferences when I allow him to stuff himself with chocolate, nuggets, and fries. Warrior Queen demonstrates the same food preferences thus far, so maybe I can consider this piece a parenting win?

Warrior Queen is passionate about blueberries, delicately lifting each one to her mouth, concentrating on the tray before her. Periodically, she’ll notice my stare, rewarding me with a newly toothy grin before continuing on her berry mission. Fierce Girl also enjoys strawberries, even if they pale in comparison to the blue counterpart. I cubed six reasonably sized strawberries today for her enjoyment. She finished her serving, and indicated she wanted more; but I decided to give her some previously prepared chicken in the fridge. She warily looked at it and selected a piece. But, as soon as the small bit of poultry lands on her tongue, Warrior Queen looks up at me with a finely tuned stink eye, and a general expression on her face that I can only describe as resembling the look if I had taken a dump in her mouth. Immediately, she began crying, tilted her head down so the chicken could fall onto her high chair tray. I get it. I feel the same way about baked chicken.

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(Retired–Now What? has a similar disdain.)

In general, my daughter has a flare for the dramatic. It was an evening about a week or so ago. I was in our office completing some work when I hear the resident ten-monthish-old screaming quite passionately. My husband was with her, so I remained assuming she pooped…or was sat on or something by her big brother. Even though the predictable responses for her various crying fits did not occur, it wasn’t my problem. My husband did not ask for my help, so I let it go. When I ventured into the room holding my family, my husband informed me that the screaming was due to Warrior Queen finishing her serving of ice cream. I get it. I feel the same way about…most food terrible for me.

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(The Angriest Babies in the Whole World knows what it looks like when you are about to be smite by a baby.)

Shaking my head, I refill my small plate of chocolate. I swear I didn’t make even the slightest crinkle in the plastic, but Mr. Man honed in, and descended upon me, leaping and skipping the way he does when he is all abuzz with happiness and excitement. He already had his evening treats, but, of course, I cave and give him a share of mine. I justify the indulgence as this the only time of day he has sweets at all…most of the time. He did eat a good dinner after all (sigh). As I remove myself from the room to return to the office a single thought occurs to me: What am I gonna do once Warrior Queen is old enough to stake dibs on my chocolate stash?

Feelin’ the Love

There are truly delightful moments with my children, especially my soon to be threenager. Warrior Queen is ten-months and not really mobile, so most of her life’s navigation is exceptionally cute. Right now I relish the floodingly moist baby kisses and the way she will rest her head on my chest at times when I hold her. It is a sign of affection I will miss once it vanishes. It’s usually prompted when I provide smooches to her cheek. Once she’s sufficiently speckled, often she rewards me with multiple cheek sucklings in return or a resting hug. My daughter is much freer with her affectionate efforts, and I’ve found it my mission to preserve that in her…as well as her determination to assert her needs with the force meriting a, suffragist lady. And, if I’m honest, I’d prefer her to be a bad ass Black/African American suffragist lady, because they were the strongest among the group. With my fierce girl, it’s all pretty much swoon worthy. Little Man within the context of his independence and control assertions, swings his disposition pendulum to the extreme sides of the arc.

The other day he was so terribly sweet to his baby sister. He often is, but it is usually misguided with all of his attempts to be kind or helpful. He tries to cuddle Warrior Queen…by sitting or laying on her for a hug. He shares toys, but ripping from her hands the one she is in the process of enjoying, replacing it with a different toy she has no desire for. He will often help me clean…after making his various puzzle pieces rain confetti all over the sitting room area. Mr. Man will retrieve his own food…by climbing up the ladder that is our refrigerator shelving. His drinks are within easy access. But, this particular day he asked me to hug and snuggle his baby sister, telling me that he has to be gentle. True to his word he nuzzled and wrapped his arms around her so delicately, and my heart swelled. We read many books to prepare Little Man to be a big brother…he still enjoys them, attempting to enact every strategy listed. Sometimes he will become particularly frustrated when denied something he sees as his obligation. Following his lovely hug, my sweet boy asked me to feed his fierce sister. He tore a piece of his toast, showing me before lightly placing it in her eager mouth.

Several instances throughout that same day, and with increasing frequency in general, my son selected a favorite book of his he memorized, and sat next to Warrior Queen, reading each page with the same inflection in which I read each tale. If I didn’t know better, I would think he was an almost three-year-old reading prodigy. My daughter always seems to prefer my son’s literary touch to mine; she’ll gaze at him enamored while he concentrates on each page. The only time I have her undivided attention with a story is while she is eating.

But, of all of his growing and independence pursuits I’ve been expecting him to turn away from me…seeking to understand his world. Elements of that exist, certainly, but I’m surprised to find that my son turns to me more than he did when he was his sister’s age. Last night for example, Little Man’s latest pursuit to delay his bedtime is “two minutes” to lay in our bed. He doesn’t ask his father. This is a delay tactic reserved entirely for me…because he knows I’m a sucker for a snugglefest, and last night did not disappoint. My sweet boy cuddled into me as we shared my pillow, under three blankets. Upon his initiation we had multiple rendition exchanges of stating how much we love each other, “Love you too,” “Love you,” “I love you so much.” The final version particularly impressive, as Little man confuses I and you within his increasingly sophisticated sentences and requests. Furthermore, this was the first time he really told me he loves me. Prior he would say, “Love you too,” but that is something he’s repeated from my utterances…probably directed toward his daddy. I suppose he’s heard the other versions as well, but it’s never been like this. I suppose a piece of this was to delay sleep, but some day…probably soon…these efforts will stop. He will turn away from me as he grows into a man. But, these moments are mine for as long as I have them, and hopefully they will sustain me for the drought that is to come.

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