Seasons Change

IMG_4751

This is happening outside my window. Every glance at those petals melts a bit more of the quiet chill of winter and for that I am oh so grateful. The last season has been a long one. The cold and the darkness have been the too-perfect companions for my (obsessive?) ruminations. My quiet inwardness. Perfect for holding me in that space, not at all perfect for forcing me out.

Happily, seasons change. Even more happily, this new season is spring. Everywhere I look something lovely is in bloom. Walking to the park with the boys this afternoon I had to acknowledge that our neighborhood is in the throes of a beauty riot. It’s fairly impossible to remain unmoved in a situation like this. So, I’m not. I’m moving. I’m making my way out of my head and back out into the world.

Thanks for putting up with my long silences. I’ve missed you.

The Potty Story

It started with a letter. As the kind of parent whose good intentions never really translate into a careful reading of the school handbook, it was a body blow of a letter. I feel certain the school administrators imagined it to be a friendly reminder to all of us handbook-conversant parents that 3 year olds don’t wear diapers to school and their classrooms do not have diaper changing areas, but the friendly was lost on me. In the space of maybe a minute on a hot July afternoon I had to accept the fact that the gig was up. My son would not be potty training himself. My efforts (such as they were) were required. It seemed unlikely that in the not-quite three months that stood between us and the start of the school year the boy would singlehandedly don a pair of underwear and ascend the throne. Not a chance.

You may be wondering how I could have made it almost all the way to the third birthday of my first born without giving any real consideration to the matter of the potty. All I can tell you is that I had heard lots of parents say something along the lines of, “You know, the best advice we ever got was just to wait until little Johnny was ready. Once he was ready, it was smooth sailing.” The moment I heard that, I was on board. This wait-and-see approach was appealing to me for all sorts of reasons. For one, it made sense. Toddlers are willful creatures and who wants a war zone in their bathroom? And then there’s the matter of my academic training. As every psychologist can tell you, all roads to therapy are paved with potty trauma. This last isn’t exactly true, but I can’t help but cling to a lingering fear that it might be. But perhaps the best part of the whole (ok-non) strategy was that it took me off the hook. No use getting all crazy about potty training until the little guy is ready. We’ll just take our time. Follow his lead. Of course we would.

And then, I got the letter. By the time I made it back to the house I was furious with all those “just wait until he’s ready” people. Who did they think they were anyway? Going through life handing out advice without even defining their terms. They said “ready” as if that word had any objectively identifiable meaning. What is READY and how had I never though to wonder about this before? How (barring ESP) could I ever have known when his potty-ready switch was thrown? Had I thought it would just come up in conversation one day? “Mom I’m thinking it’s potty time. Let’s do this thing!” Hardly. If he wasn’t going to actually tell me (so painfully obvious in retrospect) what exactly had I been waiting for? 

In the days that followed I interrogated every post-potty training friend I had. With a handful of exceptions I got little more than further fuel for my simmering irritation. Somehow none of these people could really remember how they had done it. What? Your child left the land of the diaper only months before and you don’t really know how it happened? Sure there was repeated mention of things like M&M’s and sticker charts, but I had been counting on something a little more specific. Something that seemed like an actual plan. Nothing of the sort was forthcoming.

So that left me with my wife and my son. The three of us were going to have to figure this thing out. Having no better ideas of our own we bought a bag of gummy worms, tossed the diapers and got to work. After what seemed (to me) to be entirely too much time, observable progress was made. There was actual pee in the actual potty. In spite of how much I had been sure it should be happening right.this.second, I don’t think I believed it actually would. The prospect of an underwear clad child had been entirely theoretical. However, with that small win I just knew it was time for all that smooth sailing the “wait till he’s ready” people had been going on about. Ahh, we had arrived.

We began venturing out into the world diaper-less and (mostly) unafraid. For days on end, everything was going well. And then (of course) it wasn’t. There were accidents and days of potty stand-offs and much collective gnashing of the teeth. We would have a good day or maybe a whole string of them and I would tell myself that we had done it. Go us! Mission accomplished. And then there would be the inevitable accident and I was suddenly sure that we should just give up now. Stop while we were behind. This was obviously never going to happen and all we were generating was conflict. Back and forth it went. Success followed by backslide followed by breakthrough and then the crash of yet another accident.

It was in the accumulation of brief, defeated spaces that followed each accident that I finally came to understand what all of those not-at-all-helpful advice givers had been getting at. As I scoured the internet for how to effectively launder pillows one morning (thanks for that one buddy) all of my irritation and disappointment finally added up to something true. It was a thing that came to me in a flash. Not a one of those parents could tell me how they potty trained their child because they didn’t know. Because there wasn’t one grand moment in which it happened. Because potty training is not a step-by-step/consistent progress kind of a thing. Maybe there is nothing that actually is that kind of thing. There will be poop and pee in all sorts of inappropriate places at every manner of inappropriate time. Not because you and your child just can’t seem to get the hang of it, but because there’s supposed to be poop and pee. Because that’s how we learn.

I had managed (somehow) to make it 35 years without truly learning that lesson and in low moments I wonder how much it has cost me. Luckily, there’s no answer to that particular question. At least not one that I’m likely to ever know. What I do know is that I’m learning. I know that today I have a been more gentle with myself than I was yesterday. I’m making space in my life for more accidents and I’m hoping that space is wide and safe enough for my boys. I hope they will allow themselves the grace to make all kinds of mistakes and I hope that they (eventually) make their way to the lesson. I also hope that they call me when their letter comes. I hope that when I tell them that I have no idea what they should do but that I’m certain they should stock up on stain remover, they will know just what I mean. Maybe they’ll even laugh.

It’s Been a “No Third Kid” Kind of Week

My wife knows that things are getting dicey at home when she gets texts that say simply:

“No Third Kid. No way.”

It’s not so much a threat or a statement of intent as it is a release valve. A way of saying to the universe (and my wife) that I’ve had enough thankyouverymuch. I’m all full up and the very idea of even one extra thing makes me want to sit down and cry. Preferably with no one sitting  in my lap or trying to “brush” my hair.

So, it’s been that kind of week. The lowlights include:

  • Two trips to the pediatrician.
  • One night in the ER.
  • Cancelled date night.
  • Yogi’s first trip to the dentist.
  • A night of intermittent tornado sirens requiring wee hours family togetherness in our (creepy) basement

Yeah. My wife and I had both been sick the previous week, so this week began with an extended game of family charades. We had both lost our voices and since nobody else around here can read we were left with a sad, frustrated kind of gesturing as our sole means of communication. Think charades with people who don’t have any idea how to play charades. Clearly we were off to a great start.

The Monk took an early week dive into the yuck when he spent so much of one day and night coughing and his breathing was so labored we decided he needed to be checked out. This decision was made on Monday at dinner time with an early morning peds call planned for the next day. With about 10 minutes left until bedtime Mr. Sick Boy took a header into the CD player. With all of his (not insubstantial) body weight. This guy has managed to injure himself in so many varied ways without even seeming to notice that I barely looked his way at first. But then….there was the blood. A lot of blood. And my wife saying “He needs a stitch” and both of them heading off to the emergency room. Leaving Yogi and I home to stew.

To be truthful, Yogi didn’t seem too concerned. In fact, he was mostly just excited that he could shine his flashlight directly on Monkey’s crib while he read his post-bedtime books. I had no idea that “don’t shine light in your brothers face while he is trying to sleep” expectation had been so limiting for him. I, of course, was another matter. Not only was my baby in a hospital being sewn back together, but I was also mentally preparing for the morning when Yogi would be meeting the dentist. The dentist!!!! For a normal person I’m thinking this might be a 3-4 on the anxiety jangle-meter. For me, it was a solid 12.

Blood, hospitals, needles in my baby’s head, the dentist, blood, unfamiliar hands/tools in Yogi’s mouth, stitches!!!

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, but the boys were just fine. Both of them. The Monk was drunk on baby Versaid by the time he returned with his new non-bleeding, stitched with four stitches forehead. He was feeling no pain. Yogi at the dentist did this Mama heart good. He wasn’t thrilled to be there, but he tolerated the various indignities that came his way. He was cool as a cucumber actually which is very far from what I expected. I came very near to over-hugging the entire staff on our way out. We had survived and they had helped us! In a supreme act of “knowing your partner”, my wife got away from the hospital and met us at the office so we made it a family affair. No one was entering into that fray alone.

After all of that, we FINALLY made it in to see about Monkey’s original ailment. The verdict? RSV, double ear infections and bronchiolitis. In regular people-speak, the kid was a mess. According to the doctor, Yogi would be right behind him. This bug was sparing no one. By Friday it was apparent that the doctor was right. Yogi was coughing and hacking and refusing anything like nourishment. I could convince them only of popsicles and even that took some tap dancing.

And then last night we got to hang out together in the basement. In the dark. With very loud and very scary sirens screaming outside. And wind. And coughing that makes its way into gagging. And fever. And accumulated fatigue from a long, hard week. And the most unexpected sweep of gratitude. Gratitude that these snotty, clammy, fussy people were mine. That if I have to have another week like that one, I hope I get to have it with them. There’s no rush though. Let’s not do it anytime real soon.

Love List

My voice is gone and I really should be addressing Christmas cards, but .rlg. at .breaking into blossom. had a great idea with her love list. So, yeah…. my this moment loves:

unravelling550px

  • This awesome (and free!!) workbook. If you’re the journaling sort who likes to ponder the year gone by and the year to come you’ve got to give this a look. I downloaded the workbook and am using my own notebook (damn my printer), but this would be perfect for printing, scribbling in and filing away for next year. I love looking back.
  • Yogi’s highly detailed 3rd person narration. He is imagining pretty much all the time and overhearing his (not-at-all-internal) dialogue is hysterical. “The fireman is racing up the ladder. The ladder is very, very, very tall. The other fireman (always the Monk) is holding the ladder steady. Very, very steady. The cat is rescued!! The fireman rescued the cat from the very, very, very, very tall tree.” And no, I have absolutely no idea where he gets his tendency toward hyperbolic language.

IMG_1667

  • Cooperative play. These boys are playing. Together. This is not always peaceful, conflict-free play but I’m finally beginning to grasp that those were never the goals of play in the first place. At least not all the time. What they are doing is cracking each other up and running into one another at top speed and building anything and everything and holding hands and roaring like lions and sharing snacks in the backseat and hugging each other good night. I’ve never been so close to this kind of sweetness.

51QEXSAXMYL

  • This book. John Updike isn’t exactly known for his poetry for children, but A Child’s Calendar is just wonderful. The illustrations are lovely and each month of the year has it’s own poem. Our library has created a puppet play based on the poems and just this morning we saw it for the second time.
  • Days when Yogi naps. Dropping a nap is not for the feint of heart. And yes, he is getting older and his sleep needs are not as great, but he does still have them. He gets tired and a tired three-year-old drunk on his own non-napping power is a person you do not want to deal with. Ever. He is loud and uncoordinated and entirely void of logic and wholly incapable of managing himself in the world. He also tends to shout things (on a loop) that make no sense. Unfortunately he hangs out at my house two to three afternoons a week. However, the point of this is that sometimes that guy is nowhere to be found. There are days when Yogi naps and I marvel at what a wonderful child I have. He says interesting things and listens when I speak and can walk across the room without falling down and launching himself into a histrionic fit. It makes me wonder how much of the “crazy behavior” you see in kids can be attributed to lack of sleep. A sad thought.
  • Scholastic book orders!!! Yogi’s class got their first Scholastic Reading Club flyer a few weeks back and I was beside myself. I gave the boy a pencil and told him to circle all the books that looked good to him.  Oh, the memories. I LOVED marking the books I wanted as a kid. When my wife got home we went over it together, made our selections and sent the forms back to school. Well yesterday the books came in and Yogi shot out his class with the news. We immediately sat ourselves down on the floor and opened every one. Who needs to go home when you’ve got new books?!!

Happy (almost) December!

IMG_1636

In the morning our countdown to Christmas begins and I can hardly wait! I guess the picture makes that fairly obvious though doesn’t it? I mean, I’m so enthusiastic that I’m connecting with my (small and quiet) crafty side. It’s been quite some time since I’ve used a stamp and I must say that I’ve missed it.  But…. the important thing is that inside every one of those little bags is an invitation to fun. It’s no longer possible to spend the entire day outside (thanks winter) and my three year old is incapable of sleeping when the sun is shining (have I mentioned that?), but dammit we have things to do around here.

Here are a few of things we’ll be up to this month:

  • Making ornaments for our tree (Yogi is enamored with glitter)
  • Building and decorating Rice Krispy treat houses (seems more durable than gingerbread)
  • Creating a menorah using handprints + blue paint with our Hanukkah celebrating friends
  • Holding our own Christmas music themed dance party
  • Caroling with friends
  • Touring Christmas lights after dinner
  • Making cranberry suet cake to show the birds how much we love them on the Solstice
  • Decorating Santa bags (pillowcases) and filling them with toys we can share with other families
  • Baking lots of cookies and delivering them to friends (getting the boys Santa hats for this one)
  • Drinking hot chocolate and reading stories under the Christmas tree
  • Building snowmen (white play-doh + silver glitter)
  • Making simple gifts for friends

I hope the boys enjoy this as much as I’m thinking they will. This is a tradition that I’ve always wanted to build with my family and I can’t wait to see how it evolves throughout the years.

This Moment

IMG_1516

  • It’s Thanksgiving and after an early family celebration last weekend, we are happy and home. My wife even has the day off! The boys and I made waffles this morning while the parade streamed in the background and after breakfast we bundled up and took a long, leisurely walk together. Yogi and Mommy are baking chocolate gingerbread cookies while the Monk naps and I send a long overdue smoke signal out to you. Later this afternoon one of our favorite families is coming over for the feast. Our feast will feature pizza, cookies and plenty of wine. Given that we will have five kids aged three and under between us, simple seems the only way to go.
  • I have a new favorite. I cannot overstate my love for this cookbook. It is beautiful, straightforwardly useful and the recipes are delicious. You may know Isa from her blog The Post Punk Kitchen. I’ve followed her blog for awhile and I admit to never being all that excited about it. When her latest cookbook came out I got on the hold list at the library and figured I’d look through, but I wasn’t exactly eager. Then I got the book. After making only one dish I bought myself a copy and now I’m hooked. So far I’ve made and can highly recommend: Bistro Beet Burgers, Pizza Bowls with Sausage and Kale, White Queso Bowls with Crispy Kale Chips, Cucumber Ranch Bowl with Breaded Tofu, Sinfully Wholesome Waffles and Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve had the book two weeks. You’ve got to check it out. Yum!

IDIcoverSmall2

  • I cannot wait for December 1. I finally have a kid that’s old enough for an advent calendar and I can’t wait!! I’ve spent much of November getting everything together and even the preparation has been fun. We’ve got a special activity for each day and I only hope the boys are half as enthusiastic as I am. I am a bit tradition obsessed. Lots of winter adventures ahead.
  • The Great Room Sharing Experiment has been a total win. I never imagined the transition would be so smooth. Not only has it not been challenging in really any way, I think both boys are sleeping better. Can you believe it? They love sharing a room. We’ve shifted into a new bedtime routine and I like it much better than our old divide and conquer approach. We’re still not able to do story time with two boys (way too much book grabbing and lap hogging), but we are in the same room. My wife and the Monk read and do Mommy milk in the chair while Yogi and I snuggle under the covers in his bog boy bed. Bedtime is (for the moment) a sweet, sweet time at our house.

IMG_1577

  • Monkey is coming into his own. It struck me yesterday that he is only three months younger than Yogi was when he was born. How did THAT happen? This guy is talking and laughing and running faster than I can chase. He’s got more than a little naughty in him, but he’s so sweet that you just immediately forgive him. I think I’m in for it with this one.  I mean…look at that expression.
  • My Memoir book club is off to a great start.  We had our first meeting at a neighborhood coffee shop and I’m happy to say that we closed the place down. The conversation was interesting and insightful and everyone actually read the book. Now I’m looking to get a list of titles together for the coming months. Anyone have recommendations?

 

The Great Room Sharing Experiment

This is either a stroke of genius or the worst idea my wife and I have ever had. We are four nights in and what this will ultimately look like is impossible to imagine. In this moment it looks like chaos. Some of that chaos is likely attributable to a few factors that we really should have considered.

1. Yogi is no longer among the napping. We had initially counted this among the pros as there would be no opportunity for mutual napping shenanigans with only one napper. This is true, but it introduces another wrinkle. Yogi is dropping his nap. Present tense. He hasn’t dropped it, he’s just in the process. This means that he’s mostly ok without those extra hours, but sometimes he’s not. Every minute after 5 o clock on those exceptional days life is miserable. For everyone. Which makes our new two-boy bedroom routine even dicier.

2. We’re creating a new bedtime routine. This involves getting things started a little earlier for Yogi and a little later for the Monk. It also involves reading stories as a family (previously we had paired off) and that isn’t so easy. Everyone wants to sit in the lap of the storyteller and no one wants to share their seat. Additionally Monkey doesn’t want to take the book at a standard pace and he’d really rather not move in a linear fashion at all. Yogi finds this deeply offensive. It’s not exactly the relaxing send off that we were going for.

3. We decided to take the plunge during the time change. This was just nuts and further evidence of my lack of attention to detail. I’m trying to convince myself that we’re saving ourselves future headache by shaking everything up all at once, but so far the argument lacks conviction. Mostly because everyone in this house was out of bed and going about their business by 5 this morning.

I should also mention that my chaos threshold is extremely low, so in reality all of this is going fine. So far the two things that we were the most concerned about are not happening. They aren’t keeping each other awake for hours after bedtime and when one of them wakes in the night it doesn’t seem to disturb the other. So clearly we had a rough night and an early morning and I’m catastrophizing. It’s what I do best actually. I think I need a nap….

The Farmer & The Barnyard Dog

Life with children just amplifies everything, doesn’t it? Whatever there was before, now there’s more of it. More joy, more worry, more chaos, more, more, more. Well, except sleep and sex. There is not more of that, but I digress. I’m trying to talk about Halloween. I thought Halloween was pretty fabulous before kids, but now I’m hooked. Perhaps it’s the social psychologist in me, but a culturally sanctioned opportunity to play with a new identity is brilliant. Looking for a little more power? Be a superhero for the evening. Eager for competence? Be a doctor. There’s no harm in it. It’s just good clean fun. Plus there’s candy.

This year Halloween lasted an entire week at our house. We kicked off the week with a Monday morning party with our playgroup that was both fun and almost painfully cute. The party was attended by two pumpkins, a pirate, Curious George, a fairy princess and one small Superman. In addition to friends there were the kind of Pinterest-y snacks that in spite of their cuteness I will never actually get around to making. Again with the village. Thanks to other Moms my children get to experience craftiness. Go team!

IMG_1522

IMG_1523

On Wednesday our central library hosts a party with a Halloween themed story time and trick or treating with the librarians. The boys loved wearing their costumes and seeing their favorite puppets dressed up alongside them. Yogi is still laughing about it. It’s pretty packed, but it’s been a good introduction to trick or treating. Familiar, lighted surroundings and not a candy in sight. Just erasers and whistles and book-related tattoos. This was our second year and we’ll definitely be back next time.

IMG_1465Halloween was a stormy, howly-wind kind of night for us. Perfect for the holiday, not so perfect for the holiday activity. Our neighborhood decided to postpone until Friday. After the vomit-fest that was Halloween last year, I was a little leery about striking out in the dark with two kids. We live only blocks from one of the trick-or-treating mecca’s in our town which means crowds of people and entirely too many cars. My wife suggested a to-go cup and I was immediately glad she did. Alcohol does help.

Both boys were in rare form. The Monk was focused like a laser on the candy. He knew exactly what it was and what to do with it. While his older brother when handed a pack of Nerds gleefully shouted “Shaker!”, Monkey gnawed through the box before anyone could stop him and downed the whole thing. There is no way of explaining how he understands exactly what to do in novel situations except to imagine that he just feels it in his bones. The Monk knows things, particularly things about food.

Yogi had another focus.

IMG_1502

I know! Can you believe it?! And that expression?! What possessed him to do that with his mouth? Admittedly, this little pumpkin is one of his favorite people, but this was a little much. He grabbed her hand as soon as we spotted her family in the crowd and they took the houses as a team. Yogi appeared considerably more enthusiastic about the hand-holding then she did, but she didn’t resist. They helped each other navigate tricky steps and agreed entirely on which houses to pursue and which ones to skip. It’s wonderful to be surprised by your children, but it’s also unsettling. Who are these people? Hoping I’ve got a long time to work on figuring that one out.