TWO – My Baby Volcano!!!!!

IMG_5396

My baby boy is explosive emotion, wild energy, and ear piercing noise. Joyful belly laughter that elicits immediate smiles and torturous whining and screams that have your sisters clasping their ears and weeping because you just won’t stop crying. During the past two years, we have suffered hearing loss because you are the loudest baby yet, maybe the loudest baby ever.

I thought third babies were supposed to go with the flow, be easy breezy, but you rocked our boat completely. As I said, you are loud, it is impossible to ignore our baby. You erupt in fury if you don’t like something and your moods derail the most carefully prepared plans.

You make your third time mama feel like a first timer.

Daddy calls you our Sour Patch Kid, sour and then irresistibly sweet. You revolt and then ask for snuggles. When your sisters cry, you earnestly ask them, “Are you okay?” As you pat their backs and stroke their faces. Then the next minute you are throwing matchbox cars at their heads with tremendous force, grabbing their hair, and hitting them with all your might.

My three children are like magnets, you can’t keep your hands off one another, but then the electro magnetism switches and you repel each other with equal ferocity. Then minutes later you are inseparable and stuck together again. Your biggest sister dotes on you constantly, carries you around the house, and usually allows you to join in her play. Middle sister loves you one second and clocks you in the head the next. The intensity of the love/hate relationship between you and your middle sister baffles me. Your shared sibling bonds are stronger than I ever expected.

Currently, Disney Cars is your passion and you talk about it constantly, though you don’t have the patience to sit through the movie. You love Lightning McQueen, cars with smiley faces are the best, and you carry them wherever you go and sleep with them in your crib.

Much to your dad’s delight, starting at 18 months (maybe younger), you enjoyed shooting hoops in the basement. You love basketballs, throwing balls, toys, anything. You have a mini golf club and endlessly hit golf balls around the yard. You do this all left handed, which I’m learning may be the athletic coup de grace. We beam at your hand eye coordination and laugh at ourselves for thinking at two that each of our children were child prodigies. We are as amazed by you as we were by our first two babies, watching a baby grow and acquire new skills never gets olds. You are all unique little people.

Although we may think you are a baby genius, you learned to walk later than your sisters and managed to bump your head into the coffee table several times a day for several months straight. You love play doh and especially love to eat it. You laugh as you stuff it in your mouth because you suckered mom and dad into giving you play doh, yet again.

Getting out of the house has become nearly impossible, for example, one day as I filled water bottles for school, you made a beeline through the dog door and ran straight for the dog poop in the yard (for some reason you love touching dog poop). “Icky, mama,” you shouted and picked it up and smeared it all over your t-shirt, which led to tardy slips for your sisters and me carrying a toddler in a diaper into each of their schools. As I signed tardy slips and politely conversed with acquaintances, I wondered why we still smelled like poop, left the school, and realized you smeared me as well. This is how we roll, and it’s not always pretty.

The girls had bunk beds until you started scrambling up the ladder and leaning over the guardrail in the mornings as I brushed their hair before school. “Mama, watch me,” you shouted with glee as you leaned over the side. Then one day, you jumped off. We detached the beds to make our morning routine safer.

You are fast and give me heart palpitations. One night as I cooked dinner, you dashed out the kitchen, jumped through the dog door, sprinted around the yard, and attempted to climb the fence into our front yard. “I want to see G.G.’s car,” you said, a smile stretched across your face.

Speaking of G.G., another favorite is your grandmas. You love your grandmothers. If they are with us, you want them to constantly carry you. You talk about them and their cars constantly (because grandmas and cars may be the best combination ever). On Thanksgiving, everybody went around the table and said what we were thankful for and when we got to you we didn’t think you understood, but you stated clearly, “I’m thankful for my grandmas.” As a first time mother, I would have been insanely jealous if you preferred someone other than me, but this time around I appreciate their extra arms and your special relationship with them.

“How are you today?” Is your constant refrain when you see someone new and then you introduce yourself by your first and last name and say that you live in Colorado. “I’ll see you next Thursday,” you tell your teachers. You speak in full sentences and articulate thoughts way beyond your two-years (again, our baby genius).

When your sister played Kion, the elephant, in her school performance of the Lion King, you sat in the audience, shouting her name when she came on stage and then screaming Hakuna Matata throughout the other scenes. Almost immediately, Nana escorted you out of the auditorium.

You had the stomach flu the night before your 2nd birthday. You threw up and lay in my arms, tearfully asking me to make you better. Your family party was cancelled, the freezer broke, and your ice cream cake melted. A birthday two days post Christmas confused you, “I want Chanukah to come to my party,” you told me. When we gave you presents, you thought it might still be Christmas and handed them out to your sisters. “It’s not Christmas,” we told you, “It’s your birthday!” My Christmas baby will wait another year to have a birthday party, but your sisters want to make the next one a big birthday party (since you missed this one) and teach you what birthdays are all about. Christmas baby, birthdays are your own special day. You deserve a special day.

You are more than a handful. You are a mini volcano of love, precociousness, sunshine, rage, fire, energy, earsplitting headaches, tears of happiness, tears of frustration, a toddler jokester, a mini athlete, social charisma, mommy’s boy, daddy’s boy, your grandparents’ baby, and your sisters’ favorite/least favorite little person. You make us happy hermits who can’t leave the house for fear of the most intense and persistent little tantrums. At times we brave it and leave our house and then realize you are supremely charming and do better in public than home. After a successful experience we attempt to leave again, only to suffer an explosion and swear we will never ever leave the safety of our home. You have made me seriously consider buying a toddler leash.

We love you and thank you for making our lives colorfully chaotic and never dull.

Sorry for the delayed birthday note, as you know, things have been pretty busy.

We love you. Happy 2nd Birthday Baby!

SHE IS FOUR-YEARS-OLD

Photo credit - Julie Harris photography

Photo credit – Julie Harris photography

Your hair is still blonde, framing your round face and dark brown eyes. Your round belly peeks out of shirts that are a little too small. Shirts that you still love and I hate to pack away. Shirts that your sister wore three years ago and are now stained pink from years of afternoon watermelon and popsicles.

You are a fish. In swim lessons, you swim across the pool, flipping to your back to catch a breath and then instantly flip to your stomach to finish the traverse. You reach the other side of the pool and you look for me with a giant smile. You wave. You shine so brightly, my eyes sometimes fill with tears watching you.

Every night around 12am, you walk to my room and climb in bed beside me. Unlike your sister, who I carried back to her room, middle daughter, you experience the luxury of my exhaustion. I pull you in bed and we snuggle. Lately, I’ve pulled you in bed and in my exhausted haze, I’ve thought you were your big sister. You are getting so big. People often ask me if you two are twins.

You are an expert cuddler. You snuggle next to me on the couch or bed, and gently pinch the skin on my arm, my cheeks, and my belly. Sometimes you pinch a little too hard, but mostly you give gentle squeezes. “I like to squeeze your squishy parts,” you murmur. Pure love, you make me almost happy to have extra parts.

You were the easiest of my three babies, you were not a screamer, and slept better than both your siblings. Today if I had to put money on who would be the most likely to sleep past 6:30am, it would be you.

My partner in crime, my little helper, we run errands together, you help me do laundry and clean the counters. A homebody, you are happy to stay home and hang out.

When I pick you up from preschool, you give me the detailed run down of every minute of your morning, including who sat with you, played with you, and what everybody said.

You are so proud of your family. When I pick you up from school, you lead your baby brother over to your friends and demand, “LOOK AT MY BABY,” with the biggest smile on your face. On the rare occasion that your big sister was home from school and came to pick you up, you were on cloud nine. “THIS IS MY BIG SISTER,” you told everyone.

Your sister is your best friend. You share a room, a bunk bed, and toys. Some days you choose to match and wear identical clothes. As your brother gets older, you play with him too. You and the baby are magnets pulled together by an invisible force. To my irritation, you cannot keep your hands off of each other. The minute he finds a toy, you steal it and run from him at lightning speed. You silently pinch him behind my back. You constantly push his buttons (and mine too). You make him scream constantly, but the minute you disappear to another room he searches for you.

“Sister, where are you?” he calls in his 18 month-old garbled speech? “Where did sister go?” he asks putting his hands in the air.

He will be tough because he has you.

You love Star Wars and Scooby Doo. When your baby brother was born, I relaxed a little in terms of appropriate television viewing. As long as your Dad kept you and your sister entertained, I was happy. Your Dad let you watch Star Wars. You and your sister are obsessed. For Christmas, you got a Star Wars lunch box and backpack. Much to my embarrassment, you told everyone in preschool (including your friends parents) that you love Star Wars and watched every single one of them. Initially, you loved “Luke,” (because he is handsome?!?!?) but now you prefer the dark side.

Parents approach me, “Wow, she watched Star Wars?”

“I like the Empire Strikes Back,” you announce unabashedly.

“I didn’t know they were old enough,” they state.

“Nope, they aren’t, it’s completely inappropriate for three-year-olds,” I admit embarrassed. “I have lost all control.”

Although initially you may act shy, once you feel comfortable you give everyone the constant run down of everything that is going on. My parents used to tell me that they called me the “Family Narrator” because I would describe everything that everyone did at all times. You are our family narrator. You are good company. I never feel lonely or bored when I’m with you.

You love playing with boys. This year you were a little boy obsessed, which is weird because how could a three-year-old possibly be boy crazy, but you are. You came home from school and would tell me, “Mom, I like playing with the Bad Boys.” When we dropped your sister off at the kindergarten “Kiss & Go,” you always wanted Mr. Stephen to come to the door and grab your sister. You even sang songs about him, much to your sister’s embarrassment. You will be trouble in middle school and high school.

Although an easy baby, at times you were an impossible three-year-old. You are pure charm and naughtiness. You haven’t napped since you were two, but I enforce quiet time while your brother naps. You stay up in your room while I work on my computer. Quiet time is never quiet. You sneakily steal shampoo from the bathroom and wash the Barbies’ hair on the carpet in your bedroom, you pushed toys and stuffed animals down the HVAC vents in your room, and you colored elaborate pictures on the carpet with markers. You make my blood boil, but charm is your super power. You always magically float back into my good graces.

You may be one of the most charming people I’ve ever met. You make everyone feel special with your smiles and whispered words of love. You dole them freely to all those you love.

On the flip side, you are fierce. If something upsets you, you roar mightily, stomp your feet, throw things in rage, and slam doors repeatedly to make your point.

The other day I met you at camp to rock climb. Before leaving for camp that day, you told me you were too scared to climb. When I got there you climbed one side of the wall. You maybe made it a couple of footholds off the ground. Each time you climbed, you got a little higher. You attempted to climb each side of the wall, and one time you may have gotten half way up. You kept trying and getting a little higher. It was hot, 90 degrees, and the wall was set up on hot pavement. Most of the other kids stopped and sat in the shade, but red faced you kept climbing.

The instructor hooked your harness to another side of the wall. You smiled.

“You know what,” she said. “When you keep trying something even though it’s hard, and you don’t give up, that means, you have a giant heart.” I smiled at the truth of the statement.

You are pure heart.

***

This birthday post comes two weeks late. I’ve debated posting it because I began having mixed feeling about posting details about my kids. Now my oldest values her privacy, so I will not publicly post my birthday letter to her this year. I decided posting this one because:

(1) friends and family appreciate a glimpse of the little personalities emerging in our family,

(2) I adore these kiddos and want to remember every single moment.

(3) This is my public love letter to my little girl, I’ve never received a public letter of adoration, but I bet I would like it, and

(4) I love my family so much, I want to shout it from the roof tops and tell the world just how special they are,

For these reasons and more, I’m writing the memories down.

Full Hands

“Mama, Mama, Mama,” he wails. My head hurts and I resent my irritation at my crying child. “Mama, mama,” he hollers, fresh green mucous sliding from his nose and crusted around his nostrils. I grab another tissue and wipe his nose. He screams and headbutts my chest. Cold season is killing me. Sickness for months on end, my arms cannot stretch wide enough to hold all the needy bodies around me.

****

“I WANT MY MAMA BACK!” My two-year-old screamed after her baby brother arrived. She reached for me as I bounced her colicky brother in my arms. “I WANT MY MAMA BACK!” Helpless, I stroked her wispy blonde hair with my hand while rhythmically bouncing the crying newborn, tears filling our eyes.

****

Ground hogs day, colic ended but this winter the tears returned, teething, a runny nose, and a new bout of separation anxiety. “Mama, Mama,” he shrieks as I place him on the kitchen floor and swipe peanut butter across bread. I dip the knife in the jelly and grimace at the remnant of peanut butter in the jelly jar. “Mama, mama,” his arms stretch up to my robe pulling it and me apart.

****

Please read the rest of this essay over on Mamalode.

Him and Me

IMG_0915

I’m surfacing, taking a deep breath, and slowly peering out from the fog.

It seems like we’ve been sick for months, stuck in doors, endless days of fussiness and fevers. I haven’t slept. I haven’t cooked. I haven’t written anything. We have been surviving. I’ve felt pulled in different directions like there wasn’t enough of me for all of them. There were tears (mostly the kids), shared sighs of desperation (the adults), and tempers erupted (all of us).

Over the weekend, my husband and I went out for a date night. A cool night, we stood at a roof top bar that looked out over the Denver skyline. My hand tucked in the back pocket of his jeans, starving because our reservation was at 7:30pm and we normally eat at 5pm. A middle-aged man tapped me on the shoulder, “You two are a really cute couple,” he said, “I mean your hand in his pocket,” embarrassed he blushed, trying to explain himself.

“Thank-you,” I smiled. Happy, I felt like a cute couple. We are good, I’m impressed with us, after nine-years of marriage, three kids, and the ups and downs of work, marriage, and life. We’ve come a long way, but it all still feels the same. Fifteen years later, he is still the gorgeous boy at the bar and I’m still the girl peeling the labels from my beer, except Saturday we ordered our drinks and the bartender asked for my ID.

“I forgot my ID,” I whined.

“I can’t serve you,” he barked.

“I’m obviously older than 21.” I responded. “Please, I have three kids. We never go out.”

“It doesn’t matter. I card everyone under 50, and you are not 50. Sting operations happen here every weekend. NO ONE WILL SERVE YOU.”

So really, nights out as a 20-years-old with a tattered fake ID and date nights at 35-years-old, I’m still begging the bartender to make an exception with the same cute boy standing by my side. Everything changes and nothing changes at all.

28 Days of Play: Who Doesn’t Play With Their Children?

youplustwoparenting

I sat on the couch, my legs curled beneath me, my pregnant belly wedged on a throw pillow. My husband lay beside me, watching a miscellaneous sporting event on television. Our toddler slept soundly upstairs. I skimmed a parenting book. That summer I flipped through hordes of books, worrying about my daughter adjusting to life as a big sister.

I shifted positions on the couch. “Hey babe,” I said. “It says to help our children develop healthy self-esteem, we should participate in “child directed play” for at least ten minutes every day.” I laughed.

“Are you kidding me?” He responded, “Who doesn’t play with their kids for ten minutes a day?”

“Exactly.” What kind of mom doesn’t spend ten minutes playing with their children? 

****

Well, ah … things have changed. I’m a different mother than I was lying on that couch.

Check out the rest of my essay over on You Plus 2 Parenting’s 28 Days of Play where throughout February writers share their honest feelings about playing with their children.

A Trip Away

IMG_0128

It’s hard for me to leave my kids – nearly impossible. I may be in the minority. I know other mothers who went on solo vacations away from their children months after they were born. I felt differently. I didn’t want to leave them. The idea of leaving them brought on major anxiety. After my first child was born, my husband and I argued about taking vacations away. He wanted them and I didn’t. My feelings stemmed from a mixture of anxiety, hormones from breastfeeding, control freak tendencies and my own childhood memories when my mother took trips away.

***

On a side note, readers, please have patience for those people in your life who struggle leaving their children. Their decision to opt out of a weekend away is not about their friendship with you/ their love for their husband/ or the importance of the event, it is about them having the faith to leave their heart/the center of their life’s orbit in the care of someone else and trust that everything will be okay. They will be missed but not forgotten. This takes a lot of faith. Some parents understand that if they leave it will be fine and others need some time to figure this out.

***

As time passes, I realize the importance of taking mini vacations. I realize my most precious little people will thrive while I’m away. Most importantly, I want to be an example of a mother who is more than just a wife and mother. A mother who is a woman. A woman that likes to have fun. A multidimensional woman who values family, friendships, adventures, self-care and pursues her dreams.

***

“Mama, you’re going to a Bachelorwet party?” My three-year-old asks, her mispronunciation may be the cutest thing ever.

“Yep, a Bachelorette Party in Miami,” I chime. I’ve been anxious about this trip for several months, but as it approaches my excitement increases.

“What’s a Bachelorette Party?” The girls ask.

“It’s a party you have with your girlfriends before you get married.” I say.

“I want to have my Bachelorette Party in the jungle,” my five-year-old declares.

“Pretty cool,” I say. My mind races, I am pathetically nervous about this weekend:

  1. I haven’t seen my roommate from college in years (in which I became a mom to three kiddos) and I don’t know any of the other women joining her on this weekend.
  2. It has been a long time since I’ve been out after 10pm in Denver, let alone Miami.
  3. I am slightly intimidated by the other women on the trip. These women are successful, from New York City and Los Angeles – I think, clearly, cooler than a stay-at-home-mom from Denver.
  4. In situations where I don’t know anyone, I’m embarrassed to say, my husband has become my security blanket. I think this happens to a certain degree after nine years of marriage, especially for introverts who struggle to leave the couch.
  5. I have never left all three children.
  6. I could die in a plane crash. My husband would be left alone with three small children. I visualize him remarrying a beautiful young thirty-something (perhaps 20-something) immediately and my children calling her “mom” as I become a distant memory. For this highly paranoid reason, I haven’t taken solo flights away from my kids. FYI, I’m aware that there is a higher probability of me dying in a car than a plane crash, but for some reason air travel makes me paranoid. It would be very unhealthy if I was this anxious every time I got in the car.

***

The trip could have gone in a number of different ways, but in the end it was amazing.

I felt good. I went on a shopping spree, which was really a declaration of having possession of my body again –no more pregnancies or breastfeeding. I bought a couple of amazingly “hot Miami” dresses to wear out at night. I bought some bootie sandals like these –  seriously, they make any outfit.

I called my twin sister and told her that if I died in a plane crash, she would have to move to Colorado and tell my children stories about their real mom every day. She told me to “Shut-Up”, but promised she would in the case of my death.

I got on a plane with a small purse. (Other parents will recognize the miracle of this moment). I brought this book and finished listening to this Podcast.

I was ambitious. I packed this book and this book as back up, but I didn’t read either of them.

The afternoon I arrived I sat on the beach and ordered a fresh watermelon drink spiked with vodka and drank it in the sand.

I discovered there is such thing as a selfie stick. As someone who can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve taken a selfie, I came to appreciate the invention (you can take group photos of everyone without anyone stepping out of the picture) and now realize why other people’s selfies are way better than my own (it takes practice).

My beautiful friend from college and I caught up.

I met her amazing friends from New York City and Los Angeles. They seemed intimidating, but they are REAL and so much FUN. My husband can spend days with a group of men and come away with few personal details. Forty-eight hours with these women and we became friends, we listened to each other’s stories, took a break from our lives, shared and connected.

I realized Colorado girls have style too.

I didn’t talk about my kids. Okay, I shared a couple of pictures and funny stories.

I enjoyed hearing – “What, you have three kids? I can’t believe it.” It turns out I don’t have a MOM tattoo stamped on my forehead.

I appreciated and loved my husband from a far. He didn’t complain once about single parenting while I was away.

A five hour flight delay, I came home to freezing temps and a windshield of solid ice. Refreshed. Exhausted. Out of routine. Back to the grind. I ordered some new lipstick, which is always a good “Me” sign.

I See You

IMG_3618

Invisible – (def.) Unable to be seen.

As a child, I played a superhero game. If you could have any superpower what would it be? The choices included: invisibility, flying, superhuman strength, x-ray vision and many others. We chose our special power and argued why our power was the best. We told each other what we would do if we could fly, disappear or see through walls.

Now as an adult, I am struck by invisibility. The more I consider being invisible, it becomes clear that it is not a super power at all. As I observe the world, my people, my friends and myself, so much loneliness, violence and unhappiness stem from the noxious feeling of being unseen.

 *****

The baby screams, giant tears roll down his plum colored cheeks. His shrieks pierce the air. He won’t nurse. He won’t sleep. He won’t stop. His mother bounces up and down, jogging in place and holding him in her arms. Her tears join his.

“I see you,” she whispers. “You exist. I see you. I hear you. I love you.” Her endless bouncing creates a rhythm behind her words.

 *****

An elderly man sits hunched over on a park bench. He closes his eyes, tilting his face to the sun. He lives alone. Every day he circles the park and sits on this bench. This year more friends are dead than alive. His wife is dead. The pendulum of life shifting, as he navigates his closing chapters. A young man sits down beside him and asks him about his day. He waits for an answer. He listens to the old man’s story.

I see you.

*****

A cool autumn morning, a mother heaves a 40lb double stroller into the back of her dirty minivan while the baby sobs in his car seat. She attempts to slam the trunk and the stroller topples down on her leg. She swears. The baby cries. Tears fill her eyes. An older woman slowly walks a straggly mutt down the opposite sidewalk. The creak of her knees is almost audible. “A mother’s strength,” she marvels as she watches the bewildered young mother.

Her words are a gift.

I see you.

 *****

A doctor knocks on the door of her patient’s room. A woman sits on the reclined patient chair. Her legs stick to the tissue, separating her from the plastic seat. Her tired eyes scan the doctor’s face, anxious to hear the test results. The doctor sits down beside her. She asks her how she feels? The doctor listens and talks to the patient the way she would want a physician to talk to her or her family member. The results aren’t good. The patient’s eyes fill with tears. Her doctor grabs her hand. “I am so sorry,” she says.

She hugs her patient.

I see you.

*****

A woman walks through a busy mall. Tears distort her vision. Grief guts her. She feels invisible. A part of her is gone and will never return. She wonders about his last thoughts, words and feelings. A stranger approaches her and looks at the woman’s swollen red face. The stranger doesn’t cringe at the sight of snot streaming from her nose. “Can I help you?” The stranger asks, wrapping her arms around the adult who feels more like a child.

“He died,” the woman gasps.

“I am so sorry.” The stranger whispers and holds her crumpled body.

I see you.

 *****

Every day he works. Every day he leaves the house while his wife and children sleep, buried in stuffed animals and down comforters. He drives to the office. This man could be anyone. He types notes, sees patients, writes briefs, calls clients, bags groceries, builds houses, fixes pipes, answers phones and sells stocks. For years he gives 100% of himself to his job with no recognition.

The daily grind, is this what life is about? Will these be my days for the next 30 years? He thinks. He is drained. He feels like an invisible cog in the corporate machine.

Then his supervisor visits his office. “Wow, I’m impressed. The corporate office recognizes how hard you work. It’s impressive. What can we do for you?”

I see you.

*****

She sits on her couch. The children play on the floor. The house is a mess, half finished puzzles, broken crayons, papers cut into millions of odd shaped slices cover the hard wood floor. The baby nurses, sucking every last bit of energy out through her chest. Disappointment settles on her shoulders. She wanted the house to be clean before her husband got home. Dinner is not ready. Bills cover the dark granite counters. This is my job, she thinks, and today I failed.

Her husband walks in the door. He puts his coat and bag down on the counter stool.  He walks to his wife on the couch and kisses her head. “Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for working so hard today.” His words, a balm, lift the weight from her shoulders. “Let’s order pizza,” he says, cradling the phone in his hands.

I see you.

*****

A little girl sits on the pavement during recess. She picks up a piece of sidewalk chalk and draws a picture, right next to the four square court. Some girls in her class giggle, bolting by her in a streak of color. She loves to play but she doesn’t know how to join the group. She sits on the pavement, feeling invisible.

Then, a girl with short blonde hair approaches her. She wears a Star Wars t-shirt and pink pants. “Race me,” she shouts. The quiet girl on the pavement hesitates, but then jumps up and runs.

The challenge to race – a life raft for a lonely girl in a sea of children.

I see you.

*****

Recognition, empathy and connection, small acts that have the power to heal marriages, friendships, employee dissatisfaction and improve foreign policy. Everyone feels better when they are SEEN.  A little act that goes so far.

Oh, if we practiced SEEING each other – what a wonderful world it would be.