Dear Baxter: Happy “birf-day”, you’re “tree!”

My tiny, speedy little peanut is three.  THREE.  We are officially and totally out of the baby years.  We got rid of your crib last week, and you potty trained yourself last month.  Board books are being replaced by beautiful picture books with long stories and intricate characters.

But you and I share a special ritual, one that I hope will never change.  When I drop you off somewhere, when you get hurt, or when we say goodnight, you always insist on a “kiss, a hug, and a high five”.  You came up with this yourself, and you are the enforcer every single time.  It’s your little way of checking in, making contact, and reassuring yourself that you are okay to go off and do whatever it is you’re going to face.

While I certainly know that 15 year old Baxter, or 32 year old Baxter is not going to insist on a kiss, a hug, and a high five, I hope this foundational bond always remains strong between us.  Three-year-old Baxter needs to ‘fuel up’ on your mom’s love and affection before going to do something solo: before being dropped off at a new preschool, or staying overnight at Nanny and Grampy’s, or going to sleep in a big boy bed.  It buoys your confidence, and it cements the knowledge that we will see each other again soon.  With your kiss, hug, and high five, you can conquer anything.

When you do become 15, or 24, or 32,  I know that a kiss, hug, and high five won’t be enough to solve your relationship dramas, your work frustrations, your existential crises, or your maturational dilemmas.  But remember what had prepared you for these momentous events and difficult conundrums: your mother’s love and never-ending belief that YOU CAN DO IT, and that you ARE okay.  As a little boy, you could conquer anything knowing that I was right behind you–figuratively, or literally.  This will never change.  No matter how old you are, no matter what your situation is, your mother is right behind you.  Likely cheering for you, and probably marveling at your bravery.

You see, you don’t NEED this check in with your mom.  You just think you do.  [And to me, that is everything.  Somebody once told me that the greatest gift you can give a parent is to make them feel needed.  You do that quite well.]

You are quite an affectionate little rough-and-tumble man.  You clamor for my lap anytime you get hurt or scared.  You love to “have snuggles”, and you regularly tell us “love you moon and back, momma”.  You love to have your hair stroked and your back rubbed, and every time you suffer an injustice you want to read a book to make yourself feel better.  One year old Baxter didn’t seem like he was going to grow into a cuddle bug, but you are.  And I love it!  I never knew I could put off so many chores when you ask me to “sit longer” or “talk about the day”.

My hope as you grow up?  That you will always know how, and be brave enough, to ask for help when you need it.  That you will not stifle your fears, or ignore your concerns because you think they are silly or baseless.  That you will not struggle within your own head because you’re afraid to let someone else in.  Instead?  Ask!  Discuss!  Strategize!  Worry together!  Then take a leap knowing that someone will be there on the other side to meet you: to celebrate, or commiserate.  Someday your partner or spouse may fill that role.  But never forget that your momma can do it too.  I’ll always be there with a kiss, a hug, and a high five: to fuel you up, and send you off.  Because I know you can do it.  You just have to know yourself that you can do it too.

Kisses, hugs, and high fives to the moon and back,

Momma

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Dear Charlotte: Happy birthday, your world is growing!

Dear Charlotte,

If this 4th birthday letter has any theme, it is this: the months between 3 and 4 have been a year of understanding a world much bigger than yourself.  You are curious beyond the boundaries of your 38 inches, our four walls, and the roughly five mile radius we travel to school and back each day.  You ask big questions.  You’re constantly thinking: about the books we read, the things you hear on the radio, and the things you see people doing at any moment.  

“Mommy, will Donald Trump decide to be a good person now that he is president?”

“Does God exist in real life?”

“Did God make all the people in the world?”

“I’m sad that Hillary Clinton lost.  But that’s okay.  Maybe she can try again tomorrow?”

“When I die, will this tissue still be here?  Will you still save this drawing I did after I die?”  

Your innocence is perfectly entwined with your developing conscience; your optimism and your sense of justice are still able to operate in their own vacuums.  You’re curious enough to be hungry for everything new, but you haven’t seen, heard, and watched enough to become jaded.

Please don’t, not ever.

With your never ending questions you’ve started to form your sense of self, and your understanding of how people relate to one another.  You’re trying to recognize your place in all of it, which is a gargantuan task for a four year old mind.  It’s no surprise that we put you to bed at 7:30, but you sometimes sneak out to watch us in the living room at 9:15.  You are too busy to sleep!  You have things to figure out!  

You and I had a special moment on the night of election day, 2016.  We talked all week about going to the polls to vote for Hillary.  We drove through Scarborough with our windows down, Florence and the Machine blaring, and you exclaimed “Girl time!  Mommy and Charlotte are going to vote for Hillary Quipment!”  It was exciting and novel–but not because we were going to vote for a woman.  No, the gender wasn’t even remarkable.  You were just excited to go show your vote, to take part in the grown up process.

The next morning, I cried.  I cried before you woke up, and I cried after I brought you to school.  I was so heartbroken that I couldn’t joyfully tell you we had the first woman president, that you’d have to wait longer in your life to see it.  And the weeks and months since have been difficult, as your mom: waiting, watching, and wondering what kind of world my baby girl is going to grow into.  Will it be one that respects her rights?  

But I’ve taken solace in a few places that may become iconic as we look back on 2016:

Hillary Clinton said, in her concession speech:  “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Barack Obama told us in his farewell address, that his proudest accomplishment was raising two daughters that are smart and beautiful, but more importantly kind, thoughtful, and full of passion.  That is my hope–no, my goal of every single day–for you, Charlotte.  That your every move is motivated by a sense of purpose bigger than yourself, one that looks outward, and still seeks to welcome people in.  

You do, already, in your four year old way.

You were the first to welcome a shy girl to a busy and loud birthday party–to draw her into a room full of extroverts by providing her a quiet hand and a smile.

By greeting your teacher at 7am: “I noticed you got a haircut!  Wow, it looks good!”

“Baxter, I’m sorry you fell.  What can I do to help you? Do you need some ice?”

Just keep on asking, listening, and thinking.  Keep on talking.  Keep on helping, smiling, and sharing.  And most of all, keep believing.  Believe that you are kind, you are smart, and you are important.  That is what will take you far.

Happy Birthday!  With all my love and even more pride,

Mom

“Then they will call HER and tell her she won?”

Riding in the car this morning after the presidential debate, Charlotte asked me why I was listening to so much news.  I started to explain about the election in very general terms, telling her that two people were trying to earn votes to become our leader in the U.S.  I didn’t mention Trump, Clinton, any specifics, or any opinions.  This is the conversation that ensued:

Mom:  “So on a special day in a few weeks, everyone will have a chance to go vote for who they want to be our leader.  It will be a very important day, and a very important chance to vote for what we want.”

Charlotte: “Oh.  Just like how we have a chance to vote on books at school, to see which one everyone wants to read.”

M:  “Yes!  Same idea.”

C: “So then after everyone votes, they will call her and tell her she won, right?”

She wasn’t talking about Hillary; she doesn’t know Hillary’s name, let alone the fact that one male and one female are running for office!  We don’t have the TV on at home [very often], we don’t talk about politics when the kids are awake [very much], and I hadn’t mentioned Hillary or Trump’s name in this car conversation.

But Charlotte said SHE.  “They will call her and tell HER that SHE won”.

My daughter lives in a world where she expects that women will lead!  That women will win!  That it’s completely obvious and simply normal that a woman would have a very important job.  Of course, this is her three-year-old world, where she hasn’t yet experienced any gender differences.  But I took a pause in the conversation right there to marvel to myself how lucky she is–she’s growing up in a world that will empower her, and one in which she’ll someday ask me “Wait, when I was three, you voted for the FIRST woman president? Why weren’t women leading before that?”

The incredulity that I know will accompany this question–whether she asks it in two years, or twelve years–will just be proof of how far we’ve come.  The time when women didn’t lead, or couldn’t lead, will be such a distant memory that it will be hard for her to believe.  I can teach my daughter all I want that women are powerful, intelligent, and successful…and I do.  But it’s time she starts seeing women doing, being, and leading so that it continues to just be normal and expected for her as she grows up in this world.

Dear Baxter: Happy Birthday 2 You!

Dear Baxter,

My little man, my Bam Bam, my last baby is two!  We are moving out of the baby years for the last time….and wow, was that a blur.  It was a rough year for all four of us, those months between 1 and 2 years old.  You seemed to pick up every illness on the block, and barely gained any weight as a result.  You simply couldn’t–and wouldn’t!–eat because you never felt good.  There were nights when all four of us dissolved into tears at dinner: you from the exhaustion of being repeatedly begged to eat; Dad from the frustration of having the same fight over food every night; me from the constant worry that you were going to be forever harmed if you didn’t eat RIGHT NOW; and Charlotte from being a mere pawn in the midst of all this stress.

It wasn’t pretty.   It was a rocky, demanding, anxiety-provoking several months, bookended by visiting every medical specialist in the greater Portland area.  Thank god that is all behind us now!  And all for naught: you are healthy!

And what do we have, now that it’s over?  An incredibly joyful, easy-going, mild-mannered, and affectionate little man!  If you’d asked me 9 months ago what Baxter would be like at age two, I couldn’t have guessed it.  I couldn’t have even dreamed it!  Some of the highlights of two year old Baxter:

-Your shyness when you take the risk to gently start singing.  As soon as someone clues into your tiny song, you get red-faced and try to hide!  This is such a different side of the “Speedy” and “Bam Bam” Baxter that we all know.

-Your fearless love of jumps (pronounced “dhumps!”) and your incessant need to jump off anything you can find: big, small, round, or dangerous.  “Mommy!  Dhumps!” you shout, most often followed by “I fall!”  and a silly laugh.

-The day you rushed up to me after school and said “Mommy!  Banana.  Fall down.  Mess, floor.  No bib!  Dirty!”  I got the more coherent version from your teacher (your banana fell out of your sandwich at lunch time, got messy on the floor, and you ended up with sun butter all over your shirt because you forgot a bib), but it almost didn’t matter.  You had a vibrant memory of something that had happened 4 hours ago, and you couldn’t WAIT to tell me when I picked you up.  What language!  And what presence of mind!

-You are starting to love books just like your big sister.  Just tonight you gently pushed a Thomas the Tank Engine book onto my lap, curled my fingers around the cover, and asked “Read?  Mommy?”  You love to point out who is sad, who is hurt, and who is funny in these books.

-You love men!  At your birthday party when you needed help, someone said “Take it to Bunna, she can open it.”  You walked right past Bunna and asked Papa for help.  When Nanny and Grampie leave our house, you run straight to Grampie and ask for kisses.  When we talk about going to Memere and Papa’s house, you quickly correct us and say “No!  Just Papa’s house!”  And Uncle “Trabass” is basically your idol.

For all the frustrations and tears we shared last year, we’ve come out on the other side much better for it.  You love your sister “Shart” to death–you follow her around and just die if you can make her laugh.  You’re really good at mimicking her, following her directions (at times) and pushing her down (at times).  It has been beautiful to watch your relationship develop.  Last week when I caught sight of you two holding hands across car seats in my rearview, my heart nearly burst.

You are still loud and proud, and you still do many things a mile a minute, but you have slowed down in some regards.  You can play with trucks for hours, and you entertain yourself with trains every evening.  You wake up in the morning needing a solid five minutes of cuddles, and at bedtime you ask to “No, just sit” awhile longer when I try to put you in bed.  You fool most people with your rough-and-tumble, all-boy personality; we get the best snuggles, wet kisses, and long-lasting hugs at home.  You are still a Bam Bam, but you’re an affectionate little monkey too 🙂

Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Bud.  You’re loving every minute of it, and so are we!  Love,

Mommy

Dear Charlotte: happy three!

Dear Charlotte/Chucky/Cha Cha:

It doesn’t seem possible that my baby is three.  My baby–my original baby–is certainly not a baby and barely even a toddler.  I wrote in your birthday letter last year that we had changed from calling you “Baby Bee” to “Little Bee”.  But now, big three year old, you are simply just “Bee” to us, or sometimes “Chucky”.  (Though you hilariously called yourself “Sucky” for a few months until you could say the ch-sound!)

If the theme of last year’s birthday letter was all the changes in our life, the theme of this year has been independence.  You are a highly verbal and talkative young lady, which has exploded since your 2nd birthday.  So, here are some words straight from your own mouth.  I hope that someday you’ll have a good laugh about the funny three year old you were; but also, that you’ll find some little glimmer or nugget of how you are then reflected so early on in how you are now.  I know that each funny phrase or earnest admonishing you give me is a peek into the future Charlotte, into the teenager and grown up that you’re going to be.  You are building your personality and your character with each passing moment, and we have the gift of watching the pieces evolve along the way.

1) While eating a kiwi the other morning, you told me:  “Mommy! This fruit is kind of like an apple.  They are both green.  And sour.  But this kiwi has a lot of seeds and the apple doesn’t really have a lot.”  

Let’s move beyond the obvious here: that my barely-three-year-old can compare and contrast.  Without prompting.  The point evenmoreso is that you’re always thinking and talking about what you’re doing in the moment.  You love to label things, talk about them, describe them, and give them voice.  “I can hear the wind soaring through the trees” or “Oh! I can see the sunset is coming out!  Look at that beautiful, beautiful sunset!” you’ll exclaim.  You see beauty and interest in the every day things like fruit, weather, and the sky.  Most of us miss it because we are too busy and moving too fast.  This is what I love and will miss most about toddlerhood: the ability and the persuasion to just.move.slowly.  You drink it all in, talk about it, observe it, and love it.  You remind me to just slow down.  How I wish I didn’t have to go work, and could just be slow with you!

2)  “Daddy, I just want to have some privacy.”

You told Dad that you were going to use the potty.  When he followed you in, you turned around and gently–but decisively–said he wasn’t welcome.  You know your own mind, dear Chucky.  I love you for being strong enough to say what you want.  But you do it in a gentle way and with quiet persistence that we follow your requests.  “I’m just not feeling like talking right now” is a frequent refrain when we ask about school.  “Smile, Mommy!  Be happy!” after I’ve just gotten upset with you.  You’re kind, but insistent.  Some may call it bossy.  I say that bossy is a good thing for a girl to be.

While the above examples make me proud, they also make me pause.  We’re finding that you need us less and less.  You clear your own plate from the table, and you’re starting to serve yourself food.  You hang up your jacket, help to feed Pippa, pick out your own clothes and can do your undies, pants, and socks…shirt will be coming soon.  And now, with the recognition that we don’t need to help you with #2 on the potty, we’ve accomplished so many of the toddlerhood milestones.  You just don’t need us in the ways that you used to.

I know that motherhood is all about this gradual release of responsibility.  But it’s hard when you step back to look, and a lot has passed you by since the last time you were aware of it.  In a strange way, time does not move linearly to a mother.  As I wrote to you last year, the greatest gift you can give is to make someone feel needed.  I know it’s developmental, and I know it’s normal.  The ways in which you will need us are going to change hundreds of times in our lives.  But something about the release of these tangible, everyday responsibilities is a hard pill to swallow.

3) You know 18 letters.  

Nobody would ever believe me, but Betsy the literacy specialist is NOT teaching her 3 year old the alphabet.  You have somehow learned 18 letters on your very own, just by picking up on environmental print, and reading as you so love to do.  Your favorite activity for us to “play” with you is reading you a book.  You’re diligent–we cannot skip a page!  You’ll often jump in and read the story along with us, or supply the missing words.  You are so in love with literature, but you’re starting to talk about how you “can’t read” or “don’t know how to read the words yet.”

Hear this*, Chucky: you will be reading in no time.  Look at all the things you CAN do!  You’re already doing the things that pre-readers do: retelling stories and predicting, you can rhyme and make up your own songs in rhythm, and sing word play games like ‘Willabee wallabee Waxter! An elephant sat on Baxter!”

(* “Hear this, Mommy!” is one of your favorite calls to attention).

4)  “Can you put some music on Daddy?”  and “That’s me in the corner!”

A new favorite activity lately is dance parties!  You love to have music on, and it has to be fast enough for you to dance crazily to!  Your current favorites are “That’s me in the corner” by R.E.M. and “Martha my dear” by the Beatles.  You hear a song once, and you can sing it.  You hear a song twice, and you can make up words that fit the same beat.   Dare I say that you may have a musical bone in your body?! A hand-me-down from your mom, perhaps.  (A dancing bone, not so much.  You don’t appear to have your father’s gift for that…yet.)

You are growing and morphing into this wonderfully kind, introspective, curious, and outgoing little girl.  Dad and I both love to take you out for “special Charlotte time” because we always have so much fun.  I am so proud to be your Mommy, and I wish I could pause time to hang onto these toddler moments forever.  They are my favorite. You are my best, best girl!

Love,

Mommy

 

 

Saturday night rager

Ohhhh how Saturday nights have changed.  {Not that this is a new thing.  We’re 2.5 years in!}  But here it is, 8:30pm on a Saturday night, and I’m making pancakes and crock pot applesauce.  To freeze.  So that I can save time making lunch during the work week.

My kids are OBSESSED with these gluten free pancakes.  And with a picky toddler and a one year old who isn’t even ON the dang growth chart (.5%ile), we need all the comfort-food-slash-time-savers we can get!  This one by Cookie and Kate nails it:

http://cookieandkate.com/2013/pumpkin-oat-pancakes/

At least I’m drinking a Geary’s HSA doing it.  Did I mention that the hubster came home from the grocery store with THREE cases of it, and a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream?  I knew I married him for a reason.  That, and he’s so handsome.

Parenting like it’s 1985

This post has been a few months in the making.  I’ve been trying to get it juuuust right.  And then I decided, screw it.  I have two toddlers and a full time job.  I don’t have time to get it just right!  Plus, my new favorite blogger at Renegade Mothering is a big fan of just writing…just getting it out.  Not worrying about perfection, being PC, or sounding ‘good’.  “Just write.” she says.  “Do it.  Do it now”.

So I am.

Anyway.

Parenting like it’s 1985.  I’ve been reading a lot of parenting things online lately, most of them found via clinking on various facebook shares.  The two topics that have struck me lately are ‘Slow parenting‘, and  the importance of self-care.  Slow parenting is this idea that we should stop hurrying our children along.  Stop scheduling so much, so that we are not always in a rush.  Take 86 minutes to walk around the block.  Spend the time to look at that caterpillar, and then dig in the dirt.  Stop saying “hurry up”, “we’ll be late” and “let’s GO!”

The importance of self-care is…well…important.  For so many reasons.

I’m trying harder to go slower.  I’m doing a good job at taking care of myself.  But, sometimes they are in direct conflict with one another.  On a weekend morning, I could color pictures and make pretend eggs in the play kitchen.  Or I could go for a run {alone}.  On Saturday, I was torn between the two.  I needed to run, to clear my head and be more ready to parent.  But I’d also spent the entire work week rushing around, and just wanted to say “YES” when Charlotte asked me to play.  I found myself debating which to do, in the middle of the living room.  “What would the article say?” I actually thought to myself.

Woah.  Hold on.  I don’t need to read something online to make every.single.decision.  In fact, I read so much online, that it actually takes up a ridiculous amount of my time.  And mothers people everywhere have been making sound decisions long before the internet and our smart phones.

So I got to thinking.

I spend a lot of time on facebook.  I click on a lot of articles that well-meaning friends share.  How to do this, Why you should do X,Y,Z with your kids, What your 2-year old should know and be doing.  Honestly, you can find any type of ‘research’ to back up any parenting decision you want (or don’t want) to make.  We’re living in this crazy digital culture that makes us over-analyze and over-research.  So I decided to take a break.  I’m going back to parenting like it’s 1985.  That is, before the internet.

Why?

1) I know my kids, and I know my own and Fred’s values and our wishes for them.  I think we can figure out how, why, and what issues to parent.  My kids are pretty awesome, and I am damn near obsessed with them.  So why not just go with our gut?

2) Without facebook time, I’ll have time for things I always say I don’t have time for!  Like: writing!  Stretching after a run.  Making real-life phone calls to friends.  Reading an actual book.  Making those curtains for the playroom that I’ve been thinking about.

(Disclaimer: I will not quit my boobie group.  You guys are my rock.  My peeps.  I NEED you.)

So, farewell to the land of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of this article and that study, the cute pictures of other peoples’ babies (gasp!) …along with pictures of Friday night drinks, the view from a vacation balcony, and a Wednesday morning latte. It’s not you, it’s me.  I got some things I gotta do.  If you’re curious what they are, you can find out about it here.  We’ll be busy, but doing it all slowly (of course).