Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Happy 7 Johnny

Dear Johnny,

Today you are 7.

You held my hand on the way to the bus stop today. Do you know how much that made my day?

There used to be a time when you’d hold my hand everywhere. You were never one of those toddlers who’d try to wriggle away from me or shake off a hug. You were my lovebug—always in the mood for a snuggle. Every morning you’d crawl into bed and sneak under the covers, and sometimes you’d whisper “You’re so pretty” or “I love you Mommy.” For forever you were my best buddy—writing me love notes and making me jewelry and crafts. I still have that big heart note posted on my wall you made last year: “I love you. Take this wherever you go.” I like to look at it every morning.

Especially since I missed my sweet little boy, who hasn’t wanted to snuggle as much this year. I think 6 might have been the year you tried to figure it all out. Maybe you didn’t quite feel like my little buddy anymore. Maybe you felt a little stuck.

My sweet little middle boy.

So many changes I think had you feeling disappointed? Confused? Angry? And probably just sad.  I know it’s all a part of getting older and finding your place in the family. You went from being my baby to being my middle. Of course I love you just as much, but, I’m heartbroken to admit, that you might not have fully felt that.

When you grabbed my hand this morning I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to hold on, and let you know that you’re loved beyond belief. You—and your adorable missing front teeth. You, my friend, are unlike anyone in the world and you have to know that’s so good. You’re my creative inventor, whose mind is always churning. You meticulously build forts for bugs and transform toilet paper rolls into rattles for your baby sister, or bottle caps and wire into bracelets for me. You’re my early riser who makes smoothies topped with dollops of whipped cream for everyone. You play endlessly in your imaginary world where Barbies and Darth Vader are equally entertaining. You’re my explorer who loves little critters and you’re happier caked in mud.

While 6 might not have been your favorite year, you just have to know that you’re so special and you are needed and wanted more than you can imagine. Our family just wouldn’t be a family without our energetic, loving, quirky little middle boy. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


The night before Easter, this guy lost his top tooth--meaning there would be a visit from the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy. 

No big deal...except his sneaky older sister decided to sleep in his room because she was "soooo excited" about Easter. I didn't think too much of it because I know they love to sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve too. 

So, after the eggs were hidden and the baskets were ready, I crept into Johnny's room with a little plastic egg filled with $10 (yes I know that's outrageous, but that's the smallest bill we had), and a tiny note from the Tooth Fairy. 

But, as I slipped out of the room with the tooth, I hear  Julie: "Mom, what are you doing in here?"

Me: "Ummm. I thought I heard something. Are you guys OK?" 

Julie: "Yup. We're good. Goodnight." 

And that was it. 

No mention of it the next morning. 

So, either she didn't remember, she didn't connect the dots, or more likely, she doesn't want to know the truth, and just wants to live the magic a little bit longer. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Big spender

This is it.
After saving for months, Johnny spent his hard-earned $26 on something every kid wants----a salt and pepper shaker Fork Man. Appropriately (or more accurately "inappropriately") titled "Forked Up Art." (In my defense, I didn't notice that tag until afterwards.)

This is not exactly how I would choose to spend 26 bucks, but Scott and I have taken the approach that the kids can pretty much spend THEIR money on whatever they like...within reason of course. Ideally this means we don't buy the kids impromptu things like toys or movies or books or Fork Men. If they spend all their money... they just have to save again.

Johnny's usually quite the spender. He's impulsive and usually spends his money immediately...whether it be toys or treats or books. But, once he laid eyes on this Fork Man he was convinced he had to save. Save he did..though the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny allowed him to reach his $26 goal a little quicker.

And, while, we ultimately hope he'll learn some real life money lessons some day, we can't help but smile at how happy this guy was today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

There's always tomorrow

Here's a great way to start off the day.

Shrieking. Screaming. Wailing.

That's Johnny. Like something major is going down.

Run downstairs.

"Julie ate my waffles!!!"


Sternly put Johnny in his place. "You are going to be 7 next month!! You don't act like this. Unacceptable."

More tears. Big time.

He runs to his room.

Then I see this.


He wanted to surprise everyone with this sweet little arrangement. Waffles with syrup dipping sauce and of course chocolate kisses. Big sister comes and scarfs down the waffles he made for "evrbody."

Mean mommy yells at him. Day ruined. Sorry buddy. There's always tomorrow.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Forget me not

Our kids are pretty forgetful.
They can't find their shoes on a daily basis. They leave their coats at their friends' houses and their water bottles at school. I feel like the mornings and nights are filled with constant reminders.
Last Thursday night I reminded Julie twice to put her math homework in her binder. It was due Friday and she would not get credit if it was turned in late.

What did she leave sitting on  her desk on Friday morning?

The homework, of course.

I came very close to not taking it to school for her. I wondered if all these reminders and extra help were enabling the kids' forgetfulness. Maybe it was time to teach a little lesson in responsibility, I thought.

I googled "Should I bring in my child's forgotten homework?" and most responses or blogs I read were in favor of not bringing in the homework and making your child suffer the consequences.
A local friend agreed. "Maybe if it were her lunch or glasses, I would bring them. But not homework."

But I felt guilty. We live 2 minutes from school. Literally. I wasn't busy at all that day. I had no reason not to take the homework other than to teach Julie a lesson. But would she learn? Would it be a good lesson? Or would she think her mom just didn't care?

Then Scott finally texted back. "You should take it. She works so hard," he texted. "Plus we like her :)"

That's when I knew he was right. She's our daughter. Why not show her the love? Why not help her when we can? It's not like I was taking a final exam for her. I was bringing in her homework that she had struggled all week to complete.

If I hadn't taken it, would she have remembered it next time? Maybe. But maybe this time she learned the lesson that she's worth our time and we have her back no matter what.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The more things change...the more they change

I left Baltimore 10 years ago.
A decade.

I remember my hometown so clearly. I lived there for 27 years after all. I remember the shortcuts and side streets. My favorite snowball stand and the restaurant on the corner where we always went to celebrate something special. I remember sledding down our favorite "big hill," trekking through the snow to the pizza restaurant and walking to the swimming pool every day in the summer.

There's so much I can envision and sometimes it feels as if it's still home. I still call it home anyway.

But, recently I've found that I don't quite recognize the place where I grew up. The stores have changed, and so have the restaurants. There are more houses and offices and shopping centers.

When I talk to my friends about Baltimore, (all still live in town) I find that I don't know at all what they're talking about. We met up for a girls trip last weekend. They were incredibly sweet and bought me a plane ticket, and arranged for Scott to take off work to watch the kids. It was an amazing bonding weekend, but whenever talk drifted to Baltimore or Maryland, I found I didn't have a thing to contribute.

They talked about the best restaurants and bars, and fun places to take the kids. I didn't recognize anything they were talking about. It was a realization that my hometown isn't really my hometown anymore. Most likely we won't move back. (We've moved too many times and can't move the kids again.) We've been away so long, that it really isn't home...at least not the way it used to be.

While this makes me sad, I feel grateful to have grown up in such a diverse area with a wonderful family and amazing friends who I still see every so often. We made some great memories, and that's how I'll remember my town.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reality check

My daughter is 10.
In my mind, she's the little girl who writes stories about imaginary creatures, and plays for hours on end with Beanie-boos and Barbies. She believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Elf on the Shelf, the Tooth Fairy and mischievous leprechauns.

She wants nothing to do with boys and makeup or fashion. She doesn't understand puberty and wouldn't mind taking a bath with her 6 year old brother while they play super heroes--even though we long ago ended this ritual.

She's innocent and sweet and naive and clueless, or so I thought.

Then, I found this.

I wasn't snooping. I swear. I just happened to be cleaning up her desk. She had been home sick the day before and there were tissues and cough drop wrappers everywhere. But, then I found this---an entire artist's pad full of before and after drawings of people who had apparently undergone a sex change or "gender swap." There's Belle and Elsa becoming boys and Penn and Teller becoming women. There's Aladdin and Prince Charming and Cinderella and Snow White. All undergoing gender transformations. 

What the heck?? Seriously, what the heck is going on? What does this mean? 

I wracked my brain trying to think when she would have even heard the term. Had she been watching the news about Caitlyn Jenner? Or was it something she found on her own? 

Then I freaked about what she might have googled or found on YouTube. Both kids are allowed an hour on Saturday and an hour on Sunday of iPad/laptop time. During the week, they only use technology for school work. So, it's not like they have been spending countless hours online. 

But, apparently that was enough. Along with the Barbie videos she watches on YouTube, Julie found some "shows" about Disney characters and gender swaps. Basically, there were cartoon renderings of how different characters would look if they were the opposite sex. 

So, not as awful as I thought, but still a little bit more information than I was willing to cover with a 10-year-old. Of course I know our kids can't stay sheltered forever, and I know that this is the real world. There are all different types of people, and of course I want our kids to know that and be respectful and tolerant and kind. I get all that and we aren't raising our kids to hate or judge.

But, some topics are just too hard to explain, and I'm not ready. I'm just not. Somehow 10 years crept up on us, and we have an obviously curious little girl who knows more about the world than we realized.

From this little revelation, two things have occurred: No more YouTube. (That's just asking for trouble.) And, Scott and I are determined to be more inquisitive and tuned in to the kids, and not just assume that everything is right and innocent in their little worlds. I recently read a blog by a mom who said just because children are quiet doesn't mean they aren't feeling or thinking certain things.

I think that's what I've learned from this. While our kids may be so innocent in so many ways, there are so many things they are learning and feeling and experiencing every day. All we, as parents can do is be loving and open and listen. Just listen.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taking her time..

On Tuesday this little girl turned 14 months.

She just started walking, and she doesn't say much other than "Hi!" And she says that to everyone and everything....including pictures and stuffed animals.

This sweet little girl is just so quiet, and I'm stuck here feeling guilty that maybe she's left behind a lot of the time. As a baby she was just so go-with-the-flow that I toted her around everywhere and she barely made a peep. To play dates, and Girl Scouts, to the park and karate practice.

Of course we played with her and read to her and there was plenty of snuggle time, but compared to her older brother and sister, her babyhood was much different.

When Julie was a baby, I was a bit neurotic. I think maybe I was trying to prove myself as a stay-at-home mom. But I was obsessed with her learning everything. At her 1 year appointment I proudly informed the doctor that Julie could say 73 words that we could understand. The doctor, unimpressed didn't play into my psychoses. By the time she was 18 months, my Julie could identify every letter of the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, and by 2 years old she could say all the letter sounds and had been talking in sentences for a while. And, yes I was one of those annoying moms who delighted when her kid showed off her skills in public. "Look my toddler knows every letter in the alphabet!" Sorry to whoever I knew back then.

Anyway, when Johnny came around, and he was only saying a couple dozen words at 15 months, I freaked. What was I doing wrong? I called an early intervention agency where we lived in Pennsylvania. After an evaluation, they assured me my son was "normal" but they agreed to visit us once a month and work with him for free. Though he wasn't as verbal as his big sister, Johnny, I soon discovered, was an excellent puzzle solver and builder, and he loved to put things together.

He's almost 7, and of course he's talking just fine. In fact it was only a couple months after that first visit, that he became almost as chatty as Julie. That experience made me realize how kids grow and learn so differently and at different paces, and they each have different strengths.

With Josie, our third baby, I know I just have to be patient and let her develop at her own pace. Though I've matured and chilled a bit, I still have a bit of neurotic mom in me. Am I doing enough? Does she need help? In fact I called the local early intervention agency to evaluate Josie just in case she does need help. Of course when I told Scott, he just rolled his eyes. See...he knows how I am!
Deep down, I do know she's fine. She's just taking her time, and I have to be OK with that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

He came back.

It was the bracelet sitting on my nightstand.
Two tiny heart charms dangling from a wiry gold string, held together with tape.

I hadn't noticed it earlier in the day, but there it was as I got in bed, and I realized the day had been filled with sweetness from my 6 1/2 year old little boy. He was the "old Johnny"--the boy who held my cheeks in his hands and told me he loved me. The one who crawled in my bed early every morning just to snuggle. My best buddy who wrote me love notes every day or made me jewelry and crafts.

That boy hasn't come around too much lately...he started to come around less and less after his baby sister Josie was born.

I have no one to blame but my sleep-deprived, 37-year-old self. I pushed him away too many times to count. He would try to climb into bed early in the morning like he always had, but I'd scuttle him back to bed, telling him it was too early. He'd ask to play Legos, but I was too tired. He wanted to dance to music, but I'd tell him he was too loud.

And now a year later, when I'm not so sleep deprived and I wouldn't mind a morning snuggle or a rowdy afternoon dance  party, he's not here.

He wants to play at his friend's house, and he has his own Lego world where I'm not invited. He'd rather rush down early in the morning to sneak in more iPad time, than to snuggle with his mommy. I can't help but feel that I blew it--I lost that sweet little boy.

But, last Sunday, I had him. He was all mine and he was just the way he always was. We played golf and Legos and danced in the dark. He wrote me love letters and made me a holder for Valentines out of toilet paper rolls and a plastic cup. And then there was the bracelet sitting there for me to find.

He came back and I'm not letting go this time.