Four

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Noah, Happy Birthday to you,”

I sang softly into his ear as I rubbed his back.

We were waking up in an unfamiliar but extremely comfortable bed at the beach for a combination celebration of his 4th birthday and my husband’s 30th.

“I can’t believe you are four years old today!” I enthusiastically said as I watched his toothless grin appear beneath the haze of his sleepy eyes.

He gripped his Curious George lovey and snuggled close as he began to transition from his sleepiness.

“But Mommy?” he asked urgently once he had time to gather his thoughts. “Do you still love me if I’m four?”

I hugged him tightly as I responded “Of course I still love you! I love you every day, all the time, and I will love you forever no matter what age you are!”

“You will love me even when I’m sixteen?”

“Yes, I will love you even when you’re sixteen. I will love you forever.”

We slowly transitioned out of bed, because just beyond our bedroom door in the beach house all of his uncles and aunts were waiting. It was our very first combined sibling beach trip and it was so much fun!

But there in the midst of the excitement, I found myself staring at my sweet four year old boy, who I remembered as a baby and in all his in-between stages until now.

And of course I will love him, no matter how old he gets, no matter what he does, no matter who he becomes.

A Happy Birthday to the love of my life, my sweet little four year old.

 

Celebrating four years at the beach

Celebrating four years at the beach

My 30 year old and my 4 year old.

My 30 year old and my 4 year old

 

 

When Your Best Friend is Three

When the person you spend the most time with is three, it also tends to happen that they become your best friend.

You are with them every second of every day.

When you spend all of your time with someone you begin to notice the nuance of a sigh, the preamble to a smile, and the lingering of a disappointment.

They see you at your best, your worst, your strongest, and your most vulnerable.

And since the age of three does not come with a filter, they call you out. On everything.

When your best friend is three, they don’t hesitate to tell you that the green dress you put on makes you “look like a T-rex.” Obviously, you are not leaving the house in that condition.

When your best friend is three, they will help you limit your calorie intake by telling you that you don’t need to eat any more “so your tummy won’t get squishy.”

They can boost your ego with a “you look beautiful” and tell you like it is when you need to freshen up so you “won’t be scary” with a “maybe you need a little make up.”

When your best friend is three you find that your most animated conversations tend to involve the life cycle of bugs or the origins of poo.

They will also help you make decisions with impressive negotiating skills, like when you can’t decide if the afternoon’s activity should involve cleaning or playing. “How about this, Mommy? You can clean and I can play.” Problem solved.

When your best friend is three, you find yourself in power struggles. You want to value their opinion just as much as they want to be heard, but sometimes you still have to the be grown up.

When your best friend is three you might share your day with them even if it involved grown up things like bill paying and phone calls, because even though you don’t want to burden them with grown up stuff it’s ok to let them know it exists.

When your best friend is three you will truly be excited to hear about what the teachers said at camp today and who they played with that morning because you are just as curious about their child life as they are of your grown up one.

When your best friend is three you will sometimes not understand why they are so upset because you thought you were having a great day until the flip switched and you have no idea how to fix it.

When your best friend is three you may find yourself hovering between a desire to let go and a desire to hang on because three doesn’t last forever and fearlessness sometimes presides over logic.

When your best friend is three sometimes you just need a break because you can’t talk to them about all of the crazy that runs around in your mind all day. They are, after all, only three.

When your best friend is three you will find yourself on a roller coaster. I have spent days laughing, crying, being frustrated, being confused and being content.

When your best friend is three you will be surprised when you see bits of yourself in them. Maybe it’s looks or mannerisms or emotions but this little mini me has somehow become both your shadow and your reflection.

When your best friend is three you may find your world is small and large all at once. Because only in the confinements of a three year old world can you be completely isolated from the complexity of adult life and completely in awe of the world’s vastness in unison.

When your best friend is three you know there will be a limit to it. It’s not like when you were in school and you got those BFF bracelets with your girlfriends. (You did this, too, yes?) It’s not like your relationship with your husband that will grow and change and come together and fall apart.

It’s different.

When your best friend is three, you are completely aware that it is fleeting and that one day he may not be so interested in hanging out with you at the coffee shop or telling you all of the details about his day. Even the yucky ones.

When your best friend is three, you know that this part may end. But you hope, so very much, that the parts where he’s honest with you, and loves you, and laughs with you and shares with you will stick around.

Because you know that somehow what you are establishing with your little best friend now will be the foundation for what you will sustain with him later.

And even though you know he will not always think so, you will always think of him as the very best part of yourself.

That is what happens when your best friend is three.

My Best Friend, Age 3

Noah age 3

 

End of The Year

I drove home alone from choir rehearsal as the dusk began to settle into dark.

Tears had been on the verge of falling for days, but I was completely unsure of why.

When’s the last time you let yourself cry? I asked myself. Surprisingly, I could not come up with an answer. Not a stranger to tear fall, I realized it had been a long time since I gave myself permission to just let go.

I got home to a house still alive with lights though it was well past bedtime. Things don’t always go according to schedule when I leave my boys to their own devices.

Last week was the end of the year songfest at my son’s preschool where they gave an adorable performance which I was unable to capture on film because my phone is ridiculous. (Or it was a user error. Either way.)

End of the Year Preschool Performance

End of the Year Preschool Performance

At the End of the Year Preschool Performance

At the End of the Year Preschool Performance

This week was the last week of school. The milestone of “the last day” was significant and difficult for me. My son wasn’t phased, but he was a very enthusiastic participant in picking out teacher gifts and delivering them with big smiles and equally big hugs.

Last Day of 3K

Last Day of 3K

This week was also the last week of his dance class and he had a dance recital. He was the only boy in the class, but he loved his dance teacher, dance class, and was very good at his dance routines. My phone didn’t capture much of that performance either (UGH) but I hope I always remember how proud he was of himself with his dance routine and the big smile he would bear when he glanced into the audience to see his Mommy and Daddy watching him.

Stretching before his dance recital

Stretching before his dance recital

The only boy in dance class. He rocked his dance recital.

The only boy in dance class. He rocked his dance recital.

I found something on Pinterest a while ago about the book “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. You buy the book and have all of your child’s teachers sign it from their first day of school through high school and you give it to them at high school graduation. When I presented them with teacher gifts this year I asked his teachers to sign the book and tracked down his teachers from last year so they could sign it also. Now I have it tucked away, ready for next spring and the next set of teachers in his life to sign a book that I will give to him the summer before he leaves for college.

The house that should have been quiet was still blossoming with activity as my husband and son entered into a tickling game at 9:00 at night. Usually one to lead the time-to-go-to-bed parade, this time I decided to watch and found myself laughing along as my boys tickled and my son’s screams of laughter and delight floated through the air.

The notebook his teachers had put together lay open on the coffee table in the living room. Consumed with the busyness that accompanies end of the year events, we hadn’t had time to watch the CD enclosed in the yellow paper case tucked into the inside pocket.

“Do you think that CD would play on your x-box?” I posed, looking for a way to transition to a quiet activity and satisfy my curiosity at once.

“Umm, maybe,” replied my husband, jumping up to try.

A few seconds later we were all greeted with full screen animation of a class picture and a title that read “Zany Zoo Three Year Old Class 2012-2013.” A press of the play button would reveal a slideshow set to the song “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” of all of the pictures the teachers had taken of the students throughout the year.

And then, finally, I found myself sobbing on the couch. Really sobbing in full ugly cry fashion.

“It’s ok, Mommy, don’t cry,” said my not-so-little-anymore boy as he tried to wipe away my tears. “Why are you crying, Mommy?”

It took me awhile to compose a sentence.

“Not so long ago, I was a teacher. At the end of the year I worked very hard to make a book for all of my students and I made a CD just like this with pictures and music for the Mommies and Daddies to have of their babies. And now I’m a Mommy of a sweet boy who is old enough to go to school and get CDs like this and I have been working on a book to give to you at your high school graduation. And that means that one day you are going to graduate high school and you’re just growing up so fast!”

I’m sure he stopped listening half way through. My husband gave me a bemused look. His hardness balances my mushy. We are the epitome of opposites attract.

I did find the strength to laugh at myself over my scene. “End of school years are always going to be hard for me. I am always going to be that Mommy that cries at the end of every school year. Get used to it people.”

My husband and son laughed and smiled. My foreshadowing of events came as a surprise to no one.

We were laughing again, though I don’t remember why, and finally began our ascent upstairs to bed.

How apt, I thought, that I just pondered when the last time was I gave myself permission to cry, and then I found tears releasing themselves during a preschool slideshow.

Funny how sometimes things work out exactly the way they are supposed to.

A popcicle treat after his end of the year picnic at preschool. He's growing up so fast!!

A popcicle treat after his end of the year picnic at preschool. He’s growing up so fast!!

 

* Linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop inspired by the prompt “5.) Pinterest Inspired! Share something you pinned and actually tried.” *

Christmas Moments

Time is rushing by, as it tends to do.

There are still presents to be gotten and wrapped, cookies to bake and stockings to fill.

I feel so very far behind this year, though I am normally such an organized person.

But this year, instead of letting the stress of my a-bit-behind schedule throw me, I’m taking in moments.

Moments of meals eaten in a Christmas filled dining room.

Moments of salt dough ornament making.

And couch cuddles by the tree.

Moments of neighbor gifts delivered by a sweet toddler.

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Moments of excitement as the mail comes each day filled with beautiful Christmas cards of those we love.

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Moments of stockings hung by the stairs and Santa pictures with little ones.

I know we will all be stepping away from our computers soon to enjoy our last minute shopping and never-long enough family time.

But I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

From our family to yours,

 

(This is a video of my son’s Christmas performance at school. I pixelated it to protect the privacy of the children. But how can you resist those sweet little voices? Enjoy!)

Merry Christmas video

 

Choosing Memories

We had spent the day getting ready.

Which means I spent hours on make-up and hair in between fixing toddler snacks and playing trains and putting on toddler shows.

We fought about putting on shoes and “please don’t spill milk on your shirt” and “please stop messing up your hair Mommy just brushed it.”

We struggled all day, just the toddler and I.

The husband changed out of scrubs into street clothes and met us at the park straight from work.

We were rushed.

We were tired.

We were all drained.

The toddler had a case of the “I don’t want tos” and screamed and fought and kicked and would not smile.

We begged and pleaded in between rushed and whispered how were your days and looks of desperation.

We bribed with ice cream and even resorted to a scolding.

It was a disaster.

But then our amazing photographer managed to capture these:

My beautiful boy

My sweet family

Fall leaves

The way we were when we were still in our twenties and he was still three

An afternoon in the park (I think this is my favorite)

A silly face

Some of the historic beauty of Richmond(We are right in front of the famous St. John’s Church in Richmond, VA where Patrick Henry gave his “give me liberty of give me death” speech. The sign behind us is noting the historical site.)

A family of three

And so I hope that many years into the future when I see these pictures I will not remember the tired Mommy or the fighting toddler or the rushing over from work husband.

I will choose to remember the beauty of our little family, at that moment in time.

When he was still little, and we were still in this busied, crazy, beautiful stage of life.

*The amazing photographer that manages to make our little family look beautiful is Amy Robinson of Amy Robinson Photography. If you are in the Richmond area, check out her website or Facebook page to book a session!*

 

Imperfectly Perfect

I am often guilty of over-praising my son. I tell him he is perfect and that he is wonderful. I tell him how proud I am of him and how much I love him many times a day. I say “good job” to his actions and think he is lovely all of the time…even when he’s not.

There are child experts who tell you not to over-praise with a fear of encouraging mediocrity  There are people who say telling my son is perfect will give him a complex he can never live up to. Perhaps I am doing it all wrong.

The truth is, no one is perfect. No one lives each day with behavior and actions that are always inspirational or well intended or kind. Everyone makes mistakes.

Of course my son’s behavior is not perfect when he colors on the walls or throws temper tantrums or has trouble in school. He doesn’t always do a good job and the way he treats others isn’t always wonderful. I am not blind to the fact that he is, like all of us, not flawless.

But I do, always, always, think the essence of him is perfect.

His deep brown eyes, his small fingers, his sweet toddler feet. The way his eyelashes flutter and the way he smiles with a partly toothless grin. I think it is perfect the way he gives huge, tight hugs and the way he laughs even if I don’t know what’s funny. I think it’s perfect when he dances and runs and says “I love you” and makes up stories. I think it is perfect the way the thinks, the way his mind puts together information, the way he is growing into himself. I think he is perfectly him, and I love him more than words could ever describe.

It may be true that no one is perfect, but shouldn’t we all be lucky enough to have someone in our lives that sees us that way? Someone who, even in the midst of tantrums or bad behavior or our not-our-best moments sees us as pure and good? How wonderful is it to know that you are loved even in the midst of being your imperfectly perfect self?

Being a mother has taught me how to love in a way I never knew before. For no matter what or who he chooses to be, I have been given the gift of being able to love him unconditionally.

So even in the midst of life’s imperfections, I cherish this gift of being able to see and give love in imperfectly perfect way.

 

Noah, October 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Days and Short Years

*I wrote this post sometime this summer. I am so terribly behind on blogging, but I wanted to share it with you today.*

These days are long.

These days like today, where this boy sent me on a roller coaster of emotions ranging from elated to exhausted to angry to proud to exasperated to in awe.

This boy who just today threw 3 temper tantrums, drank my Starbucks, opened and ate a watermelon in the middle of the grocery store, stuck modeling clay to his bedroom wall, stuck his penis through the hole of a CD, tracked poo throughout the house, dumped out an entire jumbo bag of cat food in the laundry room and then tried to put the cat in the bath.

Just today, I found myself apologizing to the grocery store cashier for the half eaten dripping watermelon he had to ring up so we could exit the store, and saying the phrases, “Please take your penis out of the CD.” “Why is there poo on your foot?” “How did this entire bag of cat food wind up on the floor?” “We do not put cats in baths.”

But on this same day, this boy said, “You are the beu-ti-est Mommy I eber seen.” And my heart smiled. Just today, this boy was thoughtful enough to pack a snack in his Daddy’s work bag and say, “Daddy, you can take this snack to work to share with your friends.” Just today, this boy and I shared a lovely evening walk.

Yes, these days are long.

But these years are short.

This boy will be three years old in September. In just three years he has changed dramatically from a helpless infant to a thoughtful, smart, challenging, adorable, child. He has formed complex thoughts and a personality all his own.

This boy has entered my life and it has been a whirlwind ever since. He has changed me completely, and my love for him at times is so intense that it feels overpowering. This boy has taught me more about life and love in the three years I have known him than I ever could have put together on my own. And I am so aware that my time with him is limited. It will not be long before his world expands beyond this one we have created together. It will not be long before he is old enough to make his own grocery store trips and buy his own Starbucks and take care of his own pets. It will not be long before Mommy and Daddy are no longer the center of his world and he is no longer my sweet little boy.

Yes, these years are short.

“The days are long but the years are short.” – unknown, but my favorite quote since becoming a mommy

The Second Birthday

In honor of my son’s third birthday on Saturday, (which I’m only kind of freaking out about), I am sharing the stories and pictures of his first two. In case you missed it, here is the story of his first birthday.

By the time the my son’s second birthday rolled around, I was in a much better place emotionally. It also coincided with my sister’s wedding, which took place in GA. I was a little distracted from my usual emotional vulnerability as I did maid of honor duties, prepared to sing at her ceremony, tried to prepare my little guy to be the ring bearer, and planned another large family gathering party…this time to take place in GA the weekend before my sister’s wedding.

The first year, I did not really know what “theme” to do, so I went with the colors blue and green and did cupcakes. The second year, my son had fallen in love with a character named Curious George. His loveys are two little Curious George stuffed animals. Though we have since moved on from his obsession with the TV show, the loveys are still a constant presence in our home and at the time Curious George was pretty much the only TV that ever got watched in our home.

So, naturally, the second birthday was all about George.

I meticulously planned all of the details, including shipping items to my in-laws house in GA where the party would take place, and prepared to throw a second birthday party with all of our family 10 hours away from our home.

The day of the party was flawless; family gathered together at my in-laws, some of my girlfriends from high school were able to stop by, and my in-laws helped with all of the set up and clean up.

Here’s a peek at the Curious George second birthday party in Georgia:

The invitation

The decorations

The birthday boy

The amazing cake

Family birthday pictures

Blowing out the candle, digging in, and opening presents.

After a very successful second birthday party in Georgia, we enjoyed my sister’s wedding. She was a stunning bride and my little guy was an adorable ring bearer.

My beautiful sister and my sweet boy

Me, my husband, and our sweet boy at the wedding

After an incredibly busy week in Georgia, we headed home to Richmond where we were met with the surprise of a massive power outage and a ton of debris in our yard. Richmond, VA was one of the many areas affected by the 2011 Hurricane Irene. We were one of the lucky ones who were not harmed and whose house was still standing, but we were without power for TEN DAYS.

On my son’s actual second birthday, September 1st, 2011, we were in a home with no power, and when the mailman arrived he delivered an IRS audit and an $11,000 bill for a dental surgery my son had that insurance was refusing to cover. (I will have to tell you that whole story one day.) So, similar to the first birthday, I spent most of his actual second birthday in tears.

Luckily, our power was restored after ten days and by the next week we had a small play date with his two best friends in Richmond.

The second birthday party play date. Two parties for turning two.

Two birthday parties for turning two, with a wedding and an eventful actual birthday thrown in.

The First Birthday

As a countdown to my son’s third birthday party, I thought I would share the first two.

The first birthday was the hardest one for me. I was an emotional wreck with the realization that my son was turning one, and had an incredibly difficult time with the one year anniversary of my difficult birth experience.

To add to my emotional anxiety, we had also just moved to Richmond, VA when my son was 9 months old. As soon as I had unpacked boxes I was throwing a huge birthday party.

All of our family flew up from GA to celebrate the only grandchild on both sides’ first birthday. It was a huge milestone. My mom, brother, sister, and all of their significant others as well as my husband’s parents, two brothers, sister-in-law and grandmother were there. We piled 15 people into our newly bought house and admired our sweet little boy.

The grand celebration was a four-day affair of family visiting, but the actual celebration was taking place on the Saturday after he turned one. This turned out to be a very good thing since I spent most of the day of his actual birthday crying.

We enjoyed the company of family and suffered minimal drama, though there always seems to be some at large family gatherings.

And then on the morning of the day of his party, my little boy started having trouble breathing. My husband and I weren’t terribly worried, but as the day progressed and his condition didn’t, we decided to head to the emergency room.

While we endured our first emergency room visit with our little boy, a scary experience that resulted in a diagnosis of croup, a steroid shot, and a nebulizer treatment, our family used their nervous energy to decorate the house for the party. My father-in-law even mowed the lawn. It was incredibly sweet, and when we got home from the hospital we had a party celebrating the first year of our little boy’s life.

The Significance of a Yellow Birthday Party

Sometime in April or May, my son started asking me for a “yellow birthday party.” Initially, this kind of intimidated me. I wasn’t exactly sure what a yellow birthday party was. So I asked him what he would like at his yellow birthday party.

“Um, ye-whoa cake and ye-whoa cupcakes and ye-whoa candles, and ye-whoa baboons.”

With these instructions in mind, I did what any one would do in this time of creative crisis; I searched Pinterest. And then I got excited because people have actually thrown yellow parties before and they were adorable! So I gathered all of these ideas together and made my own Pinterest Board: Noah’s 3rd Birthday Inspiration Board.

And then, I got SUPER excited because think of all the yellow food! Bananas, pineapple, cheese, Goldfish crackers, and lemonade. And then I got even MORE super excited because those are all perfect toddler foods! My son has come up with the BEST toddler themed birthday party ever!

So I made my Pinterest inspiration board and typed up a Word Document listing all needed party supplies, a guest list, food, and decorations. In May. (If you are trying to decide which part of that to make fun of; the part where I actually devoted a Word Document to my son’s party or the part where I did that in May, go ahead and know my family made fun of me for both.)

My son is so excited about this party. He has been telling people for months that he is having a “ye-whoa birthday party in Sep-ember.” And I have been planning the yellow birthday party in September since May.

For months, my son and I have slowly been gathering yellow things when we see them at the store, collecting them all carefully in the guest room closet. Throughout the summer I have slowly bought out most of the yellow things in the Richmond area. It’s like when you are pregnant and all of a sudden you notice all of the pregnant bellies and babies around you. But this time, I notice all things yellow.

I have also been preparing the house with diligent cleaning and yard work. Last week I re-organized the master closet, the linen closet, the guest bathroom closet, and thoroughly cleaned the entire house. I arranged for people to come and power wash the deck, re-mulch the back yard, and spray for mosquitoes this week before the big day, September 1st.

And then last Wednesday, after a particularly long day at home with the toddler, I went to the grocery store by myself when my husband got home. It was as much for my own sanity as it was for our need of milk.

While I was there, I decided to go ahead and order the cupcakes and balloons.

And that was it. Those were the last items on my list. After months of planning, all of the steps are done. Now, we just have to wait and have the party. Which means that my son is turning three.

The reality of that hit me as I began my drive home from the store, and found myself sobbing at a red light. My tears continued to fall as I wiped them away and drove the familiar route from the grocery store to my house. My baby is turning three.

September 1st is hard for me. It is the anniversary of one of the worst days of my life; a difficult birth experience I still have not mustered the courage or words to share.

But it is also the birthday of my son, the center of my world, my sweet boy that has changed my life in so many amazing ways. And this year, my baby will be three.

It’s amazing to see him now in all his three-ness, and at the same time see him at all of his life stages; his newborn helplessness, his baby coos, his beginning words, his toddling steps, his ever expanding world view.

Is this what being a parent is always like? Having the ability to see not only the person before you but also the child that they grew from? Knowing them not only for who they are now, but for who they were and for who they have always been? Having a love for them that is so intense it sometimes threatens to overpower you?

September 1st seems to sneak up on me every year with an overwhelming surge of mixed emotions. An anniversary of a hardship blended with the birthday of my greatest gift. And this year, the emotional pondering of my mixed blessings of motherhood are wrapped up in the intricate details of an extensively planned yellow birthday party.