Being a Boy Mom

Being a boy mom is…weird.

Never in my life have I discussed penises more than I do as the mother of a boy.

Before having a boy, I never had to make myself highly interested in bugs. Or slime. Or bodily functions.

Before having a boy, I never had the life experience of cleaning up poop from toilets, floors, and walls. And the top of the toilet. And the carpet. And almost any other possible surface.

Before having a boy, I never realized just how active boys really are. I hear people say it all the time, but I think they really are wired differently than girls. Little boy brains just think differently.

So, naturally, when surprising moments of being a boy mom happen, I Tweet about it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a boy mom surprises and challenges me.

And it is absolutely perfect.

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 Curse of September 1st

September 1st is a hugely significant date for me. It is the date of my son’s birth. So while I feel like this should be a joyous and celebratory day, it has been overshadowed with unsettling events since 2009.

September 1st, 2009: The day my son was born. Also the day I had an extremely difficult labor experience resulting in an emergency c-section and a two and a half hour separation from my son after birth. Due to my exhaustion and an almost overdose of medication by the hospital staff, I do not remember meeting my son.

September 1st, 2010: My son’s first birthday. Though we were able to have a celebratory day with family, it was also extremely emotional for me since it was the anniversary of the difficult day he was born. The day of his party was also our very first trip to the ER with him and his first diagnosis of croup.

September 1st, 2011: My son’s second birthday. We had his party in late August, and the day of his party was wonderful. But on the day of his actual second birthday, we were in our home with no power and received an IRS audit and an $11,000 bill for a surgery my son had that insurance was refusing to cover.

September 1st, 2012: My son’s third birthday. This year, we held his party on his actual birthday at our home. And the curse might have been broken! The party was adorable, my son had fun with his friends, and after the party we enjoyed a relaxing day at home visiting with family.

He did wake up on September 2nd, 2012  with a 101 degree fever, though…

Maybe the September 1st curse will be broken in 2013?

The Difference A Year Makes

Last year, at this time, I was a nervous wreck.

I barely slept the night before. I tossed and turned and hugged my little boy tight throughout the night as he slept beside me in bed. I woke up early and dressed myself and my son and slowly carefully drove the 12 minutes it takes to get from our house to our destination.

It was my son’s first day of school.

He was only going to a two-day-a-week preschool program from 9-12, but it was the first time he had ever been away from me. He had never had a babysitter and I rarely even let family watch him. To be honest, he had never even been with my husband alone for more than 4 hours. The school separation was going to be a huge deal, for both of us.

When I dropped my son off in 2011, he screamed and cried and I finally had to leave him crying there while I walked out under the teacher’s advisement that he would stop crying and settle more quickly if I was gone. This, I knew was true. I used to be a teacher, after all. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to be the mommy that had to leave my crying baby nearly in tears myself.

With mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement, I drove away from the school and went to Starbucks. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and made myself comfortable in one of the bar seats facing the window. I watched as people scurried to work or shopped at the outdoor mall. I felt pangs of quilt and frivolity for the luxury of being able to people-watch on a Thursday morning when most people were working or in school. I felt unencumbered and oddly uneasy with my new-found alone time.

After trying to enjoy my latte and spending a little too much time in my own head, I decided it was time to leave Starbucks. Except it was only 10:15. And so I drove to my son’s school and sat in the parking lot until noon, anxiously awaiting pick up time. I just did not know what to do without him for that long. I felt like a piece of me was missing.

This year, at this time, I was ready.

As it turns out, I got pretty used to my two mornings off a week last year. I spent most of last year re-discovering my identity outside of motherhood and I felt pretty exhausted after a long summer with very few breaks from constant toddler care.

The night before, my son slept in his bed while I slept in mine, (for the first half of the night anyway).

This year, my son is going into the three-year-old class three days a week from 9-12, but with extra curricular activities of soccer, art and gymnastics after school each day, so I will be picking him up at times ranging from 12:30 to 1:00pm. His school is no longer a new environment, but a trusted and nurturing one.

We were both excited for school and I may have driven a little over the speed limit to get us there.

I walked my son in and dropped him off in his new classroom. Though he was a little hesitant and a bit nervous when we arrived, he became distracted with washing his hands in the new (to him) big boy bathroom in the three-year-old class. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, said, “Mommy loves you,” and slipped away with no tears from either of us.

This year, I went straight to Starbucks, ordered my Pumpkin Spice Latte, and drove home to my house where I set up my laptop, lit a candle, and spent some time enjoying the fall weather, listening to music, blogging, and soaking up every second of my blissful alone time.

This year, I may or may not have been a few minutes late to pick him up.

What a difference a year makes.

First Day of School Pics

Noah’s first days of school. Left: 2011, 2 years old, apprehensive. Right: 2012, 3 years old, attitude.

Noah playing with play dough at school Left: 2011 Right: 2012

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.

Cleaning Monsters are the Best Kind

I may have accidentally on purpose created a monster.

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I am kind of a neat freak. I can not focus on much unless I am in a clean environment. Clean surroundings give me peace. Maybe it’s weird, but cleanliness is extremely important to me. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, God and I are really close.

Keeping things clean has become much more difficult since having a child. In learning how to be a mother I also had to learn how to let the house go a little bit, especially when my son was a baby and I was having trouble functioning, let alone maintaining child care and a clean home.

Not that my son is older and I am finally feeling like myself again, my clean house mode is right back on track. It has been for a while, and since my son is with me every single second of every single day, he sees all of the work that I do.

The neat thing about the toddler stage is that toddlers really do notice EVERYTHING. It is such an impressionable stage, one where you can almost SEE them learning things and processing information, and one where they learn something new every single day. The scary thing about the toddler stage is that they notice EVERYTHING.

So while as parents we know to watch our language and behavior and not to expose our son to anything that we don’t want him to pick up on, we also have to be aware of what we expose him to indirectly.

Apparently, I have indirectly made my son a neat freak.

He will not go to bed before we straighten the living room. And by “straighten the living room” I mean put all of his toys away, fluff the couch pillows, and vacuum.

When we wake up in the morning, he will not go downstairs until we have made up the bed and emptied the hamper of all the dirty laundry to take downstairs and wash.

Whenever I am walking around tidying up, he will say “Mommy, we like a clean house, don’t we?”

The last time my brother and sister and law came to visit they tracked in a bit of dirt as they walked in the door. Which was really no big deal, except my son said, “Oh no!” and ran to get his little sweeper and dust pan.

The one area of the house he is not concerned with is the kitchen, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it might just be because he is too short to see the counters.

And one of his favorite activities is to mop with the Swiffer Wet Jet. He loves squirting the liquid and then wiping the mop over it.

Up close and personal with my little cleaning monster and his Swiffer

I really don’t think this is a terrible thing. The house I grew up in was pretty messy. Not scary messy like Hoarders, but messy enough that I was sometimes embarrassed to invite friends over. I realize I am incredibly lucky that my worst childhood memory is lack of vacuuming and too much dusty stuff, but I think everyone has something from their childhood that they would like to improve on for their kids. For me, it’s wanting my son to grow up in a clean house.

So while his behavior may be a tad dramatic for an almost three-year-old, I think it is just a part of teaching him to value cleanliness. And won’t he be a good catch for someone one day if he loves to keep things clean?

The problem is, sometimes I am exhausted and I just don’t feel like cleaning one more thing. There are times when it really would be fine to let the house sit in a state of disarray. But my son demands that it be kept up, even if the only thing I want to do is sit like a lump on the couch.

I love him for keeping me accountable, but sometimes, I kind of regret teaching him about cleaning all the things.

What have you taught your child accidentally on purpose? 

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.

Sleepless in Seattle

We don’t really live in Seattle, we live in Richmond, VA, but I love alliteration so I just went with it.

Location withholding, we really are having sleep trouble. And by “we” I mean the toddler and I. The hubs pretty much sleeps whenever he’s not at work.

Of all the parenting things; feeding, potty-training, motor skills, social skills, etc., sleeping has always been the biggest challenge.

It might be because I did attachment parenting, so my son has always co-slept with us. It might be because I breastfed until he was two years old, so he nursed throughout the night for so long that night waking is normal to him. It might be because he is a very sweaty sleeper. Or it might just be that sleeping is not his thing.

I once read somewhere that young children should get an average of 12 to 14 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. And I have actually known people who say their child has done/does this. But whenever God was handing out babies, he gave me the non-sleeping version.

Which is fine, really. Because not sleeping is a parenting challenge I can handle. Or at least I used to, when my son still took naps.

The naps are gone, you guys. And it is draining me.

I took a daily nap with my son for the first two and a half years of his life. I needed it in order to be a good mother to him. And he needed them in order to function. It worked for us. I always cherished that mid-afternoon slumber. And then, just like that, he dropped them.

Nap time has been gone at my house since May. This entire summer has consisted of long days. Very, very, long days.

There are some days when we both just can not take it anymore and we relinquish ourselves to a nap. But the problem is, if he takes a nap, he is up until eleven or midnight. The other problem is, if he does not take a nap, he is absolutely miserable from 4pm to bedtime at 7pm. The dinner, bath, bed routine is started at 6, but those hours from 4 to 7 of a screaming, irrational toddler drain me every time.

Like other parenting obstacles I have faced I know that this will just be a phase. I know that nap time is over and that some day the hours of 4PM to 7PM will once again return to be just regular hours.

But while we wait this phase out, I would love to hear your toddler sleeping advice. Because the current trend? Makes me want to hire a bedtime sitter. (Is that a thing? That should be a thing.)

Thank you in advance for your help. I’ll just be over here drinking lots of caffeine until we figure this out.

Coming Home With Croup

It’s official; my little boy has croup.

We have been incredibly lucky to have a healthy little boy who rarely gets sick. We have had our share of ER visits and one surgery, but very rarely does my little guy get a cold or a real illness.

Yesterday was a pretty lazy Sunday filled with building blocks, running a few errands, and some yard work. My son was his usual playful self.

Last night, he developed a bit of a runny nose. That’s really not a big deal, but for my son it is.

As the night progressed, he continued to become more and more congested. I was up with him multiple times and he woke up crying a few times. He was having trouble breathing, but my husband and I just passed it off as congestion.

This morning, my husband left for work early as usual, but something in the way my son was breathing would not let me settle back to sleep. He was wheezing, gasping for air in between breaths.

I didn’t want to wake him, so I let him sleep a bit while I texted and cancelled our morning playdate. Then I called the pediatrician’s office hoping to squeeze him in for an appointment at some point during the day.

While I was explaining things to the nurse, my son woke up and began the dreaded barking cough and was wheezing audibly enough for the nurse to hear him over the phone.

“Is that him?” she asked me in a bit of an astonished tone. When I said yes, she said, “Um, you don’t need to come in to the clinic. You need to go straight to the ER.”

In a multi-tasking move I’ve mastered since being a mother, I managed to get my son and myself dressed all while calling my husband. As I was packing up the last of my son’s bag my husband walked in the door from work and we all drove off to the ER.

Within forty-five minutes of walking into the hospital, we had a croup diagnosis, my son was given a dose of steroids and got to pick out a book, and we were on our way back to the car.

Croup is an upper-respiratory virus that constricts the airway. It causes children to have trouble breathing and have a very distinctive barking cough. It usually gets better during the day and is the worst at night. The steroid dose my son got at the hospital should help open his airway, and then at home we can sleep with a humidifier and try hot showers for the steam or taking him outside into cool air at night.

We have dealt with croup once before, on my son’s first birthday. It was a similar experience; difficulty breathing resulting in a trip to the ER, a steroid shot, and some long nights at home.

Watching my son have trouble getting air is such a scary feeling. And I know that feeling; that gasping; that helplessness. I had severe asthma when I was growing up that resulted in frequent illnesses and hospital stays. I always had to carry an emergency inhaler with me, had to take a preventative inhaler, and remember many childhood nights sitting on my parents’ bed doing my nightly nebulizer treatment.

Every day, I am so very thankful that my son is healthy. I really don’t know how my mom handled the stress and exhaustion of constantly taking care of me when I was always so severely sick.

Croup can be very scary, but I will gladly give up a week of sleep and playdates until he gets better.  And I remain so very thankful that these times of illness for my son are so very rare.

All Birds Go To Heaven

“Oh no, Mommy, look!”

I turned in his direction and I followed his gaze down to the bird with flies buzzing around its head. I pulled him away quickly.

“Oh no, don’t touch. It’s a dead bird.”

“Uh oh, Mommy. Now it can not go to his family.”

“No, he can not go to his family.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“The bird is hurt. It looks like a kitty cat or a ruff ruff got him.”

Our feet pattered on the concrete as we continued walking down the road.

Should I tell him? Are we ready for these conversations?

“Now the bird is in heaven with God.”

“With God?”

“Yes.”

But why Mommy?”

“When things die, they go up to heaven to live with God.”

A long pause filled our conversation as we both pondered the validity of my statement. Can we talk about this yet?

“Mommy’s Daddy lives in heaven.”

Gentle feet pad on the cement. I look down at the top of his head. I can see his eyelashes and his brow slightly furrow as he grips the flowers he has collected tighter.

“Does your Daddy take care of the birds, Mommy?”

Surprised tears threaten my eyes as I smile and reply, “Why, yes, I guess he does.”

Chirping birds and a distant train combine with the sound of our shoes on the ground as the background track to our poignant conversation.

We observe fallen branches and white lines painted on the road. They were meant for traffic but they make a perfect balance beam for my son to follow as I walk beside him. His concentration is on the line; the steadying of his feet one in front of the other.

My concentration is on him.

As the line fades and we near the next cross street he says, “Mommy? And your Daddy will say, no no kitties and ruff ruffs we do not hurt birds.”

“Yes,” I realize and speak out loud, “that is probably something he would say.”

The rest of our walk is speckled in conversation about looking both ways and not throwing trash on the ground. We stop to admire flowers and bugs and I watch as he delights in walking down into a shallow ditch and climbing back out.

As we near our house, he breaks into a big grin and runs to the driveway. “That was a good walk, Mommy. Now I am thirsty.”

It was a good walk, love. A very good walk.