The Day I Saw the President

The sun was just beginning to peek its way through the trees as I bundled up my still sleepy three-year old son. I comforted him with sweet whispers and wrapped in him layers to protect him from the weather that has ever so subtly and recently brought us into fall.

“We are going to see the President!” I whispered in an excited fervor, as I urged him to put on his shoes.

Not understanding the significance or rarity of such an opportunity  my son whined and struggled, longing for a morning of Disney Junior and sleepy cuddles instead.

When we reached the car, I clicked him in his seat and soothed him and made promises of lunch at his favorite restaurant after the rally was over.

We drove the very short 2 mile drive to a neighborhood just little bit closer to the event than ours, and then my son and I began the walk to the event; a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the President speak in our hometown.

If we had been able to walk straight through, the walk would have only been 1.2 miles. Due to the heightened security surrounding this presidential event, our walk from the southside of Richmond to the Carillon park where the even took place was 3 miles long; an unexpected undertaking as I embarked on this trip alone with a toddler and no stroller.

Police officers were on tight patrol and the longer walking route was done to endure that no one could enter the event without first going through security. Our walk through residential streets was splattered with vendors selling Obama paraphernalia and I was reminded once again of how we were in the midst of a historically significant election year.

After an hour and a half of walking and lots of toddler carrying, we finally reached the start of the line. There, hidden beneath the trees of a quiet park in Richmond, VA, stood a line of people, all waiting with excited anticipation to see the President of our country. People had been waiting in line since 4:30 in the morning. My son and I finally arrived at the end at 11:00 AM. Leaves fell and covered the crowd in a colorful fall blanket as we joined a crowd of 15,000 people with hopeful hearts.

The crowd waiting to see Obama in RVA, 10/25/2012

A line of people to see the President hidden beneath the fall trees in a RVA park.

The line moved fairly quickly and my son and I were able to find a seat in the grass of the park by noon.

No food or drink was admitted due to security purposes  and admittedly, after our unexpectedly long walk and no food or drink all day, my son and I were both a bit tired and grumpy.

A tired toddler at the Obama political rally

My son and I sat and rested as we watched people continue to pour into the park. Spirits were high and standing there I knew I was in the midst of a group of people who believed in our President and were excited to hear his message.

Music blared through the loud speakers and my son and I passed the time with dancing and cricket chasing and playing with grass.

My son and I at the Obama rally in RVA

 

The Carillon tower decorated with an American flag served as the backdrop of Obama’s rally in Richmond.

Then it started. The large crowd hushed as we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem under the backdrop of a large flag hanging from the Carillon tower.

 We were led in an opening prayer by a local Richmond pastor. We got to hear speeches by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-3rd, Former Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

And then we got to see President Barack Obama.

My view of the rally, 10/25/2012. I couldn’t see much, but I could hear him and I was inspired by being at such an event.

The crowd’s screams of excitement were so moving and invigorating that they washed all previous complaints of tiredness and hunger away.

Here we were, in a crowd of 15,000 people, standing in a park just a few miles from our house, listening to the President of the United States give a speech. I was humbled by the historic significance such a gathering and the once in a lifetime chance that I was able to be there.

At some point before the president arrived my son fell asleep. I listened to President Obama as I held a sleeping toddler. My back ached with the weight of a 33 pound child resting in my arms, but my spirit was lifted by words of hope. My son woke up before the President gave his closing remarks and even got wrapped up in the crowd’s emotions himself, as he offered a few claps and “yays!”

It was a campaign rally, to be sure. President Obama stressed the importance of voting and outlined his policies and even made a few remarks about his opposing candidate, Romney. But when someone in the crowd began to boo, Obama said, “No, don’t boo, Vote!”

Throughout the day, people made comments about my son being there. I heard it all from, “Wow, you are brave to bring him here!” to “He’s so lucky you brought him.” to “I think you are doing a great thing. It’s so important. ” to a whispered hush of “Why would she bring a kid here?”

Perhaps it was a bit brazen of me to embark on round trip 6 mile walk and 4 mile drive alone with a toddler, no stroller, and no food or drink. There were certainly times in the day when I thought that maybe it was just plain crazy. But I am so very glad that we went.

I know my son did not understand the historical significance of such a moment and political policies and elections are (thankfully) not yet a part of his world.

But they are oh so important.

And so one day, when my son gets older, I will tell him that when he was 3 years old he got to see the President of the United States speak at a park close to our home in Richmond, VA. I will tell him that he got to be a part of history that day and how lucky he was to get to hear a sitting president speak in person.

Regardless of your political opinion, I think there is still a sense of awe in getting to watch the President of our country speak. I felt inspired and honored to get to be part of such an experience. And if the President of the United States ever comes to speak at a park just 5 miles away from your house? I think it is definitely worth going.

 

*Here are links to articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch, detailing the President’s time line of the day and an overview of the event.*

Carillon Hosts Obama 

Obama Rallies 15000 at Carillon in Richmond 

 

 

When A Mommy Heart Breaks

Dear my sweet boy,

My mommy heart is breaking. I feel that I am failing you.

When you were a little baby, I knew I was being a good mommy to you. I was able to escape the dreaded Mommy guilt because even in the midst of my own postpartum struggle, I knew I was doing what was best for you, for us.

I allowed my world to revolve around you, and you thrived. We both thrived on breastfeeding and co-sleeping and baby led…everything. Life was on your time and I was more than happy to delight in your growth, marvel at your progress, and devote myself fully to you.

But oh my how you are growing. How amazing it is to watch your world expand as you navigate this new land of “little boy” instead of baby.

And as you have reached this stage, I, too, have reached a new one. I was ready my sweet boy, for my world to once again expand beyond you. You are still my center, but I needed to once again add in some parts of me that I had left behind since I fell in love with you.

And so this year, as you entered the tender age of 3, I re-entered roles of leadership. Mommy is the Parent Council Chair at your school. I know you don’t know what that fully means, but you do understand that it means Mommy works on the computer a lot more and has to go to meetings, and devotes time away from you.

And then Mommy auditioned for a show, and I got a lead role! I know you do not know what that means either, but you do know that Mommy goes to “hearsals” and that you have to come to church with me a lot so I can go to them. I know this means that we no longer have nights at home, but rather Mommy spends nights doing rehearsals and you spend nights in a church nursery, an environment you have never been in before.

And in the mean time, I still ask you to help me around the house and go to school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Is this too much for you my sweet boy?

I got an email from your teacher yesterday. She said you are having trouble listening and you say “I don’t want to” when the teachers ask you to do something.

And my mommy heart broke.

As I reflected on how busy we’ve been, I realized that you spent EVERY night last week with a babysitter. You did not have a single night at home with a Mommy or a Daddy. Daddy was working nights and Mommy was doing rehearsals and going to meetings. Did you feel lost in the midst of busy?

Please don’t think I have forgotten you sweet boy. You are at the forefront of my every thought. I am teary writing this, thinking that I have fallen short in my most important role; being your Mommy.

It is strange that at a time when I feel like I am coming back into myself I also feel like I am failing you.

Should Mommy quit this show? Is this just too much for you; for us?

There has to be a balance between your world and mine. You are, of course, the most important part of my life. But before you made me a Mommy, I was a woman who worked and held leadership roles and performed and had girl’s night outs and who sometimes even had dates with your Daddy. Is there a way I can merge all of these parts of myself?

I love you so very much, and I know that, like all things, this stage of hard is temporary. But it is oh so real.

Thankfully, today is another day, and this week is another week. And I will do better.

I love you forever and always.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

The Third Birthday

After eventful first and second birthdays, and a lot of planning for the third, I had high hopes that this birthday party would be perfect. This year, his birthday fell on a Saturday, a perfect day to host a party. So on September 1st, we hosted a yellow birthday party at our house. Here is the big reveal; Noah’s third birthday party!

This year his birthday was all about his favorite color; yellow. Throughout the summer I diligently planned, bought, and made yellow items. We covered our home in yellow decor and invited his preschool class over for some fun. We were able to celebrate with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law, too.

The Yellow Birthday Party

Mommy, Noah and Daddy

The Invitation

The decor: kitchen chalkboard, living room streamers and balloons, entry table with pictures of Noah at ages 1, 2, and 3 and favor bags and birthday hats, dining room decked in yellow

Dining room. The food was all yellow: bananas, Goldfish, cheese, pineapple, doughnuts, popcorn, and yellow cupcakes and candy.

Beverage station featuring lemonade and lemon water, striped straws, and lemons. There are also homemade cookies shaped like the number 3 in the cake plate for each child to decorate with yellow frosting. Close up of homemade birthday banner.

Cupcakes and candy jars.

Cupcakes with yellow striped liners, yellow cupcake flags, and the number 3 candle, looking out into the back yard.

The back yard ready for the yellow party

The birthday boy.

Party details: my artsy shot, striped straws and lemons, the three cookie cutter and yellow icing…all of the 3 cookies were eaten!

There are a lot of pictures of all of the children and family at the party, but I’m not sure they would like being included on a blog. The children played outside on the swing set and I had set up bowling, bubbles, t-ball, and a yellow bucket of toys. They had a great time playing outside and decorating number three cookies. We all enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to Noah.

Happy Birthday Noah! Blowing out the candles and making a wish.

Look at that beautiful three year old.

The favor bags. Cat not included. :)

A boy and his balloons.

After party cuddles

Mommy, Noah, and balloons. My favorite yellow birthday party picture.

The Yellow Birthday Party was a great success. Noah had a wonderful time and I was so happy to host a party at our home for his friends. I think the third birthday was the best one yet.

What Do You Do All Day?

This afternoon, one of the neighborhood kids stopped by. She does that occasionally, and she is very nice and good with my son. Although her visits are always unplanned, I never mind them.

Today, as she was telling me about how her year is going so far in 5th grade, I mentioned that my little guy just started school, too. She said, “Oh no! Aren’t you lonely?”

I politely said, “No, it gives me time to get things done.” To which my son added, “Yeah, when I go to school Mommy eats and drinks and cleans.”

And then she said, “What do you do all day?”

I told her a brief overview of our schedule, saying, “Well, after we wake up I drop him off at school and then come home to do some cleaning. After I pick him up we eat lunch and have quiet time and then play outside for most of the afternoon. Then it’s time for dinner, bath, and bed.”

She just nodded but I kind of felt like I was being judged for not doing enough. By a 5th grader.

So, here’s the breakdown of what I actually did today. It’s probably going to be really long and boring, so you can stop reading now if you like. I guess I need to write it down as much for my own sense of accomplishment as for needing to tell the story.

8:00 AM: Wake up Noah. Brush his teeth, get him dressed, get him downstairs and set up with a cereal breakfast. Note that getting a toddler dressed is not as simple as “getting dressed.” It involves a lot of coaxing, hands on work, and sometimes bribery.

8:30 AM: Return back upstairs to get myself dressed. Which means throw on something somewhat presentable and put hair in a ponytail.

8:45 AM: Gather up all needed supplies and go out to car to put child in car seat. I had packed his snack and school bag the night before.

9:00 AM: Drop Noah off at school. Drive to Starbucks.

9:15 AM: Go to grocery store.

10:00 AM: Get gas.

10:30:AM: Return home, unload groceries. Do dishes, start a load of laundry, scoop the cat litter, straighten living room. Notice that the china cabinet is leaning a funny way and rearrange its contents.

10:55 AM: Head upstairs to do some cleaning. Which involved: putting away all toys, dusting all surfaces of Noah’s room, making up Noah’s bed (which takes forever), vacuuming his entire room including baseboards.

Then I moved on to the bathroom and since I was in an organizing mood I re-organized all of the upstairs bathroom cabinets including wiping them down, designating things to other places, and throwing things away. Then I dusted all bathroom surfaces and the upstairs hallway.

Moving on to our bedroom, I put all of the clothes in the closet, made up our bed, dusted, and vacuumed.

12:20 PM: Quickly run downstairs, grab keys, and go pick up my child.

12:35 PM: Arrive at school to an excited toddler and listen to his stories about school and soccer. Drive us home for lunch and to let him watch one episode of “Peep and Duck” while I also try to cram in lunch in between switching the laundry load, making Noah’s lunch, and sorting through his school bag.

1:20 PM: Read Corduroy to Noah. He requests, “Again, Mommy!” We read it 3 times.

2:00 PM: After 3 stories and much arguing from the toddler I finally get him to lay down for quiet time. (We are past napping.)

2:20 PM: Noah decides he is done with quiet time and jumps up to play. I reluctantly get up.

I’m not sure of the rest of the time-table for the afternoon, but at some point the mailman comes and we read the mail. We play with leftover yellow birthday balloons. (Yellow birthday party pics coming soon!) We line up magnets. We pretend to fix computers. We have a chasing session. We also go upstairs briefly to get a book (I thought) but instead the toddler sees what I have done to his room and promptly unmakes the bed and arranges his blankets into some kind of fort on the floor. Sigh. We cuddle. We laugh. We marvel at the size of my son’s poot and I wipe his bottom. We vacuum the living room and I switch laundry again.

Around 4:00 we have a snack and then decide to go outside. That is when we run into our neighbor and she comes over to play. She plays with us while we ride tricycles, take a neighborhood walk, swing, slide, and ride scooters.

5:30 PM: Neighbor leaves and we come inside for dinner. Except that transition results in a MAJOR tantrum screaming fit and we do not actually make it inside until 6:00. Ridiculous.

6:00PM: Toddler has a personality change and says, “I will be nice now, Mommy.” What the….?

6:30 PM: I serve a lovingly prepared meal of hotdogs and grapes (for Noah) and a Healthy Choice microwaveable meal (for me.) Cooking is not my thing. I also prepare my son’s snack for school tomorrow.

7:00 PM: I put the toddler in a bubble bath. We make “party decorations” with wash cloths and play with a toy shark and lizard. I wash his hair and we sing silly bath time songs.

After drying off and putting on pajamas we brush teeth and cuddle up in my bed to read Corduroy one more time. There is no trying to get him in his own bed on nights when Daddy isn’t home. We also read Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See and an Elmo book. We then get all snuggled up, I turn off the light, and my little guy drifts off to sleep.

8:00 PM: I leave the toddler and come to my computer to catch up on email, which involves a lot of correspondence I need to deal with for my new role of Parent Council Chair at my son’s preschool. I alternate between working on that, checking Facebook and Twitter, and trying to catch up on blogging (which I am terribly behind on.)

8:55 PM: The toddler wakes up. I comfort him and am able to return to the computer work after about 15 minutes.

9:30 PM: The toddler wakes up again and this time does not settle easily. After rocking, singing, and getting him water he finally drifts off into a deep sleep right before 10:oo.

Before I can settle at my computer again I go to let the cats in that have been left outside in the rain that just started. Oops. They are ok. Just a bit wet and mad.

Now, after 10:00 PM, I am finally hoping to get caught up on Parent Council emails, some blogging, and some social media. I hope to be asleep by midnight.

Of course, this isn’t the way it is everyday. There are some days when I clean other parts of the house or run other errands or go shopping. There are some days I pay bills or make house administrative phone calls or deal with some pressing paperwork issue. There are some days when I choose to actually take some me time while Noah is at school. After today, I am hoping tomorrow might be one of them! There are some days when my husband is around. There are some days Noah does not have school and we do play dates or go to parks or the children’s museum. There are also some days I actually get adult interaction.

But most days, this is a good description of my life. This is currently day 11 of no husband home to help. He is a medical resident and his current schedule is a stretch where his shortest shift is 12 hours, but most days it has been 16. Either way, it means he’s gone before we wake up and home after we are asleep.

I don’t mean this to be list of complaints. I love getting to spend so much time with my son. I love that I am able to have such a clean house. I love that I can go get Pumpkin Spice lattes. I love evening walks and cuddles with my little guy. But days like today are the perfect descriptor as to why my life is both elating and exhausting.

And that, my friends, is what I did all day.

How did you spend your day?

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

Turning Three: A Birthday Letter

My sweet boy,

The first year of life brings so many changes, but it has been this year between two and three that I have seen the most growth in you.

It has been this year, my sweet boy, that you have stopped nursing, have fully potty trained, and started sleeping in your own bed. (Some nights.)

It has been this year that you have stopped referring to yourself as “baby” and instead say “Noah.” You have even learned how to spell your name and proudly walk around saying “I am N-O-A-H Noah!” You have even learned to write the letters “O” and “H.”  My heart swells every time.

It has been this year you have decided you want to be a “digger man” when you grow up, and in the last few months you have changed your aspiring profession to “actor.” I will be proud of you no matter what you choose.

It has been this year that you have gone to your very first year of preschool, two mornings a week from 9 to 12. It was the very first time that you had ever been away from me, and though it was hard for both of us at first, we have both thrived with the expansion of your world.

It has been this year that I have seen you develop real relationships with your friends as you have moved from parallel play to interactive games.

It has been this year that you have mastered your motor skills. I’ve never been more proud of someone jumping in puddles or riding tricycles.

This year, you have established family roles. “Daddy is the cooker, Mommy is the cleaner, and I am the helper.” ~Noah summer 2012

Though you have always been a strong verbal speaker and communicator, this year your vocabulary has expanded and your thoughts are always expressed in complex sentences. I am often amazed at the way your mind works, and especially at the way you are able to tell me about it.

“Mommy, I have a story. Once upon time, there was a kitty cat and it got up up stuck on the roof. And the helicopter came and got the kitty cat and put it down. And then everybody was happy. The End.” 

“Wow, Noah, that was such a good story! It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It also had a conflict and a resolution.” 

“Yes, Mommy, it did.” 

~August 2012

I love hearing your stories, your thoughts, and your opinions. I trust your judgement and often include you on family decisions. I want you to know that I value you, always.

It has been this year that I have seen you cross over from baby to boy, and this year that has challenged me the most as a parent. (So far.)

But it has been this year, my sweet boy, that I have delighted in your growth. As you continue to grow and branch out away from me, I want you to always know that I will never be too far away, standing in awe of wonderful YOU.

I love you forever and always, my sweet three-year-old baby boy.

Love,

Mommy

(meant to be published on your 3rd birthday, September 1st, 2012)

My sweet 3 year old boy

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.