Month

November 2017

Full

Our lives are pretty full.

Our schedule is full of activities–gymnastics and piano and library story time and dance. Full of reminders to practice spelling words and find the missing library book, to schedule the next checkup and the next birthday party. Our calendars are full of family and friends and adventure and a little laziness and not enough time on the weekends. Full.

Our to-do lists are full–full of yard work and laundry and dishes and cleaning. Full of remembering to change the oil in the van and pay the mortgage, full of making time to put away the clothes we’ve outgrown and unpack the next size up. Full of trying to fit in all the things and also knit a scarf and read a book and write a blog post and shop for Christmas. Full.

Our house is full. Full of toys. And kid shoes. And boxes that need taken to the recycling. Our cupboard is full of snacks. Our filing basket is full of papers that need to be put away. Our kitchen table is full of play doh that I haven’t had time to put away yet.

The trash can upstairs is full. My bathroom cabinet is full of creams that probably won’t fool anyone into thinking I’ve had a full night of sleep this week. At the beginning of every meal, someone is always “full”. My bedroom is full of boxes of Christmas presents that I haven’t wrapped yet. Our van is full. Our stroller is full. I have a drawer full of cards and pictures my kids have made for me over the years. Full.

Still sometimes I’m full of worry. Worry about the oldest at school. Worry about the toddler’s speech. Worry about the baby’s weight gain. Worry about potty training and reading comprehension and social skills. Worry about how they’ll handle the hard things in life like making friends and telling the truth. Worry that I’m not doing enough or that I’m doing too much.

Worry that these full, beautiful, overwhelming days will pass too quickly. Worry that I won’t fully savor this fullness.

Because I know deep down that some day life won’t be this full. These little people who are the reason our hearts and lives and house are so full will grow and stretch their wings and create a little more space between things.

And when that happens, I won’t remember the full schedule or full to-do list or full toy cupboards. I won’t remember the cupboards full of sippy cups or the trash can full of diapers or the dreams of getting just one full night of sleep.

Instead I will remember that our house was full of music. That the toddler would randomly announce “dance party” and that meant I should put on the song “Shut Up and Dance With Me” so they could all jam out together. I will remember car rides full of the soundtracks to Frozen and Moana and Trolls and all the songs from Daniel Tiger. I will remember singing “Twinkle Twinkle” in the car for forty five minutes straight because it made the baby stop crying.

I will remember days full of laughter. When the two littles would splash and laugh so much in the bathtub that it was hard to get them to settle back down and go to bed afterwards. When the baby would shriek like a banshee at the dinner table and make everyone laugh hysterically. When the toddler would laugh so hard that she threw up (like in the car on the drive to Wisconsin). When all three would chase each other around the family room, giggling all the while until someone inevitable injured someone else. I will remember that they each had their own unique laugh but that all three were ticklish in the exact same spot along their collar bone.

I will remember that our lives were full of generosity. Of taking care of each other. I will remember our lives were full of love. Of pizza movie nights. Of decorating the Christmas tree together. I will remember bike rides full of sunshine and cups full of hot chocolate after building a snowman. I will remember days full of imagination, days full of snuggling, days full of reading together and building with Legos and playing Candyland. I will remember a fridge full of kid-art and windows full of tiny fingerprints and bathtubs full of bubbles and twin beds full of stuffed animals.

I know the time will come when the days are a little less full, and that’s okay. Because when I think about this life I get to live and the people I get to live it with, I can’t imagine my heart ever being anything but full.

I Don’t Know About Potty Training

She will probably be really mad at me for this photo when she is a teenager.

Sigh.

This is going to be one of those posts where I basically talk about all the stuff I don’t know, so if you came here expecting some wisdom and insight I apologize in advance.

But I just don’t know about potty training.

I mean, I have potty trained one child. And I worked for a while in a daycare toddler room where I helped potty train other peoples’ children.

But when it comes to kid Two, I just don’t know.

For starters, I don’t even know how I feel about it. A part of me would love to have her well on her way to being potty trained by her third birthday in just under two months. Another part of me says, what’s the rush?

There isn’t one. There’s just me feeling like I’m not doing my job as her mom every time I see other kids her age or younger that are out of diapers. But my logical brain knows better. It knows that my job is to pay attention to when SHE is ready, to help her learn in the best way possible for HER, and that means not making it about me and the obscure deadlines I set that don’t have anything to do with her.

And speaking of waiting until she is ready, I don’t know if she is ready. She shows some signs that she is and some signs that she isn’t. She’s doing a great job of sitting on the potty, but often won’t make anything come out on the potty chair. She sings the Daniel Tiger potty song and enjoys going through the steps of flushing and washing, etc. but when it comes to actual readiness to comprehend what it is she is supposed to do, I’m not sure if she totally gets it or if maybe she gets it but isn’t ready to actually do it. I just don’t know.

And I don’t know what the right thing to do is. Do we keep having her sit on the potty chair to get in the habit and hope that eventually she starts “going” on the potty? Or will having her sit on the potty without her ever actually “using” it confuse her? Do we keep talking about potty stuff and be consistent? Or do we drop the issue completely and try again in a month? When it’s time to officially “try” do we go full blown bootcamp or do we take it slow?

I have no idea.

So I throw out the question to my parenting village and see if anyone else has ideas or thoughts that feel right to me in this situation. And I order books and training underwear and potty training dolls that maybe I will use now or maybe I will use later.

And I decide what to do. Even though I don’t always know what the right thing to do is. Because, as my brilliant songwriting friend would say, if you don’t know what to do to make your dreams come true, just do what’s next.

Potty training (and parenting) can feel like a overwhelming mountain to climb, and so often I feel like I have no idea how we are going to get from the bottom to the top. But maybe I don’t always have to know. Maybe, instead of worrying about not having all the answers, I’ll just do what’s next.

 

 

Kid Number One AND Even Santa Has Limits

Photo by Kristen Laing Photography

This is a story about kid number one. The original baby. The girl who made me a mama. This girl has taught me more in this life than even I can fully comprehend. And it sounds extreme to say, but I think it might be true, that without her, there wouldn’t be any of the other little members of our family.

Because when she came along she changed everything. She made me want to give her the world and be the best I could possibly be for her. And as it turns out, I wasn’t being my best. So I had to make some changes that were hard and scary in my own life. And I didn’t always know for certain that I was doing the right thing. But every time I doubted myself, I went back to this bright little girl and looked into her eyes and asked myself what I wanted most in the world for her. And she helped light up the path, one step at a time. On my arm, she is featured as the sun, bright and warm. A sign that it is time to wake up.

And wake me up she did. She is still teaching me things all the time, even when I’m not ready to learn them. Since she is kid one, she is my first trial run for all the complicated parts of parenting–friend issues and body questions and vocabulary lessons and so much more.

Even Christmas, a time when I used to get to be on “break” is now a time in which she puts me through the paces with a new lesson. For example, this year, she asked for the Playmobil Hotel. For those of you not familiar with Playmobil, they are actually pretty awesome toys. They come with a billion little realistic pieces and are great for imaginative play. Kid one has been into them for a while and has acquired quite a few great pieces over the past holidays–a tree house and a hospital and a “modern suite” and so on. So it didn’t really surprise me that she was asking for another piece and since kid two loves playing with them as well I don’t mind getting them as gifts.

Then I visited my trusty old Amazon account. And here is what I found.

If you look down toward the bottom, you will see the prices from available sellers. New models STARTING AT $549.95 PLUS $45.20 SHIPPING.

(Insert crazy laughter here.)

I love my children, but I will never, ever pay six hundred dollars for a little plastic toy. EVER. I would much rather stay around $100 per kid for the holiday. Like for all the presents combined. However, I’m willing to stretch it in certain cases if it is a toy that the other kids will also benefit from playing with.

But I will never stretch that far.

So it dawns on me that this very well might be the year she is disappointed by Santa for the first time. She has been talking about this ridiculous hotel for months. MONTHS. And when prompted to give some “backup” ideas she doesn’t show much excitement in any of the options presented. So I finally break down and explain to her that this is a really expensive toy she is asking for. And I explain that I don’t understand Santa magic, but I reason that he can’t get her a $600 toy and not get one for everyone else. And I explain that “stuff” really isn’t the point of Christmas and that maybe it’s better to ask for something a little more reasonable.

And I totally believe all these things. But I’m also a parent and that means I have the privilege of making the world seem magical to the little humans in my care for a short, precious time. And Christmas is one of the most magical times of all. And I’m not ready to give up on that magic.

So I decide to exhaust all the possibilities. I scour the Internet and my search leads me to Ebay, where I find a complete used set with instructions for $140.

And then I encounter the moral dilemma: she already knows this is an outrageous toy to ask for considering the price. What does it teach her if it appears? Would it be better to just let her be disappointed and encourage her to be grateful for the things she gets instead? Maybe.

I don’t know the right answer. But I told her dad about my discovery and he agreed to split the cost of the Ebay purchase with me, which means after bidding and shipping it ACROSS AN OCEAN and splitting the cost it still came out to be less than my $100 per kid goal. So I bought it.

And I’m thinking I will probably find a way to sneak a note from Santa into the package explaining how, when the elves run out of materials for a certain toy, they can’t make it any more and those toys become hard to find. But lucky for her, a little girl on the other side of the world outgrew her toy and decided to pass it along so another child could enjoy it. And that the real reason Christmas is special is because of the magic we share with others, not just the magic that is shared with us.

And the same is also true for parenting. One of the many reasons the journey of parenting this little ray of sunshine has been so profound is not because of what I get to share with her, but because of what she shares with me.

This girl is generous. She is grateful. She is kind and bright and loving and helpful. She makes me unbelievably proud every day.

And best of all, she reminds me to see the magic in the world around me. And that is the greatest gift of all.

 

Daniel Tiger and Two

Photo by Kristen Laing Photography

This is a story about kid number two. Oh, how I love this child.

We had family pictures taken recently. Two doesn’t love family picture time. She doesn’t love it when too much attention is focused on her. She doesn’t love having to do new things until she is ready.

But lately we have been doing new things. We do gymnastics and we do story time at the library and art time at the children’s museum and speech therapy. We go on vacations and ride ferry boats in our car and swim in indoor water parks and go to the zoo.

Halloween 2017

And we watch Daniel Tiger. We watch Daniel try new foods and try new things and little by little we learn that trying new things can be fun. So we talk about getting our picture taken and we practice smiling for the camera and we look at our book of past family pictures. And when the day comes we get dressed up in our fancy new dress that looks like our sister’s and we comb our hair and we do our best. And we try, just once, to have Daniel watch us get our picture taken from a few steps away, but in the end it’s better if we hold on to him.

And that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfect. I love that Daniel Tiger is now cemented in our family history via photograph. Because, right now, he is Two’s best friend. The kind of best friend that helps you grow and changes you for the better. Those kind of friends leave a mark on you. Even when you’re two. Especially when you’re Two.

So we embrace it. Daniel follows us to gymnastics and story time and the children’s museum and speech therapy. He sits beside us at dinner and sleeps beside us at bedtime. And the truth is, I love that. Sometimes we all need a friend who is there whenever we need them.

Snuggling mama

As a parent, we want our little people to have everything they need. Some kids make it easy to know what that is and other kids are a bit more complicated. Two can be a little complicated. Sometimes it’s hard to know what are the things I need to help her with and what are the things I need to accept as part of who she is. There’s no doubt she is different than her siblings in many ways. In some profound ways. She amazes me every day with the things she remembers, the things she notices. She is aware of her surroundings on a bigger level than even I am sometimes. Since she was very little, she could always recognize where we were while driving in the car. She would comment on where dada worked as we drove past or notice sister’s school. She picks out tiny details off in the distance or sounds coming from another room. She picks up on it when people are nervous or uncomfortable. She picks up on it when attention is too direct.

And then in the next moment she is just like any other toddler. She laughs and chases her sisters around the room. She asks me to tickle her. She loves brushing her teeth and reading books before bed. She loves hats and music and “dance parties” and suckers and snuggling mama and apple juice. She is stubborn and hilarious and brilliant and attentive.

And brave.

Playing

And she has the best, most contagious laugh in the whole world. She laughs from deep down in her belly. (So much so that if she laughs for too long she will barf.)

 

She is featured on my arm as a moon, clear and bright. Reflective. Powerful enough to move the oceans, but preferring to do so from a quiet, discreet distance. Perfectly situated between her star and sun sisters. And just like them, the sky wouldn’t be the same without her.

Two is incredible in ways I can’t even comprehend. And I’m not always confident in my ability to do justice to the task of being her mama. But I am in awe of her every day. And that makes me the luckiest.

Three

Photo by Kristen Laing Photography
Kid One snuggling Kid Three

This is a story about kid #3. She’s the littlest of the crew, and not just in age. At fourteen months old she is barely 17 lbs in her heaviest outfit, but since she started at just 5 lbs 8 oz we cut her some slack. Her size makes her a convenient play-thing for her sisters. Kid one likes to cart her around like a toy doll, or pull her up onto the couch to snuggle while she watches tv along with her other snuggle toys.  Three doesn’t seem to mind because it saves her the work of climbing.

In other ways she is the biggest of the three. For example, appetite. While the older two are firmly in the picky eating stage, number three is a bottomless pit when it comes to food. We joke that she has the metabolism of a hummingbird to eat so much and stay so small. It’s probably a pretty accurate comparison because she never. stops. moving. Thus earning her the title of biggest flight risk/safety hazard as well.

Snacking

She is officially walking, and not far off from full blown running. She is also a climber with no concept of gravity. Yesterday she climbed up the two stairs to the landing of the basement steps. I sat back and watched to see how she would handle herself. She promptly turned and walked right off the edge of the steps as if she hadn’t even noticed they were there, despite having just climbed up them moments before. So our next lesson will be developing an awareness of ledges and gravity.

And as with all her lessons, I’m sure it will be an adventure, because she is actively competing for the title of biggest personality of the crew. For those of you that know my children, you will know that this is quite an accomplishment. But three has a real shot at it. She has known exactly what she wants since the day she was born. You might remember a post from 

The princess watching over her kingdom.

several months ago in which a much more tired version of myself shared the challenges we were facing with sleeping and eating and basically all the biggest parts of the baby stage. I am happy to report that there was a light at the end of that tunnel. And now there are new tunnels, like weaning and learning not to throw food off the high chair and other pre-toddler related life lessons.

Back when we were in the thick of it, I wondered if I would miss the baby stage with my last baby.And sometimes when I look back on pictures of her snuggled into my arms as an itty bitty little thing, my heart twists a little in a way that hurts just a bit. But mostly this stage is so fun and beautiful that I’m too busy laughing to bother with missing things.

BUBBLES

And boy can this girl make me laugh. She loves to wear hats, crowns, scarves, necklaces, and pretty much any accessory. It’s not uncommon for me to look up and see her sporting a pair of pajamas from the laundry basket around her shoulders or a toy oven mitt on her hand. She laughs and plays peek-a-boo and does Itsy Bitsy Spider and loves to sneak her sisters’ toys away from them when they aren’t looking. She blows kisses and puts everything she finds in her mouth and loves it when her dada comes home from work. She ADORES dogs of all kinds, but especially our two, and loves to stand in the hallway saying “ooof ooof” (her version of woof) until someone lets a dog in to see her or takes her out to see them. She loves baths and is endlessly fascinated by bubbles. She is super ticklish and her laugh is infectious.

In my new tattoo she is featured as a tiny constellation, my star, my bright little ball of fire who watches over dreams and inspires wishes. She fits right into my sky beside her sisters. She is like them in so many ways, but she is also very much her own little person. She amazes me every day with how quickly she learns and how curious and adventurous and funny and sweet she is. I’m thankful every day that I get to be her mama.

 

 

Some Days You Write, Some Days You Don’t

There are times in life where the creative stuff just feels easy. When I have so many ideas of things I want to write about that I can’t get them out fast enough.

And then there are other times when I dust off the computer, come back to the blog, and realize that my last post was MONTHS ago, and the post before that was apologizing about how it had been MONTHS since my last post.

Oops.

But I’m learning that sometimes you just have to be okay with letting the dust gather while you’re busy doing other things. And more importantly, when it’s time to come back to it, don’t let a little dust scare you away. Just pick right back up and keep going.

So here we are. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do an “updates” post to recap our first few months of the school year or if I’ll just pick up where we are but thanks for your patience while I’m clearing out the cobwebs and diving back in. <3