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

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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 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.

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.

The Lullaby

“Will you sing me a song Mommy?”

A smile flirts across my lips as I begin to sing a song I knew from long ago:

Toss a penny in a well

Make a wish,  you never can tell

Trust your heart and believe come what may

That anything can happen, 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen today

His eyes begin to flutter. His blinks begin to get longer.

His breathing begins to deepen and he curls up closer to my side.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

True romance comes right out of the blue

So anything can happen 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

Heavy eyelids and peaceful breathing begin to fall into a sleepy rhythm.

Who knows maybe right around the corner

Your future is waiting for you

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

Letting go is the only thing to do;

Then anything can happen

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

oo oo ooo oooooooo

He sighs as he moves in a bit closer and I watch as his final blink turns into closed eyes.

He is sleeping.

And I hope he is dreaming of hope and possibility and his very own happily ever after.

Good night my sweet little one.

*This song is called “Anything Can Happen” by Linda Eder from her album entitled “It’s No Secret Anymore.” I sang this solo my junior year of high school. There are many of my old performance pieces I have long forgotten, but this one has stayed with me. I must have been meant to remember it all these years so that I could sing it to my son every night.*

Naked Toddler

There is a toddler in here somewhere. Naked.

My child loves to be naked. LOVES. I think more than the normal amount.

And he doesn’t just feel comfortable in his own skin. He also really loves his penis. I’ve heard that that’s pretty normal for a little boy. But it certainly makes for interesting events at our house. I honestly do not remember the last time I went through my day without having a discussion involving the word penis. As soon as we walk in the door everyday from wherever we have been, it is inevitable that he will ask, “Can I be naked now?”

Last week, we were waiting for the mobile vet to come to our house for our cats’ annual check up and shots. (Which is AMAZING. Mobile vets are the best idea ever. My cats have not been to the vet in three years because how in the world was I going to drag two cats and my son to a vet’s office? I am so glad I got this recommendation, because they were amazing and now my cats are healthy and I did not have to leave my house.)

But the entire time we were waiting for the vet to arrive, my son said, “Can I be naked now? Please!”

“No, love, we have to wait until after the kitty doctor comes.  They will be here very soon.”

“And after the kitty doctor leaves I can be naked?”

“Sure.”

I kid you not, the kid was naked within 30 seconds of the vet driving away.

He just can not stand the confines of clothing.

He watches TV naked. He sleeps naked. He eats naked.

It’s a really good thing that naked toddlers are so adorable, because around here there is no shortage of a naked toddler.

I have at least taught him that we can only be naked at home. He understands the need for clothing in public. And he knows we can only be naked in front of our family.

A couple of weekends ago, I had a fabulous girl’s weekend with a friend from college. We went out two nights in a row! (This is hugely significant for me. I rarely get to do anything fun.) Since the hubs was on night shifts and I was determined not to miss my weekend of fun, that meant that I had to get babysitters. The first night, I hired a sitter to come to our house. When I got home she had successfully managed to put him in pajamas. She’s a keeper. The next night, we went out to a movie with another friend of mine who has a boy the same age. Her husband said he would watch the kids. When we got back that evening, her kids were already in bed asleep and my son was watching TV on their couch. Her husband said he had told my little one to get comfy and he could lay down if he wanted to. To which my son replied, “I can’t get comfy here! I can only be naked at my house.” My friends husband was pretty shocked and tried to understand by asking my son if he could only be comfy if he was naked, to which my son said, “Yes, I love being naked!”

At least he’s honest. But it forced me to confess that yes, I do allow my child to sleep naked. And be naked a lot. You have to pick your battles, right? If my choice is naked or a tantrum, I’m going to go with naked.

Due to his frequent nakedness, my son is very aware of his body, and his favorite part is his penis. My days are often filled with comments such as, “Mommy, look at my penis!”

“My penis is so big!”

“Hey, Mommy, you know what? Sometimes penises are big and sometimes they are little.”

He often includes his penis in our games. A few days ago we were building a rocket to go to the moon, and we needed to put on pretend space suits. As we put on our space suits, I said, “Do you have on your space helmet?” My son replied, “Yes! And my space penis!” Obviously.

The most worrying statement came when my son said, “Mommy, touch my penis!”

I think he said this from genuine pride of his private part. He likes it so much that he just wanted to be nice and share it. He is never in a situation where I do not know his caretakers and he is rarely away from me, so I know he’s never been in a dangerous situation. I know his request was innocent. But it scared me.

I told him that his penis, his bottom and his body are just for him. They are not to share with anyone else. At first, he asked why and seemed kind of bummed out. But since then, with my repeated mantra, “Your penis/bottom/body is not for sharing,” he has begun to repeat it back to me and understand it as a rule.

Now he will randomly tell me, “Mommy? We can only be naked at my house. And my penis is not for sharing.”

I always respond with a very enthusiastic “That’s right!” and talking again about how important it is to keep our private parts private.

It’s a very fine line to walk between wanting my son to feel comfortable about his body and trying to protect him.

I assume that at some point, the naked all the time phase will pass. And if he can just remember the “We don’t share our penis” mantra until he’s married, I will be a happy Mommy.

Goodnight Words

Sleepy kisses were handed out as we all adjusted covers and nuzzled into pillows.

The toddler still sleeps here snuggled in the middle most nights, even though we all know babyhood has past.

My little boy is at peace here with Mommy and Daddy and though we do the sleep-in-your-own-bed thing, we really like him here, too.

Darkness surrounds us but we gaze at a battery-powered stars and moon that cast a sky on our ceiling.

“Goodnight little family,” I say.

“I love you,” says my husband.

“Mommy, Daddy?”  questions the toddler.

“Yes, sweet boy?” we respond.

“You guys are taking good care of me.”

It is dark, but I could still feel my husband and I lock eyes. I can feel his heart swell in rhythm with mine and make out the dimples of his smile in the moonlight as it mirrors my emotion.

“That’s such a nice thing to say, buddy,” says my husband with a smile.

“Thank you so much. You are such a sweet boy. I love you,” I reply, struggling to find words to convey my emotion.

“I love you too, guys,” says our sweet boy as he cuddled his Curious George lovey close and snuggled in to sleep.

And so we drifted into slumber, falling asleep to lullabies of sleepy breathing and toddler validation. Goodnight husband, goodnight little boy, goodnight words that have warmed my heart and filled my soul.

Goodnight.