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.

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.

Little Boy Noah

A story, as narrated by my two-year-old:

“Once upon, little boy Noah wanted crackers. But his Mommy said let’s go outside. And then little boy Noah got sick. His Mommy drove him to the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” One fell off and bumped his head and the doctor said “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” And then his mommy drove him home. And then little boy Noah still wanted some crackers. And he was not sick any more. And his Mommy took care of him. The End.”

Goodness, I love this kid.

My storyteller.

A Weekend of Blessings

This weekend was full of moments that took my breath away. I was very aware of their presence, their simplicity, and their significance. I am incredibly blessed. I found myself moved when I was:

  • Laughing at 7:30 in the morning on Friday, because my son was being adorable. I usually barely function at that hour, let alone laugh.
  • Watching my son perform in his end-of the-year school assembly. He sang “This Little Light of Mine” with his fellow two-year-olds. Except he didn’t sing, he lifted his shirt up and showed his belly and then covered his ears. But it was precious.
  • Holding my son in my lap after his performance while we watched the older children do their songs. I got teary at the 5 year olds. I became very aware that it is only a few years before my son will the big kid in the 5-year-old class, giving his last performance before he graduates from preschool. I hugged my son even tighter in my lap and tried to stop tears as I had a flash-forward mommy moment.
  • After the assembly (does anyone say that word anymore?) we went to the youth room to throw a surprise baby shower for Mrs. P, the teacher assistant in my son’s class. All of the moms and the lead teacher had been collaborating for weeks. It was a great success. Mrs. P was so moved, she gave a teary speech about how blessed she’s been to have our children and this sweet class and us as parents. She is due in just three weeks, so she’s been pregnant almost the entire time we’ve known her. She said that she didn’t want to sound corny, but her baby has felt the energy of that class and our children and she thinks the gifts and energy our children gave to her she will carry with her the rest of her life. Beautiful moment. All the mommies were crying and all of the toddlers were happily engaged in running around the room and squealing.
  • Leaving my son’s school to realize I only had enough gas to make it to the nearest gas station. Where there was a line. And the toddler was crying because he was tired and a very elderly man in front of me was taking FOREVER, and then told me I better find a different pump to wait at. I was mad and flustered, and finally got a pump. As I was pumping, the old man asked me to come to his car. I was annoyed. But then he gave me a gold coin (a real one) and told me to give it to my little boy for his piggy bank. I was immediately humbled and honored. I graciously thanked him and reminded myself of what’s really important.
  • Pulling into my driveway to see that my hydrangeas, that have not bloomed in two years, have decided to present themselves.
  • As did a yellow rose.
  • And a peaceful sleeping toddler who was lulled by the car ride home.
  • The invigorating sense of community and life that going to the Farmer’s Market early on a Saturday morning brings me. (And the amazing goods we brought home.)
  • The peacefulness of laying in a hammock on a Saturday afternoon.
  • The joy and laughter I shared with my little boy when we went to Music in the Park on Sunday afternoon to hear my neighbor’s band play. We shared peanut butter and honey sandwiches, listened to music, I pushed him on a swing, and we danced and laughed and threw his hat. (I forgot to bring a ball.) It was perfect.
  • The excitement my son had over a bath I ran for him with yellow colored water. Yellow is his favorite.
  • Waking up Monday morning to my son curled by my side and my two cats nestled at my feet.

This weekend was filled with moments that made me stop and pause and see the beauty mixed into the simplicity of my life. And I’m oh so glad I noticed.

Life Lessons From The Toddler

He sat in the swing at the new park and I pushed him back and forth, back and forth.

“Mommy! Up sky!”

I pushed him higher.

“Mommy, I see pretty trees, and a swide, and birds, and a baby!”

“Yes,” I answered, “this park has a lot of things to look at. I see a sandbox over there.”

“And Mommy? I will tell you some-ing. I see ladies and some mans!”

“Yes, there are ladies and men here and children just like you.”

“Uh-huh Mommy,” he nods in agreement before refocusing on the feel of the swing going back and forth.

“And Mommy? I will tell you some-ing one more time. Mans have penises but ladies do not have penises. But I have a penis! And Daddy has a penis!”

I nod my head. I’m pretty sure this conversation is audible to the penis-less ladies swinging their children beside us.

“And Mommy? You are a lady. But I am a boy. But you are a gul. So you not have a penis. But guls have bottoms. And boys have a penis AND a bottom!”

I nod my head again. The other moms have decided to go play at the sandbox away from the swings. It’s probably a coincidence.

“And Mommy? Mommy, are you listening?”

“Yes sweet boy, I’m listening.”

“But it’s ok, Mommy, if you not have a penis. We can get one at the store for you.”

Pause.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” I reply as I continue to search for the correct way to respond.

Pause.

“Yes, Mommy,” says my toddler with a defining nod.

“Would you like to get out of the swing now?” I ask.

After pondering my question, he says, “Ummmm no. You can just push me.”

There was silence now as I pushed him higher and higher. We felt the breeze blow and heard birds chirping. Sounds of children’s laughter drifted up into the air and I felt a sense of calm and relaxation.

“And Mommy? You ‘member I peed in the ice cream? And I peed in the potty? And I peed in the floor? You ‘member Mommy?”

“Yes, I do remember that. You pee in a lot of places.”

“Yes Mommy.”

“And Mommy, you ‘member that one day I was a baby?”

“Yes, you were a baby but now you are a big boy.”

“Yes, that’s right! And Mommy…”

“Look! Your friend is here! Would you like to get out of the swing and play?”

“Oh yes Mommy yes yes!”

As I help him get down from the swing and watch him run off, he turns to me as says, “Mommy, I am going away. You stay right here, Mommy.”

And so began our morning at the park. Luckily, this exchange was followed by a visit with a Mommy friend and coffee. Who doesn’t love starting their day with a play date, gorgeous weather, and a conversation about penises?

UETju: Love in Letters

UETju he spelled with multicolored refrigerator magnets, and exclaimed excitedly, “I made a word!”

I smiled and showed my excitement and then he read it to me. “It says ‘love Mommy,'” he explained while pointing his fingers over the letters, left to right, just as if he were really reading.

I scooped him up in a hug and told him it was beautiful and I was so proud of him. Because it was, and because I AM.

He was thrilled at his accomplishment and thrilled at my approval and I was honored to be his word.

I could have held him there forever but there were more brightly colored letters to be arranged. There, in the middle of the refrigerator, UETju turned into XmEO. And so began another story, arranged by little fingers, told by a little voice, and adored by a nearby Mommy.

Memories Captured: Two and a Half

Today, I am honored to link up with two of my favorite bloggers; Galit Breen of These Little Waves and Alison of Mama Wants This. I have been so inspired by both of these talented writers and am thrilled that they are holding a link up for Memories Captured. This genius idea encourages you to capture a moment with words and photos. I love this project, and found the task of finding a beautiful picture of my son and reflecting on it to be fun and challenging. I was so enthralled with this idea, that I could not decide between two of my most favorite recent pictures. I decided to include both. I’m not sure if I was able to capture his essence with these photos and words, but it allowed me to reflect on him and who he is right now, at this precious age of two-and-a-half.