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

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 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.

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.

Just Like My Flowers

The light of the moon made its way into the bedroom as the toddler and I snuggled under the covers. Another day had faded away and my little boy and I cuddled up close as we settled into bed.

“Mommy?”

“Yes sweet boy.”

“Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“My flowers are growing!”

“Your flowers are growing?”

“Yes! They are growing bigger and bigger!”

“Yes, they are growing bigger and bigger.”

“Am I growing bigger too?”

“Yes, you are growing bigger, too.”

“And stronger?”

“Yes, everyday you are growing bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger.”

“Uh-huh Mommy. Just like my flowers?”

“Just like your flowers.”

I could see him pondering. Satisfied, he cuddled up next to me and arranged himself to fit into the curve of my side.

I held him close and we both closed our eyes. I drifted to sleep listening to the beautiful sound of a toddler and his flowers growing in silence.

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?

Dancing in the Wind

The sun showered down on us in slivers through the leaves; its brightness muted by the blossoming greenery.

Gentle breezes came and went and gracefully carried the kite with it as it blew, then gently placed it back on the ground when it stopped.

I watched the green kite dance in the wind as my little boy ran delightedly behind it, laughing and shrieking with joy at its flight.

A small let down in his face presented every time the breeze stopped and picked up just as quickly as it began to once again trace its steps in the wind. I watched as he trailed behind it and smiled, occasionally distracted by the flowers or rocks beneath his feet.

Cars on the road and the chirping of birds provided a background soundtrack to our moments of beauty.

I wish I had been able to capture this in a picture. This day of sunshine and breezes and the bright green of the kite contrasting with the bright red of the shirt my son picked out to wear this morning. Capture the exuberant smile on his face as he watched the kite dance in the wind and the way his hair ruffled with the same rhythm. The way the sunlight cast highlights in his hair and caught the sparkle in his eyes. Capture the playfulness of his laughter.

But there was no time for a camera and no way a camera could capture all of that anyway, so I stayed there in that moment, trying to narrate in my mind the beauty I was witnessing. I held the kite. I heard the laughter. I felt the breeze blow the kite, my son’s hair, and my body. I delighted on the pull of the kite string and the vision of my son running after it, and then sitting, perched in position for the gathering of flowers and rocks we would later take home.

I tried to encapsulate this moment in my mind. This view. This laughter. This dance of love happening in the wind. This brief moment of perfection.

He began to tire, and the breeze began to fade. It was time to go home. Whining and fussing would quickly take over if we did not go home for rest.

But in that moment, my life was a fairy tale. A picnic at a park on a random Tuesday, where my joy was encompassed in the dance of a kite and a boy’s laughter floating in the wind.

*Today, my little guy is 33 months old. Where, oh where, is this time going? 

It’s A Small World

In the course of daily life I tend to lack reflection on the big picture. My world is a constant exercise in toddler emmersion. I spend my days fixing snacks, going to activities age appropriate for a two-year old, wiping my son’s bottom, doing laundry, doing dishes, straightening the house, paying bills, and occasionally loosing myself in a book. That’s it. That’s my world. Those are my conversation pieces.

My world has become small.

This past week I visited with my family and was re-awakened to the fact that there’s so much more to the world than just the small fragment I am constantly exposed to.

There were conversations about finances, technology, master’s degrees, running, church, relationships, work. There were conversations about who we know and updates on friends doing different things like living abroad, getting married, or welcoming children of their own. There was a remembrance of life before a toddler.

I love my world of immersion. I enjoy our pace and our schedule and even my constant state of exhaustion because in the midst of it all I have a sweet little boy to love on every day.

But visits with friends and family remind me that there is so much more to this world. There are so many areas I have yet to explore. It is possible to go an entire day without talking about “the potty.” Who knew?

I am so proud to know the people in my family and the friends that carry my heart. I am so grateful for the way they choose to spend their time and that I am able to weave my story in with theirs, however so briefly, so that it becomes a part of my awareness. There was life before a toddler when my world seemed big and full of possibilities. There is life now, filled with daily tasks that sometimes make me feel that the walls of my life have closed in, and I am contained in a small existence. There will be life after a toddler when my world may once again open up to new possibilities and experiences.

So, for now, I will stay in my world of immersion and containment. And one day, when we are both ready, my son and I will each open our worlds to new possibilities and experiences. Until then, I’m enjoying this view from the sidelines.

Sick and Mad

Sickness has descended upon our house for the past week. I am an expert at following my own how to get sick advice. A full seven days of runny noses and coughs and tissues and humidifiers has really taken its toll. The toddler seems to be feeling better and just a lingering cough remains. The hubs had to call into work and I have not left the house in the past week except to drive the toddler to and from preschool. It has been a nearly impossible task to keep the toddler entertained and the house in a somewhat decent state while both adults are out of capacity on the couch.

The grumpy factor is at an all time high. Seven days can feel like a long time. With the whole family at the end of our ropes, this conversation happened this morning:

Me: (to the toddler) “Will you bring Mommy a tissue please?”

Toddler: “No, I will not. And Daddy will not either.”

Hubs: “That’s not very nice. Why won’t you bring Mommy a tissue?”

Toddler: “Because I am mad at Mommy. And Mommy is mad at me.”

Me: “I am not mad at you.”

Toddler: “Yes. Mommy is mad at me every day because I made a mess. And I am mad at Mommy.” (walks over to me and in a very mad voice says,) “Mommy, I am mad at you because I made a mess.”

Me: ….

Hubs: “Come on, let’s leave Mommy alone for a minute. We need to go clean up your mess.”

Toddler: “I need to pee!” (goes to bathroom) From the bathroom we hear singing, ” I will never clean the living room never ever. I will leave the living room a mess. I am ma-aaad. Yes sir.”

Me: “Can someone please bring me a tissue?”

Toddler: “I will Mommy.” (brings me a tissue) “It’s ok, Mommy. I am not mad at you. I love you.”

Me: “I love you too. I am not mad at you either. Thank you for my tissue.”

Hubs: “Ok, now we need to clean this mess in the livingroom!”

Toddler: “Uggggghhhhh!!!!!”

Sigh. I realize, that this week has been a week of ignoring the toddler because we just don’t have the ability to play with him. When we are up, we have been fussing at him to clean up all of these messes he’s making while we haven’t been able to supervise. We are exhausted and sick, and frustrated by having to clean up every five minutes from our toddler tornado, when all we really want to do is lay around and sleep in a clean-ish house. The toddler is frustrated by lack of stimulation and that every time he does come up with a creative game, (ie, throw all of his crayons all over the floor, unload all of the kitchen cabinets, cut up bits of paper all over the house, etc.), we want him to clean up the mess.

This cycle is exhausting. The hubs is ready to go to work, I am ready to have energy back to entertain my son and keep my house clean, and the toddler is just ready for some interaction. And probably for some activities outside of our house.

Here’s hoping that whatever this super cold is will leave soon. And that the toddler will stop being mad at me because he made a mess.