family

The Not Pinterest Christmas

It looks like it has stopped raining finally, but the sky is still gray and the ground soggy. That makes two rainy Christmases in a row (et tu, global warming?).  It is also absurdly warm –  gonna be 75 degreees today. Am I in Australia or North Carolina?

We’ve watched few Christmas movies so far. I can’t believe I haven’t watched Christmas Vacation yet.

The lights on the outside bushes look good except for the strand on the last one because that’s when I discovered the plug for the last strand of lights didn’t fit the plug that came before. It fits the first strand, though. I thought about trying to reengineer them all but it feels too late now, so we will go with the two rows of lights on the bush. Oh well.

Daniel broke one of the lights in the window when he was waving to me when I went to the grocery store the other day. No worries – it isn’t like the front windows can be seen because of the large bushes in front of them. I alone will notice the asymmetry of two windows and one light .

I baked a lot of holiday goodies yesterday. My knees hurt. But it was  a good thing to do because the one staple I didn’t check before heading to the store was our brown sugar supply.  We now have 10 pounds of it

I mailed photo cards on Monday and Tuesday. They were hastily designed and printed on glossy photo paper at Walgreens. No matte cards from Tiny Print, Shutterfly, Zazzle etcetera. I’ve been meaning to book a family portrait for a long time, but it did not happen this year. That is why our glossy card features photos of only Daniel. That and the fact we took no decent pics with us in them. There was one possibility but it made my double chins front and center.

I didn’t go to my 20th high school reunion because see sentence above about double chins.

I had to ask my mom to help me figure out how to hang garland on our stairs and she made me 4 beautiful bows in 15 minutes.

I fail at the decorative parts of Christmas. My windows are not decorated; we don’t have a wreath (still in a garbage bag in the garage). Our elf lives with us year round.

I did buy pink poinsettias for the front porch because it is a billion degrees this year.

Maybe I don’t have it together decoratively but that’s OK.

I have a 9-ft tree whose lights seem to work this year (knocks on wood). I got out the ladder to decorate it despite my fear of heights. It is beautiful.

There are sugar cookies “expertly” decorated by an eager 6-year-old for Santa.

We’re making reindeer food today.

There are gifts under the tree and surprises hidden everywhere.

We have a Lego Christmas book to read tonight.

We get to play Santa.

And I still have 10 pounds of brown sugar 

  

#MicroblogMondays: Excitement

Last night, Daniel tried to put brown marker on our cat’s white fur. And that’s after he chased her up and down the stairs in an attempt to “race.” While the energy might have been the result of the sugar he consumed at the cookie decorating party we attended earlier that day, I think it is safe to say that someone is VERY excited about the holidays.

While the daily increase in excitement and energy can be exhausting for the adults (and cats), it’s sweet to see. Daniel really gets the holidays this year. And no, he doesn’t yet understand the history and meaning of the holidays but associates them with Santa Claus and presents; it is sweet and somehow satisfying to see him rip into a gift. It’s a purity of enthusiasm and delight that lasts only a short while.

And he had us in stitches over his answer to what the meaning of Christmas is: Hanukkah!

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#MicroblogMondays: Shark Teeth

Last week, we discovered Daniel has shark teeth. That’s what it is called when your permanent teeth come in before you lose your baby teeth, giving you a double row of teeth. Two of his lower front teeth are almost completely in, but his baby teeth show no sign of being ready to come out.

We were rather shocked to see the new teeth and a little freaked out, especially since the baby teeth are still firmly in place. Fortunately my cousin, a dental hygienist, looked at them over the weekend and said it would be fine to wait because the new teeth had plenty of room.

I guess I shouldn’t have been very surprised by the appearance of the shark teeth given our family’s dental history. All four of Daniel’s 6-year molars came in months ago. I myself was a precocious teether: a tooth popped through at 1 week old and the dentist pulled it when I was 6 weeks old. I also have 4 molars without enamel.

Parenting: never a dull moment.

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Deep, Dark Confession

Yesterday was chilly & rainy and it snowed further south. I joked on Twitter that it made me want to start decorating for Christmas.

And then later in the day, Jimmy and Daniel both declared they wanted the Christmas tree in the house.

And I agreed. By 6 PM, November 1, our Christmas tree was in the house and working.

I know. I know. My family is the reason we can’t have nice things. We are a teensy bit from being white trash.

The truth is, the tree makes us happy. We won’t decorate it for several more weeks, but hearing Daniel’s excited gasp of “wow!” yesterday made it worthwhile. And Jimmy loves it too.

And let’s be honest. We haven’t been great at managing our time lately considering that we are always carving our pumpkins on Halloween. We are great at making plans and then life gets in the way. Better to set up the tree now and make sure it works (an issue in prior years) instead of a few days before Christmas.

So, yeah. We’re those neighbors. But I don’t care. Daniel begged me to plug in the tree from the time he woke up today. Jimmy loved seeing the lights reflected throughout the house. And I love how cozy it made everything feel when it was raw and chilly outside.

I’m a few steps away from singing Christmas carols. And we all feel so happy; what could possibly be wrong with that???

Lustrum, Pentad, Quinquennium

Sweet Boy,

Lustrum, pentad, quinquennium…those are fancy words that simply mean five of something, and I used them because you have 5 of something: you have five years. You turned 5 on Monday, and I hoped all week to write something about it but as happens too often lately, life has been wild for our little household.

We are so proud of you. You have worked so hard this year in Pre-K and have learned so much. You are soooo close to reading, and each week daddy and I have marveled over the weekly work sent home. Last week you came home and informed us that your favorite planets are Mercury and Neptune. You ask questions about everything, with “Why?” being your favorite follow-up to any answer I give. You have learned a lot about religion this year. Last week you asked me why the soldiers hurt Jesus as I chugged my coffee. Today you told daddy that Jesus would help you find the missing Lego piece you sought. We might need to work on this.

You still love garbage trucks, but you have broadened your interests to include any construction vehicle – our kitchen looks like a Bruder factory exploded in it. Earlier this year, you put together your first Lego set (a garbage truck, naturally), and now the kitchen overflows with Lego trucks of all kinds. When you started building the Lego sets, daddy helped you quite a bit but now it is amazing to watch you follow the instructions and put them together with little assistance. I have a feeling this is only the beginning of a Lego phase, which is great except that Legos tend to go everywhere. I even found a tiny one in my bed. I felt a little like the Princess and the Pea that night.

Your imagination is growing by leaps and bounds. Your starfish talk – quite sassily (and loudly)! You’ve given your trucks and Legos creative names, most of which we have no idea where they came from. You still dislike your name and want us to call you something else, something that changes frequently: weekly, sometimes daily. You rename us too. We had to draw the line at renaming the cats because something in the house has to remain consistent. There are days I can’t remember what my name is! It isn’t unusual for you to turn the couch into a pretend garbage dump or to see your starfish, trucks and Toy Story figures playing together. You love Toy Story and Jessie is your favorite. I like to think it’s because she looks like me, but that’s kind of Oedipal, so I’ll stop.

 

Sweet Boy, you are full of sass & stubbornness & curiosity & humor. You make us laugh every day. Earlier in the week, we had to avert our faces because you declared “whatever” with enough attitude that we had a peek into your teenage years. You have a hearty laugh, and your guffaws are rich.

You are also sensitive. When you are chastised, you hide your face, and it breaks my heart. You find so much beauty in our world, be it weeds or trash. To you, everything is a treasure as you demonstrated last weekend when you wanted to water all the weeds. We struggle how to reconcile your love for every living thing while we tell you that things like weeds will not be allowed to survive.

Recently you have started making friends with the neighbor children in the houses closest to us. It has been quite a process and your anti-social parents have experienced lots of anxiety. But it has been great to hear you refer to them as “my friends.” And I promise that daddy and I will back off one day…when you are 20!

I don’t mean to imply that there weren’t hard times because there were. No one is perfect. I swear you talked non-stop in January and February. There were tantrums and stunning selective hearing and infuriating defiance. Sweet Sir, you have a stubborn streak that has been evident since infancy if not before!

I think the bottom line is that I can’t believe you are 5. FIVE!! How did that happen?? Five truly is a milestone year. Age 5 makes me think kindergarten and the final removal of baby things. You will start your elementary school journey in August. College feels only minutes away.

And I hope that we are good parents to you. We try hard, but I worry it is not enough. As time goes on, I begin to accept that you will likely be our only child and worry that I haven’t done enough or been there enough. And I worry that every decision is wrong because there will be no do-over.

Whew. Feels like a lot of worry and doubt to place on your small shoulders. Sweetheart, you are awesome. So many people love you, and I cannot wait to see how you develop even if it is bittersweet.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy

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Less Than Stellar Service But a Stellar Little Boy

Today was a busy day. My mother and stepfather were coming up for the day so we could go to the Angus Barn to celebrate my mom’s birthday, so after Daniel got up at 6:30, it was time for me to clean a little more after I had shocked my system with copious amounts of pumpkin spice coffee.  Litter! Toilets! Floors! Oh my! My mother and stepfather were originally supposed to arrive at 10:30 but didn’t actually arrive until noon, giving us time to play outside before lunch.

sidewalk chalk alphabet

Practicing his letters

 

sidewalk chalk

The young artist

 

The afternoon passed quickly.  Daniel had lunch and then “quiet time,” which is anything but quiet.  Jimmy and my stepfather worked on a house project, and my mother and I chit chatted. Before long, it was time for us to get ready to go eat.

Child and starfish

He has nicer clothes than I do

We are big fans of the Angus Barn but alas, tonight it didn’t live up to its reputation and our prior experiences there.  The service was very slow. We had made a reservation for 5:30 to ensure we were able to get home reasonably close to Daniel’s bedtime and to ensure that my mother and stepfather were able to get on the road at a decent hour since they couldn’t spend the night. We didn’t leave the restaurant until after 8. The food was just OK, and we were frustrated by the slowness.

We’ve eaten there many times before and 9 times out of 10, the experience is top-notch.  I know that any restaurant can have an off night but it was frustrating that it was tonight of all nights. I worry that it made my mom’s birthday dinner seem less special since the meal was expensive but may not have been worth it tonight. Everything seemed a little off.

The bright spot was Daniel.  He was wonderful. He was charming and sweet the entire night. Despite being tired and hungry, he behaved beautifully and we resorted to videos on my iPhone only as a last resort when we were waiting for the entree and he began to fidget.  We didn’t get home until almost 9, an hour past his bedtime, and we still managed to brush teeth, read stories, do the starfish chart and the bedroom routine without any meltdowns.  That little boy was out within minutes of his head hitting the pillow.

grandparents

Daniel and his adoring public

 

Mother and child

Daniel and his adoring mommy

 

May we all sleep well. I know I’m looking forward to a very quiet day tomorrow.

How is your weekend so far?

Father’s Day

Children are extremely funny – both intentionally and unintentionally – at this age.  Daniel’s daycare teachers interviewed each child about his or her father and sent it home as a Father’s Day gift. Daniel’s answers to the questions are hysterical. Behold:

daycare questionnaire for Father's Day

First of all, his father’s name is Jim, NOT Stephen! Daniel does know Jimmy’s name, but the little stinker didn’t make up Stephen from nowhere. We’re a very naming family – everything has a name, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Stephen is the name of Jimmy’s iPhone (mine is named Millie). So, yes, it is a little humiliating that Daniel used the name of his father’s iPhone for his father’s name.  Ouch.

Secondly, note the age he gave Jimmy: 26. Twenty-frigging-six!!  I’m envious because when I asked the little imp how old I was a few weeks ago, he said 62. 62! Jimmy gets 26. Jimmy says he’ll change his name to Stephen if he can be 26 😉

Thirdly, Jimmy is not a garbage man to Daniel’s chagrin.  He works in IT for our local utility monopoly. He’d probably enjoy being a garbage man more.

The rest of the answers are sweet and made us laugh. We did have a moment of worry about the “favorite food” answer because Daniel has been fond of saying that everything Jimmy drinks is beer after Jimmy had 1 beer with dinner. It’s probably the only beer Jimmy has had in the 4 years Daniel has been alive LOL.

The drawing is fairly representative 🙂 It is so enlightening and humbling to see what behaviors and lessons stay with our little ones.

***

When we moved into this house 8 years ago, we were beginning to think seriously about starting a family. Like within a few months. We scrutinized every house we looked at for its suitability for children and settled on our current house because we liked that all the bedrooms were on one level. We especially loved the huge yard and the wooded lot. We stood on our back porch and pointed to a shady spot right before the trees started and declared it would be perfect for a swing set. We could envision our children playing in the back yard, swinging high and and sliding down the slide.

It didn’t quite work out the way we thought it would. It would be 4 years before the baby we had imagined became a reality.

It would be four more years before the play set graced the back yard.  Jimmy and I decided that Daniel’s big birthday present this year would be a play set. Jimmy had a few requests: monkey bars and a club house. I wanted good swings and a slide because Daniel loves to slide.

On Saturday, we sent Daniel to grandma’s for the day and had the play set built.  When I brought Daniel home, the work was finished, and we took him to see it. He grinned and ran to it at full speed. As he explored every part of it, he would turn to us and say, “I love you, Mommy” and “I love you, Daddy.” Melt.

Playset!

Today, Father’s Day, we spent 2 hours outside playing on it.  I know that the play set (or “clubhouse” as Daniel calls it) is technically Daniel’s birthday gift, but it feels like a gift for us too.  A perfect Father’s Day and Mother’s Day gift.

After years of struggle to get Daniel here, seeing him happy is the best gift we could ask for.

Happy Father’s Day, Jimmy. Your little boy adores you.

Jimmy and Daniel

Where’d My Baby Go?

Oh the memories

Oh the memories

We’re doing serious purging at our house right now.  We’ve been vicious.  Haven’t played with it or used it in a while and not donation quality? Purge. Nothing has been spared: old televisions, clothes, toys, pots and pans, etc.  It has been cathartic watching the pile of junk in our attic, closets and guest room dwindle.  Cathartic hearing the heavy “thunk” as we chuck something into the dumpster.

But I’ve had a lump in my throat all weekend.  I was tempted to blame residual grief over last week’s work drama for the lump, but that didn’t seem quite right.

In our zeal to purge, we went through Daniel’s baby gear, and I set aside items to take to a coworker and took a lot to a local thrift store. Pack n Plays (we have 3). Bouncers. Bumbos. Snap n Go. The car seat in which we brought Daniel home from the hospital.  As I sorted, I realized that I was sad about giving away these tokens of Daniel’s babyhood.  Many of these were items we registered for at Babies R Us before his birth, giddy and still somewhat in disbelief that we had reached that milestone. Allowing ourselves finally to ponder the specs on car seats and the combo stroller vs the lighter weight Snap N Go. The bouncy seat that calmed him but also induced rage when he felt taunted by the animals that hovered just above his grasp. The play gym that amused him and was the source of many coos and giggles. I think its music is permanently stored in my memory.

We have tons of pictures of Daniel.  His babyhood is well documented, and I’m sure we have multiple pictures and videos of him playing with or in these items, but it stung to acknowledge these tangible reminders of his infancy, of our euphoria at finally achieving our hard-fought goal, as items we no longer need.

Part of it is due to how fast life is moving. I know that Daniel is growing up.  Hell, he’s almost 4.  FOUR!!!!!  Each night as he whines about some aspect of the bedtime routine, we’ve responded, “We know you can do this.  You’re almost 4.” It’s true and it works, but holy shit, how did  he come to be almost 4???? Last time I checked, he was a tiny baby. What worm hole did we enter?

The other part of it is our infertility history. While never ignored or forgotten, it manages to pop up when I least expect it.  I don’t know if we’ll have another child.  I hope we will, but if we do, it is still likely a few years off.  Keeping bouncy chairs and bumbos for a potential sibling that might not materialize for years seemed silly at best and masochistic at worst.

I did keep a few things.  Items that have so much meaning that I can’t quite bear to part with them. Maybe I’ll have to part with them in a few years, but I’m not ready yet.  I’m not quite sure how I got to the point where a car seat was so symbolic, but it is.

Despite my sadness, I’m glad to be able to pass on what we could.  I like knowing that the items we chose so carefully or were gifted by generous friends and family will help another family.  I like thinking about my coworker’s baby boy playing with the toys that we picked out for our sweet boy when he was a baby. I don’t want to become a hoarder who saves everything because she can’t bear to get rid of something.  It helps knowing some other child may get great joy or some other family will have their needs met by our items.

I’ve enjoyed every stage with Daniel, truly.  Infancy was sooooo sweet.  Toddlerhood was challenging but exciting. He’s a definite little boy now, and every day he comes home with new knowledge and cheek and makes us laugh and melt with his sweetness.  Sometimes, though, I wish I could press pause.  Time is moving so quickly. Too quickly.  In a few years, we might be selling his train table and trains on Craig’s List.  It’s a good reminder to try to enjoy every single moment.

This wistfulness? They don’t mention that in the parenting books.  It hurts. A lot.

 

Christmas Eve and All is Well

The lamb for tonight’s dinner is sizzling in the oven, delicious scents of garlic and rosemary permeating the kitchen. I’m prepping the rest if the ingredients while the rest of the house sleeps: Jimmy because he finally caught my Frankenvirus AND pink eye; Daniel’s nap a surprise. It’s raining instead of snowing, but it’s chilly. I can’t stand a warm Christmas.

I’m watching History of Christmas programs and practically humming as I chop and peel. The long-absent tree skirt is back home and around the tree. Gifts are finally wrapped and under the tree; Santa is ready for his act tonight too.

My little family of three will celebrate Christmas Eve and Day by ourselves, quietly. There is sugar cookie dough ready to make clumsy cookies for Santa and reindeer food to feed his reindeer. After we eat, we plan to drive around the neighborhood and gawk at the lights before putting the wee one to bed so Santa can visit.

A quiet Christmas, but one spent with the ones I love the most (including the three furry beasties who like to sleep under the tree). May your Christmas be as well.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving flowers and figurines

20 pounds of turkey is in the oven, with its cavity stuffed with onions, celery, lemons and herbs and a paste of rosemary, garlic and olive oil smeared under the skin.  Nothing like violating a turkey first thing in the morning:  I feel like I should have introduced myself first or at least bought the turkey a drink.

The world’s tiniest sous chef helped me break the green beans; he took his responsibility very seriously!

sous chef with his green beans

Helping prepare the green beans

The dressing and sweet potato casserole have been assembled and ready to bake later on.  Now it’s time to clean, and if I’m really doing well time-wise, I might even get to take a shower before the guests arrive.

Even though our table will be short one guest this year, we know she will be with us in spirit.

Carnations for Mum

Carnations were Mum’s favorite flower

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no-good year, but we still have so much for which to be thankful.  Today we will acknowledge our blessings and hopefully that knowledge will stay with us every day.

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving.  Eat lots, be merry and hug your loved ones.