Excuse Me Young Man, What Have You Done with My Little Boy?

“Hey Mom, what’s up,” he asked casually as he sauntered into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and began scanning the shelves.

“Hey bud, whatcha looking’ for?” I could swear he just ate 15 minutes before.

“A snack,” he said followed quickly by the unmistakable sound of a string cheese wrapper being pulled apart.

“Didn’t you just eat?” I laughed and glanced over my shoulder, momentarily shocked that the person standing there had little resemblance to the little boy I swear he was just months before.

“I love ya mama!” he said before wrapping his arms around me and lifting me off the ground.

“Whoa bud!” I warned as my feet landed back on the ground. “Please don’t pick me up.”

“Why not?” A look of true bewilderment filled his still boyish face.

“Boundaries dude,” I wrapped my arms around his broadening shoulders and gave him a squeeze. “Kids aren’t supposed to pick up their parents.”

“Whatever,” he said with a quick laugh as he walked toward the living room. “Love you!”

“I love you more!” I called back standing momentarily stunned at the kitchen island soaking in the incontrovertible fact that we’d entered a new phase of our mother/son relationship.

The days are long but the years are short. – I don’t know who first said it, but I’ve been reading it a lot lately.

I don’t remember ever seeing the saying before I became a mom. And now it seems to be popping up everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, overlaid on Instagram photos.

Maybe it’s just suddenly hitting a little too close to home. In what feels like the blink of an eye my seven pound newborn is now a five foot tall 11 year old.

Gone are the days of carrying his sleeping body to bed when he falls asleep in the car. Gone too is my ability to scoop him up and away from danger. And all too soon, gone will be the opportunity to lean down and kiss the top of his head as he stands next to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the benefits that come with having an older kid – he doesn’t need constant supervision, only occasionally has to be reminded to wash his hands, and he can get himself a snack.

And we haven’t hit the teen years yet. Luckily he’s still willing to hang out with me in public (even when we accidentally dress like twins), and even pulls himself away from the Xbox from time to time to sit down next to me for a snuggle. Most importantly, he still indulges me allowing me to tuck him in at night and cover his soft cheeks with kisses.

But there’s a part of me – a bigger part lately than usual – that feels the years of being a mom to a little boy went by too fast.

Um Mom … It Wasn’t All Bad

It’s been a long week. Kids were busy, work was busy, and I was short on sleep. The short on sleep part was my own fault as the husband and I stayed up late every night binge watching Hawaii 5-0 on Netflix. As our six year old would say “Not the best choice, right?” while tilting her head to the side as her eyes widen and her mouth curls into a crooked little smile. She shakes her head until I agree with her.

And to make it just a little more challenging to get through the last workday of the week, I was awoken by the shuffle of feet in the wee hours of the morning.

I opened my eyes and waited for them to adjust to the darkness as I searched for our early morning visitor. I could tell by the sound of the footsteps it was our daughter.

“What’s up baby-cakes?” I asked as I pulled myself up onto my elbows. I tapped the mattress next to me as she rounded the corner of the bed, her blanket swung over one shoulder.

“I had a bad dream,” she whispered hoarsely as her voice threatened to crack.

“Oh man, that stinks,” I said as I cuddled her in next to me and instantly felt her tense shoulders begin to relax. “Wanna tell me about it?”

“We were making pancakes for breakfast, and we ate them. And then a dinosaur came, and the pancake griddle caught on fire, and our house burnt down.” She nuzzled her warm cheek into the crook of my neck.

I tried not to laugh at the random nature of the dream, while at the same time feeling oddly proud that my six year old could come up with the word griddle in the middle of the night.

“Whoa, that sounds awful,” I said hoping that acknowledging her fear would help it quickly dissipate and we could get back to sleep.

“Well mom, it wasn’t all bad,” she said as if I was the one that only moments before had been near tears. “The pancakes tasted great!” I heard the smile in her voice.

“Well, I stand corrected,” I said letting out the laugh I’d held back moments before. “I’m glad it wasn’t all bad.” I kissed her head and pulled the comforter up around her shoulders. “Should we try to go to sleep?”

Almost before I finished the question I heard her breathing slow and within a minute she was asleep.

Ever since bringing our kids home from the hospital we’ve tried hard not to let them sleep with us. We didn’t want to start a habit we’d have to break and frankly, I never slept well with my kids in the room. Even now, I can never fully relax, always on alert for a change in their breathing that might signal a problem.

I knew I wouldn’t sleep well if she stayed in the bed next to me, but my eyes had adjusted to the dark and I could see her sweet sleeping face on the pillow next to me. I had the rare opportunity to snuggle her close for a couple of hours without her wriggling away.

So while I knew I would wake up extra tired, and likely a little sore, it wasn’t all bad. I had the opportunity to watch my daughter sleep and to hold her close.

Our kids are growing up so fast, I don’t know how many more chances like that I’ll get.

Oh s#@t! – A Six Year Old’s Attempt at Verbal Shock and Awe

“Oh crap!” our daughter declared as she walked through the front door after school and dropped her backpack next to the dining room table. “I forgot my lunchbox at school. Harrumph!”

“Well hello to you kiddo,” I said looking up and trying not to laugh. It was so hard to keep a straight face; her tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language were just the perfect balance of drama and genuine feeling.

“Oh kah-rapppppp,” she said as her eyes widened before she slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand. “I guess I’m just gonna need to bring my lunch in a paper bag tomorrow. Dammit.”

The dammit came out in a barely audible whisper as she tried to steal a look in my direction. I saw the gears turning in her head as she hoped for a reaction.

“Whoa there sister,” I said raising my voice slightly as our eyes met. “You know better than to talk like that.” I paused to take a breath, barely able to hold back my laughter that suddenly stemmed more from shock than humor. “How about, darn I forgot my lunchbox? or Oh man, I forgot my lunch box.”

Just as I finished providing the alternative language, my husband entered the house.

“You are so lucky young lady that your mother didn’t hear what you just said. If she heard you she would be very upset. That language is NOT appropriate.” He stood directly in front of her, brows knitted together, his hands on his hips.

I looked at my husband in shock and confusion. His reaction seemed like an eight on the 10 point parenting scale. She only said crap and dammit … and I almost laughed … and how in the heck did you hear her, I thought.

“What’s up?” I asked totally bewildered and feeling guilty for finding such humor in the last 30 seconds. “What’d I miss?”

“I dunno,” our daughter said as she shrugged and walked out of the room the model of six year old innocence.

“I was grabbing something from the back of the car as she walked in the house. Didn’t you hear what she said?”

“Um, no,” I said raising my eyebrows at him curious as to what I missed.

“Her hand slipped on the doorknob and when it swung toward her she said “friggin’ door!”

“Ooooh, I seeee….” I let my voice trail off. That was something all together different. Although still a tiny bit funny. I tried hard not to smile, even a little bit.

In truth, if anyone else heard the crap, jerk, dammit, and friggin’ that we’d heard lately I would be embarrassed at the evidence of my obvious mothering failures. Although, admittedly the feelings of failure would be tempered by the knowledge that this was just another example of our daughter testing the boundaries and trying to get a reaction. How do you know the limits if you never bump up against them, right?

We’d been through a similar shock and awe campaign five years ago with our son. He too tested the limits of language, mostly in front of us, but from time to time when friends or family were around. We all survived and at almost 11 he isn’t foul mouthed, well, not that often anyway.

So bring it on Sister. Show me what you got. Test my self control. I’ll correct you, give you alternatives, and wait to laugh until you leave the room.

Basking in the Glow of a Parenting Success

This weekend was our annual trip to the State Fair. Every year it gets easier – no more nap time to plan around, diaper bag to carry, or stroller to maneuver through the crowds.

Hoping to avoid hearing too many questions about when they could go on the rides, we prepped the kids before we left the house. The plan was to see some animals, visit the petting zoo, watch the carvers and blacksmith before going on any rides. Oh the rides … this could be our undoing. Our son, at almost 11, is just shy of five feet tall and 110 pounds. He wouldn’t have to worry about height limits anymore. For our six and a half year old, who wants to do everything her brother does, it might be a different story.

I wondered how many times we might hear “That’s not fair!” or “I am too big enough to go on that ride!” or “That guy’s just a big jerk!” (When she’s feeling particularly aggrieved lately jerk is her favorite word.) I pictured her furrowed brows, eyes narrowing and lips in a deep frown.

State FairFirst stop was the cattle barn. Our daughter really wanted to milk the fiberglass dairy cow like last year. We were off to a good start as our son took the lead and navigated his sister in the right direction. My husband and I walked a few feet behind, “You see that,” I said looking over at him and smiling, “they do love each other!” I was going to enjoy the peace and togetherness while it lasted.

We saw cattle, exotic birds, sheep, rabbits, horses and even a zebra. The kids were awesome so it was time to head to the rides.

Kids heading toward our next activity at the Fair.
Kids heading toward our next activity at the Fair.

When their dad left to buy ride tickets they began to strategize. I sat quietly and listened. They worked together to decide what ride they’d go on first, took turns choosing the next ride, and even compromised a time or two. And more than once, my son grabbed his sister’s hand and led her through the crowd. They got along beautifully and both had a great time.

Maybe our family has entered a new phase, or maybe we just had a great day at the Fair. Either way, I’ll take it. I’ll sit back and bask in the glow of our parenting success.

One Big Goal – One Step Closer to Completion

Last year, as I sat on the beach in Maui building a sand castle with my then five year old daughter, my husband and nine year old son snorkeling nearby, I decided to go after a goal I’d set three decades earlier.

Thirty years before, after learning S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders while still in high school, I decided I wanted to write a book. At the time I figured I had five or six years to pen my first novel and get it published. (I was ten and figured I could have it finished by the time I was 15 or 16.)

I had a three month summer vacation to fill, an active imagination, and loved the way writing made me feel. I also yearned for the attention a top selling novel would bring. So I grabbed a handful of notebook paper and a pencil, sat down at my small wooden desk, and began writing the next great young adult novel. I wrote five or six pages before I ran out of storyline, lost interest, and was distracted by riding my bike around the neighborhood with my friends.

Over the years I’ve kept journals, continuing to enjoy the relaxation and clarity writing brought. The desire to get my writing published never went away. Although my desire for fame did.

I want to achieve three things by publishing my memoir, The Making of a Mom:
1. Show my kids that with dedication and effort a goal can be achieved (even if it takes a long time).
2. Help someone on an adoption journey know they aren’t alone.
3. Hold a copy of my book in my hands as proof I can do whatever I set my mind to.

After a year of hard work, perseverance, and a few tears, the first draft is done. I wrote 159,876 words filling 473 pages. As a result, I gained both a better understanding of my journey and a greater appreciation for the life I’ve built. I also have more desire than ever to see this goal through to the end.

As I begin to refine the thousands of words and further shape the story, nobody is more surprised than I am that I’ve been able to see my goal through to this point. So hopefully I’ll keep my eye on the prize, maintain momentum, and by this time next year, be a published author.

Remembering My Own Advice

I enjoyed a busy week away from work. A staycation filled with trips to the pool to watch our kids’ in swim lessons, followed by an hour splashing around during open swim. Rhys and I had a Mommy-Daughter date and went to get pedicures while Theo enjoyed golfing with the Husband. On Friday we went to the movies as a family. The days sped by and I can’t believe I head back to work tomorrow.

The kids made great progress through the week with their swimming. Theo’s challenge was getting comfortable with his face in the water and not holding his nose when he jumps into the pool. Rhys worked on trusting herself and staying relaxed in the water.

The pep talks I gave before each lesson included “You can do this!” and “Show me your power.” and “You are brave and strong. Show me what you’ve got!”

Friday was the last day of the first session of swim lessons. Over the two weeks both kids’ confidence grew, they learned a lot, and made significant progress. Rhys can successfully back float and Theo’s breath stroke now includes a little time with his face in the water between strokes.

Most important of all, they both showed me how brave they were as the jumped off the blocks into the pool on the final day. And on a couple jumps neither of them held their nose, trusting themselves.

When I head back to work tomorrow, I need to remember to take my own advice. It’s going to be a busy couple of months as we work to deliver a few new programs. I am brave, I am strong, and I can do it!

P.S. Thanks for reminding me kiddos and I’ll miss spending time with you at the pool!

Maximizing Time

It’s been a busy couple months. I think I’m behind on everything. I’m sure I’m not the only working mom who feels that way.

On Saturday morning my husband had plans to play a round of disk golf with a couple of high school friends, so it would be just me and the kids.

“Don’t worry, they’ve been sleeping in.” He assured me that during their first week of summer vacation he’d been waking Rhys and Theo up between 8:30 and 9.

“Awesome, I’m looking forward to sleeping in,” I said. We’ve finally made it, I thought. We’ve hit a new phase in our parenting when our kids are no longer up at the crack of dawn. It only took a decade.

The husband’s alarm went off at six and I wake with a jolt thinking I’m already late for work. Nudging his shoulder to turn off the alarm, he rolls over and says “Thanks babe,” and kisses me on the cheek.

My heart finally stops racing and I realize its Saturday and I can sleep in. “Have a great time babe,” I say with a smile and turn back over to fall asleep.

“Hi Mom,” Theo says from my husband’s side of the bed as he slips in next to me and puts his sweet face close to mine.

“Morning Mommy,” Rhys adds as she slips in next to me on the other side of the bed and cuddles in close.

“Hi guys, what’s up?” I stretch groggily and attempt to look at the clock. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been asleep very long.

“We are!” they both say with a giggle.

“Let’s go down stairs,” Rhys says.

“Yeah,” agrees Theo.

I stretch again and hear the garage door opening. Ugh! So much for sleeping in. It’s not even seven.

“Alright you crazy monkeys, let’s go down stairs,” I say smiling.

The sun is shining, my kids are happy, its Saturday. Might as well make the most of the day.

I post on Facebook about my early birds and the fact they only wake up early for me. A friend comments that its because they missed me.

They’re maximizing their time with me. I’ll take that.