Wednesday, March 30, 2011

All My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready To Go

Ever since I told my boys that we were going to California for spring break, they have been making preparations. What kid doesn't love vacation? What mom doesn't love vacation, for that matter?

I decided that since I am traveling with all three of them on my own, I would get them their own little suitcases that they can manage themselves so I won't have to haul all the luggage myself. Mitchell helped me pick out one for each big boy, and even if we weren't going on vacation, these cute little suitcases have been one of the best purchases I have made in a long time! The boys LOVE them! As soon as we got them home, they packed up all their bedtime necessities and swimsuits and were ready to go! (I would perhaps disappoint you if I didn't mention that Mitchell, of course, also packed a soap dispenser, his skeleton pajamas, and his entire doctor kit.) I had to keep reminding them that we still have weeks to go.

Learning they have to wait weeks until we leave was a bit of a bummer for them, but, like kids do, they got over it quickly and just made a game out of packing. We have played "vacation" daily now since we brought those suitcases home. Couches have turned into airplanes, I keep getting buzzed to bring snacks and drinks, Jack's bedroom transformed into the beach, the bathtub is the pool... and always the suitcases go with them everywhere this game takes them.

That's MY Baby!

Now that the weather is warming up, I no longer have to torture Jack by forcing him to remain strapped into his stroller, all swaddled up in a fleece-lined sack, hat down over ears (and usually eyes too because he's so wiggly) socks pulled on up to his elbows under his jacket (to keep them on because gloves are WAY to easy to continually pull off), struggling wildly to escape.

He has absolutely NO patience for riding or sitting in a stroller. My other boys jump at the chance to sit in it or be pushed around in it and always have, but Jack has other things on his mind.

In the mornings, as we wait around outside the school for the doors to open, Jack does his thing. I set his feet on the ground and he is off running! Usually, there is a dog or two there, which is a blessing for me because it at least keeps him in one spot, even if it is on top of or underneath a dog. That is better than running away into the street or over to the playground for an early morning play session. Every parent knows him by name and he has to "talk" to each of them and show off his shoes or whatever he might have in his hands.

He makes the rounds, searching kids and adults alike for anything that might have liquid in it. Next to dogs, shoes, and my recycling bins, water bottles are his most favorite thing!

The preschool kids love him too. I see him sort of as their mascot. Most kids come with their own younger sibling in tow, but I have never seen any of them pay an ounce of attention to them. They follow Jack around, trying to pick him up (although he weighs as much as some of them, I'm sure), pinching his cheeks, making silly faces, running to and fro with him, pointing out dogs to him, and generally crowding him until he falls over.

How does Mitchell respond to this? Sometimes he ignores it. Sometimes he participates. Sometimes he gets jealous and tells them all, "Hey, this is MY baby!" He is such a grump in the morning though that I allow Jack to be Mr. Social to show Mitchell how much fun he can have if he will just get out of the stroller and begin his day already.

When the doors finally open, Jack is one of the first to run inside (if I am busy chatting and he can sneak past the teacher, that is.) Once, I found him neatly lined up inside with the kids, ready to walk to the classroom with them. The kids thought they were going to smuggle him in.

I love his little personality and how friendly and unafraid he is. My goal is to keep him safe, yet attempt to leave his fearless friendliness in tact as he gets older.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just Keep It Coming!

I am beginning to spend quite a small fortune at the grocery store every month. Every time I swipe my card, I think, "This just has to last us for a while now!" About 5 or 6 days later though, when I open my fridge and all that's left are a couple containers of left-overs, a zucchini, half an apple that someone gave up on before it was gone, and some condiments, I just can't believe we ate that much in a week! Unless Mitchell has resumed his habit of taking things out of the fridge and placing them in the garbage bin, the reality is that we actually are going through that much food! And my boys are all so young still! What am I going to do when I have three boys bigger than I am? Where will I keep that much food?

Today, as I tried to fill Mitchell's tummy, I got a glimpse of what it will one day be like to feed my ever-growing boys. We began with the usual: a whole sandwich, a yogurt, and an orange. When he finished that, he looked at me and said, "What else do you have for me, mom?" I then gave him a banana and a couple slices of cheese. "Can I have some more food, mom? I'm still hungry." Next, I poured him a bowl of cereal, thinking that would fill in the hollow spots. Nope. "What else can I have?" I finally gave him some strawberries and a mini bagel and told him he'd just have to wait for snack if he was still hungry after that. Well, he finished all that, washed it down with a full cup of milk, and didn't say anything else. I'm not sure if his tummy was finally full or if he just knew not to ask for more.

I really do feel like I spend so much of my time shopping for, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals! I basically have to just keep it coming and hope I'm not overfeeding them!

And as if the two big boys didn't eat enough already, this guy is working hard to catch up. Granted he is trying to gain weight and I wouldn't mind loosing some, but we often eat the exact same amount at meal time! Gotta love that jam face...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nothing To Prove

Have you ever noticed how defensive some stay-at-home mothers can be when the subject of "work" comes up? There are fewer and fewer of us out there, I am discovering, but those of us who are left often feel the need to let everyone know just how hard we work.

Questions such as "What do you do for work?" are elaborately answered, highlighting mundane details: "Yeah, I work, but no one pays me! I cook three meals a day at least, clean bathrooms and kitchens, make beds, wash and fold laundry, nanny, teach, pay bills, walk the dog, drive my kids around, volunteer at school and church, and get myself dressed too! I never get a day off and I work nights too! Do you even realize how valuable I actually am? My husband couldn't afford me if he had to pay me..."

You rarely hear "I don't have an outside job. I get to stay home and take care of my kids and my husband and my house (and, let's be honest, sneak in some things I want to do too.)"

I admit, I used to be sensitive on this subject as well. Even now, I sometimes feel the need to remind everyone just what my job entails. But this picture of a stay-at-home-mom is not an accurate one. It shows only one side.

We fail to mention that, for most of us, this is the choice we most wanted and made. We get to spend the day with the young people who mean most to us. We don't tell you that once in a while, we have absolutely no plans for the day but are going to just make brownies, read stories, build monsters with Legos, and perhaps watch a movie.

We fail to mention that if we so choose, we can sometimes stay in our jammies until mid-morning or even afternoon. Yes, we have to talk to kids all day, but we also don't have to prepare for or present meetings with clients which require real brain power. It takes just about all the brain power we have to make wise decisions as to how to raise our precious kids.

We have to constantly grocery shop and prepare meals (if your kids are even close to as hungry as mine seem to always be), but we also get to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and no one has to know! We can (sometimes) take a shower in the middle of the day, and, if we are very lucky, even sneak in a nap when the chaos is on pause for long enough! (Ok, maybe that last one only applies if you have 2 or fewer kids...)

When I hear moms talk about how hard they work, I sympathise; I do. I have even been known to join in and commiserate. But I also hear it and make a mental note not to do the same. I haven't always felt this way, but I don't feel like I have anything to prove anymore. My kids are proof that I work. I may, at times, feel under appreciated, but I also, at times, feel like I don't work hard enough either and I'm flying under the radar, trying to go about my days undetected lest someone discover me and force me to get to work. We all make our choices. Stick with yours, make it work, and be proud of it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fun With Dick and Jane

My biggest boy seems to get noticeable smarter every day. Not knowing many (or any, for that matter) kids older than Ben, I don't have anyone to compare him to, but I am pretty impressed with him.

One area he has just improved remarkably in is his reading ability. Although I think he took to it rather quickly, it still seems like not long ago we were struggling together through the simplest of books; he can now read completely on his own and will even read to his little brothers.

Part of his daily homework (from me, not from school) is to read a few chapters from a non-school related book. With his increasing ability to read quickly and comprehend at the same time, plus the promise of some sort of small reward for finishing a book, he is reading a lot now. I have him read to me while I make dinner. He reads to his brothers while he is playing "teacher" and they are the "students." He cracks up when something funny happens in the story and always chooses to read one more chapter if something exciting is left unresolved from the previous one.

For him, it is an issue of confidence: the more he reads, the better he gets, the better he knows he is, the less supervision he needs from me, the faster he can read/comprehend, the more interesting books he can read, the more exciting and fulfilling it becomes. He's blowing through all the chapter books I've gotten him.

His reward for finishing his last book, my old, battered Fun With Dick and Jane, was to go see Rango at the theater. I love taking Ben to the movies. It is just so rewarding: he literally sits on the edge of his seat, laughing and asking questions and repeating funny lines. While it was not my favorite movie, he loved it. "Mom, this movie is so perfect for me! It has all my favorites: lizards, snakes, bats, hawks... all it needs is a dragon!"

I realize that all kids learn how to read, and all parents, past and present, are impressed and proud of their own children's progress, but I just can't help thinking he is something special! Keep up the good work, my biggest!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Got To Keep On Movin'!

It is funny the songs I find running through my head on a regular basis; songs I was never really a fan of or never really noticed that I even knew the lyrics. I will be going about my business with no background music coloring my activities, when it happens: I say the key phrase to one of my kids or think a certain thought and up comes the song that applies! After that, the song just stays playing in my mind, long after my thoughts have turned elsewhere. It's like my life has a soundtrack, and it's not a great one most of the time.

Currently, the most overplayed track in the mind of Deb is that old song "Break My Stride." Remember it? Maybe it's not an "old" song to all of you, but it is certainly not current, nor do I really remember it ever being current.

Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no
I got to keep on movin'
Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride
I'm running and I won't touch ground
Oh no, I got to keep on movin'

I literally hum this song every day. It starts playing every time I try to chat with other moms when I'm dropping my kids off at school and Jack takes off for places unknown.

I hear it every time I try to walk with him down the sidewalk and he runs as fast as he can to the street, refusing to be redirected.

I sing it in annoyance and frustration with a fair amount of sweating as well when I chase him down and attempt to pick him up, squirming and twisting and protesting, after he has run too far away chasing a person walking their dog or heading in a direction he just has to go and no other direction will do.

It begins again every time I try to sit down with him and play something on the floor in one room and he insists on spending about 8 seconds in each room before moving on to the next.

Pouring myself a cup of coffee is a sure way to start up the song again. Something about mom wanting to sit and drink coffee while it is actually hot makes those feet start running!

Attempting to take a picture of him is also a cue for the song to start. I have very few clear shots of him over the last few months. I like to call him "The Blur..."

He's always on a mission and he's full of life and energy. He really does not want to let anyone break his stride. He's got to keep on movin'!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mitchell's New Assistant

It seems Mitchell has recruited himself a new assistant in his medical practice. I call him "Crazy Dr. Jack." He is almost as obsessed with "tools" as his mentor, Mitchell. I find the two of them rummaging through my kitchen and bathroom drawers together constantly, poking each other with fingernail clippers, "cutting" each other's bellies open with spatulas and whisks, wrapping each other in toilet paper, using Mitchell's doctor kit to fix all manner of ailments on each other and the rest of the family.

Mitchell has some interesting and unusual tools sometimes, but at least he uses them gently and somewhat appropriately. Crazy Dr. Jack, however, has yet to learn a gentle touch. He bashes me on the head with a hair brush, sticks a toy srynge in my unsuspecting ear or eye, insists on my stomach being bare, then jamming the stethoscope into my belly button.

In the end though, I almost always get rewarded for my participation in their medical practice: Dr Mitchell gives me a "special toy" for being so good, and Crazy Dr Jack lays his blankie over my tummy, lays his head down, and gives me a big snuggle and squeeze.

I love my personal physicians...

He Knows What's Important

My Jack is taking his time, choosing his first words carefully. I can tell he is really putting some thought into it and mentally weighing his options here - what he chooses will forever be remembered, right? I am please to announce that he officially has a "vocabulary" now. I bet you are dying to hear what it consists of, am I right? Get ready. His deliberation and thought has clearly paid off and he has chosen wisely:

Doggy (or more precisely, Gog gog)
Bibi (his little blankie)
Shoe (pronounced "shooooo")

While he occasionally busts out with a new word here and there, these are the only four consistent ones. The rest of his communication is accomplished through a complex system of grunts, pointing, head nodding or shaking, and various levels and pitches of whiney noises.

I just have to say though, that his "no" should count for a few words. This kid clearly understands the meaning of the word. He has a firm "NO!" when Mitchell tries to take a toy from him. He has a whiney, drawn-out "noooooo" for when I try to feed him an undesirabl
e item. He has a playful "no no no!" when I snatch his "bibi" from him and hide it. He has a desperate "I don't have the words to tell you how frustrated and tired I am right now NO!" when I am just not doing what he wants me to do or can't figure out what in the world he wants.

Anyways, he's quite a tough little cookie who loves his dad, loves any and every dog perhaps even more, can't do without his precious blankie, is constantly putting on everyone's shoes, and somehow hasn't realized he even has a mommy yet.

That's Just How I Feel

To those of you who have missed my regular posts: sorry. There has been an ever-abundant supply of things to write about. My boys are no less imaginative, creative, rambunctious, mischievous, or energetic than usual. The problem lies with mom. When I dragged myself up the stairs yesterday evening, I stepped on something at the top and just stopped and stared at it a bit. I knew exactly how he felt!

All I can say about myself the last few weeks is pictured right there in that sad dinosaur - deflated. I'd like to lay down on the floor with him and just be flat for a while. I am positive I could sleep there, if given a few minutes to try.

My life is wonderful and I have no real reason to complain or wish for something else, but I have been doing the exact same thing for almost 6 years now and I do feel deflated. My energy must have transferred from me into my kids, my health is going wacky, and I have dark circles under my eyes. I fall asleep in strange places at strange times of the day, and I have had a constant headache for going on two weeks now.

There is no cure for what I have, other than to find a better way to maintain a healthier balance in my life. In trying to give all my energy to my kids, I have run out, therefore am a worse mother for it because I just can't muster the strength to keep it up. What this "better balance" will look like, I am still contemplating. I suspect not much will change, but we will all move from the phase we are currently in to a new one naturally and things will balance out on their own.

But for now, this sad, deflated dinosaur and I will get by with what air we have left in us. Judging by the fierce protectivness the boys show over that flat dinosaur (which has a hole in it so can't be blown back up, by the way) which is demonstrated when I suggest we throw it away, I suspect they want to keep me also and don't even notice that I am a bit... deflated.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

That Is Why I Do The Packing

I am sitting here, on a Saturday morning, all alone. My house is clean, there are no cartoons on, no monsters stomping around or jumping from couch to couch, and no left-over smell of greasy bacon lingering around the house. Jack is having his "alone time" in his room (called this because he doesn't always sleep, but always amuses himself anyways, so we keep this routine going for now) and I am sitting here feeling lonely.

Matt took the boys on a "dude weekend" to watch/coach a track and field event. They were very excited to do this with dad and yesterday, wanted to get the packing process started. While they didn't really have any thoughts on what clothes to put in their bag, they had plenty of opinions on what else should go with them. First thing in the bag was their swim suits. Neither of my boys love water, but for some reason, are extremely pumped about the fact that they will be staying in a hotel with a swimming pool.

After that detail was taken care of, Ben picked out his blankie and a small bag of dragons, plus his giant monster pillow that I made him and was finished. That was all he needed. Mitchell, however, was just getting started. I'm not sure how long he thinks he will be gone, but he basically wanted to put his entire room in their small duffel bag! He was grabbing toys off the shelves and half a dozen pairs of socks out of his drawer. His giant ghost pillow which is about half as big as he is had to go, of course, and he thought he might need a few books, so was busy pulling more and more off the shelf and piling them up. For a while, he gave some thought to how he might fit his new scooter in the bag.

After I gently reminded him that not only would he only be gone one night, but he would be busy "helping" daddy at the track meet and wouldn't really need too much clothes or toys, we managed to avoid most of what he had set aside to go in the bag.

But the duffel bag was just bag one going with them. Mitchell also wanted to be involved in what kind of "dude snacks" they brought with them! I love how involved he was with this so we sat down and had a little conversation about what he would like to have to eat for snacks in the car and at the meet.

These are the things he came up with:
his new candy machine
chips and salsa

I think he was trying to think of "dude" foods or something, because many of these are his and Matt's favorites!

I did put some Gatorade and jerky in his bag, and explained to him why the rest might not be the best choices for a road trip. But just think if I had let him pack! Matt would probably be happy...


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