It was not all Gregorian chants

I had a visit at a monastery this week to introduce the idea of a hospice transition to a monk and his caregivers. I did a quick check of my clothes to ensure I was appropriately dressed and noting that I was not wearing a shoulder baring tube top and had chosen sensible footwear in place of my slilettos, I picked up the phone to schedule my visit. That's hospice talk for "appointment." I asked for him by name and the man on the other line said, "oh, you mean father such and such." Did I? I had no idea, but I agreed. I scheduled the visit for later that afternoon, but noted that this other monk really would have preferred for me to hold off until the real caretaker Father Goerge returned from a pilgrimage to Israel on Sunday. Then he hit me with this one. "if there are other visitors here you will be required to cover your head with a scarf and change into a long skirt, unless you have already done so." nope. I had left my school marm skirt and scarf at home. Gulp. I had some concerns.

On the ride over I wondered what etiquette exists within a monastery that I don't know about? Eye contact? Could I touch his arm? Shake his hand? What language would be acceptable? Where would we meet?

When I arrived and drove up the winding drive to the staggering building I was worried about more than a parking spot. When I pushed open the heavy from centuries ago door, I was instantly relieved that I had told Steve I was going there and that my supervisor knew my plan because it was just that creepy.

Dark. Hushed voices. Hallways to nowhere. Candles. 

Father such and such was sweet, but I couldn't help but feel like it was 1611, English accents and all. Very little eye contact. I touched his arm before I left and he didn't pull away, but i still don't ow if that was ok. I'm not sure they will be allowing the whole team into the monastery on a regular basis. I felt intrusive and while I didn't have to pull on a skirt or cover my head, I felt totally out of place. I was professional, but inside my head was ticking down the seconds until I could race back out the door, except I knew I could never find it on my own. This made those seconds tick even louder. I thought about where my phone was. It was the same feeling I have had in some scary places downtown, places I don't even like to drive through let alone pull up a chair and chat. They always tell us if we aren't comfortable to go, but should I have felt this way in a big ol' monastery? Probably not.

I'm dramatic, but this place creeped me out.

the world's newest hockey player?

next Saturday.

No issue with the helmet. She walked around no problem on her skates, hit some balls, stopped a few passes.

She's ready.

7 is for wool & copper

I let our 7th anniversary pass by without my annual, insert year here is for insert traditional gift(s). That makes me sad.

Steve was gone for the weekend of our anniversary, watching BC lose to Clemson 34-16 in South Carolina. I was ok with it after I came home on Friday and saw these waiting for me.

He's smart. He's sweet. He's sweet and smart. I'm a lucky girl.

My parents came for the weekend and helped me entertain the kids. I'm sure they are still recovering from the non-stop of it all. Caroline treats my mother like "Nana, the toy." She had her in the play area pretending to be Miss Claire from school. scheduling conferences with students' parents for "not listening." Connor spent a lot of time kicking, throwing, and running us all ragged. We even had a visit with Uncle Bubba and Brigid. I had fun trying to explain to Caroline who Brigid was. Girlfriend to a 4 year old? "She's Uncle Bubba's best friend, they share a house together, they eat together, they even work together!" I think that covered it pretty well... for now.

My parents left to head back to Western MA just before Steve arrived home with Clemson shirts for the kids.

Thanks to his tailgating the day before, he wasn't all that interested in the cold beer I had planned to bring him in his gift, a copper Moscow Mule mug. I had considered making him a mule, but the drink looked a bit too intense for a Sunday night. (That is seriously his exact mug, by the way, because I am awesome.)

I cuddled up in my gift, an Irish wool sweater that I already know will be worn at least 3/4 of every weekend this fall and winter. I wore it to the grocery store Sunday and I fell head over heels when I came home and declared my body temp to be "too warm." That sweater must be magical.

Steve had organized a really fun day for us on Monday, our actual anniversary. We dropped the kids and booked it to the city to catch a 10AM duck tour. We got there just in time and there were no seats left together. We panicked, wasn't the point to do this together afterall?? The gentleman from Atlanta sitting next to me offered to switch with Steve to allow us to sit together. I offered him my photos as a thanks, but he declined. I think that was a piss poor decision.

Post Duck we shared a beer at the place where we had our first date, The Parish Cafe. It was barely 11 and the seats we had sat in no longer existed, but we knew they were there. I could almost see us, awkwardly watching tennis over Sam Adams.

It was a gorgeous day and we strolled down Newbury to Stephanie's. That's Steve there in the reflection of this storefront. Touching his head due to the heat? or because his wife stopped to take a photo?

He had reserved a table, but even I was up for sitting outside. No reservations outside, so we cancelled our table and headed to the bar to wait out the 30 minutes for a table. The beers were still pouring over their edges onto the coasters and we were called to the hostess stand.

Sweet potato corned beef hash... and an amazing bloody mary with an Old Bay rim.

Keeping track? It wasn't yet 1pm and I was two beers & a bloody mary in. I was very happy. I was also very loud.

We briefly considered skipping the movie at the Common, but we both really wanted to see Ides of March. We ate popcorn even though we were stuffed from lunch, because we COULD. In fact, we packed our day so full of fun just because we COULD. We joked (and I tweeted) that a couple might do one of the things we did, but a couple with young children, they do it ALL. and we did.

7 years married, dating for 10. Though the year could not compare on any level to all the tremendous ridiculous change of 2010, it was better in that we were here, we were settled, we were finally starting to plant solid roots. We spent the year nurturing those roots, teaching Caroline her address, exploring our town together, spending lazy Sundays in pajamas under piles and piles of snow instead of driving back to CT. I didn't spend time worrying about what was going to happen. I spent time dreaming of what will be. There is a comfort here in this house that we never had in CT, a feels right kind of feeling. I can look around and see things we should do, could do and I know that we have time to do them right, to save the money we need and do it exactly the way we want to do it. We have no plans to leave. We might not be here forever, but we have time and this is home. In our 7th year we celebrated Connor's first birthday and enjoyed SLEEPING. We watched Caroline's face as she met her favorite people in the whole make believe world. I'd say it was a good one. 7 years.

He makes me lunch each morning while I blow dry my hair. He calls me out of the blue just to ask what I am up to. He listens to me complain about the kookoo of my work life. He cleans up dinner while I finish eating. He tag teams "operation lunch boxes." He won't relinquish the clicker, but he's a good one, and I know how lucky I am to have met him. Best of all though, we have this, half mine, half Steve's, all ours.

Day 6 minus his trusty companion, the bink

Connor is 20 months old, old enough to be without "binkie." If he can name it by name and ask for it, he doesn't need it. That's what I believe anyway. His age caught up with us and over the summer I suddenly realized we had an 18 month old with a pacifier and that seemed too old. His first birthday came and went and he was so attached that I didn't give it a thought. After all, those awful sleepless nights of his babydom were not a distant memory yet. Whatever made him sleep, whatever made it possible for us all to sleep, well, whatever worked. I wasn't game for giving it up when I was finally blissfully sleeping long enough and deeply enough to dream again. Over the summer we decided to keep it for the flight to Florida and that helped me save face for a bit longer. At his age he won't chew gum, he swallows gummy bears whole, and he doesn't chew on mentos. That bink got us through takeoffs and landings and it was worth it. So worth it.

We are home now, no flights in sight, with a son creeping ever closer to two. The teachers at school have been working with us, keeping it in his cubbyhole during school. We kept it out of sight at home, reserved for bedtime and naps, or an occasional melt down.

He hasn't had it since Thursday. The first few nights were tough, lots of crying and whining, and some late late bedtimes. I was solo parenting and I didn't give in. Steve came home from Atlanta and while I admit it was disrupting our nighttime wind down, i refued to give in "just for bedtime." I wasn't having it, my executive decision stood. 5 nights in, we weren't going back. It would have to go away at some point and he just needed to learn how to fall asleep himself without being Maggie Simpson.

Last night I put him down to sleep, held his hefty body in my arms and shushed him gently. The boy who used to forcefully nuzzle my shoulder, cries at bedtime as soon as you hand him his blanket. I asked him abut his day and Connor was able to answer me. "did you have peanut butter at school today?" "no!" "did you kick the ball?" head nodding into my shoulder, "yesh!" It soothed him, this little review. He wouldn't have been able to do that with his bink in his mouth. In fact, more than bedtime has changed. The car rides are louder too. Day care drop is more challenging as he finds new coping strategies, but he is doing it. Trusty giraffe by his side.

I usually put him down, cover him, and retreat at bedtime. He has struggled with this since losing his friend, so last night I stood over him, rubbed his back, put on the sleep sheep from infanthood. I slowed my baby back massage to a simple hand on his back. Slowly removing the stimulus, feeling his back rise and fall into a restful pattern. I removed my hand, stood silently by his side, him peeking over at me from under the covers. I stepped back. I stood. I took a deep breath and retreated, ten minutes after I normally would have.

There were still some tears, but that boy fell asleep in under 20 minutes, just after 8pm, a vast improvement on 9:30 on day 1.

One thing I will miss, the extra 20 minutes that piece of plastic gave us in the morning. Connor wakes up LOUD and demanding. "mommmeee!" "up, up, up, up!" "Da-da!" He barely fits on his changing table these days. I pull a sock onto his foot, "other one" is his response. He is talking more and more and yelling loudly, and we'll take it, all of it. Another step into toddlerdom. The last relic of baby boy left behind, hidden away in a drawer.

and I think I know who it is, by the way.

It's a bit alarming how quickly you can become a "Mama Bear." I've been posting about my anger and frustration on Facebook and Twitter about Connor getting scratched at school. To clarify, he looked like this after the second incident, perpetrated by the same little girl who is half his size.

Looks more like he was attacked by a not so friendly housecat, but no, it was a little girl in his classroom who literally must have dug her nails into his face, not simply swatted at him as you might expect from someone her age.  I picked him up from school Thursday after getting a call early in the day that there had been an incident at school. Don't we all just love those calls? I was told he had somehow ended up with another child's shoe and had refused to give it back, laying his entire body on top of the shoe. This did not go over well with the little person who earlier in the week gave him the mark above his lip and a scratch on his neck for not getting out of her way as she tried to crawl through a tunnel. He pushes it a bit, I see it at home, but it is normal behavior for a toddler boy to test his world, to seek out reactions, to learn cause and effect. I have never heard of this scratching stuff before.

I ran into a Mom of one of his classmate's in the parking lot at drop off this morning and when she saw Connor, we got to talking. Her adorable petite little girl had also been scratched. On her her eyelid. I was fuming. I marched into Room 3 and told the teachers in the room that it was not ok, that I was very upset, that I needed to know the details of the behavior plan. The teachers just happened to be the same ones who were there when he had been scratched the day before and one of them, who has known Connor since he started at this school, shook her head, took him from my arms and gave me a look that showed me I had been a bit harsh. There are nine children between 15 and 24 months in this room and I know that even with shadowing, there will always be an opportunity for this to happen. It's not one to one care, it couldn't ever be. He will never be 100% safe from this happening again and I can't fault his wonderful caregivers who truly adore him.

I lingered over my morning coloring with Caroline and her classmates. Farms for everyone, complete with animals, fences, apples trees, silos. I was dreading the meeting, afraid I would over or under react, afraid of what it might be like to be on the other side of this unfortunate situation. How devastating as a parent to dread picking your child up because they had hurt a child, again.

We had a nice chat. I understand her perspective. I know they have plans in place. I know it isn't a one to one care situation. I know that without giving this family a chance to make this better, she will just go to another center where this will happen again and she will get passed along and it will never get better. I want to give the family this opportunity, as a parent, I want to be understanding. And yet, I cannot bear to think of this happening again.

Connor's petite friend got scratched again this afternoon on her neck. The family was to get a "final warning" this afternoon. Connor had spent the day in room 5, free from the risk of another scratch. Our hope is that they can break up the dynamic between the kids as often as space allows. He won't technically move up to Room 5 until he is 24 months, but he really does well in the classroom. I'm not asking them to move him...yet.

He spent the entire day in that room today without his bink. He didn't even ask for it. TOOK A NAP WITHOUT IT. So I looked at his teacher, the one who had been so upset that this is happening, the one who told me when no one else was around, "don't back down" and I told her, "I'm doing it. Tonight." FELL ASLEEP TONIGHT WITHOUT IT, much grousing, some whining, but he did NOT ASK FOR IT ONCE. I know that might be the source of his acting out, his pushing button behavior with little miss freak out. I get it, but I refuse to let her presence deter this process. I'm planning on phasing that bink out by the time Steve gets home on Sunday. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. We are BINK FREE.

Lil' kicker

I just this moment signed Connor up to be a bunny at the national Lil' Kicker Academy program. We have one just down the road and they have sessions starting at 18 months. The photos online are adorable, little kids in matching Lil' Kicker jerseys racing around, climbing under things and kicking balls of course. I'll figure out a way to get Connor there for an hour this weekend for a free trial and if he seems to enjoy it, and I cannot imagine he wouldn't with all the running and kicking, we'll hop right into this session (har, har).

There have been lots of conversations about sports, kicking, using up some of this endless energy, getting him involved in a sport to further encourage his development, and on and on. Steve is charged with locating hockey equipment for Caroline's learn to hockey that starts at the end of the month. There have been many discussions about that too.

I worry. I know she is listening intently to every word and hearing all our "wow, Connor, he loves to kick. Look at him throw. Isn't he incredible????" We talked about it this weekend, Steve and I, about how she is hearing this and watching it, and we need to tread lightly.

I've been encouraging them to kick together, to play catch, to make it less about something mom and dad do just with Connor, but something we can compliment them on doing together, "good teamwork, excellent sharing, nice kicks guys!" It's a challenging road ahead with this and all other things they will each do. Artistic and academic accomplishments, social skills, behavior, setting a good example, being responsible, not being lazy. They will each listen to our cheers and jeers and soak it all up. It's a lot of pressure. It's a lot of overwhelming pressure.

She is asking more about letters now. Last night she lay on me just before bed looking across the room and read the letters on a piece of art. She asked me to name the ones she does not yet know and I clapped for each correct letter and at the end she smiled so proudly. Now there is something her brother can't do yet and I breathed a sigh of relief. Something that is just hers. When she went to bed I plucked my contacts from my eyes and looked at my reflection. How is that I am a mother to a nearly 5 year old, who hears and sees everything, who understands things I never thought she would be old enough to grasp, who asks critical questions, who can compare and contrast? You think your role will be never-ending, lifelong responsibility, care, and concern. You know that you will not always be mom with omnipotent power. Sure there are less diapers to change over time, but my role seems to be increasing in importance as Caroline reaches school age (gulp). I feel a growing responsibility to them and that feels strange because in so many other ways the day to day is so much easier now than it was even 6 months ago. The day to day is more predictable, it's the other stuff, the stuff that seems more important that is growing and creeping up on us.

I know how we play this sport card is going to shape these kids in their perceptions of many things, not just sports. The kicking is just a metaphor for a pile of other stuff behind it, and that pile is a bit scary to look at, let alone try to fold up and put away in a drawer. I don't even know how to begin to organize it, break it down, stow it away.