four fingers




Four years old sounds impossible. I thought he would always be my baby, that somehow time would slow down and it would last and last and last. That kind of goes hand in hand with my recent post about our family of four. I admittedly wanted to both hang onto my snugly hip baby and push through the challenges of reflux and all the other not so fun stuff.        

This year is hitting me pretty hard. I'm not going to be a mom to "two small children" anymore and that seems impossible. Steve and I turned 35 last year, but the kids' birthdays seem to be more of a milestone somehow. Four sounds so much bigger than three. I always tell parents, "it isn't two that you should worry about, it's three."            



Reflecting on the year, yes, three was certainly more challenging than two. We learned that Connor has a fierce temper. He is big into refusal with a stubborn streak that rivals only his father's. He refuses to clean, go to bed, or come to the table for dinner. This was the year of the marble. We instituted the marble jar this year to reward good behavior and reinforce that not so good decisions and behavior will not be tolerated. He didn't exactly get it when we started, but I realized this week he is very motivated for that trip to our tiny local book store and will CONSIDER cleaning up for a marble. Caroline understands it more and will spontaneously decide to "help" clean dishes, make dinner, set the table for a small handful of marbles. She is setting a good example, but so far he isn't drinking the kool aid. They both learned that it is their combined effort to do the right thing that will get the jar full. She knows better than him that he can lose marbles for losing his mind and she can gain them back by supporting his recovery from whatever unjust thing has caused his epic tantrum. 




His drop offs at school leave me sad most days. His smile disappears the moment we turn into the parking lot.  He stares at me with sad scared eyes as I remove his coat and clings to me as we head to the door. There was a small window of time when he used to push me out in the morning, but most days I need to literally remove him from my person to get out the door. My parting gift is the sound of his cry all the way down the hall to the exit. We will get through it, this is a phase like all things, but it does nothing to get me through it now. Just this week I started offering thee marbles for a good drop off and it is working! We are on a streak! He asks each morning barely awake, "is it a school day?" and the best day is the day I get to say "no."

 
 
In as many ways as he challenged us this year, he was an absolute joy. We are a diaper free house (except for the just in case bedtime pull up). That in itself is a huge accomplishment! He loves super heroes, especially Iron Man, Hulk, and Spider Man. He is not very open to things that require sitting and focusing, but when he does he enjoys puzzles, setting up his army guys or his football players, and board games. He may be the only kid I know who prefers the chutes in chutes in ladders.
 
 



When I can get him to color he is now choosing appropriate colors and though it is all I can do to get him to color, he loves reusable sticker pages and putting animals in the proper habitat. He delights in choosing an animal he knows is wrong just to get us to react. He loves anything rescue related (fire, police) and anything that goes. He plays with Legos for hours and can independently set up his playmobil sets to have pirates stealing treasure or the animals on the farm getting all they need to eat. He asks for popcorn when we watch movies and we have reached the point where they do not agree on movie choices. Epic negotiations are required to secure watch time for Cars or Planes. His sister is still his best friend, but he doesn't always follow along with what she wants to do anymore. He is happy to do his own thing and that has been a real adjustment.
 



He is funny. Like most boys his age, he takes every opportunity to embrace potty humor. He catches lines in movies and uses them in his daily life. Steve the monkey from "cloudy with a chance of meatballs" and his love of gummy bears are a daily part of our life in our house. When Connor gets excited about something, he will yell "gummy bears!!"




"Mulan" is a more recent hit over here and he frequently shouts Mishu's line exactly like this. 



He loves sharing the best part of his day at dinner, but hates washing his hands. He does not like macaroni and cheese, but can often be found rummaging through the snack drawer for a juice box, granola bar, or piece of dried mango. He insists that I bring a snack for him to eat on the way home from school, but reacts poorly no matter I tell him is for dinner, even his favorite thing gets a negative reaction. He loves sports, but is just as likely to beg to use the lint roller on the couch as kick a ball. He loves to toss a football in the air and race to catch it in a scary diving gonna break his teeth kind of way. He still watches sports with Steve, but seems to understand them better now. He recently asked Steve, "do we want the Cats to win?" during a Carolina Panthers game. He loves the Bruins, but refuses to learn to skate with a group of his peers. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years he was content to set up a net in the driveway and have his sister take shots on him. We found him awake the other night reading the back page of a BC football program. He was studying the hand signals cheat sheet intently. He is the sweetest little boy, with a mischievous side. He recently figured out how to work the remote and we heard his happy whoop all the way down the hall in the kitchen. He is amazing and wonderful and challenging all rolled together into a ball of Connor and today we celebrate his day. Happy Birthday, best boy.

 
 


snowy realizations

This was something I jotted down a few weeks ago before the holidays


It is that moment when your first grader asks to please be a drop off at school because of the mess outside. You reluctanly agree because the bus is so much easier. Two kids on a sloppy snowy morning isn't exactly fun for a school drop with all the hazard lights and buses. You reason it out in your head first that this will only work if you can stay beside the car and watch her walk to the door. You give her a pep talk that you will park beside the walkway and watch her walk all the way to the door and wave to her when she gets there. She isn't too happy about that, but you reassure her that you will be right there watching her every single step. 

She catches up with a friend getting off a bus almost as soon as her feet hit the sidewalk and they embrace excitedly. They hold hands. They run together to the door and though you can't hear her, she is laughing. She doesn't even turn to wave goodbye.

You swallow that gulp in your throat, the smile vanishes from your face and you reluctantly open the door to get on your way. It stings. You sigh. Then the smile makes its way back to your face. She is ok out there without you. 

2014 is already bringing it

Here is a post I hope no one else ever needs. It all started when Caroline started telling me that her head was itchy.

You can imagine where it went from there.

We have seen signs about head lice in her afterschool program, heard from school directly about cases in her classroom. I have received many an email from moms letting me know that they regret to inform me that their child has lice and how sorry they are if this in anyway affects my child. Each time I panic a tiny bit and check her head and remind her to ALWAYS tell a grown up if she is ever feeling like her head is itchy. She listened and I am so very grateful. She had been telling us for a few days that her head itched and each time we peeked briefly through her hair and feeling satisfied, sent her on her way. My head is particularly dry in the winter and a bit itchy as a result and I chalked it up to dry scalp.

I pulled myself up from bed on Thursday morning and she told me again that she was itchy. It was still quite dark, so I turned a bright bedside lamp on and took a peek and what I saw in her head was a grey adult louse. I immediately froze, screamed so loud inside my head that I swear it almost came out of my actual mouth, and raced her to the bathroom because I had no idea what to do.

I have never SEEN lice before, so I wasn't even sure what I was looking for. We stood there together in the bathroom as I googled images and instructions on what exactly one does when they make this discovery. It was shortly before 8am when it was clear that she was not going to school and I needed to act quickly. To distract Caroline and because I needed to SOMETHING. ANYTHING. we stripped all the beds, tossed sheets and comforters and pillows downstairs, and sadly bagged all the animals from the beds. I didn't know what to do with it, I just needed to do something because man, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and powerless. I was planning to call the pediatrician, but called the school nurse who happens to also be my neighbor instead. She was wonderful, told me to come in after the buses and to bring Connor to and she would check all of us.

I knew what I had seen, but it took her a few minutes to find anything concerning on Caroline's head. I urged her to please keep looking and then she found first one nit and then another before locating a live nymph which we caught with a piece tape. A piece of tape. She showed me what to look for, how to remove them, and sent me home with all the tools I would need including an amazing magnifying lamp.

I bought only one bottle of shampoo at CVS because I didn't read the directions to see that long hair required two bottles, so we had to go back before we could even begin. That was fun. This was all after somehow convincing Connor that it would NOT be fun at home with us today and school was really a preferable place to be. He didn't buy it.

I had a moment of extreme weakness looking at alllllll that hair, scissors in hand. I reasoned with her that I wouldn't cut that much and it would be easier and THANK GOD she wouldn't let me. I was just so overwhelmed looking at the curls and the length. It was far from my proudest moment.

Once we got the shampoo in, I was feeling better, until we started combing and combing and combing. FIVE HOURS later we could finally relax a bit, but can you ever really relax again after that experience? Her hair was challenging to get the comb through and we weren't look forward to another comb session, but she requested one later that night before bed and with a very wet head, it went more smoothly. I had finally found a method that worked and a strategy to section and then work through each painful comb. She was an absolute trooper, with very few complaints. I reminded her that even one nit left could mean more lice and having to relive this all over again. I was determined to get her nit free, but only her patience allowed me to work so carefully.

We talked a lot. We talked about what lice were, how people can get them, and more importantly that this was not her fault. I wanted to be sure she knew that she was not alone in this, that we were a lice fighting duo. More than anything I didn't want her to be ashamed. The school nurse said we caught it quite early and I reinforced to her over and over that it was her telling me her head was itchy that helped us to identify this early on.

It was quite possibly the longest day of my life. Even when the combing was done, I was attending to a massive pile of laundry and remaking our bed and Connor's and lining up pillows that had all received 20 minutes of high heat in our dryer along the hallway. I didn't eat more than a yogurt all day, snuck sips from her glass between sections of  hair and listened to a lot of Sophia and Jessie on the Disney channel. Even when she went to bed, I continued the work of lice and sent emails and text messages to all the moms I thought we should notify and like so many before me expressed my hope that they were not affected.

The following morning, I checked in with the school nurse again to ensure she could go back to school. She had been treated and combed and policy would allow her to return, but she needed to warn me that first graders are pretty smart and they had put it all together that Caroline had lice. I had to break that sad news to her and it did not go over well at ALL. Having lice was bad enough, walking into a room of your peers who all know you had lice was probably twice as bad for her. I'm a social worker, so I immediately started role playing it with her and she fell apart, refusing to go to school. We were tardy, but I got her there. I would normally not be that helicopter mom at the classroom door, but knowing what potentially waited for her on the other side was too much for me after what she had endured the day before. I spoke to her teacher about how sensitive she was and she assured me she would not allow Caroline to be hurt.

I called her bestie's mom later that day who reported to me that the first thing her daughter shared with her at school pick up was "Caroline got to watch five hours of TV yesterday!" I guess all my worrying was for naught. Looking ahead, I'll be using that Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel and checking her frequently, probably until she goes to college. I will put her hair up each day, just as I always have. The message of prevention and the importance of sharing with school and other parents however, has become something I will continue to be incredibly passionate about. I want to urge all parents to be more transparent with this. Secrets like this don't help anyone. Yes, it is embarrassing and hard and I get it, but it is not okay to not help others from having to go through this. As I told Caroline, "bad things sometimes happen, they do, but what we do when bad things happen is way more important than the bad thing ever was."

pretty sure

When Connor was born, I was so full of adrenaline and happiness that I immediately told Steve, "we could totally do this again." His birth was certainly SPEEDY and I felt great. Plus, look at him!


Let's just forget about the weeks of modified bed rest we had just been through, the anxiety about him being born too early and needing a NICU, the sadness we felt that we almost had to miss Colleen and Greg's wedding. Let's push all that silliness aside and remember the way it felt to meet him.  I was on cloud ELEVENa, which is just next door to cloud ELEVEN, the one I was on after meeting his sister 3 years before.

Once we settled into our routine a bit more (and perhaps directly correlated to the number of hours I was not sleeping), it seemed more like Connor was going to be the last baby in our family. I had my hopes set on being a family of five, but we felt complete with us four. As time has gone on, I am rarely struck by that feeling you get when you just yearn for another baby. It was undeniable when we wanted a second. I felt it ALL the time, in the grocery store with strangers' babies even.  Sure, I love all YOUR babies! I love to hold them in my arms, feel their weight, make them smile, smell that baby smell. I genuinely think they are all amazing. They are. I just haven't felt the need to go for another one. I thought we were on the same page until recently when Steve looked at me in the car on the way to hockey and asked me why we weren't having a third baby.

...

For a BRIEF moment, my heart skipped. The thought of another squirmy bundle of love on my chest, my own personal hot water bottle, well, it honestly is a happy thought. It was a happy thought that I instantly pushed aside with some comment back that "I thought we were together on this?"

...

New Year's Day began and ended on the couch, snuggled beneath the warmth of a fleece blanket, girl on my right, boy on my left. We put on the Winter Classic mid-afternoon and explained to Connor that we didn't really care who won the game, but the red team would be ok. With the entire family watching the hockey game, it was clear we should capitalize on this day and we suited up for a pond skate down the road to last as long as the kids would allow. It took us approximately 35 minutes to get everyone dressed warmly, locate four pairs of skates, four sticks, two pucks, and a partridge in a pear tree. I guessed we would last 20 minutes.

We were there for well over an hour. Caroline sprinted at top speeds and stopped to look at the darker areas of ice where she could see through to the tall grass frozen below the surface. She loved being able to go and go and go with no boards to stop her. Connor passed a puck on the ice with Steve for the first time ever before declaring that he would go skating again, but "ONLY ON THE POND, K Mommy?" He spent the rest of the time asking us to take (gentle) shots on him which he stopped with hands, feet, and body. He might be a goalie after all, Papa.


 
 
 
 
 

The afternoon was picture perfect, right down to sitting on a fallen tree trunk to strip the gear off. When all the skates were removed and stowed in a bag, and we had slowly climbed up the hill back to the car, Steve slammed the trunk closed just as I told him, "no third baby, this was just the perfect day." I declared it the most perfect family outing from start to finish. There was very little whining, the kids had so much fun doing something so simple (not to mention FREE), and we had to almost force them off the ice because our ADULT toes were getting cold.

I won't say never. I would never say never. Right now, this feels pretty darn perfect.


Second Annual Champagne & Sippy Cup New Year's Eve

Last year Steve and I looked at each other as the holiday season approached and rolled our eyes imagining our quiet New Year's Eve with take out. We wondered if that would be the year we would fall asleep before the first moment of 2013. Wouldn't it be amazing to have some friends in similar parental situations over for a casual New Year celebration? Wouldn't the kids love an excuse to trash the playroom, play with friends, stay up late? We added in a countdown to the New Year at 7:30 pm and Champagne and Sippy Cup New Year's was a go. The kids had a blast last year and while it was utter chaos most of the night, it was so much fun to have little fun with other grown ups akin to the NYE of yesteryear.

Piggybacking on last year's success, we planned another early celebration and it was such fun.













 
We tossed a ton of confetti, the kids toasted with apple juice, I totally forgot to serve the Hoodsies, and a group of a dozen kids from toddler to first grade who barely knew each other played so well that the parents were largely able to have a holiday cocktail & enjoy adult conversation. They explored the kids' toys, watched a movie, and found their way through the costume closet with hilarious results.

I highly recommend you consider a Champagne & Sippy Cup NYE to welcome in 2015. I think it is safe to say there will be an even more improved version happening here again next year, this time with a legit Air Hockey Tourney.

five days in one

Somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving (at this point this entire fall is a complete blur), Steve forwarded several links over text about Disney On Ice. A tiny silver lining of him having to drive into the city everyday was the slow crawl he does on the section of the Pike toward South Station where he had a nice clear view of the billboard at BU advertising the show. I was clearly on board for this and we made it our gift to the kids for Christmas. We picked a date, he bought the tickets immediately, and we made a plan to give the kids an amazing day in the city.

The moment we arrived Caroline decided she was getting a snow cone is an Ariel cup. We knew we couldn't get out of there without buying them SOMETHING and since we figured they would be hungry and thirsty anyway, we made a plan to pony up for some popcorn and lemonade. Steve vetoed the snow cone and took Connor to the restroom while the girls waited in line. She begged, she pouted, and I could have stood my ground on lemonade, but this day was about them. Steve came out of the restroom to see her holding her TWELVE dollar snow cone. She swore she would eat it all, every last bite, and to her credit, she ate and drank every single bit of that rainbow snow cone. It took her the ENTIRE show.

 

The show was super fun! The kids were engaged, smiling, waving and this all bodes well for what we have planned later this month. There were four scenes; Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Lilo and Stitch, and Peter Pan. I don't think I am exaggerating at all when I say we all enjoyed it. Connor asked us afterward where Jake was, nothing gets by that kid. This was Caroline's face when Ariel made her big entrance. That right there made it completely worth it.

 
 
We snapped this during the intermission. No signs at all of unrest, boredom, or the wiggles whatsoever. The show was about 90 minutes, not a single bathroom break, request for a snack, or a loud spinny glowy thing. 

 
Phase II was an expertly executed drive downtown to catch a view. Steve found a spot directly in front of Hynes Convention Center that was so amazing we had to check the sign to make sure it was a real spot. We debated our plan of attack and then noticed a SWAT team across the street at an eerily empty Apple store. We pushed on and not knowing how they would be at Top of the Hub, we paid the entry fee for the Prudential Sky Walk reasoning that the kids could scream, run, and enjoy the view without risk of pulling a linen tablecloth off the table of some imprtant business meeting. THEY LOVED THIS, way more than we would have ever predicted. They listened to nearly every window's audio tour (complete with Connor loudly repeating every line, "150 years old!!") and I got to show them Northeastern (while pointing in the general direction of BC). Here is a boy and his already beloved Fenway and the pair listening intently to the info with Hancock behind them.
 


 
Steve pulled a second parking miracle in the North End in a lot that would only cost $15 for the entire night. We caught this shot of Caroline running through Christopher Columbus Park outside our wedding reception venue. It didn't exactly look like this back then. It's always fun to take them through the city to places we used to frequent or have some special meaning. Too bad I'll never get to push her into the door of the Littlest Bar. I am still bitter. 


She was running because she knew we were headed to see these guys outside the Aquarium. Stopping by the tanks outside is one of our favorite things to do. We caught it perfectly as the tail end of a feeding and the animals were peppy and showing off. Our kids who lack all social grace raced back and forth trying to following their new friends, tripping over kids and grown ups all the way.


It was cold, but Caroline had her eyes on the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel and we bundled up for a ride on a lovely butterfly and feisty lobster. It feels like it has been there forever, it just sort of belongs there. It's fun to think that it will be there for them to ride with their kids someday and they will have photos like this to show their own tiny carousel lovers.

 
 
We topped the night off with dinner in the North End at our favorite, Cantina Italiana. We have taken them there before, I already get the eye roll from Caroline when I tell her that "this is where Mommy and Daddy had their first date." As far as she is concerned, nothing mattered before she arrived and Connor cannot fathom that he was ever NOT here. "No Mommy, where was I??" We could have walked to Bova or Modern, but Mike's was right next door and we took a little box home with chocolate chip cannoli and cookies as big as the kids' heads. We truly packed in a full day with these kids. One of these activities would have made a fun day in the city, but we feel like we had a week's worth of fun in one day. This signals success for later this month when we tour these kids into the ground and pack in five amazing days at Walt Disney World. If even one of our days is as wonderful as this day was in Boston, we will consider it an amazing success.