Nine.

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Dear Scorch-

I think I start every yearly letter to you marveling over how old you are and this year will be no different. You are NINE. N-I-N-E NINE. This is your very last year in the single digits and my mind boggles over this fact. Weren’t you just born? Wasn’t I just changing your diapers and rocking you to sleep at night?

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I read something a few months back that was floating on Facebook calling age 9 “halftime” for kids since you are half way to 18 and, presumably, becoming an adult. Will you think less of me, sweet boy, if I admit I rolled my eyes at that notion so hard they almost got stuck in the back of my head? Because I did. Don’t get me wrong, 9 is an amazing, awesome, exciting age and yes, when you’re 18 hopefully you’ll leave home but to think that I’m halfway through parenting you is hogwash. I still call my mom and dad for advice multiple times a week and I assume you’ll be no different.

There are a lot of things about parenthood that surprise me but perhaps the one that surprises me the most is how unsentimental I am. I mean, I cry at your concerts and get choked up at the start and end of every school year. Milestones sometimes hit me hard, but for the most part, I don’t mourn your baby-self. Sometimes I miss your squishy compactness and holding you under my chin, but dude- I LOVE watching you grow. I wasn’t sure if I would, I honestly don’t have much experience with kids but you, sir, are blowing me away. There is so much I love….

> I love watching you interact with friends. You, my love, are this great combo of leader and peacemaker. You always have ideas and thoughts on what you should do but you’re easy going enough most of the time to change plans if others want to do something different. You are a good, kind friend who gets along with everyone. You have no interest in girls outside of being friends and I’m totally fine with that!

> I love watching you play ball. You are obsessed with baseball right now. This past year, you played all year long. Little League in the spring, summer ball, fall ball and then weekly clinics up during the winter. I have no idea if this will stay your passion, but right now you’re all about it.

> I love watching you learn. I legitimately got choke up this spring watching you learn cursive because that is amazing (yes, I’m a nerd. Deal with it). Your curiosity and passion are a joy to watch. There is nothing better then hearing you tell your sister what an adjective is.

> I love how affectionate you are. I admit, I SUCK at cuddling. You always get hugs and kisses- always- from both your father and me. But long, laying-on-the-bed-reading-a-book cuddles? Nope, not my thing. But I’m trying because I know one day you won’t want to cuddle and that I know I’ll miss.

> I love how fun you are. I love our dance parties in the car, your infectious laugh, your sly comments and your desire to share everything you think is funny. (Even if your stories take for-freaking-ever to tell. We’ll work on that, bud.) You are a joy to be around and I don’t think you’ve ever met anyone who hasn’t been charmed by you.

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Sweet boy, it’s impossible to tell you just how loved you are. There aren’t words big enough or expressive enough to encompass all we feel for you. Your father and I must have done something really good in our lives for God to give us you to raise. Every birthday you have leaves me so excited to see where you’re going next and who you’ll grow to be.

I hope this year is an amazing one. I hope you keep cultivating good friendships, I hope you keep loving with all your heart and I hope you never lose your joy! You are astounding and I’m so glad you’re ours.

Love,
Mom

You’re The Worst

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The other day, I shared a link on Facebook to an article called “The Curse of the Second-Born Child.” It uses a heck of lot more curse words than I would have, but it essentially says that your second-born child is an absolutely amazing, crazily loved asshole sent to earth to break you.

Truth.

The love I have for the Bean is boundless. This child is a bright spot in my life- she’s funny and smart and clever and quick and gorgeous. She’s also been working my very last nerve for a good month now. If something can be a battle, it is. I realize I have a hand in all this too and that I need to disengage but man, it’s so easy to get sucked into to battle of wills with her.

Monday the Bean’s homework was to write out the contractions for “it is,” “you are,” “I am,” we are” and “he will” and use them in a sentence. Her schools gives out homework passes for various reasons and she has a bunch she can use so she chose to use hers on this particular assignment so she could play all evening instead. That was fine until she came home yesterday with classroom work involving contractions that she bombed. She didn’t have any homework last night, so I told her that we were going to do Monday’s homework as review to make sure she understood the concept.

She was furious at me for this injustice. There was wailing, gnashing of teeth, yelling and tears. There were dropped pencils that she “couldn’t” find and pencil tips that were broken on “accident.” In total she probably spent under 5 minutes writing the sentences and 40 minutes fighting with me about having to do this. Any time I tried to help Beaner, I was snapped at but any time she asked for help and I didn’t jump immediately she reigned hell fire down.

Fun times, man.

I kept my cool. I didn’t engage, didn’t yell and told her firmly what behavior was and wasn’t acceptable until the 5 freaking sentences were written. Beaner would let me see what she was writing, but I knew it was going to be good and she did not disappoint:

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I’m thinking that my mom is mean. It’s so mean that she making me do amaroke (I assume that’s “homework” and she was just too full of righteous fury to sound it out). We’re not going to the playground. He’ll got to the store. You’re the worst.

You guys, I may frame that sucker.

Happy Mother’s Day

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9 years ago on Mother’s Day Scorch was born. He was the first kid born in our county on Mother’s Day so we were on the news. To say that I looked nothing like Kate Middleton hours after giving birth is like saying Mt. Everest is a big hill. My nose was swollen, my face was puffy and I was squishy all over. I was proudly wearing clean PJs for the first time in 24 hours along with the blessed mesh underwear stuffed with ice packs that they give you in the hospital. I have never felt more beautiful.

Fast forward, today my day was filled with two crazy kids, an amazing morning at church, seeing friends and having an fantastic evening at home with my kids, husband, parents, brother, grandmother and aunt. It was full of cleaning and cooking and washing and socializing and laughing and love. I have never felt more content.

The space between these Mother’s Days, 9 years apart, have been filled with a lifetime of memories and moments. Joy and tears. Laughter and yelling. Some days I look at these gorgeous creatures the Hubs and I made and their sheer perfection takes my breath away. Other times I look at them and I legitimately count down the days until they leave for college. Sometimes I do both on the same day.

You will never, ever hear me complain about being a mom. You will hear me complain about my kid’s actions and attitudes along with our crazy life full of rushing from here to there, laundry and cooking. But being a mom is *the* best job in the world and raising Scorch and Bean is a privilege that I know I’m damned lucky to have.

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To my own Mom- thank you for showing me every day how to parent with compassion, grace and humor. Thanks for reassuring me that I’ve got this when I call you to cry because I think I’m screwing everything up. Thanks for telling me how it is in the nicest way possible and for loving my kids so unconditionally. I love you more then you’ll know.

To my Mother-in-Law- thank you for raising the Hubs to be a good father. He may never, ever cook and he may hate talking on the phone, but he’s a damn good father and that is all thanks to his upbringing! My kids are lucky to call you Mimi.

To my sister, aunts, and cousins – I feel like I was raised surrounded by strong women who weren’t afraid to love me like my own parents. Thanks for continuing to build this amazing family for my kids. We may not live as close to each other as we did growing up, but your influence is always felt. It’s been a joy watching my sister and cousins turn into moms I’m so proud to know!

And to my friends – thank you for being my sounding board and for telling me I’m not crazy. Thank you for loving my kids like your own and being willing to pitch in when ever needed. Thank you for the girls nights, the real talk and hours of laughter. Thank you for raising kids I’m so happy my kids are friends with.

Happy Mother’s Day, all!

 

 

 

Far From Perfect

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This morning was a big one. Today was Muffins for Mom where the 1st grade class gets to have breakfast with their moms and then put on a little presentation for Mother’s Day. I kid you not when I tell you it’s one of my favorite traditions at the kid’s school. This was my last one and I think I was more excited then the Bean.

But, like life goes, nothing went according to plan.

All was fine until Scorch’s stomach got upset. Why? Who knows. So poor Scorch spent more time in the bathroom than out of it this morning all the while worrying that he was getting sick. Beaner is trying to tell me that we have to be at school at 7:45 but I’m convinced that Muffins for Mom doesn’t start until after morning assembly at 8:15 so I’m not worried. If we had had two cars at home, I would have taken the Bean just in case and the Hubs could have brought Scorch when he was ready. But, we were down to one car this morning because mine is in the shop getting the snow tires taken off. (No, Mother Nature, this is not a dare).

We finally made it out the door and over to school. We walked in to take the kids to morning assembly to find the Muffins for Mom presentation just starting. My stomach is in my feet and I felt so badly. But Bean just looks at me, smiles and darts off to join her class like it’s no big deal. I get to watch the whole song (which makes me cry), get presented with a flower from Beaner and it’s amazing.

After the song, we realize that breakfast was before morning assembly and not after and again, I’m a little sick over missing this. But Bean’s teacher graciously offered to let us go eat, just the two of us. So we do. And as we’re eating, the Bean tells me that this is the best morning ever.

So, my sweet kids, this morning did not go like it was supposed to. There were tears (mine), nerves (Scorch) and a little stage fright (Bean). It wasn’t perfect like we had envisioned it- not even close- but it was perfect for us. And sometimes that is all you can ask for!

 

You Are Not Alone: National Infertility Awareness Week

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Lots of years ago, the Hubs and I decided we wanted to grow our family. I was 24 and had no reason to think getting pregnant would be difficult. So I stopped taking the pill, started paying attention to my cycles and was convinced I was pregnant two months later when my period was late. You know that stupid saying that you’re over the moon? I hate that statement- but we were over the moon imagining how life was going to change with our little one. But the pregnancy tests kept coming back negative even though my period didn’t show for over 3 months. We just assumed it was my body’s reaction to going off hormonal birth control after so many years and didn’t get too concerned.

After a few more months though, we knew something wasn’t right. My cycles were crazily erratic, I was putting on weight rapidly and my skin was a disaster. Shortly there after, I was diagnosed with PCOS and we realized that our path to having a baby was not going to be an easy one.

This is National Infertility Awareness Week. Did you know that 1 in 8 couples deal with infertility? Think about that for a minute- 1 in 8 is a lot of people. It’s your friends, your family, your coworkers. It could be you.

When the Hubs and I first realized that having kids was going to be a challenge, we kept it to ourselves. I literally only knew of one other couple that had trouble conceiving and their child bearing years were 20 years earlier. I was scared and confused, ashamed and guilt-ridden. My body had failed me- had failed us– in a monumental way and I had no idea how to deal with that.

A year and 3 months after we started trying to grow our family, I got pregnant for the first time. We told everyone when I was about 5 weeks along. We didn’t think anything of it, we had never heard of anyone miscarrying. Then we became that couple who miscarried.

We were reeling and all the well-meaning people telling us that I’d get pregnant again soon just ate away at me. The dam broke and I told everyone everything. Words like PCOS, Clomid, IUI, Injectables and Reproductive Endocrinologist became a part of almost every conversation I had. Sadly, Miscarriage, Repeat Pregnancy Loss, Clotting Disorders and ANA did too as we dealt with 3 losses. (You can read how we eventually went on to have Scorch here.)

The crazy part was, the more I talked, the better I felt. No one could take away the pain, jealousy and heartbreak I was dealing with but the more I spoke out, the more people I found in the same boat as the Hubs and me. I found an amazing online community pretty quickly, but slowly I found local women in my life dealing with infertility. We called ourselves the Broken Vag!na and Limp D!ck Club. Not the most politically correct or medically accurate name, but it made us laugh. Our monthly dinners were sanity saving and one of the rays of sunshine during a dark time.

Eventually we all graduated from that club in one way or another. Some of us by having kids, some of us by living a fulfilling child-free life. Either way, we had each other.

It’s been almost 13 years since infertility reared its ugly head in my life. Since that time, at least a dozen women in my life have dealt with infertility in one form or another. The two kids I love just about as much as I love my own are IVF babies. I’ve held hands with more women than I’d like as they’ve mourned their losses. It’s been heartbreaking- but I’m so glad we’ve had each other.

Medical advances have out paced my knowledge and experiences, but I still share my story and lend an ear to anyone going through something similar. To know that you are not alone can sometimes be one of greatest blessing during a horrible time. The more I’ve talked, the less ashamed I am. My infertility wasn’t something I asked for, it just is-  like my brown eyes and wavy hair. I don’t wish that journey on anyone but I’m so very, very happy that infertility and pregnancy loss isn’t a topic talked about in whispers anymore. No one wants to be part of the Broken Vag!nas and Limp D!ck Club but if you are, come talk to me. I’ll listen.

 

Really, Mom? Can You Not?

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It may come a surprise to no one, but I like myself. I’m comfortable in my own skin 95% of the time and don’t really care a lot about what people think. Scratch that. I do care- but sometimes I get so lost inside my own head or in the moment that I forget to care. That results in me dancing on the sidewalk as I’m walking the kids into school. Or singing under my breath to the songs in the grocery store (not loudly, not obnoxiously- you’d have been right next to me to even notice). Or holding impromptu dance parties in the car or the kitchen. I’m both a horrible dancer and singer, but sometimes the feeling over takes me and my feet are moving. I also like to greet everyone I know with a smile and a hello, using their name which is awesome 99% of the time unless I call someone by the wrong name. Which I’ve done. Multiple times.

Scorch is my son through and through. He doesn’t care and will more often than not join me dancing and talking to random people everywhere we go.

The Bean, however, is her father’s child. More private, more subdued and more prone to being completely embarrassed by me (or the Hubs or Scorch- we’ve all sinned against her). The Hubs and I are lucky enough to take both kids to school together most mornings. The kids start their day in an L-shaped hallway, with the door to their morning assembly being off the longer part of the “L”.  Guess where she makes us say goodbye to her now? Yup- the short part of the “L”. Kisses must be short and quick and no long hugs are allowed because someone may see us. That stings more then I thought it would.

You guys, do you know how hard it is for me not to walk down the halls of Bean’s school singing and dancing to “Shake It Off?” now? So. Hard. If it was me and Scorch, I would and we’d both laugh until our sides hurt and go on with our day. But not the Bean, she’d want to melt into a puddle and be so mad at me so I resist the urge to boogie.

I try to be respectful and kind and considerate. I’m trying to find that middle road where I can still be me while still taking the Bean’s feelings into consideration. There will be times I will unintentionally embarrass my kids and there will be times I very much intentionally embarrass them. Right now I’ll save my dances for the car or our house and mind my manners in public in the hopes my daughter still lets me hold her hand and hug her when I want to.

Smarter Than I Look

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I’m not exactly blaming the Bean and her homework for the gray hairs on my head, but I am saying they may be related.  It’s not that her homework is hard- thankfully in 1st grade, I more or less know how to help her (unless it’s math, then we’re both screwed). Nope, these gray hairs are there because she refuses to ask for help and when you do help her (so, you know, she doesn’t get the whole thing wrong) she is Not Happy.

Tonight in honor of Earth Day, she had to make something from materials we got out of our recycling bin. She chose to make a snowman out of an empty OJ bottle, an empty tomato pint, paper towels and straws. She then had to write down what this item could be used for. In this case, she wanted it to be a Christmas decoration.

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The Bean asked for help in spelling Christmas but she was convinced she knew how to spell “decoration.” Now, I know she doesn’t know. I don’t expect my 6 year old to know how to spell that nor do I expect her to get it right when sounding it out, but I did ask her to try. So she wrote: deck or a shun.  Honestly, not bad for sounding it out! The issue came when she refused to believe me when I told her it was 1) one word and 2) spelled the way it was. Around and around we went with me trying to convince my 6 year old that I was not an idiot.

Do you know how I got her to believe me? By asking Siri how to spell “decoration.”

The Speaker of the House

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The Hubs and I have been together since 1998- that’s 17 years for the math challenged. We’re creeping up on the point where I’ll have known the Hubs longer than I haven’t known him and that kind of blows my mind.  When you’ve known someone for so long, you (or at least I) see the whole of them and take what they are like, or what they do, completely for granted. I mean, he’s the Hubs. He’s awesome and funny and a temperamental diva. I still get butterflies when we go out on dates and I enjoy his company more often than not. But he’s my husband and sometimes I forget that his career path and life outside of our family is one that is, objectively, fascinating.

Last week the Hubs was the keynote speaker at a Leadership Awards Banquet at our local college (and his Alma Mater) that was recognizing students on campus that had made an impact in a variety of ways. The students themselves were an amazing group and gave me a ton of hope for our future but, selfishly, it was the introduction of the Hubs and his speech that blew me away.

It really gave me a chance to sit back and see the Hub’s through other people’s eyes. They didn’t know that he leaves his wet towel on the bed or can’t be bothered to actually put his dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of on the counter next to it. The audience doesn’t see the hours he spends weekly playing the kid’s sport of choice with them or the way Ron Swanson on Park and Rec makes him laugh until he can’t breath.  After 17 years together, I live with the good, the bad and ugly. So it was so freaking amazing to see him outside of our little family unit (where I’m the loudmouth) telling funny stories, sharing quotes and talking about his adventures.

If you ever get to see your significant other in his element, do it- it’s a great reminder of how just awesome that person is on their own.

 

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

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Today, the state tests in NY started for all 3rd – 8th grade students.  We opted Scorch out of these tests, so he had an hour and 10 minutes to read. That’s a loooooong time to read when you’re 8 so I spent some time this weekend finding books to hold his attention. One of the books I picked out was a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book about the Revolutionary War that I figured he’d get a kick out of.

Evidently I picked well because when Scorch got into the car, the book was all he could talk about. He went through the adventure 6 times and he died 3 of them (which is way cool when you’re 8 and sheltered and thinking being hung as a spy is amazing). I asked about the other 3 times.

“One time, to live I had to shoot someone before he shot me. The book told me after I shot him, I immediately fell to my knees and started vomiting over the fact that I killed a man. The book said the guilt from my actions will haunt me forever.”

Huh. Well, way to get way too real there, Debbie Downer.

WWYD: Parenting Other People’s Kids Edition

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This afternoon I  took the kids to the local bounce house to blow off some energy. About a half an hour after we got there, a boy came in with his mom.  He looked about Scorch’s age and Scorch was thrilled when another boy showed up to play.

He immediately asked if he could play with Scorch and Bean so my kids pulled him into their basketball game. Less then a minute later, Bean came out of the bounce house saying that John hit her in the neck. I didn’t think much of it as they were playing a very spirited game and, well, kids get hit. The boy’s mom piped up from her chair, “JOHN- no touching!”

Beaner sat by me and not a minute later, Scorch came out saying that John was pulling his hair.

Hmmm, well, that’s a little harder to do playing basketball so when John emerged from the bounce house right after Scorch, I just reminded all the kids that we keep our hands to ourselves when we play. I didn’t single out any of the kids, just issued a blanket statement. The kids all nodded and went back off to play.  John’s mom didn’t look up from her phone.

A few minutes pass and Beaner comes out to sit by me because John was bothering her. John followed her over and slung an arm around her shoulder, messing with her hair, asking me if she was shy. Now Bean doesn’t really like to be touched so I told John as much and reminded him to please keep his hands to himself. The mom, sitting not 4 chairs over from me, yells at him to not touch.

Scorch and Bean are trying to play by themselves at this point, but John keeps following them around. I tried to come up with games (races, etc) the three kids could do that didn’t involve touching or rough housing but somehow John was always touching them. Bean finally gave up and came to sit by me but Scorch still wanted to play, so he tried to engage John in another basketball game. That quickly devolved into a game where John tried to peg Scorch in the face with the ball repeatedly. Again, I spoke up (loudly for the mom to hear, but not yelling) that we play nice or we don’t play together. Hitting our friends with a ball was not nice and won’t be allowed.

Mom yelled again at John from her seat. Which clearly had been really effective.

Scorch decided that basketball wasn’t the smartest idea, so he moved onto another bounce house that requires climbing a ladder up to a slide to get out. John followed and within seconds, I hear Scorch saying “Please stop touching me. Please stop. I said stop touching me.”  I can’t see what’s going on, so I climbed into the bounce house to see Scorch trying to get up the ladder and John either smacking him lightly on the butt or yanking at his feet.  At this point I finally raised my voice directly to John and told him to leave Scorch alone. That Scorch had asked him repeatedly to stop touching him and that he needed to listen. I was semi- yelling, speaking firmly, and John immediately agreed to stop and apologized.

The mom? She did nothing. She didn’t say a single thing to me or the kids as we left immediately after the last incident.

Based on some of the other things I saw John do, I tend to think he may have had some special needs. None of his touching seemed to be mean spirited in any way, it was simply like he didn’t know how to interact properly with the kids. By the time we left, both my kids were in tears wondering why John’s mom didn’t do anything to stop John’s behavior other then sit on her chair and yell his name a few times. And I was at a loss as to what to tell them.  It was a really uncomfortable situation all around.

So what would you have done? Should I have engaged the mom more? Should I have raised my voice sooner at John? Should I have told the owners of the bounce house? Should we have just left?  I feel badly that my kids ended up having a crappy time even though they, to their credit, did everything I’ve ever told them to do when someone is bothering them.