Project 2014

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Almost 24 hours into the new year, the clean slate we’ve all been waiting for.  A chance to change ourselves – even if most of us forget what we actually wanted to change sometime in mid-February or, if we’re really lucky, late March.  Sure, there are things I’d like to do.  Lose weight (half of the baby weight is gone but the rest is not going to lose itself).  Be more organized.  Stay on top of the laundry.  But is any of that really going to change who I am?  Maybe I simply need to look to my children to see what it is that I really need to change about myself.

Let every morning be a fresh start.  I mess up.  Every single day.  I yell at Robbie when I really shouldn’t have (like maybe when he sticks my pearl necklace down the barrel of his Nerf gun, even when I’ve asked him three times to please stop but can’t get up because I’m nursing Alex and it’s really just too much to handle at the moment).  Or I forget to make him the hot tea I promised to make for him to drink during story time – even though it really just sits on his dresser and is never touched.  Or I couldn’t get his shoes tight enough or made him wear long sleeves or told him he absolutely, positively had to sleep in his bed.  He doesn’t always react well to these things.  Sure, sometimes he tells me it’s OK because we all make mistakes.  But, more often than not, he cries right along with me when I realize I’ve been too harsh and hurt his feelings or yells because I’m just not being fair.  In the morning, though, all is forgiven and forgotten (if we’re being honest, it’s usually taken care of by bedtime).  I’m back to being his “best mom”, worthy of hugs and an extra kiss before he hops in the car to go to school.  It doesn’t matter how badly I messed up the day before; Robbie gives me a whole new opportunity to be the best mom I can be.  If he can do that, why can’t I?

Playing is fun.  We have work.  And family.  And a house to clean.  Where in the world is there time to have fun?  Everywhere.  Being off work for the past three weeks – and spending two of them with a four-and-a-half-year-old at home – I’ve had to do some serious looking for the fun.  It’s making cookies, even when there’s no special occasion.  Or racing from one corner to the next in an effort to actually complete a two-mile run with a small child.  Some days, the laundry can wait.  Dinner doesn’t have to be spectacular – especially if you’re making it together.  It’s OK if the house is a mess.  Robbie and Alex aren’t going to remember that they had to wear the same socks two days in a row because you took an hour to go to the playground instead of doing laundry (that’s actually a true story – don’t judge; their feet don’t smell too horrible at this age).

Naps are good.  This kind of follows the previous paragraph.  Cuddling up with a sleeping baby, relishing that you can take a nap while the rest of the world is at work (which, by the way, is exactly what I plan to do tomorrow when everyone goes back to school) is empowering.  OK, maybe not empowering, but it sure does make you feel awesome.  Leave the dishes in the sink, slide under the covers, close your eyes, and enjoy the moments of nothing.

Listening is important – even more important than talking.  Robbie talks.  A lot.  About everything that passes through his brain.  I don’t always follow it.  In fact, there are times that I really want to tune it all out, but I can’t because he expects me to respond to what he’s saying.  We’ve done a lot of walking in the past week – close to ten miles, which is a lot of time for talking.  Robbie has showed me all the houses where his imaginary friend, Jack’s, family lives.  We’ve talked about what living organisms have brains (trees don’t), which led to commentary on Robbie’s brain deciding to order pizza.  We’ve looked at cloud shapes and held hands.  It’s the little things that I would miss if I didn’t listen carefully.  How much do we miss around us because we are too busy on our cell phones or thinking about everything else we have to do?  Slow down – it’ll be OK if you don’t respond to that text for the next five minutes.

Hugs fix a lot of things.  It’s true.  They just do.  Skinned knees, hurt feelings, bad dreams.  This applies in real life, too.  Don’t be afraid to give a hug to someone who needs one – or to ask for one when it’s really just too much to take.

People are good and really just want to be friends.  People hurt Robbie’s feelings (and I’m pretty sure he hurts theirs, too), but he’s always the first to remind me that they are his friends.  Tonight, he told me that most people are on Santa’s nice list – only bad guys (like witches, ghosts, and zombies) are on the naughty list.  It’s easy to forget – everyone is a person, with a heart.  Treat people that way.  Assume they are on the nice list.

Will I remember all of this every day?  Absolutely not.  But that’s OK, as long as I remember the first rule of 2014 and start every morning fresh.  The rest will fall into place.

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Hitting the Slopes

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For the past few months, Robbie has constantly talked about snowboarding and how awesome it is.  We’ve been making a big deal about Robbie being a big kid, hoping to stave off any jealousy about Alex being the baby.  Today, it was time for Robbie to figure out how awesome snowboarding really was – even though he would be on skis.  Justin bravely decided to take Robbie to Perfect North to see what skiing was all about.

I’ll be honest, neither one of us really expected this to go well.  I figured Robbie would get intimidated once he had his skis on and cry when Justin took him to his lesson.  Justin figured there would be an epic meltdown before they even got outside.  We were both wrong.  Robbie may be a better skier than Justin – he’s definitely a better skier than me.

All I have to go on are the pictures and videos Justin brought home, but it looked pretty awesome.  There he was, skiing!  And without any poles, his arms up for balance.  I was sure Robbie was being pulled around by some string, but he was doing it on his own.  Robbie came home, excited to tell me how awesome he was and that he was faster than Justin.

I love that we were both wrong, that we have a son who is able to try something new without being intimidated – something I struggle with.  And I love that he was good at it, that he and Justin can develop this hobby together.

Life With Two

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I’m not sure what I expected it to be or if, in all honesty, I had really thought the whole idea through.  This whole idea of two children.  Did I expect it to be easy?  For Alex to seamlessly fit into our lives?  Or did I think it would be more difficult than when we had Robbie?  That nothing would ever be the same again?  Three weeks in, I’m not sure there’s a clear cut answer.  It’s a little bit of everything – wonderful and sad and chaotic and strangely peaceful.

There is nothing more incredible than watching my two boys together, seeing the excitement in Robbie’s eyes when he comes barreling through the door after a day at school.  It’s a different side of him, and it almost reminds me of the new type of love I felt for Justin when he became a father.  Robbie has so embraced being a big brother that it is who he is.  He makes every decision based on his little brother.  I offer to take him on a run, and he wants to know if his little brother can go.  Alex is crying and Robbie drops what he’s doing to find a pacifier and calm Alex.  It’s been amazing to see Robbie stop being so self-centered (as any four-year-old is) and really focus on another person.

But, with all of that, there’s a certain amount of sadness.  I find myself being short with Robbie, sometimes through no real fault of his own.  Did I sound a little too harsh when he was playing with a necklace I’d asked him to put away three times?  Yes.  Do I feel like I’m always telling him no?  Or to slow down?  Or to be careful?  Absolutely.  And it kills me.  I try so hard to not make that the only thing I say – much like I tried so hard to stop telling him that we were always going to be late – and to apologize when I over-react.

Trying to get out of the house?  With two kids?  By myself?  Utter chaos.  Last Thursday, I had to get both kids to the doctor by 11:30.  Two of us needed to be showered.  All three of us needed to be fed (Robbie wound up having marshmallows for breakfast).  Alex was crying in his swing while I chased a naked Robbie around the house, trying to convince him that he couldn’t go out in shorts and a t-shirt.  Then, twenty minutes before the appointment, and while I was still not fully dressed, Alex needed to nurse.  Miraculously, we were only five minutes late, despite all the chaos.

And then those moments of peace.  Early this morning, while I was feeding Alex, Robbie climbed into bed with me, cuddling on the other side of his brother.  We laid there, in the quiet darkness before the sun came up, and talked about everything that popped into Robbie’s mind.  In fact, Robbie will sometimes wake up in the middle of the night when Alex cries and come sit with me while I nurse Alex.  When I tell him he really doesn’t have to sit up with me, Robbie replies, “No, I think I’ll stay up with you.  I like getting to talk to you like this.”  And, just like that, I know that, whether I knew what I was getting into or not, we made the right decision.

Iguanas and Bears and Allergies, Oh My!

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Last Monday, Robbie’s face started to look a little red.  Nothing major at first, something that could have easily been ignored.  Until the red exploded all over his face.  Trying to figure out what could have caused it, I went to the source, sure that my four-and-a-half-year-old could shed some light.  Maybe he hit his face on the counter or burned it on the rug doing some strange gymnastics.

“Rob, what happened to your face, buddy?” I asked, kneeling down in front of him to get a better look at the red rash that was creeping up and down both sides of his face.

“Umm…  An iguana itched me on this side,” he explained, pointing to the left side of his face.  “And then a bear bit me on this side.”

It was all I could do to keep a straight face, he looked so earnest and, well, sad about it.  “I was playing in the woods, and the iguana came down and itched me.  Then I kept walking, and a bear got me.  It bit me on the face, and it hurts.”

Fortunately, my mom had some special ointment for me to use.  Most people know it as hydrocortisone cream.  It also doubles as iguana scratch and bear bite medicine.

I’ll give him this; Robbie knows how to stick to his story.  By the time we had gone to the Little Clinic at Kroger (they were closed, by the way, sending me on my way with the advice to give him Benadryl, which does nothing by hype my child up) and woken up on Christmas Eve to find the rash even worse than the previous night, I almost believed the iguana and bear attack story.  However, on the off chance that it was more than exotic wildlife attacking my child while he roamed the woods (where in the world he had that experience is beyond me, but if I find out, we won’t be going there because apparently the animals are very dangerous), we decided to go to the doctor.

Our family doctor walked into the exam room, expecting to see some sort of an allergic reaction.  When he asked Robbie what happened, Robbie gave the same story.  Fortunately, our doctor rolls with the punches pretty well and never contradicted Robbie’s claims.  However, on the off-chance that it was an allergic reaction to something, he prescribed some steroids.  Amazingly, between the iguana scratch/bear bite medicine and steroids, everything cleared up.

Brothers

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Robbie has been waiting for Alex to be born for about 30 weeks – and eternity to any four-year-old.  He’s planned Alex’s nursery and made detailed lists in his head about everything he would teach his little brother.We talked about Alex, and Robbie kissed my belly every night.  But, when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure what would happen when it came time for Robbie to actually meet his little brother.

Rob tends to get shy during important moments, hiding behind my back, especially if there are people around.  I set my expectations of a perfect brother introduction fairly low.  There is only one time in your life when you will meet your baby brother for the first time, and, as much as I wanted it to be perfect, hoping that it would be would only set me up for disappointment.  The labor and delivery nurse suggested having Alex in the bassinet, so Robbie could spend a little time with me first.

We didn’t know exactly when Robbie was coming, so there was no time to get Alex into the bassinet.  Instead, my sister was holding him.  I happened to be up when Robbie came through the door, laden with flowers and Cheetos.  I crouched down for a hug, ready to hold my first-born and prepare him to meet his brother.  Robbie shoved the flowers into my hand, skirted around me, and made a beeline for his baby brother.

“Alex!  It’s me!  Your big brother!” he exclaimed and he peered into Alex’s face.  All worries of a not-so-perfect introduction vanished.  Robbie knew what was going on, and he was ready to be a big brother.

I asked if he wanted to hold Alex, and Robbie smiled and ran to the big chair to sit down.  The look on his face, the pride and joy, and he looked at his baby brother was nothing I could have expected.  He beamed, making sure to carefully hold Alex.  Eventually, we moved to my bed, where the three of us sat together for the first time.  My two boys and me.  It was a little surreal, having my arm around Robbie as he held on to Alex and looked at him with the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen.

It was hard for Robbie to leave – and hard for us to watch him go.  He sobbed, begging to stay and promising to help with Alex.  I can’t wait to get home and have everyone together.  It helps knowing he’s in good hands with Nona, Pops, and Aunt Hilary, but it’s not the same as all of us being together.

Alexander

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I was ready for Alex to come in mid-November.  Planned my life around it – the laundry was finished and put away regularly, papers were graded, the house was cleaned.  And he never came.  Recently, I resigned myself to the fact that he was going to be a late baby.  The latest the midwife would let me go was Christmas Eve, and, in my mind, I knew I would be spending Christmas in the hospital – away from Robbie.

And then I woke up at 2:18 Saturday morning with intense contractions.  You know – the kind that are every five minutes and stay that way for five hours, so you finally go to the hospital, only to have them stop?  Completely?  Like you don’t have a single one while you’re hooked up to the monitor?  Yeah.  Those were the kind I had.

Justin and I left, two hours of our Saturday wasted.  I may or may not have cried, feeling stupid because I told myself I wouldn’t make the same false trips to the hospital that I had when I was pregnant with Robbie.  And you know what happened as soon as we left the hospital and sat down at a restaurant to have brunch, right?  Contractions picked up, five minutes apart.  However, I was not going to be fooled again.

Justin and I enjoyed our brunch, bought Christmas stamps, and headed home to clean the house.  I battled – and defeated – the kitchen, complete with crusted, colored icing on the counters from the previous night’s rushed cookie job before school’s holiday party.  I nearly conquered the sheets stained with blue marker from a certain big brother (and the father who wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing).  We addressed and mailed Christmas cards.  I vacuumed up the   We watched Santa Claus The MovieThe Right Stuff,  and started Tora! Tora! Tora!  Finally, after five more hours of contractions four to five minutes apart, Justin decided it was time to go back.  Apparently, my whimpering on the couch was enough to do the poor man in.

We headed back to the hospital, and, miraculously, the contractions didn’t go away.  In fact, they got worse.  All of a sudden, it looked like Justin’s wishes for a Pearl Harbor baby were going to come true.

Justin and I took hypno-birthing classes when I was pregnant with Robbie, and we decided it was pretty much a lie.  I have to tell you, after having Alex, I’m a little more of a believer.  I went the epidural route right away this time, which let me relax and not be miserable through labor.  It’s pretty incredible what a difference that makes.  Justin and I spent the next 90 minutes catching up with the midwife and the nurse, while Alex started to work his way into the world.  Eventually, I did need to push, but it was only when he was inches from being born.

I had dreaded that part.  With Robbie, pushing took 3 hours and 22 minutes.  I thought the poor child was never going to be born, and we were both going to be stuck like that forever.  Plus, I was exhausted from 48 hours of labor.  With Alex?  It was 21 minutes until he was in my arms.  Just like that.  All 8 pounds, 11 ounces of him.

You know how people tell you that you’ll love your second child, but it will be different?  And you can’t possibly imagine a scenario where you love someone as much as your first?  And you were terrified of how things would change?  All gone the moment he was in my arms in all his slimy glory.  Alex looked at me, and I was undone.  Undone in a completely different way than Robbie, my big boy and adventure partner.  I think this might be a beautiful thing.

What NOT to Say

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At 39.5 weeks pregnant, I’ve heard almost everything you can say to a pregnant woman.  In no particular order, I present you with the following list of things you should never say to a woman this pregnant.

1.  “You look miserable!” – Thanks.  I actually feel great.  Fantastic, even.  Miserable was weeks 30-34.  But right now?  I’m feeling awesome.  Telling me that I look miserable when I feel anything but is pretty crushing.  If I wanted to look miserable, I wouldn’t spend time doing my hair and make-up and making sure I had on clean clothes in the morning.  Instead, I’d sleep until 7:15 and roll out of bed just in time to make it to work.

2.  “I guess that baby wants to stay in for a few more days.” – Really?  You have a direct line to my child?  I’ve been hearing this one since about 37 weeks, way before I would have actually wanted my child to be born.  Double no-no if you repeat it to the pregnant woman every day.  If you have to comment about the baby staying put, at least only make it a day.  It just seems cruel to make it plural.

3.  “You should hold out and have the baby on (pick any random date).  It’s my best friend’s dog’s birthday.” – Gee.  Thanks for the input.  I will definitely do my best to go into labor and deliver my child on a day that is important to you.  This is particularly fun when the person’s birthday is three months after my due date.  If I was going to purposely go into labor on an important day, I might have picked my birthday or our anniversary or my grandfather’s birthday or the day we got engaged.

4.  “Did you get pregnant on purpose?” – Now, most people know this isn’t an appropriate conversation, but middle schoolers have no idea.  At all.  This has led to several conversations about the implications of this question.

5.  “Boy, are you swollen!” – That’s the equivalent of calling a pregnant woman fat.  Sure, my feet and ankles are so swollen that my socks don’t fit anymore and it takes effort to put on shoes.  I don’t really need you reminding me.  Trust me, I know.

Did I miss any?

Almost Four…

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It’s almost time.  Five days before my due date.  We are almost a family of four.  And I am, well, not sure how I feel.

We plan to cap our family at four, so I am trying to enjoy the last days of being pregnant, hoping to remember this for the rest of my life.  It’s only been four years, but I don’t really remember what it was like to be pregnant with Robbie.  I worry I haven’t enjoyed being pregnant as much as I could have,  but I’m grateful that the last month has been wonderful.  Sure, there’s been swelling and heartburn I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  And, no, I don’t sleep through the night, and my hips and shoulders are sore from sleeping on my side.  But, I’ve had energy and gotten things done.  I’ve done things people told me I’d feel too terrible to do – the Christmas shopping is done, the house is decorated, the sugar cookies are in the freezer waiting to be decorated, and the Christmas cards have been shipped.

I’m also a little terrified.  We have a pretty good thing going with Robbie; it’s been the three of us for the past four-and-a-half years.  He’s a “real” person – we have conversations and go on adventures – and having Alex will make that different.  This is probably part of the reason I haven’t done much writing in the past three months.  I’m trying to hold on to everything, to slow down time when it’s just the three of us.  It doesn’t work like that, though.  Time has passed – and quickly – so I try to soak up our adventures, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Two weeks ago, the whole house was up at 4:45.  I got panicked that I might never have the chance to take Robbie for an early breakfast before school with just the two of us.  Keep in mind, this is something I have never done.  Ever.  But we had to do it – that morning.  We both got dressed and were ready to leave the house by 6:30.  We lingered over waffles and bacon, talking about his friends and school and plans for the weekend.  It was perfect – right down to Robbie excusing himself to go to the bathroom and singing so loudly while he was in there that all of Waffle House heard.

And every night at bedtime, I linger long after Robbie has fallen asleep.  Will this be the last night that he is my only child?  Will this be the last night that I can cuddle with him without knowing there is someone else who also needs attention?  Will this be the last night that I don’t miss bedtime because of a hungry baby?  Nights like tonight, I feel a little bit worse because I sent Justin up to read stories.  What if I missed my last bedtime with just Robbie?

And the other part of me?  So excited to meet Alex that I’m not sure I can wait another minute.  I want to see what he looks like and smell the baby smell.  I can’t wait to cuddle him in little sleepers and watch Robbie with his brother.  To know that we are just days from having our family complete, and just in time for Christmas, makes me feel a little silly for even being worried.

Now we just wait.   After all, it’s a little late to be worried about the impact Alex will have and what will happen when Robbie isn’t my only child.

 

Responsibility

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I heard there would be a difference when Robbie turned four, but I was hesitant to believe it.  After all, I’d heard something similar about him turning three, and that was really more of the same terrible twos.  Except with a bigger child who could throw a louder fit.  However, this time, there was something to this whole turning four thing.  And maybe the whole becoming-a-big-brother-thing.

Lately, Robbie has started getting up in the morning and taking a shower on his own.  Then, he packed his own lunch and fixed his own breakfast.  He even dressed himself.  Yesterday, however, we hit a new high.  I was still getting dressed when Robbie came running into the bathroom, distraught.  The morning had gone so well; I couldn’t imagine what had gotten Robbie so upset.

“Mom!  I’m trying to make you a jelly sandwich for breakfast, and I can’t get the bread.  It was supposed to be a ‘prise.  Can you please help?” he sobbed into my shoulder.

I’m not sure I’ve ever squeezed my child harder.  Here it was, 7:05 in the morning, and he was making sure I had breakfast.  We walked into the kitchen, and I found that Robbie had gotten out both the jelly and the honey.  After a brief lesson on the benefits of simplify (and peanut butter), Robbie sent me back to finish getting dressed while he made the sandwiches.  Were they perfect?  Not really – there was a follow-up lesson on spreading.  But, it was probably the most delicious peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich I’ve ever had.

This afternoon, Robbie’s responsibility streak continued.  We were working in the front yard – will I ever get rid of the trumpet vine that seems to follow me everywhere? – when Robbie and I noticed that Barkley had left the yard and was at the corner.  Robbie called for Barkley, and the dog took off.  I told Robbie to get in the car, which is the only successful way I’ve found to track him back down, especially now that I can barely run ten feet.  Robbie yelled, “Mom, I’ve got this!  I’ll get Barkley!”   He took off down the road, in running pants and no shirt.

I hopped in the car, sure Barkley was all the way down the block and Robbie would be sitting on the sidewalk a third of the way there.  You can imagine my surprise when I turned the corner to see Robbie grab Barkley around the neck.  I held my breath, sure Barkley would break Robbie’s grip, and got out of the car ready to tell Robbie to grab the collar.  Before I could even get the door open, Robbie grabbed Barkley’s collar and started toward the car.

“See, Mom?” he said in a low, grown-up voice.  “I told you I’d get Barkley.  He can go in the car.  I’ll beat you back home!”  And he was off like a shot, beating me back home to tell Justin about his adventure.

 

Fall in the Bluegrass, Take II

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It hit me when I was driving home yesterday – the pure excitement of fall in Kentucky.  Maybe it was the clear blue sky that I haven’t gotten to see all day.  Or the fact that it was finally Friday.  But, all of a sudden, I got a little giddy about the fact that it was fall.  Football games.  Robbie’s first soccer season.  Keeneland.  It’s all here – or almost here.  After a few minutes getting excited about fall, it occurred to me that this was my second fall back home, and I wasn’t quite sure why I was as excited as if it was my first.

I thought on it awhile.  Last fall, I couldn’t be excited about all of the fun.  There was a house sale hanging in the balance in Boston – and one here that depended on it.  There was the fear that we (or, in all honesty, I) had made a huge mistake in pushing for the move, even when the condo hadn’t completely sold.  There was the pressure of living in my parents’ basement – something we appreciated being able to do.  However, it was difficult to go from living 1000 miles away to managing the stress of everything with other people around.  And, perhaps most importantly, there was the fact that Justin and I had to figure out Robbie.

None of that matters this fall, though.  We are settled in a house we love.  Justin and I both know that Lexington is where we want to stay permanently.  We have fantastic friends.  Family is nearby – and a Godsend.  And Robbie has gotten the help we all needed to get on the right track.  He is, generally, happy and able to act appropriately in different settings.  We have another little boy on the way.  As much as Justin probably doesn’t want me to say it because he’s worried I might jinx it – life is pretty perfect right now.

And so, without any constant worries, Justin and I sat in Commonwealth Stadium, awaiting kickoff for the first home game of the season.  We were able to fully embrace the afternoon, enjoying each other’s company and the intensity that is Big Blue Nation.  God, it was nice.  And there was nowhere else in the world I would have wanted to be.