An Open Letter to My Children

An Open Letter to My Children

Kids…I love you. I think you know that. And I think you also know that I often seem to express my love in odd ways – like fussing at you for moving too slowly in the mornings or getting on to you for spilling your juice. I want to do better. I want to show my love in better ways. I always start out with the best intentions.

Every morning, I pray for you. I pray for your safety, for the little things I know you struggle with, for you to have a great day. I pray to have patience and to let the little things go. I pray for reminders that you are only this little for a short while, and that I should cherish these moments. I pray that today is the day I manage my frustration with no – okay, maybe just a few – mistakes.

And every night, I pray for forgiveness of my failure to achieve all of these things. Or, just as often, my failure to achieveĀ any of these things.

If you want the truth, I’ll go ahead and give it to you: Parenting you is hard. Not because you’re bad kids and not because I don’t love you.

If I could let you take a brief tour of my mind, you might understand. It’s like a bag of cats in there – neglected household chores competing for attention with overdue bills are swirling around, usually surrounded by a revolving schedule of school activities, work commitments, therapy goals, and doctor’s appointments. Sprinkled around you’ll find anxiety over my own stuff – money and work and marriage; worry that I am forgetting something important; fear that today is the day I say something to you that ruins your life forever. Look left and right while you’re in there and you’ll see two of me arguing with each other – one convinced that tough love was the right call; the other certain that a gentler approach would have yielded more understanding.

And that’s just the first layer.

Keep digging, and you’ll see doubt. So much doubt. It claims its own special section of my mind, plaguing me with the fear that I have messed up one too many times. I yelled too much, I didn’t forgive quickly enough, I didn’t give you the attention you so desperately needed. And then, of course, there’s the doubt that I was too soft and now you won’t understand consequences, that I forgave you instantly and you didn’t learn from it, and that so much attention has caused you to totally rely on me for validation.

There are about 12 more layers to go after that.

I don’t present this to you as an excuse, as the saying goes, but an explanation. An explanation of why you throwing one more ball at me when I am already juggling 17 is just enough to send me over the edge. An explanation of why I love to hear you sing, but at this moment, hearing one more sound is the absolute last thing I need. An explanation of how I can love you so much and want to be alone for just a few minutes.

But if I am asking you to understand my mind, then it’s only fair that I work to understand yours. Your anxieties and fears and joys and excitement might be a little less defined, but are no less valid. I know that your need to sit right next to me, thigh to thigh, at all times is not borne from a desire to annoy, but a desire for closeness. Your continued requests for another snack are likely not a cleverly designed plot to keep me from working, but a need that you cannot meet for yourself and therefore have found the one person who can help you in that moment. And when I do not respond, you can only assume I am not paying attention, or can’t hear you. And so you ask again. And again. You know I will get frustrated, but you can’t help yourself.

Should you learn to be patient? Yes. Should I learn to be patient? Yes.

So, kids, we have to decide – whose needs are greater? Who wins?

The answer is neither of us. Neither of us wins, because neither of us is perfect. You know better than to push your sibling. I know better than to expect two preschool-aged children to get along like adults. We both know better, but we don’t do better.

And, so, today, like many other days, I have prayed for patience. And, today, like many other days, God has given me multiple opportunities to practice. But I think tomorrow I will pray for something else. I will pray for the ability to get out of the way and let God work through me, to erase my imperfections and give you the mom you need. I will pray for each of you to practice the kindness and love that we have so often talked about – and I will pray you find an example of those things through me.

In short, dear kiddos, I will try my hardest. I am a fallen person in a fallen world, and my best will be full of mistakes. I will ask you to try your hardest, which will also be full of mistakes. I will yell at you again. You will make eye contact with me as you deliberately crumble a fistful of Goldfish crackers into the couch. We are human, you and I, and that means perfection is not in our future.

No, not perfection. But if we both agree to focus less on ourselves and more on what God has called each of us to do, I think we can achieve grace for each other’s flaws, forgiveness of each other’s wrongs, and enough love to cover every inevitable mistake.

I will offer to read this to you, and you will say okay. I will get frustrated at your inability to sit still. You will get bored of listening to your mother read her own blog to you. We will argue.

And then we will make up.

Love you always,

Mommy

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On Your Fifth Birthday

On Your Fifth Birthday

Happy fifth birthday, buddy! You are already five years old… it’s hard to believe. Which is funny, because when you’re a parent, you’ll see that some days drag so slowly you think they’ll never end, and some days pass so fast you can’t remember they happened. And, somehow, enough days passed for you to be five!

Every year with you is more and more fun, and this year has been no exception. You learned a lot of new words this year – you like to tell me you’re “SO disappointed,” how “delighted” you are, and when you feel “very frustrated.” You still haven’t mastered your R and L sounds, so it’s ridiculously adorable to hear you say big words in such a little voice. Sometimes you try to correct Jenna and teach her a new word – it rarely (maybe never) works, but I like to hear you try.

You’ve spent probably 75% of this year dressed as someone else – Captain America, a dinosaur, Spiderman, Marshall, and sometimes a costume of your own creation. You love to dress up and play pretend. And you do not break character for anything. You make those British guards look like party animals. Sometimes, when you’re a puppy, it’s really tricky, because you’ll only answer to your puppy name, which I don’t know, and which you won’t tell me because “puppies don’t talk.” Except to say that one sentence.

Superheroes have been one of your favorite things this year. Every morning you hopefully ask me if it’s raining so you can wear your Batman raincoat. When you wear it, you have me put the “hoodie” up so you can run around singing, “Nah, nah, nah, nahhhhh, BATMANNNNNNNN!” over and over again.

This year was a tough one for you, medically speaking. You did bites at the Marcus Center, which was hard, but you did it. You gained inches and pounds and ate your weight in pureed food. I was (and am) really proud of the way you handled yourself during those sessions. We had some rough moments, which I may or may not find funny in five more years, but you gave it your all. And you’re still giving it your all each time we do the bites.

We also discovered that you were dealing with some other issues – namely, the issue where your blood sugar would plummet when you were sick! That was a fun surprise. We are still unraveling parts of that mystery, but you held up like a champ through tests, blood draws, and – the worst part – no Paw Patrol movies. It wasn’t fun, but you rarely complained. You are tough stuff, my friend.

We won’t talk about the two broken legs. Back to back. In summer.

I love watching you make new friends. You’ve become part of a little group at school, all of you kids who love building blocks and playing pretend. You could be friends with anyone. You could be friends with a sheet of paper. But I love to see you form these special bonds as you grow.

You’re so big now. So. big. What you lack in weight you make up for in literally everything else. You feel big feelings, you imagine big ideas, and you have a big smile. You love being big, and I know you’re holding strong to your goal of growing higher than the ceiling so we have to get you a giant house.

You’re also silly in big ways. You love to “trick” people, either by sneaking up on them or telling them something outrageous in such a serious tone that they actually start to believe you. You love mischief, and while it is often your sister who gets caught doing the actual mischief, I have a feeling she is only following orders from a certain five-year-old mastermind. I’m on to you, dude.

The other remarkable thing about this year is that you started to notice some of the differences between you and your friends and classmates – and you didn’t care. When you asked me why your school bus is so small, I answered you as best I could, by telling you everyone is assigned a bus that fits them perfectly, and held my breath while I waited for your answer. In your typical cheerful manner, you just said, “Oh!” and then went back to being Batman for a while. You don’t care about your differences. And they’ve made you more compassionate for others who are different, too.

Speaking of the bus… your morning bus driver recently told me that you sing songs for the entire ride. Paw Patrol, Batman, Robocar Poli, Little Einsteins – you sing it all at the top of your lungs, giving everyone a brief but exciting concert five days a week. On the way home, you chatter away, telling the driver and the aide about your day, about what you saw, who you saw, who you didn’t see, things you would like to see, something you think you saw but can’t remember, etc., etc., etc. X infinity. You love to talk, and if you don’t know the other person well, it makes no difference to you.

I could go on for pages and pages. I could talk about how funny you are. I could talk about how much I love to listen to you play. I could tell you how hard it is not to laugh when you study your reflection in the mirror until your “haircut” is perfect. I could tell you that even though I thought I was going to Italy, I wound up in Holland, and it’s a better trip than I could have ever planned.

What I will tell you is that I love you. And I’m proud of you. And you are FIVE today!

Love you always,

Mommy

How to take a toddler to the pool in just a few, easy steps

How to take a toddler to the pool in just a few, easy steps

1. Tell toddler you will be going to the pool if they finish their lunch.

2. Immediately regret this decision as the toddler now spends the rest of lunch time saying, “Pool? We go pool? Pool now?”

3. Repeat the phrase “After you eat” so many times you’re thinking it would look nice as a tattoo.

4. Threaten toddler with no pool ever again if they do not finish EVERY BITE OF THAT TOAST.

5. Remove toddler from high chair. Throw the toast they didn’t eat in the garbage can. Realize you no longer have principles or resolve.

6. Look for sunscreen. It should be on the shelf. It’s not on the shelf. Maybe it’s in the bathroom. It’s not in the bathroom. Maybe under the couch. Not under the couch.

7. Oh, look – the toddler has it.

8. Try to rub suncreen all over toddler. Mutter things under your breath like, “We are NOT doing this again until Daddy is home to help.”

9. Realize toddler is now covered in fuzz, hair, and crumbs from rolling around on the carpet after being slathered in sunscreen. Decide not to care. The pool is basically like a bath, right?

10. Pick out a swimsuit for the toddler.

11. Pick a different one.

12. Pick a different one.

13. Pick a different one.

14. Put chosen suit on toddler.

15. Repeat step 14 for the next 12 minutes. Wonder how this suit got so impossibly hard to put on since the last time the toddler wore it.

16. Realize the suit is from last year. Pick a different one.

17. After finally dressing the toddler in his swimsuit, gather all accessories: pool float, pool key, extra hat, extra sunglasses, extra sunscreen, extra vodka, extra goldfish, extra towels.

18. Remember you have another child.

19. Put aside guilt in order to slather and dress the other child.

20. Yell for toddler after you realize he has escaped to parts unknown.

21. Swear to toddler you will put him in his crib for the rest of his life if he does not get out of the kitchen RIGHT NOW.

22. Convince toddler to go out to the car. Think about how much you want a nap as you wrangle the toddler, baby, and 473078402 additional items into your car.

23. Tell yourself you are going to stay at the pool for at least an hour. It’s a beautiful day and you are determined to tire these children out for bedtime.

24. Drive to pool. Contemplate driving into the pool.

25. Unload items.

26. Unbuckle toddler and tell him to stay right there as you unbuckle the baby.

27. Watch toddler ignore you as he heads for the pool gate.

28. Grab the baby and crap-ton of stuff and race toddler to the gate. Feel good about winning but then feel bad that you feel good about winning a foot race with a toddler.

29. Walk toddler to pool steps.

30. Convince toddler that this pool is not an agent of Satan sent to destroy all mankind, but is in fact the same pool that he has been asking to go to for the last hour.

31. Insert toddler into pool float against his will.

32. Insert baby into pool float, also against the toddler’s will.

33. Get into the pool and push the floats around, making high-pitched noises intended to convince the toddler that this is fun.

34. Spend seven minutes in the pool avoiding the glances of others noticing your crying child and his terrible mother who forced him into the pool.

35. Give up.

36. Remove toddler and baby from the pool.

37. Dry everyone off. Change toddler’s clothes. Change baby’s clothes.

38. Wrangle toddler, baby, and pool accessories that have somehow increased back into the car. Buckle everyone in.

39. Listen to toddler cry. Ask what’s wrong.

40. Bang head into steering wheel repeatedly upon hearing the answer, “I want pool!!!!”

Repeat as needed.

See? It’s easy.

“I can’t believe you forgot about me. Again.”
On your second birthday

On your second birthday

Dear Joshua:

Wow…today you are two years old! That just seems so incredible to me. How can you be two when you are still my little tiny baby buddy?

But as much as I don’t want to acknowledge how old you are, I have also had so much fun getting to know you over the last two years. This last year in particular has been amazing, because your little personality started to shine through. I have began to understand you better and better, and it has just been so exciting and interesting. Last year I told you about all the things you have taught me, but this year I want to tell you about all the things I have learned about you. Read more

I’m So Pretty

I’m So Pretty

I recently got some new make up, courtesy of an Ulta gift card and a mom who loves to help me spend my Ulta gift cards. If you’re not familiar with Ulta, it’s a beauty/make up store that has a ton of different brands of make up, shampoo, hair accessories – basically it’s a one-stop-shop for all your beauty needs. I love it there. And, no, this post is not paid for by Ulta (but if anyone from Ulta is reading this, you’re welcome and also I need some free eyeshadow).

Last night, I was getting ready in the bathroom while Daniel played with the kids. I began to put my make up on, and, like always, I began criticizing the way I looked. At first I kept it to myself, just noticing my dry skin, my round face, the way my nose looked. I eventually became so frustrated that I said out loud, “I cannot beLIEVE how ugly I am right now. I hate how awful I look.” Daniel, who is a saint, told me that I was wrong and that I looked lovely. Read more