Thursday, June 23, 2016

Three

Dear Cohen,



Yes, I know...your birthday was 2 weeks ago.  What can I say?  You were born at a crappy time.  I was just telling someone the other day, that if I had put any forethought into life I would have gotten married in March and had all my kids in April.

June is tough.  The day we brought you home from the hospital, daddy dropped us off then ran around switching cars and installing car seats so we could pick up Freddie and make it to Ainsley's final cheerleading performance.  Three days later, we had the end of year picnic for Ainsley's first year of elementary school.  The next week was dress rehearsal and performances for dance class.

With the end of school, the end of my fiscal year at work, mommy and daddy's anniversary, the end of all activities...birthdays can get lost.  But somehow, I believe that you will always shine above all that.  You definitely make your presence known.  You are not a wallflower and you will not be overlooked.

Three is a tough year.  I don't know one parent of a three year old that will say "Three is a breeze."  They call them the terrible two's, but in my experience...two's got NOTHING on three.  You, however, are WAY ahead of your time.  You've been acting like a 4 or 5 year old since you were 1.5.  So I'm kind of hoping we're past the worst of it.  Although, knowing you...well, let's just say you take everything to a whole new level.  I'm sure it will be awhile before we are out of the difficult years with you, that is, if there ever is an end.



You are my toughest child.  The most stubborn, the most strong willed, the least easily distracted.  You know what you want.  You have always known what you wanted.  You get what you want, by any means necessary.



You are crazy, insanely, wickedly smart.  You have the vocabulary of a 5 year old.  I have no doubt that you could hold your own in a kindergarten class.  You're just shorter than most kindergartners.  But that brain and mouth work so quickly.



You are so beautiful.  Recently we attended a memorial service for my grandfather, and I saw so many family members that I hadn't seen since high school or college.  I pointed out my kids and I believe every single one of them said something along the lines of "Oh my, he looks like an angel."  And you do.  With those deep, big blue eyes and that soft wispy white hair.  And your rosy cheeks and perfectly pink mouth.  You look like you could sprout wings at any moment.  But, please read the above paragraphs again.

You are sweet and loving.  You kiss anyone that comes close to you.  And everyday when you leave daycare, you hug every one of your playmates and teachers.  But that angelic little face can contort into a monster before our very eyes.



You are not shy.  You talk to anyone.  You tell stories to strangers.  You have lots of friends and lots of admirers.

You are such a special little boy, even with all the challenges that come with raising a little guy with your big personality.  You have made us laugh.  You have brought us such joy.

The other day I asked Freddie if he remembered our family before you were born, and he said no.  And honestly, I can barely remember what life was like before you.  You complete us in every way.



Happy Birthday buddy.

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gone

I ignore news.  I totally avoid big stories.  So honestly, I have no idea how or why or when the gorilla thing happened.  I know the very basic details and you know what?  I'm not going to read about it.  Because I don't want an opinion about it.  You can call me ignorant and stupid...I don't care.  The fact is, that we are in information overload these days with the internet and social media.  I simply can not care about everything.  I would be a ruined soul.  I can't do it.  

Just last night I told Clif that I had no idea what had happened, but my Facebook feed was cluttered with rants about how everyone should stop judging parents.  Yet, I didn't see anyone judging.

And then I came to work this morning and browsed some websites and WOW.  Judgy McJudgerson everywhere.

I have no idea what that kid's parents were doing.  I have no idea if the zoo was justified in shooting the gorilla.  I have no idea who is to blame for any of it.  And I don't want to know.  But what I do want to do is share the following story.  But before I do, I want you all to know that I am a closet anxious person.  I pretend to be really calm and collected, but inside ANXIETY ABOUT EVERYTHING.  People think I have my stuff together and that I don't let things get to me.  But inside WORRY AND OBSESS ALWAYS.

So when it comes to my kids, I worry.  A lot.  If I'm out and about, I'm constantly counting them and making sure my eyes are on them.  One, two, three.  Pause.  One, two, three.  Pause.  One, two, three.  Over and over again.

This past weekend, I took the kids to Virginia Beach to visit a friend.  It was me and my friend and our 5 children, ages almost 3 to almost 9.  On Friday night we walked about 5 blocks to a playground on the beach.  It's in a very populated place.  It's near a very large statue that Cohen immediately took a liking to.

"Mommy, what that?"
"Mommy, can my touch it?"
"Mommy, you throw me in the sky so I touch the turtle?"

I put him off for the 30 minutes that the kids played on the playground.  Telling him we'd go look on our way home.

And there I sat, counting heads.  One, two, three, four, five.  Pause.  One, two, three, four, five.

When it was time to go, it was dark and 5 kids and 2 moms were accounted for.

I told the older 4 to stay put and not run ahead like they had on the way.  I told them it was dark and we wouldn't be able to see them as well.  And then I walked Cohen to the statue, crowded with people.  He touched a couple of fish and could not reach the turtle.  I was gone for 3 minutes - maybe.  I went back and only 3 kids remained.

Freddie was gone.

"Where's Freddie?"

No one knew.  I froze in a sea of people.  He was gone.  

"Where's Freddie?" I asked again.  Blank faces.

One of the other kids said something about the direction he had seen him go.  I left Cohen and Ainsley with the other mom and started running down the beach, screaming for Freddie.  I could barely breath.  Tears were hot in the corners of my eyes.

What if I lost him?  What if I never saw him again?  What if someone took him?  What if he wandered into the ocean?  What if he gets to the street and is hit by a car?  What if, what if, what if?

"Excuse me mam?" A man stopped me on the boardwalk, "Are you looking for your son?"

"Yes!" I cried.

"He's about a block up with a police man."

I don't think I even thanked him.  I just ran.  And there he was.  Fingers in mouth, crying, hiccuping, terrified, and with a police officer.

I called his name and scooped him up as he ran to me.  Thank God, thank God!

I lost him.  But I found him.  I wasn't watching for a few moments and he disappeared, but then he was back.  And I wanted to cry and scream and laugh all at once.  My legs felt like jello and panic continued to course through my veins as we walked back to the rest of the group.

I'm a good mom.  I'm not perfect.  I make lots of mistakes, but I do lots of things right.  I don't lose kids.  Ever.  But I did.  I looked away for a moment, walked in another direction when I thought my instructions were clear, and poof.

I don't know what that toddler's parents were doing - maybe they were smoking crack in the bathroom.  Or maybe they were distracted for a tiny moment by a phone or a stranger or another kid.  I'm really sorry that an endangered animal was killed.  But the idea that it can't happen to any of us.  Well, that's ridiculous.  And in that moment, what would you want done?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Light Bulb

I have always worried about money.  Always.

I have always felt like I'm drowning in my finances.  Always.

When I was a kid, my parents weren't handing me 20's every week for the movies or new clothes at the mall.  It was made very clear, very early on, if I wanted that, I'd need to work.  So, I started babysitting when I was 11.  I even advertised.

I didn't get a car until I was almost 20.  And then it was my parents' 1988 Bonneville.  I paid and borrowed my way through college.  I racked up lots of debt the moment I graduated and decided to live on my own, even though I couldn't afford it.  Especially when necessities like rent and power were accompanied with happy hour bills and eating lunch out every day.

But, I pulled through.  I paid off that debt.  I bought a new car when the Bonnie died.  I paid off student loans.  I paid for my wedding.  I bought a house.  I did all of that with zero financial help.  And I'm proud of that.  Financial freedom, is freedom.  No one got to to tell me who was invited to my wedding, because I was paying for it.  No one could yell at me for skipping an 8 am class, because I was paying for it.

However, I have always worried about money.  Always.

My one wish has always been to not worry about it.  I'd like to not have to think about every penny.  I don't need to be rich or live in a mansion or drive a BMW, but I'd like to just go through life not worrying about everything I spend.  I've spent my entire teenage and adult life working towards that goal.

Yet, I do worry.  All. The. Time.

And then in the strangest of moments, your brain comes to realizations.  It happened last night as I was driving home from swim lessons.  It's important to note that I was driving home from swim lessons because they aren't cheap.

I sat at a light and watched a young woman walk the median holding a sign.

"Please help.  I have 2 children and can't pay the rent or buy food."

This is not a new sight.  I see people holding signs, asking for money at least 5 times a day.

I watched her pace and hold her head down.  I watched her look up shyly and accept money, whispering "Thank You" and "God Bless You."  And I remembered that I was her, and now I'm not.

It wasn't that long ago that my husband lost his job and I was pregnant with a second baby and we didn't have a year's worth of savings and we collected unemployment and bought groceries with credit cards and fell behind on mortgages.

The light changed and I held out my $10 and told her to take care and drove away.

There was a time that I worried about how I would pay for groceries when my credit card was maxed out.  And there was a time that I worried we'd lose our house and where would we go.  And during that time I had 2 kids that needed me to figure it out.

I don't worry about that anymore.  There's not a day that goes by that I wonder how I'm going to feed my kids.  Ever.  Sure, I think about how we only have 9 years until Ainsley goes to college and how on earth are we going to save for it by then.  And I worry about coming up with a down payment to buy a house when all of our savings seems to go to one of the rental properties we own.  And I worry about how I will pay for a vacation and a 3rd birthday party and a 40th birthday party and camps all in the course of one summer.  But I never worry that my kids will have a warm, dry place to sleep.  I worry about luxuries.

And all of a sudden a light bulb exploded in my head.  All of my wishing and working and hoping towards a worry free financial life?  Really, I have that.  I don't have to raid my coin purse to afford diapers.  I don't have to wait until pay day to buy milk.

Let's be honest, I'm still going to worry.  Apparently, that's what I do.  I'm not sure where all the brain activity would go without worry.  But I'm going to worry less.  And I'm going to remember that all of those things I worry about are not necessary.  And I'm going to hope that the young mom in the median with the sign gets to the same place one day.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Confessions of a Failed Tooth Fairy

When Ainsley lost her first tooth, I wrote a blog post about it.

Freddie lost his first tooth about 2.5 weeks ago...but it seems much longer.  A lot has happened since then, but that's another post.



Yesterday, he lost his second tooth.  If you look at that picture above, you can see that other bottom tooth holding on for dear life.  That one's gone now too.

So today, I write a post about Freddie losing his first two teeth, and how Clif and I are possibly the worst tooth fairies ever, and how my sweet little Freddie is growing up so fast.  So here it goes...

Freddie's front two teeth had been so wiggly for so long.  He's not one to push things.  He barely touched them, for fear of the pain.  There were lots of questions "Does it hurt?  Will I get a new tooth?  Does it hurt?  Will it bleed?  Does it hurt?"

But just like most first lost tooth stories, it happened in the blink of an eye.  All that worry and wonder and curiosity and then just, pop...out it came, like nothing.

It was bed time.  As usual, Cohen and Freddie chose this time to really turn up the craziness.  So I was lying in their bed trying to get them to calm down, when I just had to walk away.  So there I stood, in the hall telling Clif something, my back to the boys' room.

I saw Clif's face first.  Wide eyes, slow grin.  I turned to see a crazy excitement and uncertainty in Freddie's eyes.  Then, of course, there was the blood smeared lips.

Then the annoyance of late bedtimes and overactive children drifted and the house was filled with laughter and "Yay Freddie!" and giggles and hugs and "Freddie!  You lost a tooth!"

When the story finally game out, after he got over the shock of it, after he laughed and high-fived and hugged back, then we found out that Cohen and his little left hook was the catalyst.

The boys were rough-housing...shocker.  And Freddie wanted to make this part very clear...UNINTENTIONALLY...Cohen punched his cheek while his face was pressed against a pillow.  And that gave just enough push on the tooth for it to pop from it's tiny socket.  Always protecting his little brother, that one.

Yesterday, Freddie and I were alone in the car heading from the grocery store to pick up Cohen.  He took a bite of his secret donut (don't tell Ainsley and Cohen!) and then out popped the second one.



Look at those crooked little grown up teeth coming in.  I think there will be braces all around for the White kiddos.

And just like that he's down two teeth.  Of course this wasn't the first tooth, so the tooth fairy failed miserably and I am sitting at work writing a note in swirly handwriting and red ink from a little imp named Shimmer who has ONE JOB and she can't get it right!!



I've said it before, and I'll say it again...pretty sure our tooth fairy is drunk in a ditch most nights, because who makes excuses like "I don't fly well in the rain?"

Shimmer is the worst.  She's written lots of apology letters like this to Ainsley too.  And we've learned that she doesn't get to teeth lost after 4pm until the next day, that she doesn't expect teeth to come out less than a month apart, that her magic is spotty and doesn't work on certain days of the year, that she has enough teeth for her current castle that she's building, and that she doesn't work on holidays...days before holidays...or days after holidays.  That girl has a sweet benefit package.

I get so excited for them when things like this happen.  When they take that next step to being grown.  But then it makes me a bit sad.  Right now, you can't even tell that Freddie has lost any teeth unless he shows you.  But I know that lost baby teeth, means those giant grown up teeth come in right behind them.  And that baby smile turns into a kid smile.  And those chubby cheeks slide away and reveal cheekbones.  And those big bellies slim to reveal ribs and ab muscles.  And those silly words like "hopsital" and "shase" and "elligator" are corrected and become "hospital" and "chase" and "elevator."  So I try to write it all down right here, so I'll never forget.  So I'll always remember that sweet, gruff, Boston accent he had.  That little big voice that was so deep and manly, but still soft and childlike.  My Freddie will grow into an amazing man - sensitive and sweet and caring.  But I always want to remember the beautiful boy he started out as.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Half Way

We are walking the dogs along the busy road, the sun is falling fast, and the cool April air is getting colder with every step.

Ainsley runs ahead, then runs back, "Mommy, watch.  This is my tired round off."  She runs again and does a lazy, crooked, cartwheel, sort-of.  Then falls on her bottom.

She bounces up, runs toward me and says "Okay, now this is my real round off."  She runs faster this time and does a round off.  Definitely not perfect, but not bad either.  "Did you see?" she asks.

I nod.  I watch her skip towards the intersection and I try to remember the last time I skipped.

"Mommy?" She calls, "Are you still looking for them?"

"Yes, Ainsley."  I scan the grass, "There's one."

"Oh wow," she exclaims, "That's a big one.  How did we miss that on our way?"  She runs up the slight hill and gently picks the green stem, not to disturb the cottony wisps on the end.

"You do this one," she says.

"No, you do it.  It's almost perfect."  I reply.

She stops, thinks, then blows.  The little buds dance and flip on the wind.  She tells me that she always wishes the same thing so it's guaranteed to come true.

And then we're walking again and I'm listening to her tell me silly lies, then scream "April Fool's" over the roar of traffic.  And I'm thinking that she'll be 9 soon.  That time is going too fast.  Nine is half way.  And I'm thinking that I just love this age.  I never thought I would.  I thought I'd hate the pre-tween, big kid, on the edge of childhood, years.  I thought I'd always crave a baby.  And sometimes I see a picture of her in a car seat, or a video of her singing as a toddler, and my heart almost explodes with want and need for time to stop.  But I love her at this age.

Challenges? Yes, there are challenges.  But mostly I love the contradiction that is this age.  The moments of maturity surrounded by giggles, tangled locks, missing teeth, and cartwheels.

Yesterday, while I showered, she asked if she could wear make-up out of the house and I told her no.  In a moment of content, she accepted no as an answer and left the room.  As I finished washing my hair, I thought that I should have told her why the answer was no.  That I should have said, this moment is fleeting - please hold it as long as you can.  These are your last moments of little girl.  That make-up makes you grown.  And grown girls don't skip home.  They don't do round offs or swing from tree branches.  They don't sound exactly like Ariel when they sing in the shower.  They don't rush down stairs on April 1st wondering what tricks have been played.  They don't blow dandelions into the wind, believing the puffs will carry wishes into reality.  They don't slip their hand inside their mother's absentmindedly while practicing times tables.

Nine is half way.  How can we be half way?  There will be so much time for make-up and grown up girl things.  Right now, I just want us to enjoy the little girl that we'll both miss one day.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Six

Dear Freddie,

As a parent, you know your kids will grow up and you know there will be a birthday every year where you reflect back on that little baby.  Sometimes it comes and goes easily.  Sometimes it smacks you in the face.




You are six.  SIX.  It is a smack in the face kind of birthday.  Five is still a little kid, but six feels like big kid territory.  I'm not sure I'm ready for you to be a big kid.



Freddie, you are such a special kid.  I am so lucky to be your mom.  We are all so lucky that you burst on the scene.  You bring such love and laughter to our every day lives.  I'm not sure what we would do without you.

You have the biggest heart of anyone I know.  And when I say anyone, I mean anyone - kids, grown ups, girls, boys.  You love so unconditionally and so completely.  I love how much you love with abandon.  You get your heart broken regularly.  Little things can just crush you, but you still love.  Still dive face first into love.  This is my favorite thing about you.  You are so open to love, that you never consider getting hurt.  I hope you stay this way forever.  It is such an amazing and rare quality.





And you are funny.  You make people laugh to a fault.  I know this because I've already had the first parent-teacher conference regarding my "class-clown."  I asked you why you were making up words to a school song, and why you were shaking your naked belly at your classmates, and why you were dancing during quiet time.  You had a very simple answer, "I just wanted to be funny and make everyone laugh."  Of course you did.




You are super smart.  I love to watch that big brain of yours work as you roll a problem or question around and around until an idea or inquiry comes out of your mouth.

You talk endlessly.  I remember having friends who's second child talked later or barely spoke, because they had this big brother or sister that did so much talking.  Well, you have that big sister, but you could never be out-talked.  Every day, you skip off the bus, jump into my arms and start.  And you go and go and go.  Telling me stories, asking me questions.  Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they are about things you learned, sometimes they are things that hurt you.  Always something new.





I hope that your heart always stays so open and young.  I hope that this world doesn't crush you.  I hope you always share everything you are feeling.  I hope you always love with such passion.  I hope you always tell me your joys and your sorrows.  I'll always listen.

Happy birthday Fredders!  Don't get too big, too fast.

Love,
Mommy




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Next Step

Alright, time to address my lack of blogging.  Promise, this is the last time I'll do this.

I think that my family may be outgrowing the blog.  I know that you love to see pictures and read stories of the kids, so just hear me out.  I think I've come up with a way to preserve something here and keep everyone happy.

Let's first talk about my reasoning.  There are a few things that have kept me from writing the last few months.

1 - Though my subject matter is adorable and entertaining, I haven't been happy with anything I've tried to write for the blog recently.  It feels redundant.  Like I'm saying the same thing over and over again.  See what I did there?  I redundantly told you I felt redundant.  And I did it again.  I am a perfectionist and I consider myself a good writer.  I'm obviously not a professional and there's so much I could learn and practice, but the blog writing has left me feeling inept.  And I often feel like I just throw something up on the blog to put in the time.  I don't want to do that anymore.  There are so many things I'd rather be writing.

2 - Ainsley.  And eventually Freddie and Cohen.  Ainsley will be 9 this summer.  Honestly, she gives me most of my material.  She's on the cusp of those emotional years.  We've started having the talks.  You know the ones.  And I've written about it.  But I haven't published it, because I don't ever want her to feel embarrassment over something I put up here for the whole world to see.  Especially because I'm trying to teach her, and eventually her brothers, the lasting impact of social media and the internet.  For instance, a couple of years ago my siblings and I went through a very rough time with my father.  I wrote about it.  I wrote so much about it.  I still write about it.  But you've never read any of it, because where is the line?  Is it my place to put his problems out there for the world to see? At what point do my stories about Ainsley become her personal stories?  Shouldn't it be her decision to share them or not?

3 - Okay, this is the tough one.  For the last 10 years, my life has revolved around creating my family.  And I love my family. We found out we were pregnant with Ainsley about 4 months after we got married. And ever since then every aspect of my life has been about my kids and my husband and what's next and do we want another baby.  Well, we're done having babies.  So it has forced me to look at what's next.  I try to stay grounded in the present, but I am a planner by nature.  I have to plan for the next step.  So now, there is no next baby.  We have created our family and now it's time to nurture it and watch it grow up, not expand.  And what does that mean for me?  If I do my job correctly, I will become obsolete over the next 15-20 years.  My children will move away and start their own lives.  If I do my job really well, they'll allow me to be a part of that.  But I'll never play the leading role again, and I don't want to arrive at that time and feel like I have nothing left...feel empty.  The last couple of months I've been feeling like I'm not sure what to do next.  I don't see a therapist, I write.  And everything I write has been so personal and so raw and so emotional, that I can't put it out there.  Not now.  Maybe one day, but not now.

So with all of these thoughts spinning in my head, I thought I should just walk away from the blog.  My last post was a good one, I thought.  So I'd leave on a high note.  But...but...but...

But I love this blog.  And I know there are people that love it.  And I've said many times that this will be what my kids read instead of a baby book.  (Total hysterical side note:  I suck at baby books, I've said that here so many times.  This past weekend, my mom and I were going through some old things and we looked at her baby book.  The one my grandmother started for her.  I say started because there were literally about 3 pages filled in.  The family tree, the birth information, and that may have been it.  So I come by it honestly.)

Point is, I don't want to completely shut it down.  But I am going to change my goals.  New goal is to post twice a month.  Put up pictures of the kids, tell some cute stories, and if Ainsley allows, share some growing pains.  But otherwise, I will be cultivating the writing that is currently engrossing me.  And one day when I'm ready, and when those pieces are exactly what I want to show of myself, I'll share all that with the world.  Maybe in the form of a best seller...maybe.

I was going to stop posting my blog on Facebook, because Facebook is so mind-numbingly addicting and annoying all at once...but I think I will continue to do that for now so that the people who rely on it will still be able to see it.

I hope that explains my absence well and still gives you your fix for my adorable children.  On that note.  Here are some recent pics...

Kennerly adores Ainsley.  It is so cute.  This was the day after Kennie's 2nd birthday party.

New Hair Cuts

Ainsley and Caroline in matching PJs

Cohen in hat and gloves, even though it was 50 degrees that day.

My favorite girl.

New Year's Eve toast.

Cohen in a locker.  I have about 10 of these on my phone.  He asks for a picture in a locker every time we go to swim lessons.

Uncle Cam with his two favorite nieces.

Freddie with the puppies.

Daddy and Cohen

New Year's Eve s'mores making party.

Cohen with little cousin Aubrey.

Ainsley with a tower as tall as her.  We have a similar picture from when she was 3.

Bye for now.


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