Very often, the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups - playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not so simple

Not long ago I drove by the University of Maryland campus on a lovely evening.  Students were out on the lawns reading, socializing, and studying.  They were strolling along the main road, jogging, and biking on their way to and from their various college life activities.

Although the campus is vastly different, my mind quickly jumped back to my time as a student at Calvin College.  A part of me wished I could do it all again, that I could be back at that time of my life when I was so eager to grow up, to become independent.  For me, college was very good experience.  Even the last time I was there, the campus still had a feeling like "home" to me.  In fact, I remember having that feeling before I was even a student there.  I remember walking around campus one day the spring before I was going to start classes, filled with an excitement about starting classes, meeting new friends, and gaining new independence.  Along with the excitement, I felt a sense of security and peace that I knew this was the right place for me to be.

Of course, in college, I faced times of uncertainty and discomfort.  There were relationships to struggle with, there were life changing decisions to make about my majors, and there was the general stress of keeping up with my school work and my job.  I know that in college I longed at times for a simpler time in life.  Once, when I was in high school, a friend of mine confided that there were times she wished she could go back to being a kid for a day.  To go back to a time when she remembered days that now seemed carefree.  Days of swingsets and rollerskates.


Of course, childhood isn't really as easy as all that either.  I remember nights as a child when I was upset by something a friend did at school.  I remember being worried about the grass stains on my pants that I had to tell my mom about again when I got home from school.  Some of those tough memories are strong.  But that's not the sense that really pervades my memories of my childhood.

Instead, it is an overall a sense of happiness, and the nostalgia that goes with it is appropriate.  I'm not sure what would be on my list of all the things that make up happy memories from my childhood.  Sure, there are things that stand out - times like baking and cooking with my mom, sailing with my dad, and playing games and listening to my mom's old 45s in the basement on hot summer days with my sisters - but I know I've forgotten a lot of the good times too.  But the memory of happiness is still there.

As a mom now, I want that for my kids.  Even though I know Oliver and Jonathan will have specific upsetting memories, I want them to have specific happy memories too.  But I want more than that.  I want them to think back on their childhood and feel that sense of security, peace, and happiness - those things that make up nostalgia.  I'm realizing that is quite the thing to ask for.  Just growing up is hard.  Children struggle to manage obedience and independence.  They have to learn to manage disappointments.  They have to learn to work out their differences with friends.

Parenting them through this is, well, not something I just know how to do.  I have to work my way through it, finding balance between discipline and independence.  Providing structure and creating space for fun. Figuring it all out with them.  It is uncomfortable.  It is frustrating.  It is bewildering.  So some days, I just don't know how I am going to create that sense of nostalgia that I want them to have - that I want to have - about their childhoods.  And I'm grateful that doing this is not all up to me.  I'm grateful that I have a dear husband, family, and friends are part of creating the childhood I want for my kids.  And I keep trying to hold onto those memories I don't want to forget, those happy moments when I say to myself - "Yes, this is how I want life to be!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Day

This morning Oliver got up at 7:00, and by 7:30 he was dressed and had finished breakfast, setting what must have been an official record around here.

This waffle started out plain (his choice), but had a secret, sticky ingredient
added when he wasn't eating it very quickly.
Then it was off to finish getting ready, which he did more quickly and willingly than usual.  At a few minutes before 8:00, we were outside and Oliver was ready to get in the car with his lunch box and backpack - then I asked for a few pictures.  He's not too interested in having his picture taken these days.  But, with a little help from our friends - one monkey and one human (thanks Miss E!) - we got a decent shot on the front steps.  (There are traditions for a day like today, and they must be followed even if three-year-olds don't like it.  They will appreciate it later, I tell you!)

The lunch box (for a snack) is new - it matches the backpack.
This just adds to the fun, fun, fun.

Miss E took care of Jonathan for us so Oliver and I could go on a special drive just by ourselves.  So, we took off in the van and our next stop was here.  This time he was excited about his picture.

I know it looks like his eyes are closed, but it was bright.
I only had a chance at one shot, and he was ready to move on.

We went inside and this is what Oliver did next:

He put his lunch box on a shelf and
hung up his backpack on a hook.

He sat on his carpet square.

He tossed a bean bag and said his name.

He listened - intently - to a story about "The King's Pudding."

He colored a bowl of pudding and decorated it with paper "sprinkles".

They call this "preschool."  But I'm not sure that's the right name for it.  

There are teachers, students, a class, a classroom, backpacks, lunch boxes, carpet squares with names on them, name games, and children following teachers instructions and doing things their parents can't get them to do at home.  I don't know about you, but I think that is just plain "school."  It may be only two mornings a week, and the class may be group of three-year-olds who get to spend a lot of time playing, but in my book, this is school.  

And that's ok.  I'm happy to be the mommy of a preschooler.  Although I admit it felt a little strange to drive away with just this guy in the van with me.

When I picked Oliver up later, he wasn't interested in sharing too many details about the rest of the day.  He did say he wants to go back tomorrow.  Sorry, buddy, but you only go two days a week.  Well, maybe I'm not sorry about that.  I want to hang out with him a lot yet, too, but I'm willing and ready to share him with school.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A (Very) Belated Happy Birthday - Part 2

March 15 was an unusual early spring day – the high temperature was somewhere around 70 degrees, and it was sunny and beautiful.  Oliver and I didn’t have any plans for the day, which surprisingly, didn't happen very often.  (Somehow I thought that when I quite work we would have a lot of days without plans, but it turns out they filled up fast with errands and play dates.)  We had a lazy morning, taking time to play before and after breakfast and watch Sesame Street.  At about 11:00, we ambled out the door to go to the library and the park.  It didn’t matter that it was so close to lunchtime because we packed a picnic lunch.  After the park, Oliver had his rest time, I did I-don’t-know-what for a little while, and then we just played together again after his nap.

After dinner, Seth and I were washing dishes and I said that I didn’t think the baby would be coming yet for a little while, despite the doctor’s prediction that Monday that she didn’t think I would last until Saturday (It was Thursday, and the baby wasn’t due until April 1.)  Then, at about 7:00, I felt the first real contraction.  It turned out I had just had my last day to hang out with just Oliver.

Later that evening, we headed off to the hospital, and at 11:14 a.m. on March 16, we welcomed Jonathan Henry into our lives.  

A few minutes old
1 day old

Our first impressions were that he was different from Oliver. For one thing, he took a laid back, 16-hour approach to entering the world, while Oliver rushed into the world in just five hours. Jonathan was born with blond hair, light eyes, and pale skin that looked red most of the time. Oliver had dark hair, dark eyes, and olive-colored skin. Jonathan’s newborn cry sounded like eh-huh, eh-huh, eh-huh, while Oliver’s had sounded like uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.

Ready to go home

Oliver spent the weekend with friends - enjoying his first sleepover without parents and going hiking. But he also made an important stop at the hospital to meet his baby brother - he was so proud. He was also a little overwhelmed by the whole business, so he had lunch (including ice cream) in the hospital cafeteria with Daddy.


While we were in the hospital, and for days after we got home, we kept looking at Jonathan and saying to him, “Who are you going to be? What will you really be like?”

One week old

We are still wondering that, and now that he is four months old, we know that he has been a more challenging baby than Oliver was, and yet, we are more comfortable as parents and more relaxed about life with an infant now than when Oliver was born. We also discovered similarities and differences between the boys. Both boys needed the pacifier to fall asleep, but they both needed to be taught to use it. Both boys like to be rocked to sleep for a nap, but Oliver needed to be swaddled and Jonathan did not. We also realized that even though there are some obvious differences in the boys’ looks, they definitely look like brothers when you start comparing pictures.

Oliver (top), Jonathan (bottom) - about 3.5 weeks
Jonathan (top), Oliver (bottom) - about 3 months

And, even amid the craziness that is parenting one very active 3-year-old and a very demanding 4-month-old, I'm wondering who these two boys will really be, how they will be similar, and how they will be different. I'm wondering how they will impact each other, how they will change their parents, and how they will change others that they come in touch with during their lives.

So, happy birthday, boys!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A (Very) Belated Happy Birthday, Part 1

A few major events have happened around here since my last post.  I’ll start with the first one: Oliver’s third birthday, which was back in the first week of March.  You’ll recall that in my last post Oliver predicted that his baby brother would come out on his birthday party.  Thankfully, he did not.  But that story is for the next post. 

First, we had a birthday with cake and M&Ms and balloons and presents and games and friends.  Actually, there were two “cakes.”  With just the three of us, I didn’t want to make a whole cake for Oliver’s birthday and then make another one for the party a few days later, so I opted for brownies.  Here is Oliver blowing out the candles on his brownie cake:

You’ll notice that half of the brownie cake has M&Ms and half does not.  That’s because after a little conversation Oliver and I had about cake and brownies I needed to be prepared for anything.  You see, Oliver thinks that a proper birthday cake has M&Ms on it since that is what we put on his cake when he turned two.  He also told me he didn’t want brownies, he wanted cake.  So, I asked him if putting M&Ms on it would make it cake.  He said yes.  But then I was worried that if I put M&Ms on all of it he would decide he wanted brownies, not cake, and then those cheerful little dots all over the brownies would become a source of tears.  So, I made both in the same pan.  In the end, I ended up eating most of the brownies without M&Ms, but that was fine with me since we had a very happy birthday boy.

A few days later we had Oliver’s birthday party, and we had cake again. Here he is blowing out the candles on his chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and – of course – M&Ms (this may be a kid’s party, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a really good cake!):

We had a few of Oliver’s friends over to chase balloons in the basement, play duck-duck-goose, decorate their own pizzas, and eat cake.  It was the perfect little party for our little boy who likes to be social but gets a tad overwhelmed by big, busy groups. 

And then we enjoyed a few more days as a family of three before there was another birthday.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Story Time

Oliver has been enjoying telling stories lately.  It started with Seth telling him stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and Jack and the Beanstalk while cuddling in our beanbag or buried under couch cushions.  (If you are wondering whether these are appropriate stories for a not-quite-three-year-old, they were edited slightly.)  These stories were told the really old-fashioned way - without books.  Or, as Oliver calls it, "A story out of your mouth."

Anyway, besides learning the stories well enough to tell them himself with a few questions to lead him from one part of the story to the next, Oliver has taken to making up his own stories.  In fact, telling a story has become part of the end of his bedtime routine.  (It is also known as stalling).

Tonight, Oliver combined his story telling with talking about one of his other favorite topics these days - baby brother.  Here, roughly, is how the story went:

"Once there was a little boy named baby brother.  He lived in mommy's tummy.  Mommy fed him a lot, and he stayed in there for awhile and went to sleep.  Then he came out on my birthday party."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Routines

Last night I realized that I had roughly twenty-four hours to publish a January post, and since I've been intending for the last month to do a "New Year's" post, I figured now was about the last chance I get for that before February hits.  This isn't a post about New Year's resolutions because I didn't make any this year.  In fact, I rarely do - or I rarely would admit to making one.  Private resolutions are much safer than those made publicly.  Publicly-made resolutions come with outside accountability.  Not that accountability isn't a good thing - it is.  I need it most of the time, at least on some level.  But sometimes, I don't want it.

Anyway, no resolutions this year, and I'll tell you why - this year has enough changes of its own.  To start, January has been my first full month of full-time stay-at-home mommyhood.  My last day at my job was way back on December 15 - I can hardly believe it has been that long already.  Between the Christmas holidays and a lot of stuff that went on in January, I'd say I'm just starting to figure out what I need to do to stay productive and motivated at home.  Me giving up work means Oliver gave up daycare - he's adjusted well to that I think, but I might be underestimating what effect losing his Tuesday and Thursday playmate might really be having on him.

I have lots of ideas of how I want this stay-at-home life to look like for me and Oliver, but so far it is only part way there.  There's potential for a lot of resolutions and goals here, but I've already realized that I need to be careful not to get too ambitious.  That's one of the reasons I don't actually like to make resolutions, by the way.  I tend to be too ambitious.  If I keep my "resolutions" to myself, I can adjust them to match what is actually realistic.  I can push myself to do something better, but I don't need to worry about keeping up exactly with some crazy goal like going from exercising 0 times a week to 5 times a week.  (I've tried that one, by the way.  It was before Oliver was born.  Turns out 3 times a week worked, 5 times didn't.)  Sometimes you can't change everything at once.

Which brings me to the next next major change around here.  Potty training.  I'll spare you the details, but just suffice it to say it isn't as bad as I thought, but it isn't a walk in the park either.  So far, Oliver has been making slow, but steady progress, and I've been practicing patience.  Some days are better than others for both of us.  But one thing I had never thought of - I mean really thought of - before we started this process is just how much of a change it is for Oliver too and how hard it is for him to change his habits.  It's a lot of work and a lot of new expectations, and it wears him out some days.  Maybe that's why he feels the need to argue with me and order me around all day.  He needs some control - but keeping that in check can wear me out too.  You see - this is why all my rosy goals of lots of crafts and outings and games and playing together have not been realistic so far.  We've done some of that, but not as much as I thought we would.  We just can't change everything at once.

As if all that is not enough, we are preparing for the biggest change around here in 3 years - Oliver's brother is due the first week of April.  So, we are reaching the point where we are really preparing for him to arrive.  When he gets here, everything will change.  And we can hardly wait.