Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five and {very} ALIVE

If you would've told me that in 2017 I'd have a five-year-old almost kindergartner when I was drowning in my own tears circa 2010, I wouldn't have believed you. Okay, I would have wanted to believe you.

I truly cannot believe we've made it to five years with our rainbow. Some days (okay, months), I wanted time to speed forward because my rainbow wasn't always so cheerful. He's a bit of a handful if I'm being honest. As time progressed, he definitely developed and thankfully progressed beyond only challenging. He's actually quite fun most days. He's my adventure buddy to the fullest.

He's learning a ton, swimming like a fish, skiing very well and showing me who's boss with his early reading skills. He is totally digging U.S. state geography and can tell you the five border states of Nevada (and a few other states-- thanks for the puzzle that spurred his interest, Gramie & Grandpa!). He's a junkie for travel and we sure hope he keeps that spark for adventure.

He's an introvert. Perhaps even a loner, he wants to please and is challenged by his own emotions sometimes. Anxiety can get the best of him and the unknown and uncertain and new both excites him and makes him nervous. He truly does want to please, but expresses this in a much more subtle way than his sister, who will flat out ask you about your emotions and if you're pleased with her.

His own person for sure, he's a pink-loving, princess-adoring, hotel-exploring, movie and Disney-obsessed kiddo. Life is going to throw this one some curveballs because of his tough exterior and difficulty expressing himself sometimes, but I sure hope it's kind to him. After all, this one saved us. I tell him all the time, but I will love him, forever and always. He saved us, literally speaking, from our emotional turmoil after his big brother died.

We've made it five years with a living child. With hope. Because before he was born, the hope was looking pretty bleak in the family growing department. This day five years ago gave us that second chance at parenthood. It started off rough but was worth it all. In some ways, this is also a grief birthday. Even five years and one day ago, we were fearful, anxious and unhappy. Then all of a sudden, our worlds were brightened.
He picked out his own fabulous cake-- round with chocolate in the middle and pink flowers on top with sprinkles, to be exact. We really couldn't be more different, this boy and I. But man do I love him. And here he is. All five and glorious (and sometimes exhausting) years of rainbow love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Interactive Play + Preschooler Talk

I was sitting there enjoying my new hilarious library book, You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein, relishing in the fact that both of my children were engaging in interactive play with an another kid during our stay-and-play time at the library. Just after storytime ends, the librarian lets the kids loose with coloring sheets relating to the book theme and pulls out some LEGO and STEM toys for kids to play with for the next hour, if interested.

A nanny and the two kids she brings each week were sticking around along with a bunch of other kids. My kids colored pictures of unicorns as the theme from one of the books we read, Not Quite Narwhal (which is adorable, by the way). We laced boards and they moved onto building a DUPLO fortress with another boy Benjamin's age. That's when I grabbed my new book from our book bag and started in.

I kept reading, finishing up the first chapter, feeling grateful for the free reading time and the break from all the education books I've checked out lately. And then I heard something that caught my attention. Having no idea how this conversation was spurred, I just kept listening...

Friend: "...and then we will die and not go to heaven." (maybe he was talking about their fortress and someone capturing and killing them? Death is a hot topic with my kids, so I wasn't the least bit alarmed.)
Benjamin: "My brother is there. He is in heaven."
Friend: "Your brother died? When?"
Benjamin: "When he was a baby."
Friend: "He killed his self?"
Benjamin: "I think so."
Friend: "What age was he?"
Benjamin: "I think like 5." (because everyone is 5 when you're turning 5 this week.)
Friend: {yells to nanny} "My friend's brother died when he was a kid."
Nanny: "Sometimes that happens."
Friend: "Why does that happen?"
Benjamin: "I don't know."
Friend: "I don't know why your brother died. You tell me."

{Librarian enters to end our stay-and-play time, thus ending their engagement and my free reading time.}

Just a little light conversation between preschoolers to cap off the storytime about unicorns, penguins, narwhals and pigs. None of this made me uncomfortable. If anything, it made me delighted to hear Benjamin talking about Andrew and connecting his understanding of death and heaven to his brother, who we talk about regularly. I didn't interject, even when the nanny was involved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Playdates Suck

We have a ridiculously great group of friends here. We meet at the park every Tuesday, gab on about who went skiing this weekend, what mountain they hiked or what trail they ran. Who has a race coming up, who is traveling on vacation and which kid is riding a 2-wheeler on their own. We high-five each other, throw out sarcasm like it's confetti and just enjoy being outside and having a breather from the hard parenting stuff.

The people are so similar to me, it's scary. But, we haven't had a playdate. Like, at someone else's house. We've never seen each others' houses, actually. Tuesday, there were 6-8 of us, plus all of our kids. Collectively, we probably had about 20 of us at the park on a gloriously 55-degree, warm and sunny day. It's not that we're against playdates at houses, it's just... they're complicated.

Once you're in ones turf, the precedent changes. There are pretenses that adults have to deal with. Who will be the first to initiate? And should I clean the house? Will they like me once they finally see my mess of a life?

More than all that though (because honestly I don't personally care what they think of my junk and worry more that our small rental is too small for 20), it's about sharing. Not sharing my things or my space, but MY KIDS and their kids amicably cohabiting, sharing and being KIND. Because if it's anything like yesterdays 3.5 hour playdate at the park where almost zero bickering happened, that's not how it's going to go down when we're sharing space and practically living amongst one another for 3+ hours.

It's literally impossible for about a dozen kids (or even two) to share space and belongings without some issue for 3+ hours. Or with that many kids, at least 286 issues.

Benjamin has a sweet friend at school that he's been wanting to have a playdate with. He really wants to go to her house, but I can't exactly invite him over, so I invited her over... with the hope that we could swap playdate time and he could have his wish to visit her house, too.

That's not happening. For the first time in a long time, I had to endure one of those out-of-body tantrums he used to present us with multiple times a day. And it was totally embarrassing. I'm sure she's telling her mom all about his horrible behavior. Ugh. Thankfully those days are mostly gone, but I saw it again today, complete with the removal of clothing, destructive behavior, loud shrieking and need for restraint. Ugh.

He's lost treats, tablet time and sadly, that opportunity to visit the friend's coveted house next week. I just can't risk it. I honestly thought this afternoon would be super fun. School was great, they did their favorite activities and we were having a playdate where my kids would be so occupied sharing their toys with their sweet friend that I would park it on the couch with a book. Did. not. happen.

Sharing is hard. I know. Parenting is hard. I know that, too. And playdates? Well those just suck.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Grateful Weekend

We had one of those weekends that really couldn't have gone better.

Elliot is commuting for work regularly now, so we only see him on the weekends, which honestly isn't much different than with the last job he held, since the kids were almost always in bed before he arrived home for the evening. It's temporary, but different.

I'm not sure if the weekend was that much sweeter because we missed Daddy, but starting it off with both kids climbing into our bed and Claire laying her head on Daddy's chest and showering him with kisses couldn't really have kicked it off any better.

We went to the park to celebrate togetherness and warmer weather, visited the NOMA, enjoyed meals together and spent the warm and sunny Sunday up at our ski co-op where both Benjamin and Claire shined and beamed with pride at their ski accomplishments.

Benjamin is getting easier to understand. For awhile, he was so angry and difficult that we were merely tolerating our parenting with him and not enjoying him for who he was born to be. It's becoming more evident that he's just an introvert who still really strives to please us but often gets anxious and fears failure. At the end of one of his mini ski runs yesterday, he asked Elliot, "Dad, what do you think of my skills?" in a subdued, almost solemn manner. We praise him often, but it's becoming ever more clear as he ages that his frustrating behavior often stems from his fear of disappointment.

He occasionally asks to ski on weekdays and we can't. But come weekend ski days, he clams up and almost builds a wall of defense, stating he will not be partaking. But when he's out there, he truly loves every minute.

I'm dreaming of ski vacations where we're all on skis and gliding down mountains a mile long and then warming up in the lodge with hot cocoa. I think we'll be there before we know it.

Just before bed, we placed those sticky glow-in-the-dark stars all over their rooms that were sent as a gift from their Aunt Mansa. The kids took flashlights and shined them on each star to cause the stars to shine brighter, taught to them by their dad.

Benjamin's birthday is approaching in almost two weeks. Our rainbow baby, the baby who saved us, as we tell Benjamin often, will be turning five. We're grateful beyond measure.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Remember Book-It!?

As a kid in the 80's, I was all about the Book-It! program. It's still in action, people! It's been around since '84, which is right in the zone of my elementary years.

You mean I could read books, get star stickers on my scratchy holographic-looking shirt pin and when I filled the pin up, I could get a free mini pizza from Pizza Hut? The one that had an arcade inside with video games?
I thought it was a total deal. Like really, free food, Mom and Dad! (Except it wasn't free at all. I got a free $3 pizza but then my parents spent an extra $20 for dinner for the rest of the family. Being a parent makes you see things much differently.)

But regardless, it was a program that motivated kids and rewarded them with delicious pizza and made them not only excited, but PROUD to be a reader. I love literacy promotion however you can manage it, even if that means bribing kids with pizza. Bring it.

So it turns out Chipotle has their own program now and if you're a teacher or a librarian or a student or a principal or a parent of a student in K-5, you should totally get behind this. I love books and I love Chipotle and my kids will actually eat there, so obviously I can get behind a program like this!

Maybe this program gave me an excuse to take a trip down memory lane. (I bet I still have that pin if I look hard enough.) And to think I will have a kindergartner that will actually, finally be of age to participate in such programs makes me super stoked.

And Chipotle burritos are totally better than pizza, right?

*I was not paid to advertise this. I just got an email about it and will totally be bringing this program up to Benjamin's future elementary school and wanted to share. Jury is still out if I'm planning to take part in the PTA. Any PTA parents out there? As a teacher... it's usually a no-go...