Teeth Brushing

T didn’t want the tooth fairy to take his teeth away because he is planning on bringing them with us when we visit his Granddad and Grandmom. Last time we were down there Granddad pulled out one of his microscopes and T was mesmerized as he looked at treasures found in the yard magnified many times over. In the cavity of one of his teeth blood is visible. T is giddy about getting a closer peek.

The teeth are in a round metal craft container with a glass lid. They live next to his bed and he looks at them often. Last week he brought the container into the bathroom and informed us he needed to brush the two teeth after he finished with the ones still in his head. Bedtime was rushed that night because Z was headed to a band practice, so we told him he could the next morning. Next morning we were running late for school. And so on and so on. Until last night when he finally got his chance.

I had been hurrying to get a small load of the boys’ laundry folded before we started the reading portion of our bedtime routine. T caught my eye as I began to bustle past the bathroom door, my arms filled with his clothes.

He stood with his floppy hair dangling in his eyes, his body both tiny and so unbelievably big not yet dry from the bath. His electric Transformer toothbrush buzzed away in his hand, the other hand gripping his tiny baby tooth firmly as he gently brushed away. He had a look of fierce concentration on his face.

I watched him at the door and the stress of dealing with two stir crazy boys on a snow day was forgotten. I was filled with a breathtaking feeling of tenderness. Five plus years into this parenting gig and I still get overwhelmed by how much I love these boys. Most days I’m frustrated and whiney and bitchy, but that is all bluster and noise.

I love them enough to put aside sarcasm and my impulse to make everything into a joke for a moment to be nakedly sincere. Since the day T was born my capacity to love has grown exponentially. In the moments when I feel the full weight of that love I can almost see it, it tethers the boys to me. There is a hole in my chest, exposing my internal organs. It makes me feel frighteningly vulnerable and invincible at the same time. My love for them makes me feel fully alive. And I am so grateful.

teeth

He added the little legos and calls them his jewels.

post haircut

Post haircut on a snowy day.

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Broken Lightsaber

The rule is C walks or he rides on my shoulders. He always chooses to ride. I should be making him walk, he is three. But he is my last baby which means he’ll always be my baby. Also we run late every damn morning. Hoisting him onto my shoulders means the walk from the car to T’s school takes half the time. He often begs to be carried. I tell him he is a big boy (nothing like mixed messages!) so he can walk or he can do the shoulders, being carried isn’t an option.

And yet, on the way back to the car this morning I found myself carrying him in my arms without really knowing how he got there. His head was nestled into my neck and it just felt so good. I ignored the strain on my back and enjoyed the feeling of holding him close.

“Mama?” his muffled voice came from my shoulder.

“Mmmhmm?”

“I broke my lightsaber.”

“Mmmhmm.” This morning he did break his lightsaber. Broke it beyond repair.

“It was my fault.”

My heart stuttered and I held him tighter. I thought back to this morning. The rule in our house is if you break or lose something that is it. The thing is gone. We aren’t buying another one. The boys need to take responsibility for their actions, even as little kids.

On C’s occupational therapy evaluation it was noted that his inclination to be destructive towards books and toys and basically anything he can get his hands on is tied to the fact he is seeking sensory input. When Z and I read the report earlier this fall we were relieved. It was in line with the evaluation C received over the summer and it provided a reason behind some of his more frustrating behaviors.

Not only has preschool special education explained some of C’s behaviors, it is providing an opportunity to improve those behaviors. He is starting O/T this week. Z and I are attending a two night class on using sensory strategies with preschoolers that starts Wednesday. We aren’t expecting a magic bullet, but we are ready to do the work.

C has an extra set of challenges, but that does not mean he is off the hook when it comes to behaving. We will support him and give him some latitude, but at the end of the day his difficulties cannot be an excuse for him to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

My heart stuttered, not just because he was facing hard things, but because I was simultaneously flooded with joy. Weird, I know. But hear me out.

I have never heard him take responsibility for his actions before. He simply hasn’t had the words to do it. Speech therapy has done wonders for him. Just over a year ago he was basically non-verbal. He is a different kid these days. The leaps in verbal development are positively influencing his social and emotional behavior. He is engaging in imaginative play with his peers, he has special friends that he seeks out at school. His teacher actually used the word blossoming to describe his progress. It meant so much that I had to blink back tears when she said it to me.

He broke a toy this morning. And he articulated that it was his responsibility. I am proud of my kid.

sweet yoda

Fourth year one of the boys has been Yoda. We sure got our money’s worth out of the costume.

Blast Off!

me and my boy

He is a snuggler.

I DID IT!!!!

I ran a half marathon.

I ran a half marathon.

Me.

A half marathon.

It was awesome.

“Out of all of us can you believe I was the one to do this?” I asked my dad. “Well,” he said, “While we were waiting for you to finish I said to Z that I probably know about 1000 people. And if I was going to rank those people in order of who would be most likely to complete a half marathon you would be about 995. Right behind your grandmother and right in front of your Great-Aunt Margaret.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. His assessment was generous. A year and a half ago I’d have placed myself dead last out of 1000 with a kind of perverse pride.

This whole deal, situation, JOURNEY if you are going to be new age-y about it, is simply so unlikely that part of me can’t believe it happened. I mean, my dad flew up from Georgia to watch the race. My parents are completely bewildered by this strange new obsession in my life, but their pride is tremendous and sincere. You think you know your kid, and after more than three and a half decades I think it is quite the kick in the pants to be so surprised by her, by me.

I ran a half marathon and all I got was a lousy t-shirt. Ok, not true. I mean, I did get the shirt, but what I really got was the biggest boost in my self confidence of my life. I came in 957th out of 1107 finishers. My official pace was 12:06 per mile (well, that part burns me—because I didn’t run the shortest distance from point A to B, so I ran more than 13.1 miles. According to my app the distance 13.42 with a pace of 11:57. My super stretch goal was running at under a 12 minute mile and I’m pissed I missed it). The training program did not magically transform me into a svelte and beautiful 24 year old. But my middle aged body that has been caught in the iron grasp of anxiety for several decades managed to do something preposterously impossible. My body. With its overweight BMI. It ran 13.1 miles without stopping. I don’t need the body of a svelte and beautiful 24 year old to do amazing things. In fact, I’m even more proud that it was my imperfect body that rose to the challenge.

I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s ass. My body didn’t just magically run 13.1 miles one day. It was hard work. It was scary and overwhelming and there were a lot of days in which I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it. But the training program worked. I surrendered to my running app and just followed the directions. In 16 weeks it took me from someone who ran around 12 miles a week to someone who was able to comfortably finish a half marathon. I’ve said this in basically every post I’ve written about running, but I’m saying it again. If I can do it you can do it. I promise.

Last night Dad took me to my favorite restaurant for a celebratory dinner. I was talking about next steps. I’m going to join the Y runners because I’d like to get faster. I’m aiming to keep the running at about 20 or 21 miles a week. My dear friend has asked me to do the Brooklyn Half in the spring and I think I’m in. Dad looked at me and smiled, “There is part of you that is thinking about doing a marathon, isn’t there?” I smiled back. “Yup.”

Because my 37 year old body can do impossible things.

pre race

Pre race.

Finishing. No vanity here! But this is honest. I’m proud of myself.

post race

Completely blissed-out post race. My family and friends made me feel like a rock star yesterday. Getting out there in the cold to support me sucked ass. But they did it anyway. So to Dad, Z, T, and C who were there at the beginning and the end. Thank you. To D and L who trekked out to about half a mile from the finish, thank you. To E who hollered to me as she was driving in and who made delicious soup and got cheesecake for after, thank you. To J and J who shouted encouragement and then ran next to me for the last bit, thank you. To M and S who were there with a hug at the end, thank you. To my family and friends who texted me and sent me encouragement, thank you. Yesterday was a tremendous victory for me, and you guys made me feel so very loved.

Friends

More than three years ago I met a gal and fell deeply in friend lust. I just liked her so much. She lived right around the corner, was having her first kid a couple months before I was having my second, she and her husband had moved here from Brooklyn, we had a lot in common. They were our people in a town that really is not full of our people. I tried to play it cool around her, didn’t want her to know that I was in desperate friend-love with her. On facebook I wrote frequent obsessively creepy status updates chronicling my quest to awkwardly befriend her.

Guess what? She is every bit as awesome as I thought she was. She also has an awesome sister and introduced me to an awesome woman I’d casually met who lived around the corner. That awesome woman introduced us to her awesome close friend. Z and I introduced all of them to an awesome couple who we are very close to. Our families and kids started hanging out pretty regularly. And over the course of several years these folks have become our community and surrogate family.

As a kid who moved around every few years it is the kind of group I’ve wanted to be a part of for my whole life. My boys will benefit from the consistency of these relationships even as their friendships with the various kids ebb and flow over the years. It certainly doesn’t hurt that my two will grow up knowing that there will be parental eyes on them all over the neighborhood. Fingers crossed that will help curb the number of dumb choices they are guaranteed to make as they slide towards adolescence.

I love these families, I do. The kids have a special place in my heart. The husbands are also dear friends. But the ladies. Oh, the ladies…..

During the moves of my childhood, and carried into my adult life I’ve usually had one or two extremely close friends. I’ve valued quality over quantity. Occasionally I’ve been a part of a larger group, the Sparky’s crew back in Brooklyn, but usually my social circle is tiny but tight.

This might be the first time in my life I’ve had been part of a group of ladies who are all dear friends. It feels effortless to be around these women, there isn’t jealousy or competitiveness. We expand to include new ladies, we sometimes hang out in smaller groups, there is an easiness in our friendship that feels like such a relief. It has made me wonder why I haven’t been seeking out this kind of group for my whole life. Not that women like these ladies are easy to find. But I’ve learned that quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive.

I’m working on a paper this semester and have been frequenting a local coffee shop. The other morning I approached the counter. “Can I please have a savory porridge and a pomegranate Italian soda?”

The woman behind the counter looked at me with panic in her eyes. “Are you all coming?” she asked.

“Nope. Just me.”

“Ok. Because if you were all coming I’d have to make more porridge.”

I laughed. “I hope that we aren’t too loud or anything.”

“No, but we have been wondering what you guys are. Like are you working on a project or something?”

I laughed again. “No, no. We are just…..friends. We are friends.”

some of the crew

Some of the crew. A couple of families are missing. I do wish there was a picture of all of us.

dads and kids

Dads with kiddos.

brothers on pumpkins

Brothers.

Better Parenting Through….Running?

“I’m not talking to you until Christmas!” T whined.

“Fantastic!” I snapped back.

“Mooooooooom. Why can’t I bring three lego guys to school?”

“Nope. Nope. You said you weren’t talking to me. Why are you still talking?” I turned up Morning Edition to drown him out.

Not my finest moment. Not his finest moment either.

Most days are made up of way too many not-my-finest-moments. Every morning I promise myself I will try to be a better mother to the boys. It is hard to focus on the moments beyond the mistakes.

On Sunday I shared a magical morning with T. The boys watched as I ran my second 5K. Last year, three months after I started jogging, I ran the same race with disastrous results. This year I’m two weeks out from my first half marathon. I’ve followed a 16 week training program and have worked hard to be prepared for race day. Running the 5K again was a lark. While I am extremely slow, I’ve been running so many miles that 3.12, a distance I’d only achieved once or twice before last year’s race, didn’t make me blink.

I ran the whole thing with a goofy grin on my face. As the leaders looped back around before I’d even reached the one mile mark I clapped my hands and whooped for them. I wasn’t concerned about my snail’s pace at the back of the pack. My boys were at the finish line to give me hugs and kisses.

A couple of minutes later the four of us made our way back to the starting line for the 3K community fun run. My husband walked it with C and some friends. T wanted to run.

It was up to him how much we ran or how much we walked. He started strong, darting through the crowds. I laughed as my much less nimble body chased after his. Just a few minutes in he looked at me, “Mom….Mom, my legs hurt.” “I know, baby. But I believe in you! Keep going!”

His pace was all over the place, but most of the time he ran. About halfway through there was a water station and I asked if he wanted do grab some. He shook his head and told me he didn’t want to stop. The effort was on his face, this race was hard for him but he wasn’t giving up.

Near the end he struggled, “I think I’m going to die!” he gasped. “It feels that way, doesn’t it? But I don’t think you are going to die today.”

He was exhausted and proud when we crossed the finish line. We made our way to the sideline to wait for Z and C. I could not get the grin off of my face.

T walked a little bit during the race, probably less than half a K. He is 5 years old and he really surprised me. Not just because he ran farther than I thought he could, but because watching him muscle his way through the distance was just like watching myself.

How many times have my legs hurt since I started running on a whim last July? How many time have I seriously thought I was going to die if I kept going? How many times have I skipped a water break because I knew if I stopped I’d never start again?

Today I am strong and confident. I don’t care that I’m slow, I am very steady.  I am a positive example for my sons. T can see my confidence. He wants to be like me. My running has the potential to inspire him and his brother to be active. He sees me setting goals that feel impossible and then he watches as I work to achieve them. He thinks running is cool. Because I run.

I have an anxiety disorder and self image problems. I don’t wear the confidence with ease quite yet. That doesn’t matter. It is getting stronger as I get stronger.

Did T tell me he didn’t want to talk to me until Christmas less than 24 hours later? He did. Was my response an immature and bad example? Yup. Every moment isn’t going to be one of parenting excellence. I’m still proud of the two of us for trying hard things. And for doing them together.

boys ready to race

C and T ready to race!

t and k post race

After the 3K.

t and k post 5k

Photo credit: Kevin Rivoil

T and I made the paper!

Try Hard

T was sitting alone on the side of the tennis court, legs and arms pretzeled together to make himself as small as possible. I walked onto the court with C’s balance bike and passed Z. “He just said he failed,” Z muttered to me. “Seriously?” my heart stuttered. I walked on a few steps towards C. “He said that exact word?” I called back over my shoulder. “Yes.”

Z and I decided, oh ok….I decided that T wasn’t allowed to ride his balance bike anymore. He had to practice with the two wheeler or not ride at all. Trying new things is hard for him. He wants to get everything right the first time.

When he gets frustrated I remind him of the three things he needs to do in this life in order to make us proud. Three things. That is it. He must be kind. He must try hard. He must treat girls the same way he treats boys. He does those things and we will be proud of him no matter what.

I approached him. He turned his back. “I need some alone time.” “Ok. You can have some alone time. Then we need to talk.”

A few minutes later I led him off of the court. He chose to crawl under a towering pine, the lowest branches were high enough to form a private hideout as the boughs draped to the ground. “T. Look at me. You did not fail. Did you try?” He looked everywhere but at me. “Yes,” he sighed in exasperation. “Listen, what will make your father and I proud? What three things?” He folded his arms and looked away and I repeated the three items. “You did it. You tried. So you didn’t ride the bike on your own. So what? You aren’t going to magically do it. Everything takes practice. It is because you tried that you didn’t fail.” He started to roll his eyes and caught himself. “Before we go home you have to try one more time. You can’t leave here thinking you failed. Because the only way to fail is to not try.” He stared at me. “I’ll tell you what. You try again and I’ll give you a marshmallow before lunch.” He perked up. “How about five marshmallows? Because I’m five.” “How about one marshmallow….and five mini M&Ms.” “Yes.”

He did try. He didn’t learn to ride a two wheeler today, but he tried. And Z and I were proud of him.

He’s off to kindergarten tomorrow, which colored the whole bike conversation.

He’s off to kindergarten and I will not be there to talk to him in the shade of a grand pine tree. I will not be able to encourage him and support him in the moments when he feels like he has failed. Or when he is scared. Or when he is hurt. Tomorrow is one of the many small separations that will continue until he is his own man. That trajectory is right, it is what we all want for our children. But the selfish part of me is mourning. It doesn’t want to let him go. Or expose him to the cruelty of the world.

I’ve been wallowing today. Head bent, I wept in the car before pulling myself together to head into Wegman’s. This afternoon my heaving sobs drew Z to the kitchen as I swept the floor. In a sabotaging act of indulgence I’ve been listening to This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush. Hell, I’ve even been watching the damn scene in She’s Having a Baby where it is used.

He needs to grow up. I need to grow up. My heart is breaking.

This evening we talked about failing again. I changed tactics. “It’s ok to fail, you know.” I told him after he brushed his teeth before bed. “I fail all the time.” “Really?” he asked doubtfully. “You fail?” I laughed. And appreciated his confidence in me. “Oh baby, I fail every day. I fail many times every day.” “How?” “Well, every time I get mad at you and yell. Daddy fails too, when he gets mad and yells.” He looked thoughtful. “You know what? Nothing new is created without failure. People fail and fail until they get it right. Nothing good happens without putting yourself out there and failing.”

So I was giving him the opposite message that I did in the morning. Well, I failed during that conversation and was trying to get it right.

“A couple of years ago we got Daddy’s car. Do you know it is different from Mommy’s car and I didn’t know how to drive it? I had to learn. And I failed and I failed. Do you know how long it took me to learn?” “No.” “More than a year! Can you believe it?” “How is it different?”

Ok. Maybe he didn’t get the message tonight. But Z and I will continue to have the conversation with him.

Tomorrow is a day T and I let go of each other a little. It is also a day of excitement and adventure. I am proud of my small man. He is trying to figure out his place in this tricky world. I am trying to figure out how to be there to catch him when he stumbles while also giving him room to grow.

I just pray I make it back to the car after dropping him off before my tears come.

bike learning

His first try on two wheels.

k and t parking lot

My boy and me.

crazy t

He is going to rock kindergarten. In that exact outfit. Just realized that is what I laid out for him…

Dining Out

Last night my parents took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. Going out to a fast food joint with the boys makes me anxious. So as much as I was looking forward to a really delicious meal, I was a wee bit worried (by which I mean my stomach was clenched in fear) about the behavior of the two young men in my life.

Sometimes those boys surprise me. Ok, so Z took C for a quick walk outside before the meal came, and Z and I tag teamed the two mid-meal trips to the bathroom. But other than that it was smooth sailing. Star Wars stickers worked their magic yet again.

Near the end of the meal a friend of my parent’s walked by the table. She has young grandchildren, so she bent down to chat with T. He is a bit of a rambler when he gets going and dude was on a tear. “Do you know what? Well, tomorrow is going to be me and Charlie’s birthday. But, but, but…tomorrow isn’t really me and Charlie’s birthday. But we get our birthday with Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow. And we are, um, we are, uhhh, we are going to have presents. And a cake. I want a….Star Wars Angry Bird cake. And we are getting presents! I want Star Wars legos. I want a Chewbacca figure. I saw it at the Lego store. The Chewbacca figure, well, it has a slot, not a put on head. Like the Gamorrean guard. They are the only two with a slot, not a put on head. But we already have the Gamorrean guard. And I want a big Star Wars Angry Birds play set. A big one.”

This lovely woman was a total sport. She just let him talk and murmured little hmmms and yeses at all the right places.

T paused for a second, took a deep breath, and looked her square in the face.

“I just farted.”

He is totally my child.

T in the pool

Loving the pool with Daddy. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.

popsicle love at floyd fest

T and Z went to Floyd Fest. First music festival for T.

playing at Floyd fest

He had a really good time.