in june 2010, our lives got turned upside down in the best possible way: the birth of our awesome kiddo, john. in october 2013, brother charlie charged into our life to change the status quo again. i'm proud to have "mom" to the list of titles on my resume, but i'm also still a hard-working professional. how does a working mom juggle work and family? ride along with me and see if i can figure it out!

Monday, June 23, 2014

the birthday boy.

bonus points if you recognize this as a bulldozer.

i have a long vacation post that will come later this week, but a shorter note of great import today: last week, my first baby turned four.

we had a week-long birthday celebration, starting with a birthday party at the grand canyon  with my dad's side of the family on monday june 16 ... then a wednesday june 18 (john's actual birthday) bulldozer birthday party with our dear friends in phoenix and their children - one of whom is almost precisely three months older than john so they're a great match ... wrapped up with yesterday's present-opening-extravaganza featuring all of the presents that were mailed to our house in our absence.

we are so blessed to have so much family - of both the birth-given and the life-chosen variety - to celebrate with our kiddo.

we are also so blessed to have this amazing four-year-old in our lives. he is the most challenging thing we have ever done, and one of the two most beautiful. he is hysterically funny, stunningly energetic, inspiringly insightful, deeply sweet, and the fastest thing on two legs. he keeps us moving, keeps us laughing, keeps us working, and keeps us on our toes. 

i cannot wait to see what the next year holds for this little man, and as i reflect back on the previous four years of sharing our life with john, i am so grateful that he was sent to be our son.

june 18 2010, 3:47 pm seems simultaneously forever ago and just yesterday!

john, hunny, you'll be embarrassed one day when you read this, but your mama thinks you are just about the coolest person she knows, and she is super stoked about sharing even more adventures with you. and she knows your daddy feels exactly the same way.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

raw

if you've come for witty reparte or a good old fashioned poop story, today is not your day.

if you've come to witness me using words as catharsis, you're in luck.

tonight was one of my least favorite nights of my life. it climaxes (nadirs) with this scene: john, red-faced and screaming "i don't want you, mommy!" over and over.

charlie in his wrap, muffledly crying as he buries his face in my shoulder.

me, nearly hysterical, yelling god-knows-what (i truly don't) through sobs and tears.

* * *
how did we get there? not all at once, of course. in dribs and drabs of bad behavior meets inappropriate response with a mix of too-tired thrown in for good measure.

we've been struggling, my husband and i, to help john through a very difficult time. best I can tell it's a culmination of a year of change that was enough to leave my grownup head spinning - and i chose most of that change, unlike john. john's been acting out at home and at school - disruptive, not listening, back-talking, hitting, hitting himself. we quickly realized that our fairly traditional parenting methods of spankings, punishments and threats of punishment weren't working. in fact they only made matters worse.

we've been working hard on gentle, positive parenting, and when well-executed john responds very well to it.

the problem is: i am truly terrible at it. i do well for a short stretch, and then ... boom. i fail. Not always as spectacularly as tonight, but tonight just emphasizes to me how i am not holding up my end of the bargain for this brilliant, brilliantly spirited, energetic child.

he deserves so much more. my prayer is that i might find an inner source of grace to give to this beautiful little being and help him learn to do good in the world with all the strength he has.

our children are little mirrors of ourselves, and what i saw tonight was ugly indeed.

i'm so very sorry, my john. i will keep trying, keep learning, and love you no matter how much i backslide, yell, and fall.

Friday, May 16, 2014

it can only get less crappy from here.

left: why we lowered the crib mattress
right: the best happy meal price EVAH

disclaimer: if you are poop-averse, you might want to keep on scrolling by. i won't share any gross pics or extreme details, but this is a baby bowel movement story. if you can't find the humor in those, i'll be funnier next time, i promise.

this morning, i was running late. (surprise!) but like, REALLY late.

we've been struggling a lot with some of john's behavior lately (more on that another day), which requires some extra time and energy and intentionality in our day, and mornings are always a little on the rough side, timing wise. add to that the simple fact that i slept too late and we were not set up for success!

however, we got through with no major disasters. we were late, but just about ready - john was dressed, charlie had been fed and dressed and was happily playing in his crib while i put on my shoes, brushed my teeth, and collected the last few odds and ends.

i swept into charlie's room to scoop him up and get him into his carseat.

and i stopped dead in my tracks.

in front of charlie in the crib was an odd-colored puddle. my first thought was sheer alarm - he spits up a good bit still, so i was VERY concerned that he'd spit up a color other than white milky. and then i realized ... he had just scooted back. it was poop. and he was drumming his hands in it. it was everywhere.

i picked him up as gingerly as i could and put him on the changing table. opened the wipe box ... and was out.

"hey john, can you be my little helper?" i called into the other room, trying to keep my voice calm and happy.

"what, mama? i'm playing!" came the reply, but in a tone that i knew meant he would help.

"get the wipes out of your bathroom and bring them to me?" i requested saccharinely.

i heard little footsteps, and he grabbed the wipes and headed toward my room. fortunately my husband was in the kitchen and helped john head in the right direction, then came to charlie's room to see if i needed more help.

and i did. this was the most creative painting i had seen in a long time. nearly every part of charlie's body was tinged.

a bucket of wipes and a load of laundry later, i had charlie cleaned up. my husband helped me get the laundry going and finished dressing charlie, and we loaded up to go.

as i put charlie's car seat in the car, i noticed a suspicious yellow hue on his forearm. Grabbing a wipe, i gigged and said, "missed a spot!" as charlie laughed at my antics.

shew, he was clean.

on the way to school, john had a gleeful time watching charlie remove his sock and play with it. "charlie, socks aren't toys, silly brother! but you can play with it."

we got to school, and i was strategizing the quickest way to get boys and the required food/drinks/accoutrements in and me back to the car. i opened the back door and saw ... yellow tinged feet under the socks. more wipes. more giggling.

i deposited the boys in their classes. i gave charlie's teacher a quick explanation and apologized if they found any additional spots that i missed. and i ducked out the door.

the good news: i got ZERO poop on my work clothes. and the day can only get less crappy from here.

(see what i did there? ba dump BING!)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

here pelican, pelican, pelican



both boys went back to sleep after i woke them up the first time today. how are kids so cute even in their sleep?

mornings are not usually a strong suit at our house. 

we're up early - i usually wake john around 5:30 and charlie around 5:45 - and out the door early, getting in the car by 6:30 at the latest. and we're not what you'd call morning people.

but. BUT. today was an awesome morning. everyone was cheerful, the morning went smoothly. 

while i was getting charlie dressed, john came charging excitedly into his baby brother's room yelling, "mommy! i found my pelican!"

some backstory: once upon a time, john caught a stuffed pelican at a mardi gras parade. it was a sad silly pelican that was poorly stuffed and cheaply made. it was fluorescent green and orange. but for some reason he loved it. he fell out of love with it over time, as kids do, and i was pretty sure we had given it to my cousin to throw at another mardi gras parade. in fact, we'd seen said pelican at my cousin's house when we were back in baton rouge - it had been donated to the dog (verret) and had one foot chewed off. recently john asked about the pelican, and we told him it loved mardi gras so much that it went back to baton rouge to be in more parades.

cut to today. john comes running into the room with his pelican, which he found under a pile of other stuffed animals in his room.

"i found my pelican, and the man fixed his foot!" john shouted gleefully.

"fixed his foot?" i asked, confused?

"yeah, when verret had the pelican its foot was broken, but the man who throws me things in the parade knew i wanted my pelican back so he fixed it and gave it back to me! but how did he get from baton rouge to here?" john asked.

"he flew?" i suggested. (it was all i had.)

"mommy, it's not a REAL pelican. it can't fly."

*   *   *

once we made it to the car (with the pelican, from whom john will not be separated), the day was further improved with great conversation. my favorite went something like this:

john: "mommy, let's listen to some music."

charlie: "ba ba ba ba ba ba ba"

me: "ok, let's test out this new satellite radio thingy your daddy hooked up." (turning it on and flipping channels.)

john: "mommy, i want rock and roll."

charlie: "wa oooot."

me: "how about this one?" (settling on a channel playing nirvana's version of "man who sold the world.)

john: "no, mama. rock and ROLL. with loud guitars."

charlie: "ooooooooooooooh."

me: "how about this? this is good music!" (settling on a channel playing sublime's "wrong way" - hey, don't judge. it might not be the most kid friendly but it's darn good music.)

john: (dancing in his seat) "it IS good music, mommy ... but it's NOT rock and roll."

charlie: (dancing in his seat) "ahh ooooooooooooooot."

me: (flipping channels a little bit more) "what do you think of this?"

john: "YEAH! now THAT's what i call rock and roll!"

charlie: (laughing hysterically)

and what, pray tell, did our band of rock and rollers dance to for the rest of the drive? "tales of brave ulysses," by cream. what can i say, the kid has taste.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

grandma

this was going to be a jaunty little blog about my trip to chicago - more adventures of the world-wandering dairy cow, some waxing philosophical about missing my family, the story of an awesome hotel upgrade, some pride in my husband for taking such awesome care of the boys.

i'll save my traveling tale for another day. instead, i find myself in a somber mood.

this morning, one of my favorite people on the face of this planet took her leave from it. my beautiful, sassy, spunky, brilliant grandmother passed away.

like all of the family, i knew this day would come, and probably sooner than later. she was 91 years old, and while she was doing mighty darn well for 91, that age comes with an expectation that time is limited. she spent a good part of this past weekend with her family, much of whom was in town for mardi gras. i understand that she was in good spirits and good form right up until the end. and she went quickly, which is as much of a blessing as anyone could ask.

also like all of the family (or i would assume, as i shouldn't speak for them) i am only beginning to process that she is gone. for the five years that our family lived in baton rouge, the greatest blessing for us was getting to be close to grandma. i got to be friends with her while we lived there - to know her as an adult in a way that many people never have the chance to know their grandparents. she knew john very well, and he knew her. she met charlie at christmas time.

but what my boys will not be able to know is the lover of books whose library upstairs was always ready to be raided for new material to read. they will not know the biting political commentary grandma could offer even in her later years - the witty repartee she would interject into a conversation just when you thought she was too tired and quiet to have known what was going on.

they will not know the adventurous woman who, with her husband, my papa, took my brother and cousin and i on a trip from maryland to louisiana in a red van, camping along the way, dodging storms at mammoth caverns and looking at horses running through the fields in kentucky, stopping in huntsville to learn about rockets and space, and laughing all the while about our traveling band's crazy antics.

they will not know why "blueberry killer" can reduce a generation of my family to giggling fits.*

they will not hear from her mouth her remarkable stories about being a young newspaperwoman, of not thinking she ever needed to get married, but then of settling down with a newspaperman and beginning a wild brood of five boys and a girl.

they will not know her love of her dogs.

they cannot hear, in their heads, her voice as she says to my papa, "oh, ed," when exasperated at his behavior or his jokes or whatever else might exasperate her.

but i can. i can hear it now, as he's probably welcoming her into heaven wearing a hat that says "i'm not prejudiced - i hate everyone."

i can remember all of these things, and so much more. and i will never grow tired of remembering.

because as sad as i am today as i type this, i am so very happy to have known this woman. and so very proud to carry her genes. and so grateful for the other descendants of "mama and papa."

goodbye, grandma. from the crazy young broad to the crazy old bat, i love you.

*years ago, grandma went nuts with a broom attacking a bug on her kitchen floor ... that wound up being a blueberry. a very smashed blueberry.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

perspective



left: diligently removing pjs one foot at a time. 
right: dirt is a boy's best friend.

today in dfw, a beautiful week-old baby girl is being laid to rest by her aching family. and today in dfw, the grey sky and chilling rain seem a perfect reflection of the sympathetic ache felt by anyone who hears this family's story. may they be uplifted by prayers and love from far and wide that somehow, somewhere, they might find some peace.

*  *  *
sometimes god and his universe conspire to give you exactly what you need.

today it is the weather that gives expression to my emotions. sometimes you need that mourning.

last week, it was a relatively simple message from a facebook friend who posted this thought: our children need our love the most when they deserve it least. i won't try to attribute that one -- many very wise folks have said similar things and i'm probably misquoting anyway.

but it rang in my head as i reflected on john's behavior, and how we respond to him. it speaks to the underlying motivations of his behavior. it speaks to the fact that it's easy to have higher expectations of my precocious guy than he could possibly uphold -- that at three and a half, he can speak like a five year old but that doesn't mean he has the emotional maturity and self awareness that even a five year old has.

so largely thanks to that message, we've been trying something new. when john acts out -- when he sasses, when he argues, when he doesn't listen -- we've been hugging him. holding him and telling him we love him.

we don't ignore the bad behavior of course. we talk about it. we talk about the choices he is making. and we talk about how when he chooses good behavior, it makes us so proud.

and remarkably (or not so much), it's helping. i'm not claiming it's a silver bullet miracle cure for acting out. and i'm certainly not claiming that we are executing this new strategy as well or consistently as we should. but i will say that there has been a little less yelling in our house. a LOT more hugs. and at least a little more good behavior. and i hope we are slowly learning to fill a need that john has for love and affirmation, so that he continues to make good choices that come from a place of knowing his parents love and support him. 

*  *  *
yesterday, it was a sense of peace about a challenging decision to change daycares. while the place the boys have been thus far is perfectly fine, we have had the nagging feeling that john needed a bit more challenge. that he needs maybe a little more structured learning environment and an opportunity to learn new things. i have felt almost ridiculous thinking these things at three years old ... but after much consideration we've decided another place is better equipped to give both boys what they need. so on march 10 they will have a little more transition, a little more change -- but i feel relief when i think of it now that the decision is made. 

*  *  *
and today, again, it is perspective. it is all in your perspective. 

today, a crying sky reigns grey over a funeral that shouldn't have to happen. that is proof that there is so much about god's plan that i do not understand.

but what i do understand is this: my family is so blessed. we are gifted with so much richness in this life. and i hope that is a perspective i might never lose.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

everybody talks

brothers telling secrets

friday on the way to work, the moon hung low in the sky, huge and orange. john was ecstatic to see it, and kept exclaiming, "mommy, look at the big man in the moon!"

i kept listening to his glee, and we talked about the moon for several minutes. eventually he got sort of quiet and pensive. and he said, "mommy, why is the moon at the bottom of the sky?"

of course i explained that the moon rises and goes up high, blah blah blah, but it stuck with me: the bottom of the sky. there's a certain poetry to the way children see the world, i think, a simplicity and beauty that i love to relive through john's eyes.

and his words never cease to amaze me. he has a way with them, i think. and he charms me all the time, but i'm his mom -- i think i am constitutionally required to be charmed.

but it's not just me. this morning when my husband picked john up from sunday school, his teacher told him that they were reading a poem today and john asked, "is that a haiku?"

i couldn't stop laughing when my husband told me that story. a haiku? what does my three-and-a-half year old know from a haiku? he says he learned about it on his iguy, which i suppose means caillou or barney or fireman sam or someone talked about haikus. and i don't really think john's about to start composing 5-7-5 poetry anytime soon.

but i am amazed that he recognized a poem, and recognized that it was related to a haiku, and remembered the word haiku. it's amazing the things kids know even when we are completely unaware of their knowledge.

*  *  *
meantime, charlie's begun chiming in on our morning drive conversations. as john and i discuss the moon, or the upcoming day, or a dream he had, we are accompanied by a nearly nonstop babble of "ahh ahhh ahhhhhh aha ha hahahh ahhhhhh," punctuated with a laugh here and there. 

my boys, the conversationalists.