First Day and Everyday

Pickle

First grade starts next week.

First grade for my kind, freckled thinker who is finding his voice, and up at night pondering the merits of inboard motors.

He will be fine.  What choice does he have other than to be fine, to navigate his life on his own, at least a little bit, and figure out the way of the world through the small, significant, triumphs and heartbreaks of childhood.

The skinny-legged boy with the too-big backpack (aren’t they all?) will walk into school and I will drive away.  And get a coffee.  And drive to work.  I will not worry.

I am ready for the big moments.

I am ready for first steps, lost teeth, first days.  I am ready to watch them glide away without training wheels, to sound out books on their own, to tie their shoes.

My tender heart catches when I least expect it.

When the biggest helps the littlest with his shoes.

When the middle uses a big word I haven’t heard her use before.

When the wobbly toddler gait all of a sudden becomes smooth and coordinated.

We may mark the time with first steps and first days.  But it is those tiny changes, the ones we almost don’t see, that add up to people, our people, growing a hair’s width every night.  Our little people whose lives slowly and beautifully start to become their own, separate from us.  One millimeter, one second at a time.

In the cool dark, the clock ticks and they sing our bedtime songs with lyrics of their own.  And then a quiet pause as they drift away into dreams that are theirs alone.

 

 

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Mother’s Little Helpers

Though I do make an effort not to over complicate or over schedule our lives, life can still be pretty hectic sometimes.  There’s just a lot to remember and a lot to do to manage a household, parent, work, make it all work.  I’m certainly not the most organized, or the most motivated. Example: yesterday I ate some Oreo Thins and took a nap instead of prepping meals for the week and organizing the toy room (a task that desperately needs to be done – we’re drowning in Matchbox cars and Duplo blocks!).  But I have found some tools and things that help me get stuff done, so I thought I’d share them.

 

Stuff that makes my life easier/more fun/less complicated…

I’ll start with the most obvious: my husband.  He’s amazing.  I’m also very lucky to have supportive family nearby and a kind and moderately flexible employer.  I am so grateful for all of these.

 

A shared calendar: My husband and I use a shared Google calendar.  We use an app called Tiny Calendar on our phones to access it there, too.  I could just use Google Calendar, but it didn’t work on our phones when we needed it 4 years ago, so we ended up with Tiny Calendar.  So I stuck with it.  I like it.  Admission: our calendar is color-coded, but only a little bit.

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A housekeeper:  For the cost of dinner out for 2 (with an adult beverage or two), I can get my house cleaned beautifully.  We hem and haw over this luxury.  Because it IS a luxury.  And it is not something we do all of the time. But it makes a huge difference in my stress level.  I love having my entire house clean at one time.  Someone once told me that when it comes to house upkeep and maintenance, you can pay with your time or you can pay with your money.  At this point in my life, though I am certainly capable and willing to clean my house (and I do!), my time is precious.  I’d rather spend three hours on Sunday with my children picking strawberries, or playing at the park.  So we occasionally pay to have the house cleaned by a professional.  I never feel like it is money wasted.

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Grocery list app:  There are several out there, but we use AnyList.  Mostly we use it for groceries (duh), since we share the shopping and cooking duties but you can make all sorts of lists.  Each week, my husband and I add items to the list from our phones and when one of us shops, we can use the list and cross things off with a touch.  We have a list of favorites that are easy to add to the weekly list, and updates are pretty much made in real time. Often I’m adding things to the list while he’s on the way to the store.  Very handy.  We also share a more general “to do” list using this app.  Very helpful when things get busy, or when we’ve got to pack to go away.

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Shutterfly app: This is a little glitch-y and imperfect in my experience but for the most part is a good way to make sure that the photos I take with my phone actually end up somewhere other than just on my phone.  The app is on my phone and my husband’s, and photos get uploaded to one account, so everything is in the same place.

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Chatbooks: I really love this app.  It links to my Instagram account.  Once I’ve reached 60 new photos, Chatbooks prints them into lovely 6×6 inch books ($8 and free shipping!). My favorite part is that you can set up subscriptions – so the lovely little books ship out automatically to grandparents and special people in your life. There is NO extra work on my behalf.   Win!  I also love that the books are customizable – the photo of my kids painting the walls of the shower au naturale isn’t really Instagram-appropriate, but it IS adorable, and I can add it to my Chatbook before my book goes to print.  I order the slightly more expensive hard cover edition as a keepsake for myself, and let my kids enjoy the soft cover ones.  Use my code to get your first book free: CYKKMXVK.

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Amazon Subscribe & Save: This is useful with small kids and saves on trips to Target (which always cost at least $75 more than planned).  I set up to send diapers and wipes on a monthly basis and there are some other household goods we get less frequently.  It is a time saver for me.  Prices typically end up being comparable to my local Sam’s Club.  I suspect I’d love the Dash Button too, but I’m reluctant to commit. Plus, I’m a little concerned that my kids would find the buttons and we’d end up with 45 packages of paper towels.

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Stuff I’m working on…

Who has advice on the best way to deal with all of their iPhone videos?  I do back up to the Cloud, my computer and an external drive, but I’d love to put them in a format for my family to enjoy. Advice?

I’m going to try to devise a way to keep in better touch with people who are important to me beyond Facebook.  I’ll let you know how I do!

 

PS – No affiliate links, they are just provided for your convenience.

Just a Tiny Bit Magic

He thumps quickly into the bedroom, breathless and scared.

“Mom, I had a scary dream,” he says, voice shaky.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry.  What was your dream about?”

“There was a bad man with white eyes who made me go to jail,” he says, crawling up into my bed and into my arms.

“That sounds very scary.  But you’re safe.  No one is going to take you to jail. You’re safe,” I repeat.

He sighs, his body relaxes, but his heart still pounds.  We snuggle in the pre-dawn light. I can just hear the birds starting to sing.  After a quiet few moments I ask, “Are you ready to go back in your bed?”  He nods.

“Will you carry me?” he asks, voice low.  It is a rare request.

“Of course,” I say as I pick him up and he wraps his thin, strong, spidery limbs around me.

I place him in bed, pull the covers over him, kiss his head and return to my bed.

Three minutes later I hear his footsteps again.

“Mom, I can’t get the pictures out of my head, can you erase them?”

I nod.

He climbs into my bed, and I reach up to rub the back of his head.  I brush his hair from his eyes, and massage his scalp, mumbling as I go, “Yes… got it… right there… this should work.”  This is the nightmare erasing ritual I created a few years ago, based on an improvisational parenting moment (aren’t they all?), based on an idea I had given my little sister post-nightmare, 25 years ago.  It is perhaps a bit dishonest, in the same vein as kissing away the hurt.  But it is a version of the mother/child pact that has probably existed as long as there have been mothers and children.  Moms make things better.

Someday, he will understand that I don’t have the power to erase anything.  That I can’t really fix very much, that I’m not even “just a tiny bit magic” like he thinks I am now.  He will realize that the world can be big, and mean and complicated.  Perhaps he’s started to figure this out already.

But tonight, in the dark, I am his mom, and I have the ability to fix it.  I can heal, I can help, I can calm.  And I can make the bad dreams go away.  I do not take that loving trust lightly.

“That’s better,” he whispers.  And this time, we hold hands as I walk him back to his room and warm bed.

Magical Moments

I am cuddled in the wing chair with my littlest, he is winding down for bed, begging for just one more book.  We are snuggled in, chatting about our day.  He is 2 and he has a lot to say.  I tell him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, I tickle him a little to hear his gravely little laugh.  He reaches up and touches my nose gently.  “Mama?” he whispers.  “Yes, Pistachio?” I coo back at him, in love with him and the tender moment we are sharing.  “Poopy butt,” he whispers – not because he has one, just because he is 2,  those are funny words and he knows how to say them.  I laugh.

After a long weekend of fun, activities and probably too much sugar, my oldest is weary.  We have brushed, flossed, chatted, read books, and he has had the 4 million after dinner “snacks” he requires.  (Seriously, the nicer and more complete the dinner, the more they feel the need to gorge late night on the contents of the fridge.) “Tomorrow is a school day,” I say, peeling back the duvet on my bed, to lead him to his.  He groans loudly, overtired and forever complaining about the 20 foot walk from my cozy bed to his.  “Let’s go, Sweetie, it is late,” I say, leading the way.  I’m surprised when I feel his thin arms encircle me from the back.  He hugs me – hip level – and sighs “Mama, I love you.”   And the unexpected, nontraditional hug from my grumbling little guy makes my Mother’s Day the best one yet.

I’m perpetually exhausted, but oh what fun it is being mom to these amazing people.  It is tiny moments like these that make my heart pop.

I am yours, you are mine…

“Mama” he yelled out to me at midnight, “I have a wet bum!”

Bleary, I shuffled in and found him sitting on his bed looking sleepy and concerned. In the flurry of the evening’s bedtime routine, his overnight undies (a.k.a. a Pull Up) had been forgotten.

“Oh Pickle, that’s okay,” I whispered, “let’s get you in some dry cozies.”

I lifted him out of bed and onto the floor. He stood quietly while I replaced his squishy comforter with a crisp down one, tossed a thick fleece blanket over the wet sheet (thankfully, not too wet) and pulled some clean, dry pajama bottoms out of the bin. I sunk to sitting on the floor in front of him. We stripped off the wet pants in sleepy quiet, only the sound of the noise machine whirring, and he held my shoulders as I pulled up his overnight undies and cozies. I started to stand to return him, dry and sleepy, to his bed. But he stopped me, crawling quietly into my lap, curled into a little-boy ball of cotton and limbs.

“My mama,” he whispered, more to himself than to me and we sat there for a few breaths to smell the warmth of one another before I put him back in his bed.

“Your mama, “ I said, as I kissed his head and pulled up the cool covers.

Sleepy little boy.