"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

anatomy of a move

It's becoming quite apparent around here.... 

We're Really moving...

Our guest room has become a storage area.

And every spare square foot of hallway space is lined with boxes.

Just about all of the non-essentials have been packed. Left out now are clothes, most toys, kitchen necessities, and last minute stuff. The art cabinet is looking particularly lonely.

I also haven't packed my office. (Because Sara Kate Kids ain't slowing down for NObody's move.)

The changes have been stressful for the Older Boy....less so for the Younger Boy, but still, saying goodbye is never easy. After living and learning for the past few weeks of Serious Packing, we've found a few things that have helped to mitigate the stress:

1) Delay. We're putting off the packing of their rooms as long as possible. And moving in baby steps when things Must Be Packed. It's working. Sort of. (Evan's response to every request to pack something is, "Maybe tomorrow.") The last day is going to be a madhouse up there, but we'll be good until then.

2) New Activities/Jobs. Packing is work. Work that kids can help with. Of course there is box-filling work, but that's pretty boring. More exciting is work like... patching nail holes, sanding patched walls, repainting sanded walls...you know, workman work. Work that requires tools. And ladders.

The patching/sanding/painting is complete, and yet, the ladder remains. Right in the middle of the kitchen.  

3) Toy Free For All. Of course, while the packing is happening, the kids must, somehow, be entertained. We've cleared out our bonus room and it has become a dumping ground for yet-to-be-packed toy bins. And, to the delight of at least two members of this house, there is no need to Clean Up the Mess because it'll just be dumped again and again until it's ultimately packed up and sealed in a box. 

And so....we're getting there. And, so far, each step of this process has been easier than I had anticipated...

...but, quite frankly, the stress of it all is altogether too much for Little Miss Molly.

Lesson Learned:
It's reeeeeeeeallllly happening now! In less than three weeks, we'll be there!

Friday, May 25, 2012

the evolution of evil....in play

As a psychology major, I completed the majority of my coursework in child psychology and child development. I figured, as a background, it would come in handy when I became a kindergarten teacher. Turns out a degree in Spanish Language would have served me better in my particular school, but it sure has been interesting to watch my psych seminars come to life now that I'm spending my second career in the trenches of child behavior and development.

When Evan began to pretend play, it was very literal. He would, for instance, drive trucks and pretend that they were real trucks, working on a job site. There was very little made-up dialogue or narration, he just acted out what he imagined would really occur among construction trucks. As he got older, the play became more abstract.  Now, using the same trucks, he would create a scene for his "guys." The guys would talk to each other, complete jobs, and, of course, operate the trucks. And the play continued to evolve to the point where he didn't even need toy trucks and "guys" because the play happened MOSTLY in his imagination. Now, HE was the construction man, working with the other construction workers (me and Max) on the job site. But, the characters in his play were always on the same team. They were all The Good Guys.

About when he turned four, Evan started to incorporate the "other" side into his play...The Bad Guys. It was a little alarming, I remember, to see my little boy imagining a world of Evil in his play at first. But, the eternal struggle between Good and Evil is all around him....from Disney movies (Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 being his early favorites...and both are heavy in the Bad Guy department) to the natural world (his obsession with animals taught him early about the predator/prey dynamic...not to mention, the "evils" of hunting). The way he incorporated The Bad Guys in his play was pretty benign, though...typically, he and Max (his trusty sidekick) were The Good Guys (brave knights, police men, animal rescuers, etc.) and, together, they fought off, outsmarted, imprisoned, or otherwise claimed victory over The Bad Guys (fire-breathing dragons, diamond-stealing robbers, rare animal poachers, etc.).

Until this morning.

I suppose I should have seen it coming...now that he's five, it's only natural that his pretend play should continue to evolve...I guess, on the bright side, at least he's still involving Me-Too Max in his play....but, did he really need to draw Sweet Baby Molly over to the dark side?

Evan (wearing an apron, an oven mitt, and an Evil Sneer and talking in an Evil Voice): Hey, Mom. Let's play Evil Guys!
Max: Me, too!
Evan: Yeah, Evil Max, you too. And Mommy. And Molly. We're all evil guys!
Me: Oh. Well, what do Evil Guys do?
Evan: I don't know what. Evil Max, what do you want to do today?
Max: Let's bake cookies!

Max sits with me, Molly, and Lavender Bunny (his, well, lavender bunny), watching Evan as he gets out our wooden Cookies Playset....a little unsure about these Evil Cookies.

Evan (still wearing apron and oven mitt...now, with a purpose and now, wielding a spatula...still sneering and talking evilly): HA HA HA [that's my evil laugh, okay guys?] What kind of cookies do you want, Evil Guys? The kind with frosting? HA HA HA!
Max: I want frosting AND sprinkles!
Me: Oooh, that sounds good. I'll have the same.
Evan: Okay. HA HA HA! And now, to make the cookies! But I'm not going to wash my hands because Evil Guys don't wash their hands! HA HA HA!

He finished making and decorating the cookies and brought the tray over. As he passed out the cookies, he said, "Okay, Evil Team, now that we're done with our snack, what should we do?"

"Well," I started, afraid to venture too far into the World of Evil, but wanting to stay in character, "We could go to the toy store and take all the toys so no one else could play with them. That sounds like something a Bad Guy would do, don't you think?"

"Yeah!" said Evan, "Only, we'll share them because even though we're Bad Guys, we're still nice."

Lesson Learned:
Baby steps into the World of Good and Evil. I'll take it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

5 / 2.5 / 0.25

Just a few of my favorite things about my favorite little people, at this Moment.

Evan-5 years
We were reading books while I held Molly (he turns the pages for me when my hands are "full of baby"). Between pages, he looked down at his baby sister: "She is one beautiful baby." Then he bent down, kissed her toes, and feigned fainting at the smell of her stinky feet. Sweetness and silliness in one....that's pretty much Evan these days.

And what's more, he's so grown up when he needs to be. At Kindergarten Orientation last week, he easily fell into line with the other kindergartners-to-be as Sam separated from him to head to the Parents' Meeting. He rode the bus!! And, in a very special moment of Inclusion into the Big Kid World of Kindergartner, he even joined a class of current K students as they sat with their teacher at circle time. And when it was time, he reaped the ultimate reward...

He named that chick "Harris." And his favorite part of the Orientation? Only the part of Big Kid School I've been most dreading: the cafeteria. "Mom!" he gushed, "It's SO BIG and there's SO MANY kids in there!" Yup. He'll be Just Fine. Mama just needs to take a deep breath and [gulp] Let Go.

Max-2.5 years
His descriptive language is exploding. "Mommy," he said, while digging in to his chicken tacos, "this dinner is double genius!" And even better than "double genius" is "miracle." When something really Wows him, it's a miracle. I love this. Especially the time I said, "Max, your eyes are so beautiful." And he responded, "No they're not, MOM. They're a MIRACLE." Such self-confidence. I also love that, when we were sorting through toys and (willingly!) making a Donation pile, he looked at his outgrown toys and said, "Those kids that get these to play with? They're gonna be real inpwessed." I'm impressed, too, buddy.

My dad called last Saturday morning. "Whatcha up to?" he asked me. "Well, at the moment, I'm sitting with a pretty sad kiddo on my lap as I hold a washcloth to his face, trying to decide if he needs stitches." Without even needing to ask WHICH "kiddo" I was referring to, he knew. "What happened to Max?!" He's a bulldozer. He's big. He's thick. He's strong. And yet, when I held him (and ultimately decided that stitches weren't necessary THIS time), he melted easily into my cuddle. He's a Big Love.

And as much as the go-to, hardee-har-har response to this photo would be: "But you should see the other guy!" It isn't for Max....he wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, actually, he has been known to attack a line of ants with a plastic gas pump handle...but typically, he's a teddy bear.

Molly-12 weeks
Molly is loving Tummy Time these days...

...and really, is there anything cuter than a baby who is so proud to be able to lift her head off the blanket to see her big, adoring brothers cheering her on?

Yes, maybe one thing. Molly is at the perfect stage of nursing. Despite a brief (but unbelievably painful) bout of mastitis a few weeks ago, nursing has always come very easy and naturally for me and my babies. I recognize how lucky I am to be able to nurse...especially around this stage...Molly is old enough now to nurse well and efficiently, but little enough to still linger and gaze up at me as she eats. She'll stop eating for a minute, but without breaking her latch. She'll catch my eye (isn't hard, I never looked away) and the corner of her mouth will curl up into a little grin. And, just as her eyes start to crinkle and her ear wiggles, I melt. And then, she gets back to business.

Molly has been smiling pretty much constantly for the past few months now. For the last few days, though, she's been smiling so big that she's thisclose to erupting into laughter. For now, though, since she still hasn't figured out the belly laugh, she ends up just making this funny little grunting noise. It cracks her brothers up and startles her into a moro reflex and just might be my favorite mini-milestone of the moment.

Lesson Learned:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It just keeps getting better.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

circle of moms

If there's one thing I learned right off the bat about motherhood, it's that I can't do it alone. Whether it's waiting until Daddy comes home to take over Kid Duty before I start making dinner or relying on Google to validate my Mommy's Intuition about a rash that looks benign but.... I know my limits and seek and accept help when needed. But sometimes I need help from a different source...a source that understands my limits, my frustrations, my worries, my fears, my wishes, and yes, even my need to brag and boast about my life as a stay-at-home-mom to young kids...a source that So Gets It because she has So Been There...or IS there.

This is my Circle of Moms. Today, I'd like to extend my deepest thanks to these women who have helped me to get this far into motherhood with my sanity, my humor, and my positivity in tact (and with healthy, happy, well-fed, well-entertained kids, to boot). You are appreciated more than these words can express...and, you know who you are....  

My Through It All Friend
We met on the bus on the first day of third grade. We've been friends ever since. Although we are quite different in some pretty fundamental ways, we're just the same where it counts. I rely on her to understand me when I'm stressed out and neurotic, because she knows how I can be. I trust her to validate my worries and concerns, because she knows what it feels like and she knows that sometimes you just need to say it out loud before you can start to feel better. We have different social circles, so she is my place to vent when I don't fit in with the other preschool moms. She gets me because she's known me forever. I can't wait to see her little girls grow up and to watch them go on the same imaginary adventures with my trio that their mom and I went on in her backyard and in the creek behind my house. 

My Lost and Found Friend
Back in middle school, we wrote epic-long notes to each other (and folded them, origami-style so Certain People couldn't read them). We confided in each other about our crushes and scared ourselves to hysterical laughing-tears at sleep-overs. We fell out of touch as our adolescence turned into adulthood, but a certain social-networking site re-connected us just before she had her first baby. In the few years that we've been back in touch, we have been able to pick up where we left off. Because of the distance now between us, I've never met her family, but I feel like I know her little boy (and can't wait to hear all about her baby girl's arrival into this world in just a few months). We still talk about boys (husbands and sons, now) and we laugh about how mine are so similar to hers. She lets me brag about my kids without feeling boastful because I know she loves them like I love hers. Someday, we WILL get our families together.

My Teacher Friend
...because we were teachers together. But more than that...because I feel like I'm always trying to learn from her. Whether it's the hugely imaginative and creative activities she does with her kids that I replicate for mine, or her quietly calm, patient, and loving demeanor that I try to summon when I'm about to Just Lose It with my kids, she is the mom I see in me in my best moments. But the best thing about her is that, even though we have so much in common as Mommies, she's not just a Mommy friend, she is a Friend friend. I don't have to put on a pretty face when we're together. I can call her, sobbing, because I'm at the end of my rope and she'll instantly Get It, offer an I've-been-there anecdote or sigh, and write me a prescription for a nice, big glass of wine. Someday, when we're BOTH not pregnant or nursing (which hasn't happened since before I was pregnant with Evan), we're going to take a trip to the beach with a bottle of wine and, with toes in the sand and glasses in hand, we'll finally get to catch up on all of the stories we start to tell but don't get a chance to finish before we get interrupted by my three or her two-and-a-half. Someday.

My Sister Friend
She's been one step ahead of me since I arrived on her second birthday. I followed her through some of the same teachers and activities in school, I became a teacher after she did it first, and I even moved to the same city she was living in as a newlywed after I became engaged to her husband's best friend. She used to get annoyed when we were kids and I'd try to tag along, but over the years, the sisterhood turned into a real best friendship...and it's just a bonus that we get to spend the holidays together. In true Big Sister fashion, she entered Motherhood a few years before me and has paved the road for me as she encounters all of the important Firsts, well, first. I've watched and learned as she dove headfirst into sleep-training, potty-training, preschool drop-off, introduction of a sibling, tantrums, illnesses and injuries, and other Scary Mommy Moments. She's always been able to Handle Anything and so she's the one I turn to when I'm about to encounter my own Scary Mommy Moment....she'll know what to do because she's probably been there before, too. She's also the one I know I can (and do) call at 7:30 every morning because none of our kids sleep in. We can talk about anything or nothing at all. She motivates me by her ability to multitask, her organization, and her commitment to what she believes in. She inspires me with her strength. She truly can Handle Anything. Even the unimaginable. She is the grown-up version of the Mommy I want to be.

My Mom
The Mother of all Mothers. She is a mother of eight, grandmother of six, registered nurse, and current teacher. Can you think of a better person to turn to for Mommy advice and support? Me neither. That's why I've been known to call her four times a day (and more). As a mom/nurse/teacher, she's seen it all, so nothing shocks or phases her, making her the best person to talk to when you're worried you broke your baby by letting him cry it out, or that your three-year-old must be possessed by some sort of tantrum-throwinging demon. And whenever I have a you're-never-going-to-believe-this story about my kids, she's able to one-up me with a story about one of my brothers or sisters when they were little. It helps to hear, especially when I can look at the mature, responsible, thoughtful, compassionate adults my siblings are today and I can think, "Well, there's still hope for mine..." And it's always nice to be able to share my kids highest achievements, cutest moments, biggest-littlest milestones, with someone I know loves them every bit as much as Sam and I do. I am so thankful for my mom.

Lesson Learned:
I couldn't do this job alone. And I don't have to, thanks to my Circle of Moms. But the ones who really reap the benefits of my CoM, the ones who get to enjoy a well-educated, motivated, de-stressed, energized, Mommy who Knows What To Do!, are the same ones that make every second of this life worth it....
My Three Little Loves...

Today I'm really celebrating you guys...

Happy Mother's Day!