Sentimental Teeth

I knew that parenthood would be a series of sentimental throat punches. I knew I would cry at certain milestones. I wasn’t one of those people who said, “who gets upset by a haircut?” I knew those things would get to me.

But there are things that I was not prepared to feel all mushy and sappy about. I wasn’t prepared to look at outgrown clothes and want to hold on to them even though no one would ever wear them again if I did. I wasn’t ready for seeing a small person in a large backpack. And I surely never expected to become attached to teeth.

TEETH. A human body part.

A couple years ago, we found a little box with teeth in it at my parents’ house. My mom said it was one of our (me or my brothers) baby teeth. We were all entirely grossed out. Why in the WORLD would anyone keep those things? Ew. It’s like having a box of human hair or clipped finger nails lying around. WHY?

But then my own children started losing their baby teeth.

When the dentist told us that Eddie had wiggly teeth three years ago, I felt oddly sad. “First ones in, first ones out,” she said to me about the bottom two. I remembered those two teeth coming in. How it felt like we could feel them in his gums forever until one day…pop!…they both poked through at the same time.

When the first one fell out and Cortney Tooth Fairy-ed it, he handed it to me, “Here. I don’t know what you want to do with this.”

I had fully planned to throw it away because it’s a tooth. But I looked at that tiny chicklet tooth…that baby tooth…and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t throw it out, so I put it in a baggie to deal with later. But later turned into more teeth joining it in that baggie. And an index card with the date each fell out.

Charlie lost his first tooth last week.

AND HE WAS ALL CAPS EXCITED ABOUT LOSING HIS FIRST TOOTH. And so was I! It’s a big deal!

But there was that little twinge of sadness again.

Teething was so so so SO hard on Charlie. He suffered forever before those little things popped through. Teething definitely hit Charlie more than my other two. He got all four front teeth almost simultaneously, but not after long-suffering high fevers, projectile vomit and poops that left him with diaper rash so bad it caused his tiny booty to bleed. We had to get a special prescription butt cream for him that cost somewhere around a million dollars (it was like magic though, and definitely worth the cost).

I spend hours rocking him and soothing him through that horrible teething. He’s a tough little dude and bounced back right after those teeth popped through.

So I did it again. After Cortney tooth fairy-ed, he handed me the tiny chicklet tooth and I put a card in the bag with “right, front bottom–3/26/18” written on it. Then I stuffed that gross tooth bag next to Eddie’s gross tooth bag in my jewelry box.

Someday my kids will find them and be all “ewww. mom! Why?!?”

And I’ll probably just shrug and smile and say, “it seemed like the thing to do.”

More Than a Handful

Dear Charlie Bird,

Yesterday you turned six.

Unfortunately I have my grad class on Tuesday nights this semester which meant I was going to not see you all day. That seemed wrong, so we decided to both play hooky from school and spend the day together before I had to go to class. I took a personal day and excused you from Kindergarten. When you woke me up just after 8am, you had already made a list of how we were going to spend out day that included: breakfast, playing megablocks, relaxing and watching TV, meeting daddy at McDonald’s (the one with the play place) for lunch, getting your free cupcake from Barnes and Noble, and baking your birthday cake.

We did all those things and much more. It was a busy day, but we both agreed it was one of our favorite days in a long, long time.

It’s hard to believe that you are six already. Time flies when you are laughing and screaming and loving and pouting. You started this life as such a mellow kid; I should have known you would be my greatest roller coaster.

This past year has brought lots of changes and growing pains for you. Kindergarten has been wonderful and challenging. You have learned a lot very quickly, and sometimes in the exhaustion of all that learning and growth, your toddler needs for screaming and cuddling sneak out. We find out precious little about your day because you keep things very close to yourself. You refer to kids in your class as “the classmate who I don’t sit by anymore,” rather than giving us names. We have to ask very pointed questions if we want specific info, and even then there is a good chance you will flat out not share with us.

You play your cards very close to your chest and prefer not to be a snitch. Not bad qualities, my son. Just not qualities that I am used to since Eddie and I are so different. Where we verbalize literally everything that comes into our brain, you ponder things for a long time before you speak on them. And even then you may not say anything, more like your daddy than your mom mom.

You are still my lightest, pickiest eater. Some days you refuse foods that I know you like. You like control and I think this is a way you can feel like you have control when nothing else seems sure. I worry about this. Thankfully, you seem to go in phases and I have been assured that for your age this is completely normal. And you seem receptive when the doctors tell you that you need to choose healthful foods if you want to be fit enough for sports–which you love.

This fall you played soccer for the first time and loved it! You are already asking when the next season is. This spring you will play baseball, but you wish it was soccer.

I guess you are what people mean when they say “strong, silent type.” You are a tough kid, yes, but your strength is mostly in personality. You may not give much of yourself away–at least not until you warm up–you definitely have your own sense of humor and style. You have a quick wit and a response to everything. Many times it’s unkind since you refuse to be left speechless.

While your personality and stubborn streak are strong, so is your ability to love. You thrive on closeness and touch and still cuddle up very close to me the way you have ever since you were born. While quiet, that does not mean you don’t need the arms of your mom mom. And your lovies. Your bed is a veritable zoo of lovies–each one special for a different reason. Each one fulfilling a purpose for you.

You are clever and enjoy problem-solving. You like to create new games by drawing game boards, making up rules with cards, making our rubiks cube a die to roll for the game, and so on. You are constantly dreaming up things you can create with recycling that is set out for the bin or bits of paper and endless tape. No seriously, you go through tape like you are getting paid per use. We almost gave you some for Christmas so you would stop using ours.

You love to play games with me, daddy, and Eddie (and even Alice in a pinch, but that never ends well), but you are also very content to play alone with your blocks, Legos, and trucks. You can play with play-doh for hours.

You have a hard time with the word, “no,” as I think most six-year olds do. Heck, even adults struggle with a “no” answer. Being told “no” often triggers very BIG FEELINGS that you are still having a hard time finding a positive outlet for.

Even though you still struggle with verbalizing the Big Feelings that overwhelm you, and sometimes the only words you can find are extremely hurtful, there is no doubt in my mind that you feel loved and a part of this family. The other day I caught you singing a little song that both made me smile and laugh:

I am loved.
I am loved.
I am so loved.
I am loved by my mommy.
I am loved by my daddy.
I am loved by Alice.
I am loved sometimes by Eddie.

Even when my mom is stupid.
Even when my dad is stupid.
Even when Alice is stupid.
Even when Eddie is always stupid.
Even when In am mean and bad…

I am still loved.

You didn’t know I heard you, so I kept my giggles to myself. You are trying out words that you know are hurtful. When you yell them, we ignore you. When you direct them at us, we let you know they are hurtful. But clearly, you know that no matter what you do, we love you so very much.

I love you so fiercely, Charlie. My biggest fear is that you will think that you could do something to separate yourself from my love–because you can’t. I know you test this theory often, but I think you have noticed a pattern–one that always ends in a hug and an “I love you, Charlie Bird.”

And that is what it comes down to: I love you. So much. It is hard being your mom at times. I definitely feel like I fall short of being what you need since your needs seem so mysterious. I hope I am what you need. I hope I am your soft place to land and the support that will always been there for you.

No matter what.

You will always be my buddy. My Charlie Bird.

Happy Birthday, Birdie.

Love,

Mom Mom

Snippets of Time

My favorite part of life is catching a little one-on-one time with each of my kids.

Eddie wants me to be happy. He wants to make me laugh. He loves identifying as a book and writing nerd just like I do. Tonight we cuddled up on the couch to finish a chapter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before he had to go to scouts. He likes to sit close–it’s the only time he wants to snuggle.

At nearly eight-and-a-half he is getting to be so much fun to have discussions with. He is the perfect mix of innocent naivety and old soul. He asks really, really good questions, and he has amazingly wise theories on things.

Tonight, after Alice was in bed, but before Cortney got home from scouts with Eddie, Charlie and I curled up on the couch and watch cat videos together for a half hour.  He wants to be warm, cozy, and safe. At five-and-a-half he still likes to be carried and held. He is fiercely independent, but desperate to remain my baby boy.

Charlie choose me to read his nightly Just Right Library book to each night. Learning to read delights him in ways that fill my heart. Words are beginning to come alive for him, and even though I went through the same thing with Eddie, it’s like Charlie and I now share a secret of some sort.

He watches and sees all. And knows more than you think he does.

Alice is so girly, I almost do not know how to mother her. She loves pink and flowers and twirling and baby dolls. She is my most affectionate child by far with her hugs and “I love you’s”.  She is also incredibly possessive and bossy.

The other morning, though, she was playing “bad guys Legos” with Charlie’s batman action figure and small Lego vehicles making up stories as she went. She is girly, but not afraid to demand everything her brothers have and do.

She hears every word you say. And will repeat it in context and correctly.

Most of the time they are together in some capacity. Most of the time I am refereeing arguments and breaking up fisticuffs.

But the thing is, these three are amazing little people who really love each other more than anything. And I am thankful for each one of them and their individual personalities.

Bedtime

I’m going to miss bedtime over the next five nights.

It can often times get pretty frustrating. We give the kids an hour of wind-down time starting at 6:30pm to get jammies on and watch a couple of shows as a family. Usually we watch Curious George and one other choice. There is often the battle of calming down after a full day.

But then sometimes they do cute things like set up a back-scratching chain in front of Word World, and I am reminded that this time is so fleeting.

And as hard to settle down as they can be, our three goobers are some of the best snuggly relaxers we could ask for.  While they love being wild, they also love being close and cozy.

And it’s that before-bed time routine I will miss over the next five days because as calming as it is for them, it’s a vital part of my day too. I get to just sit, many times with a child plastered to me, but without work or any other distraction from my day.

Cortney and I take turns putting either the boys to bed or Alice. Two nights of each and then switch. When I put the boys to bed, we cuddle into Eddie’s bottom bunk and read books. Charlie generally chooses a book, then we read Harry Potter after that. And then, even though they are eight and five, they still ask me to lay by them, which means I tuck them both in and then I curl up in Eddie’s bottom bunk next to him until they both drift off to sleep.

Is it necessary? No. But I am almost certain our days of this are numbered and I can’t bear to be the one that ends it.

On my nights with Alice, we cuddle up in the glider in her room while her glow worm, Glowie, plays for 10 minutes. In that time she chats and chats and chats about everything. Sometimes she sings to me. Sometimes I sing to her. I always nuzzle my nose into her hair to sniff in the remnants of baby that are left. After Glowie “goes to sleep,” I tell her “two more minutes means two more songs.” Tonight she picked to sing a made up song of Loo Loo Loo’s and La La La’s followed by “Jesus Loves Me” three times.

Then I pick her up, rub noses Daniel Tiger style and say, “I love you, Alice. God Bless you, Alice.” And she smiles and says, “Love you mommy. God Bless Alice.”

I tell her that her daddy will get her in the morning and to have sweet dreams. She rolls to her side and pushes her glow bear’s tummy on.

Yes, my kids have stall tactics and fight bedtime. Yes, Charlie throws major tantrums about brushing his teeth. Yes, Eddie worries and bites his nails about things when he should be sleeping. Yes, Alice thinks she needs one more drink, one more hug, and one more cuddle with one of her babies. It’s rarely perfect.

But it’s ours.

Watching Them Learn

We had parent teacher conferences for both boys this week. I get nervous before parent teacher conferences, I admit it. I’ve been on the teacher side for fifteen years and I never get anxious for that even though I know that I will have to have difficult conversations sometimes. Sitting on the parents side of the conference is a whole different feeling though.

We have not had to have any hard discussions with teachers about our kids, and for that I am thankful. Yes, Eddie has been known to have impulse control issues, and we had a bit of a rough start to Kindergarten with Charlie learning the routine and learning respectful behavior with all adults, but we have been lucky to have two kids who have not had any academic concerns.

That said, I walked out of conferences this year with a whole new respect for elementary teachers.

I’ve always laughed when people have said they think middle school would be the toughest. Yes, it’s a tricky age, but I don’t have the same kids all day teaching them ALL the subjects. I worry about the ELA standards, not ALL the content area standards. Plus I get a guaranteed planning hour every day. I don’t have to work around specials teachers who don’t have their own classroom or recess duty.

As Charlie’s teacher handed us writing, drawing, and math samples from the first term compared to current assessing, I was no less amazed than when we went through this with Eddie. The vast improvement is almost unbelievable at that age. In less than a year, Charlie went from a non-reading little kid, to someone who is reading a little above level and writing words by himself. It’s astounding to me to watch that learning take place.

Then we walked to Eddie’s teacher where we saw social studies scores and math scores and writing samples. He, too, is reading a little above level, and has a fierce love of learning.

Holding a salt dough map of Michigan with all the geography terms labeled smacked me in the face with how much kids learn and grow at this age.

Elementary teachers must be magicians of sort. They literally mold and shape our children’s minds into something totally new throughout the year.

I realize that I probably know more about standards and laws and proficiency and the research about whether to retain or not to retain, about whether homework is actually good for kids than the average parent because it is my job to know these things. However, knowing that stuff and watching it in action with your own children is very, very different.

I know, for instance, that a child’s success in school and college is linked to their ability to read at grade level by third grade and if they are behind then, they may stay behind. I also know that retention solves nothing without intervention. I know a good early childhood education is key and that third grade is the pivotal year.

I know these facts, but I am watching them in motion with my own children and it’s amazing.

 

One of my most favorite parts of being a mom–that I did not foresee when we were in the baby stage–is watching my children learn.

Eddie asks so many questions! Just tonight, he mused, “When I spin my water bottle, why does the water always go down?”

(Of course,  I was tired, so I said, “physics.”)

We went to my district’s fall theater production of Freak the Mighty and he was FULL of questions about language and acting and bullies and books and writing.

Charlie wants to sound out every word! Today he eagerly did all his homework that was supposed to take until Wednesday because he feels so accomplished and proud when he writes whole sentences (with punc-shay-shon, mom mom!) by himself.

He reads his Just Right Library book over and over to anyone who will listen, and almost every night he reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear because he can.

His current favorite game is chess because he loves strategy. HE’S FIVE. HE LOVES STRATEGY.

I would like to say I am proud of my kids–because I am. But here’s the thing: I am actually amazed by them. The things they learn and know and say. The way they think.

Getting to have a front-row seat to that and cheer them on is an honor. It’s an honor to have these small people call me mom.

The Village that Loves Us

The toughness of parenting comes in waves, doesn’t it?

When they are tiny, the difficulty lies in anticipating and knowing their needs. They can’t tell us; they can only cry. As parents we try to distinguish the hungry cry from the tired cry from the pain cry.  We fumble and misunderstand. We cry with them when they are colicky and can’t be soothed. We worry even when the doctor assures us they’ll grow out of it and be fine. We lose sleep over the smallest decisions, wondering “did we choose right? Or will this create trauma or damage?”

In this age of technology we ask Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We ask Google and read blogs and articles–most conflicting each other. We put it out there and read, “ME TOO!” and feel better.

We are not alone with our worries.

And the children grow, and we get comfortable for awhile. For a split second we have a routine.

Then another wave hits.

We are worrying about whether they are eating enough, eating the right things, getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep. Are the tantrums they throw normal or symptomatic of something else? Is their refusal to eat normal or something else? Is their new biting habit normal or something else? How long do we “wait and see” before we should be getting professional help? Seeking tests or evaluations?

We turn online again. We ask those who have been through it.

Sometimes, though, there are things we don’t turn online to investigate because we don’t want to put our worry–our child’s potential struggle–out there for everyone to know about.

We get notes home, phone calls, and complaints about behavior, bad choices, and disrespectful behavior. We cry and wonder where we failed our child. Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices. We didn’t give quick enough consequences. We didn’t talk about respect enough. Something.

Maybe we even vaguebook about how difficult parenting is.

There are a bazillion parenting books out there. Shoot, I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble right now and before I settled in, I browsed. There is an entire section devoted to parenting. There are definitely universal truths in parenting, but none of those books was written specifically with my child in mind. None are uniquely for how to raise Eddie or Charlie or Alice.

Parenting sites and books and even psychologists can give general advice about how to parents certain behaviors and attitudes, but they can’t tell you what to do when you child acts uniquely like themselves.

So when my Charlie is struggling to find his way as a full-time school kid, I struggle with how to be his best mom. I cry a lot. I feel like I am failing him. And I worry about the labels that can stick to a kid because they adhere quickly and are damn near impossible to peel off.

I know this because of my own job.

My Charlie is a puzzle. He is so unlike me. I love him so furiously, but I don’t understand him more than I do, and I know it hurts both of us.

We had a hard start to this week. I did a load of crying.

But then this text came over my phone: “It’s not your job to solve the puzzle, mama. Just be there and love that darling little puzzle. Give yourself some grace.”

I crumbled. It was the first of many supportive notes of love that our village began to surround us with without even knowing the circumstances.

Family, friends, church family, the teachers at Charlie and Eddie’s school…the love and support began to pour in. And that is when I realized, we are going to be Ok. Charlie is going to be Ok.

Because it is impossible to fail when you have a village that savage loving you and supporting you.

I know my kids don’t have much of an idea yet of how lucky they are to be loved by so many. I hope that we can help them to grow and understand the fortune and wealth of love and support they were born into is a great privilege.

I know I was brought to my knees, humbled by the time people took to let me know my family–my little boy–is loved and to remind me that no one is labeling him as anything but “Charlie Bird”.

There are struggles we can expect as parents: battles over meal time, bed time, and bath time. The inevitable push-and-pull of the teenage years. The sex and drugs and rock n roll talks.

But there are other, more personalized struggles we can’t foresee. Thank God for the people he has placed in our lives to hold us through those times.

Thank God for our village.

Graduation Bird

“Why do you think you got so emotional this time?” Cortney asked me after all the kids were tucked into bed. I had to pause before answering because it was true; three years ago when it was Eddie graduating, I didn’t have any tears at the ceremony. I smiled and laughed. This time I also smiled and laughed, but there were tears in my eyes the entire time. And it surprised me.

To be honest, I get waves of tears thinking about Charlie and school ever since he started, but especially since parent/teacher conferences in the fall. I admit to worrying about how Charlie would do in school. I think so much of it is because I never know if I’m being the mom he needs. He’s so very different than I am, and so very different than his older brother. Eddie and I can talk about anything. Eddie asks me questions and we wonder together and process together. Charlie holds a lot inside and then explodes because he just doesn’t know what to do with it all.

It can be scary, actually.

When I feel like I’ve made a mistake or failed as a mom with Eddie, we talk about it. I tell him what I am feeling and we process together. Charlie doesn’t give me that chance. He rages and throws things and screams and says the most hurtful things. And then turns his back and is silent. Eventually I know he’s forgiven me when he will crawl up next to me in the chair and lay his head on my arm, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t put words to what happened.

In the fall, we asked his teacher, “does he throw fits if he doesn’t get his way? Has he ever screamed?”

She looked a bit shocked and totally confused. “No. We have never seen that side of Charlie. He’s a quiet leader and a friend to everyone.”

I almost started crying right then and there.

He thrived in preschool. His teachers loved him and “got” him. Mrs. Y is so very organized and knows the importance–especially at this age–of routine and knowing what to expect each day. She is calm and patient and loves each kid for who they are. She is awesome at playing up their strengths, asking about things they love, and being their cheerleader. Mrs. Y is exactly the kind of preschool teacher everyone wants for their kids. I graduated from high school with her, and she is still exactly the same wonderful, beautiful, awesome person she was then. She just loves what she does and it shows!

And then there is Mrs. C. This was her first year in preschool. Our family already knew her because her older son is both in Eddie’s class at school and in his cub scout den. Her husband is a fellow cub scout leader. What we didn’t know was that she is probably the reason Charlie has grown so much over this past year. Mrs. Y is an excellent teacher, but Mrs. C “gets” Charlie in a way most people (myself included) don’t. They are “cut from the same cloth” as she said once. He tells me that she is funny and he likes talking to her during playtime. They have conversations about which Batman is the coolest and they play the game “Who Would Win” which pits one ferocious animal against another (Lion vs Python) and they have to defend who they think would win.  She get him.

He has become so confident this year. Ever since he was a baby, he has not wanted to actually do something until he was sure he could do it just right. I worried that he would get frustrated in school, but with the help of his teachers, the opposite has happened. I can see the world opening up to him as he learns all the letters and their sounds. He is suddenly noticing that all the words in his books SAY SOMETHING. He spells by sound and stands up a little taller when he gets it right. I can see the wheels turning in his head and his mouth feeling the sounds before he announces, “D-O-G spells DOG!”

I knew Eddie would be a natural fit for school: he makes friends easily, loves to be around kids, is outgoing and eager to participate, and wants to make the people in his life happy and proud. Charlie is just different. He’s more reserved, prefers the company of adults, can be stubborn (so very stubborn), and is just not very verbal. So the entire experience was different.

But my tears last night still caught me by surprise. I think it, again, boils down to how different my boys are. Three years ago, Eddie was excited to get up on that stage and sing his heart out. He was excited to be the center of attention. He was excited for what Kindergarten would bring.

Charlie, on the other hand, has a really hard time with transitions. For a week or so now, knowing preschool was coming to an end, brought fits and rages at home. Only once did he say to me, “you can’t make me be done with preschool. I will go forever,” but I am pretty sure all the nonverbal fit-throwing has been part of his transition. We saw this when his first daycare mom closed her business and he had to change. We saw it a month before preschool started. And we are seeing it now that preschool is ending. My boy does not like change.

I brought him over to his class last night before the program while Cortney and my parents found us seats. He didn’t sit by his class, rather he hovered in a doorway while I talked to Mrs. Y. When I went to tell him I was going to sit down, he did something very un-Charlie: he grabbed me in a big hug and pleaded with me not to leave him. “I’m scared, Mom Mom.” My boy who never expresses his feelings looked me in the eyes and told me his big feelings and I had to fight back the tears and the urge to sit on that stage with him.

The whole time he was turning my necklace pendant over in his hands. He calls it an egg and loves to hold it when I wear it and feel its smooth surface. It’s removable, so I unclasped it and said, “how about you hold on to this for me in your pocket during the program.” His eyes got big and he said, “So it will be like you will be with me and I will be brave.” Again the wave of tears threatened. He gets so much more than he ever lets on.

“That’s right,” I said and I hugged him again. “I’m going to go sit by Daddy and everyone. I’ll see you out there, Buddy.” He nodded and fingered the pendant in his breast pocket.

He sang all the songs and said all the poems.

When it was time for him to walk and get his “diploma”, my mom bet me five bucks he wouldn’t smile. It was a decent bet. When nervous, Charlie is almost incapable of smiling. But the minute he walked through the door with his little cap on, he had a big grin on his face. My mom said it was the best five bucks she ever lost.

Congratulations, Charlie. We are so SO proud of you and all you have accomplished this school year. We are excited to see what Kindergarten will bring. Way to go, Bird Man!

Five Alive

Dear Charlie Bird,

Today you are five. We had this conversation recently:

Me: Charlie! Next week you will be FIVE!
You (holding up all five fingers on one hand): I’ll be a whole handful!
Me: Oh buddy, you’ve been a whole handful for quite some time now.
You: Well then I will be a whole MIT-FULL!

Buddy, you have been my least easy child. And I say this with all the love in the world, my Birdie. You started this life in a sleepy, easy way. You spent your first year as a cuddly little guy who loved his sleep and who was super easy going. By the time you were two, you were very stubborn, did things your way, and communicated in screams and outbursts. Your feelings have grown so big that sometimes your small body just cannot contain them.

Now that you are five, you are starting to be able to vocalize those feelings. Your fits are fewer and your words, hugs, and helpfulness is plenty.

You tend to be reserved when you are in a new place, preferring to hang back and observe. Once you’ve warmed up, you are pretty independent, choosing to play on your own because you can have full control that way. You get along with other kids, you are just quieter and prefer to do your own thing.

You and Eddie can play super nice together, especially as you get older and you are not just a pesky little brother, but an actual playmate to him. However he is bossy and you like to do things your way which can lead to some fierce disagreements. The one person who you seem to have the most patience for is Alice. Yes, she can bug you from time to time when she wants to play with the cars you just set up in perfect rows, but if she seems interested in what you’re doing, you gladly make room for her. And when she asks you to play babies or tea party with her, you get everything set up and help her have fun.

She learns so much from you. Miss Carolyn even tells us that she watches you at daycare and will only eat her lunch if you are eating yours first. She looks up to both you and Eddie, but Eddie is more of her helper where you are the one she wants to play with and learn from. You two have a special bond I never would have guessed would happen, but that I hope will last forever.

You started Preschool this year! I admit I was nervous about how school would go for you. You go four afternoons a week. Because of your tantrums and lack of patience with yourself, Daddy and I braced ourselves for phone calls telling us you were under a table or in a closet and wouldn’t come out. But it never happened.

School has been probably the best thing that has happened to you. You love it and you are thriving! I know the fact that you have amazing teachers who love you help, but you, my Charlie, have been a natural. Your teachers tell us you are a “quiet leader” who always does the right thing. You struggle a little with writing (you are a leftie like daddy), but you know all your letters and their sounds and are ready to start sound-spelling! You catch on very quickly to anything with numbers; you can count to over a hundred!

You are most obsessed right now with Batman! You love dressing like him and having Batman everything! We even did a Batman birthday theme for you and Alice’s party (well, she had Mini Mouse). I probably shouldn’t read too much into it, but I feel like Batman fits you well. He also likes to be in control and have cool gadgets to tinker with. I can see why you are drawn to him. Plus he wears a cool mask, and I know wearing a mask helps you feel less “seen”, which is more comfortable for you.

You and Daddy are a lot of like in many ways, but you and I have a pretty close bond. I’ve finally figured out that I can’t make you talk about something you don’t want to talk about–very much like your Dad Dad. When you are feeling BIG FEELINGS, the best thing I can do is just sit next to you. Sometimes you want me to hold you and hug you, but most of the time you just want me there. At your birthday party this weekend, you didn’t get your way about something and you flipped out. You went into Alice’s room to have a fit, and I came in and just sat on the floor while you whined and tantrumed. Eventually you got quiet and I asked you, “Do you want me to make you a plate of food?” And you wiped your eyes and said, “will you sit by me?” And that was that. I did sit by you, but only for a few minutes. Then you were comfortable with all the people in our house and you were great!

You are intensely loyal and loving. For such a small, quiet guy, you are fierce with your love. When you are happy, you are very happy. When you are tired, hungry, or hurt, you are very cranky. I’ve learned that you can become overwhelmed by too much of anything. You need quiet, alone time. You need someone to just be there. You need to know you can count on your family.

I try to make sure you know always that you are safe and loved.

You can break my heart and heal my heart like no one else, my Charlie. Your words are hilarious and wise beyond your five years. I never want to forget how you say that you’re “halmost” done or you’re “halready” done or that you love everything “becept” something. Or how you make your army guys “HATTACK!”

I love how you like random things like egg cartons and pretty stones. I love that you can line up army guys on your fire truck for over an hour and make up dialogues and scenarios with them. I love the way people think you’re not paying attention, but you are paying attention to every word said.

I love the way you jam out to Kidz Bop in the car and announce that every song is your 56th favorite song or your 4th favorite song or your 15th favorite song. I wouldn’t put it past you to actually have a mental list of all the songs you love.

I love your big feelings. All of them. I love that you say to me, “You are the best Mom Mom” and I know you mean it. Even on days when you are having lots of negative feelings, I know that at the end of the day, you want to cuddle up to me before bed because I play with your hair and do the voices in your favorite books.

I love that you know Eddie better than Eddie knows himself and that you pronounce his name, “Uddie”.  I love your love for your little sister and that you call her “Beans” like Daddy does.

I love your love of cuddly comfy clothes and cozy blankets and warm spots. I love that you love chocolate more than anything in the world.

But most of all, I just really love you. All of you: the easy parts and the difficult parts, the sunny parts and the cloudy parts. You are my best Bird.

I hope your 5th birthday is wonderful!

Love,
Mom Mom

Courage in a Batman Costume

“We will let them be who they are,” we once said to each other as we talked about future children. “We will not try to make them someone they are not. We will celebrate and love each of them for exactly who they are.”

This past Sunday morning, our church had their annual Christmas service that was led by the youth and young children of our church. I love this service. It takes place during our normal 10am Sunday morning church service time rather than make it separate. It follows the liturgy of our regular morning service as well, but it is all led by the children.

Naturally, Eddie loves this service too because he loves to participate and be in front of people. He has always sung in the children’s choir, and last year he had a part as one of the shepherds. This year, he was very excited to join the mostly 4th and 5th graders as one of the narrators of the Christmas story. He read so clearly and was so brave. My heart filled with pride and love for this little boy who knows he has the gift of reading and sharing with others. It’s such an honor to be his mother and watch as our church family helps him nurture these talents.

Charlie is a much different little boy than his older brother. He is quiet–even a bit shy. He does not like to be in front of church at all. Even for the Children’s Message when the little kids go to the front to sit on the floor for a little pow wow during church. No one can really even see the kids, but he won’t do it.

In Sunday school though, just like in preschool, he is very attentive. He loves to sing and because he is so retentive, he learns all the songs and even the motions very quickly. But he doesn’t like to stand up in front of church or have people look at him while he does it.

When the children were told they were going to sing their Christmas songs in front of church and get to wear costumes, Charlie’s first reaction was, “I will be Batman!” He had been Batman for Halloween and he fell in love with the costume. It gave him such confidence to join in with other kids when he was wearing it, and even walk right up to houses to trick or treat–something he didn’t like to do in the years before.

We told him that Batman wasn’t really a Christmas costume. That the costumes available would probably be angels and shepherds and sheep and maybe a cow or donkey. He was resolute that he was going to be Batman.

On the Saturday before the program, we showed up to church for rehearsal. Eddie felt confident of his reading, but Charlie clung to my leg and didn’t want to join the other kids. We went over to look at the available costumes and he shook his head at each angel costume, shepherd’s cloak, or fluffy sheep footies. He wanted to be Batman.

I finally told him it was Ok if he didn’t want to wear any of the costumes. I wouldn’t make him. He went off with the other kids to the sanctuary for practice and I went downstairs to the church kitchen to help prepare for the Christmas Tea that was going to be served after the program on Sunday. When I came back up, I found out that Charlie had refused to practice since he wasn’t Batman.

Sunday morning came. Eddie got all dressed up in his Sunday best, and Charlie talked about how he really wanted to sing with the kids. He wanted to wear a costume. His Batman costume. He couldn’t sing if he didn’t wear his Batman costume.

So.

We let him.

He brought smiles to many faces. No one turned up their nose or made any rude comments. Everyone loved his costume because they all love my Charlie. The costume wasn’t worn for attention or because Charlie was trying to be silly. He wore it because it gave him confidence. He felt brave.

He is brave.

He stood up with the kids and sang the songs, and twirled his ribbon, and did a fabulous job.

And he knew he was loved.

There Should Be More Here

This year is getting away from me. I look back on what I’ve written this year and I am sad because it’s not more. There should be more. More Eddie being a 2nd grader and saying amazing things. More Charlie being in preschool and transforming before our eyes. More of Miss Alice,our last baby, doing toddler things.

Eddie continues to show that he has a soft heart for others. He is my little activist. He worries about kids who might not have food, shelter, or warm coats this winter. He wonders out loud about the kindness of our country and world leaders. I find things like this in his massive stack of doodle and “crafts”:

That is a football they are tossing around, by the way.

When I found a pile of winter coats, hats, and mittens that don’t fit Eddie or Charlie anymore, Eddie wanted to find kids who needed them and just give them. He didn’t want them to have to buy them at Goodwill. Because of that idea of his, our family has decided to collect winter gear at church and donate all of it to the our local Community Action House who will get them straight to people who need them most.

Yesterday I was giving Alice a bath and Cortney and Charlie were downstairs. It was very quiet in the living room; all I could hear was the TV on the news. Because I didn’t want to leave Alice alone in the tub, I called out, “Eddie?”

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Watching the news.”

“Is it boring?”

“No. It’s interesting.”

This kid. Interested in the news, caring about others, and just this month he was awarded his Duty to God awards, a hiking beltloop, and some prizes for selling so much popcorn for cub scouts. I’m just so proud of him. And he treats his little sister like this:

I was nervous about how Charlie would do with preschool. He has such a temper and a penchant for, um, stripping when he is super mad at us. But this fall at parent/teacher conferences, his teacher told us that he is a “quiet leader” who is always first to sit nicely on the carpet, follows directions to a tee, and listens so well he always has the right answer. I just sat blinking.

His tantrums have slowed considerably–in fact we only see them when he is really tired or hungry or we are rushing him. He likes to do things at his own speed, in his own way. If he is left to himself, he is incredibly mature for a four-year old.

He proudly folds towels and cleans the boys’ bathroom downstairs. He helps with food prep when he can, and picks up without being asked if you leave him to it. He also works hard to make his little sister laugh and smile.

He has become my cuddle bug lately. It almost feels like he knows he’s growing up, so he wants to keep as much little as possible by tucking himself next to me as much as he cane. He is so proud of what he accomplishes, but still wants to stay my littlest guy.

Unlike Eddie who will talk all about what kids did at recess or what kids are singing on the playground, Charlie will rarely tell me about the kids in his class–but he knows all their names. He will tell me what letter he worked on, what he learned, what station he got to do that day. He will be quick to tell me if he was able to be a helper–his favorite.

He also never wears socks if he doesn’t have to. If he comes in your house, shoes come off, but so do the socks. Every time.

My baby girl is shedding the “baby” more each day. She is definitely finding her voice around here. When her brothers are wrestling around or being loud, she puts a little hand out and yells, “TOP! BSS! TOP!” (Stop, boys! Stop!)

She asks for “milky” and “bankie” (blankie). She calls her pacifier a “boppy” just like Charlie did.  She can ask for “buks” (books) and “babees” (babies). She delights at seeing herself on video. She waves “hi” and “bye” and when the phone rings she said, “heh yo.” (hello).

She calls for “MOMMA MOMMY MOMMA MOOOOOMMMAAA!!!” which her brothers never did at this age. She has figured out how to say “Dad dee” quite regularly though too and it’s adorable the way she makes Cortney melt all over the floor with her little voice saying “hi dad dee. hi.”

My favorite thing is how her bedtime routine with me is right now. We rock and she likes me to sing. But she doesn’t know how to say “sing” so she just cuddles in and softly says, “peez, momma. peez,” and that is my cue to start singing. When I finish one song, if I don’t go directly into another (or repeat that same one), she will say, “peez,” again. Even when I think she is completely out, she will whisper, “peez,” from behind that little green pacifier of hers. When I pause and don’t get a “peez” I know I can kiss her and lay her down without a fuss.

She is our hugger, our kisser, and our fancy girl. She loves babies and dresses and pretty bracelets and necklaces and purses. She loves to imitate her brothers and her dad and especially me.

Other than her love of being close and cuddly, it’s sort of like she doesn’t know she’s little. She bosses people and demands things, but she does it with a little “peez” and hands out, you just can’t resist her! I’m doing my best not to spoil her, but my goodness! Look at that face!

These kids are keeping us so busy…maybe that is why I have not written enough. But I do regret it. I have this space and I want to fill it.

Our lives are full: Eddie is busy with scouts, I am busy with scouts as the Religious Emblems Coordinator, Cortney is busy with bowling and consistory (he’s a deacon now). Charlie and Alice are busy being little. Eddie is crazy busy getting older and more dependable. School keeps three of us busy. In fact, I just registered to (re)take the GRE (because it’s been over 5 years since I last took it) so I can apply for a PhD program next year.

But I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to post here.

Because we also have snow days like today, when Eddie made his very first snow man all by himself:

Stuff like that deserves to be recorded because look at that face! And Eddie is cute too!

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