Adventures in Chicago

Since Charlie’s birth Cortney and I have been talking about taking Eddie away for an adventure with just us–free of his little brother. Every time we planned something, it fell through due to sickness.  Luckily, we were able to make it happen this year over spring break.

We planned a trip to Chicago.  Eddie knows about Chicago and he knows my best friend and her little family live there. We have a book called Goodnight, Chicago that we have read since he was very small, so he knows a lot of the major attractions that are there. The plan was that Charlie would go to daycare on Friday and get picked up by my mom for the weekend.  We would take Eddie on the road and not tell him where we were taking him.

But I really suck at keeping fun secrets, so I spilled the beans a couple days before the trip.

His reaction did not disappoint.

This was his calmed down excited face.

This was his calmed down excited face.

We talked and talked about it. He asked a million questions.

The last time he stayed in a hotel he was just a year old, so he didn’t remember. He wanted to know if he should bring his entire bed. He wanted to know if Chicago had roads and bathrooms. He wanted to know if we should pack our pans and bowls and forks.

This was going to be fun.

Friday Charlie went to daycare like planned (after I gave him a million hugs and kisses), and the rest of us headed for Chi Town. Eddie was an excellent rider. Cortney loaded up his tablet with a few movies, but Eddie was mostly happy listening to Kidz Bop and asking a million questions.  Plus he only needed to stop to pee twice in the almost three-hour drive.

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Since we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3pm, we drove straight to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Even though he was a good passenger and we all had some snacks on the drive, it was past our lunch time, so some of us had no interest in seeing animals first thing.

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So after taking a quick peek at the pink flamingos, we headed straight for lunch. Again, Eddie did a fantastic job of patiently waiting in line even though I knew he was totally hungry. And when I asked him if he wanted chips or an apple with his ham and cheese sandwich, he chose an apple. He’s a good kid.

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Everyone was much happier after sandwiches were in tummies, so we headed out to see the animals.

Eddie was not as impressed as I thought he would be. He would take a glance and then say, “can we move on?”

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He wasn’t all that impressed with the huge giraffes or hippos or rhinos.  Cortney and I could have stood and watched some of these animals for quite a while, but Eddie was mostly uninterested.  Even the camels who were wiggling their humps couldn’t grab his attention for more than a “cool”.

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The Ape House was one of the only places he really loved to sit and watch. The gorillas were amazing. It was feeding time and they all came so close to the window. There were even a couple tiny baby gorillas. Eddie sat in one of the windows to watch, but jumped a mile when the big daddy gorilla came too close for his liking.

We didn’t get to all the animals in the zoo because Eddie got a splinter and threw a minor fit, so we decided it was time to motor to the hotel. Eddie was excited to see what the hotel would be like anyway.

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After the zoo we were going to meet my bestie and her hubby and baby for dinner, but the baby wasn’t feeling too well, so the Sluiters did dinner on our own. We went to the Weber Grill which was only a block from our hotel. It was the first time we ever took Eddie to a restaurant where the napkins were actual linens.  He was very impressed, and said, “oops, they gave me two forks. I’ll share with you, mom.”

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They had a REALLY nice kid’s menu and Eddie dug right in. He was super impressed with the fruit, broccoli, and tots. He was less impressed with the mac n cheese…probably because it was deliciously homemade and not from a box. I was very pleased with Eddie’s restaurant behavior. He was super polite and did a great job eating up his dinner. He even got a chocolate chip cookie sundae at the end of the meal.

When we got back to the hotel Eddie was crawling up the walls with the desire to get in the pool.  So Cort suited up and the boys swam for a big hour before it was time to get ready for bed.

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Our room was a studio suite, so we had a kitchenette area, a living area with a pull-out couch for Eddie and a separate bedroom/bathroom for us. After that huge day, he tried to tell us at 9pm (which was 10pm our time, a full 2.5 hours after his normal bedtime), that he wasn’t tired. But the yawning started and sleep wasn’t too far after that.

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On Saturday morning, we had breakfast and headed to Shedd Aquarium. Because there is no good public transportation other than a taxi, we decided to drive our own car, park at Soldier Field and walk to the aquarium. The weather was perfect.

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The line was sort of long to get in, but as far as what I expected on a Saturday morning, it wasn’t too bad. The wind was really strong though and the radar showed storms north, so we were happy when we made it inside.

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Eddie was less interested in the aquarium than he was the zoo. I felt sort of bad, but I realized about 20 minutes in that he is more of a hands on DO-ER than a walk around and LOOK-ER. Anytime there were screens to scroll through the fish in a particular tank and look at their food/habitats, he found it and swiped through while Cort and I tried to get a look.

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Again he got pretty crabby and asked to leave a million times so he could swim in the hotel pool rather than walk around an aquarium. We had lunch and things got a bit better. He liked watching the dolphins and seeing the jelly fish and beluga whales and sharks. Ok he was actually sort of scared of the sharks.

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When it was time to leave he chose a tiger shark to take home, and then asked if we could get a beluga whale for Charlie.  It was very sweet. Everywhere we went that was set up for four (mostly in restaurants), he would comment on how the empty seat was for Charlie. I know he missed his brother and felt a little off without him.

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After the aquarium it was only just afternoon, so Eddie begged me to go swimming, and I did. Barely. I really don’t love to swim in hotel pools and so when Cort got back from a frappaccino run for me, he got in the pool with Eddie and I chatted with a nice couple from Indiana who have two little boys as well.

Around 4:30 Eddie said he was ready to be done and maybe get dinner. I asked him what he wanted and he said, “pizza and an apple.”  He can be pretty specific.

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While Eddie munched his apple, Cortney and I decided on some pizza joints to check out. Once Eddie was done and we ventured out, we nixed all our plans for Chicago Pizza since I don’t even like deep dish and the wait is like a million years or something.  Instead, we went to California Pizza Kitchen where Eddie could get a cheese and black olive pizza.

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And Cortney could try a new beer (Brooklyn Local 1)…

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And I could get a nice beverage too.  Eddie again was awesome–even chatting up our waiter–and earned himself yet another sundae.

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After dinner we decided to walk two blocks to a new/used book store Cort spotted from our hotel room. I took Eddie to the children’s books with the intention of buying him one with my saved money. Then I found out something awesome about Cort: if he drinks a REALLY big beer with his dinner, he will treat us ALL TO BOOKS!  So Eddie picked out The Diggingest Dog for himself and Little Gorilla for his brother. Cort found himself a Neil Young book and I got Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

We then walked the block back to our hotel.

Eddie was bummed that it was getting too late for more swimming, but we appeased him by popping some popcorn and watching Animal Planet’s “Too Cute” with him.

At 8pm I read him our chapter in Charlotte’s Web, but he fell asleep before I could finish.

Eddie had a great time on his adventure, though he says if we go again he would like more time in the pool…and maybe have his brother along.

That made me happy, because I missed The Bird like crazy.

But it was a good trip. It was good for us to hear everything Eddie had to say without a toddler stealing our attention. It was fun to make a weekend all about Eddie–we learned a lot about him, and were amazed all over again that less than six years ago it was just the two of us…and just five years ago we were on the verge of parenthood.

At one point I nodded to Eddie scarfing his sundae and smiled at Cort saying, “we made that.”

“Yeah. It’s pretty neat,” he replied.

filling space

I fell asleep on the couch Sunday afternoon after struggling with more GI bug issues. Apparently it’s a county-wide issue. I was blessed with it not once, but twice. Awesome.

Anyway, I fell asleep on the couch Sunday.

I always lie on my side with my legs bent at the knee.

Tucked in that space that my bent legs make, Eddie snuggles himself in and under my blanket to watch a movie quietly.

That is where he always fits, into the space I leave open.

If I am in the chair, he somehow finds his way up there too, even though he has long outgrown being two in that chair. But I can’t kick him out. This chair is where “we” began.

And so he fills any space that is left. His long legs sprawled over my lap, his head finding my shoulder.

When I put him to bed, we read a chapter book–right now it’s Winnie the Pooh. A chapter a night. Sometimes two if he asks really nice because I can’t say no to just one more chapter.

Once the light goes off, and our chatting stops, his breath becomes heavy and regular and he rolls into me, again filling the space.

When I am sitting on the couch, so is he…up against me so close there is no room for space. It’s instinctive to him to fill up any space between us.

When he was an infant, there was a lot of space between us, so much so that I sought help.

That was four years ago.

He was almost a year old.

I spent his whole first year putting distance between us because I was sick. But I didn’t have GI issues. Nope, I had brain issues.

Medication and therapy helped but it was a long road.

Now each time I noticed him right by my side, I smile because he doesn’t remember. He has no recollection of our hard start. What he knows is that his mom is his safe place–his protection from bears in his nightmares, as he says.

What he also doesn’t know is that he is my safe place too.

Every time I look at him I think of how far I have come and how I am so SO lucky to have him as my boy.

Sunday Drive: The Preschooler Questions it All

Mommy? Can boys have ponytails?

It was quiet other than the Kidz Bop version of “What Does the Fox Say” playing in my car and the soft sound of Eddie singing along. In the space between that song and the next, his question floated into the front seat.

It muted the sound on the CD player.

Yes. I mean, if their hair is long enough for one of course. Why do you ask?

Eddie has always been curious about what is for boys and what is for girls. Every time I think we do a good job of getting him to understand that you can like whatever you want regardless of your gender, he comes back with more questions. I know this is because society (and the kids he plays with) tells him a different message than Cortney and I do.

Because kids say only girls can have ponytails.

It seems like at least once a week he is questioning some sort of gender stereotype. While sometimes I feel frustrated that he seems sad that something he loves if for girls, I am glad he keeps asking.

Well that is not true!  Your uncle Chris had really long hair when he was a teenager and he wore it in a ponytail sometimes.  And LOTS of rock stars have long hair they wear in ponytails. 

Eddie likes quite a few things that other kids might deem “girl stuff.” He likes the color pink sometimes (his favorite color changes with the day). He likes princesses; in fact one of his favorite movies is Cinderella. He has a doll. He likes to choose “girl” temporary tattoos. He thinks ponytails are pretty (he gets that from his dad) and told me once that a girl in his class had the prettiest two ponytails “in the wide world”.

But not all rock stars, right? Some have short hair like me. Sometimes kids laugh at things I like and say it’s for babies or for girls.

Eddie has also been worried about kids laughing at him.

This breaks my heart, but I know it’s normal. He wants kids to like him and he is afraid if they are laughing at him (or his choices) they won’t like him.

Well that isn’t very nice of them. When did something like that happen?

At school N– said that my tattoo is because I like baby bears. Pink baby bears.

I don’t see how baby bears is a baby thing OR a girl thing. If you like it, it’s a YOU thing.

He was quiet for a while after that. I know he was just thinking.  For as much as he chatters on and on to me, I know he is thinking even more. Rolling things over in his mind trying to find meaning and peace.

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I changed the subject.

So what character do you want to be for Wednesday at school? Which book character are you going to dress up as?

He was quick to answer.

I said I want to be Leo Lionni.

I smiled. What four-year old has a favorite author rather than character? My four-year old, that’s who.

Right, Eddie, but you are supposed to dress up like someone from one of his books that he wrote. Did you still want to be one of the dots from that Blue and Yellow story you read at school?

There was a pause.

Will kids laugh at me?

My stomach fell all the way to my seat. Why did he worry about these things? Did kids really laugh at him?  His teacher said all the kids liked him and that he was a leader. Was he just mistaken? Did he not believe he was good enough? Good grief, did my four-year old have low self-esteem??

Honey, why would they laugh at you? It’s a very creative idea!

Kids just laugh sometimes. I don’t want to be laughed at.

Are you sure they aren’t just smiling because they LIKE you and your ideas? Sometimes kids laugh when they think things and people are really cool. 

And then he must have tired of the subject because he started talking about the game he is currently obsessed with on Cortney’s tablet. Something about a farm.

The next day I picked up green posterboard (he decided to be the Green Dot from Little Blue and Little Yellowand Cortney and I constructed a sandwich board green dot for Eddie.

leo lionni green dot

He was a hit! His teacher thought it was very clever and creative, and I loved it because it was the easiest costume ever.

And nobody laughed at my buddy.

This is how our Sunday drives home from church go. We drive separately because we have Sunday School, and somewhere between church and the Starbucks drive through, Eddie’s thoughts pour out.

He asks all the questions and gives his theory on all the things from how great it would be to have coffee/hot chocolate with just me INSIDE Starbucks, to how he wonders what people look like in heaven.

Sometimes his questions break my heart, but each day I pray that he always feels comfortable enough with me to ask.

And I hope he knows that I will never, ever laugh at him.

Excuse Me, But Your Pants Are On Fire

At four years and eight months, Eddie told a lie.

His first as far as we know.

He lied about finishing his chicken at dinner so he could be done and play Super Mario Bros.  He got up from the table, brought his plate to the counter next to the sink, and went to sit on the couch as we finished up.

Cortney saw it first because I was still sitting at the table so that Charlie wouldn’t be left alone.

“Ed, why is there still chicken on your plate?”

Eddie’s eyes got huge. His face dropped in extreme disappointment. He was caught. And he felt terrible.

He began to cry huge apologetic tears.

“I’m so sorry I lied to you!” he bellowed as he walked into the kitchen, took his plate from the counter, carried it back to his seat, sat down, and sadly ate every last piece of chicken. “I will never ever lie again! I am so sorry!”

We hadn’t said a word.

Later that night at bedtime, of course, he apologized again.  I never doubted his remorse.

And then today (Sunday) it happened again.

We were having lunch at Cortney’s sister and brother-in-law’s house to celebrate their youngest’s baptism. Eddie wanted another slice of cheese, but Cortney had told him he first needed to finish his piece of ham.

Eddie made big announcements that he had finished it and he could now have more cheese and would we please bring him more cheese.

Cortney brought him more cheese, just to find out Eddie had hid  his ham in his hands.

Tonight we had a discussion about truthfulness and honesty at dinner.  He told us that “bad guys tell lies,” so we asked him if he thought of himself as a bad guy.

“NO!” he said.

“We don’t think you’re a bad guy either, Eddie. You are our kind, helpful, Eddie.  And you’re a Sluiter.  Sluiters are honest.  Do you know why?”

“Why?”

“Because we love each other and we love others. Lying hurts people. We don’t want to hurt people.”

“Ok, mom.”

And we left it at that.

I know it’s a phase. I know it’s his way of feeling around for being independent–trying out being his own person.

We need him to do that. It’s important he learns the difference between honesty and lying. And it’s important that we get to be the ones to talk to him about it.

But oh my heart. I don’t feel like I am ready for this.

I’m just not ready for my Best Eddie to tell me untruths. I’m just not prepared for him to begin hurting my heart one hidden piece of ham at a time.

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Do you have experience with this? How do you talk about the importance of honesty with your kids?

Oh, and you have only ONE more day to throw your name in the hat for a FREE pair of Juil shoes!

 

A Date

A couple weeks before Christmas, Eddie and I had a shopping/lunch date.

He had been asking about choosing gifts for his daddy and brother, and had really wanted to get lunch in a restaurant, so I suggested a mommy/son outing. He was thrilled about the idea.

I have to admit, I was a little excited to get out of the house with a little buddy by my side to, yet I tried to be realistic about how much we could accomplish before he got sick of it all.

We decided to do our shopping first.

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We decided to look for something for Cort first, so I asked Eddie what he thought his daddy would like. That is when Eddie started talking and never really stopped.

He had no idea what to get for Cortney. He held everything in the Men’s department at Target. Hats and jammie pants and t-shirts and Christmas undies and superhero undies–complete with a cape. He just couldn’t decide.

“Mommy, whatever you like we can get for daddy.”

“Eddie, this is your gift to daddy. You get to choose.”

“Hmm. Maybe this Mutant Turtles shirt? I really really like this shirt, Mommy.”

“Um. Well. I mean, you like the shirt, but I’m not sure it’s daddy’s style.”

And we went on like that for a bit until Eddie saw a brown shirt with a bear on it, decided it was hilarious (it wasn’t), and that daddy needed it. So that was it.

Until we moved on to picking something out for his brother. Oh my goodness. He looked at every. single. item in the toy section of Target. It was so hard to think about his brother when there was just so much he  wanted.

Eventually Eddie found a Vtech airport that was about $10 over our spending limit. He wanted Bird to have it so badly that he grabbed my hand and said, “but mommy, I have so many tracks and cars and Birdy has NONE. Can we PLEASE get this for him? He will LOVE it!” Then he kissed my hand.

Call me a softy, but into the cart it went.

Then it was time for lunch.

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We went to Russ’, a local favorite that is very diner-ish.

This was the first time Eddie and I had ever gone to lunch just the two of us. Up until then, he always had someone sitting next to him in a booth; this time he had the whole side to himself and he LOVED it.

“Mommy, what should we talk about?  How about the weather or those cars out there?”

Our booth was right next to the window so we could see the swirling snow and the rushing traffic. Eddie had a comment for everything and discussed coloring and school and superheroes all while deciding what to have for lunch.

He eventually chose the hot dog with fries and a peach and ordered it all by himself.

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With his crazy hat hair and ketchupy smile, he told me about school and friends and his teachers and playing at daycare. He told me about his favorite things and what scares him when it’s dark in his room. He asked me for the millionth time about heaven and gave me his philosophy on how our family needs a baby sister.

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And we even ordered dessert–peppermint pie–because that is what you do when you are out with mommy by yourself for lunch.

The waitress was impressed with his manners and his friendliness.  I was impressed with how much he has grown up.

He’s four and a half.

I blinked at how quickly four and a half years flew by and left this opinionated, chatty boy across a booth table from me. Where once there was a colicky baby, there was now a goofy little boy.

There was a time when I refused to leave the house alone with Eddie. I just couldn’t do it. I was too afraid…too anxious…too weak. I resented him and his colic and his refusal to nap and just be a “good baby”.

That seems like a lifetime ago.

But it was just four and a half years.

Everyone was right…it didn’t last.

Sometimes I miss it.  Not the colic. Not the anxiety about the colic. Not the depression.  But all that time.

All that time when I could have made different choices, responded differently.

But then I shake my head and look in front of me at the huge smile of a little four and a half year old boy. One who looked at me no fewer than a dozen times during our shopping/lunch trip and said spontaneously, “I love you mommy.”

On our way out of the restaurants, an older gentleman stopped Eddie and said, “Hey there, young man. Did you take your mom out for lunch today?”

Eddie proudly answered, “Yup! I even got her dessert!”

I can’t help but smile when I am with him.

He makes my world so happy.

I think we have a new tradition.

working for a living

I can tell already that Eddie is a To Do List kind of guy.

The look of someone who has successfully checked off a whole To Do List

The look of someone who has successfully checked off a whole To Do List

He likes to hold any list we make when we go to the store, although he doesn’t make the best “reader of the list” since he tends to make stuff up when you ask him what’s next.

We have used charts for things like potty training and staying in bed and so forth. A while ago we introduced him to a responsibility chart (not an affiliate link, I just like this product). We used it for things like getting dressed by himself, brushing his teeth daily, saying please and thank you, showing respect, etc. He liked this because each night before bed we would go down the list and put smile faces by the things he remembered.

After a while though, his behavior was great (most of the time) despite whether we remembered to do the smile faces or not.  It was time for a new challenge.

Eddie is four years old and has been asking a lot about how much things in the store cost. He can read the numbers, so he often will try to read the cost, and he is beginning to understand that a few cents is not as much money as a few dollars.  Often at bedtime he will ask Cortney if he can buy a new book for the tablet, but Cort explains to him that they cost money that isn’t in the budget. Sometimes he IS allowed to choose a book, but we give him a budget. Eddie has noticed the money signs by each book and knows that anything over $2.99 is off limits.

Because the smile face routine was getting old (and we would forget to do it), and Eddie was interested in how much money things were, we figured it was time that he earn some of his own money and learn about saving and spending.

When school started this year, we took down all the “responsibilities” on his chart that should be intrinsic and not paid to do (show respect, apologize, etc) and replaced them with tasks like putting his laundry in his basket, making his bed, taking his dishes to the sink, etc.

Responsibility Chart

We explained to him that now that he is in school, he could learn to earn, save, and spend some money.  For each day that he gets a smile face next to EVERY TASK, he gets a quarter. Pay day is Saturday at bedtime.

He loved this idea.

Each week he has the potential to earn 7 quarters ($1.75 for those of you slow at the math).

The first thing he told me he was going to buy was something for Charlie.  What a guy!

I found him a little plastic mug to keep his quarters in by his bed, and away we went with the new plan.

Responsibility Chart

The first week he was so excited that he did everything eagerly and earned all seven quarters.  Since then we have had him earn as few as three quarters, but there have definitely been more full weeks than I thought there would be.

His little mug is filling up and at least once a week we dump them out and he counts them. Then I remind him that four quarters are the same as one dollar, so we group them into fours and count how many dollars he has. He doesn’t get the idea that they are each 25 cents yet, or how to count by 25′s, so I do any “remainders” for him.

He has almost $10 saved so far and he is just so excited to go to the store and spend it on something. He keeps saying he wants to buy presents for other people with it.  It’s enough to make my heart melt.

Sometimes I come here to lament time moving so fast and crab about why my babies aren’t babies anymore. ahem.  But I am finding that there is a lot of fun about watching our boys grow up and learn too.

It's a shame he is NOTHING like me. Heh.

It’s a shame he is NOTHING like me. Heh.

All of these new experiences and new challenges show more of Eddie’s personality. Most of the time I see myself loud and clear in his actions, words, and sighs of overwhelm.  But sometimes, like when he does math super quick in his head (“super quick” to me means not using his fingers) or he kicks a soccer ball correctly without having to be shown how, I see Cortney’s traits peeking through.

This parenting thing, man. It’s something.

Something pretty amazing.

My Halloweenies

Halloween is not my favorite holiday.

Cortney and I never got into dressing up or going to any parties (not that we were invited).

When I was a kid, we weren’t deprived of Halloween or anything, but it wasn’t a big deal.

We had homemade costumes and we went trick or treating in our cousin’s neighborhood since we didn’t really have a neighborhood.

No one came trick or treating to our house either.

When they can’t see the house from the road because of woods, most kids won’t walk up that driveway.

So when Cort and I moved to a subdivision, I was all excited about the trick or treaters…until we had the million kids come the first year and we had to get a loan for the payments on all that candy.

Any excitement I have ever had for Halloween died after that first year in our house.

But we have kids now.  And while Charlie probably wouldn’t care one way or another, Eddie certainly does. We were not going to bee scrooge mcscrooge pants just because we  don’t like the “holiday,” so we sucked it up and brought the fun.

Hunting for the perfect pumpkins

Cort explains size and shape for perfect carve-ability.

Cort explains size and shape for perfect carve-ability.

 

No, this is not his costume. That is his legit stocking hat.

No, this is not his costume. That is his legit stocking hat.

Time to carve. Cort explains the process to Eddie.

Time to carve. Cort explains the process to Eddie.

 

While he was interested, he was still too grossed out to touch the guts. He told me "maybe when I'm five." Yeah. Maybe.

While he was interested, he was still too grossed out to touch the guts. He told me “maybe when I’m five.” Yeah. Maybe.

The finished products. Cort carved Eddies (left), and I carved Charlie's (right).

The finished products. Cort carved Eddies (left), and I carved Charlie’s (right).

 

Eddie chose to be the Flash this year while Charlie was a dinosaur by default (it's what we had already)

Eddie chose to be the Flash this year while Charlie was a dinosaur by default (it’s what we had already)

Neither trusted the other when it came to candy.

Neither trusted the other when it came to candy.

 

Regardless of the candy, Halloween is not really Charlie's favorite either. But Eddie LOVED it.

Regardless of the candy, Halloween is not really Charlie’s favorite either. But Eddie LOVED it.

Eddie had the biggest blast ever.

He got to go to the Pumpkin Patch with school and then with us. He got to choose his own costume (because $20 for a Flash costume is less than I would spend to try to make a Flash costume). He got a boat-load of candy. And he got to have a party at school.  Although this conversation happened:

Me: Eddie! How was your Pumpkin Party at school today??

Eddie: Fine.

Me: That’s it? Wasn’t it so fun?

Eddie: Yeah, but it wasn’t a REAL party.

Me: Wait. What? Why not?

Eddie: There was no dancing. Parties have dancing, mom.

Well. Ok then. Kid knows what he likes in a party.

And he will probably be eating Halloween candy until…Christmas–when I through it out just to replace it with all the new candy he will get.

Halloween is still not my favorite, but I do like seeing my boys have a good time.

throwing tantrums

Eddie has never been a tantrum-thrower.

When he was a toddler, if we told him “no”, he would listen, but he would cry.  If he was sent to timeout, he would stay there and mournfully cry.  He didn’t thrash about or throw himself to the ground.

We went through a phase where he would grunt out of frustration because he didn’t have any words. And even when he did, we had to work to break that habit.

We thought these defiant grunts and the loud crying from his room were what people meant when they referred to kids having tantrums.

And then we had Charlie.

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Oh he tricked us with his calm, laid back demeanor for the first year or so of his life–always so laid back, just taking things in. Always being all happy and content unless he was tired or hungry.

He was always so easy to please: give him lunch or put him to bed.

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He is one of the happiest kids…until he is not.  He has one weakness: The word “no”.

Oh you guys. This child has a FIERCE temper of which I have not seen before.

I don’t remember when Eddie started saying “no”, but I can tell you it was one of Charlie’s very first real words. He furrows his brown and wags his finger at us when he is displeased and firmly says, “no NO!”

He will also tell things he is not supposed to touch (lamps, the TV, lamps) “no, NO!” as if it’s their fault he gets in trouble for touching them.

If we tell him to do something he doesn’t want to do ( “come here,” for example), he will firmly say, “NO!”  If we try to take away the remote, the ice cream scooper, or a pair of scissors (home sluice is a stealthy drawer-raiding ninja) he throws himself to the ground and screams at the top of his lungs and writhes about.

If we won’t let him run amok in the bathroom simply because his brother forgot to close the door behind him, we have to drag him from the premises while he flails and wails. It’s good that we don’t have close neighbors on most sides because I’m sure it sounds like we are stabbing baby seals every time Charlie is displeased with the rules being enforced.

Tonight Cortney had to remove a mischievous Charlie from the bathroom so Eddie could take a bath. When Cort picked him up, Charlie arched his back and screamed. Cort had to set him down in the hall way on his back where he continued to scream cry for another couple minutes while we all ignored him.

Then he spotted a toy and was fine.

In fact, I think he stood up and sort of pranced to the toy and then did this little football huddle-like dance while giggling like a fool.

That is how The Bird rolls.

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I’ll be honest, the first time Charlie threw a tantrum I just stood there staring.  And then started to laugh because WHAT WAS HAPPENING?  My sweet, chill boy turned into something that seemed demon-possessed. It was ridiculous.

That is when it hit me: this is what a tantrum looks like.

So I did what I could, I walked away from him.

There is no reasoning with a 19-month old anyway, especially one mid-temper-tantrum.

Plus watching him only exacerbates things because he tantrums harder because he wants you to stop looking at him.  No one said toddlers were super bright.

Honestly the tantrums are not a problem. Yet.  They are how Charlie is starting to show frustration and that is healthy, but it’s just another reminder to me how different children are.

But they have one thing in common: they know how to push each other’s buttons. Charlie knows exactly what will make Eddie yell, and Eddie knows how to launch Charlie into an epic tantrum (hint: tell him “no” or take something away from him. Then take cover.).

2013-10-23 19.21.38

Charlie working REALLY hard to get Eddie to freak out. It worked. About 30 seconds after I took this, Eddie had a meltdown about Bird being in his space.

As much as the yelling and screaming and seeing who can make my ears bleed faster can drive me batty some most days, it’s so fun to watch these two grow up together.  It’s REALLY fun to see Charlie’s personality take off now that he is learning to express himself.

Even if that expressing happens to be in a tantrum of epic proportions.

 

will you keep me safe?

Will you keep me safe?

Eddie asks this often of his dad and me. If he hears thunder or sees something “spooky” like the green pants with nobody in them, the Grinch, or the creepy Hunch.

He says it often at bed time since stories that have pictures of eyes with no body attached are often read in the dim light of his room. His little face will turn towards me, his worried eyes will find mine, and as he asks, his hand will slip into mine.

It’s a simple question, but he has asked it since he has had the ability to ask it.

In the dark of his new Big Boy room when I was hugely pregnant with his baby brother, “mom? Will you lay by me?  Will you keep me safe?”

Or in the middle of the night after a bad dream he will cry for his daddy and ask him, “Daddy? Will you keep me safe?”

His third Halloween he saw people dressed up in scary masks and costumes. He cried and clung to us, “Will you keep me safe from monsters?”

Our answer us always the same: of course.

With those words, he settles down. Sometimes we have to hold his hand or lay by him in bed or both, but he settles down because he believes that we can and will always keep him safe.

I want to keep that promise.  I want to keep him and his heart safe.

But this world is broken, and I know sometimes it will get by my best efforts to protect him.

 

Today (Sunday) Eddie and I drove together to meet Cortney and Charlie and the rest of our family at a church.  We had a service to attend.

A memorial service for my niece, Arabella.

Eddie knew the baby in Aunt Liz’s tummy was sick.  We prayed for her every day.

This past Tuesday as I put Eddie to bed, I whispered to him, “buddy, remember how baby Bella in Aunt Liz’s tummy was sick?”

“Mom. I know. I colored her a picture and we tell God about her.”

“That’s right. Well she died today, honey.”

“In Aunt Liz’s tummy? Or did the doctor’s take her out?”

“In Aunt Liz’s tummy.  Aunt Liz and Uncle Cody are at the hospital right now to get Bella out.”

“And she is died?”

“Yup.  Do you want to read a book about heaven tonight?”

“Sure mom. Sure I do. My Papa is there too.”

Thanks to a wonderful friend, we had a nice book about heaven to read. Eddie didn’t have much to say, but he asked later in the week if we could read a heaven book again.

Today, on our drive to the church, he and I talked about how people would be very sad today.

“Why mom? Because Bella is died?”

“Yup. It’s sad to lose someone you love.”

“But she isn’t lost. She is in heaven. Why are we sad? Papa is there too.”

“You are right bud. You are totally right. But even though we know Bella isn’t sick anymore and she is with Papa, we still get sad sometimes because we miss them. We wish they could be with us. The best thing to do when you are sad and miss someone is find your family and get lots of hugs and cry as much as you need to and tell God that you are sad.  So that is why Cody and Liz wanted us to come to their church today.  We are their family and they need our hugs.”

“Sometimes I want you to hug me when I am sad, right mom? Like when I am scared.”

“That’s right, buddy.”

“So everyone is going to be sad and crying?”

“Maybe not the whole time, but yes. You will see lots of tears. And people will want lots of hugs.”

He was quiet the rest of the way.

Later, when I cried during the ceremony, he climbed on my lap and whispered, “I love you, mom.”

He is still too young to feel the loss of someone he never met.

Yet his innocence makes heaven so simple.  They are happy there; why should we be sad?

I know I can’t protect him forever about the brokenness of this world, but I can try to plant hope in his heart that will sustain him when his mommy and daddy just cannot keep him safe from the darkness.

But if you’ll excuse me, I will go ahead and live in denial about that day because my heart just can’t take it this week.

2013-06-12 19.26.00

a homecoming to remember

I remember a lot of things in fairly vivid detail, but recently Cort and I were trying to remember going to football games when we were in high school and there wasn’t much we remembered.

He didn’t usually go to many since our friends were all on the field and his girlfriend lived in another district. He spent time with her instead.

I went to every home game because I was in the band.  I remember marching and sitting in the bleachers until  halftime, but I can’t remember much else. I can’t remember if I changed and stayed for the game after halftime or not. I had a boyfriend who was not in band, but was two years older, so maybe my freshman and sophomore year I did? I really can’t remember.

And I remember almost nothing of homecoming. I know we had pep assemblies. I remember voting for King and Queen, but I don’t remember much from the game. As for the dance, ours was after the game in the school cafeteria and it wasn’t formal. We just showed up in our jeans and over-sized flannels and Doc Martins and pretended to know what we were doing when OPP by Naughty By Nature was played. The Homecoming court were the only ones wearing fancy clothes.

Looking back, it was all sorts of awkward.

I’ve written before about Homecoming. For a couple years, I was the adviser for Student Council. I was in charge of the pep assembly and the dance. Never again. It is so much work and it’s not my thing AT ALL.

After that I was senior class adviser for about five years. I really enjoyed that. I was in charge of the Homecoming Court/halftime of the game. I loved working with the seniors because they were so excited. That job also included planning graduation though, and I had to give up the position when I was pregnant with Charlie since my maternity leave would have me off at the end of the school year.

It’s been a huge relief to not be in charge of anything during homecoming for the past couple years; I’ve been able to attend what I want and just enjoy it.

The cheerleaders getting peppy at the pep assembly.

The cheerleaders getting peppy at the pep assembly.

This year for Homecoming, we nixed the parade and had a mini-carnival instead. I think this is the best idea we’ve had in a long time. Not only did my kids LOVE it, but so did the community.  TONS of families and kids came out…and then stayed for the game.

It was standing room only!

After the carnival and about 3 minutes of the game, Cort took Charlie home, but I stayed with Eddie until after halftime.

I knew he would have a great time, but didn’t take into account the swelling my heart would do.

{aside: seriously, I should be prepared for this by now. Whenever Eddie is involved, he sucker punches me to the heart with pride}

It all started with the carnival.

Can you find the Sluiter Kid?

Can you find the Sluiter Kid?

Eddie was so excited about the carnival! If I am honest, I thought the long lines for the games and activities would bring out a pouty face and some whining.  The boys had been up since 6:30am, after all, and Eddie had school that day too.  But my Big Guy was a great listener and waited patiently for his turn.

Two dudes eatin' wieners.

Two dudes eatin’ wieners.

After the games, we found a spot on the grass to eat our complimentary hot dog dinner. I was impressed again with how nice he sat and ate his whole dinner.  I had Charlie in the Ergo and if we weren’t walking around (ie waiting in lines) he got a little antsy, but he did a good job of eating what Cort handed to him for dinner too.

I have a Bird on my back, yo.

I have a Bird on my back, yo.

After the carnival, it was time for the football game. Cort and Charlie hung out for a little while, but since the game started at 7pm and Charlie’s bedtime is usually 7:30pm, they didn’t stay long.  Eddie was being way good though, so I stayed behind with him for the first half of the game.

He was so good. SO GOOD.

First we had to get some popcorn. He waited patiently in line and ordered our popcorns for us all by himself.

“Two popcorns, please.  Thank you.”

I smiled so big.  What a gentleman!

He was wary of all the “big kid students” who kept coming up and saying hi to us. “Them are ALL your students? That’s a LOT of students, mom.”

I think he thought every kid there was in my class. He doesn’t quite get that I have five classes, but I know a lot more kids than who are on my rosters. By the end he would hear, “HEY, MRS. SLUITER!” come from somewhere and just put his hand up to wave and yell “HI!” to no one in particular.

He adjusts to fame quickly.

Poppin' Corn, yo.

Poppin’ Corn, yo.

Armed with popcorn, Eddie really wanted to go back into the bleachers…to the TOP of the bleachers to be exact. As we made our way through the crowds, I noticed all the kids standing in their groups having drama or laughing or checking out other groups of kids.

I do remember this, I thought.

Kids there to see and be seen.  Not much has changed in the past 20 years in that respect, I guess.

It felt different to be there as a mom instead of finding my little huddle of peeps and sharing in the gossip and jokes. It’s way better as a parent.

When we got to our spots at the top of the bleachers, I fielded questions about the scoreboard, the numbers on the field, cheerleaders, and the kids behind us speaking Spanish.

“Mom. Them kids are speaking Spanish. People speak that. Did you know that?”

I had to explain to him that he shouldn’t stare because staring at them wasn’t going to make him understand them since the only words he knows are “hola” and “boca”.

“But you speak Spanish, mom. Hey. Why are their numbers on the field?”

It was like that. One subject to the next.

And it was awesome.

homecoming

At halftime we watched “them pretty princess girls and boys” ride on the “fancy cars” to see who would be “picked to be famous.”

We made our way down to the fence to be in the front row.  Eddie accurately (an nonchalantly, I might add)  predicted who would get “picked” impressing all the kids around us.

He wanted to go then, so we started making our from the far side of the bleachers back to the concession area where the gate was. That’s when the band took the field.

Future Band Nerd like his mother?

Future Band Nerd like his mother?

“Mom! Stop!”

We had to stop and watch the high school band perform. Eddie was mesmerized by the drums and the marching and the flags. It made my band nerd heart so happy.

After that he announced he was tired and could we please go home.

It was after 8:30pm–and hour after bedtime–and I knew it was time.

On our way out, we were stopped a few times by students. Once we finally made it to the parking lot, Eddie took my hand–something he never does on his own–and kissed the top.

“You are my best Mommy, Mom. I love you. Thank you for having this football game and carnival at your school.”

I stopped, squatted down, kissed the top of his hand and said, “You are my best Eddie. Thank you for being you and coming with me.”

He almost fell asleep on the way home.

I might not remember much about football games and homecoming from when I was a teenager, but I will never forget the football games and homecomings from now, when I am a parent.

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