soccer season

Before we had kids, Cortney and I talked about how we would absolutely not push them into a sport or activity that they did not want to do. Yes, Cortney played soccer and I was a band nerd, but we weren’t going to make our kids do those things. We wanted them to follow their own passions and interests.

Of course, I know that both of us always hoped we would have at least one of our children interested in the things we were. I am holding out for at least one band geek–especially a brass player–so when Eddie tells me maybe he would like to play the tuba some day, I am encouraging, but not overly so. I don’t want him to think I will be horribly disappointed if he chooses a woodwind (shudder) or choir (bigger shudder).

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Eddie at 7 months.

It has never been a secret that Cortney hopes for a soccer player.

Cort played since he was very little and all the way through high school. He did some adult leagues before we were married and is hoping to get back into some this year or next.

And Eddie has been wearing little soccer warm-up suits since he was tiny.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

He always picked the soccer ball out of the pile.

Even though I think he would have hoped for a soccer player with a girl too, I know as soon as we found out Eddie was a boy, Cortney began to think about the day he would help his little guy lace up his first pair of cleats.

He knew this would be a way he could connect and build a relationship with his boy.  Not that he wouldn’t love and support any activity Eddie wanted to do, but this one was special to him.

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Cort even admitted a little jealousy because he never had cleats this awesome.

I was never athletic. I didn’t play any sports. While I was looking forward to Eddie playing soccer because he was excited about it, the Saturday morning games weren’t exactly what I would choose to do. But then I went to his first game.  And not only did I get to watch him be part of a team and love it, I got to hear Cortney cheer for his boy.

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I will admit that Eddie is entertaining to watch because not only does he do a good job (most of the time), but when he does super well–like the goal he scored this past week–he will dance and give the crowd some laughs. I have NO IDEA where he gets that part of his personality.

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Right now he plays for the fun of it. He has some natural talent which we encourage, but if next fall comes around and he doesn’t want to play again, we are not going to make him.

He’s already talking about doing Tball in the spring, which we will sign him up for soon.

But for another two weeks it’s soccer season.

It’s hard to believe my tiny guy who liked to roll the plush soccer ball back and forth is finally a big kid who wears shin guards and cleats.  Gone are his chubby dimple hands and feet. They have been replaced by long, lanky arms and legs with kid feet (that stink like kid feet after a game…PU!).

Sports are just another reminder that my boys are growing up. But it’s good. It’s something we have been dreaming about for five years and now we get to see it happening in action.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

At least we have a few more years before this one chooses a fall sport.

Whether this is our first soccer season of many or just a one and done sport, it doesn’t matter.  We are helping the boys find what they love to do. And that is most important of all.

 

The Trouble with Kindergarten

Being away from each other all day is not new. Since he was three months old, Eddie has been in someone else’s care other than mine.

Yet I miss him more this year than I ever have.

Kindergarten is way tougher on me and him than I thought it would be. Way.

I think about him all day. I pray for him all night. I wring my hands.

This isn’t how I thought it was going to be.  I figured he would have an adjustment period. In fact, I knew that even though he was used to be gone all day and used to being busy, it would still be a big change. He would have to make new friends and learn a new routine and get used to a new set of rules and expectations.

But I had all the confidence in the world that he would be just fine. He would thrive. He would struggle with being tired, but he would make friends quickly. He’s a natural leader and so kind to everyone.

I wasn’t wrong about his kindness and ability to make friends.

I wasn’t wrong about being confident.

I didn’t expect the tummy-aches and the worrying from him.

Every day at pick up he tells me he had a great day, and he proceeds to talk my ear off the entire ride home. Every night at bedtime he confesses he doesn’t want to go to school in the morning, and he proceeds to cry out his fears and anxieties.

He is going through the adjustment period that I knew he would. This is all normal stuff. I thought I was prepared.

But I didn’t realize how much it would all hurt my heart.

Off He Goes

Dear Eddie,

When you were  a tiny baby some of the best advice I was given was by your pediatrician. She said, “You can’t make a baby eat or sleep, and you can’t make a toddler potty train until he’s ready. Let him take the lead.”

I’ll admit it’s hard for me to let someone else take the lead. I like to be in charge. When we had you, we were no longer in charge…the little charge we thought we had. You ruled our days and nights. You chose when you would hit your milestones.

You cried and wouldn’t sleep.

You cried and cried and cried.

But when you were ready to sleep, you did.

You decided.

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You still require one of us to lay by you each night after we read with you. You say you an’t sleep without us there so you can feel safe. I’ll take that because I know that one day, you will tell me I can go upstairs. That you’re “good”.

But sleeping in a big boy bed took zero transition.  We brought home a mattress before Grandpa even had your bed made and you requested to take your nap there.  You never went back to your crib again.

You decided.

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It was the same way with your pacifier.

You held onto that thing even when it had holes in it and we refused to buy you new ones.  Then, your friend Evan told you about the paci fairy and you started to think that getting a big boy present in return for turning in your “pipey” was a good thing.

You decided.

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Then came potty training.

We thought for sure we could get you potty trained before Charlie arrived.  You showed interest right after you turned two, and you were doing your number 2’s on the toilet almost exclusively.  Then Charlie came and you stopped caring about underpants or sticker charts or anything.

Until Althea showed up to daycare in big girl panties.  And she is a full year younger than you are. You looked right at Renae and declared yourself done with diapers.

And that was that.

You decided.

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Now you are five. You’ve been riding a bike since you were two. Your grandma bought you a tiny one from a garage sale (ok, the garage sale we were hosting), and you hopped on and took to it like a fish in water.

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For your fourth birthday, we had to upgrade because  your legs grew about a mile from age three to age four.

In fact, we felt bad that you had to wait until almost the end of June because you were really just way too big for your old pal.

033This bike is a much better fit.

In fact, this bike quite easily takes you from our house up the hill to Kaydance and Carter’s house and back again.  It has taken you around the block with us as well.

You love your yellow bike.

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Early this summer, daddy asked you if you wanted to take your training wheels off.  You were a bit scared, but he helped you balance and learn to ride just through the grass.

But riding on the street seemed a little too scary. So daddy raised the wheels as far as they would go, and you kept riding. You weren’t even five yet, so we figured you would do it when you were ready, just like everything else.

Then one day, you came screaming down the hill at top speed on Carter’s bike.

Carter who is a whole year younger than you had his training wheels taken off a month ago.

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Carter came behind on your bike.

Out of breath, you ran up to daddy, “DID YOU SEE ME? NO TRAINING WHEELS!  Can you take mine off too?”

And then off you went.

You decided.

Daddy took them off, gave you a few quick reminders about safety, and off you went. I felt like I blinked and you went from a mushy baby to a kid riding a two-wheeler with the neighbor kids.

I stood there for a second watching you peddle off wondering how it all happened. Didn’t I get some sort of say about when you were ready for things? Isn’t that what part of parenting is?

You are teaching me so much about this parenting gig, Eddie.

You will do things on your own time, when you are ready, and I will always be there to cheer for you.

Love,

Mom

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Recently I was interviewed by Working Motherhood and my podcast is now live!  Go give me a listen!

On Turning Five

Dear Eddie,

Today you are five.

Daddy jokes that you are now a handful as he holds up all the fingers on one hand. You roll your eyes at him and say, “Daaad,” and then give me the look as if to say, “is he serious?” And I laugh because we ALL know you were a handful long before turning five.

You are such a kid now.

Tonight you went to bed in your new spiderman jammies looking less and less like a chubby baby boy and more and more like a lanky kid. Your last bedtime as a four-year-old.

It was bittersweet to hug you and muss up your hair on your way to bed.

I can’t help but think about five years ago–the night before your birth–I was in labor, but I thought it was cramps.  Your dad made me eat a turkey sandwich sometime around 8pm (when you were heading for bed tonight).  That was the last thing I would eat until your were born the next day at 4:51pm.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

do you see my face? I just fell in love with you.

I have been looking through photos of you all weekend. You have changed and grown so much in five years, and yet…in every picture, you are still the same boy. I can see your heart and soul.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your first birthday. Eddie eyes.

your second birthday...I can't believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture!  You still lean on the table like this.

your second birthday…I can’t believe you are the same age as Charlie in this picture! You still lean on the table like this.

your third birthday. This is you all the way, just smaller.

your third birthday.your signature smile. I love how happy you are.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

Your fourth birthday. My little boy.

And now you are five. We had your birthday party this weekend and for the first time invited all your neighbor friends because you have neighbor friends now!  Not just friends that happen because Daddy and I are friends with their parents, but friends you found and love to play with.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

my big kid! same eyes. same smile. same sweet, kind boy.

Sometimes our journey is difficult. There is frustration and yelling and crying.  I hope that is not what you focus on when you reflect on your childhood someday.

I hope you remember the family and friends who love you and surround you on your birthday.

I hope you remember our tradition of going to Red Robin Yum for your birthday.

I hope you remember the birthday cakes that I made from scratch at your request–last year lemon, this year white with strawberry frosting.

I hope you remember how excited I am for each of your birthdays, not because of gifts and cake and balloons (although those are fun), but because it’s a celebration of YOU. Of Edward Steven Sluiter.

Of the day I became a mom, your dad became a dad, and of the day you made us a family.  Your birthday is huge.

It is a celebration of you and of us.

And now you are FIVE.

You can read some words, you like chapter books read to you at bedtime, you think super heroes and curious George are equally cool, and you can ride your bike without training wheels.

You are going to start Kindergarten this year and learn to read and spell and do math.

You are going to start soccer and make new friends.

Five is a big deal, Eddie Bear.

You are a big deal.

I love you so so much.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

and never lose your awesome sense of humor. It is my favorite.

Love forever,

Mommy

Go Out & Play!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know my kids love to play outside. Even if it means wearing winter coats during spring break.

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As soon as the snow was gone, they were chomping at the bit to get outdoors and run free, and I was not about to hold them back! We had a long winter with frigid temperatures and tons of snow. That meant lots of screen time and cabin fever, so when the wind shifted and our noses smelled the first hint of spring thaw? WE GOT OUT!

Because outdoor play is a staple in our summer schedule, I was beyond excited when I learned about Kaboom!, a national non-profit that is dedicated to ensuring that all children get the active play they need to grow up healthy.

Kaboom! currently has a Go Out and Play Collection available that is an assortment of active play products. Our favorite is the Backpack which is actually the center of the collection. It includes a Frisbee, two jump ropes, 2 boxes of sidewalk chalk, a rubber playground ball, and a book–by the same name–with tons of great outdoor games.

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We have both the purple AND the orange back pack because each boy needed one, of course. They are nice a big and super durable. In fact, Eddie has given his a few test runs to school.

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The playground gear gets a decent work out around here too. Both boys are crazy about the balls. In fact, Eddie claimed he had “amazing bouncing skills” last week.

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He totally does.

I love Kaboom! and their vision for getting kids up from their sedentary lifestyle to a more physically active and FUN life.  Active play can help kids develop motor skills, coordination, and increase cognitive capacity. Active kids tend to do better in school and are better problem-solvers.

As a mom and an educator, that is important to me.

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Now that the days are longer, we are outside for HOURS if the weather allows.

The best part for them is the fun and healthy aspects, but the best part for me is how fast they fall asleep at night.

Summer is rad, yo.

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Another amazing thing about Kaboom!? Along with Imagine Toys, they are sending me to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose next month as an Ambassador for their products and message about active, healthy play.  In the coming weeks I’ll tell you more about ways you can get involved with Kaboom! and spreading their message of getting outside and PLAYING!

In the meantime, go out & play!!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. Kaboom! sent us backpacks full of goodies so we could try them out, but I was under no contract to talk about them here. I just believe in the toys and the positive message for kids.

Feels Like the First Time

When we found out that Charlie was a boy, my very first thought was, Oh thank you, God! 

My very next thought was, Aw jeah. A boy. Not my first rodeo. I can DO this I can be a boy mom!

Side note: I’ve heard wonderful things about raising daughters. I am not knocking daughters. Shoot, I AM a daughter. But, as someone who thrives on predictability and knowing what to expect, hearing the word “boy” was like God saying, “See? No more surprises.”

No more surprises.

I had my fair share of surprises before Charlie, didn’t I? My first pregnancy was a surprise. Two miscarriages were a surprise. Everything about my labor and delivery with Eddie was a surprise. Shoot, that was such a surprise it left me with a lovely case of PTSD.

Eddie is a dang surprise every day–both in all the good ways and some of the side-eye ways.

So another boy. I can do this. No surprises.

And then God fell off his chair laughing at me.  For the millionth time in my life, probably.

Yes, Charlie is a boy. Other than that, almost nothing has been the same as his older brother. From his birth, I kept waiting for Charlie to become colicky, have digestive issues, not sleep, but that never happened. He was–dare I say it–easy as a baby. He ate and slept and pooped. If he cried it was because he was hungry, tired, or poopy.  Ok, he didn’t even cry when he was poopy. He was even content to sit in his own dump.

Charlie was a laid back baby and trouble-maker toddler.

I haz it dat bowl peez?

I haz it dat bowl peez?

He is a charmer and knows that his big blue eyes and tiny polite voice can twist many a person around his little finger.

“peez I have it dat juice?”

“peez I have it dat cookie?

“peez I have it dessert?”

The last one he said through big crocodile tears just the other night after we told him no, because he didn’t even try his pork. Cortney was sitting next time him and set the ONE bite he needed to take in front of him and said, “If you want dessert, you need to take this one bite.” Charlie proceeded to yell, “NO!” in his tantrumy two-year old voice, cry and then look at me with two tears strategically placed under each eye, just about to drop. He turned his little mouth into a sad pouty frown, made his eyes huge, put his little hand out to me and whimpered, “I haz it peez, dessert?”

I so badly wanted to give him the damn dessert.

But Cortney held firm.

Eddie is my rule follower. You bet he ate the required dinner for the elusive, not-every-day dessert treat (not without massive whining, but he’s almost five, so you know). Charlie threw that tantrum just as far as it would go until he realized his daddy was NOT going to budge.

In fact, Charlie can be so stubborn, the very next night he ate zero dinner other than a couple raspberries and when asked if he wanted dessert he said, “NO!”

While his fits are loud and tearful, they are quick. If you just avoid saying, “no” to him, you can avoid the major meltdowns.

Yeah, about that.

“No” tends to be a dare for Charlie.

“Charlie, no no. Don’t stand on the couch.”

He will look at me as if I am making the world’s silliest request and say, “yes, mommy.”  As in, “duh, you stupid lady.”

He will fling himself off furniture. He will tumble down cement steps. He will fall backward off toys. He will jump…on and off anything. And then he will laugh his deep chuckly belly laugh.

He will see Eddie sitting nicely watching TV and tackle him. He will spy Eddie watching something on the tablet and stick his face in front of him. He will see Eddie playing with something and snatch it.

He is the button pusher, and Eddie is the button.

But he is a ball of love. He likes to sit on laps and hold hands and rub my arm and snuggle into my neck. He likes me to sing to him and rock him at bedtime. He likes to hold my face and push his to mine: nose to nose. He likes to whisper, “I yuv you, momma.”

His fine motor skills are ridiculous for a kid of his age.

I watch a lot of kids play with toys however they want, but Charlie likes to figure out how to play with them the way they are made to be played with, if that makes sense. He can manipulate twisting small parts and fitting puzzles together.

And he wants to be helpful. If I need him to come in the house, just saying “it’s time to come in,” will result in a meltdown. If I say, “Charlie, I need your help!” He will come RUNNING.

always fixing things for mommy.

always fixing things for mommy.

 

He says all the words and just 2 years and 3 month.

“I yuv you, mommy, daddy, Eddie,” unprompted, is probably my favorite. He listens and repeats absolutely everything and Cortney and I find ourselves cracking up and not at all keeping up with all his new words and phrases each day.

I want to find a way to bottle his tiny voice and keep it forever. I want to hear “bye bye mommy. I yuv you. have gate day!” every day for as long as I live.

I love the way he sees Cortney’s car in the garage as we pull in after daycare and announces, “YAY! Daddy home! Yay!”

I even love the way he laughs at me when I ask him if he is my boy, “nooo! Nae’s boy!” (Renae, his daycare mom. He might have her wrapped tightly around his finger. He truly is her boy.)

Every day he pulls another stunt, defies us in a new way, and laughs with abandon at something I didn’t know he was paying attention to, I think, “Man. This is NOTHING like the first time around. In many ways, THIS feels like the first time too!”

Because of course it does.

This is the first time I am Charlie’s mom.

always mommy's boy.

always mommy’s boy.

Always There

This weekend while digging through my purse for some aspirin for a teenager with a headache, I pulled a pipey (pacifier) out of my purse.

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We both laughed when she said to me, “I guess you can’t put being a mom on hold even for a couple days, huh Mrs Sluiter?”

I realized what she said was incredibly true; I am never really apart from my boys.

When we were in Chicago with just Eddie, each of us commented numerous times about things Charlie would like. Eddie even pointed out the fourth seat in all the restaurants adding, “if Charlie was here, that is where he would sit.”

On this trip, I caught myself smiling at things that Cortney would have commented on with an inside joke or one of his dry, witty comments. I saw places I wanted us to go to together.

I thought often of Eddie and how he would have either loved everything about the Rain Forest Cafe or he would have been terrified by all the loud noises. I imagined him seeing Navy Pier and going to the Children’s Museum and loving the BIG BOATS in the bay.

I smiled when I saw the stuffed lions at the Rain Forest Cafe and how Charlie’s immediate reaction would have been to ROAR at them. I said words the way my boys do, even though nobody really “got it” but me.

Before falling asleep I put a pillow on the side of the bed where Cortney would have been so I could roll over and put my butt on it the way I back up to him (he hates it, calls me a bed hog). I also imagined holding his hand as I fell asleep so I wouldn’t feel lonely in that bed alone.

When I woke the next morning my first thought was my three boys back home, and as if they knew that, a text came through with a picture from Cortney of the two little guys smiling over their breakfast plates with a “Good morning, Momma!” caption.

I had so much fun on the trip. While I wouldn’t call it relaxing because we were so busy, teenagers are less needy than little ones, so other than handing out aspirin from time to time, there wasn’t much “mothering” I had to do.  It was a break.

But I was so glad to get home to my favorite three dudes in the whole world.

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And I know they were happy to see me too…even if it was just for the stuffed animals and sombreros I brought home for them.

*************

You all have overwhelmed me with your gracious kindness that you are showing to me and my students. All the book donations that have come in so far have bumped my sad little classroom library from only 104 books to almost 320!! If you want to take a look at my wish list, you can find it here.

Also at the tail end of last week I found out that an article I co-authored will be published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.

And if those things weren’t awesome enough, I found yesterday (Monday) that I have been chosen as one of BlogHer’s 2014 Voices of the Year.

The good is very good.

Sometimes It’s Hard

I enjoy writing about the sweet moments of motherhood: the funny things Eddie says, the innocent questions, Charlie’s belly laugh and fearless nature.

But sometimes it’s not sweet.

Sometimes this motherhood thing sort of sucks, if I am being honest.

It’s an unpredictable, patience-trying grind of hard.

It’s Charlie’s refusal to listen when we say “no” or his adamant nonacceptance of sitting in timeout when he has made an egregious error like hitting his brother, slapping me, or throwing toy tubs at people.

It’s Eddie incessant whining when we say no to tablet time or candy or more chocolate milk.

It’s sassy mouths and scream-crying at bedtime.

It’s lollygagging and stalling when we are in a hurry.

It’s ignored requests and disobedience.

It’s 10 minutes of fighting after 10 seconds of playing nicely.

It’s all the water that ends up out of the tub and onto the floor, walls, toilet, and me.

It’s the high-pitched scream of “MINE!” from Charlie.

It’s Eddie’s long-drawn out “CHAAAAARRRLIE!” when his brother does so much as breathe wrong.

It’s the way Charlie planks his whole body when I try to buckle him into his car seat after daycare…and a long day of work.

It’s the way Eddie thrashes his whole body when he doesn’t get his way.

And then…

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Contrary to what some mothers will say, these sweet moments do NOT make it “all better” for me. They don’t wipe out the headache or the wound up feeling in my tummy. But they do soften the blow.

As much as this motherhood thing is lovely and miraculous and more love than I thought my heart could ever handle, it is really hard sometimes.

And sometimes I just need to admit that.

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.

A Hairy Timeline

Cortney has been telling me for about a year that Charlie needed a haircut. I brushed it off until he made me a deal that he wouldn’t insist on a haircut if I agree that one will need to happen around Charlie’s second birthday (Eddie’s haircut was when he was two. Granted he was bald until he was almost one, but still).

Yesterday (Monday) was haircut day.

I have been thinking about it way WAY more than I should.

It’s just hair after all, right?

Before I was a mom I just didn’t get what the fuss was about baby’s first haircut. It’s JUST HAIR.

I regretfully take back all my know-it-all-ness.

And give you Charlie’s Hairy Timeline….

Charlie was born with what appeared to be pre-styled senator hair. Dapper little Bird.

Charlie was born with what appeared to be pre-styled senator hair. Dapper little Bird. My nephew said it was as soft as feathers.

By a month, the brown feathers have started to thin.

By a month, the brown feathers have started to thin.

 

Around six months he was back the style. My mom swore I was cutting it to the perfect style on the sly. I was not.

Around six months he was back the style. My mom swore I was cutting it to the perfect style on the sly. I was not.

By age one we were saying the first hints of "shaggy hair"

By age one we were saying the first hints of “shaggy hair”

 

Around 15 months we started realizing he also had the curl gene just like Eddie and Cortney.

Around 15 months we started realizing he also had the curl gene just like Eddie and Cortney.

Only six months ago I had to start trimming his bangs to keep them out of his eyes.

Only six months ago I had to start trimming his bangs to keep them out of his eyes.

 

Just before Christmas people started to comment that it was getting a bit long. So naturally I fell in love with it.

Just before Christmas people started to comment that it was getting a bit long. So naturally I fell in love with it.

Just a month ago.

Just a month ago.

 

Last week Thursday.

Last week Thursday.

waiting for cousin Rachel to finish cutting Eddie's hair so he can go next.

waiting for cousin Rachel to finish cutting Eddie’s hair so he can go next.

 

The last shot of the curls before they are cut off.

The last shot of the curls before they are cut off.

He did so well, though he seemed concerned the entire time.

He did so well, though he seemed concerned the entire time.

 

Haircuts = no smiles. It's serious  business.

Haircuts = no smiles. It’s serious business.

Hey ladies, I've got my first haircut. How you like me now?

Hey ladies, I’ve got my first haircut. How you like me now?

 

The curls are gone.

The curls are gone.

I am…not Ok yet.

But I will be.

For whatever reason the first haircut is the hardest.

I already told Cortney if there is a hint of curl after we wash it, you know I won’t be getting it cut for another six months…at least. Because I already miss burying my nose in those soft curls.

Especially because his hair smelled like cheese tonight after dinner.

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