First of the Lasts (Grand Finale LTYM Show Piece)

This is what I read in our grand finale Listen To Your Mother: Kansas City show yesterday. I wrote it between our first and second (final) rehearsals, and my son gave me his blessing to read it in front of the audience (while he was helping me get the show notebook together). I’m still very much processing what the end of the show means for me and feels like to me, but this, sharing my essay, is the easy part.

photo by Sarah Guthrie

First of the Lasts

I walked through an invisible wall, a thick barrier from the hallway to the sensory overload that was the fifth grade classroom. There were eggs being dyed, donuts being eaten, laughter, confusion, and the communication struggles that can only be between a room full of eleven year olds and a group of their moms. The high volume didn’t mean that instructions were actually being heard or attention was where it belonged, but even amid the exhaustion that comes from adults corralling two dozen kids and kids letting loose without actually being out of control, everyone was having fun.

 

It was my oldest’s Easter party at school. Like a typical unorganized mom of four, I probably wouldn’t have thought about the fact that it was his very last school party before he goes off to middle school in the fall unless the head room mom hadn’t sent a note home saying as much. In just one short paragraph, she reminded us that we would never again have the chance to spend an hour in a sugar-induced room of chaos with our kids and that they are, in fact, growing up too fast.

 

As the oldest child, he’s gotten the shaft many a time. Once he was old enough to go to school, he had a toddler sister (and shortly after) a baby sister. Then his baby brother came along. All of these siblings demanded care during the school day and weren’t all that pleasant to take to their brother’s classes. They did go once in awhile, when I wasn’t able to take them to their grandpa for babysitting, but I was so preoccupied by keeping them out of the party treats and classroom toys and holiday crafts that the best I could usually do was take a picture of big brother and little sibling to at least prove we were there to help and celebrate.

 

Once his younger sisters got a little older and went to school themselves, we had discovered that they required a gluten free diet. I’m not sure if you’ve dealt with food allergies at school, specifically during the times when the entire class period revolves around food (like birthdays and holiday parties), but I think you can probably imagine that I felt better being in the classroom with them to make sure they didn’t eat a gluten-filled treat from a well-meaning but clueless parent volunteer.

 

Of course, then all of the kids were old enough to go to school, which meant that I was free to help out during the day! It also meant that I am one person and they were in four different classrooms. I finally got the chance to see the baby of the family in the school environment, so I went to his parties sometimes. I played the gluten police at the girls’ parties on many occasions. And my oldest, who doesn’t often get worked up about things, would, every once in a while, ask me why I never came to his parties.

 

That isn’t to say that I always screwed the biggest brother over when it came to school. I sat next to him on the stuffy, bumpy school bus for field trips a few times. We visited museums and nature centers. I sat with him and his friends while we ate sack lunches and I listened to them talk about Minecraft and movies and whatever else they loved and I didn’t really understand.

 

As he gets older, I’ll freak out about each new thing he goes through first, like the braces, and advanced movie ratings, and school health talk experiences. Thank god for my friends with older kids that have already gone through this stuff and let me pick their brains when my son comes home from school and says “I think I need to wear deodorant….my armpits are starting to stink.”

 

So when that paper came home telling me that my boy was walking into middle school in the fall and that if I didn’t make it to the party, I would never get another chance, I made sure to get it on the calendar. I didn’t call the head room mom to tell her I could be there and help, though….I just showed up. As a result, the other moms were assigned jobs and I got to just go and watch. I did set out the snacks while the other moms got the groups through their stations, but for the most part, I got to stand on the perimeter and chat, take a few pictures, and just experience. Not bad for my son’s very last school holiday party. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he appreciated that I came to his classroom and stayed there while the other three parties in his siblings’ classes were also taking place.

 

It’s all about learning as you go with your oldest child, and with a big family, sometimes you just can’t give everyone all of the attention that they crave. But a little goes a long way.
I’d like to think that I treat all of my kids the same, but I know that’s not entirely true. I expect more from my oldest, and sometimes think that because he is the oldest, he can handle the disappointment of losing out on my time. But I’ve also had more time with him and get to experience everything new as he does. My mom has always said that kids are like pancakes….you always burn the first one. Hopefully, you can scrape off the black bits and smother it with butter and enjoy it just as much as the golden brown stack underneath.

Random Thoughts on a Sunday

~~~Is it summer yet? Because I’m already sick of all the cold weather laundry and it’s barely even begun to be cold.

~~~These pictures of baby Essie with a Mohawk make me say things like “wook at the boodee widdle boonieboodieawwwwww”

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~~~And then looking at 6 year old Essie right after makes me realize that she’s lost all of her physical baby-ness and wahhhhh.

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~~~I’m in Christmas denial. Even though I have a lot of presents bought/ordered already, I have a mental block. I added an “Indie Christmas” playlist on Google Play, but I haven’t even been able to open it yet.

~~~While I don’t mind cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I wish my kids would eat more than just the most basic, everyday items on the menu (like plain turkey and biscuits).

~~~Related: my fourth grader still wants to bring his “sack” lunch when they have their “Thanksgiving feast” at school. I’m pretty sure the girls would love to be able to eat that school offering.

~~~I’m ridiculously excited about only getting the kids to pack two lunches for school this week.

~~~My kids are ridiculously excited to see The Good Dinosaur in the theater this week. They’ve only been seeing previews for nine months.

~~~I have very mixed feelings about this school year being nearly half over already and Ervin being in full day kindergarten next year. It will be so nice to actually have time to do things during the day (vs two and a half hours between drop-off and pick-up) but I really like hanging out with him in the mornings, and he’s really really good when I take him on errands and to appointments. And kindergarten is the basically the beginning of the end.

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Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

What are your random Sunday thoughts?

The Raptor

I watch him run the length of the grass, hands and head in a raptor pose. He still pretends, with his younger brother chasing behind, asking me to keep watching. Just like he did when he jumped off the side of the pool for the first time, and pedaled his bike down the driveway for the first time, he wants me to see. I’m his mom and no matter what he pretends to be or what milestone he’s conquered, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him.

But he’s also getting older. The grass that he’s running around in, playing like he’s a velociraptor, is in front of the school that he just spent the whole day in. The school where he learned to spell “earthquake” and estimate numbers in the hundreds of thousands, where life gets more complicated and ideas get bigger and bigger.

Pretty soon, all of my kids will have homework every night and not much time to just run around the yard, pretending to be dinosaurs. They’ll have significant things to worry about, and so will I. I’ve already moved beyond worrying whether the toddler will fall off the chair that he climbed all the way up, beyond whether he’ll be the last one to learn to spell his name, and beyond whether he’ll do the motions for the songs in the elementary school program. Right now I worry about whether the kids will still like him each time he moves up a grade and if he’ll continue to keep his math grade up, but before long, I’ll be worrying about the girl he likes and hoping she likes him, too, and what he’ll do after he graduates from high school.

For now, he’s still a child, and he still snuggles up next to me on the couch when it’s rainy outside, still makes raptor noises with his little brother. But childhood doesn’t last…we can only let them be kids as long as they’ll let us.

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Through The Lens Thursday: Tall

Before I get into this week’s prompt, I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew my co-TTLTer’s news…Alison had her babies! She delivered her twins this week at 34 weeks, and they’re doing great. Still in the NICU but growing and feeding and getting stronger every day. Go show Alison some love on her Facebook page!

I was at Bloggy Conference this past weekend, and I thought (briefly) about taking my DSLR. I didn’t really have room for it, though, and then forgot anyway. It would’ve been really cool, though, to get pictures at the amusement park, Cedar Point! I’m kind of sad that I didn’t. I did take this photo with my phone, from the top of the ferris wheel (which I edited a little in lightroom, since this is a photography project):

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And then I came home and got my DSLR and tried to work with the prompt. With the same subjects. (I know, I know)

Erv and Louise are with me all day, every day, though. And they’re both getting taller. (Louise is almost as tall as the cats now!)

I got down on the floor for these, to try to emphasize just how tall they both are. And then I went to the corner and wept for a while about just how tall they are.

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Through The Lens Thursday is a self-improvement photography project that Alison of Writing, Wishing and I are doing this year.

Don’t forget to join our Flickr group or share your own posts if you’d like to follow along and work on your own photography! And use the hashtag #throughthelensthursday to connect with others working on it, too.

Catch Me If You Can #HuggiesTester

My littlest guy is our last one, and the last one in diapers. While I should probably be celebrating, it’s possible that I’m not really looking forward to potty training him, because that means he’s one step closer to leaving the baby behind.
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He doesn’t make it easy, though. I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you that he actually throws tantrums about getting his diaper changed…as in, he does not want to give up the dirty ones. He fights us tooth and nail when we take the old diaper off and put the dry one on. We’ve actually had to wrap up a dirty diaper and let him hold it for a while. (You think I’m lying, but I really can’t make this stuff up).

We do have potty training plans (because we all know how well those work out), but in the meantime, we have a toddler on our hands that is, for the most part, very, very happy to continue wearing a diaper that he’s worn all night or afternoon, and quite unhappy to put a different, clean one on.
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And let’s be real….I’m a mom of four, which automatically makes me busy, and I’ve kind of stopped packing a diaper bag. I mean, I throw a few snacks in my purse and some diapers and wipes in the car. But I rarely have those diapers in my purse, so when we’re out and about, the kid wears his diapers for a while.
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And to be real again, toddlers are busy. Even if I wanted to change his diaper more often, it wouldn’t be easy to catch him. And there’s the whole tantrum thing again….it’s like trying to change the diaper on an overly energetic orangutan. So I knew that testing Huggies Snug and Dry diapers during a birthday party, when no one wanted to stop what they were doing and wrestle a wet diaper off the orangutan, would show how well they really hold up to toddler-sized loads with activity (that should be a unit of measure, don’t you think?). It did hold up, thank goodness…because I didn’t pack any spare clothes, either. Whoops.
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We’ve had PLENTY of diaper fails and diaper disasters in my motherhood career so far, and fingers crossed that there aren’t any more. I know I’m weird to be getting sad that our diaper days are almost over, but that means the baby days and even the toddler days are drawing to a close! At least we can end on a good note, I guess.

Visit the Huggies Challenge website to take the Huggies® Challenge – complete challenges and win prizes. For every new challenge completed, Huggies Every Little Bottom will donate diapers to a baby in need.
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When you take the Huggies Challenge, you can win Huggies Rewards Points which can be used towards free diapers and free samples. Two lucky Testers will win Huggies Diapers & Wipes for an entire year! Drawings for these prizes will take place on May 12th and August 25th.

Thank you, Huggies, for sponsoring this post and keeping little messes contained! All opinions are 100% my own.

 

#bullynomore Twitter Party and Giveaway!

Have you had to deal with bullies? Have your kids had run-ins with bullies at school, or in sports, or have they even bullied someone else? 

I’ve had the chance to read, with my kids, a new children’s book by Dicy McCullough that is written from the unique perspective of the bully; in this case, the bully is a dog named Lucky. He realizes (with the help of a few other dogs) that his bullying tendencies aren’t making or keeping him any friends.

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The book is a great tool for parents, teachers, and counselors who need a way to help explain this hot-button issue to kids….it was easy for both of my girls (3 1/2 and 5 1/2) to follow along with and understand.

You have a chance to win your own copy below, as well as RSVP to the Twitter party, where you can win other prizes!

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To win a copy of the book, enter here, then be sure and RSVP and join us as we discuss what everybody is talking about these days: bullies.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

On April 2, 2013 at 9:30 PM EST, we’re going to have a Twitter party to celebrate Dicy’s new book and to discuss this ever-rising issue of bullying.

Join us! We’ll have Dicy McCullough @DicyMcCulloughDr. G (Dr. Deborah Gilboa) @AskDocG, and Kelly Karius @KellyKarius as part of our panel along with myself and these fabulous bloggers:

Rachel @rachhabs of To Hab and to Hold

Jeanae @jeanae of Waiting for Supermom

Shannon @ShannonMSander of Aries Mommy

Theresa @Reese22 of  The Importance of Being Reese

The Twitter party is Tuesday, April 2 from 9:30-10:30 EST. Be sure to RSVP here to be eligible to win prizes during the party.

Prizes:

2 copies of Dicy McCullough’s Tired of Being a Bully

1 copy of Teach Resilience from Dr. G

1 copy of No Such Thing as a Bully by Kelly Karius & Dr. Ron Graham, DrE

1 copy of No Such Thing as a Bully (for a teacher or school) by Kelly Karius and Dr. Ron Graham, DrE

10 copies of bill of rights and responsibilities

*Prizes will be awarded throughout the party. Winners will be drawn using random.org from the RSVP list. Must participate in #bullynomore conversation to win.*

Where Did My Baby Go? #iPPP

My Boo Boo is turning one on Saturday.

SIGH.
I spent several days this last week cleaning out closets and packing up clothes to donate, and it got me all weepy to put those little bitty clothes away (from all of the kids). I also packed up my maternity clothes, but that’s another story for another day.
Ahem.
Anyway, my baby is not a baby anymore, allegedly. 
Here’s why.
1. He’s walking. He has taken several steps this week, up to six or seven at a time. This is notable because all of his siblings were at least 15 months old before they were walking.

(I tried very hard to get a picture of him in action, but you know men. They’re stubborn.)

2. He’s now eating as much (or more) as all of his siblings. I am now officially cooking for six.
3. He’s old enough to know that he does not want to sleep in his own room thankyouverymuch. Perhaps we waited too long to put him in his own room, but the darn kid still isn’t really sleeping through the night, so I put it off. And now, his feelings are irrevocably hurt when I put him in his crib (or “big boy bed”, as I like to call it because I’m delusional).
Unless I put him in after he’s gone to sleep. Then he doesn’t mind too much. Until the morning, when he wakes up.
4. Did I mention that he’s walking?!
Please hold me. I just need to make it through the week, and the 18 years after that.
iPhone Photo Phun

Dear Blanket,

We’ve been through so much, and I appreciate you. Yes, I realize that I’m 31 years old, but you’re pretty close to that, too, and we’ve grown up together.

You know that my husband makes fun of me for sleeping with you every night, but just between us? I think he’s jealous that I snuggle with you more than him.

And the kids? They’re ALWAYS trying to steal you. But don’t worry. I will ALWAYS find you and bring you back.

I’ll admit that I like you best when you’re clean and warm from the dryer, but I accept you even when you’re not smelling so fresh. I think that you feel the same way about me, and for that, I’m grateful.

I’ll let you in on a little secret…I’m glad that my brother lost your pink counterpart in the movie theater so many years ago. Because really, pink is so cliche. I much prefer your soothing green to that bubblegum Pepto-ish hue. I’m sure that my parents were panicking  when they couldn’t find it, and I’m positive that I was inconsolable. I may have even whined about getting a green blanket to replace the girlish pink. But now I know that it was for the best.

Over the years, I’ve come to need you less and less. I hope you’re not too disappointed that you can’t go on trips with me anymore. I have to at least LOOK like an adult. Plus, now the kids all have their own blankets to take along, and we can only lug so much stuff around.

Green blanket, I don’t know what I would do without you, and I don’t want to find out.

Love,
Me

Mama’s Losin’ It


One of this week’s prompts from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop was to write a letter to an inanimate object.


I’m also linking up with the fabulous Erica for Lovelinks #31 today!

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