Monday, July 22, 2013

A Reflection On My Son's 18 Month Birthday

Two years ago Eric and I made the decision to start trying for another baby. We wanted our kids to be close in age like my sisters and I were. We wanted them to be best friends and spend hours bugging one another only to turn around and become inseparable.  So when we found out that we were pregnant we were overjoyed. We absolutely loved being parents to Henrik and couldn't wait for another little one to run around with him. Don't be fooled though, our excitement and joy was more of an accomplishment kind of joy, like we'd done it, again. It came so easy for us that we thought we were beyond lucky. But we both had this intense fear that we didn't know what to do with two babies. How on earth could we handle two of them?

I can't explain the panic I had over whether or not I could love another child as much as I loved Henrik. I couldn't help but think horrible things like "what if this baby wasn't as cute or smart or healthy?" Would we still love it just as much? Was I being ridiculous? A lot of people have more than one child, it must be possible, but how?

Just a few days after discovering that I was 7 1/2 weeks pregnant, I found blood after I went to the bathroom. Obviously concerned, I rushed to the ER to find out if everything was okay. After several hours, we were told that I was undergoing a "Threatened Miscarriage" What the hell was that? Couldn't they tell if I was pregnant or not? Was it going to live or not? Were we seriously talking about a miscarriage? Where did I go wrong?  Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was I not supposed to have another baby? Was I being punished for thinking I couldn't love another child?

The M word. It's the naughtiest word I can think of. A word that has a connotation as strong as rape or murder, but this word is worse. It means you should be ashamed or embarrassed. It means you some how have failed and were unable to create life. This is a word that people don't say to one another. It's a word that isn't in the news or talked about among friends. It's a word that may only be whispered and usually has a response of "Ohhh" as the other person bows their head and shifts their eyes. It's a word that I will never leave me and will haunt me on doctor's office paperwork for the rest of my life: Two pregnancies, one child.

That morning after my lab tests, I stood for a long time just looking at myself in the fogged up bathroom mirror. I examined my body up and down trying to figure out where I, we went wrong. I found nothing. I looked at my tired eyes and long face trying to find a glimpse of hope that I had a few days earlier, but there was none. I looked at my belly and tried to determine if there was something still in there. In my heart I knew there was not.

When Henrik walked into the room he ran over to me and climbed into my arms. It was surprising as he usually only greeted Eric that way. Henrik buried his head into my shoulder and just laid there for a minute. He could tell that his mommy was sad. He knew. I hugged him back. Fully embracing his love and holding back my tears, I finally understood why this was all happening. I had learned that I could love another child. In five days I went from loving the idea of being pregnant again to losing a child and mourning the loss of something I hardly knew. It was possible.

Just 16 days after I miscarried, I got pregnant again. Of course I was terrified, but not because I was worried I wouldn't love it, I knew I would, this time I was worried that I'd lose another baby. As the pregnancy went on I had multiple freak outs, like when I started bleeding again at 7 1/2 weeks. When I saw the ultrasound of a little peanut wiggling around and saw the heartbeat, I was relieved but not at ease. They told me I had a Sub-Chorionic Hemorrhage, and they hoped it would clear up on it's own. It did by 17 weeks. At 21 weeks we had another ultrasound and discovered an enlarged kidney and that while it was common in boys, if it didn't clear up on it's own it could be a sign of other things. A month later, they checked again and the baby was totally healthy. Were we in the clear? Why was this child putting me through all of this?!

Finally, on January 21, 2012, Theodor William was born. He was perfect. In every way. And when they put that brand new baby on my belly I instantly fell in love with him. I had that connection with him right away and my heart burst with love and happiness, tears of joy streamed down my face. It was then that I finally sighed a breath of relief.

Today, that baby is 18 months old. That baby, who caused me so much stress and anxiety during the very long nine months I carried him, has grown into a full out rough and tumble boy who still causes me a lot of stress, just not in the same way. He's sweet and compassionate and says, "hold you momma?" "Kiss you momma?" while he steals toys from his brother and flashes a smile when his brother gets upset. He's the same baby who runs wild through the house but stops to give a hug to his brother as he passes him. He's full of spunk, curiosity, laughter and energy. He's delightful to be around, he's funny, smart and witty. He acts like he's at least two and will not take any kind of restraint, and will accept any challenge before him. And though there are days he gives Max and the Wild Things a run for their money, he's exactly what I wanted in another child. When he looks at me I can see his soul. When he smiles the whole room feels warmer, and when he is around his brother I know that Eric and I made the right choice to try again and have another baby. We've got two amazing children who love one another, are close in age, and are the best of friends.

Today, when I look at my life and what I have, I often think about the one I lost and if there will be any more. I don't know at this point. I do know that I am perfectly happy with what I have and the family dynamic we've got. I am fearful of having another child, but not that I won't love it, oh God would I love it, no, I'm just afraid that I may never have a social life or sleep again and I'm afraid of the things that three boys could do to my house. Or worse, what if next time it was twin boys!

The whole experience of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood is one amazing journey. It's filled with ups and downs, loss and reward, sanity and "WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING".  I'll forever have to say, "Three pregnancies, two children" but I won't have to be sad about it. I can sit back in that uncomfortable doctor's office chair and say that the two boys that I have are the best gifts anyone could ask for and the one I lost taught me the most valuable lesson world.

Today, on Theodor's 18 month birthday, I sit back and realize just how quickly time flies. One day I'm sitting in a hospital bed holding my second son and before I know it I'll be celebrating his 18th birthday and high school graduation. There's no time to go back, life moves on, and at times I have to remind myself that instead of wondering what could have been, I have to focus on what is here and now. That miscarriage will always be in the back of my mind and a part of me, but  right now, I've got my hands full of rocks, feathers, fruit snacks and cars and all I have time to think about how I'm going to get Theo his next snack and Hank to wipe his own bottom. It's odd to think that a miscarriage can be a blessing, at least in my experience it was. I learned a lot about myself, my family and of course, without it, I wouldn't have had Theo. And that's enough to be thankful for.

Minutes old

18 moths old

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Nature Hunters

Growing up in Michigan, my sisters and I spent a lot of time outdoors. When we were younger our grandparents had a cabin and we couldn't wait to get up there to go frog huntin'. As we grew older, we enjoyed camping and just being outdoors. My boys are no different.

When we first moved in this house some 15 years ago, I'll never forget the first night. We had just moved from Ann Arbor, on a busy street where an ambulance or siren of some sort was the norm, to the country, where all I could hear were frogs, cicadas and crickets. It scared me to death. It was dark, but the animals were loud. Sometimes we'd hear a coyote. It was scary,  at that point in my life I'd rather have zooming cars and traffic noise to crickets. But as an adult, I've learned to love those sounds. They are peaceful and bring back Summer memories of playing with my sisters.

While I'll have many fond memories of this particular Summer in Michigan, I'll never forget how my boys woke up each morning and were ready for an adventure.  (And let's be honest, they needed to get out, they are just easier to control when they do). There were days I couldn't even get them out of their PJs before they pulled open the door and raced outside.

 Sometimes we'd just have free play. Sometimes I'd have them play in the sandbox, a mud puddle or just walk the track. But sometimes, when we were really ambitious, and very full of energy, we'd put on our finest adventure seeking wear, and we would head outdoors with gusto. We were not always sure what we would find, so we came prepared for everything.

We have done everything in this backyard: found tree frogs, went tadpole and frog hunting, caught butterflies, splashed in mud after the rain, ran away from dragons, planted a garden, and have even done science experiments with different things we've discovered and collected. 

But, I think one of my fondest memories from this Summer will be the day Henrik caught his first fish. I had mixed feelings about it initially. Eric is the fisherman in our family and while I think it's fun, I didn't want to take that first fish away from Eric and his son. So, when Hanky expressed interest in catching a fish, I called up Eric and asked him if it would be okay if we tried to catch one. Of course Eric said we could go. What kind of father wouldn't? But I knew in his heart he wanted to be there to see the smile on his son's face when we caught a big one. 

I decided that I'd take Hank to the store to get a pole and some lures. The whole day, Henrik talked about catching a "big one" and being like Daddy catching fish. He even talked about cooking a fish to eat! So not my child. I could see the excitement and pride in his eyes and smile when he talked about fishing, it was as if big boys could go fishing and the thought of getting his OWN REAL fishing pole?! NO WAY! That was even better! When I told Eric what I bought he told me that I was more likely to catch fish with worms instead of lures in our pond. I wasn't thrilled about that, but hey, catching worms is pretty fun so why not?

One of the things that's happened to me as I've become a mom, especially of boys, but as a parent in general, is that I've tried not to let my fears get in the way of giving my kids different experiences. That means I have to catch spiders and hold them in my hand while my boys closely examine it, and I have to do it with poise and tranquility so they don't get scared or shy away from it. So there was something cool about being able to dig for worms and suck up the fact that I'd have to stick it on a hook. I guess I was proud of myself for doing it. And for a minute, instead of fighting with me over something silly, Henrik thought I was the coolest thing ever because I was getting worms to go fishing with. I was proving to my son that girls could do what boys do, and I was proving to myself that I could do it too.

Once we were fully stocked on live bait, we headed down to the pond. I can't really explain how it happened because it happened so fast, but as soon as Henrik threw his first cast he got a fish! I had to help reel it in because he wasn't doing it fast enough. The whole time I reeled, Henrik told me to do it faster as he jumped up and down with excitement.

His first fish was a Blue Gill. He didn't want to touch it, instead, he just wanted to look at it. I'm sure he could have examined it for days, but I told him it was time to put him back. As soon as our little Blue Gill swam away, Henrik wanted to do it again. So, I hooked up another work and BAM! In the blink of an eye, we'd caught another one! Henrik reeled in this one, but it was bigger so he had to work for it a little bit.

His second fish was a Rock Bass. And this one he was even more proud of. It was the kind of fish Daddy fishes for. He also was able to reel it in and hold it himself. He actually said, "I'm so excited! I caught a fish I caught a fish!" while dancing in place. It was adorable and a moment that every parent wants to see. I only wish Eric could have been there to dance with him.

For maybe two hours the boys and I caught and released fish. We scoured the pond for tadpoles and frogs and just sat on the bank of the pond and enjoyed the whole ecosystem over there. It was the perfect day. And while I know Eric would have loved to be a part of this whole experience, I've got to think that Eric is happy for me because I got to do something with my boys that moms don't typically get to do. I know Henrik was happy, and that's all that really matters when we get right down to it.

I don't know how often we will be in Michigan for the Summer, right now they've only known Summer in Michigan, but that may not be the case down the road. Whatever our schedule looks like, I hope that the boys will grow up knowing the wonderful adventures and excitement we've had over life's little things in Mimi and Pop Pop's backyard. And I hope that when they think about Michigan and the time they've spent here that they do remember their Summer quests for a better understanding of nature. For me, there's something romantic and magical about Summer and nature. Right now, the boys are just trying to soak up every ounce of whatever is new to them, and that's magical too. When they see a butterfly up close they are inspired by it's incredible strength but fascinated with how delicate it is, and they are amazed that it was once a caterpillar. When they touch a fish they are curious about it's scales, it's ability to stay under water and how come they are so hard to reel in. When they see a tree frog they are excited about it's ability to be so sticky and camouflaged. These are traits that are just part of who the boys are at this age, but it's this curiosity and love of what is around them that inspires me and makes Summer and our adventures so magical. I hope they keep this majestic and excited feeling for years to come.
(And I wouldn't mind if they keep the outfits either.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Pooping Party To You

The day after I posted this entry about how it was damn near impossible to potty train my boys, Henrik pooped on the potty! It was quite the celebration too! But a day after that, he had an accident. And for a few days after that he had an accident. It was like I put it out in the universe that I was fed up with potty  training and he did what he was supposed to, but then a day later I was being punished for sharing my sons' bathroom experiences on the Internet. I'll never win.

After a few days of no luck on the potty and even pee accidents, I was definitely feeling like there was absolutely no hope at all, but determined to stick with it, I told Henrik that if he pooped on the potty three days in a row he'd get a pooping party! His eyes widened, his smile grew, he clapped his hands and jumped up and down. REALLY? He could have cake and a candle, a pooping car and a sign! It wasn't even his birthday!

We talked about the rules: No pooping in Pull-Ups at night. Always listen to your body and go right away to the bathroom. Bring ONE car with you. The faster you go, the faster you can get back to playing. And I made a deal that I wouldn't force him to sit on the potty too long, all he had to do was try to make three toots. After three tires, he could get off. If he pooped, FANTASTIC. If not, we'd try later. This logic and these rules seemed to work, pretty soon, he learned that toots turned to poops and before I knew it he was telling me he had to go! He's not good at the advance warning, but when he says he's got to go, he will! Sometimes he even cheers on his intestines as he does the deed.

On the third day of successfully pooping on the potty we had a party! I grabbed the boys and they helped make pooping brownies, they helped make a banner and we had a pretty good little dance party too. It was fun, I was proud and Henrik was too, he was signing the "I Pooped On The Potty" song I made up as he colored the sign.

That night at dinner Henrik ate faster than he's ever eaten before. He was so excited when he finished his meal and we could bring out the brownies! After I delivered the brownies, Henrik wouldn't eat them, he just looked at me like I was missing something. "You have to sing a song" he said, "and, did you forget to give me a candle?" Oh, so this WAS a birthday-ish thing, OK.  Once I got out the candle and lit it I sang, "Happy Pooping Party To You" and all was right in the world.

Think we got it? NOPE, I kid you not, the VERY next day Henrik pooped in his underwear. I couldn't believe it. I was livid, there he was curled up in a corner in the playhouse outdoors, pooping. I was shocked and sad too. I thought I was getting somewhere with him. I thought I told him 1,000 times I was proud of him, I thought that we could finally move on from this little control game we were playing with one another.

I had to think quickly. As I cleaned him up I told him I was taking away his pooping cars that he'd just earned. I told him that he had to wear a Pull-Up like a baby, I told him that he wasn't allowed to have a pooping brownie and I even told him that we had to take down the sign we'd just made. I didn't do it meanly, or angrily, I just said it matter of fact: you don't poop on the potty, you don't get to celebrate. You would have thought I was the meanest mother in the world. When I stood on the chair to take the sign down, he grabbed my legs and sobbed, "Don't take the sign, momma! I'll be good! I want to be a nice boy and poop on the potty!" I took the sign down, it broke my heart as I did it, but, it had to be done. I put it away, and when I was done putting all the pooping toys out of his reach, I came down to his level. I explained that I wanted him to have the sign and the toys too. That I wanted him to be big and nice and have a celebration, but we couldn't until he pooped again.

That night at dinner Henrik was in disbelief that I ate a pooping brownie. "Why do you get one?" he asked. "Because I pooped on the potty today," I responded. I could see his heart sink as he looked at me with big doe eyes. I felt like a jerk. Seriously, how mean is it to eat your son's brownies right in front of him?

That night Henrik went to bed angry and sad.  At this point I was laughing on the inside at how big an A-Hole I was being. But I wanted him to know how serious I was about him going on the potty. When I tucked him in that night I told him that we'd start fresh tomorrow and if he pooped on the potty he could have all of his things back. He asked if I would be proud of him if he pooped on the potty. I felt bad for previously laughing at myself for being mean. OF COURSE I'd be proud. Didn't he know that? I tried to explain to him that I loved snuggling with him and I loved helping him with everything, but even more than that, I loved that he was growing up and getting bigger. I loved that he was turning into a boy and doing things that big kids do: like chores, washing their hands, putting on their shoes, riding bikes and scooters, and even going on the potty. I told him I'd be so proud and so happy if he did his bathroom stuff on his own and I'd even be proud if he just TRIED to go on the potty.

The next morning, as we were playing outside, Henrik came over to me and said, "I have to go potty. I made three toots." I rushed him to the bathroom and then, just like that, he went! It was the world's largest celebration. You would have thought Lightning McQueen and The Grave Digger were in our living room. We both were jumping up and down, we were both laughing and cheering. We quickly got cleaned up and got the pooping toys back, the brownies back on the counter and we even put the sign up together. It was a wonderful moment. "Mom, are you happy?" I just smiled and hugged him. "Of course I'm happy! You listened to your body and you did it! I knew you could do it!" He smiled back and held me tight around my neck.

Since that day, Henrik has pooped on the potty every day, we're now at six days in a row. I think the thing that makes me think we're VERY close to being potty trained, is that when we were on our road trip a few days ago, Henrik held his pee and announced when he had to go. He's been staying dry over night and even pooped on the potty in a hotel and while we were at a friend's house! He's starting to gain confidence and even grasp an understanding of what his body is telling him.

 We do have a long road ahead, literally, we have a 21 hour road trip in ten days and then we will move into a new house, sleep in new beds and figure out life as a family again, so the the bathroom stuff could easily take a backseat, but for now, I'm feeling pretty positive about what's going on with this new found sense of achievement. And if I have to look at a toilet full of poop and do a pooping dance each time he goes, I'll do it forever. As long as he's proud of himself and I'm getting him to use the bathroom, I'll do what ever I need to to keep the trend going.

End Notes:
Theodor, not even 18 months, has been telling me when he has to pee, and when he poops he tells me. He then tells me that he's stinky and needs a change. We may actually be getting somewhere after all! Think it's possible to have him trained by two?! 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Worth The Trip

It had been a very long 44 days, nerves, excitement and anxiety flooded our car as I packed in the boys so we could make the three hour and 45 minute trip to Dayton, OH to visit Eric during his training. In just a few weeks we will actually pack up everything we own in Michigan and move to Colorado (where we're stationed). But even though we could make it three more weeks, Eric and I decided that a mini family vacation in Ohio was exactly what we needed. 

Before I could get to his somewhat glorified vacation held up in a VOQ (Visiting Officer Quarters) on an Air Force Base, I had to get through the drive down there. Normally the trip to Dayton wouldn't be bad, but it turned out to be torturous. Yeah, I think torturous is the right word... the boys slept for the first 48 minutes of our trip. After that, things kind of went down hill: Thornado choked on a cheese puff and puked all over himself. It wasn't actually that much vomit, but it was enough to annoy him and stink up the car. He kept saying, "I puke, I puke" over and over until I finally decided that I couldn't ignore it any longer. I pulled off the expressway in the middle of nowhere and just pulled to the edge of the exit ramp. Just as I opened my door, I looked up and noticed the "No Parking" sign. I parked anyway. I hoped that the police would have mercy on me since we were at an exit that had absolutely nothing at it. No one even noticed we were there. 

Almost an hour and 13 repeats of Yankee Doodle later, Hank-o-Saurus announced that he had to pee. Damn. Really? Now?! We've been working SO hard on potty training that I couldn't just say, "pee in your Pull-Up" and when I asked him if he could hold it he said, "no". So, I had to pull over, right where we were, on a six lane expressway. I got Hanky out of the car and had him drop his drawers right there on the side of the road. He was really proud that he got to pee on an expressway and watch "zooming fast cars" as he relieved himself. Just as I got Henrik buckled in, Theo announced that he too had to pee. Hand to forehead. OK, we're stopped so we might as well change him too, right? He was right, he too peed out of the side of the van and was extremely proud of himself.

Getting Theo in the car after that was a nightmare. He kicked and screamed, wiggled and twisted his way out of the straps several times. I finally tricked him into the seat with a granola bar and quickly locked him in. I gave the boys a snack and hoped that we could make another two hours fly by. 

There was no relief. They screamed, fought over toys and demanded that we listen to songs on opposite ends of the alphabet so scrolling through my play list was nearly impossible. When we were getting close to our exit, I told them in a pretty strict and stern voice that they needed to be quiet because I wanted to make sure I could find Daddy and the Air Force Base. Instead of being quiet, they yelled, "Daddy?! Where are you?"They started out yelling in a fun and happy tone, but as we got to the construction signs and the traffic jam, the yells got louder, angrier and longer. 

I quickly discovered that I-75 is pretty much a wreck. They had changed exits on me and destroyed bridges. Henrik kept asking why everything was a disaster and he couldn't believe that his beloved construction vehicles would make the road so messy! I miss our exit because the GPS and I couldn't decode the Detour signs. I finally decided to just get off the expressway, once I did that we were detoured an additional 30 minutes when we though we only had 15 miles to go. There were tears and screams, I was starting to fume as I struggled to find the entrance to the base. Apparently, this base is spilt into two and likes to just take over roads and put up blockades everywhere. There's nothing more frustrating than going through a military base with armed officers as they check IDs as we entered and exited the base twice trying to find our correct turn. 

When we were finally on base, I drove to the address Eric gave me. It wasn't a hotel, it was a Colonel's house. I called Eric, I yelled at him in disbelief that he couldn't figure out where he was. He didn't know the name of the road his annexed hotel was on and he told me he was in his rental car at the main building of the hotel but couldn't give me any information on it. (Turns out, the base doesn't label every road at every corner). I finally found him, I followed him to our building and as soon as I opened the doors the cries and screams turned into joy and happiness. 

It was rough getting there, but as soon as I saw the looks on these boys faces, I knew that it was worth it. (I am however dreading the 21 hour drive to Colorado in three weeks). 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stretch Marks

As I was getting ready one morning I stood before the mirror, naked. I looked my body up and down and despite the 50 pounds and four sizes I'd lost thanks to nursing Theodor, I was still a little critical of what was left behind. 

Henrik was busy playing in my room and I had high hopes that Theo would stay in there as well as I examined the belly pooch, the saggy breasts, and stretch marks that remained from carrying and nursing two eight pound babies. The marks were fading, but still visible after all this time. Even that dark line that ran from my sternum to my pubic bone was still visible if I looked close enough. My stretch marks never turned into that tree shape that some women get. Instead, mine were more like tears in the skin. They were evenly spaced and had irregular sides. I remember each week of each pregnancy thinking "Man, I'm going to make it through this without stretch marks". There was this sense of pride, like it was an accomplishment to not have them. But then, around week thirty, the boys grew so much that my body couldn't prevent it any more. I remember thinking that they were ugly. I rubbed my over grown belly each day with copious amounts of coco butter to try and diminish them, and I was careful to watch how much I ate even though I was eating for two, but it didn't matter. 

As I started to put on make-up Theo waked in. He pulled a stool over to the counter and stood up. Fantastic. Thornado is going to knock my stuff all over the counter, I thought. I started to move things out of his reach, which really meant I was moving everything off the counter. 

Instead of destruction and sass though, Theo looked me up and down a few times. Should I go put on clothes? As he searched my body, he started to gently touch each of the remaining stretch marks he gave me with his soft, warm, chubby hands. I didn't say anything. I just let him touch and look. He turned his head a few times as he really studied each mark. He stopped on one of the larger marks and placed a sweet, gentle and sloppy kiss on top of it. I smiled. He stepped down from the stool, grabbed my leg and gave it a big hug. Then he walked away. 

I'll never know what he was thinking when he looked at those marks. But having him touch them gave me an instant new perspective on them. 

I was working hard, eating healthy, exercising and living off the bonus weight loss program from nursing for 13 months. But when I looked in the mirror minutes before this encounter, I was shocked at how, "not young", and beat up my body looked. I got compliments on how great I looked, and I smiled and agreed. My husband told me I was sexy, and I liked it, but he had to say it. Don't get me wrong, I liked that I was now wearing a size four or six and I thought I looked good, but seeing all of my non-child baring peers look stunning as they posed in their marathon and Color Run photos made me jealous.

But when Theo touched my stretch marks, I had a change of heart I never thought was possible. I was now proud of these marks. Not everyone wants to be a mother and make the emotionally challenging, selfless way of life, and the sleepless night transition to motherhood. The thought of losing control of your body to essentially a parasite for nine months (both of my boys made me pretty sick, and made me go on bed rest) as well as lose your familiar figure can be terrifying to several woman. But I chose to do it.  These marks were my medal, my tattoos, my battle scars, my reward for undergoing one of life's most wonderful miracles. 

I checked out myself in the mirror again. I stood up taller. My body looked better, I was able to realize that I was more womanly than I'd ever thought before. I realized I could celebrate my new size and shape. My boobs aren't perky and fun, but they have single handily nourished two healthy, strong, and beautiful boys. They are sexy. My belly isn't taught and ribbed like some of my friends or the women I see in parenting magazines, but I grew a person. I had a human growing and twisting, kicking and punching me from inside out for nine months and now, I'm left with this pooch that provides extra padding when my boys tackle me. It's an extra step for my boys as they scale my body to get as close as they can for a hug. I can't believe I didn't see it before. 

It's not that I had a bad body image, just a critical one. One that reminded me of my single days soaking up the sun in a bikini before I traded it in for the tankini to cover a growing baby belly and a one-piece that I have to wear during swim lessons and trips to the pool so my boys don't expose too much of me. 

Thanks to my son, I've now got a better understanding of who I am and why I should be proud of it. You won't hear me tell my boys that I'm fat, or unhappy with my body because I've truly learned the value of self image. I still watch what I eat and exercise, but it's not to change my physical self. It's to stay fit and healthy so I can keep up with these boys. So that when they say they want to go climb a mountain, I can go. When they say they want to play catch in the backyard, I won't get worn out and now, when they say they want to go swimming, I'll be confident enough to wear shorts and remove them to show off my swimsuit body (maybe one day a bikini). My body isn't Victoria Secret Model beautiful, it's mom beautiful and I can't think of anything better than that. 

*If you want to read an interesting article, click here

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Here Comes Trouble

As you may have guessed, Thornado is quite the energetic child. He is full of gusto and mischief. He's sly and cunning. He can throw the world's largest tantrum, but be as sweet as a triple chocolate cake when he says things with his big eyes, his head cocked and with a soft, high pitched tone.

 If we don't do things fast enough for him, he'll do it himself. If we leave him by himself we will find him stuck in a chair, on top of the furniture or locked in a room somewhere. He's so smart and so determined that he's always surprising me with his newest trick.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The kid never wanted to be a baby and since he was born he's been adamant about doing everything his brother did. From walking sooner, to speaking in sentences faster, he's blown me away in every aspect of his life.

Theodor learned two very important things over the holiday weekend:
 1. How to climb the baby gate.
 2. How to aim a Super Soaker.
The latter isn't as detrimental as the former, but still it's an indicator that our life is about to become even more chaotic than it already is.

When I heard stomping up the stairs I knew that at least Henrik was up there, he's tall enough to hop the gate and has on occasion. But when I saw that Theo was next to him and the gate was still intact, I was shocked and unsure how it happened. Later that day I caught Theo in action. He looked back at me the whole time and smiled. I wanted to see how he was doing it so I didn't say anything during his three second process. Probably I should have, but if I'm going to beat the beast I've got to know his tricks!

When he got his footing on the other side, his smile grew. He and I both knew that there was no holy space left in the house. (Seriously, there isn't, the boys team up to break down the baby-safe door handle locks. Thornado does some karate chop on the device and Hank-o-Saurus turns the knob) Despite his smile, and my secret pride that he's getting bigger, my heart sank a bit and my stomach turned into knots. I felt helpless and defeated. These boys are going to be the end of me.

What happens when you have an almost 18 month old child who works with his older brother to get into things their not supposed to? What do you do when your almost 18 month old child can climb out of his bed, and even cross over the baby gate? Do you open up the house and throw a toddler bed at him and say, "Here, welcome to freedom" (while I die a slow, painful and stressful death while picking up after you and searching for you? Or do you buy a taller gate? I know I'm not able to keep them locked in one part of the house forever, but seriously, NOW at three and ALMOST 18 FREEKING MONTHS my life has become this? I'm already herding yaks and wrestling dragons. I already have hours of cleaning to do once they've left a room. (And yes, I do make them help). And I'm already talking down Dinosaurs and Pirates, now I need to chase them from floor to floor and room to room while they terrorize bedrooms, dressers and bathrooms? Where is my personal space? I don't remember signing a waiver when they were born!

I have a friend with a baby that just started sitting up. She said she was SO excited for them to start moving because he could start to do things with them. I just laughed. Right in her face. ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU WANT YOUR SON TO START MOVING? Idiot. I remind her that once they start to move, they start falling, getting into things, and disappearing when you turn away for one second. They start to ignore your calls to "Come" and instead run away laughing (fortunately, mine still run into corners so I can catch them easier). With this freedom of movement and free-will comes a lot of absolutely wonderful things, but if I could just keep mine in that phase where they fall back down after sitting for several minutes then I would.

Let's assume that I have to accept that my boys are growing up and they of course can climb out of cribs and over baby gates. But do I have to accept that my ALMOST 18 MONTH old can AIM a Super Soaker? Shoot it, sure, but aiming it is just plain impressive. I don't mind being soaked, as long as it doesn't get my hair, I have a wet hair thing, but the fact that Thornado can now pick up a Super Soaker, re-load it (you'd better believe it) and then shoot you right in the face is just beyond me.

So what? Abbey, it's just Summer fun! Who doesn't like water fights? Well, I do, who doesn't like to squirt their kids and spouse? But not when I'm in a battle against my boys. You see, again, they team up. They get me from both sides and when the fun is over or the water runs out, Hank will put the soaker down and find something else to do. Theo on the other hand, figures that it would be more fun to keep playing, so he fills it up again and flashes a quick and adorable smile at you and then shoots his brother right in the face. Henrik then yells, "I don't have a Super Soaker! You can't squirt me!" and Theo replies, "quirt you!" and laughs as he does it again. I'll be the first to admit that Theo has bully tendencies, but he's also the world's largest instigator. He'll do anything to get a rise out of me or his brother. He'll poke and poke and poke until Henrik explodes and gets in trouble.

I know when I was a kid, my sister and I used to be like that, though we may disagree on who was the biggest poker, we did things all the time to get one another in trouble. It wasn't this physical or this active. Mostly we'd just set the other person up, my boys on the other hand push and poke and steal and use force to get the other one riled up. This new ability to aim has me worried, he can not only do something he's not supposed to, but he can do it with purpose.

Say I surrender and just accept that the mischief will run my household for the next 18 years. Where does that put me? Looking frazzled and frumpy as I struggle to keep track of them? How does one effectively encourage their imagination and curiosity while curbing the chaos? If you've got ideas, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be staying up late at night souring the Internet for meditation techniques, "Mommy Needs A Drink" blogs, and natural calming remedies that I can slip my children during mealtime.

Seriously though, Theodor is a good boy. He's just one of those kids you can't ever, EVER take your eye off of. Now that he's pretty much free, I've got to watch everything I do. From opening boxes of fruit snacks (he can open those btw), to opening baby cabinet locks (he can't do those yet), to opening the garage door (he can open the door to the garage, Hank can open the garage door) to where I put the keys (I'm so afraid my boys will go for a joy ride in about a year) I've got to make sure that if I don't want Theo doing it, he'd better not be around when I do them.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Organized Sports

*I acknowledge in advance, that putting a three year old into an organized Sport Camp seems silly. I understand that while reading this post you may infer that my husband and I are crazy or perhaps the sport version of a "Stage Mom". While I may not sound convincing, I'll do my best to ensure that as our boys try different things, I not become one of "those parents". I also understand that there could be some expectations for our sons as their father played college hockey, was a Hobey Baker Candidate and even played in a Semi-Pro hockey game. But the pressure could also come from me, a mother who has been in love with the Detroit Tigers for as long as she can remember and has a love of sports and competition that fuels her life.*

Just after Memorial Day, I enrolled Henrik in a Sports Camp through the local school district. It was called, "Sport Sampler" and was for children ages 3-6. I fully understood that my son who had just turned three, would be one of the young ones in the class, and I understood that the expectations of the class would be for children to learn basic fundamentals of each of the five sports. I didn't know how much parental involvement there would be, or if it was a team of coaches working with my son. Either way, I was excited for a chance to drive my son to a sport camp where he could have an hour with me a ball and some kids.

In preparation for this class, my husband and I hyped up sports to our boys, we bought all the balls (football, soccer ball, baseball and basketball) in the right sizes so that Henrik could show up with some concept of what each ball looked like. We bought athletic shoes and even athletic shorts and shirts. Is it excessive? Perhaps. I did get a warning from Eric that, "He's not going to be the kid who shows up in Converse and a V-neck". And of course I knew that. If I go to the gym, I wear athletic clothing, why would it be different for a kid? Is it different?

When we arrived at camp the first day we immediately saw that we'd be playing soccer. Henrik was shy, he clung to my hand and placed his fingers in his mouth. When the other kids arrived, he wanted to play with them, but didn't know how to initiate a greeting other than standing creepily close to them and staring at them with big eyes. I stepped in introduced myself and Henrik and suggested that the boys run and play with one another until class began. It was a good idea. Hank warmed up a bit.

As Henrik ran around, I watched all the parents as we all gathered into a tiny carpeted floor gym; mothers with no athletic skill whatsoever and wore mom jeans, fathers who worked at U of M and were outfitted completely in Michigan attire, mothers who were college athletes, fathers still wearing dress clothes and out of breath as they pushed their sons into the gym, and the Tom-Boy Mothers who always wanted to play with the boys but had to prove their ability to play, all scanned the room and urged their children to get active.  There were dads cheering on their sons, loudly. One dad shook his head and got frustrated when his son couldn't trap the ball. Several parents took photos and video of their child. And, there was a mom that kept dropping a ball and said to her son, "Sorry, I just throw like a girl". As I watched these parents, I tried to figure out why they brought their kids to this camp. I saw the pain of gathering 10-15 three to six year olds as they practice throwing and catching. I saw the struggle of herding these kids into a somewhat straight line as they would take turns making a basket or shooting a goal. I saw the excitement of some the parents as their children ran around for 45 minutes before dinner, bath and bed. And I saw the hopes of some parents as they watched their sons make some pretty impressive moves.

Once the coach started class, he asked that all his players come around him. Hank wouldn't go, he needed me to stand by him. When the coach asked the kids to run and warm up, Hank wouldn't do it. He needed me to hold his hand and run with him. When the coach asked them to listen so he could explain what they were about to do, Hank swung his arms around and swayed back and forth instead of listening. We were all instructed to stand across from our child and practice each skill. Passing, kicking, throwing in and stopping the ball. It was torture. Towards the end of the class, the kids were asked to put their skills to use and they'd work on scoring a goal.

I pleaded with Henrik several times the first day to stop being silly and rude to his coach. He behaved for probably one second. While Henrik was playing with the cones instead of the ball, a parent asked, "how old is he?" I told her that he just turned three a few weeks earlier. She replied, "he's really cute." Is he cute because he's got smushable cheeks, a great smile and for the most part a friendly disposition? Or was he cute because he wasn't following directions and was clearly living in his own world?

When the kids were free to shoot and score, Henrik did exactly as he was told and even scored a few goals. He looked like he was having fun, finally.

We left that night and I complimented Henrik on his job well done on scoring and asked him if he liked it. He claimed he had fun but didn't like soccer. I let him know that he didn't have to like soccer, he just had to try it a few times. When he asked why, I didn't really know what to say. In my heart and mind I know I'm not trying to raise an Olympic athlete (especially when I'm pretty sure that IF Henrik does do sports it will be an individual sport like swimming, cross country or even gymnastics) but what I wanted to avoid saying was, "because you're a boy". I hated to admit it, I hated that it was true and I hated that I thought this way.

I wanted to say, you're a boy who is a military child, will live on a military base, and live in the "macho military world". You're a boy who moves around a lot and you'll always be able to make a friend even if you can even haphazardly swing a bat, catch or kick a ball. You'll be able to gain a confidence in your ability to achieve something if you work hard, sweat and train for a sport. You'll be expected to by other boys. You'll be expected to play a sport by our society. Do I expect that you'll be able to at least catch a ball? Yeah, I do. I can. I wanted to tell him that he had to sound knowledgeable about sports because then you can fit into any group. You can be the geeky engineer who builds anything you can imagine, but you can fit in with the jocks because even if you can't play a sport, you can at least talk about "the game" last night. I wanted to tell him that being from Detroit, I have experienced how sports have held this town together. Even when our baseball team sucked, for a few nights a year, the city clung to the hope that the Tigers might make the World Series. And when they finally did, Detroit was better. Michigan was better. We walked around happy, we had something to talk about that wasn't a shooting, a diminishing economy or the loss of jobs. When the Red Wings make the playoffs we all wear red, pretend we're best friends with the players or come up with reasons to hate the other team. As a kid, and even today, I still enjoy playing catch with my dad. Watching football with my step-dad or watching Eric play. Is it wrong of me to want my sons to fit into this sport based world?  Is it horrible that I look forward to my boys and husband driving across the country to visit different sports arenas, or sharing a Saturday watching football, or having a family night out at the ball park keeping score the old fashioned way?

I ended up telling him that we were doing this camp so we could have some mom and Henrik time and so that we could learn different sports. I told him he didn't have to like any of them but we were still going to listen to his coach and try really hard to do each one. He nodded and agreed.

As the weeks went on, Henrik's confidence grew. He started to "make friends" even though he sometimes was creepy and just stared, very close, to another child. He tried at least three times to do each drill, his attention span wasn't as long as the other, older kids, but he tried. He joined in the stretching and running, he didn't require me to be by his side. He never did the end of the practice huddle with the team though. As we worked on drills with our kids I noticed the other kids excelling with each pass, kick, or throw. Henrik was doing better, but the drills didn't keep him occupied. He'd rather play with the hockey stick, wear the cone as a hat or just sit and zone out. At first I got upset. I wanted him to do what he was told. I didn't care if he could do a bounce pass or not, I just wanted him to TRY. There was a day during basketball camp where I wanted to chuck the ball at him because he just wasn't doing what he was supposed to, even when his coach was there trying to help him. Then I remembered he was three. When I discovered that the "drop the ball and catch it on the bounce" drill was too hard for him, I had him sit down and do it with me. It worked, we laughed and cheered when he caught it, but it took every ounce of energy I had to stay positive and encourage him.

When Henrik was asked to put all of the skills together to score, hit or make a basket, he did really well. He was proud of himself too. It's funny, he's kind of a modest kid. When he scored in hockey he smiled so big. He put his stick up in the air and celebrated. When the parents cheered, yes, he was the kid parents cheered for (probably because he was oh so cute) he quickly hid his smile and acted cool like nothing happened. In basketball, he'd walk up to the line nonchalantly and make a basket, just like that. He'd give a half smirk, give me a high five on his way to the end of the line and that was that. When he hit the ball in baseball and ran to the bases, the parents who were assigned to each base had to guide and quiz him on which base to run to next because he got lost. But when he stomped on home plate, he had a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. It made me proud to see him so proud of himself. It made me happy, not because he was playing a sport and scoring, but because he was doing something that he was able to see growth in. Each day as we left we talked about what we did and I made sure to let him know I was impressed with his ability to do the exercises with out me, or run the laps with the other kids or even score. Each time I let him know that he was getting bigger and was able to do more than he thought he could. I think by the end of the five weeks, he did gain a confidence in himself, was it the sport? The teaching? The attitude? I'm not sure.

A few people have mocked the idea of the Sport Camp that I enrolled him in. Yeah, I see how people can think that I'm "forcing sports" on a kid who doesn't really have interest in them. But isn't it my job as a parent to push my kids? Shouldn't I  have them try things that make them uncomfortable so I can teach them that they are capable of doing something they thought was impossible? Someone also made the point about forcing little boys into sports when they could be doing some other not so stereotypical activity. But my boys play with baby dolls, they push pink strollers and shopping carts, they love the color pink and when they play house sometimes they want to be the Mommy that stays home with the baby. I guess I'm caught somewhere in the middle. Part of the reason I wanted Henrik to do this was to stretch him, to force him away from cars and trucks to do something physical. Odin knows this child has energy to burn and playing cars doesn't always cut it. I also want him to at least understand sports, I don't care if he plays them or not, but I want him to be able to join a pick up hockey game in the cul de sac, or go to a friend's house to play H.O.R.S.E, or to not get made fun of in gym glass because he doesn't know how to throw a baseball. I want him to get the joy from sports that a lot of people do, especially his dad and I do. There's more to a sport than the points: there's hard work, teamwork, leadership and self awareness, all traits I want my sons to have.

Maybe it was silly to start at age three, but aside from the sport itself, sports teach coordination and physical awareness that all kids need to master at some point. I don't know why those other parents put their kids into the class. I'm confident that I made the right decision for Henrik. I think that while he didn't always participate, and while he didn't love every sport we did, he got something out of it. He may not remember it a week from now, because he didn't show huge interest in it, but I've seen him run up to a soccer ball laying in the grass and kick it around when before he wouldn't have touched it. I've seen him take pride in the fact that he's getting bigger and that he went to school. I've seen him get high fives from other boys when he made a basket and I've seen the proud look on his face when he seemed to fit in.

I really don't care if he plays baseball, or hockey, but I do care that he find some athletic outlet that makes him happy, that he can be good at. I think we've discovered that he's not a team sport guy and he'd rather be swimming or leaping from play structures, but that won't stop me from having him do something like this again next Summer. I'm going to struggle with the fact that he's a boy and he should know how to play sports, maybe not be great at them all, but at least know how to play them. It's not important 20 years from now, but the world of the teen age boy is full of sport and physical activity, and frankly it scares me. I don't want him to get made fun of like the kid in Sandlot who didn't know who Babe Ruth was.

When I look back at the parents in that class I see a bunch of people all there because they felt like they were doing the best thing for their kids. They felt like their kids needed to be physically active, learn a sport or just get out of the house for an hour. I do see the pressure put on kids as early as Kindergarten to start playing competitively and I see why a class like this may cause one to believe that we're those type of parents. But I'm making a promise now, that no matter what my boys decide to do, I'll embrace it. From 5 am ice time to the Debate State Championship, I'll be there to support my boys. And until they find their own interest, I'm going to continue to give them the opportunity to try new activities and sports, to figure out what they are good at and what they love.

Theo joined us on Football day. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

4th of July- 2012

Our plans were foiled a bit by the Air Force (go figure), we initially thought we'd be able to spend today as a family, but instead, we're spending the day with grandparents! Still good! We'll actually see Eric next week for several days, and you can only imagine how wonderful that feels.

Because it's a holiday and we're not celebrating with Daddy and our military family today, I wanted to make sure my boys understood that we're celebrating something important: the importance of a good idea, hard work, struggle, and freedom. They may not understand today what it means to be free, and they're not aware of the struggles that are happening in Syria, Egypt and Libya for the chance at independence. But I make sure that whenever I see a picture of someone voting (like an Afghan woman with ink on her thumb, or people standing in line at a poling station in Iraq), or I have the opportunity to vote in an election, I include them by showing them the image, bringing them with me to the polling place, and talking to them about basic rights we have as Americans such as equality, independence and freedom and justice.

Down the road when they're old enough we'll discuss the Boston Tea Party, we'll watch 1776, we'll read the Declaration of Independence and we'll discuss the Revolutionary War, but for now, I can have fun with Red, White and Blue cupcakes, yogurt with strawberries and blueberries, flags and rest easy saying, "It's America's Birthday" (which isn't entirely true- it's more like a Birth Announcement) as I try to teach to my sons the importance of this day.

To help celebrate this year, we made crafts, took photos and plan on having a great grill cooked meal with our loved ones.

I hope you all have a safe, happy and wonderful holiday! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Art Of Potty Training

No, there are no "Potty Training in One Day" secrets here. I'm fresh out of ideas.  An open invite for all of you who have have claimed to "Potty Train in Three Days," I will pay top dollar for you to come to my house and teach my boys in three days time. Any takers?

We've been introducing the potty and have had potty training time for a year. When our oldest turned two we cracked down and got him "trained", as in he'd pee when we told him to, and he could mostly keep his underwear dry throughout the day and even at night. He never once offered to go on his own though.

Now, a year later, I've been battling a three year old who is absolutely capable of peeing on the potty, but insists to the point of a tantrum and tears that he can't do it because it would, heaven forbid, interrupt play time. He has accidents because he has to take every Hotwheels car in his collection with him and, as he juggles the cars while walking with his legs crossed he inevitably has an accident. He also refuses to poop on the potty. He's enamored with it. He wants to talk about it, look at it and read about it, but alas, he will not do it. Instead, he'd rather sneak into a quiet, dark room and crouch under a table or chair for a few minutes to take a poop. It doesn't matter if he's in underwear or a Pull-Up he still goes. It doesn't matter if I reward him, take away things or, (I hate to say it) embarrass him by having HIM tell whatever friends are over that he has to come inside and take a nap because he pooped in his underwear like a baby. He has no shame. He's in complete control over the "not pooping" phase and he's stubborn enough to make it last. Yeah, I hear you, it won't last forever, but it's lasting a while and this momma is pretty worn out.

Our younger son just turned 17 months. He's never wanted to be a baby and this whole "big brother going potty" thing is pretty exciting. He stumbles through the halls to see what Hank is doing in the bathroom and will even announce (or take off his pants and diaper completely) if he has to go pee. Because I was getting the signs from Theo, and my cousin's son was coming to stay with us for three days, I figured I'd take advantage of the opportunity to have a big kid around.

Here's what I've done:

I set up two potty timers, one for each boy. Theo's started at 20 minutes and has increased to every 25 minutes on day three. Hank stays dry over night so I have been starting him out at 30 minutes for the first three bathroom breaks and move him up to 45 minutes after that. As the day goes on I've been able to stretch him to every 49 minutes but we've done 60. I don't always make them go. I ask if they have to and a lot of the time they do. If they say no, I let them play a bit longer and then insist they go a few minutes later.

There is a little bit of arguing on the way to the bathroom, but for the most part, the timer going off is enough and they hear it and run to the bathroom. Yeah, I know, thanks to Pavlov I could have a problem later on when they hear the "Charge" song at a baseball game or the "Blues" tune from an iPhone, but for now, it works and I'm not always the bad guy.

They've been able to pee on trees or rocks when we are outside, though they really like to pee on ants. They have been aiming at cereal in the potty and peeing off the deck is a really fun treat. Yes, we are using conventional toilet training too, but when they start to get fussy about going, I just change it up. Plus, I cannot keep them indoors all day long.

Hank has been wearing undies and Theo is in a Pull-Up and we're actually having a lot of success. Except for pooping. Maybe in three or 365 more days we'll get that down. I'm pretty pleased, except for the fact that potty training is 24/7. Yeah, I guess I knew that, but BOTH boys have been waking up in the middle of the night or early from their nap to tell me that they have to go potty. OHMYGOD, really? Now we're not sleeping through the night any more? AHHHH, and I actually have to get up at 3 AM because Theo is on the monitor saying, "Mommy? I go potty". Sighhhh. Whoever said that having kids in underwear was easy, is WRONG.

Now I have to get up and assist, pull up pants, see penises poke through underwear holes (why are those even there for little kids?), talk about pee, poop and carefully and excitedly examine each one. I have to find a bathroom in the middle of a store, and stop grocery shopping to walk to the other side so they can pee. I've even had my sons drop their drawers in a parking lot because they've had to go. I've  had to give the stink eye to a shop that wouldn't allow my son to pee at their store. ARE YOU SERIOUS?! He's THREE! Would you rather A. He pees on your floor and has an accident Or B. We pee on the tree to the side of your store? Shoot, I'll buy a drink or whatever crappy thing your selling so my kid can pee, can we please use it? No? It's REALLY just for employees, fine. I'm pretty sure I'll be arrested someday for letting my boys pee in public, but if I'm supposed to have my boys be independent potty users, why is life making it so hard on me?

The other thing about being potty "trained" is that I'm noticing that it does last a long time. Training is teaching about knowing when your body has to go, how to stop what you're doing so you can listen to your body, how to sit or stand based on what you need to do, how to flush, wipe, use reasonable amounts of toilet paper, how to put on underwear, how to pull up and down pants, how to button and zip,  and how to make sure that your penis doesn't stick out of the top of your undies while your elastic is barely covering your body. It's knowing that you don't need to completely undress to use the toilet, that it's not polite (or clean) to crawl on the floor of a public bathroom while poking your head under a stall. It's teaching that it's not OK to show other people your private parts, it's teaching that most people like privacy,  it's teaching how to wash your hands, how to use soap and a towel, and how to "hold it" when we're in a car. It's teaching how to aim, how to make sure your penis isn't sticking to your testicles so that you can pee in the toilet instead of on your leg. We have to learn why there are Men's Rooms and Women's Rooms and why we use the Women's when we are with Mom even though you are a boy. It's a whole new world that honestly, is not easier than changing a diaper.

Teaching independence and confidence is a hard thing. Teaching kids that they can do something when they don't want to or don't believe they can is a whole different challenge. It requires a lot of patience, and understanding. It also requires persistence and faith that it will get better. I've read a lot of books, blogs and articles about potty training and there are a lot of methods out there. I haven't found the ONE that has made my kids completely cooperative in the potty training department, but at least we're doing it. We're starting to teach something that comes naturally to comply with sanitary and social standards. It's hard. And it's overwhelming. I may not be doing it "right" but I'm doing my best, and right now this is what I've got.

I'm sure they won't go to Kindergarten in Pull-Ups, actually, I'm not sure of that yet, but I'm sure they will gradually over the next few years figure out this whole bathroom thing and one day, I'll wake up and my boys will have already done their business and are quietly playing in the living room. But for now, I'll take a deep breath and search for more helpful tips for all of us to read about the potty, set the timer again and dish out stickers and Skittles for jobs well done.

And, yes, I'm still looking for takers on my earlier offer.