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Thursday, August 29, 2013

He Was Right...I Think.

Well, it happened. Eric and I disagreed on something in terms of parenting, some things were said, I cried, and after a few hours I realized Eric was right. Kind of. 

This morning Henrik asked his dad if they could have a Daddy Date to see Planes and get a new toy car. Eric of course said he'd love to take Henrik to the movies but instead of getting a car, how about they get a bike helmet. When I walked downstairs, Eric told me about their conversation (in that way that you talk so you can include the child in an adult conversation) and then said, "And after we get the helmet, I'll take you to the park to ride your bike on a mountain"(really he meant on a rock-ish mountain, not up Pike's Peak). Henrik quickly agreed that it would be the coolest thing ever and before the conversation could finish, I got huge eyes and said, "I don't think that's a good idea" in a low, quieter voice. Eric said something, I replied, "He's three, remember?" And then BAM, right there, Henrik took my side. "Dad, we can't ride bikes on mountains, I'm not big enough. But, I can climb them with my hands, I'm good at that."

Then, Eric gave me the big eyes, "See what you did? You told him he was too small and now he thinks he can't do something. You don't push them enough. You don't expand them, he's timid because of you." We try to avoid confrontation in front of our boys, but today we didn't even try to avoid it. "I didn't say he was too small. I said, I don't think it's a good idea, and, he's three, remember? He didn't even KNOW about mountain biking until you said something." Eric then said something like he wanted to push them and show them that they are capable of anything, to show them to be strong and be a man and that he had showed Henrik videos of mountain biking before today. And I replied, "I think having a Daddy Date does that. Spending time with you instead of me will teach them how to be "men" and grown up, he doesn't have to ride a bike on some rocks to do that." I then saw how upset I was getting and excused myself upstairs while Henrik and Eric finished breakfast and talked about riding bikes on mountains.

I was upset for a few reasons, first, because of how crazy it was that he'd make a promise to take our THREE year old mountain biking without talking to me first. And second, because he insulted me. Telling me that I don't push them or challenge them is a giant blow to my heart. I spend HOURS each day teaching our kids about different things from letters to numbers, themes in our at home preschool, how to brush, wash, wipe, get dressed, ride bikes and scooters, climb the rock wall at the park, etc. And then, after they go to bed, I invest more hours to get ready for the next day, sometimes to the point where I delay time with my husband to get ready for the boys.  To hear Eric say that he thinks I'm babying them really hurt me. He's not here each day. He doesn't know what it's like to convince a stubborn three year old that he can in fact use the potty, get dressed himself, put shoes and socks on himself and get up after he falls off his bike. I've spent MONTHS boosting this kid's confidence and getting him to actually believe that he's a "big kid". How dare he tell me that. I'm not a helicopter mom, I don't jump up when they fall down and skin their knees. I don't ooh and ahh over boo boos. Instead, I simply clean it up, offer a kiss and get them back on their feet. I almost always suggest that they "be caree-fulll" as they climb on whatever it is they feel the need to scale at the moment, but that doesn't make me over protective. Does it? My kids are three and 19 months, they still want their mom when they fall and they still want to be snuggled if it's actually painful and traumatic. So what.

After Eric left for work I met up with some friends at an indoor gym so our kids could play during their open gym times. It's a real gymnastics gym with trampolines, bars, balance beams, rings, foam pits etc. The boys had a blast, I was still in a sour mood from this morning and was trying to rub it off, but it was taking a bit. My boys had a blast as they ran around and when some older kids, familiar with the gym, climbed to the top of this six foot ledge above the foam pit (where the rings were located) Henrik followed them. He sat, with his legs dangling off the side. I looked at him and shook my head no. I said "no" for two reasons, I didn't know if they were allowed up there as I'd never been to this gym before, and I didn't know if the teacher would let him jump off. But it was when the teacher went up there and sat down so that the kids could jump off, I realized that maybe I was babying them. Did I really want him to jump? Subconsciously did I shake my head no to tell him not to jump because I didn't want him to because it was dangerous? Or because he was too small? It was a six foot drop into feet and feet of foam cubes, it would be a freak accident if he actually got hurt. Why would I say no if the teacher allowed it?

Because I had already shook my head, Henrik was timid and thought he couldn't do it. But when the other kids started jumping off, I told him he could. He said, "No, I don't think I'm big like they are." Uh-oh. I now had to take my initial reaction of "no" and convince him that it was okay, that he was big enough and old enough to do it. My stomach dropped. Was Eric right? Did Henrik think that my saying no was because he was too small? Did I think he was too small? I talked Henrik into it and he jumped. He loved it. He jumped off that thing about sixty times. Then Theo wanted to jump off of it. A friend asked if he'd actually jump off, I told her that I didn't think so but I'd offer it to him. Low and behold, He jumped off too. A few times, and loved every minute of it.

I think people would say that I'm a laid back mom when it comes to the boys, I let them do what they need to do in terms of play. I try to keep an open mind when I raise these boys too. I try really hard not to push the macho attitude on them, for example, they both like to play house, have their nails painted, play with baby dolls, and like the color pink. And at the same time, we play hockey indoors, we wrestle, play outside all the time and drive cars everywhere. I don't want them to believe that something is girly or boyish because of the aisle it's in at the toy store. I don't want to make them "weak" in Eric's or society's eyes because I don't let them play war or shooting games or let them do something physically dangerous like riding a bike on a bunch of rocks. I like to keep them safe, I like to keep them where I can see them, I like them to play nicer games, but does that mean I'm babying them? I can't keep them safe forever, and I can't shelter them from other games that are happening on the playground, but I feel like I should have some say over where my kid rides his bike.

I think that my anger over the mountain biking thing comes from the fact that Eric didn't talk to me about it before hand, and he isn't around the boys as much as I am and often forgets that they are only three and 19 months. Henrik went ice skating at 2 and Theodor went before he turned one, yes, Eric held them, but he got a little bit frustrated when Henrik didn't want Eric to let go of him. Eric can get upset with the boys in the bewitching hours (during dinner and before bed) because the boys can get out of hand and have melt downs.  I usually ignore them, but Eric wants them to do things that they physically cannot do because they are tired, hungry and worn out from the day. He wants to engage with them on a level that he's comfortable with, a more grown up level, because he hasn't spent the day with them. He wants more than to be the roughness guy when he comes home. He wants the calm and collected kids. He believes that they can function that way because they can literally hold conversations with us about a multitude of topics, but at the end of the day they still wear pull ups to bed and want warm milk.

I'm going to agree to let Henrik go to the park to ride his bike on the rocks because it's important to Eric. And it's important for me to let him have a say in his kid's life. I'm going to try really hard to avoid the 'I told you so' comments when Henrik gets hurt isn't able or doesn't want to do it. But I'm going to be sincerely happy when they come back and say they had a great time, even if there are scrapes and blood. It's important for Eric to know that I'm not holding the boys back because I want them to stay babies forever. I want Eric to know that I'm more reserved on things because of their ages and the background that I have with them. The boys have a whole world out there to take risks and do dangerous acts. Some of those things we'll introduce to our kids when we take them white water rafting or surfing, skiing, or actual mountain climbing. But at age three and 19 months I don't think we have to fit all that into one weekend.

I'll admit when I'm wrong. Today was probably one of those moments, I still have to investigate in my soul as to why I said "no" so quickly. I was really proud of Henrik when he jumped off that ledge and I was really proud of Henrik when he climbed the rock wall at the park all the way to the top after weeks of trying to get up there. Those things aren't dangerous, they are age appropriate they are just the skills and challenges my kids should be experiencing. I want my kids to have every opportunity and every experience out there and I'll probably have to be less reserved when some of these things come up. I'm more of a cautious person and I don't think it's a bad thing, but if I'm teaching my kids to be over cautious then I'm doing it wrong.

I don't know if Eric was 100% right or not today, but either way, this conversation and the words he said to me at least made me stop and think about a different point of view. It forced me out of my comfort zone and made me really internalize my thoughts on parenting. I'm not about to let them go sky diving, but I am going to really ask myself why I'm saying "Be careful" or "no" when they ask to do something that appears older than they are, if they are asking, it's probably because they are interested, capable and ready, right?





Saturday, August 24, 2013

My "Little" Thornado

Thornado is a beast in every sense. He can walk into a freshly cleaned room and within a nano second he has destroyed it. I'm not talking about a pillow out of place, I'm talking, pillowS off the couches, the couch cushions are on the floor, every blanket is taken out and thrown across the room, toys and balls and crumbs and whatever else you can think of, he's done in that small amount of time. Thornado is the opposite of his brother in every way. As a 19 month old, Hank-o-Saurus was calm, studied everything, and reserved, cautious if you will. Thornado is the exact opposite. He's an aggressive (not in a bad way all the time) physical, tactile learner who has to be knee deep in something to learn it. He's in the 99th percentile for height and in the 90th percentile for weight and he's learned that there is only a three pound difference between him and his brother and thus has discovered the arm bar, the choke hold and how to tackle and check. I swear we are NOT watching WWE over here.

Thornado is not reserved, or cautions, he jumps...no... he leaps from the highest thing he can find, he hits and kicks, he throws balls, and can be bleeding but won't flinch or even cry- he walks on these stupid little rocks we have in our yard, barefoot and doesn't even notice when his foot is bleeding, but refuses to wear shoes. Get the picture yet? He screeches at the top of his lungs to just make noise, he yells, "DON'T TALK ABOUT DAT" if you make him upset, he throws a fit better than, well, anyone who has ever been famous for throwing tantrums, and he defies pretty much every instruction/direction we give him. He takes toys from his brother because he likes to see Henrik freak out. He throws food at the table because he can. He laughs when you put him in time out and doesn't seem to react to a spanking (though he's only gotten two-I'm not a fan). Do you see it now?

BUT, just as I was about to throw in the towel, get a full time job, and send him off to daycare because I couldn't handle it any more, Henrik started pre-school and I got three hours alone with Theodor two times a week and OH MY GOD, I have a different child. I always knew that Theo was friendly and outgoing. I see that adorable smile and sweet, nurturing side as he plays with other kids, and I hear that infectious laugh he has, but the majority of the time, he's a full time job. However, now, as we spend our afternoons together, I'm seeing this kid, this really nice, very smart, incredibly outgoing child who isn't any of those things that Thornado is. I'm discovering how talented in his own way he is. He's 19 months old and can shoot a hockey puck, bounce a basketball, throw and hit a baseball, ride a bike and ride a scooter. He can draw, talk in 7+ word sentences, make jokes, tell stories, sing songs, cuddle, and be genuinely nice. I absolutely love having this time with him. I adore him and have fallen in love with him in a whole new way when he's this little person. It's as if the Thornado persona is an act, well, at least a cry for some independence and attention.

Now, we have time to play, do chores together (he absolutely LOVES "doing" laundry with me, he says, "Thank you" as I hand him the wet clothes and he places them in the dryer), we love going on walks, playing house and getting the mail. We love "doing school" and doing projects. We have conversations and can talk about anything. He's got an impeccable memory and loves using words, he can tell stories, or just recap things that have happened. When we're together while Henrik is away, it's fun, relaxing and dare I say it? Easy?

When Theo was about three months old I knew he was different than Hank in the way he learned. I spent the money to adapt to him by buying toys that would accommodate his tactile learning style. I bought books that were "touch and feel," and sensory blocks and puzzles, and things that would stimulate his active personality. When you have two kids, two kids that require your attention in multiple ways, you don't always get the luxury to give them exactly what they need. But Henrik got that alone time with me because he was a first child. Theo needed it, and now, he's got it, for six hours a week and it is making a huge difference, for both of us. I'm learning more about who he is and what he likes. I'm learning how to make him happy and how to finally relate to him. I'm getting him to focus on things instead of being wrapped up in whatever Hanky has. And he's starting to understand boundaries and rules, though he doesn't really like it, he's "starting" to respect the firm attitude I have to have with him.

A few posts ago I talked about how I was worried about having a second child because I wasn't sure I could love it. Well, I quickly learned that love was never the problem- you just get more love as your heart instantly grows. But, what I should have been afraid of, was how to be a mom to two. I feel like I'm doing a good job, but there's always this constant battle on how much time you invest in each thing for each kid. With Henrik, he got whatever he wanted, he always had my attention, and when he started to talk and interact (even when Theodor was just a baby) I started to give Henrik more attention because he intellectually demanded it. Theo, while I try to invest just as much time as I did Hank, hasn't ever, EVER had one-on-one time with either of his parents. Now, when he gets to be the center of attention, he shines. He's able to prove to me that he's not a baby and can do tasks that I ask him to do. He's able to show me that he's just as smart as his brother, just not as capable as expressing it. He's able to get me to do whatever he wants, when he wants it because I'm the only one there. He loves it. I do too. It's actually fun and not work at all.

I think I'm always going to butt heads with this kid. I think he's always going to test and test and push and poke at us just because he can. But I'm finally able to give him the time with me that he's needed and I've always wanted, and I think that it will help me better understand why he tests and pushes and pokes. I think that I'll start to gain a different respect with Theodor than I have with Henrik. I think our relationships while both wonderful and beyond fulfilling, will be different and rightfully so, they are different humans. They have different needs and wants, and now, I'm able to understand that on a more intimate level.

While I miss Henrik when he's at school, I'm beyond excited to have him go, just so I get time with Theodor. Even though Theo is a lot of work for all but six hours a week, I feel like this little break from his brother and this time with me will do all of us a lot of good. It's a breath of fresh air, a wake up call if you will and it encourages me to be a better mom, to Theo and Hank, independently and together. And so far, how could I not love this little face as we laugh and play house all afternoon?


Just Like Dad

I knew it was bound to happen, I knew that one day, my sweet boys would want to stop snuggling and start getting rough. I knew that they'd push me away and insist that I stop kissing them in public and stop making them do baby things, but I didn't know that it would happen so fast. I didn't know that I'd soon be replaced by Dad. I guess not replaced but not favored? Not always needed?

Maybe it's because we were gone for six months away from Eric and they are making up the time, maybe it's because they are at an age where they will start to identify with men or maybe it's because Henrik is "big now" and Theodor desperately wants to be like his big brother, whatever it is, it's starting to change our family dynamic.

More and more the boys are interested in what Eric is doing. They've been fascinated with him showering, to shaving, to using the bathroom. They are interested in what he wears, what he does and who he talks to. They mimic every part of his daily routine, and it's adorable. I hear things like, "Daddy taught me when you pee at the same time it's called swords" or "I need to get this so I can build it with Dad" or "Daddy's Home!"as we pull in the driveway, and I can't think because the car burst out like a Grand Slam just occurred in our front yard, and when the boys ran in the house and couldn't find daddy (he was working out) they burst into tears! One day I told Henrik I wanted to change his shorts because they didn't match his shirt very well and I was told, "No. These are my special shorts. Daddy put them on me and I'm never going to take them off."

Even Theo has jumped on board, he wakes up each morning and just wants to be with Eric. He comes down stairs as Eric is getting ready for work and insists on a pick up game of hockey in the living room before Eric has to leave. Theo will bring a book to Eric and say, "Dad-e-o read dis book?" and look at Eric with a cocked head and a wide smile. Theo will then leap into Eric's lap even before Eric can answer.

One morning Henrik jumped in the shower as I was getting out and I decided to let the boys play in there while I was getting ready. Henrik said, "Mom, can you get me some soap?" I went and got their "No More Tears" soap and handed it to him. "Uh, no. I mean can I have man soap? I'm a man now you know. Like Daddy." Both boys insist on wearing their towels around their waist, like Eric. And, just the other day, I asked Henrik what he wanted to be when he grew up, (we were talking about different jobs people in our family had) and he replied, "a grown up. Because, they are big, like Daddy".

It's not that I don't like the change in the role reversal, in fact, for the 27 days that we've been in Colorado, Eric has been the only bath giver and bed time doer. I've been taking the opportunity to take a break and unpack a box or two, clean up the house and put away dinner as Eric does "Dad duty" and gives me what I call "alone time". It's been wonderful, I think I pushed for it in the beginning and Eric welcomed it as he too wanted to figure out what these boys were all about (they've changed so much since the last time he saw them). And now, it's just normal, Dad puts the boys to bed and it's the most comfortable thing in the world for them. Tonight, with Eric out of town for the day, I was the one to put the boys to bed. Honestly, for the last six months I put them to bed every night and I dreaded it. I hated the fight about bath time, cleaning up the splashes, getting them to wind down and even the fight to sleep in their own beds. But today, it was different. I'd had a 27 day break and tonight as I stroked their hair and watched them drift to sleep, I was able to enjoy it and fall in love with my boys all over again in a way that only happens when you see your child so comfortable, so at peace and so in love when they are asleep. I get why Eric loves it so much. I see, why it was SO important for him to have that time with them these last 27 days, and why it will continue to be important for him to do.

Eric never really got a lot of time with our boys. He worked 4,000 hours a year for four years in North Dakota, he rebuilt a house, we were gone, and when the boys were little I breastfed exclusively so he never got that bonding time. He never really said much about it, but now that I've had my break from bedtime, I realize how much he missed out on. I see his proud and somewhat cocky smile as he silently comes down stairs pumping his arms like he just scored the game winning goal. I see his smile as he talks about how big the boys are or how they did or said something that he hadn't heard before. When Henrik used "well" instead of "good" in a sentence (properly I should add) Eric's jaw dropped in shock and then quickly changed to a proud smile. When Theo hit a slap shot across the room, Eric was in disbelief, but man, could I see the light in his eyes. I see these awesome achievements in my sons daily. And it's not that I'm not impressed by my boys, it's just that I'm always there. I'm the one teaching them these things (well, not the hockey, Theo has a natural talent for sports) and I'm the one pushing the boys day in and day out to say "excuse me" if I'm talking to an adult and they need me. Or to pick up their toys, or share, or use "well" instead of "good"and "yes" instead of "yeah". I do see some changes in them where I realize they aren't babies any more, but I don't see the awe all the time, and it makes me sad, but at the same time, it makes me so happy that Eric gets to experience it.

I know Eric is learning a lot about his boys, and I know the boys are loving every minute of being with their dad as they learn what men do, but I'm learning too. I'm realizing that sometimes it's important to step back so you can be thankful for what you have (and I swear, I really know how wonderful my kids are). I'm learning that it's important for the boys to have their dad in the picture, even if it means I take the back seat to playtime or even sit quietly in support of Eric as he puts them in time out for something. I understand in a few years I'll lose out to football Saturdays and car races, but I know that Eric is finally getting the time with the boys that he deserves. I'll always be their mom, and I'll always have a special bond with them, but it's time now for them to really get to know their dad and for Eric to know them. And I'll happily sit back and watch the exchanges and joy they all have together.


Friday, August 16, 2013

[Big Sigh] The First Day



When Henrik walked into our room this morning after spending the whole night in his bed (happy dance) I knew it was going to be a good day. Eric and I both made a big deal about how grown up he was for sleeping in his own bed (it's been a challenge since we moved to CO) and how he must be ready for school since he was acting so grown up. Henrik looked at us and just said, "yep". To him it wasn't really a big deal, at least not at 6 AM.

Here's the thing. I didn't want to make a big deal (even though, oh my God, it is a big deal) about school, but I wanted to address it like it was normal, we didn't have a lot of lead in time since we had to enroll so quickly, so instead, I dropped it into conversations; like when he couldn't pull up his pants after he went to the bathroom he started to cry, I casually mentioned that he could do it if he calmed down and took a breath, and said, "kids who go to school have to do it by themselves". He did it. When he started to cry because his brother took his toy, I told him it was okay to be upset and cry, but instead of crying right away, maybe he could use his words better and "you know,  kids at school may try to take your toys, but if you use your words they will probably give it back". He stopped crying. It was as if school had this power over him, I don't know what kind of power, but something where he knew that it was special for big kids and he wanted so desperately to be one.

This morning we made cupcakes, a sort of Happy 1st Day of School Celebration for when he came home. He smiled the whole way through it. He knows that if there are cupcakes, something awesome is about to happen.


After lunch (an early lunch) we sat down to watch a show so we could rest a bit before school. Each episode we watched was about school, yes, I understand that school is about to start for every child across the country, but the fact that we were watching it today was even better. Henrik perked up and watched carefully as Special Agent Oso helped a girl find her bus and then helped a boy figure out how to use the bathroom in his Preschool, even Disney was sending us encouragement for our first day.

At 12:40 PM we got ready, and Eric helped Henrik go poop (thank you potty Gods, and Special Agent Oso) Henrik not only pooped on the potty, but wiped his OWN butt, put his clothes back on by himself AND washed and dried his hands. It was a miracle. There was no fussing, there was no crying, there was no "I can't do it". Once he had his shoes on he said a goodbye to Daddy and we went out side for a few pictures, then we moved quickly into the car so we could get to school on time.


While we were driving I said, "Henrik, do mom's go to school with kids?""No, they stay with the babies." I shook my head and laughed a bit, it was true. "Right, but I'll be there right after circle time to pick you up! And today, we get to have cupcakes to celebrate your first day!"
"Woo Hoo!" he clapped his hands and smiled.
"I'm really proud of you, you're so brave." I said as I tried to hold back tears. "Mom, I'm not going to cry, OK?"
"OK, it's okay to cry, but just remember that you have our family picture on your family board so if you miss me, or dad, or Theo just go and look at us." I don't really know what you say to a kid when they leave you for the first time, but I thought that this conversation went alright. Right?

School is literally one mile from our house, but I was speeding. I was rushing for no reason except not to be late, though as an after thought I should have driven slow so that I could have made the moment last forever. There's nothing like driving your kid to their first day of school. If you haven't done it yet, it's a very surreal experience.



Henrik walked up to school no problem. He walked in the building no problem. "Mom, stop taking pictures". I listened.

After we signed in and I talked to the secretary for a minute, I said, "It's time to go to see Ms. Kelley." It was then that he grabbed my arm and held it tight. It caught me by surprise, it actually made me gasp. I wanted so badly to pick him up and hold him. I wanted to turn around and dash out the door so we could try it again another day, another week or another year from now, but I couldn't. Instead, I held on, just as tight and pretended to be as brave as he was.

I pointed out our path: the caterpillar and the butterfly, the dots on the floor, the turns, and the mountain lion. He let go of my hand as we approached the door, he peered in, smiled and waved at his teacher. It was as simple as that. He was comfortable. As soon as she opened the door, he ran right in, found his cubby, dropped off his backpack, and started playing. I wanted to show him where I'd be on that family wall if he got sad, or to tell him that I'd be right outside the door after school, or to tell him how much I loved him, but he wasn't interested. He just wanted to be there. I had to chase him down in the room, but when I caught up, I knelt down and took his hands, I told him to have a great day, gave him a kiss on the forehead and said, "I'll see you really soon, have fun". He ran off to play. I walked out of the classroom and didn't look back, I couldn't.

When I got home, Eric asked, "Are you okay?" "Yeah, it's just a little sad." He hugged me and I kind of laughed as I let out a few tears. "We did it, he's alive, we made it to school and you've done a great job with him". I cried a little harder. I didn't want to be sad, or be the mom who cried when they dropped off their kids at school, but I was. I am.

I frosted the cupcakes while Theo finished his nap. The whole time I just thought about how proud he was as he entered that room. I was proud of him, so proud of him. And I was proud of myself too. Eric was right, we did make it. Isn't the goal in parenting to make your kids successful members of society? I'm supposed to teach him to be confident and comfortable and to love school. We've supported him and have told him to be the best at whatever he wants to be and now he's actually starting that adventure, that journey in discovering life beyond the comforts of his own family. That quest to figure out who he is and why he thinks things- to challenge and question, to learn and create and to pursue the things that he enjoys and loves.  

When Theo woke up he sat up "Where's Buh-Buh?"I kind of laughed, ''He's at school." Theo looked around, "Huh?" "He's at school today," I said again. "No! I want him here with me" he cried. It made me bite my lips. I didn't exactly see this coming. Theo and I spent the afternoon together, it was wonderful to get to know Theodor on an individual and independent level. I couldn't believe how cool Theo was. Usually he's fighting with Henrik and being a pest on purpose, but now, I got to see how incredibly smart and curious this child actually is. It was an amazing experience to spend three uninterrupted hours with him. I think I'm going to love it actually. Even though I was having the time of my life, I kept checking the clock. These three hours were the longest three hours of my life.

When it was finally time to pick up Henrik, Theodor and I rushed to school. I wasn't the first parent to arrive, but Henrik was sitting in the chair (at his table) closest to the door. As soon as he saw me in the hall he stood up and rushed to the door. He ran right into my arms and gave me the longest, tightest, most magnificent hug in the world. He didn't let go. There are no words to describe that hug, but I will never forget it.

I had to let go of him because I was about to fall over with Theo trying to get in on the action, and when I did, I asked Henrik if he had a great day, he quickly said "yes" and went back to where the toys were. He got out some toys and started playing again. It made me feel good knowing that he was happy to see me but enjoyed being there so much that he wanted to stay longer. Now that he knows I'm always going to come back, I wonder if I'll even get hugged like that ever again?

When we got home we started our celebration. We talked about his day, sang the "Happy 1st Day of School" song and even blew out some candles.


That night, just before I went to bed I went in to their room, like always to kiss them. When I looked at Henrik in the dim light of his night light, I swear there was a boy laying there. I am sure of it actually. Sure, he's still got cherub cheeks, but he's tall. Really tall. And even in his sleep he was presenting himself like a kid, not curled up like a baby, or butt up like his brother. It was odd. I see him every day so when he grows or changes I don't usually see it unless it's through pictures. But tonight, when I looked at him I saw a difference in him even from that morning.

We have many more first days ahead of us, and while it does make me tear up to think of them, I can't wait. There is no greater joy than seeing my boys be proud of themselves, there is no greater sense of achievement than seeing my boys meet a milestone or tackle something that was previously difficult. And there is no greater love than the love I have for them and all that they do. So today, Henrik, on your first day of Preschool, know that there isn't am mom, more proud of her son than I am of you.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The First Flight Away From The Nest


It's official. My three year old is now old enough (and potty trained) to make his mark in the world one discovery at a time. Whether it be learning how to sit in a circle and follow directions, or learning how to be in a social setting with other kids (including how to NOT stand awkwardly close to another human and stare without saying a word), or figuring out how to cope and manage without me and in the arms of another trusted adult, or even how to write, read and do simple math on his own, my son, my baby, has been proving to me that he's ready to start his long journey in fleeing the nest.

Just like a baby bird, Henrik has been flapping his three year old wings and pushing us to let him do more. He wants more chores, he wants more order, he wants more responsibility. He lit up when we taught him how to properly retrieve his brother as Theo raced down the street to the park on his own. Henrik was thrilled when we took him on a bike ride and let him go a few houses ahead of us. It was Henrik who said, "Dad, I need a helmet when I ride my bike" or "Mom, these are the three things we have to do to be big: get dressed, poop on the potty and clean our toys". He's fascinated with this world where he can be in charge, where he's the boss, where he has clout and independence. He wants to read, he wants to write, he wants to play with the big kids and doesn't have as much interest in babies and toddlers, he wants to know everything in the world. "Mom, WHY does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly?" "Momma, I don't understand what these letters are telling me." "Mom! I DID IT".  He's starting to understand that the world is at his fingertips and he can literally do whatever he decides to do.

Henrik had his first real Daddy Date the other day. They went to see Turbo at the theatre. At first, (from what I understand) he was worried that Theo and I weren't there, but he quickly understood that he was old enough to see a movie in a theatre. A few days later, we discovered that he didn't have any shoes he could wear to ride a bike, so he and I went and had a Mommy Date. Our date wasn't nearly as much fun as the movie, but we got to talk a lot about how he was growing and how he needed to get new clothes and shoes because he was getting bigger everywhere. We even picked out new underwear and got a new shirt. We ended our date with lunch where we just enjoyed talking to one another, like friends or grown ups.

Henrik's entrance to Preschool isn't out of the blue, but it was faster than I thought it would be. Just two days from the day I called to his first day, and it seemed like I was over there flapping my wings and pushing him out. Eric and I knew that school would be good for him. But there were so many, SOOOOO many things to think about: were we really starting to pay for school? Was he old enough? Really? When did that happen? I stay home and do a preschool program with the boys, wasn't that good enough? Shouldn't he socialize? Shouldn't he get used to being on his own? Wouldn't I do anything for alone time with Theo? Am I neglecting Hank because Theo is getting attention? It's in the afternoon, dang. Is it too much? Oh my God, the boys need a break from one another, they are always together and are fighting like cats and dogs, maybe they need their own space and own time. Are we really committing our three year old to something for nine months? It's just a normal routine, he won't even notice after a while. The list goes on, forever.

Today, when I took the paperwork back to the school I brought Henrik with me. On the way there we pointed out that you could see our neighborhood and our brown house from his school! He could see Pike's Peak, and the runway, and all of the planes landing from his classroom. He was right across the street from Daddy's work and the grocery store. We noticed all of the kids playing on the playground and having fun without their Moms and Dads. When we toured the school I pointed out the directions, "Oh look, you walk past the caterpillar... and then past the butterfly... around the corner and.... next to the mountain lion!" We noticed that there were sometimes TWO teachers in a room too. I think I was doing it for myself really, he walked proudly down the hall studying every room and every picture. When we arrived at his room, his teacher looked up and let out a big smile. She bounced right over to the door and greeted us. She got right down to Henrik's level, shook his hand, introduced herself and asked him his name. She invited us in to play and check it out. Henrik was curious and cautious now. He knew that I wasn't allowed in there on school days, but as she showed him his cubby and where his backpack would go, where the cars were and where they do projects and have snack he loosened up. He checked out the "perfect for me" potties and the "perfect sink"and noticed a lot of familiar toys and books as he scanned the room.

As we were leaving I felt like I was making the right choice, I knew his teacher would be wonderful. I knew that he liked her. I knew that he would be in good hands. I also knew that he'd probably cry and I probably would too. Just before we left his teacher took his picture so it could go on his cubby, when she was finished and as we were saying our goodbyes, she said, "see you tomorrow! Can I have a High Five?" He quickly gave her one. He usually reserves High Fives for family. Then, he asked her for one. And just like that I saw my baby stretch and stretch and stretch until his wings were elongated, flapping and reaching for that first taste of flying.

When we got home from school I asked him if he was excited, "quite excited actually, mom". Again, astonished at his ability to, at least for now be fearless, I snuggled in close while we watched a show and had quite time together. He fell asleep before the show was over, he slowly laid his head down on my breast and wrapped his arms around mine. Maybe he's not totally leaving the nest. Maybe he's just going on three hour adventures twice a week and he's still got enough room to wiggle in that nest after all.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reintegration

Eric and I have had a long distance relationship for several years throughout our almost 12 year relationship. I think it's been a blessing and a curse depending on when is happening in our life at that time. While we chose to spend the last six months apart for a variety of reasons, we didn't really think about what would happen when we were able to live together again. And like I said in my previous post, we didn't really talk to the boys about what would happen to the people we left behind in Michigan.

In the last week, Eric and I have hurt one another, we've nitpicked at each other for little things, we've loved one another immensely and intensely and we've tried to regain our connections to one another. Rest assured, it's not like our marriage is in jeopardy. Not even close. We just have to figure out how to to be around one another in this whole new life we've been given. First, we're a family again. Eric isn't "single" and I'm not a "single parent". We're back to figuring out how to be a team. Second, we're unpacking and talking about likes, dislikes, how to eat together and how to figure out our mornings. Eric's new job allows him to be home. A LOT. Like all the time. That's hard for me, in the last four years, I spent roughly 4,000 hours alone and now, Eric comes home for lunch and in between a workout and work, he's home on the weekends and he's able to be home by 4:30 at the latest.

We also have two kids, the boys are trying to test their Dad to see where the boundaries are. They are testing both of us to see if we're united. They've cried for their grandparents. They've yelled at the top of their lungs to "see" their grandparents on Face time or Skype. They've brought me broken toys and have insisted that their Pop Pop could fix them for them, and they've lit up a room with their smiles when they've been able to see their grandparents through technology. While I think that they've done remarkably well, they are still not as resilient as we'd like to think. This dramatic change from a three generation to a two generation family has been a big one.

It's been a challenge. It will be for some time yet, but as we continue to unpack boxes and get our life organized, we will figure out how to make it work. Our first week here was absolutely insane. We made instant new friends in some awesome neighbors, we attended a wedding and rehearsal and we even stopped by Eric's Alumni game (for a few minutes). Nothing about it was a normal first week in a new place, but life doesn't stop so you can find the perfect place for items in boxes labeled "miscellaneous junk".

My last post was a little sad, and while it's still hard to be away from all of the wonderful things Michigan gave us and all of the people we miss, being here, in our new house as a family is absolutely wonderful. Really. I'm happy, the knot no longer exists, I'm finding out which light switches work for which lights and I'm able to snuggle into Eric each night. I feel like there is a huge load lifted from my shoulders.

In another week or so I'll feel "organized" enough to start our Preschool program again, and I'll feel like I can make plans and start our new normal. I still think it will take some time, it maybe six months before we feel like all the pieces are put together again, and as we get more comfortable and figure out all of these new personalities that are under one roof we will have some challenges adjusting and accommodating. Until then, we're really enjoying being a family of four and cannot wait for all of the exciting things that Colorado has to offer us.

 

The Day I Excitedly Awaited But Dreaded Awfully


H: Mom? Why are you sniffing? Are you a little bit sick?
A: Oh, no. I'm just crying a little bit because I'm going to miss everyone when we move to Colorado.
H: Oh. Yeah. I'll miss them too.
[Pause]
H: But Mom? I think I'm happy.
A: Yeah? Why?
H: Because I get to see my Daddy.
A: I know! I'm very excited to see Daddy too.
[Pause]
H: Three more wake ups!

This particular conversation happened as we pulled out of my Dad's neighborhood as we left his house and our neighbors for the last time. For weeks I dreaded the three days I'd say goodbye to each family here in Michigan, again. The first time I did it was when I moved to Colorado in college to be closer to Eric in 2005. The second time was in 2008 after we both graduated and got married (we lived at home for 60 days while we waited for Eric's next assignment) and when the time came, we drove off to California to start our new life together. We did it a third time in 2011 when our home was flooded and our family came to our rescue so we weren't homeless. And now, this was the fourth time I was leaving home and the people I love the most.


This time was the hardest though. We had been in Michigan three days shy of six months, Theodor had spent 1/3 of his life here and I was enjoying every aspect of having my kids around their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. When I was a kid, we lived very close to my Dad's family. I remember getting together every weekend or so for some kind of gathering or just to hang out. And because of that, I figured that's what families did. So when I decided what kind of life I wanted, I always thought we'd live close to home and have our kids play with their cousins and have them spend ample time with their grandparents. Being in the military kind of squashed that idea. So when I could be home and live the life I always wanted, it was incredibly hard to step away from it and go back to a life where we'd be days away and thousands of miles from family.

I know, I hear you. I'd be going to live with my husband and have my family whole again. YES, it is wonderful. I wanted that too. I didn't want to sleep alone, parent alone or not be with my best friend anymore. I was ready to start our new life, new job, and move into our new house. I was anxious to have my boys wake up and have wrestle time with their dad, to stay up late and watch shows with Eric and to be our own family again. But I was scared of it too.

I knew when I married Eric that we'd move around a lot. But I had no idea it would be such a huge emotional task. Saying goodbye to friends that became family was just as hard as leaving my real family and the ideal lifestyle I always wanted behind for our next duty station. But when you throw in a few kids to the mix, moving around is even more hard. I know there are a lot of people that it doesn't bother, but I'm a home body. I love my family and could literally live a few blocks away from my parents. (I'm not talking Everybody Loves Raymond style, but close.) I want my boys to have a close connection to their grandparents, you see, they are lucky, they have six grandparents. And this time in Michigan I was able to see them have real connections with each grandparent and each set of grandparents. These grandparents were teaching my boys a whole world that Eric and I couldn't. It was magical to see them interact, scold, spoil and love my sons, and my sons enjoyed every minute of it. I also really loved how each set offered something different to my boys. Whether it was the love of the outdoors, the love of birds, camping or fishing, farming, city life, or country life, my boys got to experience it all through our parents.


As we packed up the Uhaul and got ready for our final goodbyes, the boys were anxious. I had knots in my stomach and just wanted to puke. I informed the boys several times that we were going to Ohio to pick up Daddy then on to Colorado to our new house. I told them it would be a long drive, the longest they've ever had, we had a count down and talked about all the great things that would happen when we got there. But we never really talked about what would happen to the people we left behind. Just after we left my Dad's house and came back to my Mom's house Henrik asked if Pal and Gam were going to come with us to Colorado. I told him no. He then looked at me confused and asked if Mimi and Pop Pop were going to come. I told him no, but they could come for a visit. Henrik got mad. "No. They are coming with us." "No honey, they are going to stay here in Michigan." "NO! They are coming. Deal?" How could I argue with him? How could I even convince him that life would be good when we got back together with Daddy knowing that they were leaving their stable, strongest and most loved support system behind?

My mom and step-dad put the kids in the car. My mom held back tears as she gave me road safety tips and to let her know we got to Ohio safely, and for the first time in six months my step-dad put the car seat together properly. The boys were tired and crabby because I kept them up from their nap to help me along in the ride, and I was nervous and wanted it to be over but not have to say goodbye. When I finally shut the doors and pulled away, I just watched my parents in the rear view mirror as they stood there trying to smile and be happy that we were going to be a family again, but sad that we wouldn't be around to spend time with their grand kids.


The boys fell asleep quickly and I just drove, zombie-like to Ohio to get Eric. I cried a bit, I sat in silence and I thought about how wonderful the last six months had been. I was nervous about being a family again. I wanted it badly, but I knew Eric wasn't ready for what these boys had become in half a year. I knew that we were going to love Colorado again and that we'd love our new house, but I dreaded the drive and unpacking. What I really wanted was just a long vacation where we could just escape reality and live in a world where Eric could be in the Air Force and in Michigan at the same time. I was nervous about how the boys would adjust to not having their grandparents around whenever they wanted. Or how they'd react to Eric if he scolded them. Or how Eric and I would get along now that we'd become two very independent people in these six months.

When I pulled into the base Eric was at in Ohio, and saw the reaction that the boys had when they saw their dad I knew it was time to be a family again. As we drove off to Colorado, we had to tell the boys several times what we were doing and why no one was with us and at least in that moment, they understood.

I know that my parents are reading this post. I know that when they read it, they will be happy that we're a family and happy that they are so loved by their grandsons, but I know that they are sad, just like I am, that we just can't have it all. I have to thank them, for everything, these past six months wouldn't have been possible if they weren't there to love and care for my boys. I have seen my parents adapt greatly to the military lifestyle and I have see that they will cherish these past six months for the rest of their lives. They got to actually see, first hand, how these boys are, figure out their personalities, build relationships and forge friendships through different activities. I know my boys can't express their gratitude for their grandparents' help in keeping their family together, but my parents can always remember the joy on the boys' faces in the mornings when they greeted their grandparents. They will always know the running hugs, belly laughs and the unprompted "I love yous" that even Theo muttered to them. My boys will always know the kindness of their grandparents, the comforts of their hugs and their ability to fix and find toys that mom couldn't and that unconditional love and nurture that only a grandparent can offer. And for that, I am so thankful.

As I changed the GPS state and destination to Colorado, my heart sank, the knot in my stomach grew a bit and I let out a gasp. It was real. Final. I cried a few tears and Eric asked what was wrong. I couldn't answer. It was impossible to. I looked at our perfect family and the road ahead and let out a sigh. I'm ready for you Colorado. I'm ready for the changes that life brings us and for all the wonderful things that will come to us in this new life. I just need to remember that no matter what, family is the strongest bond there is and home is actually where you heart is. In my case, my heart is in California, North Dakota, Michigan and now Colorado.