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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tales From The Crib

I was challenged to write a blog about my "Tales From The Crib" by the folks at Dropcam
To learn more about camera and their competition for the best stories from the crib contact Tiffany
at: tpham@dropcam.com

Several months ago I wrote this blog about our family and our sleep schedule. It was a hard time for our family: we were in transit from living as a family of four to moving in with my parents for a few months while my husband was away. Now that we're back as a family of four, we've had to figure out how to become a family again, and how to make schedules work, how to include dad in our lives again, and how to transition two children (not in cribs) into a new room with new beds in a new place. It wasn't easy.

Right off the bat my husband took over bedtime, honestly, it was a huge relief. I had been tired of putting these kids to bed night, after night, after night. By the end of the day I was just exhausted, and to have a bedtime fight or struggle or kid pile in my bed, I just didn't have the energy. Now though, the boys' routine is pretty set, and while we still do cuddle them at bed time, things have gotten much smoother and the boys look forward to winding down with Daddy every night.  

One night, I was "in charge of bedtime". After we finished reading our books, I turned off the reading light, turned on the night light and started their bedtime music. Theo fell asleep instantly. Henrik on the other hand was wide awake. I don't do bedtime anymore so I was in the mood to cuddle Hank as he drifted off to sleep. He had other plans though. As I started to wrap my arms around him and wiggled around to get comfortable in a toddler bed, he looked up at me, "Um, Mom? You know, if you are tired" he used his hands to gesture at me, I kind of chuckled, "you could just go and lay in your bed." "Oh, I'm okay, I can lay with you for a few minutes. I don't have any chores to do and I don't get to be in charge of bedtime that often, so I'll lay here" I replied. I thought I gave an answer that he'd want to hear: This kid always wants to snuggle with me, or with his dad. He hates being alone and it's been a confidence boosting few months so we could get this kid to stay in his bed and not come crawling in to OUR bed every night. I came up with a solution: it's now his job to wake us and let us know when the sun comes up. And he has to do it from his room because he sees the sun first. Genius. I don't know how I came up with it, the words just came out of my mouth and he went with it. 

"Well, Mom? Uhhhh, see, it's just that I've got it handled here," Henrik said. "Huh? You've got what handled?" I was totally confused. "Bedtime," he said, as he sat up in the bed and moved his legs towards his chest. His confident head bobbing and eye blinking thew me for a loop. "Soooo, you are telling me that you don't want me to lay here?" I asked, dreading the answer. He nodded. Now I sat up. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do, "So, you want me to go downstairs while you stay up here and sleep by yourself?" He nodded again. I just sat there with my mouth open. "Um, OK. I guess I will leave then." Henrik smiled and then said, "I've got my dream catcherrrrr, my music, myyyy snowflake (my old teddy bear), and I'm going to be a knight and I'll protect Theo." 

My heart melted as it stopped for a second. I was seriously speechless. Henrik kept nodding at me. I smiled and told him I loved him. I tucked him in, walked to the door and blew him a kiss. "I love you" I whispered as I looked back at him. "I love you too mom" he answered. I went to my room and sat on my bed. It was 7:45. I really didn't know what to do. Eric was gone, I was all caught up on the Olympics and I couldn't watch our shows because Eric wasn't around. I messed around on my phone for a second and then I heard movement coming from the boys' room. Instead of being all "angry mom" I sneaked over to see what was going on. 

Henrik was sitting on the edge of the bed with a pirate spy glass. Part of me wanted to catch him in the act because I just realized I had been pushed out of the room so he could play. But the other part of me wanted to watch. I kept quiet as he looked left and right, and left and right through a spyglass in the dark. Then he started to talk, "There's nothing over there. Nope..... not... over... there..... you're safe Theodor". He then tucked himself into bed, put his head on his pillow and snuggled into his sleeping brother (they each have a toddler bed but they wanted to be closer to one another so we pushed them together). 

I was shocked. I was wrong. He didn't push me out to play, he pushed me out to be a big kid. Here he was, Henrik the Knight and protector of his brother, and no longer the little boy that needed his mom to hold him to fall asleep. I smiled as I walked down stairs in disbelief, but my heart hurt a little bit. I know, there are a lot of wonderful things happening in this moment that I should be celebrating, and believe me, I was, but I was also in shock at how, in an instant, Henrik didn't need me any more. 

That night before I went to bed, I found the boys fast asleep holding hands as they snuggled together in their beds. I went over and tucked them both in, gave them a kiss and found the spy glass digging into Henrik's back. I picked it up and placed in on his bed stand. He'd need it tomorrow. I smiled. I leaned over to give him one more kiss and when I looked at him after I placed a soft kiss on his forehead, he looked different to me. He was older, he was confident, he was proud. 

And so was I.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Raising An Olympian, Part II

I have yet to blog about our Olympics lesson, it's been difficult with our life lately to find time to blog activities and projects. However, today, as I sit and watch speed skating while the boys sleep, I'm finding time to catch up.

Over President's weekend my husband had a four day weekend, a rarity in his line of work, but glorious when it happens, and he decided he wanted to take the boys to get hockey pads so that they could actually skate and not get hurt.

This all started last weekend when our oldest started to show some interest in hockey and actually wanted to skate. After clinging to the pushing gate (for teaching kids how to skate) for quite some time, we were able to convince him that it was OK to let go. He fell. He looked like he was going to cry but I rushed in, "It's okay Henrik, you just fell." I picked him up, he sniffled. He started to let out a few tears, "It's okay to cry, but you didn't get hurt, you are just upset about falling. We all have to fall, you know why?" He looked up at me like I was crazy. I brushed off the ice from his bottom and said, "we all have to fall so we can learn how to get back up. If we just stay down, we won't get stronger. We won't be more brave, and we can't get better at whatever it is we're trying. We have to get back up and try again. We just have to keep going." He still looked at me like I was spewing more wisdom than I knew, but he wiped his tears, stood tall on his skates with out the support, and started walking/skating again. After that, Eric wasn't sure the pep talk was going to stick, and because he wanted the boys back on the ice again,  he decided that a trip to Play It Again Sports was a good idea to teach them about pads that go along with the sport, just to make falling easier.

The boys were excited as they picked out "new to them" pads and even a new pair of skates (we only had one pair). But when they discovered the skis and snowboards, I knew they'd lost interest in hockey (at least for now). They begged us to try on skis and snowboards, they smiled with such delight as they pretended to jump the "half tube" and ski down the mountain. We actually found some small skis for them and I urged Eric to purchase them. He wasn't convinced, but I knew that our boys would get so much joy from them, and since we lived in Colorado, at the base of a mountain, and were watching the Olympics daily, what harm could it do to teach these boys to "ski"?

We bought the skis.

And then, this happened:


And then this (video here):

 

And then, this:

And I realized that those hours of learning about the different Olympic games, and letting them practice indoors on their skis was teaching them more than how to have fun. It was teaching them the spirit of a game, hard work, dedication, honor to one's country, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and pride. We've noticed Henrik sitting at the top of the stairs watching the Olympics past his bedtime. He's wanted to skate, sled, snowboard, ski, luge, skeleton and do "flippies on a half tube" and has done his version by jumping off the ottoman, creating bobsleds out of laundry baskets, and has snuggled his way into our arms past bedtime to sit and talk about the Olympics, cheer on Team USA and to stand quietly at attention during the National Anthem of any country. 

This morning, I had the news on as I got dressed. Henrik was supposed to be down stairs eating breakfast, but instead he came in my room and saw a story on Kiev and saw fire, destruction and sadness, something I'd usually just turn off, but I couldn't find the remote. I said nothing. I just watched as he sat quietly at the edge of my bed just staring at the before and after pictures of the town center. He then heard the newscaster say that some Ukrainian Olympians were dedicating their performance to their country and some had removed themselves from the games completely. When the news switched to a commercial, Henrik looked at me curiously, "Mom, why did they say Olympics when they were showing pictures of a giant fiery mess".

I knew he was going to have questions, I wasn't sure how to answer, but before I had time to think, I started talking, "Well, in a different part of the world, in a country called Ukraine, the people there are fighting with one another over how they want their country to be run. People are getting hurt, people are sad and people want change. The newscaster said that some of the Olympians from the Ukraine are still competing in the Olympics and they want their country to know that they are playing their sports just for them. Some people are not playing their games because they are too sad." He just sat for a minute looking back at the TV. "Oh, but why are they in the Olympics?" I wasn't really sure what he was asking, but I replied anyway, "Honey, the Olympics are an amazing thing, it's a time, for a few days every four years, where everyone in the world watches these athletes and supports one another. Every one forgets what they are fighting over, they don't worry about if they are friends or not, they just work together and play their sports." I didn't feel like a rival definition or a politics talk was in order, but I think he understood that we stop fighting and enjoy the games together. He's seen handshakes, hugs and even tears of sadness or joy in these games. He's heard me say, We don't want that team to win, we'd rather Team USA won the Gold. And he's seen me root for other nations in various sports. I think he understood. 

He didn't say anything else, he just left the room and went downstairs. This made me start to realize that by watching these Olympic games with my sons, and by exposing them to the basics of competition, sport, country and politics, that I was actually doing so much for them by exposing them to the world, and all that goes with it. Here is a three year old that doesn't understand why people in Kiev are upset, he doesn't know the joy of beating Russia in a hockey game, or the sorrow in loosing to Canada, but he does know people. He's learning how to be a good sport and how to be a person of ethical and moral standing. He's learning about what it means to do something for your country and how to give hope and the idea of a better future. He may not have the words for this, or even comprehend why Ski Cross doesn't mean that the skiers are cross, but he's starting to form concepts that will stay with him forever. 

And he's also learning a bit about himself. He's learning how to control his body, how to face his fears and that he can be just like those athletes on TV. He absolutely loves the commercials where the commercials are in rewind and you see the athletes doing their sports as small kids. He truly gains confidence by seeing kids his own size doing any of these sports. And while it means I take apart my couch and build a slalom in my living room, or let my boys push laundry baskets around as they bobsled through the kitchen, I am letting them live their dream of being an Olympian. I don't care if they are Olympians or not, I don't care if they stick with hockey or skiing, or find something else to be good at, but I hope that they always care with them these Olympics and the lessons they've learned about being a good person and a good representation of their country. And I hope that Henrik will remember staying up late with me as we sit and discuss the games, I know that this experience is one I will never forget. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nap Time

I've been reading a lot: mommy blogs, parenting magazines, books about parenting, Facebook posts from the parents I respect the most, and I just watched a clip from Glennon Doyle Melton on the Today Show. It can be so overwhelming to be a parent sometimes, and while I feel I'm putting in the good fight daily, I realized while I sit here and take a deep breath after the hour long fight with a two and three year old about taking a nap, that I don't have it bad at all.

It's exhausting. The hours are never ending, and most days I give up things that I want to do so I can put my kids in a place where they can be successful (ie: not using my gift cards from Christmas so I can buy pants that fit so I don't have both boys in tow, or going to the gym when my kids are really going after one another) but in my heart, I know that I've made the right choice, for me. I proudly devote every waking moment to these boys. If one doesn't nap, I take the opportunity to do one-on-one stuff with him. If one needs me to stop working, I'll just stay up late to get my work done. I am here, as a stay-at-home parent, to be there for them. And I'm proud of it. Even if it means I take "my time" once every month (hopefully).

I don't like to be the parent that says, "No" just because. I don't like to see them fail so I can get something I want done, done. I don't like to tell them they "Can't do that". Instead, I've changed the language I use, "Make a good choice", "There are all kinds of consequences and rewards for our actions, think about what you are choosing to do", "It's going to be hard to cut that cheese with a spoon, but go ahead and try anyway". Some people may think that's the wrong style- too much freedom, but for me, it's the way I like it and it works for us.  My boys have learned that if you take unmatched socks from the sock bin and throw them around the house, even when I ask you not to, you will be responsible for it. You will do nothing until it's cleaned up and put away. They know that if they talk back to me or laugh in my face, they will be sent to their room to think about their actions and won't be allowed to come down until they are calm and can talk about what happened and issue an apology. They know that I will be firm, strong and hold my ground, and they know that I will be there to support them in anything they do. They also have learned that I'm always available for snuggles and love, and stories and books, and playtime...

I don't worry about the clean house (yes, the boys must pick up their own messes). I often forget about  the laundry and, one day, I will painfully realize it is 12 loads deep. I don't worry about anyone, or any other mom and how they parent, because, I do what works for me.

And while I sit here writing, I realize I live in a house covered in dog fur, crumbs, glitter, glue, something sticky over there. And yes, there is urine on the floor because Thornado just informed me that he peed there, but "It's okay, mom".

I think, yeah, I'll vacuum the floor....tomorrow. I'll get that pee cleaned up now. And then I'll sit and relax for a few minutes before I have to put up a physical barrier and become a referee so my boys can't steal each other's toys, or hit one another, or run wild, or build a fort,  or search for a toy at the bottom of the toy bin, or "help" me with chores, or whatever else they can think of in the 2.5 minutes I'm in the bathroom.

I've come to terms with the fact that my house isn't as clean, or crayon free as others. You'll probably step on a Lego or a Hot Wheels here. You'll probably be grossed out by the bathroom that I swear on their lives I clean 100 times a day due to potty training, but you wouldn't be able to tell. You'll put your hand in dust or apple juice, but you'll also see happy kids, ready to explore, imagine and be themselves.

While my boys sleep, I realize, that while I am typing to you all, and listening to classical music while sipping coffee that I made six hours ago, I could be cleaning the house, prepping dinner, doing laundry or even a host of other things that would benefit my home or myself. But instead, I take a mental, much needed break and do nothing but look at my boys while they rest. Nap time, is clearly a time for them to regroup, but it's also time for me to take a mental "freshen up". I look at them, and once they start snoring or drooling, I am off duty for enough time to re-start my brain, take a deep breath, rest my eyes and re-group for round two.


I forgive them for their tantrums, their sass, the crazy. I forgive Theo for peeing on the floor, or taking everything out of the closet.


I forgive Henrik for insisting every three seconds that he's a "Police Officer and he can do whatever he wants as long as he's helping everyone" that is, everyone but me. Or I can forgive his whiny complaints as he issues an "It's not faaaaaaiirrrrrrrr, mom. That's not my favorite thing to doooooooooo".


I look at them and see that after the frazzle of searching for an object I haven't seen in months, or the stress of picking up a million tiny pieces of trail mix and Oats and Honey Bars, or the anxiety upon discovering that my sons have used tools to reach the car keys, put on their shoes and open the front door, that I am a good mom.


I see that they are good boys, really good boys actually. I see peace, I see hope, I see the good in the world. I see that they have kind hearts and that they are full of joy. Sometimes it's hard to see that through the apple juice spills, the preschool independence, and the forts, but, I see that nothing else in the world matters as long as I'm here for them.


And when they want me to hold them or snuggle up with them, I do it. Because while some days are dreadfully long, this won't last forever. I won't always remember what they said, or did, or how wild they were, or how angry I was when Theo peed on the floor for the 100th time in one hour, but I will remember how it makes me feel when I am there for them, when we are there for each other. I will remember, and they will remember that they always had someone there to comfort them, to keep them safe and to protect them through real life and dreams, there will be no doubt that their mom was there.


And when they sleep, so peacefully, I can almost laugh about the chap stick ground into my new shirt.


I can laugh about the vomit on all of the pillows, blankets, the floor and the sheets that are still sitting at the top of the stairs.


I can laugh about Theo putting on all of my make up so he can turn himself into cat while painting the vanity as I searched for clean underwear. 


I can laugh about the complete make over that Henrik gave his bedroom when he pulled out ALL of the toys from the play room and re-located them (and ALL OF THE INDIVIDUAL puzzle pieces) from the play room to his bed.


I laugh about the gold doubloons and gems (that are really pointy) that were in my bed, and under the covers.

I laugh about the mess we all created when we decided that painting with shaving cream and food coloring was a good idea.



And while I reflect on the morning, the hours fly by and soon enough, nap time is over and we're back at it. Happy, refreshed, and ready for more so we can take on the universe, test boundaries, and explore ourselves. 

I will argue, until the day I die, that being a mother, especially a stay-at-home mother, is the hardest job on the planet. And while it offers no money and creates a lot of stress, these are the moments worth living for. These are the moments that I wouldn't trade in for anything, even if it means my house is a mess, the bank account is low, and I have circles (permanent dark circles) under my eyes, these are the moments I am choosing to remember. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Raising An Olympian

Four years ago I wrote a blog while on week two of a 13 week bed rest while pregnant with Henrik. I wrote...


While Eric and Alice have been visiting Menards and working on our house projects, I’ve been having a pretty busy week too. I know you’re thinking, ‘how on earth could a girl on bed rest be having a busy week?’ Well, one word: Olympics. I have seen EVERY sport on TV. I know everything there is to know about our athletes, I know the special stories from other countries, I’ve seen all the medal ceremonies, the trash talking between the Koreans and the U.S (speed skating)  and the Russians and the U.S. (men’s figure skating), I have witnessed the curling mishaps and how to not “pull a Schuster”. I know all of the rules to curling, figuring skating and ice dancing. I watched Canada lose to the US in hockey in one of the greatest games of my time. I’ve seen the Dutch lose a Gold Medal in the largest coaching error of all time. I’ve seen men and women crash and lose their chance at a medal in too many categories, and I’ve seen Olympians stand proud on the platform listening, singing and crying to their National Anthem.

With only a few days left of the Olympics I am soaking in as much as I can (which happens to be all of it). I love seeing all of the events. I never really got into the Olympics as a kid, but the last four years I’ve been more interested in them. It’s one of those things that melts your heart when you see all of the comradely among all nations, and it makes you wonder why we can’t just make that happen in the real world. I will never forget these Olympics. 

I can see it now, Henrik will have to do a school project in elementary school about his family and his birth, he’ll ask questions about when he was a baby and I’ll say, “Well Hank, it all started in February 2010 when you decided that it was time to be born 13 weeks too early. I was put on bed rest and for 17 days watched the best athletes of all time compete for a chance at a gold medal.” I’ll tell him how he twisted and turned when I gasped when lougers, skiers, and bob sledders crashed, and how he kicked to the music of the figure skaters. I’ll tell him how he could hear his dad yelling and cheering for the hockey team and kicked in response to his dad’s voice.

Seeing those commercials about Moms supporting their kids who aspire to be Olympians make me tear up, but maybe someday this little boy will have dreams of winning a Gold Medal, a Stanley Cup, an Oscar, a Tony, a Newbery, or a Nobel Peace Prize. Whatever Henrik decides to be good at, I hope he’s the best at it. And I hope we can teach him all of the things necessary to be as classy as an Olympian. But above all, I hope he learns that his dad and I will be there to support him no matter what he decides to be good at. 

And now, as I sit here with Henrik as we watch snowboarding, figure skating and the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, I am completely happy. A lot has changed since the last Olympics, but the stories are the same. The love of country is the same, and the hope and heartbreak are the same. This time around, instead of watching the games with a baby twisting and turning around in me as I imagined about this little boy and what he'd do in his life time, I got to share my excitement and joy of these games with my three and a half year old son by my side. 

As he snuggled in and got cozy with me, I watched him watch the games as his smile lit up, his mouth dropped open and eyes grew wide. He was in awe. It was absolutely magical to him as I explained the games, the different countries involved, how it is the one thing everyone in the world can agree upon, and how amazing and hard working these athletes are. As we watched, we talked about how strong the athletes were, how they ate all of their food, exercised, how they worked hard, and how they loved being part of a team. 

While we were watching, I was taking note of Henrik and the questions he asked, I was absolutely amazed at his ability to actually comprehend what was happening. "Mom, are they (snowboarders) cutting into the snow to slow down?" And at that moment, I knew he had the bug. Together, we stayed up late and watched, talked, and connected over something that unites the world, and here, in my living room, was the start of something marvelous. 

As we watched I took note of his comments:

H: she's going to be cold.
A: Cold or cool?
H: Cold! She has nothing on her back! Doesn't she know ice is cold?!
(Figure skating, pairs)
.........................................

H: Wow, he is very tall and very strong. They were very good. I think they should win that medal and bite it on the stage. (Figure skating, pairs)
..........................................

H: Woah! That guy lifted up that red girl with one hand! (Figure skating) How'd he do that? Did he have a lot of energy? Is that girl a kid like me?
..........................................

H: This guy's (figure skating) music is not boring. He has an electric guitar. It would be better if he had a bass drum though. We should get him one.
..........................................

H: I wish we had more snow so we could snow sled. 
A: We can get one tomorrow, we have enough snow to go sledding, we need it to get warmer. 
H: Actually, I want one of those (snowboards), they go much faster.
..........................................

H: WOHA! Look at that! That snowboarding girl is really good at that. I wish I could get a snow board.  WOW! Geeze! She just did a drift!  I think I'm too small for that.
A: Nah, you can do it now, plus, you'll grow.
H: Well , then I guess I wish we had more snow. 
........................................
H: I'm doing adult stuff with you mom. I like it. I like the Olympics too.
........................................

And you know what? I liked it too. This Olympic series is going to be the best yet: instead of dreaming about what this boy will become, I get to see him watch these Olympics as he learns about politics, other nations, team work, partnerships, hard work, dedication, heart break and joy. I get to see him salute when he hears our National Anthem, and I get to see him cheer for other Nations because they did well, not just because they are "on our team".  

As I sit here, under a blanket eating fruit snacks and sharing my water, I realize that I get to experience all of his achievements. I get to cheer for him from the sideline. I get to be there when he fails, and I get to pick him up and teach him about life as I help him find his way in the world. Even if he never becomes an Olympian, watching these games will teach him a lot about the world, and about himself. And wow, I cannot wait to see what both of these boys become.