This is a two-year-old trying to help mommy get her work all done so she can play.
I had just explained to him that while he could shoot hoops after his bath, mommy had to finish cleaning up the kitchen and fold some laundry first. From up in the kitchen, I saw him put down his ball, walk over to the ottoman and dig into the laundry pile I had just thrown onto it, to tackle next. As I watched him for a second, I couldn’t even handle the cuteness.
He was trying his darndest to turn one of big brother’s pairs of shorts inside out.
He was trying to help me with my work.
And then my heart really melted. . .
He asked, “INSTEAD of doing work, can mommy play basketball with Hank right now?”
Three Christmas seasons ago, while I was pregnant with Hank, one of my fellow teachers gave me a Christmas card that I will never forget. Inside it she had written: Your holidays are about to get sooooooooo much better!
I didn’t get it at the time, but boy, I sure get it now. This Christmas has been infinitely more special, already; thanks to the excited little two-and-a-half-year-old who started his Christmas countdown at Halloween. (He made one adorable little “Ho-Ho,” minus the white beard!)
Don’t get me wrong–I have always loved Christmas, but I have never loved its tendency to overwhelm me each year. No matter how prepared I am. There’s such high expectations, and only so many days to get it all done!
Then there’s the whole “meaning.” We debate so much about what Christmas is all about; whether it’s the birth of Jesus or the giving of gifts or the spreading of holiday cheer. The battle of “Presence” vs. Presents. The scramble to do all the things for all the people you love, that you can’t seem to find time/energy/motivation to do throughout the rest of the year. Is this really the only time of year we can take the time to send out a written greeting to our friends or take a family photo? To make a batch of cookies and take some to a friend? Or bring chocolates to your best customers? It’s usually the only time I do any of those things! And then there’s the unavoidable holiday stress; the long list of to-do’s and check-offs and projects and wish-lists. It is so easy to get wrappedup in it all! (Pun intended) 🙂
However. The wise prediction in that dear teacher’s card was spot-on. The Christmas blues tried to get me down this year, but luckily, my little boy’s spirit wouldn’t let them. Not this year! Not with this precious toddler, filled from his blonde ringlets right down to his chubby little toes with anticipation and excited energy. Filled with absolute magic.
Santa hasn’t even gotten here yet, and already this has been my most meaningful Christmas, by far. Now that I have truly seen Christmas through the eyes of my child–through those innocent blue eyes that don’t see to-do lists or piles of unfinished wrapping–I have also seen the magic.
Because ALL he sees is the magic.
After tucking him in last night, I stayed a while in his cozy dark nursery, watching the light from glittery snow flickering on the walls as it spun in the special snow-globe his daddy bought him a few weeks ago. And as I sat there, I saw the Christmas magic. But the magic wasn’t the Santa in the snow globe, or the glittery snow floating around him in the current.
The magic was the curly blond head peeking out of the blanket in the crib just below it, peacefully dreaming about “Ho-Ho.”
(And likely, the “big huge excavator” that he’s hoping Ho-Ho will bring down our chimney soon.)
As a life-long lover of language, one of my very favorite parts of motherhood is watching our little man figure out how to communicate. We have been compiling a list for the last two months or so, of our favorites from his own funny little vocabulary.
I never want to forget these adorable Hank words, because I know he will replace them with the “right” ones before we know it! (If only I could freeze time–I would–rightnow.)
BIG Dede: Grandma Dede
BIG Pop-pop: Grandpa Gil
Dig-Dig: Excavator or skid-steer
Beep-Beep: Dump truck
Co-Co: Roscoe (or any dog)
No Please: No, thank you
Tiny home: camper
Num-num: any food, or also any meal
BIG bath: lake or pool
Co-Co Bee: a stuffed dog
Big up: high
HoHo: Santa Claus
And his favorite request, currently:
“Hum-mum’s house, eat, NOW, pwease?!”
Hank is our dinner bell–
“Num-num time, boo-boosh!!”
Our compassionate little helper when mommy is sick–
“Is ok, mommy!”
And our reminder that even the littlest ones with the fewest words want to be part of the conversation–
“Talk Hank, too.”
May we never forget to listen to his tiny words; they carry such great meaning!
I couldn’t be more blessed with this beautiful child, and each new day with him is a gift. Watching his world get a little bigger every day is my truest joy!
I’ve made stunning 4-tier wedding cakes, perfectly iced in homemade buttercream; cakes which took days to bake, ice, assemble and decorate.
It was nothing for me to crank out 4 loaves of bread from scratch on any old Saturday morning, or whip up a few dozen cinnamon twists to send to work with my hubs for his crew.
I LIVED for brioche, trying every recipe I could find until I finally made the perfect, airy loaf. (I’m pretty sure this is the exact brioche Marie Antoinette was talking about.)
I used to be one hell of a baker.
Until I had a baby, that is.
These days, I feel good when I get a box cake made on time for a birthday in our household, and even better if I actually remember the candles!
So when my sister stopped by with a dozen gorgeous red apples, fresh off their tree a few days ago, I was inspired. I just HAD to bake something. Something GOOD.
“Hank!” I said. “Let’s bake a pie!”
Now, friends, this is NOT what a perfect apple pie is supposed to look like. Not even close.
What it does look like, is exactly what it is: a pie a toddler baked.
Old Me would never have stood for it. Old Me would have thrown out the torn-up, over-worked pastry that sat in our fridge two days longer than it should have, and made fresh. She would have rolled it and lined that pie plate smoothly and evenly, then pinched perfectly-even flutes all around the edges to seal the top.
Today though, for the first time ever, I had a helper. And Hank wanted to do it ALL. He wanted to roll the crust out with the big huge rolling pin. And mix the ingredients. And peel the apples with that fun old crank peeler his great-grandma gave us. He wanted to do all of it.
All. By. Himself.
So, you know what I did?
I let him!
I’m NOT that perfect baker I used to be–I just can’t be. I’m way too busy being mom. (And that’s even better.)
When that sweet two-year-old woke up early from his nap today, we spent that extra hour making the ugliest apple pie I have ever made.
It may be the ugliest pie I’ve made, but it is the pie I’m proudest of.
(And it tasted far sweeter than any of the pretty ones ever did.)
“We’ll go when he starts sleeping through the night,” my husband and I promised each other.
We both missed those kid-free, not-a-care-in-the-world nights when we used to go out dancing, or to dinner and a movie. Those glorious mornings when we could sleep in til 8:00 am (8:00 am!) without a baby monitor waking us up before the sun came up.
Even though we missed those nights, we also adored the chaos of our big crazy family. With four kids between us, we never seem to find much “alone” time. But you know what? Even so–we wouldn’t change it. We both understand that someday, we will have more “alone time” than we will know what to do with. So right now, we are all-in on our “six-pack” family.
In my recent evolution from (half-time) step-mom to full-time mom, I learned that life with the littlest of littles is basically parent, work, sleep, repeat. While it is the most glorious blessing; one thing I found it doesn’t allow for much is dating of your husband!
But a few weeks ago, on a short break between sports seasons, we realized we had some rare free evenings on our hands. And miraculously, the two-year-old was still sleeping through the night like a champ.
The fur-baby that stole my heart was 165 pounds of Blue Merle muscle–a majestic Great Dane named Roscoe.
Roscoe was more than a dog–he was a full-on family member. He got me through several moves, a difficult divorce, and countless single nights when every creak and crack in my big empty house kept me up at night.
I knew that my beautiful behemoth of a dog was special, but I never truly appreciated his full worth until he became a watchdog for not just me, but for my baby boy, as well.
When our little bundle came home from the hospital two years ago, Roscoe didn’t complain–even when he got moved from his cozy living room corner to a bed in the heated garage. (It was the baby’s turn to nap in that nice warm spot by the fireplace, you see.)
So, he let him.
Somehow from day one, Roscoe knew it was his job to watch over that little boy, and watch over him he did.
For two blessed years.
Sadly–we just buried our almost 12-year-old, geriatric gentle giant a week ago, under a big cottonwood on the family farm. I know his spirit will keep on watching over all of us–especially Hank, who over the last two years had become his very best friend. Those two sweet boys taught me some pretty big life lessons–one of which is how meaningful animals can be to little people.
I hope that as you read along, you nod in agreement because your little ones have a furry friend to love on like Hank did. But if you haven’t gotten a pet for your child or children (yet!), dear reader, here are five reasons why you may want to consider it!
Our big dog and our little boy were two peas in a pod. Anywhere the toddler went, the dog was sure to follow. And vice versa. On the swingset, digging in the dirt, playing ball on the lawn, picking strawberries–these two adored each other’s company. We couldn’t go for a walk unless Roscoe came with us, even when it meant he had to give up his beloved afternoon nap.
If Hank could have slept on Roscoe’s dog bed with him every night, he absolutely would have.
From the time he could walk, our toddler helped me with all of our dog chores. He understood that the first thing we did each morning was let Roscoe out, and he looked forward to it every day. He helped me fill his food and water bowls, and he even helped me clean up the “land mines” in the yard. (He was the “locator,” and I ran the shovel.)
Having a dog taught our toddler a world of responsibility, and most importantly–it taught him how to care for a loved one.
3. Teachable Moments
From learning a universal nickname for dogs–“Coco”–to learning that dogs will do almost anything for a milk-bone; our gentle giant was also a wonderful teacher for our little boy. He taught him that dogs don’t really like to be ridden like horses, even if they are the perfect size. He taught him that “woof” means “come open the door please.” He taught him that Great Danes make wonderful pillows for naps on the lawn. He taught him that it is important to hold still when you are getting your toenails clipped. He taught him that sometimes when we get old, our bodies just can’t keep up anymore. He taught him that even though saying goodbye is scary and hard, it is something that we can get through.
He also taught him the true meaning of the phrase “loyal friend.”
Our huge dog kept an amazing eye on our little boy. Roscoe was Hank’s shadow, never venturing more than 10 or 15 feet away from the tornado toddler–even when that meant a LOT of getting up and laying back down! I loved knowing that whenever I watered flowers or weeded beds in the yard, I had an extra set of eyes on Hank while he played.
Roscoe truly loved his “job,” and Hank loved having his own personal watchdog.
5. Lifelong Memories
Even though he is gone now, Hank still talks about his big buddy “Coco” everyday. Any dog we see gets a chubby little finger point and a loving “Coco!” exclaimed with a huge smile. Whenever I tear up or mention how much I miss Roscoe, Hank grabs his stuffed puppy and gives me a kiss with it. I have countless amazing pictures of these two together, and I will never forget their two years filled with those special moments. Their relationship–although much too short–gave all of us a lifetime of heartwarming memories, which I thank God for everyday.
There’s nothing quite like the magic of big dogs and little children.
So, please. If you have a family dog, let your little ones climb all over him, even when he’s a little bit muddy. Let them snuggle up to him and get those trademark slobbery dog kisses, right on their little faces. Let them help carry the water bucket, even though it splashes all over the garage floor.
I promise–it’ll all be worth it.
And if you don’t have a family dog?
Then someday–if only for your kids’ sake–I hope you’ll change your mind.
The funny thing is–I didn’t really even notice that I had lost it, until last night. Not officially.
The fact that I didn’t even notice further solidifies the fact that I truly have LOST the battle. For good.
My Type-A personality has now officially been replaced with a new type: Type Mom.
Without even realizing it, I stopped doing the one thing I ALWAYS did, every morning, to keep my sanity.
As long as I can remember, I have religiously made my bed each day–perfectly, and arranged it like a Threshold ad for Target: six pillows, two throws. Two standard king pillows, two big shams, the minky sable body pillow that I sewed before I got pregnant; then the square burlap/chevron accent pillow as my finishing touch.
Then of course–at the foot of the bed–one robin’s egg blue throw, and one sable throw.
My perfect bed.
My happy place–perfectly in order, even if just in one little corner of our crazy house. My nice, organized landing spot to fall into after each kaleidoscope day in this blended family of six.
The one thing I could make look perfect, and walk away from; knowing it would still look exactly how I left it at the end of the day.
Unlike the rest of the house, hit by all of our daily tornados of little league and toddler toys and dirty clothes and clean folded clothes and grocery shopping and LIFE.
But last night, when I went to pull off those perfectly arranged pillows, they weren’t there.
They were in a heap on the floor, exactly where I’d left them the night before.
And when I really thought about it hard–they were there the night before that, too.
How did I stop this tradition–this thing I’d tried so hard to maintain for so long–and not even notice?
I’m a mom now, that’s how.
I think my brain simply needed those brain cells, that little extra bit of RAM, to deal with more important things.
Like explaining to a two-year-old why he can’t, in fact, go to the moon, even though he really, really wants to.
(This has occupied a surprising amount of time, over the last three days. He REALLY wants to go.)
My effort is much better spent worrying about Big, Important things like that, than making sure the bed looks perfect. Because I am finding, in these crazy, wonderful, (numbered) days, just how big and important they actually ARE.
So, somewhere in the last month, I subconsciously gave up the ghost on the perfect bed.
And you know what?
Because right now, in the crazy trenches of mamahood, I guess I don’t need that little corner of perfectly folded and tucked organization, anymore.
My life now can only be summed up appropriately in one word: chaos.
The sun shined down on us through big white clouds, and every corner of the farm was lush, green, and happy.
We played catch in the backyard, ate lunch on the deck, and kicked back in our Adirondack chairs on the porch while Hank blew a gazillion bubbles on the lawn.
All the strawberries I planted last summer went crazy this past week, so when my mama-in-law brought over a big fresh-cut bundle of rhubarb, I knew I needed to whip something up to ring in the sweetness of summertime. We had a big bucket of vanilla ice cream to break out too, so a strawberry rhubarb crisp sounded like just the right mix of tart and sweet.
(Kind-of like my rhubarb-loving hubs and myself–the perfect blend of tart and sweet!)
Unlike many of my home-grown recipe experiments, this one turned out beautifully! Not only is this recipe quick and easy, this crisp is good enough to share! Heat it up and serve with ice cream or eat it right out of the pan.
Here’s my recipe:
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 50 minutes
3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 cup fresh cut strawberries
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t nutmeg
1/2 cup oats
1 stick butter (or margarine)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Pour 1/2 cup sugar over rhubarb in medium bowl, stir to cover. (Let sit while making crumble for crisp topping.)
Mix remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir in oats.
Mix in softened butter (or margarine) until crumbly.
Pour rhubarb into 8″ x 8″ pan.
Pour strawberries over rhubarb.
Cover with crumble.
Bake 50 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or great by itself!
May your summer be full of sweetness, too, and just the right touch of tart to keep it interesting!
Not the lovely kind of “let’s cross over,” though, Liz Gilbert-style. There was no “attraversiamo” here, no “let’s.” I had no say in the matter.
No–the crossing over I experienced today landed me right smack dab in uncharted territory. And it has definitely not been lovely.
Today, my two-year-old-in-one-week cherub and I took a parenting turn for the worse.
We boldly entered the Land of NO.
Andso far, itisterrifying.
Terrifying–because today; in one crazy, irrational display of toddler manipulation, that adorable little cherub figured out that he doesn’t HAVE to do what mama says.
He figured out that he can, in fact, do the exact opposite if he wants to. And all he has to do is say NO.
But here’s what really gets me. He could already say no! And it was so cute–those first few weeks–whenever he used his new word!
Me: Do you want some more strawberries, Hank?
Hank: (in precious singsong) Umm, no-oh!
Me: (still in new-parent la-la-land) Awwwww! Isn’t that cute? He said “No!” He is so SMART! Another real WORD! And look how he makes his mouth into that round little “o” shape! Goodness, that’s just adorable!
Whathappened to THAT no? Howdidwemorphfromdarling baby no to demon-child banshee-screaming NO!?
Whatever it was, it flipped like a switch in that smart little brain this morning. On the stairs. In “time-out.” (Another relatively new concept.)
It went like this:
Me: Hank, please. Mama needs to go to work, so I need you to be a good boy and let me change your diaper so we can get you dressed.
Me: You don’t tell mama NO. We are changing your pants whether you want to or not!
Hank: *rolls eyes*
Me: Don’t you roll your eyes at mama!
Hank: *scrunches both eyes shut. Juts chin out defiantly *
Me: (inner monologue) God, help me. I am clearly not qualified to raise this child.
Hank: *eyes still closed*
The rest of our day brought more refusals, more time-outs, more counting-down-from-fives and a lot more NO. The demon-child version. I have never heard so much unexplained screaming. I have never done so much daytime praying. Or counting to ten. Or taking deep breaths.
All I could think about, all day, was how right all those people were about the “Terrible Twos.” Apparently, we have entered them. Exactly one week early.
I get it, now–all those toddler tantrum jokes and memes. I get the meltdown over not getting “the blue cup.” We had one today because Hank wanted the BLUE paci.
(But not THAT blue paci.)
I see why cutting the sandwich bread the wrong way can cause a full-on come-apart. Hank came-apart over mandarin oranges because the sections had already, (thanks to mommy) come apart.
(Which HE had wanted to do. Himself.)
Drew Barrymore’s picture of her daughter, sprawled across the Disneyland concrete, in full-on kid-fit, makes so much more sense to me now. Because now, I have seen my own child, spread eagle on the kitchen floor, kicking and screaming, for who-knows-why, exactly.
I tried to channel Drew’s cool, collected calm all day while my toddler’s world crashed down all around us. But it is harder than I thought.
Just ignore it.
Just forge ahead, go on with your day.
He will eventually get over it.
How on earth, a small, hardly-speaking toddler can out-wit and out-stubborn a grown adult with a Masters in Education is beyond me. (And more than a little embarrassing.)
Today–in all of its glory–left me wishing for my baby back. The baby who didn’t argue; the one who laid there, cooing and smiling as I changed his diapers, whenever I damn well pleased.
The baby who weighed nine manageable pounds, not the thirty-plus of rough-and-tumble I can hardly hold onto, kicking and bucking on the carpet, dirty diaper dangling perilously by one tab.
The baby who never told me NO.
I would do anything to swap him out, for one of those again. Maybe just for a few days, just until I can figure out how to handle this new, scary world we just landed in. I would gladly rock the baby keeping some new tired mama up around the clock. That–I was great at. Those days, I knew what I was doing. Because whatever I did, always seemed to work.
Today–nothing seemed to work–except my smart little boy’s brain as it filed away notes on how to outsmart his mama.
I don’t know if I am cut out for this. I need an emergency crash course in Toddler.
I never saw the wrinkles coming until they were just suddenly there. I was admiring a cute picture of Hank that I had snapped of me holding him a few months ago, and once I stopped looking at his adorable mug and glanced up at myself, I freaked! I couldn’t believe that was MY face. . .with this sudden influx of crow’s feet??
When did I suddenly age ten years overnight? (Maybe in those two years when I hardly got any sleep at all?) Hmmm–maybe. But my goodness, those wrinkles sure carved themselves in deep!
After the long hot shower I finally got in at 10:00 p.m. last night, I had yet another realization about my changed life. What the heck happened to my underwear drawer in the last two years? Who snuck in and traded all my fun frilly cuteness for granny panties?
I certainly never dumped out all those adorably-patterned VS under-roosies that used to fill up that drawer, and traded them in for mom underwear. If I had known that was coming, I may have reconsidered the whole idea of motherhood!! Somehow, they must have just slowly replaced themselves while my conscious wasn’t paying attention, one Target 3-pack of stretchy Hanes at a time.
I don’t think I have ever fully realized just how “adult” I am these days. How adult I HAVE to be, that is! It is still sinking in–almost two years later–that I am someone’s mother now.
All of these changes are a whole lot like trying to keep the house clean. You don’t necessarily see it getting dirty, you just notice it once it IS dirty. Once it’s already too late to prevent it.
I just packed up baby clothes that no longer fit my baby because he is no longer a baby. He’s suddenly a little “big kid” now. Who just sported his first pair of pull-ups, because he just started using his big-boy potty. Boy, did that ever help it sink in that he isn’t my little baby anymore. (But wasn’t he, just yesterday?)
Potty–training. And that big-kid baseball cap that just this month became permanently attached to his little blonde head. Just like his bro-bros.
Again–all good changes. All blessings. (Well, maybe except for the wrinkles and the mom undies–I’m going to have to learn to live with those.) But I need to learn how to live with all my changes, whether I like them or not. The only constant in my life these days is change. Isn’t that true for all of us?
My main problem is, I somehow need to figure out how to absorb all that time, all those moments, all the little bits that come in the middle between one stage and the next. Because I don’t want to only remember the milestones. The big moments. I want to remember all of it.
(Because after all–it is all of these beautiful little moments that have earned me such impressive laugh lines. 🙂 )