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End of an Era

Public service announcement: Kien is over dragons. Dragons are for two and three year olds. He’s all about giant squids now. I know, this is bigger news than Miley’s hot mess of a twerk performance on the VMAs.

When we were in Colorado in July, we put on the Disney Channel for him to watch while Quinn we napped. It was a 10 minute episode of Octonauts, a show he had never seen before because he always chose to watch dragons when he got screen time. The show was about a giant squid and that’s all it took.

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Since then, it’s been the same two episodes of Octonauts and trips to the book store and the library to look for books with pictures of squids. We bought an ocean picture book in the bargain aisle and he’s been drawing all sorts of squids. He cups his hands and sticks them to my face, my arm, my shoulder, my butt…they’re squid tentacles and once they’re on you, they’re “stuck.”

I asked him the other day, “Kien, do you like dragons anymore?”

Kien: Yes I do.
Me: Well, you don’t ever talk about them anymore.
Kien: Well, I THINK about them. And I only like dragons one at a time.
Me: What does that mean?
Kien: IT MEANS I ONLY LIKE THEM ONE AT A TIME!

Right. Just because his interests have evolved does not mean that his patience has.

So Don and I are in uncharted territory. We’re not sure how this new obsession will play out, how intricate and complicated it might get (like the dragons), and how long it will last.

Luckily, there are many more ideas for Halloween costumes for squids than dragons. Just to be clear, we’re not already planning for Halloween. That would presume we’ve got our sh*t together to think more than one week out in advance and that would be crazy talk. It’s a good thing we set the bar so low with this costume a few years back:

Situation

 

 

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And then the clouds parted

Well hey there. It’s been a while.  Let us get reacquainted. I’m a mom to two wild animals (Kien and Quinn); a master (and I use that term loosely) to a newly calm and super-clingy dog; partner to a goofball hunk of a husband who seems to be aging in reverse; and work full-time to save the world from a generation of entitled do-gooders by encouraging them to fail early and fail often.  And I feel like I’m finally coming out of the bog that has encompassed me these past three years.

A former student of mine gently nudged me to start up my blog again.  And I was all, yea.  I should.  It’s something that I enjoy doing. And then it hit me. YES, I SHOULD!  It IS something that I ENJOY. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m moving into a place where I’m finding myself again.  So that’s where I am and it feels kinda good.

Looking back at my last few blog posts (and their posting dates), it occurred to me that this blog was quickly becoming a birthday blog where I only post a letter to my kids on their birthdays.  Unless I have six more kids, it just wouldn’t be very interesting to me much less anyone else.  And, quite honestly, it’s obnoxious.  So here’s my initial effort to get back in it…to post more than twice a year.  Because I sure as hell ain’t having six more kids.

This is us of late:

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Kien 4-evah!!!

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Dear Kien,

You’re four. That’s a game changer.

I’m not really sure why, but four has always been different than two, or three. It’s the age where you’re definitively a kid. A KID! No longer a baby. It’s the age when you pull away into independence more than before, and it’s appropriate for you to do so. It’s also the age when I struggle between being exasperated by your toddler-like tendencies while also wanting to pull you in and hold on to the baby I’ve been used to.

You had some great milestones this year. Your moods, though still unpredictable at times, came with words! We could talk and, every now and then, reason our way through them.  Your imagination exploded. There were so many times when I wished I could get in your head to see what world you were living in. No doubt, a world full of dragons, vikings, and the occasional octopus and alligator. You became more generous with your smile, and you learned how to work it.  That, and your tears. You love to draw! My goodness, the collage of drawings we have up on your wall shows the progression of your drawing skills and I’m astounded because it’s a glimpse into your imagination. You go to the bathroom on your own. Sometimes you shout over your shoulder, “When I’m done I need you to come so you can wipe my BUTT.” Always an emphasis on the ‘BUTT’. My favorite part is how you never manage to pull your pants up straight so they’re always at different degrees of crookedness. It’s endearing.

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This year, you’ve also learned to become quite the funny guy. If you can get over your awkwardness in front of strangers (don’t we all) I think you might have a successful career in theatre or stand-up comedy. However, I have to admit, it’s your awkwardness that makes you so charming and hilarious. You have a way with words, though you have yet to learn the power of them. I hope that we can instill in you the confidence to own your words and then let them out in the world.

I feel like turning four is going to be like being on the cusp of many things for you. Recently, you learned how to swim – but just a little bit. You were so proud. Your interests are starting to expand beyond dragons (inconceivable!). You enjoy having long conversations with us. And you find every way possible to stretch out bedtime (you’re winning). I think you’re starting to get it. I’m not sure what “getting it” entails, but I just have a hunch that, soon, the dots are going to connect and my mind is going to explode.

We had some big transitions this year and you took it all in stride. There were days when I can understand how tough it is to be three. I know there will be days when it’s tough to be four. Often times, I think you have layers of complexity that you’re still trying to sort through. Some people call kids like you “spirited.” I say, better now than when you’re 30.

The hardest part for me this year has been accepting my name change. At some point, you started calling me “mom” instead of “mommy.” (You pronounce it “mo-ohm.”) I’m not okay with that. Really, I’m not. For the last four months, I’ve tried to get you to call me mommy again. The way you say mo-ohm, it’s just too grown up. I’m not ready for it. And now I’m wondering how much longer I’m going to try to correct you before I accept it.

This morning, you came into my room, clutching your beloved froggy blanket, eyes still puffy from sleep, and I greeted you with, “Happy birthday!” You looked yourself up and and down and said, “Mo-ohm, am I big?”

Well, you’re four. Four is a game changer.

Happy birthday, Kien.

Love,

MomMY

Dear Quinny, You’re one.

Dear Quinny,

I’m a little obsessed with you.  I just can’t get enough of you.  It might be a little awkward for me to say things like this seeing as how I have this other kid too (ahem, your brother).  I try not to compare, but who are we kidding?  You are the baby that made me believe in babies again.  You are the baby that made me consent that all those books and parenting articles weren’t lying to me.  You are the baby that made me finally believe my friends when they would tell me how their baby sleeps through the night.  And takes naps on cue.  And (usually) only cries when they need something.  And the crying stops when they figure it out.  And smiles and laughs in response.  And poops roses and skittles.  You are THAT baby.

Who knew?!

My pregnancy with you was such a whirlwind I was sure you’d absorb all my anxiety and come out a hot mess.  You were born in a time of transition: me with a new job, us in a transition house.  It was busy times.  Apparently, the stress of those days is reflected in the pea-sized yellow stain on your left front tooth.  Dr. Vaughan says it might have been caused by a mother’s stress or trauma during pregnancy.  It could have very well been stress.  Or it could’ve been one of the daily traumas your brother caused.  However, you came into the world calm and alert, with your big, brown eyes overtaking your face.  Not much has changed, but you’ve added a generous helping of smiles to your repertoire.   When you first started smiling (the real smiles, not the gassy smirks), I noticed that it came through in your eyes.  Like your dad, you smile with your eyes first and it melts me every time.

  

Uncle Gary says that the way you look at people is like you’re stealing their soul.  I just think you’re studying.  You’re absorbing.  You’re taking in the world.  And then you respond.  Faced with people you don’t know well,  you often cling to me and bury your face into my shirt, all the while sneaking peaks at the person.  When you’re a little more comfortable, you smile at them with your eyes.  And after you’ve warmed up, you give them high-fives, bites of your food, or offer them your toys.  I like that you’re not so easy to win over, but you’re not a recluse either.

You’re easy-going, but you’re not a pushover.  You make it very clear what you like and what you don’t like.  For instance, that time I took your pacifier out to wipe your nose?  When I gave it back you spiked the pacifier in my face and bared your fangs at me.  Or, the time I sat you in front of a piano for the first time – you shook your booty like a pro, snorting because you were laughing so hard.  Or, the time I wanted to put cream on your diaper rash – you arched your back and flopped like a fish out of water, screeching like banshee.

You’ve learned to be patient with your brother – at least for as long as you can hold your breath.  He often wants to smother you with hugs and you wind up getting WWE pinned under him.  I usually stand back to let you both work it out.  But don’t worry, I’ll always step in when your face starts turning purple.  I promise to also step in when he puts his foot in your face and then you wind up licking his shoe because you don’t know any better.

      

In many ways I want to slow down time so I can enjoy the sweet, pure, innocent moments of your baby-hood just a little longer.  Soon enough, you’ll be walking and talking.  Soon enough, you’ll be riding bikes and scraping your knee.  Soon, you’ll get more excited about playing with your friends than snuggling with me.  You’ll exert your will and independence.  You’ll read and write.  You’ll sneak out of the house and lie about the tattoo you got on your hip.  You’ll get in trouble at school for beating up that kid who bullied that other kid.  You’ll choose to go to college out of state.  Dear God, stop the madness.

For now, you’re THAT baby.  The one that makes me love being a mom.  The one that rewards me with smiles and snuggles.  The one that poops roses and skittles.

Happy one, Quinners.  You’re the best.

Love,

Mom

Dear Kien, You’re 3

My dear Kien,

Today you and I both made it to three. Today I learned a lot about being your mom. Today, more than any other day this past year, you reminded me that you are your own person.
You went to bed last night in tears, exhausted from hours of frustration and anger. You started the day in tears, not understanding why you couldn’t get your way, not understanding why I wanted this day to be happy and special for you. You ended the day a sweet angel, a child at play, a baby wanting to be cuddled, sung to, and tucked tight in bed.

This year, I marveled at your growth. Before I knew what was happening, you were stringing words together to create sentences. And then, just like that, we were having conversations. You moved quickly from the “Why” phase to the “What” phase. But you don’t ask “What?” just once. You ask them in three’s.

“…and when you honk the car horn it tells the cars around you to check to see if they are driving the right way.”
“What? What? What?”

Dad thought it might be because you have a hearing problem. I think it’s because you don’t want to miss any part of our conversations. But there’s a good possibility that your ears are also filled with lots of wax – or dragon eggs, as we like to call it.

Speaking of dragons, you commit to your passions. At the start of the year it was construction vehicles and dragons. Your obsession with dragons blossomed after Chinese New Year when you got to see them perform in person. As the year progressed, so did your imagination with dragons. There is Boris the Dragon, who takes you on adventures across the world. And buffalo dragons that are big and tough. Mama dragons that live in caves with their eggs. Dragons that fly and dragons that swim. You embodied them all and I never got tired of watching.

You have become quite the negotiator, often convincing us to read you “one more book”, “just two more minutes of playing”, tell you one more story. It makes me a little nervous about what you’ll be able to talk me into in the future.

I adore your shyness. I think it’s natural for parents to nudge their kids in front of others and expect them to be open and gregarious. I make that mistake often. When I do that with you, you tuck away and peek from behind my leg. I can always count on you to slowly open up, but it has to be on your own terms. Though we’ve taught you plenty of party tricks that keep us laughing (“Hey, let’s sing ‘The Roof is on Fire’ song to the firefighters!”), you won’t be the entertainment around strangers. I respect that.

This year you became a big brother. With your intensity, I was a bit apprehensive about how you would handle another little one in our lives. You constantly melt my heart with how sweet you are with Quinn. You are gentle and kind to her. She adores you. You treat her as her own person, never forcing her to do what you do, rarely frustrated when she cries and demands our attention.

Today, you made me reflect on a few things. I have hopes and dreams for you. I know I will project my expectations on you. I know I will want you to feel the intense joy that I get from being your mom, the joys that I get from things that are most important to me. But I realize that you need to get there on your own terms. And perhaps there will be times when you don’t want to get there at all. Like the time I held you to watch a spectacular sunset and you wriggled out of my grasp to explore the bird poop on the ground.

You are your own person. You have your own opinions. You do not need me to feel for you. This year, you’ve shown me that there are times you don’t need me at all. You are growing up. Today, after dropping Quinny off at her class, I walked down the hall and caught sight of you barreling out of your own classroom, having just gone potty all by yourself. You were running down the hall, away from me, towards the doors to the playground. I watched you run down the hall, your shorts pulled crooked and way too high, your shoes slightly too big, your hair a mess because we never tame it for you in the mornings, and your goofy, slightly uncoordinated run zigzagging across the hall. You stopped after opening the door to the playground, hesitated to watch all the kids playing with reckless abandon. And then, slowly, you joined them, picking up a toy dinosaur on the way, and disappeared in the crowd. I’m learning. You’re three, and you are your own person.

Happy Birthday, Kien.

All my love,
Mom

 

 

 

 

Remember me?

Every now and then something happens and I think, “Great subject matter for a blog post!”  And then it’s time to breastfeed.  Or clean up the legos for a millionth time.  Or finish up some work emails at home.  Or open up a bottle of wine.

Here’s the lowdown on what’s the haps in the last month:

–  Work has been certifiably nuts and I think we’re finally crawling back into the light.  My colleague had his fourth (FOURTH) child and took some time off to tend to his family.  Meanwhile, I was having issues with our promising next generation of student leaders.  At one point, I seriously considered having another baby just so I could get some time off too.  Then I slapped myself and kicked myself in the crotch just to give myself a friendly reminder to not lose my mind.  Just as I was getting more and more deflated with some of the students, I realized I was falling victim to the adage, “The older I get, the better I was.”  These kids simply need time, experience, maturity, and people to teach them the lessons of gratitude and initiative.  After an attitude check, I’m back.

–  Quinn is five months old already and she keeps getting better.  I’m only nursing once a night and she doesn’t put up a fight going down.  She’s found her voice and her feet and is a curious, quiet observer of the world.  Best of all, she’s all smiles.  It turns out that the baby books know what they’re talking about after all.

–  Kien has been both hilarious and exhausting.  Did you know that a toddler is capable of having a multi-hour meltdown several times a day?  We didn’t either.  But that same toddler can leave us in stitches with his imagination and conversation a few second later.  And by the way, we found the turd.  It was tucked away, under the couch right at the edge of the rug.  Mystery solved and we can all stop sniffing the ground while we hang out in the living room.

–  The house construction is still on track.  We’ve been staring at drawings on paper for the last year so it’s exciting and surreal to see it actually being built.  I’m happy to report that we love it and we will love living there.  In other news, our neighbor just got another dog, putting her pet count at five dogs and an undetermined number of cats.

–  I’ve recently grown addicted to two unrelated things:  kale smoothies and Instagram.  I feel pretty full and satisfied after my daily kale smoothie, and it tricks me into thinking I’m doing something good for my body.  The road back to pre-maternity clothes has been a long one, and I’m still fighting the good fight.  I’m down 28ish pounds and still have 7 to go.  I was pretty frustrated at first because I bounced back much more quickly after Kien.  I remember when I was pregnant with Quinn, I turned to Don one night and said, “This ain’t gonna be pretty.”  For four weeks, I stayed at the same weight and realized that I would actually have to make some changes to my diet and commit to exercise.  I now know what a calorie is and I’m not happy with the fact that I know how many calories are in a slice of pizza.  Ignorance really is bliss.  So, I think I’ve worked pretty hard to bounce back, but I think this last leg might be the toughest.

–  So Instagram.  I finally caved and got me one of those fancy phones because I was excited about having a quality camera with me at all times. And then I toyed with instagram and now I’m hooked.  I love that it makes crappy photos look awesome.  But I also love that I can capture little snippets of our life and document them forever.  I also love that I can stalk other people who also instagram.  Sometimes I feel a little creepy about it.  Like the time the illustrious Bonnie Berry and her family had a layover in Houston on their way from from their vacation in New Orleans.  I had to bite my tongue several times when I thought about asking them about the things they did as I saw it through Instagram.  It’s like that part in the murder mystery movie when the bad guy lets a little detail slip and the innocent victim pauses, slowly reaches for the knife, and quietly says, “But I never mentioned I had beignets at Cafe du Monde.”  Anyway.  You can follow me @judysweetfeet and let me know if you instagram too.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Under Construction

In our household, we like to rip off Band-Aids with one big dramatic rip.  That’s why we decided to have our second baby and build a house at the same time.  At some point in the early stages of both projects, I got a promotion at work.  I don’t know if I would recommend doing any combination of the above at any one time, but here we are.  I’m happy to report that Don and I are still married, both kids still get bathed daily, and I haven’t lost my job.

This is all possible for a few reasons:
–  We have an amazing architect who we also consider a dear friend member of the family.  His attention to detail, flexibility, design sense, and patience has made the process enjoyable and less stressful.
–  My parents have been angels.  We moved into the second floor of their house and, with the kiddos, have subsequently taken over the whole place.  They are generous of their time and energy in helping with the kids and are tolerant of our crap all over the place.
–  My workplace is supportive of working moms and has allowed some flexibility for my work schedule.

A shout-out to all of the above.

I’ll talk about the design process in future posts, but here are some pictures to get you up to speed of how the house has progressed over the last 2.5 months.  We’ve been trying to capture the progress from one particular corner of our lot so that you can see the build as it happens.

We’re expecting to move in sometime in October or November.  Serenity now.