Hope you have a great weekend! We plan on spending part of it at the pool- Oliver just got his very first pool pass and couldn’t be more proud… he has spent the past three days floating around in the kiddie pool in his life vest saying dreamily “This is soooo we-waxing (relaxing)” while I follow Emil around as he attempts to drown himself by only walking in water neck-or chin-deep while simultaneously refusing to hold my hand under any circumstances. Of course, he slips under water and I grab him up, sputtering and coughing every few minutes. Jeez. This pool thing is no joke! It will be a wonderful thing once they can all swim!
Oliver’s hair has been a source of contention. Some people love it long, others hound him to cut it. He was holding pretty steady in the leave-my-hair-alone camp, so we did. But as the weather grew warmer, he would often seem just miserable. Sweaty, dirty strands of hair stuck to his forehead and the sides of his face every time he ran around at the playground. We tried tying it back (he hated that), then tried using a headband (he wouldn’t stand for that either).
It seemed to make him so unhappy, but for some reason he was adamant that he wanted long hair. Until his cousins visited. The boys had very short hair. After they left, Oliver mentioned that he might like to have short hair after all. So I jumped at the chance, and before long, Oliver was transformed:
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you have a chance, stop by Julie’s lovely blog Cinnamon Girl to check out a guest post I did about the artwork in our home. You’ll get a chance to see some spaces you might not have seen on our blog. Happy Friday!
The loveliest thing happened the other day! A wonderful author from England contacted me in order to send our Oliver her book. I was so humbled and grateful for her generosity, and giddy with anticipation at seeing the book. And so, when it arrived in the mail, I was grinning from ear to ear as I opened the package before giving the lovely gift to Oliver.
I snapped a shot of his face as soon as I handed him the book. He was completely blown away. That’s MY name! he exclaimed. Seriously, this guy was awe-stricken. And the funniest part of it all was that the character Oliver in the book could have been modeled exactly after our Oliver: a bit of a loner, quite goofy and different, “in his own world” with little stuffed friends to accompany him on all sorts of adventures… this Oliver and that Oliver are two peas in a pod.
So I wanted to share this wonderful book with you! Find your copy here, and below is a sneak peek at one of the beautifully illustrated pages:Without giving too much away, the story has a wonderfully happy ending, and Oliver “feeling different” turned out not to be such a bad thing after all.
Thank you, Birgitta, for this generous gift. It is a lovely book which we will enjoy over and over again!
P.S.- Oliver says, “FANK YOU!”
It has been raining cats and dogs around here, which makes for a mostly muddy mess in our back yard (especially in the unfenced soon-to-be veggie garden area- yikes!). But along with all that rain comes a whole lot of lush, green grass and clover, and the prettiest spring flowers.
Oliver notices beauty. He sees colors maybe more vividly than any of us. He points out the smallest pops of color as we are driving by a field or yard and yells in excited tones for the rest of us to notice, by golly! Look at that! He paints at preschool every day, coming home covered in splatters of bright blue, orange, pink, and yellow. And we all know about his fashion sense. There is nothing bland about this kid.One day this week, Oliver came to me with a fistful of purple violets from our yard. Alone, the little flowers are sweet and subtle, but all bunched up like that, they are vividly beautiful. And my handsome little guy thrusting them toward me, “Mama, I picked dees for you!!!” made me smile the biggest smile. And then Emil got in on the action. Because vase-holder is a very important job for a little brother.Happy Friday! We have a jam-packed weekend ahead of us, and I’m not quite sure we can do all that we have planned (sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, you know?), but we’re sure as heck going to try!
Our Oliver is quite the character. He is so particular about what he wears that recently, asking him to get dressed in the morning has gotten kind of ugly. It ends with clothing strewn about his room, and one very unhappy 3-year-old rolling around on the floor, crying “These pants aren’t COOOOOOL!”
Recently, in an attempt to understand exactly what “cool” is to Oliver, I discovered that plain anything (pants, shirts, socks, underwear) is uncool. Lightening strike pants, loud zippy colors, crazy patterns, bright orange dinosaur leggings, skeleton pajamas, or space-themed anything is cool. Which is a problem. Because nearly all of the hand-me-downs from Milo are simple, plain basics that I bought because of their plain-ness.
The solution? Fabric paint and a bit of creativity. A while back, I spotted these cool pants but absolutely could not justify their price tag (holy cow, they were expensive!), I decided to make them. Here’s how:
- White fabric spray paint (I used Tulip brand, found at Michael’s)- be careful NOT to get puffy fabric paint!
- Black sweatpants (these are Apaman from a couple of years back)
- Cardstock large enough to cut a pattern into, or you could even use a piece of fabric as long as you are careful to cut straight lines
Hold the pattern in place while you spray the paint on, then carefully remove the pattern. Wipe excess paint off with a paper towel (be sure to wipe underneath too!), and repeat on the other side. Allow to dry for 4 hours, and avoid washing for 72 hours. For best results, wash pants inside-out. And voila! Cool pants!
the king Oliver approved of the coolness, I made another pair, this one with O’s to match the X’s. He insisted on wearing them both on the same day. Success!
These past few days I have felt myself turning a corner. It was getting to be a rough winter, to tell the truth. As the light changes and occasional warm days break the cycle of cold and rain and snow, our family is noticeably happier. It’s truly amazing what a few days in a row of fresh air does to my entire being.
And with garden preparations under way (we are expanding and adding a real fence), there is a lot of work to be done. The inside work of keeping this big old place clean is just going to be on the back burner for a while so I can just feel like myself again. And that means more days outside in the sunshine, tilling soil and pulling up clump after clump of grass by hand. Our spring compost pile is already hard at work, and the wheelbarrow full of yard debris. I couldn’t be happier…
It’s no secret among our family and friends that nighttime around here is anything but a restful time. Those of you who have ever stayed overnight with us know all too well the insane number of wake-ups and disruptions. Someone is crying or calling out “Mamaaaaaaa!” nearly every hour until daybreak.
It has been this way for the past 6 years.
Milo started sleeping through the night (hard) merely weeks before Oliver was born. And Oliver has just never been a good sleeper. He is three-and-a-half now, and still wakes up two or three times a night needing reassurance that someone is there: a drink of water, a tuck-in, or just to see with his own eyes that his parents still exist, haven’t up and vanished in the night.
Emil is the same. He is easy-as-pie to get back to sleep, but has yet to learn the self-soothing techniques necessary to awaken, then settle back in on his own. I am to blame, surely. Co-sleeping until 8 months, breastfeeding on-demand until 17 months, etc. I parented by following my instincts, not books and experts on parenting. It never felt right to let my babies cry, so I responded, maybe a little too quickly. I suppose Andrew and I both fall somewhere on the wide range of attachment parenting styles, and because of it I think our boys are incredibly independent, sure of themselves, and confident in their physical capabilities. They are secure. But they don’t sleep well.
The disruption is affecting my mood and ability to function, I swear. The longest stretch of sleep I have gotten in the past 6 years is 3 hours. 3 HOURS! And while we are all functioning, I know I would be feeling better (fewer headaches, less of a need for caffeine in my waking hours, more energy, a less depressed mood) if I were sleeping better.
A week ago, Oliver slept through the night. 12 hours in a row, not one wake-up. And though Emil was still up a few times, I noticed a marked difference in my mood the next morning. Oliver was also much happier and more agreeable.
Then. Then, both Oliver and Emil developed double ear infections AND pneumonia (yes, both of them have double ear infections, both of them have pneumonia) and all hope for rest flew right back out the window. I spent the week trying desperately not to lose my mind while fighting sleep deprivation- carrying Emil or Oliver around, trying to make someone, anyone, comfortable while trying not to ignore a very healthy, spirited Milo and all of his needs for attention and conversation and food and exercise. On the fourth day of this, Emil refused all naps despite attempt after crazy-making attempt, while Oliver cried and cried and made demands which he didn’t really want, and threw himself on the floor and refused to sleep until the very second I put him in the car to pick up Milo from preschool. I locked myself in the bathroom exactly one time that day and screamed a sound usually reserved for monsters.
I am brutally aware of how impossibly childish this post sounds. If I were my ideal person, I would take all of this in stride, with grace, instead of whining and feeling sorry for myself. I would simply write about my poor little guys and how horrible they must feel being so sick (and I do feel that way, of course!). It would be about them. It would list ways of comforting them and ways of making them sleep peacefully. But I don’t have all of these answers. I don’t know how to feel better and stronger as a parent right now. I know these feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed will pass (probably with the passing of winter), but right now I am just in the thick of it and frankly, it sucks.
This weekend we are supposed to have beautiful weather. I am hoping with all my might that I can escape the house for an hour or two and shrug off all the weight that has been resting on my shoulders, if only for a while. And sorry for being such a downer. It’s just life, sometimes.
Sometimes I find these two in the sweetest moments. There’s something so touching about the way they interact.
I’m a lucky mama to have these guys. Happy Friday!
It took all the courage in my entire being to write this post, and an ounce more to hit publish. Butterflies in my stomach, my face felt hot. I kept thinking about my readers. Not the people who know me in real life, but those who I have worked hard to establish a relationship with online, mainly through blogging. Will they judge me? Will they believe me?
Last week, I was falsely accused of child abuse.
Here is what happened.
I woke up well-rested, thanks to several days of recuperation after hernia-repair surgery. Determined to do something kind for Andrew, who had been working extra hard at childcare and household chores while I was recovering, I set out to the grocery store down the street for donuts and coffee. I brought the boys with me with the promise of a sweet treat, despite bitter cold and wind and frost on the van’s windshield. I felt good. I felt capable again, albeit a bit sore.
It was early, near 8am, so we took our time in the nearly-deserted grocery store, picking out donuts: sprinkles for Oliver, chocolate for Milo, and two apple fritters for Andrew, me, and Emil to split. We paid, then hand-in-hand, a daisy chain of little people, made our way back to the van. I put Emil in first, then opened the door for Milo and Oliver. Milo climbed into the way back and immediately buckled himself in, as usual. Oliver climbed in, then stopped. He turned to me, and in an interesting turn of events (after a week of doing so much without his mama, and from encouragement from his papa, he had been so independent), he asked me to lift him into his carseat. Usually, he just climbs in, and then I buckle his straps. But today, he was craving some extra attention from his mama.
“Oliver, I can’t lift you, buddy. Remember? Mama has a boo-boo on her belly and can’t pick you up because it hurts my tummy.” I recognized his need for extra love, so I spoke to him gently. Oliver dug in his heels.
We stood there, my three-year-old and me. It was so cold. Back and forth for about a full minute. I stayed firm, repeated my request. “Oliver, please hop in, it’s time to go.”
“I’m COLD! CLOSE THE DOOR!!!! LIFT ME IN!!!!” he screamed.
I went around to the driver’s side of the car and turned on the car to warm the inside while I waited (and hoped) for Oliver to get into his seat. When I walked back around to Oliver, he was crying and shouting and kicking. “PUT ME IN!!! I DON’T WANT THE DOOR OPEN! LIFT ME IN!”
I raised my voice. “Oliver, please get into your carseat now. I cannot lift you.” More screaming and crying.
Clearly, this was not working. The counting to 1… 2… 3. No dice. Finally, I gave in. I climbed into the van (Oliver’s seat is in the middle row), lifted him up underneath his armpits, and plopped him into his seat, setting him down hard and with a huff. He started screaming louder (why? I have no idea. He is three). I buckled him in, shut the door, and climbed into the driver’s seat. Then I drove home. Along the way, Oliver stopped crying and said sheepishly, “Sorry Mama for not gettin’ in my seat.” And just like that, it was over. We brought Andrew his donut and I mentioned that Oliver and I had had quite the standoff. It was a fairly unremarkable incident, far from the worst we’ve ever had.
Fast forward to 5:00pm. I was in the middle of dinner preparations. The boys (and dog) were running circles and NPR was blaring when I heard a knock at the door. I put down my knife and pushed it back from the edge of the counter, remembering the baby’s reach. As I approached the door, I could see through the window a police officer’s uniform. Great. I thought. Someone has broken into our car again. My thoughts briefly went to Andrew having an accident, but he had walked to work that day. I opened the door and saw a social worker. Oh no! Maybe one of the neighborhood kids has gone missing! I remember thinking about the school kids half a block away and feeling worried for them.
But they were there for me.
The social worker stepped in with three (!) police officers and asked if I had been in the grocery store parking lot with my kids that morning. That someone had anonymously called the police reporting a woman for slapping her two kids in the face while she loaded them into the car. He/she had followed me out of the lot to get my license plate number and then made the call. Someone had accused me of child abuse.
I remember saying something to the effect of “Oh my God! Are you serious? Who would say such a thing! Why would anyone say that about me?” I invited them into the living room, where all three boys had gathered to steal glances at the big uniformed men in our house. I tried to stay calm and collected as I explained what had really happened, and assured them that not only had I not slapped anyone in my life, but that in 5-and-a-half years of parenting I had never even spanked my children. Not even once! They interviewed Milo, who relayed to them an impressively detailed account of the morning’s events. Then they took a look at Oliver, inspecting his cheeks for marks. I began to cry. And shake like a leaf.
The social worker spoke in hushed tones to the three officers, and as I stood to the side, tears streaming down my cheeks, I picked up on words “… unsubstantiated… obviously mistaken… I see no abuse here…” before she dismissed them. She turned to me and asked me to sit and chat for a while. Her tone was apologetic, but I was completely in shock. I remember leading her into our dining room and sitting down at the table, offering her a drink of water in a raspy voice. I couldn’t stop crying.
The social worker told me that there would be no charges and no record, that the witness was obviously mistaken, and that these things happen. NO! I screamed inside of my head, “These things do not happen to ME!” I tried to catch my breath. I kept shaking my head no. Saying that I couldn’t believe it, that I would never lay a finger on my kids and cannot imagine how my interaction with Oliver had been so grossly misread. When she asked me about the ways we discipline our kids, I told her that we used 1… 2… 3, we used time-outs, or they lost privileges. What kind of privileges? She asked. I told her about the loss of a video or bedtime story and I laughed between tears as I thought of the way we raise our boys– we don’t allow violence in our home and if they hit, it is an automatic time-out– we don’t even allow toy guns in our home and we teach our boys that bodies are not for hurting! I told her about the irony– that I was a social worker for heavens sake!
And then, to add insult to injury, she asked me for a character reference. Someone who “knows what kind of parent you are.” I thought of neighbors, friends, our community, our family. What would they think of me? I gave her my mom’s phone number and sobbed. After trying to put my mind at ease, the social worker left.
I began crying hysterically. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. My heart ached. My thoughts swam. I called my mom in hysterics, trying to make sense of the assault on my very being. When Andrew came home, he found me in the kitchen, sobbing, with my hand over my mouth, trying to get it together enough to finish making dinner and feed the boys. I relayed the events that had occurred merely minutes before in complete disbelief. Shortly thereafter, a detective came by to investigate. We sat on the couch while the boys ate dinner and I recounted once again the incident in the parking lot. I felt exhausted.
That night Andrew and I talked for hours. Andrew was quickly able to move past it and even make jokes about the ridiculousness of it all. But I was left feeling steamrolled and bewildered. My self-esteem, most recently built largely on what kind of mother I am, had taken a major hit.
I lay awake in bed, emotionally wrecked, until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t stop thinking about the person who had called in. Who? Why? Was it a retaliation against something? What had this person actually seen? How long did he/she witness my interaction with Oliver before making up his/her mind about what was going on?
And the worst of it came from my assumptions about people in general. I believe that people are good. That in general, people are looking out for each other and mean no harm. That this person was not evil or out to get me. This person thought he or she was helping in some way. Which means that there is someone out there who thinks I was actually hurting my kids. He or she saw me as an abuser. This thought just kills me.
I know that I am a good mom. I know that I didn’t do anything wrong. Yes, I could have refrained from yelling at my kid in public. I could have stood my ground by closing the van door and sitting in the front seat until Oliver was finished tantruming, waiting him out until he was ready to listen and follow my instructions so I could strap him into his seat without a big show. But the fact is, I’m not perfect. Someone out there heard my raised voice, saw Oliver screaming and crying, and connected some dots that just weren’t there. I know this in my head, but my heart just feels assaulted by this accusation.
This incident raises so many important questions. Are we too hard/judgmental on parents (particularly moms) these days? What would I have done if I had seen this situation unfolding? I’d like to think that I would have made eye contact with the mom, smiled knowingly (and sympathetically), or maybe even asked her if she needed a hand. I would like to think that I would have stopped. To be sure. Because the emotional turmoil (not to mention a huge waste of city resources to send out five public safety officials to investigate) has wreaked havoc on me. A part of me wonders what the universe is trying to tell me by this whole experience, to be wrongly accused of something horrible. I wracked my brain thinking of all the cases of abuse I reported in my years of school social work. Had I made a mistake too? Was this social work karma biting me in the rear-end? Had I unknowingly wreaked this kind of havoc on some innocent mama years ago? Maybe. And if so, I am so very, very sorry.
And, as a former social worker, I saw the system in action in a very different light. How many of these anonymous tips uncovers an actual case of abuse? Is sending five uniformed workers in two separate trips to someone’s house for this type of report the most effective way to use our community’s resources?
If anything good is to come of this, it is to be awakened. I am humbled by this experience. To be on the other side of this is a learning experience I will never need to relearn. I am not untouchable. I am not a perfect parent. I can do better and be more understanding of other parents. I can be more patient with my own children.
To be better.
I took this video the other night and just had to share it. Poor Oliver had been at it for so long, trying to button those blasted jammies, before I even grabbed the camera and started filming. He was just trying so hard.
Sometimes I forget just how little he is. But this, along with some sweet instructions from an infinitely patient older brother, is a good reminder. Every day, he is learning. Every day, growing. How I love him so.