Over the years I’ve learned a lot about boys. I’ve become quite the expert on topics such as backhoes and Legos. I still have a LOT left to learn but I do know a few things: Boys can be messy and stinky and forgetful and rough and sensitive and sweet and they love their Mama like no tomorrow. They give the sweetest kisses and melt your heart and then 2 minutes later they burp or fart loudly and run away laughing. It’s in their nature and I love our boys with all my heart. But our one and only girl? Well she is something else. Something amazing and complicated and determined and beautiful. I’ve been wanting to blog about her for a while but I wasn’t sure I could find the words.
Our daughter, Gracie, is almost 10 years old. At one point she really wanted a sister and actually cried when she found out we were having another boy. But after a few days of getting used to the idea she decided to embrace yet another brother. All on her own she went out back with a sponge, soap, and water and spent hours washing all the old trucks, cranes, and any boy items she could find. She wanted to be prepared and make sure her new brother would have clean toys to play with when he got here. This is just the kind of thing about her that leaves us in awe. Not only did she maturely come to terms with the way things would be, but she was helpful in the process. She’s always been a little mama at heart. She does a lot to take care of this family and is nurturing in the most natural way.
These days I think she’s quite happy being the only girl.. She gets her own room with all the special touches, no hand-me-downs, and having three brothers has become a big part of who she is. There are times when she would love to have someone to do girly things with. When her older brother and his girlfriend broke up she was more upset than he was.. After all, this girlfriend was able to give Gracie french braids, a skill no one else in our family has. But thankfully she has a neighborhood friend who also has 3 brothers and they are able to bond and escape the testosterone together.
Gracie is sporty. She’s tough. She’s organized. She’s quirky. She will only eat ice cream with a fork and has 27 stuffed animals with birthdays clearly marked on the calendar. She’s confident yet shy and can handle herself just fine in most situations. She’s pretty and sweet and most importantly helpful to others; she’s been recognized at school 3 years in a row for being caring. This makes us the most proud. She’s also dramatic. Just a tad. Last week she stormed out to the bus absolutely furious because I didn’t know if she had art or guidance or library that day. WHY didn’t I know her schedule? How could you MOM??? Mad as a hornet.
My dad often tells me “Apples don’t fall too far from the tree”. I think he might be right. We never know what’s coming with her and find ourselves scared and bewildered all at the same time. We welcome any tips from those of you with girls of your own. After all parents, we need each other!
Our world is full of scary things: Wars, natural disasters, and kidnappings to name a few. These are all hard things to think about but there is something else that scares the daylights out of many people including me: Teenagers. Which is interesting because in my professional life I am a health educator for adolescents. I work with teens all the time. It’s my job and I love what I do. The teens I work with don’t scare me at all; I’m very comfortable with this age group and even teach a parenting program to parents of teens. But the ones in my house…that’s a different story. We have a 14 year old and 2 more right on the brink of the teen years. Three teens in our house at one time…now that’s scary stuff.
First, let me say that our 14 year old is a great kid. He’s beautiful, inside and out, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s incredibly smart, kind, respectful, and friendly. He loves soccer, skateboarding, swimming, and all kinds of music. He’s taught himself to play piano and guitar and plays the French horn in the high school band. He also happens to think I’m one of the LEAST smartest people in the entire world. How dare I suggest he wear a hat when it’s -2 degrees outside? Oh the senselessness, Mom. Or that perhaps instead of wearing ONLY his boxers around the house in the dead of winter he actually try some flannel pants. ” I don’t want them and I won’t wear them Mom”. Against his wishes I got him a pair for Christmas and for the record he wears them every single day. Aside from his ornery attitude and lack of life skills (at this point I may have to move to college with him), for the most part he’s bearable. If the truth be told, he is doing SO much better at age 14 than both me and my husband were at that age. He is interested in current events, enjoys thought provoking conversations, and is thinking about his future. His dad and I are so proud of the young man he is becoming.
I find it ironic that when it comes to my job I can give sound advice to kids and parents and think logically about all kinds of situations. Yet with my own kids I feel completely clueless, like a deer caught in headlights. I’m sure I’m making mistakes. I just hope these mistakes are not too impactful. The teens years are a time of exploration, risk taking, and gaining independence. One of my biggest fears during these years is that our kids will take a risk that will permanently derail them off their path- such as a teen pregnancy or opioid abuse. Which is why I try to practice some of what I preach at our house and that includes talking to our kids about these topics. Often. And because they usually leave the room or run from me I’m also learning that the car is a great place for these conversations. They can’t escape, however, there have been times I think our kids have contemplated jumping out of a moving vehicle.
Will we survive the teen years? Sometimes I wonder but mostly I’m optimistic. My parents survived the 4 of us so that gives me hope. Will we continue to become less cool and knowledgeable with each passing day? Absolutely. But we will do our best to guide them through these tricky years and hope that one of these days we can be friends again. I know it’s almost impossible to be a parent to your teen and be their friend at the same time. So until that time comes I will rely on a lot of faith, patience, and trust, and a few beers for sanity and good measure of course!
In the blink of an eye winter break comes and it goes. As I’m typing this blog I can see the dreaded words inching closer on the calendar: SCHOOL RESUMES. But we still have some time left and I am soaking in each and every day. This year, for the first time in a long while, both my husband and I have had the whole week off between Christmas and New Years. I had big plans for us before break came: we were going to do day trips and go on adventures and even contemplated a trip up north to see my husband’s family. I’m always making big plans for our family so we can pack in as much fun as possible; I don’t want to miss out on this rare free time. But we have done none of the above and as the days roll on I’m really getting used to this whole “not be in a hurry” way of life. I honestly think the kids are happiest that I’m letting them just be.
The day after Christmas I was so overwhelmed by the mad rush we had been on that I felt like I had some kind of syndrome; I walked around our house in circles for an hour not knowing where to start or what to do. I felt like I couldn’t look at one more bow or ribbon or box and I needed to clear my head so I left the house. I took my daughter and her friend shopping for hours. It was a mindless afternoon where I was on a mission for nothing other than watching the two girls giggle and get excited looking at all the cute clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas. But I needed to regroup and this was the perfect way to do it. When we got back home I felt re-energized and ready to slowly start tackling small pieces of the mess that was in every corner of every room.
Not setting an alarm, sleeping in, drinking coffee while it’s still hot, and not having to check our white board 20 times to see what activities and practices are planned for each evening has been a real treat. Today we went out to a leisurely lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon. 2:30 P.M.! Not only did we eat late but I also drank 2 beers while we were there. First of all, because I couldn’t think of a reason not to- I could and I did! Secondly, because we were headed to the mall with our entire family and quite frankly a couple of beers beforehand seemed necessary.
Winter break this year for us has been exactly what it is supposed to be: a break. Our oldest has spent his time skateboarding and playing PS4, piano, and guitar. Our 6th grader has broken in his new iPad and built robot after robot. Our daughter has watched videos and baked and done puzzles and shopped. Our 3 year old has been the happiest of all because everyone in his family has been home; when we are ALL here is always when he is definitely the happiest! How we will get back on a schedule and in our daily routine is a mystery but I’m hoping everyone will be somewhat refreshed. I hope you all have been able to find some downtime during this break! And with a little luck once we are back into the throes of life again we might get some snow!
Brady carries around his siblings baby books all the time; he loves to look at pictures of them. I FINALLY made his very own; it only took me 3 years. I’m so excited for him to open this special present on Christmas morning! I hope he loves it as much as I loved making it for him!
Trains. I’ve learned a lot about them over the years. All of our boys have loved trains including our 3 year old, Brady. But the train at the mall…..well that’s a different story. Brady has been terrified of that train for the last few years. So much so that I have had to spend a good 10-15 minutes convincing him the train “has gone nite nite” before he would even walk in the doors to the mall. And he would spend the whole entire time we were there reassuring me and every stranger he saw that the train has gone nite nite. Some people gave me puzzled looks as he’s telling them this, some would respond sweetly as I would explain the reason behind it, and some just politely smiled and walked away. But then a few weeks ago to my surprise Brady told me he was ready to ride the train. And he was specific: he wanted to sit in a boxcar. A BOXCAR! I didn’t realize he even knew what that was. But I did. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot about trains.
Earlier this week the day finally had come: no school for Brady and no work for me. It was what Brady refers to as a “Brady Mama Day”. These are some of my favorite kinds of days. Off we went to the mall with his 2 stuffed animals (Rubble and Snoopy) so they could also be part of this exciting adventure. When we finally got there he was scared and hesitant at first but once we met the conductor and got our tickets it was on! The hardest part was waiting our turn. My sister met us at the mall so she could take a few pictures and videos; having her there made the day extra special. Brady chose a green boxcar and we were on our way. We even had Christmas carols playing in the train which was a nice surprise!
My little guy waved so hard the entire ride that I thought his hand might fall off. Even people who looked bored or grumpy or like the last place they wanted to be was at the mall couldn’t help but wave back to this cute 3 year old who was having the best time of his life! I was so worried about Brady being scared it never occurred to me I might have some anxiety on the train. I started wondering: How long is this ride anyway? What if we run over someone? What if I suddenly need to get off? But my feelings quickly passed watching Brady smile and wave and point to all the wonderful sites we were seeing. It was an experience I will never forget!
My sister managed to capture video of our entire trip. I really don’t know how she was able to get from one end of the mall to the other on foot as quickly as she did; it was amazing! I secretly wonder if she knocked a few people down running around like a crazy person in her sparkly earrings and cute striped shirt. She kept popping out of nowhere with her camera at every turn and Brady would exclaim “Look! There’s Aunt Kym!” as if he hadn’t seen her just 5 minutes before. I chuckled the entire way as she somehow appeared like a magical elf throughout the our journey. That memory will always be endearing to me and make me laugh. Christmas is a magical time and this was a magical day. A Very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! I hope you find some magic during this holiday season!
I love Christmas. I love the smell of our Frasier Fur, hearing the jingle bells ring on our door as it opens and closes 500 times a day, nonstop Christmas Carols, and all the traditions that come along with the season. Over the years I have done my best to instill this same excitement in our kids in hopes that one day they will carry these traditions on to their own families. But I’ve noticed a few changes this year; the kids aren’t exactly begging me to make hot chocolate and snuggle up to watch Rudolph with them. Even our Elf on the Shelf isn’t getting his usual love. I wake up panic stricken each morning that I forgot to move that red elf and after successfully placing him somewhere new at the last minute I’m not sure anyone even noticed Except Gracie. She still looks for him every morning.
Picking out our tree is one of my favorite family activities; a sure sign the season is here. Some years we have driven an hour away to a tree farm, sipped hot cider while riding the tractor out in the woods to pick the perfect tree. This year, in the interest of time, we went down to the local nursery 5 minutes away. I had been talking for days about “Christmas tree day”! Right before we left, the kids weren’t ready when they were supposed to be and hadn’t done the few things we asked them to do so my husband came down hard on them, rightfully so. As we got in the car I looked around. Complete silence, stares out the window, and tears. Not exactly the picture I had in my mind. But thankfully once we walked around the festive nursery, had some cider,and found just the right tree to claim as ours everyone was in better spirits.
A few days later it was time to decorate the tree, another tradition I treasure. Blasting the carols while pulling out all the handmade ornaments from over the years. The kids are usually fighting over who gets to hang what. Not this year. Our two older boys were less than thrilled yelling “one more minute Mom” while in the middle of a PS4 game. Finally I insisted they join the fun. I ended up bargaining with them: hang 5-6 ornaments with big grins on your faces like it’s the best thing you’ve ever done and then you are free to go! Deal! So while it was short-lived, they still participated enthusiastically. And to be honest, I usually end up re-arranging things after everyone goes to bed anyway. Especially the single branch that has 12 ornaments on it carefully placed by our youngest.
As our kids get older and the eye rolling increases, I simply will not give up on our traditions no matter how big or small. And being older has it’s advantages; the kids can really be involved in some of the more meaningful tasks such as helping us shop for children who really need help. Certain things still thrill them even though they would never admit it: advent calendars, seeing the lights, and having their own tree in their bedroom. A few weeks ago when I asked my older boys if they wanted a tree in their bedroom they shrugged their shoulders and said sure, whatever. But after a few days they actually asked me where their tree was. And our 3 year old is full of wonder at the magic of this time of year; his excitement alone is enough to get us all in the spirit! Every morning the first thing he asks me when he wakes up is “Mama, is it Christmastime?” Yes, sweat pea it is! Merry Christmas!
I love to fry bacon in the morning. I love how it makes the whole house smell good. I love how the kids trickle in the kitchen one by one and sneak pieces thinking I don’t notice. But mostly I love it because if I’m frying bacon that means we are not in a huge hurry to be somewhere. I’m not running around frantically racing the clock, minute by minute, putting in close to 3,000 steps all before 9am.
Some moms make the morning routine look so easy. I’m always especially impressed with my friends who teach and are able to get themselves and their families on their way so early. My neighbor and friend across the street has 4 kids and teaches. Each morning as I pull back our drapes to watch for the buses there she is pulling out of her driveway. In her car, dressed and ready for the day loaded up with her kids and all their stuff. It’s 7:15am. 7:15! It’s so early. I stare in astonishment like I’m seeing this amazing thing happen for the first time even though I see it every single day. And there I stand with my wet hair glancing at the clock and yelling “Grab your lunches! Don’t forget a jacket! Do you have your note for the bus? Go Go Go!”
I used to struggle getting only myself out of the door on time each day so getting the 6 of us where we need to be in the morning is nothing short of a miracle. When it’s all done I’m exhausted and the day has just begun. I get in my car after 10 last trips of forgetting something and I feel like I’ve just run the Boston Marathon. I almost wish there was a medal waiting for me. I guess my medal comes in the form of the daily Starbucks trip where I pull up to the drive through and my girl Janice is there with her warm welcome. She always knows exactly what my order will be and simply says “Good morning! We got you, pull around”. Thank goodness for Janice. Some days she looks at me when she hands me my coffee and says “Here. This will help”. And she’s right. It does.
Some mornings run smoother than others and as the school year rolls on it is getting easier. The kids are in the routine and for the most part do a good job of making it happen. But I’m really excited this week is a short one and I’ll be back to frying bacon again soon. I truly wish for all of you to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy a much needed break from the morning hustle no matter how easy or hard it is for you to get you and your crew where you need to be each day!!