Friday, April 26, 2013

Mind the gap.

Tuesday night, a handful of neighbors and I walked to the newish restaurant down the street for a mellow mid-week ladies night. (I guess that's why I didn't write anything on Tuesday. Well, that and I forgot.)

We're sort of a motley crew, brought together first and foremost by where we live. Are we similar? Different? Who cares?! We're neighbors!

I haven't had location-based friends like this since my year abroad in college when I had roommates I adored. Or when I was a kid and chose friends not by what we had in common but rather on whether we had assigned seats together in class or could ride bikes to each others house. Plus there was always my sister. Siblings are the greatest location-based friends ever.

Until we lived here, I had only had grown up friends based on more substantial things like a shared history or taste in music. Bill and I knew our neighbors' names (sometimes...) but certainly didn't form relationships with them simply because they lived nearby. I never would have guessed I'd be having girls night out with my neighbors at this stage in my life but I'm so incredibly glad that I am.

As it turns out, location-based friendships are pretty fantastic. You don't have to size each other up to make sure you have enough in common to make an effort, you can just go ahead and be friends already. No one has to "fit in" because there's nothing to fit into. Do you live on this street? Good enough for me! Just come as you are and bring what you've got.

It can make something as simple as dinner and drinks a totally eye opening experience. Because when you hang out with people who are a little bit different than you, you almost can't help but grow kinder and more tolerant. If you only hung out with people who had every last thing in common with you, you'd have little need for change (not to mention empathy, patience, leadership, etc...).

This is probably why parenthood is such a brave endeavor. Having kids opens you up to a lifetime of unknowns. Will your kid be exactly like you? No chance. Even if he is a chip of the ol' block, you'll be in completely different age brackets your entire lives. One way or another you'll both have to find a way to tolerate (not to mention love!) one another every single day for a LONG time. No wonder it feels like our kids teach us so much (and why some days the growing pains are so much more obvious than others...).

Same goes for siblings. Which, believe it or not, is what I actually sat down to write about today (hello, random tangent!). At dinner we were talking about how far apart our kids are and the consensus seemed to be, the closer in age you can have them, the better. Sure, it's a nightmare for the first year or so but if you can find a way to survive, you're golden!

I was the only one at the table whose kids were more than two years apart so of course I was also the only one who thought four-and-a-half years was the perfect way to space them. I wanted to make a case for having kids a little farther apart but now that I've written all this, I realize it doesn't really matter much at all (which is kind of a bummer because now my title doesn't make sense!).

Siblings, like neighbors, are most likely going to be very different. No matter if they're close in age or far apart or identical triplets. They're not in the relationship based on similarities, they're in it because THEY HAVE NO CHOICE. But that's a good thing! The differences are what help us grow into more well rounded people. As a parent, I'm happy to make it my job to force the issue. Not having a relationship with each other is just not an option. Conran boys are required to make it work, whether they like it or not, every single day!

Liam and Finn have already learned so much from one another and are both better people for having a brother. (Just as I am for having two sons!) Hopefully by the time they have college roommates or neighbors or kids of their own, they'll be so used to the push and pull of a forced relationship, they'll hardly notice the growing pains.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Art to art.

If you've been reading along here for a while, you'll remember Sia, the little girl I used to babysit for once a week. She's a big kindergartner now so we don't get to see her nearly as much as we'd like to, but of course we still keep in touch.

One of the things I loved about having her in our lives was getting to know her family. Her mom, Sunshine, has always been super cool but in the last six months or so has completely blown herself out of the water. Whereas before she was simply impressive, now she's Super Woman.

She resurrected her love of print making and within just a few short months had handmade so many wonderful prints (in the studio she built in her attic!) that she could hardly keep up with demand. I have NO IDEA where she finds the time to build a business while working full time and keeping up with a five year old but somehow she's making it happen.

The woman is an inspiration.

And today, on her blog, she shared an interview with me! So please go check it out and browse her awesome Etsy shop and buy a print (or ten) and be inspired to create something fabulous.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Look for the helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Mr. Rogers

Last night after having some special Liam and Mama time cuddled up on the couch watching Wallace and Grommit and eating Magnum bars, I climbed into bed next to him (Bill is out of town) and grabbed my iPhone for one last look at Instagram. I guess it's what I've replaced Facebook with (I'm still on Facebook, I just very rarely go to it anymore). I mean, what would I do without any time wasters? Read? Be endlessly productive? Solve world hunger?!

I don't think I'll never find out because as much as I like to think social media is a big waste of time, there's definitely something to it. As soon as I opened Instagram I saw something like this:

My heart sank. What happened? Another shooting? A terrorist attack? Damn. I told Liam I was going to read for a bit and kissed him goodnight.

Our Internet connection was running slower than Christmas so all the news sites were taking too long to load. So I went to Facebook. And then Twitter. And found out as much as I could stand knowing before trying to sleep for the night...

This is why I mostly avoid the news. I don't like to be exposed to so much negativity. It has a way of getting under our skin, making us think our world is bad and scary and unsafe. I don't want that for me or my children. Even if they never see it first hand (they certainly aren't watching the news), they feel what we feel. If we are scared or angry or sad, they will be too. Sometimes it's just easier to cut it out all together. No news is good news, right?

But my curiosity sometimes gets the better of me. Like today. I woke up wanting to know if anything had been figured out. Did they know who did this? Or why something as positive and uplifting as the Boston Marathon had been targeted? Nobody hates exercise that much. What could possibly be the motive behind such a heinous act?

The first link I clicked on happened to be a video. "WARNING. GRAPHIC FOOTAGE," it said. I clicked on it, undeterred. Not because I wanted to see for myself how awful it really was (I didn't) but because, what's the difference between a video showing what happened or a story telling about it? It's ALL graphic.

But as it turns out, not the same. 

When I read the story, I imagined the worst. When I watched the footage, I saw the best. After the initial shock (which I CANNOT imagine experiencing ever but after running 26 miles...there are no words), almost every person on the screen ran TOWARD the blast. Not away out of fear; toward out of love. THERE WERE THE HELPERS. Some had been helpers all along (medics, volunteers, police officers, cheerleaders...) but others became helpers out of instinct. Out of love. Even those who had just run the race of their lives ran farther to help. I stopped the video. That was all I needed to see. 

If my children are going to experience anything through me today it will be this: there is bad in the world, yes. There probably always will be. But there is also GOOD. So much good that it far outweighs the bad. Always. Look for the helpers. Find the good. Be the good. Choose love over fear. It's the best we can do at a time like this.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Well, it finally happened. Liam lost his first tooth! It fell out last weekend, at a sleepover of all places. He went to bed with two wonky teeth and woke up with one missing. He didn't even notice it was gone until his friend pointed it out. But I knew it as soon as I saw him.

Since somehow or another he didn't swallow it in his sleep (woohoo!), the kids made up a little tooth box for him so it wouldn't get lost. The next night, when it was time to stick it under his pillow and go to bed, he wrote a quick note to the Tooth Fairy asking her to please leave his tooth.

I never thought to do this as a child but now I guess it's the thing to do. Lots of kids we know do it. Ever since Liam saw the kid on Super Why do it, he's been planning to do the same.

Some other kids we know like to specify what they want in addition to their tooth. They'll lose a tooth in the evening and then write a note like, "Dear Tooth Fairy, Please leave my tooth and a baby blue stuffed Yoshi. The 7" one. Preferably not imported. Thanks!" Then they'll head off to bed fully expecting to wake up in the morning with exactly what they wished for (sometimes it even works!). I can't tell you how glad I am Liam didn't get on board with that one...

But he did wonder out loud what the Tooth Fairy might bring him. "Maybe I'll get another Beanie Boo! Or a Yoshi, like Preston. Or a gift card to Target!"

I was like, "Woah, woah, woah. What happened to kids getting quarters? That's what we used to get. If we were lucky. And then we'd walk to school barefoot in the snow uphill because I'm suddenly a hundred years old oh my gosh what is happening..."

Liam just looked at me and stuck the box under his pillow.

In the morning, he was elated. He did get a Beanie Boo! It's a little panda named Bamboo that instantly became his new favorite. (At least since his last new favorite, Cheapy - a pink chick he got for Easter.) After showing us his prize he set off to introduce Bamboo to the growing herd of big eyed stufties slowly taking over our house.

Finn came into our bedroom looking confused. "Where my present?"

Bill and I looked at each other. Bummer. "Oh, baby. I'm so sorry you didn't get a present," I said. "Liam got a present because he lost his first tooth. It's from the Tooth Fairy!"

"I lose a toof too!" he said, stuffing his entire fist in his little mouth. "Why not somefing under my pillow?"


Soon the stufty injustice blew over and we went back to Loose Tooth Watch 2013. Because the one I was sure would fall out first was still hanging on and Liam was not about to pull it (or let one of us do it). I was pretty sure he was going to choke on it in his sleep but that was a risk he was willing to take. All we could do was wait. And maybe try putting the same tooth under the pillow a second night just to see what would happen...

Right before dinner last night, Liam came into the kitchen and said, "Mama, look how far I've pushed my tooth with my tongue. It's so far it's practically out."

I leaned over to get a good look. "Dude. It is out."

"It is?" He sounded as nervous as I was relieved.

"I mean, pretty much. I honestly don't know how that thing is hanging on. Have you tried twisting it?"

"Yeah," he said and then Linda Blaired the thing ALLLLL the way around. I swear, it was like watching someone try to twist off an apple stem!

Suddenly I knew it was going to happen. "Do you want me to make a video?"

"No," he said seriously. "But I will need a napkin for the blood."

"Um..." When did my squeamish child get replaced with a handsome made-for-TV doctor? If he would have stuck out his hand and said, "scalpel," I would not have been more surprised.

As soon as I handed him the napkin, the tooth was in his hand. Then the blood was in mouth and... well, there's my squeamish child! (Squamish, but cute.)

After a quick dinner full of funny sounding words ("Can you say...suffering succotash? Bahahahaha!! What about Mississippi? Oh yeah, that's a good one. What about...thanks? Hahaha! Say 'thanks' again. Awesome!") it was time for bed. Liam decided to use the same tooth box and note he had used the first time around (why reinvent the wheel?) but wanted to make one little edit.

Wow. Good luck getting around that one, Tooth Fairy! I know if I was her, I'd have no choice but to bend over backward trying to spoil them both. Which is exactly what she did...

PS: Here's a quick photo sequence about Bamboo's first day, just so you can see why it's so easy for us to keep allowing these crazy stuffed animals into our home...

While on a walk, we discovered some real (dead) bamboo!
I told Liam I didn't think anyone would mind if he took some...
Hard to say no to this kid, I'm telling you...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Photos from that time we went to three libraries in one day (plus a rant about the head-strong two year old!).

There are at least two things I really want to write about tonight but it's 9:00 which, in our house, means we're only halfway through our new nightly routine of putting Finn back in his crib after he climbs out again and again saying, "I have trouble sleeping. I shy..."

It was super cute the first few times but now it's like a slow, painful death. I know it will end eventually but it's hard to remember that in the moment when our tiny window of kid-free adult time is being gobbled up by a ravenous two year old and all the parenting experts I've ever read, seen or heard are duking it out in my head.

"Do not show emotion," says TV's Super Nanny. "Just put him back in his crib and walk away. Whatever you do, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT!"

"No, no, no," says the author of Peaceful Parenting."If he's crying, it's because he needs you. Show empathy. Listen to him. Make sure he feels safe and loved and connected."

"But he's playing you, you idiot! He doesn't have to pee again. He didn't even pee the first time you fell for it! Put him back in his crib and let him go in his diaper like he does every other night. You have to be the boss here!"

"But what if he does have to pee? How would you like to sleep in a wet diaper? If you ignore him when he asks for help, how do you expect to create a trusting bond?"

"Put your foot down!"

"Make him feel heard!"

"Set limits!"

"Show compassion!"

And on and on and ON. Then just when we think he's finally going to sleep and we can have a few moments to ourselves, the big one gets up to ask some asinine question and the whole thing starts all over. 

It's brutal. And not even over for the night let alone the week. (No way I can think longer than that...) So I'm off to bang my head against the wall and find out if a willful toddler actually can fall asleep in a pile of stuffed animals on the middle of his floor while yelling at his brother. Nighty night!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I know I've posted this picture before but it's just so LIAM right now, I have to post it again. If it looks like he has a thirteen year old's share of attitude squeezed into a seven year old's body it's because that's EXACTLY what's going on. Pretty much all the time. Sometimes I want to hold a mirror up in front of him and say, "Dude! Will you LOOK at yourself? You like like you have scurvy. Seriously. You should probably let the attitude simmer until those wooden teeth fall out because it's hard to take you seriously at the moment."

I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with my sister when he was a month or so old. "Moose," I said. "Liam keeps getting cuter. Every day we wake up and I'm like, 'Ack! He's even more adorable than yesterday!' I almost can't handle it. Do you think he's going to just keep getting cuter and cuter...forever?"

"He will until he's about twelve," she said. "Then he'll just look AWKWARD for a while."

I agreed - pre-teens usually do look pretty weird - but thought I had some time before my cutie pie took a turn. No one warned me that seven year olds go through a metamorphosis of their own. I was not prepared for this.

It's not just the teeth and the attitude, it's also the hair. All of a sudden it's sort of a nappy texture, like he hasn't rinsed the soap out. But I've re-trained him on the showering basics and even supervised a rinse sesh and I'm pretty sure that's not the problem.

Could it be that his hair has just changed? Conditioner helps but as soon as he goes to bed, something happens and he wakes up looking like a scarecrow.

A cute scarecrow, but still. He looks so different these days. His face is changing. He's getting taller. He's growing up. Fortunately he still likes to hang out with me, but I have started to feel that this won't go on forever. When he asks me to play or jump on the trampoline or have a little "grown up" time with him and I don't really want to (you know what I mean), I quickly remember how lucky I am that he likes spending time with me and say yes to whatever it is he wants to do.

I never regret it.

On the trampoline this afternoon I told him that even though he looked completely crazy right now, he's still one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen in my life. 

"Like, even more handsome than Dada?"

"I mean, yeah. Totally. But it's apples and oranges, you know? I think Dada's really handsome but not like you."

"What about Finn?"

"Well that's different. To me you are equally the most handsome people ever ever EVER."

"I'm probably just a little bit more handsome though, right?"

I was like, "Dude. Seriously? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so there's really no such thing as the 'most' handsome. Some people will think you're handsome while others will think Finn is. I just happen to think you both are."

"I don't know. I'm pretty sure the beholders will think I'm the most handsome."

At least I don't have to worry about his confidence. His modesty, on the other hand, might need a little tune up. Not that I can blame him. Even with the teeth and the hair and the questionable wardrobe choices and the attitude, he is still unbelievably beautiful inside and out.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Great expectations.

On Easter, we spent nearly all day at our friends' house. Finn missed his nap entirely and by the time we left, it was already way past bedtime. Then on the way home we realized Liam hadn't eaten any real food all day - just Easter candy and crackers.

Even though we had had a really wonderful day, I suddenly felt awful. Here it was Sunday night, almost Monday morning, and we were nowhere near ready to start the week. Our house was trashed, one child was malnourished, the other was sleep deprived, and I had no idea what we had planned for the coming week.

Normally I'd just roll with it (what's a messy house and a missed nap when we've had a whole day of fun?!), but not this night. Nope. For whatever reason it really got a hold of me. I felt so irresponsible. I wanted to shout, "Who's in charge here?!" But since I knew it was me (dangit!), I did the only other logical thing and got mad at everyone around me to distract myself from my uncomfortable feelings.

Happy Easter!

The whole thing got me thinking... maybe I haven't been clear enough about my expectations? I mean, to me it seems pretty obvious that when there's a table full of food, some of which has been prepared specifically for you, you should probably know to help yourself to some and eat it. But did I actually make that clear to Liam? No. Maybe the same goes for cleaning up. And school work. And getting out the door. And...everything. Maybe the reason he isn't following "the rules" is because we don't actually have any.

I ran it by him. He gave me his stock answer. "Yeah, sure. Why not..."

So we talked about some of the things that might be good rules but didn't really set anything in stone. Except for one thing. Each morning I will give him a list detailing my expectations for school plus whatever else he has to do (like take a shower or go to karate). Once his list is done, he's free to do whatever he wants. (Unless I ask him to do something of course. Then he either has to hop to it or talk to me about why he can't at the moment.)

By our second day of The List, Liam was a believer. When he got dropped off after Science on Wednesday I met him outside so I could thank his friend's mom. As we turned to go inside, Liam stopped and said, "Would you like me to give you a piece of advice?" I had no idea what was about to come out of his mouth. I mean, what seven year old says something like that to an adult? I was hoping he wasn't going to criticize her driving when he said, "If you want to take things easy like we do, you should make a list. That way you can get all of your work done first thing in the morning and have the rest of the day to play!"

(AND it will keep your Mama from panicking that she has completely dropped the ball and will most likely prevent her from feeling so irresponsible so gets mad at you for no reason! Because all play and no work is not that much better than the other way round.)

He posted this by the back door...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013