Here a Party, There a Party, Everyone has a Party

Birthday parties!  I have a love/hate relationship with these.   I don’t like planning them and for the most part I don’t like going to them either, but I know that they are an important part of my children’s youth.

Before I had Davey, the trend of themed parties was starting to come to light.   For his first birthday, I somewhat jumped on that bandwagon and planned him a nautical themed party.   I didn’t go all out with decorations and I most certainly did NOT have little goody bags for the guests.   Most of the guests were family anyways, while others were people who I had just met since becoming a stay at home mom.  It was a great birthday, but definitely not up to a party planners’ caliber.

The following year, I had a Mickey Mouse clubhouse themed party and while I went a little bit further with it, I still didn’t go to extremes.  I even managed to tone down the guest list.   By the time Davey’s third birthday came around, I had Henry who was 10 months old and I’d learned a few things regarding parties, what I wanted and expected out of them, and what was really and truly worth the effort.

birthday-1
Davey’s Mickey Mouse clubhouse birthday cake custom made by one of my best friends. She did (and still does) magnificent work!

I decided that I no longer wanted to have the parties at my house.  It’s a bit stressful preparing for a party and keeping a clean house with two boys, one grown man, and a dog.   I also decided that I didn’t HAVE to invite those family members who I only see once every other year.  In most cases, they were invited to save face, but every time they declined to show.   Now I just don’t bother.

birthday-2
Continuing with the theme for Davey…not doing these anymore.

I also decided that theme parties are ridiculous, at least for me they are, and truthfully my kid isn’t that concerned.   He just wants to have fun at some place he doesn’t go to everyday and with kids he can see outside of school.   For Davey’s third birthday, I had his party off site and we invited a ton of people.   My heart literally shattered when only 4 kids showed up.   Davey didn’t care so much, but I did.   I was pissed (still am to this day) at friends who didn’t show up.   Again, it bothered me more than Davey.   After that 3rd party, when I reserved a spot for 15 kids, with less than a third even RSVPing (come on, people, you’re adults.  A simple yes or no works), I decided to reevaluate what may be keeping parents from bringing their kids, which then had me thinking, “what makes me NOT want to go to a party?”

First thing is gifts.   I have enough stress in my life, enough things to keep on a calendar, that trying to go out and buy a gift for a 3,4,5 year old, whom I don’t know very well, is just a bit daunting.   I spend what feels like a lifetime in the toy section trying to find something not too dinky, but within my budget.  There are a select handful of kids who I will do this for, but really I don’t like doing it.   I have enough toys in my house, so many in fact that I had to shuffle them in and out.  Of course the necessity of buying a gift doesn’t keep me away from going to parties, but it’s still a pain in my ass.

So, what do I do with the gift headache?   Last year, I implemented a new policy where gifts are concerned.   There are people who feel they MUST by a gift.  I had a few people tell me they were disappointed that my child wasn’t getting gifts.   It’s a celebration, a party, a chance to have something that lasts longer than toys…memories and friends.   Since I knew people would want to buy a gift, I encouraged them to go to one of my favorite charities, the GHS Children’s Hospital, and a buy a gift for a child who is in the hospital, a child who doesn’t get the luxury of going out for parties.   I had thought it would be a hit, but alas only one set of parents bought a gift for a child in need.   That genuinely broke my heart.

Second thing is food.   I try to schedule my parties around a meal time so that encourages parents to want to bring their kids, because at least they don’t have to worry about dinner.   I make sure to have enough food for the parents as well.  If it means you will bring your child to my child’s party, then I will supply you with a meal.   All my kid wants is to hang out and have fun.

Third, has to do with activities.  When I was a kid, we had birthday parties at our house and my friends and I played out in the backyard barefoot with whatever toy was there.   We created our games, played sports, and ate cake and ice cream.   The parents were always on the porch or patio, not hovering over the kids trying to dictate what the kids should be playing.   For some strange reason, it seems that this day that just a big fat no no with parents, so I just have the parties off site at some sort of activity center where I don’t have to beat myself senseless trying to come up with activities.   Yet another thing that’s a pain in my ass.

birthday-3
Henry’s first birthday…no theme and he was happy.

I know, a lot of you are asking me about the gift situation right now.  I can see you telling me it’s not fair to deprive my child of an essential part of his childhood by not giving him gifts on his birthday.   To that I say, “back up and hold the phone.”   My children do receive gifts.   We have a small little birthday dinner, with my parents, aunt, and cousin, along with my mother-in-law every year where my children receive toys.   They have gifts to open, so I’m not taking away their chance to open gifts.   I know this is something that will keep me from attending a child’s party (not every child’s) and if I feel this way, I know other parents do as well.   If I can alleviate that stress (usually the biggest headache for a parent taking their child to a birthday party), thereby encouraging more of my children’s friends to show, then I am a happy mom.

Birthday parties are a dime a dozen.   When you become a parent, there are so many of them to attend, more than I ever recall attending when I was a child.   It seems as if we’re receiving invites to a new party at least once a week and I know that’s only going to get worse as Henry is officially old enough to be in school and have friends of his own.   Yet another party to plan and another whole set of parties to attend.  It comes with the territory of being a parent, but why not find ways to be considerate of the other parents when planning the party.   I know it’s the child’s special day, but even on his special day, consideration for others is always a must, at least in this household.

birthday-4
Henry’s first birthday….look at that smiling face.
Advertisements

Quicker Than We Know It

For the past few days, it’s been agony in our house.   We’re back home from our two week vacation to Rochester and trying to get back into the swing of things.  I’m not sure what our problem has been, and by “our” I really mean my children, but to say they’re not getting along is an understatement.   The past few days I’ve found myself contemplating Baileys in my morning coffee, job searching, and even just running away from the house, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.

Yesterday I counted the days (including weekends) until school starts back for my children.  It was 46 days, so 45 today.   I’ve played around with the idea of creating a countdown board, one to help me through the days, but I thought it might depress the boys.  Apparently I don’t know my children as well as I thought.   When I told both of them how much longer they had until school started, I was met with cries of “that’s way far off” and “I don’t know if I can wait that long.”  Huh?  My kids are actually looking forward to school.  Imagine that!  Perhaps I will create that countdown board after all.

It’s as if the school seemed to know that I was desperate for the summer to be over as I received packets for both boys in the mail yesterday.  It’s your standard “welcome” packet complete with photography waiver, PTA dues, calendars, and volunteer opportunities.  Excitedly, I tore into the packets and perused through the calendar.   So much will be going on this year and I can’t wait for the adventures in learning to start.

This afternoon, I decided to begin work on the packets, first thing being to take the calendar and log in all essential days onto my personal calendar.   For the things I felt my husband needed to be a part of, I emailed a calendar invite to him so he could add it to his schedule.   I was feeling accomplished and for the first time all week, I’ve felt normal again, and able to breathe, but then things started to unravel as I continued adding events.

In September, there are two separate Donuts with Dad days that my husband will need to attend with BOTH boys.   As I entered those events and hit “ENTER” the next event popped up on my screen…Davey’s 5th Birthday.  My first born will be 5 this year.   5!!!!   Thanks, Google!   Way to give my heart a true smack for being so ungrateful.

I continued on into December, with another shouting from my calendar of “Henry’s 3rd Birthday”.  How is this possible?   How are my children going to be 5 &3?  How are these days going by so quickly and yet so painfully slow as well?

Fast forward a few months on my calendar and we’re into April when Davey begins testing for kindergarten readiness.   TESTING!!!!!  Gah!  I don’t know whether to be excited, happy, nervous, scared crapless, or worried.  Actually, I know what I am…I’m sad.   My first baby is growing up and will no longer be in preschool.  He’ll be in school, all day, every day.   He’ll have lunch without me.   He’ll spend six hours of every day without me.   He’ll have a life away from me, and as much as I’m exhausted with the two of them this summer, I’m saddened by how quickly life is moving for my little family.   Even when I’m so overwhelmed with the two of them and all I can think about is how quickly the day will be over, deep down I’m hurting.

Lately Facebook has been inundating me with memories of Davey.  There have been pictures of his first steps, the first days we were together as I became a stay at home mom.   There are memories of his silly faces, his dances, his “no pants Tuesday”, imitating daddy, cuddling with Dixie, eating breakfast on the back porch, learning to write, Facetime with Daddy for breakfast, dinner and bedtime (since daddy used to travel so much) and “reading” silently in his room.    It’s as if Facebook is insync with my moods and knows that I need these reminders even when I’m desperate for some peace, for some time away from my children.

People tell me I’ll miss these days all the time.   They’ve been telling me that for years, but I’ve chosen not to listen, to tune out their “all knowing” voices.   I’ve put my head down and found a way to plow through each day with my boys and just hope for the end of the day.   I tell these people they’re nuts, that I’ll “never miss these days,” but I will.  We all know I will.   Heck, I’m already missing the days when Davey had his little baby voice as he was learning to speak.   I already miss the days when I could pick him up and cuddle up with him.   I already miss the days of his chubby little munchkin legs (he’s begun to take after me and is getting tall and skinny).   There is so much my heart already hurts over, things that have long since gone.

It’s a shame it takes things like Facebook memories and school welcome packets to zap me out of my summer blues with the boys.

 

So Long! Farewell!

first day of school
First Day of School for the 2015/2016 School Year.

“Tomorrow is the last day of school,” I said quietly to my husband last night as we sat on the couch reading books.   We’d just put both boys to bed and were relaxing.   I had attempted to get my mind focused on my book, to get lost in a fictional world, but my mind kept evading the words on the pages.   I kept thinking about the last day of school.

“It makes me sad,” I continued when my husband didn’t say anything to me.

“Why?  Because you’ll have to have them the entire time?” he asked me.  I was shocked and angered by his pointedness.   It hurt, I can’t lie, but I brushed it off as the tears started to roll down my cheeks.

“No.  I’m sad because it’s another chapter that is written and closing.   I’m sad because for some reason it is just hitting me that Davey will be 5 in just 4 short months.”

And there it was.   My oldest, the one who made me a mother, is quickly becoming a big boy, a child no more, someone who won’t need or want mom’s hugs and kisses.   Then there’s Henry, my demon child who’s an angel for everyone else.   Well, he’s officially going into K2 AND on top of that is getting a big boy room!   It’s just too much!

There are times, especially on days like the last few I’ve had, when I wish I had a time machine like Orson Welles wrote about.   I’d want this time machine to take me back to the moments in my children’s lives.   I want to get out and experience it all over again, not just relive it all through videos and pictures.   My husband asked me if this meant I wanted to start over, to have another child?   No.  I don’t want that.   I just want my babies to still be my babies.

As I picked the boys up from school today, I found myself choking back tears and trying to beat down that lump slowly rising in my throat.   Henry’s teacher actually cried when he hugged her.   As a matter of fact, he hugged every teacher and even a few of the kids.   When I spoke to him this morning about it being his last day and not getting to see Levi, Tommy, and Rob again, he asked, “why?” and his little lip quivered.   Shame on me for stirring up that emotion especially since it broke my heart a little and even more so when I saw the sweetness that is my Henry hug all of his friends good bye and exclaim, “have a good summer.”

Davey hugged his teachers, he hugged his classmates, and even managed to squeeze in a hug for another parent.   As he was being placed in the car, one of the teachers asked if he was enrolled to come back next year, because as she said, “I just can’t imagine my school year without this happy face.”

I have my trying days with my boys, days when I want to throw in the towel, days when my patience gets the better of me.  I have days when I just want to scream at the top of my lungs and then shout from the rafters, “I can’t wait for you two to grow up!”   Am I really ready for them to grow up?   Probably not, but I don’t have a say in the matter.

So, as we say, “so long and farewell” to this school year, I want to give a huge thank you to every teacher who has worked with my both of my boys, who have loved them, taught them, and treasured them as much as I do.   I’m excited for K4 & K2 next year, but right now I desperately want to cling to their memories and adventures from this past year.   I’m afraid that the winds of change may rip the balloon string from my fingers, their innocence and childhood floating away.

last day of school
Last day of school for the 2015/2016 school year.

Kitchen Talk

In my short amount of years as a mom, I’ve learned a few things.   First, you don’t ever offer a toddler options…he’ll always choose poorly.   Second, snacks after 4 in the afternoon spell imminent doom for those of us hoping to enjoy a peaceful family dinner, and third…you learn a lot about your child when cooking together in the kitchen.

Allowing his little brother to help melt the marshmallows.
Allowing his little brother to help melt the marshmallows.

From the moment Davey was old enough to help in the kitchen, I had him with me.   I was a new and inexperienced cook at that point, eager to start a new adventure with my child.   I voraciously poured through websites, Pinterest, and our cookbooks looking for easy, yet fun and healthy things I could cook with my little one.   I wanted to create memories, to be the fun mom, to have something to do as a stay at home mom.   I wanted to document our cooking fiascos with my new camera and my insatiable desire to write.   The kitchen was my stage, my prop, the backdrop to my coolness as a stay at home mom.   What I didn’t know was how much I would learn from cooking with my son.

Adding in more marshmallows.
Adding in more marshmallows.

Before he could even speak, he was lining muffin pans, tossing cut up apples into batter, dipping his finger into icing and licking the spoon and bowl.  When I would suggest we make something, he would jump, grab his monster apron, a stool, and an eagerness greater than anything I’d ever seen.   One would think when starting in the kitchen with your littles, you would pick something easy, a Betty Crocker brownie, Pillsbury premade, precut cookies, or a Duncan Hines cupcake mix.   Me?  Well, I don’t like to start small, my goals are high and lofty, so we started with a made from scratch apple muffin recipe.   It took us nearly two hours, but we made some of the best apple muffins I’ve ever tasted and Davey was hooked.

A continual process of mixing and stirring.
A continual process of mixing and stirring.

Back then, he didn’t talk much.  These days; however, are much more different   These days, my son loves to talk about what he’s measuring, how he’s going to bake it, cook it, or grill it, how to decorate it, and who gets what.  This past week, I learned a lot more than I bargained for, especially about Davey’s fellow classmates and his teachers.

All ready to be cut out.
All ready to be cut out.

In celebration of Halloween, I decided we would make Rice Krispie treats for his class.  I decided to make them in the shapes of pumpkins and bats and decorate them with chocolate and candy eyes.   I even bought cake decorating pens to help with the faces.   As usual, Davey jumped right in, his brother even helping out, but the true fun for me didn’t really start until Henry was napping and Davey and I were left alone to decorate the treats.

The cut product.
The cut product.

For the better part of an hour, I spent the afternoon with my oldest son listening to him as he decorated the Rice Krispie treats.   He told me about the two Annas in his class, one of whom I knew from last year.   He picked out the pumpkin each one could have and told me the reasons behind giving them their pumpkins.  He told me stories of the boys in his class, how one always makes him laugh, how another one is really quiet.   He picked out bats for his two teachers and told little anecdotes about the things that he likes best about them.   I learned who he likes to sit alongside, who he plays with the most, who makes him sad and why, and what his favorite part about each person is in his class.  This was truly the first time when I wanted to put down the camera, the laptop and phone.   This was the first time in our cooking when I just wanted to totally immerse myself in the moment, the being, with my son, and savor every little morsel he wanted to share with me.

The bats.
The bats.

This was more than just a memory to be created.   This was more than just an adventure, or an excuse to write.   This was my opportunity to really get to know my son.  This was an opportunity I hope to recreate again for years to come as his love for the kitchen grows, but it was also an opportunity for a mother and son bonding experience that may one day go away as he gets older.   Needless to say, if you’ve had some sort of influence in Davey’s life, be it good or bad, then I’m likely to hear about it in the kitchen, while we cook, and dissect the events of the days.

The pumpkins that look like monsters.
The pumpkins that look like monsters.

Kitchen talk…it truly is a magical time.

***as you can see, there are no pictures from the actual cutting or decorating.   I was too wrapped up in the stories I was being told.***

Time Traveller

“Why should he not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?” – H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

As I sit here nursing Henry, I find myself occasionally glancing through the blinds of his bedroom at the world outside. I catch the beauty of our neighbor’s flower garden, or another one’s well manicured lawn, or the beautiful remodel of a front porch. I imagine what the inside of their houses must look like, clean and organized with a grand splendor about them. There are no chips in the paint on the wall, no lip prints on door windows or hand prints on the television screen. I bet they still have working blinds and non-scratched or chipped hard wood floors. How nice that must be. Then Henry stirs and a small moan seeps from his lips and I’m brought back into his bedroom.

I dare not budge, as he’s back to sleep, nuzzled into the crook of my arm. He reaches up and gently strokes my arm before taking another deep breath and falling back to sleep. And that is my cue to start daydreaming again about the beautiful houses my neighbors have, a house I once had BK (before kids).

I immediately transport myself (mentally) downstairs to the kitchen. How wonderful it was BK. It was clean, no crumbs or jelly handprints on cabinets. The kitchen table was a beautiful black, not chipped. I used to put a Christmas tree in the corner where a cardboard clubhouse has now taken up residence. I start thinking what the room will be like when I’m able to put that Christmas tree back up, about when I no longer have to scour the cabinets every half an hour. One would think I would become excited about the prospect, but instead a lump starts to form in my throat and I realize, when the toys are gone, my boys are grown.

Am I ready for that? Some days, YES! But most days? Not really. Before I know it, they’ll be grown and I’ll begin shuffling through the file cabinets of my brain, anxious to retrieve little memories. And what about my memories? How can I possibly retain them all? There is so much that is ongoing in their lives right now, so much I want to catalog and remember, so much that I wish Mr. H.G. Wells hadn’t just written a book on a time machine, but had instead created one.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to go back already and relive some of their “firsts”. How fabulous it would be to experience Davey’s first steps all over again. Sure, I have it on video, but it’s not the same. To actually be in the moment, even just an observer, to one of the most magical moments in my child’s life. There something completely different about being in the moment as opposed to watching a two-dimensional version of it on the screen. There’s a feeling of excitement, pride, happiness, and overwhelming joy. I find myself smiling about it right now. How wonderful it would be, but since we don’t have a time machine, then I just need to find a way to soak up as much of each moment as possible in their lives.

I need to stop fretting about my house, it’s not like we live in squalor. I need to just let it go, be a part of the now. So, my neighbors just got this awesome outdoor kitchen patio built onto the back of their house? They don’t get the joy of being a part of this amazing world of parenthood. They may not have peanut butter stained curtains (I did have those) or play doh encrusted carpet, but I got it all and something better…a lifetime of memories. I just wish I could take a day and go back and relive them all.

I can hope, just like the Time Traveller, that the opportunity will arise to see the past (the future can remain an enigma). Although, it’s highly unlikely. So, any of you super geniuses out there, please find a way to make a machine that I can climb in and, like Marty McFly, just punch in the date and witness history, MY personal history, again.

And With That Flyover….

Any doubts, guilts, or feelings of inadequacy became vapor.

I spend a decent portion of my time as a mother questioning if I’m doing a good job. I often ask myself if I’m doing more harm than good by being a stay-at-home mom? Would it be better to be in the working world making money? Would Davey be better off in a daycare facility? All of these questions and many more roam through my mind on a daily basis, but never moreso than on the days when I’m confronted with people who question the fact that I have a Master’s Degree and choose to stay home.

Today I was able to put a big black “X” on all those questions. Today, I was able to create one of the coolest memories to date with my son. Today, I did something that I likely wouldn’t have been able to do if I were still a working mom. And, today, I made a memory that’s more valuable than money.

Our local downtown airport has recently opened up a new aviation themed park and playground. It sits right on the runway and right outside one of the greatest little cafes around. ***Quick Plug for said cafe: The Runway Cafe in Greenville, SC**** Davey and I have been numerous times to enjoy the food as well as the little planes that come in and take off from the airport. The experience is always fun and we’re always looking for an excuse to go there, que the new park. It’s wonderful, with a miniature runway and playground equipment in the shapes of various planes.

Today marked the grand opening of the park and to make the opening even grander, it was scheduled with the same time a Boeing 727 from FedEx’s Express fleet was to make a landing. Quick side note…FedEx donated the 727 to USAeroTech’s school, as they are replacing their fleets with 787s. Plus there was free Kona Ice snowcones as well, what kid wouldn’t like that?

So, I decided last week I would load Davey up and take him out to see this huge plane up close and personal. What I didn’t expect was for me to be just as overwhelmed and excited by it as he was. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, the crowd was notified that 727 was 7 miles out and that the Tower had just cleared a low flyover. Minutes later, we were all turned around facing the direction of the plane. I tried to zero in Davey’s attention in the faroff distance above the tree tops. I could see the lights and the exhuast fumes coming out, but he wasn’t able to see it just yet. As it got closer and became more visible, I threw Davey on top of my shoulders. He pointed and tried numerous times to say “plane”.

Coming in Low and Slow
Coming in Low and Slow

The plane drew closer and you could hear the loud engines. Davey began bouncing on my shoulders with excitement and some how I managed to click away with my camera and take pictures as the plane flew past us, a mere 20 yards away. Its engines vibrated the ground and all of us. You could see the pilots as they waved, and you could feel the exhaust as it gained altitude and climbed back into the sky.

Touchdown!
Touchdown!

We watched as it circled back around the airport and were notified that this was the official landing. Once again, I braced Davey on my shoulders, painfully feeling his kicks of excitment on my clavicle (note to self, take his shoes off next time I’m going to do this). I got my camera ready and began clicking away as the plane came in for its official landing. We watched it taxi down the runway and I eventually took Davey off of my shoulders. In the minutes that I put him down and we watched the plane pull into its new home, I was overwhelmed with a level of happiness, excitement, and exhilaration. It wasn’t much, but seeing something like this was pretty spectacular or to quote the words of my son, “Cool, Mama!” And yes that’s all he kept saying.

Davey checking out the plane.
Davey checking out the plane.

As we walked back to the car, Davey once again looked up at me and with his free hand, he pointed back at the plane and said, “Cool, Mama” and then offered me up a high five. So, for me, this experience definitely washed away any of the doubts I may have had. If I were a working mother, it’s highly unlikely I would have been able to take my son to this. Money comes and goes, but memories last a lifetime. And I’m thankful to have made one of the coolest ones to date with my son.

Cool Mama!
Cool Mama!