Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Henry the Three-Year-Old

When people ask if we’re going to have another baby, I laugh like a maniac in my head (and sometimes out loud) because seriously, have you met Henry? 

I mentioned a few months ago how sentimental I am and how I often yearn for days of yore. So, I’ve known for awhile that no matter how many babies I have, I will always want another. Cue, Henry. And while I have no doubt that I’ll still feel the baby itch from time-to-time, Henry has ensured that I will stop at three kids with a content heart. 

I know he’ll read this later and sarcastically say, “Thanks, Mom. How nice of you to say.” To which I will remind him that he was a handful and a half, but the sweetest, cutest, little handful there ever was. 

He’s the greatest challenge I never knew I needed. But taming this wild horse has its sweet moments, too. When he doesn’t get what he wants, his first reaction is to scream at me with the fury of a redhead. I keep calmly reminding him that he can just talk to me and I’ll still listen even if he’s not screaming. After months and months of this lesson, the other day I watched as he almost screamed, paused, tucked the scream in and said “Mama, you pwease listen to me?” 

Yes, sweet boy, I’ll always listen to you. 

Now that he’s started talking and communicating, life is SOOOOO much less painful. He still screams if he doesn’t get his way, but about 75% of our conflicts are resolved now because we can talk to each other about it. The other 25% are usually because he’s tired or hungry and no amount of rational conversation would ever fix it. 

Henry loves being outside soaking up the beautiful weather. He’d even be outside if the weather wasn’t beautiful. I’m pretty sure he’d live out there if bees weren’t a thing. He loves climbing and sliding and swinging and most especially, sand (or dirt). In a field of grass, he’ll find even the smallest patch of dirt. I take him to the park thinking we can run off some of that endless energy only to watch him play in the sandbox for an hour. The best-laid plans and all that. 

He loves numbers. He can count to 30 every time and sometimes, if he’s in the mood, he’ll go to 50. He recognizes his numbers up to 49 and knows the following shapes: circle, oval, square, rectangle, triangle, diamond, heart, hexagon, pentagon, semicircle and trapezoid. He can recognize all the letters in the alphabet. But here’s the really crazy thing. I’m not actively working on any of this stuff with him. I’ll play letter magnets sometimes or read his number book with him, but we aren’t sitting over here doing flash cards. He has this amazing ability to remember something after the first or second time he’s heard it. That is not a trait he inherited from me. 

He still very much loves cars and will sit and play with them for what seems like hours, but in toddler time is actually only about 20 minutes. He likes puzzles and LOVES being read to and reading books himself. 

This summer he has proven to be a little fish in the water. When the girls were this age, they were pretty apprehensive about putting their faces in the water, but he just jumps right in the pool and goes all the way under before his floaties pop him back up. It fits his throw-caution-to-the-wind lifestyle. 

He is fearless when it comes to jumping and swimming and climbing and running into the street without an adult, but he’s still pretty scared of the gorilla on Mickey Mouse. Go figure.  

One of my favorite things about him lately is his awareness of others’ emotional states. A couple months ago, he started asking me “happy or sad?” when he’d see that my face wasn’t happy. Usually, it was my mad face. So, I’d say “I’m mad, Henry, because you didn’t listen to me when I said 64 times to stay inside.” So then, the question morphed into “happy, sad or mad?” And every once in awhile, he adds another possible emotion. This week we are up to “happy, sad, mad, fwustrated or tired?” I haven’t met many three year olds who are as in tune with the emotions of others. Likewise, he’s also capable of telling me when he’s experiencing some emotional upheaval. Just the other day, I asked him to come downstairs so we could leave. Without stomping his feet or throwing a fit, he said “I’m going to my room. I’m mad right now.” Well, okay. Thanks for telling me so maturely. But seriously you have like 2 minutes to be mad and then we’re leaving. 

One of my least favorite things about him lately is his button-pushing tendencies. When he has discovered that something bothers you, he does it twice as hard and twice as fast and he eagerly watches your reaction. I noticed this about him a long time ago, but it's getting worse. It may just be that his sisters are home for the summer, so there are three times as many buttons, but their reactions are so glorious, he can’t even help himself. It’s especially bad with Grace. She’s so shriek-y that he loves to make her mad.

It causes a lot of fights and screams and tattling and time-outs and lessons on how to out-smart your three-year-old brother. But most of the time, the three of them get along pretty well. Or, at least, somewhat well. 

Watching him grow this past year has been so delightful. He started sleeping by himself through the night last April, so it was a much, much more enjoyable year since we were both rested humans. I kept him in the crib as long as I could because I knew once we removed the visual barriers, we were opening pandora’s box. But he was so good at getting in and out of the crib it didn’t make much sense to keep it. He transitioned to a big boy bed a few weeks ago and it really hasn’t been awful. It’s not awesome, but it’s not awful. He is quite incapable of staying in his bed without first getting up 15 times and peeking out his door. I’m hoping this will eventually get old and he’ll just be content to fall asleep, but knowing him, I really doubt it. 

The kid just doesn’t stop moving ever. He can’t sit still for long, and if his body is still, his hands are moving. The one time I saw all of him laying still just watching TV, I was immediately worried that he was sick. And he was. 

In early June, we said goodbye to his second year of life and hello to the big #3 with a Mickey Mouse themed birthday. There was a kiddie pool and a slip ’n’ slide and pizza and cupcakes. We invited his most favorite people and he had just a splendid birthday. 

I’m so looking forward to spending this next year with him. I decided to hold off on preschool until he’s 4 so I can soak it up as much as possible. I know he’s the caboose to our little train, so I want to hang on to the moments, make more memories and spend more time with my cute little menace before I have to start the process of separating. So, here’s to a year of fewer tantrums, more giggles and hopefully less button-pushing!! 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Hug that Lingers

Lately, I have been seeing commercials advertising the "perfect" father’s day gift. I might have expected the many mentions of father's day to send me spiraling, but instead it has just left me wishing I was still thinking about what I could buy my Dad to convey just how much I loved him. What restaurant gift card best says “you’re an awesome dad?” 

I always struggled with what to get my Dad because he didn’t have a lot of wants or needs. He didn’t get too wrapped up in presents or material stuff. He just liked to eat good food, be comfortable and have a good time. 

Looking back and knowing what I know now, I wish I would have just given him a better hug all those years. Not the average “I love you” hug with the pat-pat at the end, but the hug that lingers on too long. The hug that makes the other person wonder if you’re okay. The hug that says, “I’m just so damn grateful to have a dad like you.”

While new grills and power tools and restaurant gift cards are all awesome ways of showing your Dad that you love him, do me a favor this year and pair it with a long hug. And in that five or ten extra seconds, soak up that love, that feeling of their arms squeezing you, the memories of childhood bear hugs flooding over you — really savor that moment for a few extra seconds. You’ll both be glad you did. 

Then go eat some Texas Roadhouse together. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018


I’m coaching the girls’ softball team again this year and last night was our first game of the season. 

I was nervous that we weren’t quite ready. Nervous that we hadn’t discussed enough game strategy or didn’t have enough time practicing with the pitching machine. Nervous that I forgot to tell the team some crucial bit of information, like in order to score runs you have to actually cross home plate. (That question did come up before the game.) I could tell they were nervous, too. I saw so many of them taking deep breaths before they got up to hit the first time. I could feel the butterflies fluttering in their tummies. But, guys, they rocked it! They got the hang of the machine, they understood how to get outs and we actually made a couple of them! I walked away just bursting with pride for all 12 of my girls. 

Once I got home, washed the top layers of dirt off the kids and put them to bed, I reflected on the night. It didn’t take long for my thoughts to wander. 

Softball was the highlight of my summers growing up. I loved the game, loved the summer nights at the ball field, loved the silly cheers and chants. I loved playing catch with my Dad. I loved when he threw pop flies seemingly miles up in the air. I loved watching him hit the ball into the field across the road. 

My Dad loved playing most sports, but softball was the one he spent the most time teaching us. He was never officially my coach, but he coached me more than all the rest of my coaches put together. I can still hear his words in my head. “Keep your back foot planted.” “Get under the ball.” “Watch the ball all the way in.” He’d come over to the dugout during games and give us a piece or two of advice through the fence. 

I can’t think of softball without thinking of my Dad. He spent the past few years just being Grandpa at the kids’ softball games. He’d entertain the little kids or hold them while he cheered for the grandkids on the field. He was at every game with his lawn chair and Dr. Pepper. He’d still offer bits of advice, but they weren’t quite as numerous as they once were.

On Wednesday, my mind was overwhelmed by the ins and outs of the game. I didn’t have time to think about what was missing. But once I got home, I realized what it was — my coach. 

I wish he could have seen the girls play and been as proud as I was. I wish he could have seen the smile on Grace’s face after she got her first hit or the delighted look on Claire’s face when she got her first out. I wish he was there to put his arm around my shoulders and give me one more piece of advice.