Monday, March 29, 2010

Sweet, Delicious Toddlerhood

Toddlers are my favorite people in the world. People always complain about the terrible two's, but I love them. I love the tiny voices and the stinkery attitude. I love the mispronunciations and the way they try to sound so grown up. I love the budding independence that contrasts so starkly with their absolute love for momma and dad.

My current favorite toddler in the world is our Benjamin. He is a ridiculously beautiful child. He has great, big blue-green eyes, a perfect pouty mouth and a button nose. He is also a total stinker. He picks up new words quickly, especially the bad ones, which he revels in repeating - to any stranger he can find. He expects to get his own way all of the time, and in our most egregious  parenting error, we tend to cater to the babies and toddlers, laughing at their antics until they aren't funny anymore. Then we bring the hammer DOWN! Hehe, not really, we tend to think they are pretty funny until they are about 4 or 5. Theeennn it's hammer time!

My Benjamin is a old soul, unlike our Lukey, who is just brand spankin' new. Benji loves fiercely, but he fights that way too, so watch out if you tick him off - you're likely to get a pinch or a bite with his scary little beaver teeth (we don't condone this, and he is punished when he resorts to these tactics - we actually have him nearly trained out of it now). Benji steals my heart away a hundred times a day with his big squeezy hugs, his kissing game, the way he loves Jonah so much, and the way his dad is his biggest hero.

Toddlerhood is such a precious time, I am not looking forward to the days when we no longer have toddlers in the house. Who will make us laugh? Who will we sing silly songs with? Who will beg me to "way down here for jus a wittle bit" or "come sit a chair" or get them a "bednight snack".  Their beauty is so pervasive that any indescretion is immediately forgiven; no mess is too horrible, clothes changes are constant and to be expected, colored fingers and toes make for interesting artwork.

Some of my favorite toddler antics:
Jenna once drizzled chocolate sauce from the fridge, through the kitchen, up the stairs  and all over her bed, and herself. We called her Jennis the Menace because she was soooo bad. But funny - really funny. She would also strip naked everytime we put her to bed. This lead to some interesting adventures with bodily functions. There was one very funny, but very gross incident. She would probably be mad at me for repeating it, but let's just say there was poop, and a very long bath involved!
Kenzie was a really good talker, and would talk just about anyone's ear off. She also used her gift of language to play on your sympathies. She stubbed her toe one day, and then for months afterward would hold up said toe and say "ooh, boo boo toe!" in an effort to gain sympathy and kisses. It worked.
By the time Kolbe was born, there were lots of big kids who loved to tell him how adorable he was  - to which he would vehemently respond "I NOT ador-ble!". His mad little face was the funniest thing! Toddler Kolbe also loved dogs, and made us watch dog shows for months! He would also sneak downstairs to read the paper with Doug on Sundays, having him tell him the words for all the pictures. That's how he learned to talk - from the Sunday Sale Ads!
Jonah, being a pretty little guy, used to stomp everywhere he went, with his legs bowed out so as to give the biggest stomp he could manage. He would also hit up random strangers for food. Poor guy, he was so skinny, people probably thought we never fed him. If you were doing something he considered dangerous he would tell you "fareful, swowy!" to make sure you were being careful. His other most famous saying was "Shup up Tola!" because our dog barked constantly and I was always telling her to shut up. Sins of the mother, you know.
My Luke, ahh, what a kid. He was and is, the epitome of delicious. Incredibly handsome, he wins hearts with his charm and enthusiasm. Anytime someone is opening a gift he is so happy for them. "Ohhh, cool! Whatch you got? That's great!"See the shirt in his picture above? he had to wear that shirt and tie ALL THE TIME! He loved it so much he wore it to bed. He would tell us "See ya later, I am goin a werk!" while toting whatever he thought looked like a briefcase. Where he got this, we have no idea, as his dad does not wear a tie to work, nor does he carry a briefcase!
Benji  " I wanna hoooolllld ju a counter" means he wants to sit on my counter and watch me cook. He also says "I wanna hooollld ju" just when he wants to be held. So sweet. Ben loves to nap, but it has to be on you, so at apporximately 3 o'clock every afternoon, he likes to crawl up in my lap and fall asleep. I love that time of day, it gives ma an excuse to close my eyes, but also to soak up every inch of his little body. His baby smell, his little toes, those long eyelashes as they lay across his cheeks. So much to savor, and I do, because I know this time with him is fleeting and I wanna get all I can before he no long wants me to hold him while he sleeps.
I have so many stories, but this post is already a gazillion years long, but I wanted to get a record, right? So, until next time, go cuddle a toddler, they are the most fun people on earth!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Counter Cultural - Our "little way"

When I was growing up, I had one of the few moms who stayed home during the day. She was our room mother, Girl Scout leader, snack maker. She was there when we were sick, and every once in a while I was allowed to stay home with her, just because. This was during the 70's and 80's when women wanted to 'have it all!". Most of my friends' moms worked. The women's liberation movement was in full swing. They had jobs, homes, kids, cars, vacations. In a material sense, they did have it all.

When I got married, I knew I wanted to be a "stay at home mom". By the turn of the century (can you believe I just used that phrase to refer to new millenium?!), most women were beginning to realize that 'having it all' took it's toll. Divorce rates were over 50%, kids were not being parented, leading to spoiled, rotten, aggressive behavior becoming a new normal. Parents felt so guilty about not being there for their children, that kids were being handed everything, to make up for the lack of parental guidance. The term "quality time" was invented to assuage the guilt. If you spent a quality 30 minutes with your kids every night, you don't have to feel bad about the quantity of time you spent away from them. For heaven's sake, there are commercials on TV, trying to get people to just eat dinner with their kids. How sad.

So, when my husband and I started having children, I began to see our life a little differently. I read some books, talked to other women I respected. We knew that one thing we would be doing differently from most other families is letting the Giver of Life, the Holy Spirit, determine our family size. We, as a Catholic family, would put our trust in the Lord, knowing that He would provide for our family. And He has, always.

Our babies run the show around here, too. We do our own little version of attachment parenting. I nurse our babies for as long as the baby needs it. I surrender myself to the needs of the little babe, knowing that my activities will be greatly curbed for at least the first three months - because that's how long it takes to establish a long term nursing relationship. I nurse on demand, around the clock. I don't try to force a newborn into some kind of  schedule that his little body doesn't understand. So many girls have their babies and can't understand why they aren't successful at nursing, or why the baby won't sleep through the night the instant he hits 11 pounds. All of these things are the result of mothers being in the workplace. If you have to get up and go to work, you need your baby on a schedule. You need to get them to sleep, you need to bottle feed, at least during the day. I often wonder where our understanding of a newborn went? The newborn phase lasts much longer than 6 weeks. You body needs longer than 6 weeks to heal. God has created this perfect timing. So you sit, and you soak up that delicious new baby, while you recover, and let your husband, sisters, older children, mother, neighbors - take care of most other things. You are nourishing your child and building a relationship with a whole new family member. That should take precedence.

So, I sit, and I hold my babies, and nurse whenever they need. I stare hard at their little faces, trying to memorize those little features before they change. Everything else can wait. Nothing is as important as establishing that bond that will grow and change throughout your child's life. I know it's not the way of the world anymore, but it's my little way.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Last Little Girl

I have always loved little girls, with their pretty clothes, and hair ribbons and patent leather shoes. Okay, I'm totally in it for the clothes! Maybe it is a little like playing baby dolls when I was little. I loved dolls. I actually played with a doll until I was about 13 or so.

We have had four little girls. I missed Elizabeth's babyhood, but totally got my hair fix with that kid. She has amazing hair, and even as a little girl it was so, so thick and dark. I remember pouring water over her head while giving her a bath, and it would just roll right off. I used to love to brush and braid her hair, or put it up in a wreath around her head, or pigtails. So much fun.
When Meg and Liz were just little girls, I loved dressing them up to match - that often meant an exact match, or just coordinating outfits. They loved it at first, but when they found out that they were going to be sisters, they were none too keen on the idea of dressing alike! When Mackenzie came along I would hunt and shop until I had found three outfits that matched or coordinated. I loved showing them off and did whatever I could to enhance the "family unit" feel. Both of the big girls wanted to dress like Kenzie, so I got away with it for a little while longer. The matching thing was also for Elizabeth's benefit. I was worried that since she at that point still spent half of her time with her mom, she would feel left out. I hoped the outfits and the "sister" t-shirts and things helped her feel more apart of what was going on at our house. I never really knew if it made any impact, but I was new to the whole blended family thing.

When my little Jenna came along, after her brother Jonah, I was so excited to have a little girl again. For some silly reason I had thought we weren't going to have anymore babies (I have no idea why!) and gave most of Kenzie's things away. So shopping we went! Oh, the pink! And purple, and polka dots! And ribbons, and pretty little shoes. I really, really love it all so much. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that Jenna would be followed by four boys! I never ever imagined I would never get another little girl.

Never fear, I love my boys. They are awesome, and each one seems to have a tad more testosterone than the last. Kolbe is as manly as they get, Luke is a total beef cake, Ben is as hairy as all get out, and little baby Caleb already knows the sound of an engine when he hears one! Nothing delights him more than finding a matchbox car, or one of the ones that makes the engine noises.

So, Jenna is my last little girl. I am so thankful that she seems to really enjoy being a little girl. She loves Littlest Pet Shops, Barbie, her American Girl doll, dresses, getting her hair done, and all of that. She does not seem to be in any hurry to grow up, as Mackenzie was. She lets me braid her hair and loves it when I paint her fingernails any shade of pink she desires! If she is my last girl, she has been a wonderful little girl. She is so eager to please, and has the most tender heart. She prays every night for the unborn babies and all the survivors of whatever natural disaster she has heard of recently. I think she tries very hard to be holy, and I think God must be proud of her efforts. I know I am.

Maybe, someday God will decide that our family needs another little girl, whether by birth or adoption. (I am rooting for adoption - I am getting old!) But if He does, there is no WAY I am naming her Priscilla!