Category Archives: Kids

Happy Birthday

Dear Lucy,

12374873_10153284826858616_652953355194088461_oYou are turning 12 this year.  You are in staunch denial of the fact that you are growing up. As desperately as possible you are pushing back impending womanhood. You are clinging to the rough and tumble life of a child like a new swimmer clutches the edge of the pool. You still have bruised knees and bandaid elbows. You are far more likely to wear Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and jeans than you are a dress and flats. You don’t like makeup, boys or movie stars, and as your mother I indulge these desires. I encourage you to cling to your childhood.


Like a desert mirage I periodically see glimpses of your maturation.  Your persona on stage, your soaring voice when you sing, the gentle way you care for your sister — all glimpses of grown-up Lucy. Your sudden and passionate interest in world news and politics, your initiative and organization during school hours, your sophisticated taste in music and art — all make my heart glow as I see the person you are becoming.  And then, at the end of the day you fling your arms around my neck as tight as can be, nuzzle your head and mumble, “do you know how much I love you?” and I think, “not nearly as much as I love you.”

Dear Max,

You just turned 10 and this is the year you really discovered yourself.  Up until now you have hid in the background just hoping people wouldn’t really notice you, unsure of your strengths, not knowing what made you special.  But this past year I have seen you blossom.

12573701_10153347498018616_1716082666157365196_nAlthough your stutter persists you are no longer self conscious about it. In fact you volunteered to sing with your band – IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.  And that band has been key in building your self-confidence. An environment of young boys and men where you feel like you can be yourself — a little quirky, a little rock and roll.

Your gentle heart and delicate emotions still run very close to the surface always threatening to bubble over. And although at times you view this as a weakness I can assure you that it is your greatest strength — your strong desire to love and be sympathetic is crafting you into a strong, virtuous young man. An honorable gentleman who diverts his eyes when faced with scantily clad women or 12106878_10153178506923616_2863318764181416606_ninappropriate content. A young sir who is painfully honest and who defends those weaker and more vulnerable than himself.

And yet when I tuck you into bed at night – with a quick kiss to the forehead – you still feel like my tiny boy. Not sure that feeling will ever go away.

Dear Harper,

You turned 6 years old. I owe you an apology Harper. Your childhood has been a series of missed steps. You seemed to never have had the 12002239_10153149740018616_2361204001561556348_n-2opportunity to wallow in being little because your big sister and brother have dragged you quickly into “big-kid” territory.  You ride a two-wheel bike with no training wheels, you are rushing to learn to read, and want to do everything they do.  You want to be EXACTLY like your big sister and follow her around everywhere. You are very lucky that she is so gentle and patient with you and rarely complains. In fact, she lets you sleep with her every night.

You have a spunky personality that does not take well to being denied ANYTHING. “No” is not a word you like to hear.  As stubborn and pushy as you can be I’ve never seen such an empathetic spirit. You are quick to run to somebody’s aid,  nurse a boo-boo or dry 12439553_10153354450948616_4476357401909199334_nsome tears. You get great joy in taking care of others and with every step I become even more convinced that you will go into the medical field someday. You love hospitals, doctor’s offices and look forward to going.

I snuggle and cajole and bend to your will.  You are my last baby and I will not let go easily and you seem to be completely okay with that.  At this age I was already worrying about your big brother and sister giving up blankets and sucking thumbs and rushing them to be “big” but with you I have no such desire.  Just stay little Harper – for as long as possible.

Annual Birthday Wishes

I have just completed the last party of the birthday season. I have gotten in the habit of writing a blog post every year acknowledging the fleeting time that I have with my children, acknowledging their blossoming personalities.

Dear Lucy,

This year has been one of metamorphosis for you – both physically and emotionally.  About a year ago you began having panic attacks. These panic attacks grew increasingly more frequent until we – you, Dad and myself, agreed to seek outside help.  Mental illness runs long in our family and I saw the signs of an anxiety disorder early. While some people have criticized our decision for early intervention I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because I’ve watched you blossom under the guidance and wisdom of these outside helpers.  And I could not be more proud of you.  You have embraced every offer of help, every book, every piece of advice, every technique. As a result you have become MIGHTY and STRONG. You faced your fears, and demons and you beat them.

And my darling girl, I want you to remember that. I want you to forever remember that at 10 years old you were strong enough to face your irrational fears and beat them back into submission. Because some day those fears are going to feel bigger and stronger than you can imagine and I want you to pull from this tree of strength that you planted this year and blossom. I want you stand in the warmth and sunlight of your inner courage.


Dear Max,

Your growth sneaks up on me every year. Every year you get bigger and more grown up and I watch in wonder and sadness. This year you really began to shed your “little boy” appearance. You’ve grown tall and muscular. Your speech is clear, your thoughts more complex.

I have relished in our bedtime routine which has evolved into nightly reading. We’ve read the first five books of The Percy Jackson Series and have now begun the next series. We have shared thousands and thousands of pages.  We have discussed characters and settings and what we think will happen next and what we hope.  Every night you call down for me to come up and read a chapter and by the soft glow of night lights we share another world. A world that only you and I are allowed.

Please, don’t ever leave me alone in that special world sweet boy. You will grow more independent of me, need me less, but I want us to always have that special world that we have so meticulously built together.

Dear Harper,

Who are you? Where did you come from? At times you are a complete mystery to me. I don’t see hints of my personality or Daddy’s. You are your own person – a gift that I wonder at.  You turned 5 this year – but the number is irrelevant because you like to run with the big kids. Anything they can do, you can do better – and nobody, and I mean NOBODY can say “no” to you. It is not part of your vocabulary.  You are self-sufficient in all things except one…….you refuse to go to the bathroom by yourself. EVER.  I’m writing this down now because someday you will have your own children and one of them will refuse to be potty trained and you will be frustrated and when you call me to complain I will laugh at you. I will laugh and laugh and laugh and then I will say, “God is just”.

However, I am wallowing in your childhood. I snuggle you and bend to your whim because you are my last. Do I spoil you? Probably. Do I care? Nope. I still love the way your breath smells in the morning and I still nibble on your toes and I will until it seems weird.  I sit in wonderment of you and most days I just shake my head and shrug my shoulders at the amazing person standing in front of me.

Fears & Failings

I started speech therapy in second grade.  We lived in Seattle Washington at the time – the land of perpetual green trees and misty rain.  I had a lisp, and I couldn’t say my “r” sounds.  I would continue in speech therapy until sixth grade.  Seeing a speech pathologist way past the time that most of my friends had moved on and had mastered speaking. To this day there are still words or sound combinations that hang me up – “hamburger” is my personal nemesis or “calvary” – forget it – I can’t say it.  The legacy of struggling to communicate orally was the source of  my passion for the written word and a desire to prove to the world that I was smarter than I sounded. That the words that came out of my mouth were in fact not a reflection of my intellect.

Your greatest hope as a parent is that your children won’t face the same struggles that you faced. The amount of time I have spent praying that my children will be smart and that they won’t have speech problems is countless. When Max started showing signs of a stutter my heart broke.  There was my only son picking up the journey where I had left off.  Struggling to communicate, grasping to achieve at school, knowing he was smarter than people thought. Max has made much faster progress than I did. He has faced his stutter with courage, embraced his struggle, and is improving by leaps and bounds.  I suspect he will be done with speech therapy by the end of this school year – a whole five years earlier than myself.

Today I came across this TED talk from a singer in Sydney Australia.

I’ve never experienced the frustration and uncertainty of a “fluency” issue but there on that stage stood my son. On that stage stood me and I couldn’t help but shed tears of acknowledgement.


Happy Birthday

When you are in the middle of creating your family the idea of ever having a time when there won’t be somebody needing a diaper or needing a bottle or needing something will never happen.  It feels like this marathon to which there is no finish line.  When you’ve stopped having children, in that moment, somebody  starts the stopwatch and your time begins to tick down.  Every day is one less day you will have with your kids.  Every last shoe that you tie is one less you will do in the future.  Suddenly there is a finish line, and it feels like it is rushing towards you faster than you ever imagined.  Perhaps I’m more aware because I’m an older mother, perhaps this is the natural progression of parenthood.  I don’t know, I just wish my kids didn’t have to get any older and that time could stop right now.

IMG_5499Dear Lucy,

You just turned 10 years old.  You keep trying to convince me that this makes you a “pre-teen” but I refuse to acknowledge the term or the classification.  This has frustrated you to no end and is quite symbolic of how you feel — one foot firmly stuck in childhood and one pulling you into adolescence.  You have ushered into an age of fear.  You are worried about EVERYTHING.  The world has become this large, scary place that both excites you and frightens you.  You are as likely to tell me that you want to go hang gliding as you are to tell me that you are scared of the dark.  You want to know about the origin of mankind but also blindly believe in the Tooth Fairy.  You will back talk me one second and reach for my hand the next.

Although this yin-yang of your personality is challenging and quite perplexing it is also the dynamic that I admire most about you.  Because if I had to choose one word to describe you Lucy it would be courageous. Yes, you are scared and fearful and worried but that doesn’t stop you.  I’ve seen you stay strong, in the face of what would be paralyzing fear in others. This inner strength, this lioness that lurks deep within you is your most amazing quality.  It is your strength paired with your delicate sensitivities and natural nurturing personality that has you defending your baby sister one second and holding her hand the next.

Although I have begun to mourn the passing of your childhood I eagerly await the young woman you are about to become, because you will amaze the world.


photo-30Dear Max,

You turned 8 this year and although I struggle to keep up with your age I can no longer ignore it.  You’ve grown so much physically and emotionally that I’m starting to see hints of what you will be like as a man.  Your big bear hugs are becoming less common as you become aware of the fact that it isn’t cool to hug your Mom. Your tears flow less often, with your frustration now being expressed as anger. Your stutter is still there but you seem to be less self conscious of it.  You have struggled to figure out who you are but I’m starting to see your strengths bubble to the surface.  You’ve developed a love of robotics and engineering.  You want to know how things work, how they break, how they are built and are fascinated with any toy or tool that reinforces this idea.

In many ways you are getting to be a big boy, wanting to play rough with your friends, stay home by yourself and do other “big boy” things and yet so much of “little Max” is still there that I can’t help but to still baby you.  Your tears break my heart and your frustrations are mine to carry.  I protect you far more aggressively than your confident sister. And perhaps, just perhaps, I baby you too much.


Dearest Harper,

Your physical body can barely contain your personality.  You may only be four but everybody who meets you knows there is no doubt about who you are. Although you have all the traditional markings of a four year old; stubbornness, fierceness, and a need for things to be YOUR way it is the non-typical things that I adore.  You have a strong streak of sympathy and your apologies and regrets at hurt feelings flow freely.  Your absolute obsession with all things medical to the point where you insist on accompanying EVERYBODY to EVERY doctor’s appointment.  You admire the doctor’s instruments and comment, “they are sooooo beautiful”.  You have such a strong desire to be “a part of” every conversation or activity that you just talk over everybody  — total nonsense pours out of your mouth — but you are part of the conversation and that is all that matters.

Most importantly, you are my third and my last and therefore I wallow in your babyhood.  The way you smell, the softness of your skin, the innocent comments, the clumsy hugs and freely shared kisses — all will disappear before I know it.  And when you leave these things behind so will I and therefore I am in no hurry for you to grow up.  I’ve not set a deadline for you to stop sucking your thumb. I’m in no rush to force you to give up diapers. You can not know your letters and shapes and colors a bit longer.  And yet, the irony is that all of these things are happening faster with you than the first two because you are the last.  You are sprinting through your toddlerhood in an effort to keep up with your big sister and brother just as I clamor to hold you back.

My dearest Harper, please stay a baby a little longer.  Please stay curled in my lap a little longer.  Please let me nuzzle your head a little longer.

The Legacy Of The Advent Calendar

Shortly after Max was born I got this crazy idea to make my own advent calendar.  I remembered always having an advent calendar as a child and Pinterest was filled with so many great ideas that I figured it would be simple.  I’m inherently neither a sewer nor a crafter. I have zero patience for those sorts of things. However, I decided that this was a project I could handle. Insert eye roll and large laborious sighs.

It took me close to a month to complete my advent calendar and at the end it looked like an 8th grade Home Ec student made it.  However, it was functional and so I used it with the intention that I would replace it with something nicer and probably store bought. Over the years the pockets of our advent calendar have been filled with all kinds of things – tiny toys, Christmas ornaments, activity coupons, bible passages, pencils, candy and other special treats.  Every year I take the calendar out with the idea that I will look for something “nicer” – something a bit more professional looking.


This year as the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations were pulled into the house I handed the advent calendar to Lucy and told her to hang it up.  She and Max exclaimed in delight and jumped around squealing with anticipation of what the calendar might hold this year. Again, I stood back and admired my shoddy sewing job.

It was several days later when Lucy and I were busy running errands that she said to me in the car, “Mama, when you are done with the advent calendar – like when you no longer have kids at home – can I have it for my kids?” *sniffle*

As mothers we are so hard on ourselves.  Our expectations and standards for what we should be doing and how much we should be accomplishing is beyond unrealistic.  I recently read a blog post on the momastery describing a visit to the elementary school where children were asked to write about their dreams.  All the children wrote down that they dreamed, “for my family to be happy”.   Happy. That is what our children want. They want us to be happy.  Lucy’s request for my lopsided, poorly sewn, messily finished advent calendar is a reminder that where I see mistakes she sees beauty.  Where I’m thinking “I could do better” – my children are thinking “I have the best Mom ever”.

Perhaps the job of motherhood isn’t nearly as hard as we are making it.  Perhaps if we focused more on being happy and less on being perfect this job would seem far more attainable.  Perhaps happiness just means a simple adjustment in perspective.

Bedtime & Books

Frankly, I don’t enjoy the reading of “Goodnight Moon” or “Who Loves Baby” or any of that toddler junk that kids like to hear when they are under five years old.  I know that most people stop reading to their kids when the kids can read to themselves, but in my opinion that is when the books finally get interesting.  As a result, the kids and I read together every night. I have two rules.  First, I get to pick the book and it can’t be a book the kids could read on their own. My second rule is that they can’t interrupt the reading with questions that are unrelated to the story.  It has taken awhile for these rules to settle in but we have a pretty good rhythm now and I’ve used this opportunity to read children’s books that I never had a chance to read as a kid.

OH MY GOODNESS!! Okay, I now understand why children’s literature is an actual major.  These people are messed up – these “children’s” stories are written by deranged individuals.  Have you read anything written by Roald Dahl?  Drugs. It is the only explanation.

The best part is having the kids recognize the differences between the movies and the book.  For example, did you know the “Wizard of Oz” movie is hardly anything like the book and the book has a horrible ending.  Seriously, Lucy and I complained for days about the terrible ending. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – the movie not even remotely anything close to the book except there are penguins and a guy named Mr. Popper.  This is quite possibly the best book club I’ve ever been a part.  The kids and I look forward to our time with a good book and I love hearing them plead “one more chapter”.  Well, Lucy pleads, Max usually falls asleep after the first chapter is read. I thought I would share a list of our favorites:

1.) The Wizard of Oz

2.) Mr. Popper’s Penguins

3.) Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

4.) The Twits

5.) The Secret Garden

6.) The Fantastic Mr. Fox

7.) The Littles (several volumes)

8.) Peter Pan

9.) Winnie The Pooh

10.) Alice In Wonderland

11.) Charlotte’s Web

12.) The Wind In The Willows

We stopped reading “Ella Enchanted” because it was God awful slow and neither Lucy nor I could ever get into “Little House on the Prairie”.  We are definitely open to recommendations so please leave suggestions for books that you and your kids have enjoyed reading together.  The next couple on our list include:

1.) Tom Sawyer

2.) Through The Looking Glass

3.) Mary Poppins

4.) Jungle Book

5.) Swiss Family Robinson


Warning: Graphic Content

People say that sometimes you can see your child’s future profession by observing their strengths and disposition.  If this is true than Harper is destined to be a dictator of a small South American country.

Harper has all the typical personality markings of a toddler.  She demands infinite and total control of her surroundings and her minions, aka Mommy, Sister, Brother and Daddy.  This expression of total control can be witnessed in every aspect of her life.  She refuses to brush her hair, wash her hair, take a bath, wear shoes, wear appropriate clothes or clothes at all, take medicine, eat her vegetables, eat food, drink water, buckle her seat belt, share her toys, etc.  In other words, she will do what she wants, when she wants or Lord help the person standing in the way.  This willfulness and domination has also included potty training.

Yes, I am going there.

Harper is 3 years and 8 months old.  I started potty training her at 18 months.  She pretty quickly caught on to peeing in the potty and hated wearing a diaper at night and so her ability to “hold it” was quite advanced at a very early age.  Harper has total control of her kidney and bladder.  As a matter of fact if we could isolate the gene for this total control perhaps we could solve the obesity crisis.  This child has the ability to “hold it” for up to 15 hours.  She “holds it” for so long that I’m amazed that she hasn’t given herself a kidney infection.

As a result you can imagine how this affected our ability to get her to go “#2” in the potty.  At first she clung to using her diapers but when I produced a Minnie Mouse pink bicycle and told her she could have it once she pooped in the potty – well, the gauntlet had been thrown.  If I knew then about the battle of wills that was before me I don’t think I would have bought the bike.  Harper agreed to not poop in diapers.  I rejoiced in my success and smugly felt I had beaten my tiny dictator.  But before my victory lap was complete she announced that she also was not going to poop in the potty.  She explained quite sweetly that she wasn’t going to poop – EVER.

Now, you and I know as rational adults that you can’t do this.  We know that your body will make you do this whether you want to or not.  UNLESS YOU ARE HARPER AND WIELD UNQUESTIONABLE CONTROL OVER YOUR ENTIRE SURROUNDINGS.  Harper didn’t poop – FOR SEVEN DAYS.  I’m not sure how much experience you have being around a constipated and control freak 3 year old but let me show you what it was like:


After several hours of blood-curdling screams and impassioned pleas by me, Harper agreed to sit on the potty.  She screamed and cried, sweat was pouring down both of our heads.  I frantically rubbed her back and tried to say soothing things while tears streamed down my face.  She screamed and screamed and screamed and finally she pooped.  And as we both sat there in the bathroom, slumped on the floor, emotionally exhausted, Harper wrapped her little arms around my neck and said, “Do I get my bike now?”

What’s In A Name?


Lucy calls me “Mommy” because she fears growing up and away from me.  It is her desire to never lose me that she clings to her childhood.

Max calls me “Mama” because he doesn’t want to be like his sister.  He’s a tough guy  – a guy who doesn’t want anybody to know that in his quiet moments he needs his mommy like everybody else.

Harper  calls me “Mom” because she desperately wants to be a big kid and free of all things that classify her as being a baby –  except actually using the toilet.