Tag Archives: motherhood

Individuals

I snapped a picture as the gondola rolled down the canal, the sunlight in my eyes blocking my view of the screen, so all I could do was hope it came out.

Later, I looked at it and my breath caught in my throat.

If you’d asked me to capture each of my children’s personalities exactly in photo form, this is what you’d get.

She is smiling at the camera, hair perfect, sunglasses perfect, smile perfect. Confident and happy and just a little sassy.  Smile, I said, and she did, and it was perfect because she knows how to make it so.  I don’t think it’s vanity, but it’s a self-awareness I certainly didn’t possess at thirteen, and an acceptance that it’s actually okay to care.  It’s not pretentious, not forced, and she’s not embarrassed by it.  She is a perfectionist, and she does live in a world where every moment can be insta-worthy, but I like to think she balances that out.  We sometimes think that only the ugly moments are real, but the pretty ones are too.  As long as we can accept both as truth, we’re all doing okay.  She’s more than okay.

He, the oldest, heard me say smile but waited a heartbeat to do what he was told.  He is purposely still staring off in a different direction, a feigned look of mild confusion on his face.  Hair coiffed to perfection though.  He knows what’s going on, knows what we want him to do, knows how to do it, but he likes to pretend he doesn’t sometimes.  Wants the world explained to him in minute detail, wants to ask questions that have already been answered and wants me to answer them again and again.  A split second later he was grinning at the camera, but I missed it and he thought that was funny.  Innocence and mischief, that one.

He, the middle, did not hear me say smile and is not bothered by it.  He was not listening.  He is leaning over the side of the boat, which we told him not to do, trailing his hand in the water, which we told him not to do, and he is not bothered by the fact that we will tell him both of those things again.  He knows he will not fall in.  Knows he will not get hurt.  Knows exactly what he’s capable of, knows what he wants to do and how to do it, and knows how far he can go without getting into real trouble.  Because he knows we also know what he is capable of.  He is independent and fierce and determined, and humors us by following the the rules we lay out before him, but not always.  Not always.

He, the youngest, is in the center of it all, confident and grinning and happy and posing like a king, letting all of us orbit him in his glory.  He has no doubt in any fiber of his body that anything is less than wonderful, and that radiates right out of him at all times.  He is completely secure and sure that everyone loves him, that everything will be fine, and that life is good.  He is right.

I don’t know what I did to get so lucky to have these little individuals for my own for a few years, these little people whose personalities are so completely their own, even when I do occasionally see glimpses of myself or Matt or another relative in them.  They came this way, and I am just lucky enough to get to steer them along their course for a little while.

Tooth-brushing Party

In one of my less-than-proud parenting moments, I happened to look closely at Owen’s teeth a few weeks ago and realized he had not been doing a stellar job of brushing.  Probably for a while.  An examination of Quinn’s teeth revealed the same.

Just when I think I have this mothering thing slightly in hand, the children remind me that I’ve dropped a ball somewhere.

I definitely thought I was past the parenting point where I had to teach people to brush their teeth.  But I guess a reminder was in order: as my boys in particular get older, I’m learning that hygiene issues I thought we’d covered in toddlerhood need some attention and tweaking.  I hate to gender stereotype, but these are not things I had to re-teach Bridget and that’s the truth.

I’ve also noticed that my teeth and all the children’s teeth aren’t quite as white as I’d like.  Gabe was actually the one who pointed it out a while ago.  He expressed a bit of self-consciousness over it and I agreed we could use some whitening.  I started to research natural methods, though, because I don’t like chemical treatments if I can avoid them at all.  But I sort of forgot about it without ever really doing anything.

When I saw the state of the younger boys’ teeth, though, I decided that an overhaul of the tooth-brushing and whitening situation was long overdue.  So I instituted a nightly tooth-brushing party.

The fun in this house is just non-stop, you guys.

But in all honesty, calling it a party DID make it more appealing to everyone involved.  It seems dumb, but that sort of thing can make a difference when you’re forcing your kids to go up to get ready for bed twenty minutes earlier than normal in order to complete a multi-step tooth brushing process every night.

Here’s what we do for our “party”:

We set a timer, brush for two straight minutes making sure to hit fronts, backs, sides, and all around.  Previously I had just been sending the kids up to brush on their own and I think they must have been giving it about 20 seconds without supervision because the first night we used a timer they were SHOCKED at how long two minutes lasted.

Then we floss.  I cannot tell a lie, I have flossed more in the last two weeks than I probably had in the previous two months.  The tooth brushing party is good for us all!  I do have to help Owen and Quinn get each and every little space, but that’s okay with me.  The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.

Then we do the last step in the party process: tooth whitening.  I researched some natural tooth methods and found one that I had all the ingredients for already in the cabinet so that was the one we tried.  I used this recipe and it’s kind of weird – it looks like tomato paste but smells like peppermint (I added peppermint essential oil to make it a more familiar tooth-brushing flavor for us all).  But despite it’s strange appearance, it absolutely has made a significant difference in the level of whiteness of all our teeth in the last two weeks.  I wish I had done before-and-after pictures! It was noticeable even after just the very first use.

We brush with it for two minutes, making sure to concentrate on the teeth that really need some whitening in the front.  Then before we spit it out, we swish it around in our mouths for a minute, kind of like oil pulling.  The kids all use it without complaining, which is all I can hope for.  Because of the turmeric in the recipe, it will stain clothes and skin, though, so we are really careful to clean it all up really well when we’re done.  

That’s it.  The whole thing lasts less than 10 minutes, which is certainly a time-investment we can easily make.  And we have been doing it at least 3-4 nights a week. (On the other nights, we just brush with a 2-minute timer.)

An added side benefit of this tooth brushing party is that we do it at about 8PM every evening before the younger boys go to bed, and since I’ve already brushed at that point, I am doing far less late-night-snacking after the kids are in bed!

It’s funny, I thought this new process was going to be a pain when I first realized that I really needed to be more involved in how the boys were taking care of their teeth.  But in truth I’m really enjoying it!  Over the past few years as our kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, Matt and I have been less and less involved in the sort of bedtime routine we had when the children were all little.  It’s sort of lovely to feel like we’re needed again.  And it’s a calmer, happier bedtime process too I think.  Plus all our teeth look much healthier, cleaner, and whiter.

Viva la tooth-brushing-party!

Traveling Away

After eight days of being gone, my boy came home a different child.

I put him on a bus in England and watched him drive away, across a country, across the Channel, across half a continent.  I got a text message from one of the teachers the next day telling me they’d arrived safely in Italy.

Then I spent eight days scouring occasional Facebook posts from the school, full of pictures of children covered entirely from head to toe in layers of winter gear wearing helmets and goggles and scarves, for a glimpse of his face.

I saw him twice, smiling at the base of the mountain on the first day and standing with his arm slung over a friend at the bowling alley near the end of the week.

For eight days I didn’t hear his voice.  My house, despite the three remaining children, was strangely empty, weirdly out of balance.  We were missing a piece that made the parts a whole.

I knew when he stepped off the bus after eight long days that he was a new man.  I could see it in his face, in his smile, in his body language.  In the way he said goodbye and thanked the teachers who’d chaperoned the trip and got his own bag out of the bottom of the bus.  He’d found an independence he’d never known, and now it was his to keep.

Still the same at heart, though, he flung his arms around me right there in the parking lot of his school and hugged me and kissed me hello in front of all his friends because if there’s one thing this boy isn’t, it’s embarrassed to show emotions. Thank every god there is for that, because I needed every last hug he had to give.

As he walked across the parking lot dragging his ski bag in his wake and shouting goodbyes to his friends, I had an uneasy realization that we’d crossed a bridge and left behind a little irretrievable piece of childhood.  

We went home and he showered for the first time in several days and I put on the first of at least three loads of his dirty ski laundry and made us both a cup of tea, and we sat on the couch and I gratefully listened to every last detail of the skiing and the sledding and the food and the two 12-hour bus rides.  I soaked in every word and smiled at the odd details an 11-yr old boy remembers and feels the need to share (“our instructor had really cool hair” and “the pasta at the hotel was a weird shape one night”).   And he hugged me, a dozen times at least, and said that even though he was never homesick, he did really miss us. 

Parenting is a series of heartbreaks.  When we do it right, we teach them how to stop needing us, how to move away and become themselves, and in doing so we make ourselves obsolete.  I know it’s for the best; that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. 

But I’ll take a cup of tea together, some silly stories, and a few hugs for as long as he’s willing to give them.

Working from Home

Ten years ago this month I started working from home.  I had two little babies: Bridget was three and Gabe was one and oh my goodness they were babies.

Look at my baaaaabies…

I had just learned I was pregnant with Owen a few weeks earlier.

I worked as a consultant for a defense contractor and the project I was on needed a part-time person who could work 24 hours a week.

I volunteered to take the 40% pay cut if it meant I could work from home.  My boss agreed.

I haven’t worked in an office since.

It’s been a decade.  A decade.

I’ve had two more kids.  I stopped working entirely after the fourth one, but only for a year. 

Then I started teaching yoga. 

Then I started free-lancing.  Then I took the job I have now and have had for three years, also this month.

Man, how long ago it seems when I was sitting at my desk in the living room – the desk you can see peeking around the edge of the wall in the photo below, while B & G played in the playroom.

That time can seem to fly by so quickly and yet that this scene can feel like a lifetime ago is a riddle I’ll never solve.

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