Learning to Share

The two littlest girls have colds, and although I've tried to escape by conscientiously washing my hands and occasionally chugging a quarter-full glass of water still fizzing from a nearly-dissolved Airborne tablet, I've been nabbed.

Little kids with colds don't know what to do with themselves.  They drip snot.  They rub their faces onto my pants leg and shirt sleeve.  The baby reaches her little hand -- the same hand she was just slobbering on -- and plants it directly on my mouth.

So, I've rolled with it.  While playing this evening, I asked Brooke if she could pass me the Kleenex box.  She went the extra distance.  Pulling one out, she said, "Here you go, Mommy" as she wiped her nose with it and then handed it to me, crumpled and moist.

At least she's sharing, right?

Out Little Homing Device

If my husband and I ever misplace a small object, we simply need to place Kerrington on the ground.  It's foolproof.  From her low vantage point, she spots small objects, crawls toward them, and crams them into her mouth.  She's a heat-seeking missile.  She's a homing device.  She's better than a metal detector.

She makes me wonder how second, third, and fourth children survive.

Despite frequent reminders, our older girls casually litter the floor with choking hazards.  Marbles from Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Plastic shoes from Polly Pockets.  The cap from a chap stick.

None of these objects are too small to escape Kerrington's notice.  She found a misplaced back of an earring embedded in our berber carpeting.  She finds rock salt crystals that hitchhike into our house on our winter boots and are stomped onto the welcome mat.  Scraps of paper, pen caps, a dropped penny.  She sees it all.

This is why I find it so curious that this same baby would crawl off of a bed without batting an eye.  She can detect a pebble, but apparently she can't perceive an imminent three foot drop.  Last night I propped her up on her sister's bed momentarily and watched as she shimmied right to the edge and continued, unalarmed, into open air and my waiting arms.

Such trust.  Of course you'd catch me, her little smirk seemed to say.

Then I set her down and she made a beeline for a tiny puzzle piece, as is customary.


Plummeting Language Capabilities (motherhood edition)

I have a thing for words and language.  I revel in precise phrasing, delight in description, and savor the lingering images that a well-crafted sentence can paint in the minds of a reader or listener.

You'd never guess this if you overheard some of the sentences I've uttered to my kids.  Strings of miscellany emerge, punctuated with interruptions and forgetfulness.  Here's a brief sampling of legitimate dialogue from our house today.  Each line would be more sensible if I provided the context, but what's the fun in that? 

Yes, I'm positive that your sister has a mouth.  At least one.

Stop licking the sugar off of your feet.

And today's favorite, delivered with heightened urgency:  Take your head out of the toilet.

I never said these types of things before children.  I had no need.

What have been some of the best lines spoken in your household?

Uncapped Stamper on a Floor

Title:  Uncapped Stamper on a Floor

Subtitle:  Undoubtedly one of the quickest ways for a baby to turn her mouth green.

Intentional Parenting

In each of the classes that I teach, a percentage of a student's final grade is allotted for class participation.  The bullet point in the syllabus says something to this effect:  Participation in class entails more than bodily presence.

Anyone can show up physically, but showing up mentally and emotionally is another story.  Good participation means that you engage, that you contribute, that you roll up your sleeves and get involved.  It's highly intentional.

As a mother with three children under six years of age and a job, it's easy to show up physically.  I can be in the same room with my kids, close enough in proxemics to let them know of my presence, but be immersed in my own world -- attending to a stack of student papers, checking email, writing a blog post.  I can be present bodily, but absent mentally and emotionally.

I don't want this.  I want to parent intentionally.

I've never yet met a mother who didn't feel pulled in multiple directions.  It doesn't matter whether you're staying at home, working outside the home, or working at home.  Life is busy.  End of story.

That, in and of itself, is enough reason why I want the time with my children to count.  It's why I save my work until the girls nap and after they go to bed.  It's why I don't blog every single day.  It's why I need to show restraint and avoid getting sucked into a million-and-one online pursuits and blogs and Facebook status updates, tempting as they may be.

I need to be mentally and emotionally present in order to truly participate in the lives of those very precious people in my own home.

I'm not perfect in this regard.  There are times when I'm distracted, when I'm not attuned to my kids, but I'm working on it.  At the same time, I'm not suggesting that mothers should hover.  Kids need independence and free play.  They need to solve their own problems, use their imaginations, and learn how to enjoy their own company.  Sometimes this requires that they're left alone.

It's all a balance, one I'm working to find each day.  Take yesterday, for example.  My to-do lists for work and home sprawled onto multiple pages and post-it notes.  Brooke wanted to play Candy Land.  I could have named roughly seventeen other activities that could have taken precedence, but I laid down on the floor and opened the game.

Brooke doesn't play Candy Land with the cards, mind you.  She plays the non-Candy-Land-version-of-Candy-Land.

We walked our little pieces across the board as she narrated a story.  We got stuck in the Molasses Swamp.  We picked plums off of the Gingerbread Plum Tree.  We knocked on the door of the Crooked Peanut Brittle House and pretended that it was a library.  Brooke yelled when Kerrington crawled over, swiped one of the pieces, and disturbed the board.

I broke them up and reminded Brooke about sharing.  And about not sticking out your tongue and hitting your baby sister on the top of the head with a block.

See how well intentional parenting works?

I cuddled Kerrington on my lap to keep her out of the way.  After a half hour we had finished our game-of-sorts, and I put both of the girls down for a nap.

I had been intentional.  I knew it.  Brooke, although she can't articulate it, knew it.

My to-do lists never have "purposefully engage with your children" written on them, but perhaps they should.  It would be my reminder to complete the most important things of the day.

Short and Sweet: Just the Cold, Hard Facts

Today's best factual response to my impassioned plea to wear more clothes in 100 or fewer words:

I'm attempting to clothe the girls.  Brooke wears only a dress with the sleeves rolled up.  No tights.  No socks.  Like a human furnace, she cannot tolerate excessive clothing, which is why she strips off her jacket the instant we reach any destination and why the entrance to our house is always littered with her discarded apparel.

Reese wears a sleeveless leotard and leggings.  At least put another shirt on top, I reason.  It's seven degrees outside.

She looks at me.  "Actually, it's twelve degrees."

Ah, a heat wave.  Now the lack of sleeves makes much more sense.

Day Dreaming and Bottle Holding

When I feed Kerrington her nighttime bottle, I always hold it for her.  She's perfectly capable of wrapping those little hands of hers around it now that she's a mature eight-month-old, but then I'd miss watching her arms.

When she's drinking a bottle, Kerrington's arms have a life of their own.  They lift to the sky haphazardly like she's in a zero-gravitational zone.  Her fingers clench into fists and then unfold to reveal open palms.  Like undulating grass in the wind, her arms move as if they are swayed by some erratic breeze.

This evening by the time she had drained the last ounce, she had tucked each of her hands behind her head as she leaned back into me, as if she were a little baby relaxing on the beach, or an unaffected daydreamer lying on her back in the grass under the open sky trying to make out shapes in the clouds.

She'll learn to hold that bottle eventually.  For now, though, I'll keep that as my job.

Eighty-Five Attempts at a Name

As customary, my two-year-old, Brooke, and I sit down with a book after lunch.  One of the illustrations depicts a roomful of children (let me qualify: a roomful of unessential, unnamed, secondary-to-the-plot children), yet she wants to know everyone's names.

She points to the first child.  "Who's that?"

I make up a name on the fly.  "That's Sam."

"No, it's not.  Who's that?"  Her finger lingers on his face.  Clearly, this little boy did not look like a Sam to her.

"Okay, that's Brandon."

"No.  Who is that?"

My confidence starts to wane.  Miles?  Charlie?  Colin?  Billy?  Matthew?  Joe?  Chase?  Brad? 

She is resolute: no.  After what feels like eighty-four tries, I exhaust my readily-available repertoire of fictional character names, and that's when I think of one more.  It comes out of nowhere.  I am getting desperate.

Ocho Cinco?

Hey, if Chad Johnson can rename himself after his jersey number, can't my two-year-old buy this?

Her answer is no.

We try some more and finally reach an agreement.  The boy is named Timothy.

There are nine more children in the picture.  On and on we go, naming each child.  I offer suggestions.  Brittany?  Rachel?  Tabatha?  Chloe?  Annie?  Sarah?  Lauren?  Samantha?  Jessica?  Katie?  Lily?

She tackles and shuts down each of my suggested offerings, minus the in-your-face-while-you're-flat-on-your-back banter, of course, but the message is the same: rejected.

Reading the book took longer than anticipated, but we finally make it through.  And, as customary, once we finish and I gently shut the cover, Brooke opens it once more and says, "Let's read it again."

I had forgotten about repeats.

She places her finger on a boy's face.  "Who's that?"

We are right back where we started.   

Um... Ocho Cinco?

Image compliments of Keith Allison on Flickr.com

Talking about Myself

Sometimes I discover that I'm talking aloud to myself.  Perhaps I hope that by vocalizing my thoughts outside of my head I might have a fighting chance to remember the to-do lists swirling inside of my head.

Go on.  Admit it.  You do this, too.  I can't be the only person who walks into a room repeating a list of things I need to gather.  Saying it aloud ensures that I'll only need to go back one additional time to collect what I forgot, rather than two or three times.  See?  It's a time-saving device.

We talk aloud to ourselves.

If you're anything like me, you might also realize that you talk about yourself.  I'm not referring to engaging in conversation with others and sharing information about yourself, but rather the type of talk we speak over ourselves.  Our self-talk.  Those under-the-breath one-liners that identify how we feel about ourselves.

The other day my two-year-old sat on the couch surrounded by toys and books.  As she flipped through the pages of a board book, opening and closing the flaps, she quietly cheered herself on:  "Yay, Brooke.  You did it!"

This girl talks about herself, and she's nice about it.  She tells herself that she's doing a good job.

I like that.  We don't do this for ourselves as often as we should, I fear.  Showing ourselves kindness is more than just flippantly patting ourselves on the back.  When I speak about myself kindly, I'm aligning my thinking with how God thinks about me.  His banner over me is love.  He's for me, not against me.  He has good plans and purposes for my life, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future.

He's saying good things about me.  That is why I can say good things about myself.

Yay, Robin!  (Kiss hand and place on forehead.)  Case closed.

Inhaling Dryer Lint

I'm always curious to learn how people discover Pink Dryer Lint for the first time.  Most readers, I assume, find it on a directory of motherhood blogs or hear about it by word of mouth.  They're anticipating stories about the hood (motherhood, that is), and hopefully they find what they're looking for.

Then there are the other people who stumble onto Pink Dryer Lint via more indirect routes.  Case in point, recently some poor soul entered this question into Google:

"Is it unhealthy to inhale dryer lint?"

For whatever reason, I suspect that this searcher was a woman.  I imagine her sitting at the computer because some member of her family had just breathed in a sizable lungful of the fuzzy stuff. 

To this individual, I offer this:

I'm no physician, but my advice is to refrain from dryer lint inhalation as much as possible.  If your children's antics that prompted this Google search (and if you felt solidarity with me based on my children's antics even though my blog didn't provide an answer for your pressing question), then by all means, welcome aboard.

 * Photo for illustration purposes only.  Not for inhalation.

So, How Was Your Morning?

My Saturday morning goals were simple enough: one, get the kids clean, as I was a little fuzzy on the exact day when they last had baths, and two, get the house clean.  Nothing too challenging.  After breakfast my husband headed to the grocery store and I corralled the kids upstairs.

I have a tendency to launch multiple projects at once.  This morning was no different.  I started the bathwater, set Kerrington on the floor in her nursery, led the older girls into their bedroom to play, tossed a load of laundry into the washer, and returned to the nursery to undress Kerrington.

She just had let out a cry, and I saw streaks of red marker on the wall and her blanket.  "How in the world?" I thought before I noticed that the red marker was also on her clothes, and covering her hand.

That's when I realized that it wasn't marker.  She had been batting her hand against the air return vent as she often likes to do, and cut her finger.

I scooped her into my arms and assessed the wound.  While not particularly deep, the cut kept bleeding.  I held Kerrington while Reese ran to the bathroom and rummaged in the medicine cabinet for a band-aid.  Brooke, oblivious to the situation in a manner in which two-year-olds excel, entered the room and asked me to dress her Polly Pocket.

"Later," I said as I held Kerrington's arm and pulled open the band-aid wrapper with my teeth.

Brooke wasn't deterred.  "She needs her dress!  Her dress!"

Reese yelled, "But Kerrington is bleeding, Brooke!"

"She needs her dress!"

I wrapped the band-aid around Kerrington's finger.  Brooke trudged off, crying.  Instinctively, Kerrington drew her hand to her mouth and started sucking on the band-aid, a gesture which makes a mom take a quick inventory of which problem would be worse: a baby who's bleeding, or a baby who's choking on a Cars band-aid.

Blood is better.

But, being that I'm not a fan of blood, I still wanted that band-aid adhered.  Quickly, I tugged a sock over her hand as a make-shift barrier between her mouth and her finger.  She cried harder and flailed her little arm like a boxer uppercutting the air.

That's when Brooke reappeared and upped the ante.

"I need help.  I pooped."

Of course.  And being the helpful child that she is, she had stripped off her clothes, removed her pull-up, and attempted to toss the soiled pull-up into trash can in the bathroom.

She had missed.

Kerrington kept crying.  I hoisted her on my hip and started grabbing baby wipes.  "Brooke, don't move," I warned.  She froze momentarily like a deer in headlights, locked eyes with me, and took off.

Reese, seemingly dizzy with the unfolding drama, announced each nuance in play-by-play fashion: "I can't believe that Kerrington cut her finger.  She's bleeding!  Our poor baby is bleeding!  And Brooke is poopy, and her pull-up is on the floor!  There's poop on the floor!  Mom, she's so poopy.  Mom!  Look!  She sat down on the floor.  Brooke sat down on the floor and she's still poopy!"

And I looked.

And the events had transpired just like Reese had proclaimed.  And Kerrington, master of escape, had discovered how to remove the sock from her hand and was gnawing on the Cars band aid.  And Brooke began to cry.

It's all a bit blurry now, but I'm pretty sure that this was the moment when Reese climbed to standing on top of the bathroom sink.  "WHAT are you doing?" I shouted.

"I don't want to get poop on me!" she yelled, and proceeded to run in place is if she was a stereotypical housewife afraid of a mouse on the floor, or someone attempting to scurry to higher ground to avoid rising floodwater.

And that is when I remembered why I had come upstairs in the first place.  With all the crying, the undressed Polly Pocket, the bodily fluids, the choking hazard, and the open door to the laundry room providing the audible background of the filling washing machine, I had forgotten about the running bathwater entirely.

I lunged toward the bath tub, now sloshing full of water, and turned off the faucet.  In what seemed like slow motion, I surveyed the scene.

You know those moments in movies when the camera slowly pans across the protagonist's face when she's at wits end?  I caught one glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror: my sweatshirt splattered with bathwater and blood, a manic look in my eyes, a strained eruption of desperate laughter, and three children in the foreground -- one crying, one naked, and one yelling from her perch on top of the vanity.

Those two simple goals for the morning?  Clean kids, clean house?  They were a tad more challenging than I had anticipated.

Just a tad.

Interview in a Closet

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be interviewed on BlogTalkRadio by Paola Deininger of MommyTLC.  If this sounds glamorous, you need to recognize that the interview was conducted on the phone, which means that I was at home (which also means that I had locked myself in my bedroom closet to avoid being interrupted by my kids, and consequentially, was sitting next to a laundry basket full of dirty clothes.)

At any rate, Paola is the founder of MommyTLC, and since we've begun talking I've found her to be a genuine and interesting woman and fellow mother, one who has been extremely supportive of Pink Dryer Lint.

In the midst of the interview we ran into a technical glitch that resulted in 30 seconds of "off-air" silence.  I sat next to my laundry basket speculating that this probably wasn't the best way to launch a live interview with BlogTalkRadio and wondering why no one seems to use spaces between their words anymore, but otherwise, once we reconnected, Paola and I make a pretty coherent duo.

We particularly spoke about the post titled The First Last, which happens to be one of my sentimental favorites, too.

Check out the interview from the closet here, if you wish, and learn everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about Pink Dryer Lint.

We've Got a Crawler

As of today, Kerrington is eight months old.  She's been a prolific roller for months, turning and craning her body this way and that to arrive at her desired destination.  In the last few weeks she's been getting closer to crawling by inch-worming her way across a room.  She'd lift her body up onto her hands and knees, rock to gain momentum, and then lurch forward, advancing just slightly, ending up flat on her belly, and repeating the entire process:  upward push, forward launch, flattened landing, repeat.

But in the last few days it has become official.  We've got a crawler.  Kerrington is a Baby Who Crawls.

Oh, she's still gangly.  Legs and arms slip out from underneath her, causing her head to dip low as if she were bobbing for apples on our carpet.  She gets to a wall and freezes, unable to move in reverse, and reverts to rolling, her familiar method of locomotion.

When Reese, our oldest, learned to crawl she, too, rocked on her hands and knees and then would propel herself backwards, growing increasingly frustrated that the toy she wanted was now farther away.  Brooke, our middle child, learned to crawl quite early by reaching one arm forward and dragging her body behind her.  She cradled her other arm into her chest like a wounded soldier and dragged herself along, rarely pushing up.

And now the baby of the bunch has joined the ranks of crawling children everywhere, already showing a penchant for heading directly toward the most dangerous object on the ground.

There's no stopping her now.

An Awkward Facebook Encounter

I recently received an email notice that someone had tagged me in a Facebook album titled "Digital Pictures from 2000."  I didn't have to open the album to know that the photos weren't going to be flattering.

But, open the album I did, and my suspicion was confirmed.  They were awful.

It was a bad hair phase.  Let me be more precise:  It was a really bad hair phase.  I had gone to a salon to get highlights and a fresh cut for my college graduation.  Hours later when I left the salon I was too stunned to speak, but I do recall crying on my way back to my car.  I had never gotten highlights before.  I had anticipated a vibrant, sun-kissed look, but it came out frosted and harsh.  My once-long hair was cut into a short, unwieldy shag.  I looked much older than 22, and not in a good way.  A frumpy way.

Looking back through the lens of a decade, I don't know why I didn't revisit the salon and request that they fix my hair.  I wasn't happy with the results, but I never said anything.  I paid, gave a tip, and exited.  End of story.  I looked ridiculous for the next few months.  And, in the several years that followed, I had a few additional bad hair cuts about which I did nothing.

I hadn't thought about this for years until this fashion gaffe was made available for many to see through Facebook.  I was embarrassed.  I untagged myself from the photos.  I sent a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to the picture-poster: "If those pictures of me disappeared, trust me, I wouldn't mind!"

My thoughts festered.  I pulled out my old photo albums and critiqued my own unflattering pictures from this stage, feeling worse with each photo.

It was very unhealthy.

When I realized what I was doing, I made a point to sort though my emotions.  I hashed it out with God.  What I look like is not who I am.  My worth does not come from my appearance.  Somehow, in the abrupt reintroduction to this intensely awkward phase of life that I had forgotten about, I temporarily had lost sight of this obvious truth.

As a mom of three girls, I can't do that.  I am the woman they look to when they learn how women perceive themselves.  The comments I make about my hair, my skin, and my body are comments that will forge the backdrop of their understanding of womanhood and self-worth.

Years ago I vowed that I would not speak ill of myself in front of the girls -- or in general.  When I talk about exercise with the girls, I discuss being strong and healthy, not losing or maintaining weight.  I don't critique my hair or appearance.  When the girls look beautiful (which is a frequent occurrence because, gosh, they're cuties), I tell them that they're lovely -- and I tell them that they're funny, and smart, and interesting, and artistic, and kind.

When they grow up, I don't want them to stare into the mirror and not like who's looking back at them.  And ironically, what's on the outside will have less to do with this than what's on the inside.

There are plenty of physically beautiful women who are striving, ill-at-ease, and insecure.

What I want to demonstrate is the type of beauty that transcends looks.  The beauty of a gentle spirit.  The beauty of a kind word.  The beauty of encouragement.

Pictures don't catch that type of beauty.  Looks are fleeting, but real beauty endures.  That's what I want my girls to know.

And one more thing I'll eventually want them to know:  If they ever get a really bad hair cut, one that makes them cry and consider wearing a hat for the next few months, one that will someday be posted on Facebook by some unassuming friend, they still should go back and fix that thing.  They'll thank me for that, too.

Bread and Jelly

Partially through dinner this evening I turn around in my chair and notice that my five-year-old is at the kitchen island putting strawberry jelly on her bread.  Her garlic bread.

My words can't come out fast enough:  "Oh, no, no, no, no, no... You can't do that!"

She looks up at me, her hand already poised to bring the bread to her mouth, and simply says, "Why?"

Why?  Why?  Why?!  I run through a mental Rolodex of reasons:  Because garlic bread and strawberry jelly don't go together.  Because it's disgusting.  Because the match is just plain wrong, just like when you dipped your grapes into barbeque sauce last summer and when you let your ketchup bleed into your applesauce.

But I don't say any of this.  For one brief moment, I don't say anything at all.  I just look at that gelatinous glob of berry-red jelly on top of her garlic bread, shudder, and then yield.

"Go ahead."

I can't believe I'm saying it.  Reese can't believe I'm saying it.  "It's going to be good, you know," she adds before she takes a bite.

I turn back to my own dinner.  I can't watch.  We both finish our bread in peace.  Some battles are not worth fighting, and this is one of them.


Title:  Bundled

Subtitle:  Representing 20 minutes of wrangling children into snowsuits, 25 minutes of outdoor play, one minute of Brooke flailing her arms and legs like a potato bug when she ended up on her back in the snow before righting herself, and an eventual array of wet, discarded clothing down the hallway.  Ah, winter.  So worth it.

Wide-Open Spaces

It's January.  January is winter.  Winter is cold.  I'm of the mindset that it's not worthwhile to get worked up over weather, so I choose not to be bothered by the chill.  I layer my children in jackets, adjust the harnesses on their car seats to accommodate for the bulk, and remind them with great frequency to not rub their jackets along the side of the winter-filthy van as we're in the garage -- a reminder that goes over their heads because they are drawn to the van with an unparalleled magnetic pull.

I can almost hear their inner turmoil:  "Must wipe dirty van door with clean jacket.  Must wipe dirty van door with clean jacket.  Must wipe dirty van door..."

Anyway, this is what winter is about, which is why I want you to take one long look at this:

The beach.  I love wide-open spaces and panoramic views.  There's something about standing on the edge of the ocean that makes me feel alive, and tiny, and vastly insignificant, and then so very significant as I mull over the God who created the vastness of this world and still is interested in the most mundane facets of my life.

Wide-open spaces.  They're good for the soul.

What's interesting about this is that closeness -- not wide-openness -- is what I value as a mother.  When my kids snuggle close they feel secure.  I feel secure.  It's not uncommon that they'll have an entire room to place themselves and they'll wheedle into our laps or wedge their bodies directly beside ours.  They're always touching us.

Some days I simply want my space, but I've been in malls when teens are walking five paces ahead of their mothers.  It's a reminder to soak up all the physical closeness right now.  It won't always be the same.

Kids like closeness and familiarity.  It brings safety and security.  Even if it's less noticeable, we often feel this way as adults, too.  We pick the corner booth.  We find the chair in the inviting nook at the coffee shop.  We choose the same seats on the bus, at the meeting, or in the classroom.  We position ourselves in ways that feel safe.

Our kids do the same -- even in their play.  This Christmas I received a pair of earrings.  I nearly threw the box away, but then figured that the girls might like it.  Reese wanted to use it to store treasure.  Brooke wanted to convert it into a bed for her Strawberry Shortcake.

(Confession: I took one look at that and thought it looked more like a coffin than a bed, but rest assured, that Strawberry Shortcake is still well and kickin' in our household.)  Brooke was just making her cozy.

Wide-open spaces are good for the soul, but close spaces seem to be just as valuable.  I'm gathering my children close.  That's where they belong.

In Plain Sight

Every time she hears the garage door open, Brooke's mind becomes one-tracked.  No matter what she's doing -- eating, coloring, playing puzzles -- once this audible cue of someone's entrance into the house is detected, she is bent on one thing, and one thing only.

She's going to hide.

In Brooke's world, this means that she's going to run haphazardly around the room like an errant pinball as she decides whether she should climb behind the chair, shimmy under a blanket, or crawl under the table.

The best part?  As soon as the person enters the house, she yells out, "I'm hiding!"

What she lacks in being inconspicuous, she makes up for in being cute.

While playing hide-and-seek, she's the kid who who will answer the seeker's hypothetical questions, "Hmm... Now where ARE you?" with a cheerful, "I'm here!" as she climbs out of her hiding spot.  She's the kid who thinks you can't see her when she covers her eyes.

She's my little poster child for hiding in plain sight.

Swallowing Prey Whole

Reese steps off the school bus.  Her hair is messy, her leggings have a hole in the knee, her jacket hangs partially open, her bookbag droops down her back, and she's making a face of concentration as she sticks her tongue in the gap left by her first lost tooth.  She's a sight to behold. 

We come inside the house where she drops everything on the floor, takes off her shoes and socks, and flings herself onto the couch.  She shows me the book she selected from the school library:  Slinky Scaly Snakes.  She's enthralled with the picture of the python swallowing a gazelle.  "Are you serious?" she exclaims.  Her voice rises an octave on the word "serious."  "I never knew," she gasps. 

Her little sister walks over and cranes her neck so she can see, too.  It's become a family affair.  Sweet.

For the record, I, too, never knew that rock pythons could swallow entire gazelles.  Nor did I know that my child would bring a book home in kindergarten depicting this feat in a two-page, full-color, high-resolution photo, but that's another story.

We finish the book after reading lots of educational sentences like, "The snake sticks in its fangs into the animal.  The poison shoots through the fangs and into the animal's body.  It does not take long for the animal to die," and "Then the snake starts to squeeze tight... tighter... tighter.  Soon the rat's heart stops." 

Pretty much every page ends with some version of the snake swallowing its prey whole (or whole and headfirst, which I thought was a particularly heartwarming detail.)

She takes it all in stride and assures me that she will not touch a copperhead or a rattlesnake if she ever sees one.  I thank her for that.

We finish the book.  She sticks her tongue through the gap between her teeth and then launches into a song that she heard on the bus.

I'm pretty sure that it was just yesterday when this little person was wearing diapers and toddling around the house with her brown bear dangling by his arm in her clenched hand, and now she's not flinching when entire animals (animals larger than her, I should point out) are swallowed whole.  Headfirst.

Joel recently noted that in two short years, Kerrington will be two-and-a-half years old like Brooke is now.  Brooke will be close in age to where Reese currently is.  And Reese, our vivacious and headstrong firstborn who's still breaking us in to this parenting gig, will be something the likes of which we've never seen before.

She's molting, I tell you.  There's no stopping that girl from growing.

The First Last

The other evening I took Kerrington in my arms, settled into the rocker in her nursery, and nursed her for the final time.  The weight of the moment was palpable.  She's our last baby, and every last for her is a last for me.  That's hard.

I nursed her for nearly eight months.  The decision to wean, although emotional, had been made pragmatically.  Logically, I direly needed to use a topical medicine that I couldn't use while nursing.  Logically, weaning during the semester break would be opportune.  Logically, starting classes in the spring would be easier without pumping and rushing home to nurse before her next feeding.  Logically, I was beginning to lose too much weight.  

Sometimes I hate logic.

Because as I nursed that precious baby for the final time, I wanted to keep her little forever.  I wanted to bottler her up, soak her in, breathe her smell, stroke her silky hair, stare at her perfect profile, and rub her little pajama-clad back forever.  I didn't want to rush anything, and weaning was admitting that my baby was growing and that in one small way, she didn't need me anymore.

She fell asleep in my arms.  Her hand, dimpled and supple, curled around the hem of my shirt.

Her breathing was soft and steady.  I sat, rocking and marveling, and in that moment she embodied all three of my children.  She was a tangible representation of motherhood and its changing nature.  Some days, I daydream about an organized house, a basement purged of baby paraphernalia, and a daily schedule opened by having the children in school -- and other days, I simply don't want them to grow.  I don't ever want to let them go.

I didn't want to let go that night.

I held her and soaked in the moment, rocking, thinking, praying, and resting.  Finally I rose, walked to the crib, and lowered her for the perfect transfer.  She let out one soft cry, rolled onto her belly, tucked her knees under her slightly, and drifted into an even deeper sleep.

I left the bedroom, took one step, and cried at the completion of one of our very first lasts.  We'll have many more ahead of us.

Check out Then I Became a Mother: humor, hope, and encouragement for moms!  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

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Short and Sweet: Upside Down Mom

My favorite a-ha moment of the week in 100 or fewer words:

Slowly, Reese is learning to read.  During conversation she occasionally substitutes the spelling of a word for the actual word, making a recent exchange go something like this:

Reese:  "M-O-M."

Me:  "W-H-A-T?"

Reese (confused look):  "What?"

Me:  "Exactly."

She momentarily paused, frowned, and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Anyway," she continued, "M-O-M, did you know that the word "mom" is actually the word "wow" upside down?"

Indeed, I had known this.  I told her this was because I was pretty amazing ("wow-inspiring," to be exact).  She seemed to accept that explanation.


When Your Children Annoy You

Each morning my husband and I are woken by two children who have incredible deficiencies in the area of volume control.  They stumble out of their beds, exit their room, thud down the hallway bumping into walls and jostling each other for placement, swing open our door, announce Good Morning, crawl into our bed, and then talk -- daresay, shout -- as if they don't notice that Joel and I are burying our heads under our pillows, shushing them, and mumbling increasingly heightened orders to "be-quiet-before-you-wake-your-baby-sister-in-the-next-room."

They squirm.  They flop over and elbow us in the face.  They simmer down momentarily and then loudly ask for breakfast.  The baby wakes up.  It's abrupt.  It's loud.  It's like having an alarm set to chaos.  It's officially morning.

I go through phases when I have more patience with my kids.  (Feel free to infer from that statement that I also go through phases when I have less patience with my kids.)  The whining, the arguing, the incessant noise, the constant touching, the "accidentally" doing the exact thing that I just asked them not to do -- they can wear you down some days.

These are the days that my kids get on my last nerve, the days when my first nerve is my last nerve.

Yesterday I wrangled Brooke into the bathroom after she had run away from me, a floppy-haired, impressively elusive toddler who had thought it was great fun to wedge herself under the dining room table when all I wanted to do was plunk her down on the potty and get on with the day.  Can we not do anything in a streamlined fashion?

I waited until she was calm enough to listen, told her the importance of obedience, led her through an apology, and then waited as she properly used the bathroom.

Moments later, after we had washed and dried hands, she looked at me in the eyes, wrapped her arms around my neck in a close hug, and said, "I very sorry, Mommy.  I love you."

She reached up and touched my hair.  It was entirely unprompted.  My heart melted.  In the time it took for her to utter those sentences, my depleted reserve of patience was refueled.

Oh, you little noisy thing, you.  I love you, too.
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