Friday, February 28, 2014

Second Child Syndrome

It's kind of strange to look back on the days when Niall was Brendan's age.  Everything was completely different from one kid to the next.  I spent most of my time taking Niall to different "story times" all over the 10 mile radius, catching rides on the choo-choo train at the mall, and walking down to the Kensington train station to watch the freight cars whiz by.

I knew that things would be different when I had a second, but I can't believe that Brendan has never done any of those things!  That was seriously all I did with my first.  What did I do to fill my time with little B these last 2 years?

Oh, right, he just tagged along.

He tags along to Niall's playdates, he tags along for our field trips to "big boy" museums & places that Brendan has made quite obvious he is not ready to appreciate yet, he tags along and waits for Niall to take a break from the cool toys so that he no longer has to play with his "baby" ones, he tags along while Niall fills up his piggy bank and picks out poop prizes and decides what cereal they are going to eat that day.

No wonder the kid is so crazy assertive!

I spent so much time worrying about when Niall was going to stick up for himself at that age, when all of the other kids were pushing him around at the train table and snatching toys right out of his hands.  Niall would just stare up at me, defeated, and go find a different place to play.

None of that with my #2.  Some innocent kid touched Brendan's shoulder at the mall the other day and he instantly got this look of disgust on his face and screamed at him: "GET.... OFF.... OF... MEEE!!!!"  We were playing in that kids area at the mall (something I rarely would have done with Niall because "Oh, how disgusting those things are!".... now I am lucky if I remember to wash their hands after we leave) because it was one of those few days that I had some time to kill before picking Niall up from school.

After he verbally assaulted the kid who was trying to play with him, Brendan heard the "Choo Choo!!" in the distance and sprinted to the bench where he could climb up and see.  My boy was in complete awe and, with the most desperate, sad face, begged me "I want the choo choo!  I want to ride the choo choo!"  I am so used to dismissing almost everything Brendan demands, that I was ready to say "Not today", when I realized.... Brendan had never taken a ride on a mall train before!

In my mind, this is a complete travesty.  How could I have let this happen? .... Because it's $12 for 2 kids to ride with their mom for a 4 minute loop and a complete waste of money, but that's besides the point.

Suddenly, I realized how special it was to have some one-on-one time with B where we aren't running errands or rushing from one destination to the next.  I was actually really excited to ride this train with him and make him the center of attention for once.  He waved to every person who passed us and shouted "Choo Choo!" about 57 times.  He was so proud to be on that train.

Needless to say, totally worth it...

Yes, Niall has definitely done some pretty cool things in his heyday...

And sure, Brendan has been left out on more than one occasion...

But in the end, I think Brendan is happy to be able to tag along for all of his big brother's adventures.  From day 1, he has always been thrilled to come along for the ride.  And honestly, while he doesn't get as much attention (or a choice for that matter), his ride is probably much more exciting than Niall's ever was at such a young age.

Plus, he's got something pretty awesome that Niall never had at that age either...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Luckiest

Let me preface this by saying "Look who ruined Valentine's Day"...

Niall was sick the other day and while I was busy tending to his needs, Brendan decided to have a little adventure of his own.  There were 28 cards with lollipops and now I only have 11 cards with 9 lollipops (2 of which had been opened, licked and then stuck to the carpet).  The kicker is-- I can totally envision Brendan downing 19 lollipops (although not in the 10 minutes I wasn't paying attention); what I can't wrap my head around is how he injested the lollipop sticks, wrappers and cards, as well.  Seriously, it has been 3 days and I have searched every cabinet, trash can, toy basket, you name it.  The valentines are gone.  Luckily, Niall ended up being sick on the day of the Valentines Party anyway.  (My priorities lie with the valentine-less classmates and not my son's health).

Having said that...

My friend Sarah wrote a piece last week in response to a blog post where a child-less woman pointed out that most mom/dad bloggers make parenting sound like a total nightmare, scaring off anyone who may have been thinking about having a kid one day.

At first, I just thought that the whole thing was kind of a lame excuse for someone who wasn't really sure if they wanted to have kids in the first place.  Then, I thought a little more about why I write the way I do, and I acknowledged that it was because I need to find the humor in situations that sometimes make me want to pull my hair out.  But then I thought a little more and I realized that I rarely write about the small, quiet, almost unnoticeable moments of my day that make it all so worthwhile;  not because I don't appreciate them, but because they are almost something that can only be appreciated by me.

So I will try anyway...

First, I wake up to the sound of giggling, which immediately makes me smile.  I've been having a lot of trouble getting up this winter, just because it has been so brutal; but I am always excited to run into their room and scoop them up and hug them the second my eyes open.  Every single day, I squeeze them tight for a good minute and say "I'm so happy to see you this morning!" because it is the God's honest truth.  I can't help it; the words just pour out like the really annoying, crazy, over-enthusiastic mom characters that you only see in movies.

Then, I find myself inevitably running late-- because I can't seem to pull myself away when Niall suggests "Hey mom, you know what would be a great idea?!  We could snuggle together!"  So we take turns turns snuggling on the couch together because Brendan likes his own individual cuddle time, and this is all before we even make it to the breakfast table.

Once we get to the kitchen, we take turns doing knock knock jokes and making funny faces and talking about our dreams from last night and not eating our breakfast, but that's ok because Brendan and Niall have some pretty epic zombie faces that I can't seem to get enough of.

Next, I attempt to do yoga in the basement while watching the Today show, which is probably the biggest accomplishment of my day if I actually do it (and if I can actually walk away with one piece of non-hollywood-gossip news).  I typically stop after 10 minutes because I can only stay in "tree" for so long with 2 kids hanging from my balancing leg.  But that's ok, too, because they give me a good workout, and a good laugh.

When we go out to do our morning activity, I usually spend the whole time talking to the other moms because I am so excited to have real human contact, but whenever we go somewhere like a museum or zoo or nature center or any place of learning, I realize that I never knew I could feel such excitement from a place like that, because no matter how many times I have been there myself-- as a kid, teenager, adult-- you have never experienced anything until you have done it through the eyes of an awe-struck child.

Now here's the part where I give Brendan major props that he isn't normally so inclined to receiving--
Brendan then naps like an angel for 2 1/2 hours every day!  How's that for making you want a kid?! ... Buuuuuut, I'm about 99% sure that I have now jinxed myself and Brendan will be one of those kids who abruptly decides to stop napping immediately after he turns 2.

Scattered throughout all of the commotion of the daily grind, I crouch down to their level probably 5-10 times a day and ask them "Have I told you how much I love you today?"  Because if there's one thing I will never have to regret, it is telling my kids that I love them enough.  Whatever happens to them or me, nobody will ever have to wonder about that.

Once B wakes up from his nap, I run in and press his warm cheek up against mine and hug and kiss him and pet his bed head and whisper in his ear and imagine that time is standing still because I can feel that it is going by too fast already.  Then Niall runs in and tells Brendan that he has brought him a present (one of the toys he doesn't care about to prevent Brendan from getting into the ones that he does care about), to which Brendan repies "OH! Thank You Niall!!!".  Then, they hold hands and run off to the playroom together.  At which point, my heart melts.  Also at which point, 5 seconds later, I hear screaming and crying and fighting.  Sappy sweet moment over.  But more to come at some point in the distant future ;)

Then, we do dinner, cleanup, baths, laundry, stories and all kinds of things that make me wish there were just 2 more hours in a day.  But once I've tucked everyone in and had an hour to myself, I go back in to check on them.  And this is the part that really gets me day after day... I watch them sleep for a few minutes.  Even after 4 years, I like to put my hand on Niall's chest and make sure he is still breathing before I go to bed, and same for Brendan.  Maybe it is a superstitious habit, or maybe part of me thinks I can actually breathe them in and preserve a piece of them that I know will be gone tomorrow.

They look so peaceful while they sleep.  It's like that person who was screaming at me and making me want to go hide in the closet an hour ago is some complete stranger.  A lot of nights, I can't stop the tears from streaming down my face as I'm stroking their sleeping heads--partly because I'm just so unbelievable grateful and I can't believe how lucky I am-- but also because I know that other parents haven't been so lucky; that they've had their everything snatched away from them in an instant.

I can't help but think "Why not me?"  It's not like anyone deserves something like that, so what is giving me immunity and how can I hold onto that?  Even if I am spared, I still can't stop asking myself: how are those other parents going to go on living?  Where is the light at the end of the tunnel for them?  I just feel their pain so much, I can't even allow myself to think about it.

So then I kiss my little angels' foreheads and go back to my room and pray "PLEASE Please Please please let me be so blessed and lucky" over and over and over again, until I finally fall asleep.  Because a thousand pleas for their happiness, health, and safety would never be enough.

Then I wake up to giggling.

... and I smile because I realize that I've been given another day with those sweeties, and I remember that no matter what craziness this day has in store for me, I am truly the luckiest.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Serious Snow Day

I have to admit, I'm pretty embarrassed about this post I wrote a few weeks ago-- totally ecstatic about the measly 3 inches of snow we got.  I was going on and on about how Niall had never really experienced a "good snow" up until that point.  (He was 2 or 3 months old when that crazy blizzard hit in February of 2010, but other than that, he really hasn't seen a good snow since.)

These are the pix from that "snow day"...

Pathetic!  I can't believe I busted out the sled for that-- you can almost see as much grass as snow... Granted, this was a good 24 hours after the snow had stopped, but still.  

If you're looking for a real snow day, I think this might be more of what you'd have in mind:

Poor Brendan could barely even walk through it.  We had to steer him through our already-made footrpint paths so he wouldn't get swallowed.  And even then, he barely made it without his boots getting sucked off each time he tried to pick up his leg.  

There were times when he was into it... 

and times when he just wasn't...

But Niall was all in.  I've never seen such amazing packing snow.  You could literally stick your hand in and pull out a fully formed snow ball. So naturally, we had to make a snowman.  But not just a regular snowman-- a ninja turtle snowman.  And not just a ninja turtle snowman--  Dogpound.  One of the bad guys.  Have you seen what this guy looks like?
I would like to note that Niall has nightmares about small, harmless bugs that he reads in his science books, but not the bad guys from Ninja Turtles.  In fact, he has collected the action figures for almost all of them and likes to sleep with them.  My personal favorite is called Rat King; he is basically a mummy wearing a big black hat and cape, with rats perched all across his shoulders.  He is completely terrifying, but the only thing that motivated Niall to stop pooping in his pants for a good 2 weeks.  So welcome to the family, Rat King.

Anyhoo, we had just gotten our 3 pieces put together when Niall threw out this request for a Dogpound snow sculpture.

By the way, Brendan was a total work horse when it came to this snowman.  He never once took a break.  Just kept grabbing snow and packing it on there-- with these infant mittens that have no thumbs (a little bit of a cruel trick, but I'm pretty sure that he is used to being constrained in a variety of different ways by now).

So we worked all morning on the spikes for his back...

And then we were going to come back later to do the face...

Nailed it!

Come to think of it, I guess he was a little bit lop-sided.  But hey, there's always tomorrow.

Playing in the snow is fun and all, but I equally love the coming inside to warm up part.  It's so great how snow is this totally valid excuse for everything... like how super sized amounts of sugar and junk food and movies are perfectly acceptable-- but only because it's a snow day.  Which I can always get on board with... because I would never do anything of the sort unless it was a snow day ;)

Commence sugar rush...

Happy Snow Day!