10 Things My Four Year Old Doesn’t Give a Shit About

This list may or may not have been written during moments of frustration over the past few months…

Sleep. Okay, I can’t really complain about my kids when it comes to sleep because relatively speaking, they have all caught on to the idea that normal humans sleep at night.

But Calvin’s of the opinion that sleep is for the weak and really only gives in when his body can no longer remain upright.

He stopped napping at two years old. Despite the fact that he doesn’t stop moving from the time he wakes up. Which is probably why he passes out at a reasonable time. His body simply runs out of gas.

But if it were up to him, he would be mastering his ninja skills into the wee hours. And lately, he has apparently leveled up and been rewarded with extra energy, because he is now fighting sleep harder than before.

He runs and flips and zooms his cars when the rest of us are wearing down. We all want to snuggle in bed and he is all “Peace out, fuckers. Imma just stay here and burn the house down.”

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“So you think I’m going to go to sleep?  Here’s what I think about that.”

Potential injury. He is my daredevil child. From the moment that he was mobile, he was trying to climb. From the moment he could walk, he was trying to jump.

I never leashed any of my children, but with him, I’m wondering why I didn’t.

He darts in grocery stores or parking lots. He runs toward swimming pools sans floaties or other life saving devices. He is forever doing “tricks”, which involve cartwheels and handstands near brick fireplaces and coffee tables. He jumps off of furniture and finishes with a somersault.

Every five minutes, I am bracing myself for our first trip to the emergency room.

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He thinks he’s Spider-Man.  He is not.

What anyone else wants. He thinks that he’s the king of the world and that what he wants is paramount to what anyone else wants.

His show better be on TV or be prepared for a meltdown. The family is having chicken for dinner? Nope, he wants spaghetti. I want to listen to Dave on the car radio? He wants Twenty One Pilots.

Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean that he gets what he wants. And we don’t give in to his tantrums. But that’s just it… it’s all a battle of wills. We win, but not without a bit of torture.

He’s a four year old tyrant, hellbent on being in charge of the house. So we have to deal with the fallout when we break the news to him that he is not, in fact, the sole decision maker in the family.

Inside voices. As soon as he found his voice, he has never stopped using it. I always say that his body and his mouth are moving from the time that he gets up until he passes out. And he is LOUD. Whether he is playing with his cars or throwing a fit or chasing his sisters, he is almost guaranteed to be yelling or providing us all with movie quality sound effects.

My hope is that once he starts kindergarten, he will figure out what acceptable volumes are. Otherwise I will probably hear him all the way on my end of the building.

Clothing. More often than not, my son is missing at least one piece of clothing. Modesty isn’t something that he is concerned with.

In his defense, he does get hot easily and is prone to sweating. Probably because his activity level is on overdrive.

But nonetheless, he could at least be wearing appropriate attire. The most common item of clothing that he has done without? Pants. Also underwear, but almost definitely pants. He could be wearing a sweatshirt, but his bottom half will be almost bare. It doesn’t matter if it’s 80 degrees or 20 degrees, he doesn’t have any interest in wearing a full outfit.

We are usually able to wrangle him into something presentable when we leave the house, but at home, you never know how much of Calvin’s body you’re going to see.

Most of Delanie’s friends have seen his penis. He doesn’t care and over time, neither do they. They just expect for him to be half naked when they come over.

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In his defense, I told him to put his underwear on…

Tidiness. If you come over to my house, you can expect to see his cars everywhere. He can’t just play with a few at a time, he needs at least 30 to accomplish whatever race or crash he’s trying to create. He loves arranging them on the coffee table, but he also makes them fly across the hardwood floors and you have to tread lightly unless you want to step on one and go flying.

And lately, his toy explosions have extended to Legos, and we all know how dangerous those suckers are. So our house has basically transformed into a death trap. Be warned.

Public scrutiny. The girls would be punks at home, but when we were out in public, they behaved like angels.

So the first time that Calvin threw a tantrum in public, I froze. Totally appalled and embarrassed and helpless. I didn’t know how to navigate this foreign territory.

What would people think? That my child had been possessed by a demon? That he had been previously raised by wolves?That I was the most unfit parent they’d ever seen?

I have since developed a thicker skin and deal with his fits in a more experienced manner. Like the one time when he wanted to be carried while I was pushing the grocery cart. Walking was unacceptable, as was sitting in the cart. So here I am, pushing the cart with a screaming toddler hanging off of me like a damn monkey. And I somehow managed to do it without completely losing my shit.

Where’s my award for Mom of the Year? Because I earned it in that moment.

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The world is Calvin’s personal toilet.

The word “no”. In Calvin’s world, everything is up for negotiation. Every request is met with a “but”.

So while he hears us when we tell him not to do something or that he can’t have something, he’s just not willing to accept “no” as an answer.

With the girls, in the worst of times, they would reluctantly follow directions. They didn’t defy or refuse. (At least until Delanie became a preteen.) So reasoning with a slightly evil munchkin is not something that I have a lot of experience with. He’s not going down without a fight. And even then, the fight is more of a game to him, which is completely exhausting to us.

Consistency is key, yeah yeah yeah. And nine times out of ten, I stick to my guns. But there is the occasional moment when I am on the brink of insanity and just have to give in. You know that Mom of the Year award that I potentially earned? This is the moment when it was ripped from my hands.

Education. Kids of this age are tiny sponges, absorbing the world around them and seeking mental stimulation. You know what Calvin has absorbed? The names of various models of cars. The most effective ways to beat up his sisters. Every way to drive his mother up the wall. You know what he hasn’t absorbed? Books. Letters. The ability to properly hold a pencil or crayon. The girls were far more interested in these things. He’s listened to too much Pink Floyd, practically yelling “I don’t need no education!”

I’ve already established that he doesn’t stop moving from sun up until sun down. So why would I have ever thought that he would let me read to him? He starts kindergarten this year and as an educator who works at the school that he’ll be attending, I feel like a failure. People try to reassure me that it’s okay and normal and blah blah blah. I wish that made me feel better. It doesn’t. I can only hope that when he gets to school, he will see that the other kids are doing this shit and he’ll follow suit.

Or he’ll be the next Jackie Chan. After all, he’s well on his way with his plethora of ninja moves.

Time. Yours or anyone else’s. Like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he doesn’t care how, but he wants it now. The world has to stop turning when he wants his drink refilled or his Lego man put into its helicopter perfectly. His time is more important than yours. Apparently this should be common knowledge, damn it.

Oh, it’s only 12:30? But he wants to watch Rusty Rivets! But wait… it doesn’t start until 1:00? That’s unacceptable! Calvin’s clock says that it’s supposed to start whenever he wants it to! Calvin’s clock doesn’t follow any rules!

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And just when I thought I was ready to throttle him, he goes for the dapper look.

My son is proof that no matter how many years of parenting you have under your belt, you still don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. That even if you’ve done an average or, dare I say, above average job with some of your children, you may feel like you’re failing most of the time with others. That children who were created from the same combination of DNA are still somehow completely different.

But as difficult as he can be, I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.

Yes, I’m a Grinch: Why I Hate Christmas and Other Tales

I haven’t always hated Christmas. As a child, I thought it was one of the most magical times of year… pretty lights, Santa, presents, TV specials, and snow. And I didn’t have a traumatic experience that served as a catalyst to my change of opinion, like Phoebe Cates in Gremlins with her sob story of how her dad broke his neck in the chimney while pretending to be Santa.

I just grew up and started seeing through the holiday induced fog.

So behold, my list of all of the reasons why I hate the Christmas season:

I’m an atheist. I felt like this needed to be at the top of my list, based on principle. Christmas and other Christian holidays are generally not a non-believer’s cup of tea. I mean, I could sit here and say that my evolution of religious views was the catalyst, but I’d be lying. I (mostly) happily celebrated Christmas when I was in college, and I identified as agnostic (at best) back then. And while I do realize that it’s more than a little hypocritical to celebrate Christmas as an atheist, it’s important to note that I am literally surrounded by believers. It’s difficult to check out of the holiday entirely when your family is counting on you. But I won’t pretend that I’m not a little bitter about the whole thing. Keeping my mouth shut and posing as something I’m not is no fun, even if it is for the sake of keeping the peace and maintaining that magical veil for my kids.

Commercialism/materialism. I know that many people are trying to move away from this aspect of Christmas, but this particular mindset is still impossible to avoid unless you become a hermit for two months out of the year. And if you have cable, hermit status won’t even protect you from it. Black Friday has always been bad enough, but now retail employees are having to miss Thanksgiving with their families because they’re forced to work to please the masses. People are violently busting through doors and attacking one another over the last $20 bluray player or something equally ridiculous. Again, I’m no saint. I’m guilty of waiting in line outside of Target at 3 AM to take advantage of the doorbuster deals, but not anymore. I refuse to take part in it. My family as a whole is trying to live simpler and want less. And we do the four gift rule – something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read – our way of keeping our consumption under control.

Stress. A day that should be spent enjoying the company of my family is one of the most stressful of the entire year for me. Leading up the big day, I have to plan gifts and hide gifts and wrap gifts and put up fucking decorations. I don’t enjoy any of these things. Then, on Christmas Eve night, Daniel and I have to sneak Santa’s gifts into the house ninja-style. And I don’t know why, but before Delanie’s first Christmas, I came up with the brilliant stupid idea to make Santa’s gifts look like they came straight from his workshop. No wrapping, no packaging, all put together and ready to play with. Great in theory, not so much in execution when you’re cursing as quietly as possible while you unbox and put together each thing, desperately trying not to wake your lightly sleeping children. And then, the day of, I have to clean up wrapping paper and packaging and make three kids stop playing with their new stuff long enough to get properly dressed and out the door as we head off to spend the day with our families. There is absolutely nothing fun about anything that I just mentioned. Nothing. Except that I forgot to mention that I always make sure there’s wine. That’s fun.

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This is the face of holiday spirit

Cold weather. I live in the midwest, so I get to experience winter in its truest form. Granted, we occasionally have mild and snow-free Christmases, but the frigid weather is never too far behind. I don’t like cold weather. I don’t like snow. I have Raynaud’s Phenomenon… anyone out there know what that is? It’s basically a complicated way of saying poor circulation in your extremities. It is obviously at its worst during the cold months. I will go out to my van (which is parked in the garage) and my fingers will instantly turn white and numb. And it takes them approximately two days (okay, more like 1-2 hours) to return to some semblance of normal. I promise, it’s as fun as it sounds. And snow, that evil white shit that piles in my driveway, requiring me to shovel before I can leave the house. All of that alone is bad enough, but worse yet, there’s ice. I have broken my tailbone twice from falling on my ass when it’s NOT slick outside. I clearly don’t need much to make me go flying, so the addition of ice makes me extremely nervous. And in Indiana, we get a lot of ice.

Loss of a close family member. My dad always loved Christmas, so I feel the weight of his absence more heavily this time of year. I know he would be telling me to get my head out of my ass and not let him be part of the reason why I can’t enjoy the holiday season, but that’s much easier said than done. Even the happy moments are laced with sadness over the fact that he can’t be here to experience them. I’m sure that others who have lost close family members can relate to this.

So as you can see, I have a pretty solid argument against this time of year. But despite all of that, I still put up a tree and scatter various trinkets around my house. I still assist the kids in baking something for Santa and setting out carrots for the reindeer. I still go through the motions of making this holiday just as magical for my kids as it was for me, because it’s not their fault that their mom is a Grinch. Hell, I might even be worse than a Grinch… my heart isn’t likely to grow three sizes where Christmas is concerned. But as a mother, I’ve endured crazier things for less.

I don’t write this to deter others from sharing their holiday joy and spirit with the world. Go for it, it’s your holiday. But not everyone finds this time of year to be the most wonderful, as the song would suggest. And I am one of those people.

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But at the end of the day, this is what Christmas looks like

I Know a Balance Exists, I Just Haven’t Found It Yet

I’m fully aware that I’ve been quiet over here, but there’s a (somewhat) good reason for that! I got a job! As an instructional assistant at my middlest’s elementary school, the school where my oldest spent six years of her life and the school where my youngest will start in less than two years (*sobs*). And so far, I am really, truly loving it.

But I also have yet to find that magical work/home life balance. So I’m sort of spinning in this spiral of chaos and confusion and dirty laundry, desperately trying to grasp a few moments where I’m not completely exhausted and can manage to get things accomplished around the house.

Lots of moms work outside the home and manage to keep a clean and organized house, cook dinner, transport kids to activities, and still practice some semblance of self care. I know it can be done. But it’s sure as hell not happening around here. At least not yet.

I should also add that between the time spent staying late at work and/or working from home in the evenings, my husband is working 60+ hour weeks. I can’t expect him to pick up the slack. If we were working the same number of hours, I’d be all “Get your ass in the kitchen and make dinner tonight! Mama’s tired.” Some nights he even has, which sort of makes me feel like a jerk. But as it is, I just don’t have another adult available to share the burden of housework.

I think what it boils down to is this… I have been a stay at home mom for over nine years. NINE YEARS! My family doesn’t exactly remember a time when I wasn’t here to do every little thing. So I think they might be having a harder time adjusting to my new life as a working mom than I am.

Filling my days when I stayed at home was not difficult. There was always plenty to do… the husband and kids made sure of that. Now I’m short eight hours each day. So I need to make those few hours I do have each night (barring total exhaustion) extremely efficient.

How do I do that? Enlist the help of my three minions, of course! Which in their eyes, makes me the absolute worst mother in the world. “WHY did you have to go back to work?!?”, they shout through tears. “Because not only are you guys getting freaking expensive, but your brother is driving me insane and I need to get out of this house,” I reply.

My response is 100% accurate, by the way. Yes, the girls are getting more expensive as they get older. We have been making it work, but not without a lot of stress that I would like to lessen on both of us. But the larger part is that being home all day, every day with my son was pushing me to a place that I didn’t like. And honestly, I’ve only started feeling that way over the past nine months or so. I’ve had two kids at home with me at a time without a problem… just having him here should be a walk in the park. But no. More like a walk across hot coals. Powering through it as quickly as possible with your eyes on the finish line the entire time. I was bordering on needed a straitjacket.

All three kids have a chore list. Of course the Ninja’s is minimal, but the girls have legit housework to help with. Because this is the only way that things are going to get done. They may hate it. I may hate having to enforce it (especially when it’s not done as well as I would have done it). But it’s a necessary evil. And a good life lesson. Not only do these entitled little turds need to learn some responsibility, but they are now realizing just how much I did as a stay at home mom. How worthwhile and difficult and valuable that choice is.

My going back to work has been a struggle on all of us, but ultimately, I think it’s making me a better mom when I’m home. I have more patience. I appreciate my time with them more. My knee jerk reaction when they do or say something distasteful isn’t to throw them out the window. I don’t actually do that, but OH how I’ve wanted to. All good things.

And my job is great. I’m on the same schedule as my kids, I love teaching other kids (and I’m already getting attached to them), and I have the best co-workers in the world. I have a purpose outside of my home and outside of the lives of my own kids. That’s pretty rad.

But no, we haven’t found a balance yet. But I think we will. I hope we will.

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I Have Found My Village

Everyone’s heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” Apparently it’s an African proverb, which would make a lot of sense, but it really only gained attention when Hillary Clinton said it. Regardless, you’ve heard it. Maybe you live by it and maybe you don’t, but here’s my tale…

When I was pregnant with my oldest and even when she was very young, I resented the idea of “the village”. I didn’t want a village. I didn’t need a village. I’m the mother and it’s my responsibility to make this work, to raise this tiny being into adulthood. How dare they suggest that a mother can’t do this without a group of people helping her?!?

My mom wanted to help with her… hold her, diaper her, feed her when possible. My take on that was that I was actually doing my mom a service. It had been years since she’s been able to spend time with a baby and a grandchild is supposed to be the greatest gift. OF COURSE she would want to spend time with her granddaughter. Who am I to deny her of that?!? She wasn’t doing these things because I needed her to, she was doing them because she wanted to. Even now, when she keeps all three of my kids, she swears up and down that she wouldn’t do it if she didn’t want to. I call bullshit, especially with the older two arguing like cats and the three year old hanging off of her like a leech.

But my mom is family, and family doesn’t count. Family isn’t part of the village, right?

Even when I had my second kid and my oldest was three, I didn’t need anyone’s help. Sometimes they offered and sometimes I let them, but I didn’t need it. Sure, my parents would usually keep the girls when Daniel and I went out for our anniversary or either of our birthdays, but if they weren’t around, we just would have managed and stayed home with a movie and take-out. It wasn’t a matter of survival, it was a matter of luxury. Of convenience. And again, they’re family. Still not a village.

So maybe I got through about five or six years without a village, if family doesn’t count. That’s success, damn it! It wasn’t until Delanie finished kindergarten that I started to see the benefits of having a village.

See, when kids have been in school for a little while, they start to make friends. And they want to start hanging out with those friends. Playdates at our house, playdates at their friends’ houses. And THEN it turns into more than playdates. Outings here, there, and everywhere. Outings that involve carpooling. And THEN it turns into sleepovers. Those are the work of some demonic entity, set on torturing parents (usually mothers) with endless giggling, shrieking, and arguing.

But when friends come into the picture, so do their parents. For some people, the thought of meeting and socializing with other parents is terrifying. For others, it’s a dream come true and a long-awaited side effect of parenting.. For me, I was indifferent. But I would do what was necessary to allow my kid to form bonds with other kids and to blossom socially.

Little did I know, when I opened the door to new friends and their parents, I was going to make some pretty fantastic friends of my own. And in doing so, I may have let them into my village to help me raise my children.  Behold as I proceed to eat some crow.

Early on, it was just nice to have someone take my kids off my hands for a couple of hours in an effort to entertain their own. But as time went on, it became so much more. If my kid and their kid were going to the same event at school, I would offer to drive their kid with mine while they picked them both up. Half the hassle disappeared, just like that. We have one another on speed dial (who am I kidding, more like in a recent text message thread) if emergencies pop up. One friend in particular has a kid Delanie’s age and a kid close to Elysa’s age, so we do kid swaps… I take the bigs while she takes the littles, or vice versa. They treat my kids like their own and I do the same with theirs.

We rely on one another… A LOT. And for more than just help with our kids. We call one another to rant or gush, we go out for margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant or have wine nights at someone’s house. We are soul sisters, if you will. Our kids may have brought us together, but they are not what are keeping us together.

I know that come hell of high water, I have a group of women (and some men) who are there for my kids. And me. Just like I am there for them and their kids.

I have found my village. The one I never thought I wanted or needed. And it’s better than I could have ever imagined.

Since my mom is bound to read this, I want to make it clear that I appreciate each and every little thing she has done for me and my kids. And maybe she actually is a part of the village. The difference is, with her, I knew I’d be happy to accept her help. With others, I wasn’t so sure. But now I am. So there.

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To Elysa On Her Eighth Birthday

This was written yesterday, but it didn’t get posted until today because we were too busy having fun!

Sometimes I feel that as the middle child, you get screwed out of a lot of things. But you, my dear, are the first to get a birthday dedication in my blog. And that is something special.

So today, my sweet Ellie Bean, you turn eight years old. I’d say that it doesn’t seem possible, since it really does seem like only moments ago that you were a baby. But I also struggle to remember what my life was like without you in it. You have filled a hole in my heart that I didn’t know was there.

Everything about your existence was planned, but you taught me very quickly that all the planning in the world couldn’t prepare me for what you would bring to my life, to the world. The good and the bad.

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Back when your sister actually adored you.  Crazy, right?

I went to the hospital on the morning of August 20th, 2007 thinking that I knew how this would go down. I already had your sister, I was a birthing expert, for crying out loud! But no, oh no, the only thing that “went down” as I expected was that I got a baby out of it in the end. I didn’t know that you were positioned face up and would torture me with hours of back labor. I didn’t know that my epidural wouldn’t take full effect and I would end up feeling more pain than I ever imagined. I didn’t know that when the doctor broke my water, you would bring your tiny hand above your head and grab the doctor’s finger. And trust me, he didn’t either. But after all of that, at 10:17 pm, you graced us with your presence.

You weighed nearly a pound more than your big sister and were an inch and a half shorter, ElysaBabywhich resulted in this chubby little ball of perfection with curly hair that the nurses swore was red. I just thought that they were seeing the blood, but it turns out that they were right. I held you and nursed you and held you some more. I didn’t want to let you go. You made me realize immediately that I could, in fact, love someone as much as I loved my first child.

You were an incredibly fussy baby, with tummy troubles that extended even into toddlerhood. That was hard, but I knew it wasn’t your fault. You were also an incredibly needy baby. I know what you’re about to say… aren’t babies supposed to be needy? Well, sure, they are completely dependent. But your sister was happy to sit in her bouncer or swing or let someone else hold her. You were not. If I wasn’t holding you, if you couldn’t feel my body pressed against yours, you were not happy. And if we’re being honest, not much has changed over the past eight years. You still want to be near me, touching me, cuddling me. I swear you’d crawl back into the womb if you could. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t actually enjoy it most of the time. I love that you love me as much as you do, unconditionally.

And your CHEEKS! Your cheeks were chubby and adorable the moment you were born and Elysa3they only became chubbier and more adorable as time went on. I wondered how a baby’s face could possibly stretch like that to accommodate them. I smooched them constantly back then and I still do today. Of course they’re not quite as chubby anymore, but you still have the sweetest, round little face that makes my heart melt.

But as the years have passed, you have shown me exactly what lies behind those ice blue eyes of yours. You have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. You are generous to the point that I worry about you being taken advantage of in this selfish and greedy world, but I refuse to crush that giving soul of yours. You are a natural caretaker, a natural mother. You always do for others before you do for yourself. That sort of kindness isn’t common in adults, let alone in children. The world has a lot to learn from you, little one.

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           You made this face a lot.  Probably because I put stupid crap like that on your head.  Can’t say that I blame you. 

And your brilliance. I can’t even explain in words the joy I feel when I watch you devour books and teach your brother everything you think he should know. Educating the little dude should be my job, but you’ve taken that responsibility upon yourself and I am just going to roll with it. He responds to you and looks at you with such awe and admiration. Why would I ever take that experience away from the two of you?

You’ve also grown into this amazing little gymnast who loves the sport more than almost anything else in the world. I adore your excitement and passion for the bars and beam. You improve at each lesson and I am ridiculously proud of you and the progress you’ve made.

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This picture sums up our relationship perfectly.  Always attached.

And because of your kindness and spirit, you make friends easily. Kids gravitate toward you. Some even tackle you with hugs the moment you walk through the door. This warms my heart because not only do other people see what I see, but you are already having an easier go at socializing than I did at your age. And I don’t know a parent who doesn’t want their child’s life to be better and smoother than their own.

One day, you won’t be a little girl anymore and you won’t really be mine anymore, either. That makes me a little sad. But what I really hope is that as you venture out into the world, you don’t lose the things that make you who you are. Your kindness, your generosity, your spirit. You are beautiful and amazing and I love you more than I can say. It’s been a wonderful eight years and I am so lucky to have you.

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So grown, but always my baby.

Our First Family Vacation

This may seem hard to believe, but this July, we took our first “real” vacation as a family. A vacation with all five of us (plus my mom). A vacation that required planning and saving. A vacation that took my husband and children to a place that they had never been to before.

We went to St. Petersburg, Florida, which may not seem like THAT big of a deal, but it involved a lot of firsts for my family. It was the first time Elysa and Calvin had been to the beach. And while Daniel and Delanie have both been to the Atlantic Ocean before, they had never seen the Gulf of Mexico. It was the kids’ and Daniel’s first time on a plane that actually took them somewhere. Daniel went on a plane when he visited Kitty Hawk as a child and Delanie went on a small plane at a tiny local airport with Girl Scouts. They went up, flew in a circle, and came back down. That hardly counts, right?

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Beach life looks good on Sir Calvin

My mom’s cousin, who we’ve always been very close with, was getting married on the beach at a resort in St. Pete. Ordinarily, going to a destination wedding isn’t something we would even consider. But this time? My mom and I really started thinking about it and it became more and more of a possibility. We can do this, right? We can afford this if we start saving now.

Admittedly, the initial plan was for just my mom and I to go. Cheaper, less stress, etc. But then the guilt started catching up with both of us. We decided to make it a big family vacation. So between my family and my mom, we pooled the money together and paid for five round trip plane tickets to Tampa, Florida and a suite at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete.

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The Brewer men, digging in the sand

Now, if it had just been Daniel and I, a resort is probably not the route we would have taken. We’re low maintenance. Give us direct access to the beach and that’s really all we need. The kids, however, really loved everything that the resort had to offer. Several pools, a huge inflatable water slide on the beach, paddle boats, movies in the pool every night, etc. And the fact that their cousins were there made the experience that much more fun for them. They had a blast.

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She was young and wild and free

But let’s be honest, a vacation with kids isn’t really a “vacation” for the adults. The packing, preparation, and traveling alone makes you question your sanity when you decided that this trip was a good idea. I did the packing for myself and three kids. Expecting my husband to handle any of that would have resulted in the kids getting down there without any underwear. Then we had to wake up at the asscrack of dawn to catch our flight. Again, I was responsible for getting myself and three children ready and out the door. And then there’s an 11 year old with flying anxiety and a three year old who just suddenly stops walking in the middle of the airport because he wants to be carried and you nearly trip over him in the process. All before you’ve even boarded the damn plane.

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This basically sums up Delanie’s opinion of sand… skeptical.

And even once you’ve reached your desired destination, you’re still on mom and dad and grandma duty from sun up to sun down. You’re making sure they don’t drown or kill each other in the pool. You’re making sure the waves don’t drag them away or that they don’t get eaten by a shark (or stung my a stingray, which was a more realistic concern). You’re telling the three year old over and over not to throw sand. You’re applying copious amounts of sunscreen and helping with swimsuits and floaties and providing them with food upon request because swimming makes them hungry. I never got to lay on a hammock and read like I had hoped. Daniel and I really only got a couple of opportunities to walk on the beach alone at night. And no, “walking on the beach alone” isn’t code for something more exciting, we really just love doing that. Don’t get me wrong, my mom helped out a lot, particularly with Calvin. But with three kids, there’s always something to be done.

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This was around the time that we spotted a legit stingray.  Yeah…

When we got home, I sort of felt like I needed a vacation to recover from our vacation.

But the exhaustion and work were absolutely worth it. My kids experienced five days of pure joy. Swimming, running through the surf, searching for shells, chasing dwarf clams as they buried themselves in the sand, eating sno cones, barreling down the breathtakingly fast water slide, and spending almost every moment with the cousins that they don’t get to see often enough. They made memories that they will keep forever.

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Six cousins, all dressed up before the wedding

And you know what? Having these moments with them was enough to make it a completely enjoyable vacation for me, too. Combing their curly, beach tousled hair, smelling the salt water and sunscreen on them, putting them to bed at the end of a busy day and watching them pass out cold within a matter of seconds. Just to get up the next morning and do it all over again.

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This.  This is what makes it all worth it.

Calvin keeps asking when we’re going back to Florida. Daniel and I are in no hurry and neither is our bank account, but with Daniel’s grandparents recently moving down to Port Orange (Florida, on the Atlantic side), beach vacations might not be quite so few and far between for our family.

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Who am I kidding?  Stormy beaches are the real reason I came.

The Baby Oven Has Been Closed For a Year… and I’m Still Okay With It

I love babies. I’ve loved babies since I was old enough to be aware of them.

I’m an only child, so I admittedly had minimal access to babies and that may have impacted my opinion of them. As far as I was concerned, they were the most amazing things that I had ever laid eyes on. And I didn’t understand why my friends who had baby siblings didn’t appreciate them like I did.

From the age of eight, I was dead set that I was going to have AT LEAST ten babies. I wanted to be a Duggar before the Duggars had five children of their own. Even at 18, I wanted an army of kids. At least I thought I did.

Then at 21, after an extremely low-key and virtually painless labor and delivery, I had a baby. A beautiful, perfect, cherubic baby girl. Delanie really was the easiest kind of baby… mellow and content and slept like a champ. The kind of baby that most parents don’t believe exists. My transition into motherhood was about as smooth as anyone could dream of. But it was still fucking hard. BABIES are fucking hard

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                                                   A picture of a picture, but adorbs nonetheless.                                                     The little roly poly who made me a mother, 11 years ago.

After Delanie, I knew I wanted more kids. But that dream of having ten kids? BUH-BYE.

We waited until Delanie was two and out of diapers before we started thinking about having another. And we bought a house… that was contingency #1. I got pregnant in late 2006 and had Elysa about a month after Delanie’s 3rd birthday.

Elysa. OH, ELYSA. I’m convinced that my little ginger was trying to kill me in utero, and again when she made her grand entrance into the world. It was storming on that particular August day in 2007 and Daniel said that only evil babies are born during storms. At the time, I’m pretty sure he was just screwing with me. Now I’m not so sure. Especially since she put me through hell that day, as I labored on my back, immobile, but still feeling everything that I didn’t want to feel.

Elysa wasn’t a bad baby… only because I don’t believe in bad babies. I believe in difficult babies. I believe in high needs babies. I believe in exhausting and frustrating babies who make you question your decision to procreate. Yes, I just said that. But when you’re in the midst of it all, hanging on by a thread, you start to think things that you don’t really want to be thinking. Of course I don’t still believe that, but I might have at the time.

I mean, it was sink or swim, and I couldn’t sink because I had another kid to take care of. In order to get through that first year (or first few years), I mustered up every ounce of energy, every ounce of patience, and every ounce of love that I could find. We got through it (with a lot of help from babywearing), because that’s just what you do. Elysa has grown into an awesome big kid. But she is still my little leech. And I have grown accustomed to having an extra appendage, because I’m not about to cut her off.

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                         My redheaded demon baby, in all her cherubic glory. immediately                          after I thought she was going to kill me.  Deceiving, isn’t she?

All things considered, I don’t think it’s a mystery why I was unsure if a third baby was in the cards for me. I swore up and down during her delivery that I would never have another baby, that I wasn’t doing this again. But if all words spoken during childbirth rang true, there would be a hell of a lot of castrated men out there.

Yeah, I did eventually go on to have another baby, but it took me a long while to get there. I didn’t even get bitten by baby rabies until at least three years later, and it was yet another year before I actually started thinking about it as a legitimate possibility. And when I reached that stage in conception planning, I knew immediately that this would be the last time we would do this. The last time we would make a baby. The last time I would carry a baby. The last time I would birth a baby. The last time I would hold my gooey newborn to my sweaty chest and nurse them during those first incredible moments.

From the instant the “+” sign popped up on the pee stick, I promised myself that I was going to cherish every moment of this pregnancy. Even the awful parts at the beginning, because those meant that my body was transforming into the perfect baby oven to cook our last little family member. Even the frequent finger pricks and insulin injections that I eventually had to deal with later in the game, because they meant that I was setting my own comfort aside for the health of my growing son.

I was also determined to have a natural birth, after my previous hellacious experience. I was going to embrace each contraction, each wave of pain. After all, my body was doing what nature intended, what it was made to do. And I am so happy to say that I got the birth I wanted and I didn’t have to fight for it. I brought Sir Calvin into the world through a gutteral roar as an intense wave of pain washed over me. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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The last time I ever gave birth.  Beautiful and bittersweet.

Having a son is an experience that I was totally unprepared for. One that I think should require a manual, a straight jacket, and a good deal of wine. Maybe sex has nothing to do with it and Calvin is just an overly curious, mischievous, strong-willed, loud, and destructive child. Regardless, he is in no way like the girls were and had he been my first kid, he may have been my last. But as it stands, he is my third kid and definitely my last. I knew this when he was nothing but a dream, when he was the size of a peanut growing within me and when he peed on me (thus marking his territory) the moment he was placed on my chest. And I especially knew it once he hit those challenging toddler years.

But you know when I finally ended my fertility? July 24th, 2014, when Calvin was a little over two years old. No more babies, this had been decided long before, but to put a permanent end to my fertility was a little harder to accept. Between Daniel and I, we conceive babies pretty easily, so I knew that this was something that needed to happen sooner rather than later. But I wanted him to do it. I had carried and birthed these babies… he needed to take one for the team. Of course he was nervous, of course he dragged his feet. And in the end, it worked out in his favor.

I had a large cyst on one of my ovaries that was giving me a lot of trouble, so I was going to undergo laproscopic surgery to remove it. Tubal ligations are done laproscopically. It only made sense to have the doctor take care of that at the same time. And so it was done, the same day that a painful cyst was removed and my other ovary was detached from my digestive tract (that was a surprise). I still think that Daniel should have a vasectomy based on principle, but I just might be a little bitter.

When I consented to the tubal, there was no hesitation. I was ready. Three children was enough for me. Money wasn’t the deciding factor, the size of our house wasn’t the deciding factor. I didn’t want to be a mother to more children than I already had. That was all I needed to know.

I thought I would have periods of regret after the procedure. Get hit with baby rabies when friends and family announced that they were expecting, or when I visited them and their new bundles of joy in the hospital. But no, not once. Not even on Calvin’s third birthday, which sort of marked the end of his babyhood.

It’s been a year, over a year, and I am 100% at peace with my decision. I’m amazed that I’m able to say that, but there you have it. Big(ger) kids are great in ways that I hadn’t thought about when I was in the early stages of motherhood. They sleep, they can feed themselves, they can sit on the toilet, they can carry their own shit and require less of it on short trips, they can explain how they feel in words. You can have somewhat adult conversations with them and learn how very, very cool they actually are. They can see when you’re having a rough time and more often than not, they care and they will try to help.

I still love babies. I will cuddle the babies of others any time I have the chance, and then I will gladly hand them back when they start to fuss. I get to smooch cheeks and pat little butts and rock them as I did my own. But then I can look over at my own brood of big kids and think “You are perfect for me. I have everything that I need.”

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These three are just enough.  Family = complete

Getting Through Father’s Day, When Your Father is Gone

This is my fourth Father’s Day without my dad, who passed away in April of 2012, and I keep asking myself when this day is going to get easier. Part of me thinks that the answer is “It’s not.” Because Father’s Day, when your father is gone, is a not-so-gentle reminder of what you’re missing out on.

And damn, am I ever missing out on a lot. Is HE ever missing out on a lot.

On days like this, when his absence weighs more heavily on my mind, I waver back and forth between being sad, angry, resentful, and nostalgic. I wish that the latter took precedence over the rest, but maybe one day it will. Maybe that’s how people get through it every year.  I’m going to at least give it a try.

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Look at that handsome fella’!

I was lucky enough to have had my dad in my life for nearly 29 years. And I can honestly say that I can count on one hand (and not even use all five digits) the number of negative memories I have with him. The rest? Amazing. Hilarious. Fun. Joyful. Every moment full of the most pure kind of love, both his for my mom and I and ours for him.

I’m an only child and was my dad’s pride and joy. I was smart, well-mannered, and wise beyond my years. I can credit my parents for a lot of that, because they raised me in a home where I always felt safe and supported. And as I grew older and saw how some of my friends’ families interacted, I realized how charmed my life actually was.

My earliest memory of my dad is probably the two of us rough housing in the living room, which involved him sitting on the floor and me running from one end of the room to the other, into his arms. He would fall onto his back, lift me into the air, and then tickled me until I was gasping for breath. I loved every second. It was our Sunday night routine, after I’d had my bath and had gotten into my pajamas.

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A mid-eighties family shot.  Before wood paneling was considered hipster.

He loved music, a true hippie and child of the 50s and 60s. By the time I came around, his long hair was gone and his partying days were over, but he never lost his passion for music. He had a full stereo setup and would fire up his turntable and pull out the Hall and Oates Bigbamboom album so that we could dance around to “Out of Touch”, which quickly became our song. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Cream, Elton John… the list goes on. Music that defies time.

A man child in every way that counted, he would buy boxes of fireworks each 4th of July and put on his own show. Sometimes I think he got more enjoyment out of having my mom shake her head and lecture him about being careful. Who was she kidding? If there were no immediate risk of losing a hand, he wasn’t having fun.

He was a better Santa than the one from Miracle on 34th Street, coming up with insane and creative ways to keep an intelligent kid like me from losing her belief in the jolly old fellow. One year, when I was 8 years old, he went as far as writing a note from Santa to say that my dad had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace while he waited for Santa’s arrival, but that Santa had stepped on him when he came down the chimney. Santa, being the caring guy that he was, fixed my dad’s foot up and sent him back to bed. After I read the note, I rushed into my parents’ bedroom (they were still asleep in those wee morning hours) and pulled back the covers, only to see a bandage on my dad’s foot from his run-in with Santa. That bought him a few more years of magic, no doubt about it.

The best dad a girl could ask for? That’s an understatement.

He was also the best grandfather that my girls could have asked for, passing on so many of our traditions to them and creating a bunch of their own. When he found out that our first child was a girl, oh man, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if you tried. He looked at her as another version of me, before she was even born. Turns out that he got his wish, because Delanie is just like me in almost every way.

Our biggest regret is that he never got to meet his grandson. He loved the girls, but I know that he would have had a blast with Calvin. I think that he left his imprint on him, though. The cleft chin, the love of baseball, finding joy in even the smallest thing. That’s when I look at my son and remind myself that my dad is still here with us.

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Less than two years before he passed, in Jamaica celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.  Radiating joy, like he always did.  And finding humor in all things dirty, like he always did.

So on this day to celebrate fathers, if yours is still around and you like him at least a little bit, give him a hug and tell him how much you love him. For those of us who can’t, but desperately wish we could.