Wherein I Gush About My Middle Big Boy

Felix is intense and sensitive. I don’t think I realized that about him until he learned how to talk. But he’s not only sensitive to mean talk or unwanted instruction, he’s sensitive to the needs of his family members. If he’s got more than one of something, he often offers some to his brothers.

Last weekend, when I took the big boys for haircuts, he happily stood aside while Miles claimed the first stylist available. Then, even though his haircut finished first, he happily waited for his brother to be done before starting to eat his lollipop, so they could enjoy pops together.

Rather than cut-throat competitiveness like some people in our family, he prefers to wait until everyone is ready for things like walks home from the stop sign or enjoying dessert.

Sure, he gets pissed off and, in spectacular fashion, kicks a damn hole in the drywall at daycare before crawling inside like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption. But he also carries around a baby doll starts each morning by carefully tucking her into some blankets and fluffed pillows on the couch.

He has a fantastic imagination, and offers me the first magical glimpses of a child who pretends things–really pretends and imagines new scenarios. He drags squares of blue fabric to be water and arranges frogs and plastic ocean mammals to swim. He takes plastic sea lions with him into the bathtub so they can hunt for fish he also brings into the bath tub.

He loves, loves, loves to sing, “Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The Batmobile lost a wheel and Joker did ballet.”

And he watches Jake and the Neverland Pirates while he eats astounding amounts of cheese. This boy rejects celery for being too spicy, can balance on one leg while riding his scooter, and clasped his hands in delight when given a pack of 8 tubes of Chapstick.

I worry frequently that I don’t pay proper attention to him. I’m always overwhelmed by one or the other of his brothers. I see now how middle children get lost in the shuffle.

I don’t read books with Felix like I did with Miles, but I try to take him to the Aviary as much as I can because I love watching him love birds there.

All he wants in the world is for someone to play with him, preferably his brothers, but really anyone who wants to climb on top of the gravel pile in the construction zone next door and push a truck. But not the garbage truck–that one is his, and he’s busy refueling it with the tubing he stole from my breast pump.

His rewards for cooperating with a strep test, his fifth of the year.

 

Posted by on June 12th, 2015 1 Comment

Wherein I Gush About My VERY BIG Boy

Miles is such a big kid. His limbs are long and knobby, lacking all evidence of baby chub. No more hand dimples. Only long, long fingers that expertly work through the bins of Legos to build escape vehicles for Lego crooks. Always crooks.

He’s on summer break from school and we’re in a weird gap before his daycare has a spot for him, so on my work days, he comes with me. I get to see the grocery store from his big-kid eyes, have him walk beside me and actually help. We negotiate about sweets, and he provides surprisingly sound arguments for his choices.

He stands in front of the open fridge, and just when I’m about to nag him to close it, he says, “You’re left handed and daddy is right handed. So you can drink the left side of the beer box and Daddy can drink the right side.”

I give him a string of instructions, and he rolls his eyes long and deep before saying, “You know I’m going to forget when you give a very long sentence!”

This first child of mine can go into the fruit drawer and get out strawberries, use a knife to cut the tops off, and plunk them in the compost pail. All on his own. When does this happen?

When Oren was born, Miles was still a tiny boy. Somewhere in the past 10 months, when I was deep into the thick of parenting 3 young boys, my biggest boy got even bigger.

The first day of summer vacation, when the younger two boys alternated nap times, my Miles played with his baby brother while I put Felix down for nap. Miles read books out loud to this baby, played peek-a-boo with him, and just talked to him about the way things are in the world.

This screaming baby who needed to be marched for hours at a time to calm himself, who never slept and wouldn’t gain weight–this kid was so busy trying to figure it all out and now he has all these skills! He knows about the moons of Neptune and the geography of Botswana. He writes papers at school that end with “Clearly, I know many things about chameleons.”

All he asks of me (repeatedly and many times per hour) is to go camping and swim in a lake. Well, I’m not up for camping just yet, but we’re going to swim in a lake this weekend. He’ll probably surprise me again and actually swim unassisted.

This is a donut delivery truck, with separate compartments for the different flavors.

Posted by on June 10th, 2015 1 Comment

Relocating Team Lev Headquarters

Every day, people ask me, “Are you excited about the new house?” The truth is, I’m not letting myself get excited because too many of my friends have had real estate deals fall through at the last minute. If I don’t allow myself to make too many Pinterest boards, if I don’t create dreams of how each room will be home to our family, then I can’t get too disappointed if it all falls apart in the end.

From our end, things seem to be in order. Our mortgage people send us email updates (using a cursive-style font that drives me bananas) telling us we’re good to go as long as we don’t open any new credit cards. Who knew that starting a Target Red Card in February would cause us grief in this process in June? I had to write and sign a letter explaining myself, because this made, like, a blemish on my credit score. You guys, it went down from 806 to 799. COME. ON.

So the new house will be what it will be and the final showdown is June 25. I believe I even have childcare set up for that morning, but who can tell?

Meanwhile, there is the small matter of selling our current premises. Now, I might have mentioned before that I have 3 sons. Not only do they have a lot of shit, but they love nothing more than to shove it all around with their arms and roll in it and kick it and sometimes shove it into other things. We have a planned mini-vacation during which our realtor will hopefully show and sell our house.

But first he has to photograph and list the house on the MLS. I want to tell you that preparing our house for those photographs is the hardest thing I have done in a long time. Possibly right up there with attending an IEP meeting with a 1.8 week old baby.

After I dramatically insisted our storage unit was full to the brim, Corey went in there with his spatial reasoning skills and fit in 2 van-loads more of “extra” furniture and boxed up toys/books. Now, our house is empty enough that an hour of dedicated tidying can get it photo-ready.

I arranged for the photographer to come on a daycare day and went to the grocery store to buy flowers to set around and everything. Corey washed the windows and mowed the grass and we shoveled almost all of the boys’ outdoor things into the abyss under the front porch (don’t read this if you’re planning to buy my house next week!).

I even bravely bushwhacked into Corey’s office in an attempt to make it presentable. I didn’t try to pare down his heaps of paper, his receipts for burritos and oil changes. I just shoveled it all into many, many boxes and stacked them neatly on the desk. That will just have to do.

Apart from re-cleaning the entire house and re-mowing the grass, all that remains is for me to shop-vac the unfinished half of the basement to make it look a little bit less like nobody has attempted to clean it for 8 years.

When you don’t hear from me for a week, it’s because I have a child strapped to each hip so they don’t dig out the toys as I scoop them all into bins.

Posted by on June 6th, 2015 1 Comment

Snapshots of My May

I’m not sure why I thought May would feel calm after the madness of April while Corey worked around the clock and I parented around the clock. The month kicked off with me running the marathon relay and each of my walking boys running their age-appropriate leg of the kids marathon.

Felix turned 3 on the 3rd and wanted only chapstick and a red heart balloon. The mylar balloon is still bobbing along the ceiling 3 weeks later and each of us gets our teeth and lips slathered in chappers multiple times per day. What a joy! That kid is the light of my life, just like I’ve always said about him…when he’s not refusing to nap and deliberately waking up his brother.

Miles failed a vision screening and had to get an eye exam, which resulted in “spectacle correction for astigmatism.” That’s how the eye doctor phrased it. Verbally. This guy and Miles geeked out about model vehicles and I think they’ll be lifelong friends. Miles and I also bond about spritzing lens cleaner and rubbing our lenses clean on our cotton t-shirts.

This article finally published, to my delight. The first doctor featured, Dr. Diego, was the doctor making rounds at the hospital when Felix was born. I loved him because he asked me how long I nursed Miles. When I said 27 months, the nurse in the room got huffy and scoffed, but Dr. Diego began to celebrate and cheer and praise me. He wiggled Felix’s little legs and told him he was in for a healthy treat. I felt so empowered in that moment and he helped to build my confidence in a really fragile moment. I was so glad to write about him. I wasn’t even able to make space in the article to talk about his work supporting breastfeeding in the Hispanic community here in Pittsburgh. He’s just a magical man and we’re so lucky to have him.

And those other doctors?? They’re doing really exciting stuff. Truly inspiring things. Dr. Miller is also pioneering a clinic to work with kids who are gender fluid and help their families to support them on that journey. Such important work. I gush!

I had my friend and her 4 sons over for a play date, and our 7 boys were wild and crazy, just like you might imagine. I missed a chance to be more assertive with a neighborhood bully who was just abysmally mean to them/me. She sat on her porch like a gargoyle muttering complaints about them and eventually came out to holler at me, “You know what, Katy, take them in the back yard!” I wish I could let it go, but I’m seething about it and I just don’t think she’s a good person.

My friend told me about this new type of undershorts to wear under skirts. Owning them has been transformative! I have ample thighs that rub together, so I usually wear bike shorts under all my skirts and dresses. Maybe you’ve seen me being less than modest in my skirts and dresses and worried I’m going through a Basic Instinct phase. In real life, I’m just wearing shorts underneath my skirt so I don’t need to care about climbing ladders or sitting criss-cross-applesauce. ANYWAY! These under-shorts are light and airy and silky and they breathe and they’re just so much better than the bike shorts! I’m never going to wear pants again.

I’ll be spending the rest of the month trying to remember my wedding anniversary and hire house-fixers. You might not see me until mid-June!

Posted by on May 20th, 2015 1 Comment

Adulting in Hyper-drive

Remember the house I mentioned in my last post? We’re going to buy it, despite its substantial structural issues. Isn’t that crazy? I think so. But it also makes sense. Of course we’re buying a house that looks a bit tatty and has major issues with radon and crumbling hearths and termites and such. Why not?

Ugh!

I haven’t been able to sleep at night. Even though Oren is only up once, I spend hours lying in bed pondering all the very adult things happening simultaneously. And I worry. I worry about the packing I haven’t even started yet.

Today was an “errand catch up” day, with my younger 2 boys in tow, which already meant I was having a hard time adulting. I spent the day doing things like voting with a child in each hand, buying special under-shorts with a child in each hand, and buying a dresser for my middle son, whose clothes have been heaped in baskets for over a year because we never replaced his broken dresser.

But it was also mortgage application day. Thankfully, mortgage application guys make house calls. Mothers home with young children can’t get a hot coffee without dealing with 6 carseat situations, let alone medical visits at home, but mortgage men happily drive to your house and deliver stuff.

Mortgage Mike arrived just as Felix was at the peak of his nap refusal. I heard a knock at the door as I tried to eat some yogurt for lunch, and saw Felix opening the door. Felix wore only a shark shirt and was wielding a pair of scissors. He brandished the scissors at Mortgage Mike for awhile as I tried to explain that all instructions needed to be written down or else I’d forget them in between crises.

Somehow I managed to take notes, keep the children alive, and arrange for another quote from another roofer before I had to pick up Miles at soccer practice. That’s another thing–I now drive my minivan to soccer, often wearing yoga pants. I’m like an extra in a Paul Rudd movie.

On the docket for the rest of the week: completing the mortgage application, securing homeowners insurance, finding another general contractor who will answer the phone and also agree to come give us an estimate. Anyone local have a good radon mitigation company they like?

Posted by on May 19th, 2015 No Comments

A Time To Panic

If you know me at all, you know I tend to run anxious. That’s mostly why I married Corey, because he runs cool as a cucumber.

We finally, after 18 months of looking, found a house and had our offer accepted. So now, we sit and wait for the inspection results to roll in. Except, it’s more like they’re being hurled at us by a potato cannon.

This “lovely renovation” in an up-and-coming neighborhood (not our current neighborhood! It pains me to think of moving zip codes) is not so much a renovation as a money pit. The inspection results have so far revealed dangerously high radon levels, a crumbling foundation/coal cellar with exposed rebar and sprinkling concrete chunks that threaten to damage a gas line. There’s termite damage, a need for a new roof, extensive woodwork rot. I know there are other things that I am not thinking of.

We’re about $1200 deep into inspection and estimate fees as we enter renegotiations today. Corey is so oddly calm about it all while I’m in the midst of a panic attack. These aren’t the kinds of things that you fix and they make your home more attractive or add value. These are the sorts of things you need to fix to make the building habitable.

I’ve been open with Corey about my concerns and he’s talked with me about the logistics of the finances of everything. This is one of those places where it feels anti-feminist to just trust him about money and stop dwelling on it, but really, he has a degree in economics and holds a CPA license. He works as a finance manager. He knows this stuff and I trust him.

I’m meeting with him at the house this afternoon to meet the sewer inspector. I did say that if the 115-year-old sewer lines are shot that I’m out. He agreed. So that’s where we are!

In the meantime, life rolls on at breakneck speed. I try to take time each day to savor the kids as their wee-childhood years slip away. I try not to spend too much time screaming at them for things like popping the inflatable pool with rakes and kicking each other in the chest as hard as possible.

I had a birthday, which means I’m now in my mid-30s, which means I can embrace the gray hair spreading its way through my head and buy bright orange glasses if I want to.

Soon, if this panic turns productive, I might be typing this from the comfort of an actual home office amidst a home large enough for my many boys. Today, I’m eating cottage cheese from the container so as not to grind my teeth.

PS: Here’s that publication I was so excited about!

Posted by on May 13th, 2015 No Comments

Umbrellas

You want to know why I have kids? Why it all feels worthwhile despite the extremely challenging days I have home with these three young men? Here’s an example.

I took my younger 2 boys to the botanical gardens yesterday after kindergarten drop-off. (The actual truth is that I took them first to the six-pack shop because long solo parenting stints make me crave a nice wheat beer)

In the children’s market room at the gardens, an employee was leading a craft where the kiddos made little umbrellas from coffee filters and pipe cleaners. I make a point, always, not to take over my kids’ art projects and even though it’s hard to “let” them create something that seems gnarled and uneven, I want them to feel proud that what they made is theirs alone.

So, I protected my wee Felix as the employee tried to direct his umbrella decorating. He wanted pink and purple streaks just on one side and he wanted to add the orange sticker holding the package of markers closed. And then he was ready for his umbrella handle and oh! The joy on that boy’s face as he showed me his completed tissue umbrella.

I carry it so warmly in my heart.

As we made our way through the building, we noticed it began raining outside. I told Felix to put up his hood, because we’d have to make a run for it to the van. “Oh!” he said, “I can use my umbrella to keep us dry!”

And he meant it with every ounce of his toddler soul! He meant it!

And he held up that tissue-paper-pipe-cleaner umbrella to keep us dry as the three of us dashed through the rain, and he wept when he saw the rain had streaked his marker drawings, and I held him and told him I thought it looks so much more beautiful now that the rain broke it in a little bit.

tissue paper umbrella

Posted by on April 17th, 2015 2 Comments

Dispatches from A Mom Among Minions: 19 to Go

If you didn’t already know this, my husband works for an event management company that produces the Pittsburgh marathon, which takes place in 19 days. That means, for the month of April, I’m a solo parent. From the minute my 3 boys wake up at 5am until around 7pm, I’m awake and solely in charge of these three spit-fires. In addition to the day-to-day stuff, I’m also solely responsible for any crises that pop up, like when the door falls off the minivan or we run out of eggs.

Here’s how my day went today.

7am I scramble the remaining 6 eggs, knowing our family ordinarily consumes 8 eggs at breakfast. The children protest the lack of additional eggs. I forget we have a pound of bacon in the fridge and do not cook that.

745am Miles is, by some miracle/defiance of physics, still asleep. His ride arrives in one hour and we need to wake him from sleep, which kills a large part of my soul.

830am The older children manage to wake the baby from his nap (obviously, dairy farmers nap by 8am) with their thunderous stomping and piercing shrieks. This sends me into a fit of rage and I say horrible things to them.

1030am Felix has talked me into buying chocolate bark thins at Costco and this is a fantastic idea. Everyone agrees. We also buy a Ponyo DVD, which we agree to watch in the van in the parking lot while I nurse Oren and we eat chocolate bark thins. A train goes past, which Felix finds delightful. Things are looking up!

1130am While playing with the neighbors, Felix asks, “Can I pee out here?” and I have to ask them if it’s ok for him to pee in their shrubbery, which he does.

1215pm Back in our house, I’m nursing Oren when Felix shouts, “My poop is on the floor now.” Upon walking upstairs, I discover a softball-sized turd on the ground NEXT TO the toilet and I slide tackle him out of the way as he’s about to stomp it into the tile. I am not fast enough to move it before baby Oren starts to pat it as he crawls in to see what the fuss is about.

115pm Both boys are asleep! I run downstairs and put away the groceries. I see that we weren’t actually out of olive oil. We now have 3 gallons of olive oil, in fact. I eat more bark thins and watch the Game of Thrones premier.

315pm I have to wake Felix from his nap, which kills off more pieces of my soul, because we have to go get Miles to soccer. In the minivan, I tell Felix I’m a soccer mom now, terminology that makes him upset. “YOU’RE JUST MOM!” he screams.

4pm Other parents validate what I’m seeing, which is that Miles is really, really good at soccer! I delight in them telling me this, even as Felix drowns bugs in a puddle along the sidelines.

530pm I say, “boys, why is Oren covered in glitter?” and Miles says, “That’s hard to explain.” I sign and take all three of them up to the bathtub.

630pm I call Corey and tell him I can’t do it anymore, that he has to come home because Felix has ground a dinner roll into the carpet. I give the older children melatonin and pray for a wheat beer to appear in my refrigerator. Which reminds me of the drive-through beer distributer in Sharsburg, where I’ll certainly take the children (and their new Ponyo DVD) tomorrow afternoon.

7pm Corey comes in the door along with our friend. These other grownups take the children to begin bedtime and I sneak to the basement to row a 3k. I should go to bed, but instead I sit and grumble about the ad choices Amazon has decided to send to my Kindle.

Posted by on April 14th, 2015 2 Comments

Loving on Public Montessori!

My kids go to the public Montessori school here in Pittsburgh. I’m frequently reminded why I love this method of instruction, and recently, we had one of those days where I just swelled with good feelings about school. Miles has challenges with the self-starting piece and does struggle to focus at school, but there is so much else about this type of education that works well for us that I just know this is the right place for our family right now.

The last Friday of every month, the school does something called “Marvelous Montessori Mornings,” where families can come to school and see what kids are working on in their classrooms. I try to get a sitter for the younger boys sometimes so Miles can show me some of his really tricky math stuff (he knows how to cube numbers…like exponents!). I also try to bring everyone along sometimes so Miles can show his brothers what he’s been working on.

This past time was particularly special because we got our letter that Felix has a place at school starting in the fall and we’re pretty sure he’ll have Miles’ teacher. So Miles got to give him a tour of what will soon be his classroom!

Miles was so peaceful and gentle showing his brother which works might be appropriate. Felix, normally so rough with materials at home, could just tell the rules were different at school and handled the works carefully. While Miles showed me some of the stages of seed growth, Felix separated eggs into baskets using a tiny spoon. And Oren crawled around on the floor.

Felix chose a work where he laid a gold ribbon on the carpet and Miles showed him how to walk along the ribbon, carefully and slowly controlling his body. It was so nice to see them all working together.

Miles’ teacher then commented that she wished schools would put siblings together, because she’s seen those interactions be really beautiful. I sort of snorted and laughed as hard as I could, because I know that when it’s good, it’s really good. But when the boys aren’t getting along? And they have access to screwdrivers and nails and school scissors? Dear God! Look out.

Today I have to pick Miles up early for a doctor’s appointment. Even though he’s been on spring break for 9 days and his last day of school was a half day, he knew which “day” it is in the cycle and told me where I can find him at 2:30pm. I checked with his teacher just to be safe, and sure enough he was right. Obviously!

Posted by on April 6th, 2015 2 Comments

Long Tank Tops: The Struggle is Real

Forgive this utterly first-world problem and allow me to tell you, it’s hard to find a long tank top.

This is a Target maternity tank. Look at the length on that sucker! I still wear it. It’s even longer when it’s not stretched out by a baby.

I’m a short lady with a large bosom, and most shirts either ride up or billow out, mandating a long base layer for me to avoid a breeze on my midriff. Before having kids, I could get away with a standard tank top, barely.

When I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the Long Maternity Tank, and I love it. I still have 2 of those tanks, hard worn and threadbare over the past 6 years.

Yesterday, I polled Facebook to see where other people get long tanks, because I want to replace my maternity tanks. I’m done having babies, after all, but I still need a long base layer!

I was taken aback to see 78 comments on a thread about tank tops. Seventy-eight! People feel strongly about tank tops, as do I.

Many women who are long-torsoed seek long tanks. Many women who are large-busted seek long tanks. Many women just want one because nobody really wants her postpartum stomach flapping around in the spring air. But the tanks are hard to find.

The vetted results of my Facebook research, for which I must mention I am not compensated in any way:

–Target sells long, soft maternity tanks that women wear well past maternity.

Old Navy still sells their long maternity tanks, and they’re currently on sale for $8! Again, non-pregnant women are wearing them daily.

Old Navy has a “tall” line available online only, and many women who are not tall rely on these tanks and general tops to actually cover the midriff.

–Costco sells long camis. I define a tank as having wide straps and a cami as having spaghetti straps. I’m bountiful in the shoulder region, so when I wear a cami I look like a trussed pork loin. Other people feel excited about these camis.

(I should mention that some of the Costco camis have a shelf bra and some do not. Some women love a shelf bra. Some, like me, find it hits our bust mid-nipple and looks/feels ridiculous.)

American Eagle and H&M have some long tanks amidst their regular clothes

So there you have it. You, reader, are not the only person who needs a long base layer and who can’t find one of adequate length. But, solutions exist! I went with the Old Navy maternity tanks on sale. I’ll be sure to update when my order arrives.

Posted by on April 1st, 2015 No Comments