The Concrete Jungle

Apartment?  Check.  Townhouse?  Check.  Single family home?  Umm

Driveway FunWhen we bought our townhouse back in 2006, Husband and I thought it would be a short pit-stop on our way to single family home ownership.  Three to five years tops.  We certainly never intended to raise our children here.  For starters it’s three stories tall with the washing machine on the first floor and the bedrooms on the third.  That’s two flights of stairs for every load of dirty clothes the kids turn out.  The children’s bedrooms are also directly above the front door.  Thanks to a double story foyer, the click of our front door latch sounds like a gunshot to sleeping babies.

However the most frustrating feature of our home is the one thing it lacks: a yard.  Sure the missing yard was a minor disappointment when we bought the townhouse.  With the addition of two young children it is a near intolerable void.  What parent doesn’t envision their children playing outdoors, frolicking in the fresh air?  How was that going to happen with no yard to speak of just a modest stretch of concrete driveway?

But this past weekend it did.  Sunday night, hours before bedtime, I took one look at my cranky kids and I decided to take the party outside.  Concrete jungle be damned, we had to get out of the house for a bit.  I put Amelia in her swimsuit, placed Haiden in his walker, filled a plastic beer tub with water, tossed in some Tupperware and let them have at it.  The kids had a BLAST and I got to rest for almost an hour.  As I sat in a lawn chair admiring my own ingenuity I thought “there may be no grass, but this is pretty darn close to what I envisioned.”

The plan was always to raise our family in a single family home with a yard.  You know what plan I’m talking about.  The plan.  That invisible playbook that’s drafted up long before we know what life will send our way.  I’m not knocking the plan.  I have a plan and it’s awesome.  But sometimes the plan changes and sometimes it gets blown to pieces.   You accept and adjust because, honestly, there’s not much else to be done.  Do I still long for a lush patch of grass to call my own?  A place for my babies to run barefoot through sprinklers in the summer?  Definitely.  It’s in the plan. Right now though I’m going to scour Pinterest for more driveway fun.

Less Really Can Be More

For about six weeks I have been contemplating Husband’s Father’s Day gift.  I found many cool ideas scouring Pinterest and my favorite blogs, but the kids’ young ages and a rather paltry budget ruled out most of them.  In the end I grabbed my babies and our beloved dog for an outdoor photo shoot.   Simple letters spelling “DAD” let their personalities shine.

In what felt like a rare moment of easy harmony, we laughed and played as we took these pictures.  The result was a wonderful gift for Daddy and a precious memory for me.

The Birth Of A Friendship

From the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my second baby, I thought about what great friends he and my daughter Amelia would be.  Many sleepless nights I imagined them scrambling over each other as wiggly toddlers, embarking on great outdoor adventures together as children, and even greater adventures as young adults.  In the deepest, darkest parts of my conscience, I saw them supporting each other through my passing and long after I am gone.

As my due date approached though I thought less about friendship and more about the impact a baby brother would have on Amelia’s happiness.  At barely 18 months old, I worried the transition would be difficult.  When we finally brought Haiden home from the hospital, I saw first hand how a baby can upend a toddler’s world.  I distinctly remember wishing we’d waited a little longer to have our second child.  I worried their future relationship was already at a disadvantage, likely to be dominated by competition and rivalry.

siblingsThen yesterday after work I was rewarded with a video of Amelia and Haiden making each other laugh.  At first all I could do was laugh myself as their giggles got progressively louder and sillier.  Then this morning when I was saw the Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Friendship”, it occurred to me that last night’s video was truly special.  I had seen…I am seeing…the birth of their friendship.

These early interactions, while silly and unassuming, are the threads that will wind together to form a bond I hope endures their lifetimes.  I wish I could guarantee their friendship becomes all that I imagined in those first few months of Haiden’s pregnancy.   I know I can’t and a part of me struggles to accept that truth.  Still I am deeply privileged to walk beside them as they learn about themselves and each other.  And hopefully, with my love and support, they will one day cherish each other as much as I cherish them.

Parent Skill: Pack Mule

I am once again scrambling to get the family packed and on the road before dinner. The amount of energy required to jaunt off for this long weekend is staggering. Of course loading the car wearing a 14 lb baby strapped to my chest on a hot, humid day was a bit much. But we do what we must.

The truth is I find it insanely gratifying knowing I could go head to head with a pack mule’s ability to haul stuff and hold my own. I may look ridiculous to some (ok many). But you fellow parents know! When kids are in tow, being able to load or unload a car in one trip is an invaluable skill! I am proud to say I can carry 5 grocery bags, a car seat (with baby) and purse or diaper bag in one arm, hold my 2 year old in the other, and still unlock the front door.

On that note, I see another pile of bags waiting to get loaded into the car…

The Gift New Parents Really Want

My husband’s cousin has four young children (I think all under the age of 7) and is one of the best mom role models I have.  She is laid back but far from being a pushover.  Whenever I have a question or concern about my babies I can depend on her to give me solid advice, usually laced with a good dose of “relax, this is normal.”

This past January at a Superbowl party she did something that I still think about four months later.  Like a lot of other people at the party, she asked to hold Haiden for a bit.  But when I gave her my standard disclaimer about how fussy he can be, she replied “I don’t mind if you don’t mind.”

That’s it.  Simple acceptance and understanding that sometimes babies cry for no reason.  I didn’t have to hover over them looking for signs that she’d had enough of his crying.  I didn’t have to feel guilty that someone else was dealing with my handful of a baby.  It was the first time since I’d given birth two months earlier that I was “off-duty” for a few hours and able to relax.  What a precious gift to receive as the parent of a newborn.

I’m going to remember her the next time I’m around a new parent.  Everyone wants to hold the happy baby or the sleeping baby.  However what that parent really needs is someone to take their crying baby and say “I don’t mind if you don’t mind.”