What do you say? Let’s try love

I’ve been here before – bleary-eyed both from a lack of sleep and from the tears – staring a blank doc.

I don’t know what to write. Heck, I don’t know what to say.

What do you say? What can I add that is profound? Insightful?

I’m heartbroken, lost, saddened, confused, angry.

I’m scared.

Thank God my kids aren’t old enough to have any idea what is going on. But I know that my time is limited. It’s only a few more years until my sweet, sensitive Miles will wonder what those people on television are crying about. Mommy and daddy whispering about the news and passing our phones back and forth to show each other the latest updates probably won’t go unnoticed much longer. “What does it mean when they say 50 are killed,” he’ll ask. “What’s a casualty mommy?”boys100

And it’s only a matter of time until these tragedies are forced upon him; he’ll still be way too young and innocent. He’ll have to endure mass shooting drills at school. Hear kids talk about guns and shootings. See violence on television and in video games.

At four and one there’s still so much my boys haven’t been exposed to. And in many ways I’m that “overprotective crazy” mom. I don’t let him have toy guns. I don’t let him “play shoot.” He doesn’t play video games. He’s still into “Paw Patrol” and knows very little of more “big boy” real-life action shows or movies.

I’m not looking to engage in a battle on gun control. Or politics. Or religion. I’m doing the exact opposite.

I don’t know the answer. But so badly, every atom of my being needs us to find an answer, a solution so my boys don’t have to live in a world where I have to answer these terrifying questions, explain the unexplainable. I think the last thing that will get us there, to this solution, is being divided, screaming at each other, debating and being hateful.

I’m sure I’m being sunshine and rainbows, “hippie-dippie idealistic” but I don’t know where else to go. Let’s be kind. Let’s love everyone. Can that just be the start?

Never underestimate your pint-sized adversary

Gategate

Gategate

“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.” – Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

They broke the gate.

If it had happened any other day, it would just be the latest occurrence in a long line of broken household items.

But on this day — the first of summer vacation — it cannot be mistaken for anything else.

It was a message. An omen. A pre-emptive strike.

Not so innocent

Not so innocent

This wall — which has separated the relatively child-proofed safety of the living room from all the pointy, chemically, structurally treacherous remainder of the house — has fallen.

And along with it, any of my own self-delusions that this summer would be anything other than a three-month siege upon my blood pressure and sanity.

The fighting over toys and the TV, the midair launching of small human bodies from one piece of furniture to another, the noise — my goodness, the noise.

This just isn’t a couple hours a day anymore. It’s the whole day.

Miles’ second year of preschool was a godsend in many ways. He’s made new friends, become much more self-sufficient, learned to embrace the differences in different people and is quite the budding little artist.

It also kept this seeming bundle of furious energy focused, and if I am being honest, the simple fact that he has spent hours away from home each day has limited the amount of chaos visited upon my otherwise peaceful days.

Before now, the divide-and-conquer strategy has worked brilliantly. Owen, our little one, is a breeze without his big brother around getting him all riled him up in the morning. And by the time Miles got off the bus in the afternoon, Owen was solidly in the depths of his post-lunch nap. Weathering the 2-3 hours with both kids together at the end of the day wasn’t always an easy task but it was doable.

But divide and conquer is no longer a viable tactic. They’ve got me outnumbered. And they know it.

Today, perfect example.

I mean, it’s not like they couldn’t have escaped from the living room by just pushing the flimsy wooden divider down. Owen has done that with regularity of late. Still, it has at least served to slow him down until I can get there.

Definitely not innocent

Definitely not innocent

 

This time, though, they literally broke the thing in half — the first flaming arrow lodged in the castle wall.

Message sent; message received.

SECOND gate broken. Gategate round two.

SECOND gate broken. Gategate round two.

Of course, you know, this means war.

Michael Doyle is stay-at-home dad to Miles, 4, and Owen, 1. He’s married to features editor Abbey Doyle. He’s also a copy editor and designer at the Courier & Press.

Lessons learned in Preschool

It’s gone by so fast. I know, I know … They are clichés for a reason — so often they ring true.

20160511_102215_resizedAfter a year of preschool, Miles has learned so much. The difference I see in my almost 5-year-old little guy is incredible. I don’t know how his head hasn’t exploded with all the stuff he’s taken in — and not just shoved away in a corner — but really, truly comprehended.

presschoolBut all that being said — with that big, ol’ giant brain of his — I think I learned and grew even more than he did.

I teared up watching him walk up in the media center of Culver Family Learning Center Wednesday morning to get his rolled up diploma. Yes, it’s hard for me to imagine him getting one year older. Of course, I’m emotional, thinking of all that he’s learned and accomplished in a year’s time. But selfishly, those tears and the tickly, choked-up feeling I got was about me.

ps3All these days, weeks and months when Ms. Keri was so patiently (seriously guys, this woman — along with the paraprofessionals in her room, Ms. Angie and Ms. Kelly — is a saint) teaching Miles how to write, refining his ability to recognize shapes and firing up his curiosity for all things nature-related, I was learning too. Yep, Miles was schooling me. Or maybe life.

ps1Or both.

Either way, each day I was leveling up in parenting. I was tackling challenges I’d never been faced with before, crossing bridges I hadn’t even thought about. I was learning that previous thoughts of self-doubt in the work/parent balance were child’s play. Wait until you throw school activities and extracurriculars into the mix with work, nonprofit responsibilities and the occasional desire to have a social life.

Yep, life was teaching me this lesson.

ps4

But … and here’s the coolest part guys … I made it. Yep, Miles made it too. He graduated preschool, but his parents did too. And we earned all kinds of parenting badges along the way.

And while Miles and I both felt quite accomplished Wednesday with the extraordinary feat of making it through this year of new challenges, joys and triumphs — we’ll do it all again.

And again. And again. Because you never stop learning and growing. That big ol’ brain of his will just keep getting bigger and bigger.

And future kindergarten teacher, I’m apologizing right now. While Ms. Keri taught Miles so very much, she was unable to teach him how to stop talking ALL THE TIME. The lesson of silence is one that jabber jaw will forever be working on I’m certain.

Here’s a highlight of some of our favorite lessons from the year. You can guess which are mine and which are Miles’:

All of our friends are special.

Any kind of a snack or juice served in a shiny silver package is going to be the favorite.

Rainbows are arches!

Visits in the classroom, while wreaking havoc on a work schedule, are about the best things ever.

School lunch is pretty rad.

You never, never, never, never, never, ever, ever step on the road until the school bus is stopped.

And you don’t skip in the line.

Live animals are a big hit.

Singing is the best; I really, really, really, really like to sing.

Miles was in one of two inclusion classrooms. The empathy, understanding and leadership he has been blessed with from this experience are invaluable. I’m so grateful for that.

Those are skills I’d never be able to teach him. Ms. Keri wasn’t the only one teaching Miles. He learned so much from his friends in his class.

Yep, this year was a definite success. I’m ready (I think) to tackle kindergarten.

Good job, mom

Opening up the mailbox as a kid brought such joy.

Would there be a package? A brightly colored card? A handwritten letter with stickers from my friend who lived down the street? Or maybe a thick envelope with five pages of folded up yellow legal pad paper from my church camp pen pal?

I didn’t mind those long, white envelopes with the clear windows. I know my mom and dad used to sigh when I’d bring them in; I didn’t care though. I was looking for the good stuff.

twins8

Fast forward 20 years.

Opening up the mailbox doesn’t quite give me that same airy feeling of joy as an adult. Honestly, there are some months when those long white envelopes with those crinkly, clear windows cause dread and anxiety. I now get why my mom and dad weren’t so thrilled to see what I’m sure seemed like heaps of bills.

But the corners of my sometimes-grouchy mom mouth always turn up when I catch the glimpse of a colorful envelope in that bill-keeper of a mailbox.

Usually they are for the boys. My mom is awesome and sends a card to each of them for every imaginable holiday. Michael’s parents are amazing too, sending cards for the holidays along with aunts and great-grandparents. The kids love it, carrying the cards around the house opening and closing them and making the little bears, leprechauns or Cupids dance around the living room.

But when I popped open the mailbox Wednesday there was one lone envelope inside — fuchsia and addressed to little ol’ me.

I recognized the handwriting right away — my mom. Never mind the fact that I’d seen her three days before and I’d see her on Friday and Saturday and maybe even Sunday. She knows how touched I’d be to receive it in the mail. Also, never mind the fact that this not-together-at-all mom hadn’t picked up a gift or a card for her amazing or thoughtful mom yet.

mom and ab mom ab and sarah

“From the time you were a little girl you’ve given me so many reasons to admire and love you. And watching you as a mom has given me even more. You’re understanding and loving, dedicated and hardworking. Not only that, you’re a fun mom, too. In fact, hearing the kids laugh with you is one of my favorite things in the world. No matter what you’re doing with them, I can see that your kids come first and you’re always giving your best, even on days when it isn’t always easy. I can’t tell you how proud of you I am. I love you for being the amazing daughter you’ve always been and the wonderful mom you are today.”

“It’s the perfect card,” she wrote.

ab and miles

And it was. It was what I needed to hear. The tears were streaming hot down my face. My mom is still proud of me. I’m doing a good job. I’m doing OK. I’m not screwing this whole mom thing up.

Because, let’s be real, even at 35, I still need to hear that.

Don’t you? Don’t we all need to be reminded that we are doing a good job? That someone is proud of us.

orchard miles ab fall

In life we can get bogged down with the responsibilities, the stress, the scary — the bills of life. It gets so easy to forget about those brightly-colored envelopes filled with encouraging messages. One way we can help balance that out is by sending more of these “cards” out into the world. We can do this by literally sending cards out or by just letting people know that they are doing a good job.

When I’m at the grocery store and my kids are being … kids … and the person in line behind me gives me a knowing “been there, it’ll get better” encouraging smile, it makes that 5-minute wait a lot easier than when the person behind me glowers with their disapproving look or critiques my parenting skills with the person behind them in line.

o2

Parenting is hard stuff. Find a mom — your mom, your mom friend, a random mom at the park — and tell her she’s doing a great job.

Momma, you’re doing a great job. Thanks!

IMG_4904

Listen To Your Mother

logo-2

Do it, listen to her, she probably knows best.

But really…

DY9Z-YTP5A-Instagram

I didn’t know much about this national show when I first heard about it last year in a professional sense. Someone I’d come to know through work had sent me a press release asking for people to audition with stories of motherhood — stories about their own mom, about being a mom themselves, watching their wife or partner be a mom… I instantly thought, “Michael should do this!”

mom3

Right then he was elbow deep in intense momming. Miles was going to preschool for just three hours a day four days a week and Owen was just a few months old. I had only been in this new position for a few months and was working way more hours than any one person should along with being gone a lot of Project Reveal and other various commitments. He was doing a lot of the momming. I say “momming” because that’s how the outside world saw what he was doing.

ow4

Really what Michael was doing was being a parent. He wasn’t being Mr. Mom; he wasn’t “babysitting;” he certainly wasn’t doing me or us as a couple any favors. If the roles were reversed and he was working 60 hours a week and helping run a nonprofit not a single eye would bat.

Am I right?

But there was some batting. There was even some finger wagging. And I’m sure some gossiping as well if we are to be completely honest here.

Anyway, back to Listen To Your Mother… I sent him the press release and blurbs about the auditions no less than 28 times. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration; it may have only been 18 times. But I thought he would be great. Michael is a genius writer; so much better than me (or is it I, see, he’d know.) And he’s hilarious. I am only ever funny unintentionally. I mean, I can be funny but it is typically at my own expense like I’ve fallen or am clueless of some well-known pop culture reference.

ow2

But alas, he refused to apply.

“There’s no way I’m getting on a stage. NEVER!”

The second year rolled around. I tried again. And again. And again.

On try 33 he said, “OK, if you’ll do it with me and you’ll finally leave me alone I’ll do it.”

But this was about 10 p.m. the night before the last audition. We hadn’t prepared anything. He was working until midnight. We hadn’t arranged for childcare the next day for the auditions.

All keys to success. Right?

So, we essentially wrote the piece back and forth over Facebook messenger while he worked (don’t mind us Courier & Press bosses) and read through it one time around 1 a.m. when he got home.

The next day we packed up our crazy, heathen children hoping for the best thinking the bribe of “really awesome, fun, exciting stuff” after the audition would keep the quiet for five minutes.

Fall 2014

“Five minutes, please,” I begged of Miles in a sincere whisper.

“Of course,” he said, with an evil, little glint in his eye.

We started and not 30 seconds in they started bouncing off the walls. I see chocolate scattered about the table for those auditioning. I grab for it blindly, still reading our piece, maddeningly unwrapping the crinkly foil and the boys scream and prance about turning into howler monkeys in mere seconds literally pounding on the windows.

I start tossing the chocolate on the floor hoping for just a few seconds of silence. I don’t think twice about the sugar, the artificial whatevers, the germs… none of it matters. There’s a few moments of peace.

Who knows if our piece is any good. The true reason we made it in the show was the chocolate tossing.

Thanks boys!

boys

Come hear for yourself as we are joined by 12 other incredible women telling stories about motherhood. Part of the proceeds go to benefit 4C Play and Learn. It is 7 p.m. Saturday at AIS Diamond (Old North High School on Stringtown.) Tickets are available at the door for $20 but online for $15 by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2505159.

 

Be nice, seriously

The lessons learned as a child are endless. And while as a third grader I didn’t always understand them (especially any of them involving math) or realize how they would impact me well beyond childhood, I’m eternally grateful for the things my parents taught me.

Kindness was one of the most valuable lessons. But this idea of “kindness” is kind of (see what I did there) nebulous. I mean, if I were to tell Miles, “Make sure you’re always kind,” his immediate 4 year old response would be, “What’s kind mean momma?” Because this kid, ever a journalist’s kid, is FULL of questions.

So, in my never-ending quest to be 1/10th of the parent to my boys that my mom and dad were to my sister, I’ve been working to instill the importance of kindness. One way I’ve tried to illustrate it is by including EVERYONE.

I remember as a kid when we had a birthday party we would have two choices — we’d invite every girl in the class (because, ewwwww, boys!) or our two closest friends. It was an all or nothing kind of thing. If you invited seven of nine… now that’s just mean. Or even worse, eight of nine. Imagine being that ninth little girl without an invitation!

Guess what guys, I’ve been that ninth little girl. And woman. Yep, apparently everyone didn’t have awesome parents like mine. Nope, they didn’t have parents who taught them the importance of kindness and including everyone. No, you don’t have to be every one’s best friend. Heck, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend. But would it kill you to be kind?

Let me help you out… the answer is, “No.” Not only will it not hurt you to be kind, it will also help teach your children the importance of that lesson. We may think we are teaching our children something by telling them to do it, but if we ourselves aren’t modeling it… well, it’s just not all that valuable.

OK, my tree-hugging, kindness-loving self is going to go meditate in my office. Go do something kind now.

 

Embracing my inner worrywart

As a mother, you worry about everything, all the time. At least I do.

“Is that cough OK? Should he be walking like that? Is that rash normal?”

And it seems like, when discussing your concerns about your kids with other parents, the conversation almost always ends with the same expected, well-intentioned answer.

10408098_10152758655963434_7055173015335397673_n

“Don’t worry, he’s fine. Everything is OK.”

I’ll be the first to admit this is true most of the time. Probably like 98 percent of the time.

But sometimes it’s not.

owen

That’s why it’s so important to trust your parental instincts.

For us, what set off warning bells was Owen’s speech, or lack thereof. At 15 months old he wasn’t talking, at all.

He’d eked out one word. I was blessed that the one word he chose to scream over and over again was some variation of “mom.”

boys and bunny

In the next month or so he added “dada” to his vocabulary. But that was it.

From 16-18 months babies typically are saying 20 to 50 words. Owen was saying two. So at his 15-month checkup, our pediatrician didn’t say, “Everything is going to be OK.”

owen chicks

Instead, she said, “Let’s go ahead and refer him for early intervention.”

I was so prepared to just hear, “everything is fine” that hearing something different was a bit of a shock to the system.

boys and bunny

We had our assessment with the First Steps program Tuesday and are looking forward to getting the ball rolling with speech and physical therapy to address some other issues discovered a few weeks later.

Meanwhile, in the weeks leading up to his first speech appointment and at nearly 19 months old — like a car that only works right when the mechanic is looking at it — Owen’s vocabulary has exploded, relatively speaking. He now says “TV,” (T) “Mickey” (Icky), “ball,” “hungry” (gee,) “night-night,” “dog,” “baby,” “hi” and “bye-bye,” among a few others.

same1

He even counts “one-two-three” and can identify and say the colors yellow and red — at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

He’s still behind, but it’s a good start. And it certainly didn’t hurt anything to look into getting some extra help.

o

I am a worrier. It comes along with motherhood.

It’s also genetic; I come from a long line of worrywarts. Even as a toddler, I’m told, one of my most frequently spoken phrases was “I no worry!” — spoken while literally chewing my blanket with my whole body shaking.

baby o2

So I do need to hear quite often that, in fact, “It is OK.”

But sometimes it isn’t OK … and that’s hard. But it isn’t the end of the world.

OCEAN

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear

I bite my tongue a lot. I’m afraid of offending friends or family or possibly sources. But what good is this blog, my blog about MY opinion and thoughts if I don’t get a little controversial every once in a while.

So I’m done. Please stop using your kids as an excuse to be hateful.

Here’s what Target said, among other things, in a recent statement that is causing the good ol’ world of Mommy blogs and the far right (among other extremes) to call for a protest of Target:

“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.

“We believe that everyone—every team member, every guest, and every community—deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”

I’m struggling with finding the danger in this. Let’s all hold our breath and quiver as we read about the scary, scary world of acceptance. A world where we respect and welcome people. OH NO!

Specifically, Target says they welcome transgendered team members and guests to use the bathroom or fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity.

Naturally, many are under the assumption that these transgendered guests or staff are all sexual predators just waiting for Target to loosen the reigns on their policy and are just waiting to grab up our children to assault them.

So of course… let’s protest! I hate it for Target because it is bad for their bottom line. But I’m happy to not be rubbing elbows with people filled with such hate.

I mean, what are you scared of? Do you think Target telling people they are accepted all of a sudden makes your kids at risk?

“The left has always won on gay marriage, and now they are slowly making more perverted things acceptable.

It should be left up to private companies, and not state governments, to set bathroom policies. But why would anyone feel safe in Target… especially women and young ladies? How can parents feel comfortable sending their daughters into the Target restroom?” From thepoliticalinsider.com

There are folks protesting on Target’s Facebook, and LOTS of blogs and angry, indignant Facebook posts. Here’s one: “Will never spend another dime at target as long as Targett supports men in women’s restroom. Way to promote Pepping toms and perverts” (spelling is not mine.)

The thing is, that little placard with a straight-legged stick person or a stick person with a triangle bottom outside of it before wasn’t going to protect our kids. Nope. So this new policy — a policy of acceptance, tolerance and equality — doesn’t all of a sudden make our kids in mortal danger.

And for people who are scared of things they don’t understand or know, or even worse for people who don’t like it or hate it, to use the excuse “but I’m protesting out of fear for my child (or your child/wife/daughter/sister’s) safety” …. NOPE! Big, fat NO.

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear.

Lifetime of memories just starting to be made

These days, it seems like every little moment with the kids is one of those things that makes me understand just how fast they’re growing up.

boys

And just how little time we have to soak everything in.

It can be hectic having two little kids — especially when both of them happen to be boys. The noise, the messes, the half-eaten dinners, the refusals to go to bed — it can absolutely be overwhelming at times. There are moments where I’m so exhausted I could cry.

But then there’s the first tee-ball practice, a kindergarten orientation, even an after-school dentist appointment (no cavities, thank you very much) that make you understand just how important it is to take stock in the moment and count your blessings.

kindergarten

And that was just with one kid, just last week.

At tee-ball practice last week, Miles stepped up to the plate with his brand-new green bat — he’s very proud of his green bat — and smacked a ground ball between first and second base. He stood there as everyone cheered and shouted for him to run for first.

baseball

After a few seconds he remembered to run, taking off for first base — then, halfway there, took an abrupt left turn, diving on his own ground ball, reminding us all what it’s like to be a kid — grass-stained pants and all.

baseball1

Michael was so proud.

“He totally sold out for that ball,” Michael said. “He’s like the Pete Rose of tee-ball.”

That’s the kind of story parents tell about their children for a lifetime.

Other people often tell me when I’m out and about with the boys, “Make this time count, it goes by too fast,” and it seems like that has become extra true lately for some reason.

It seems like just yesterday we were bringing Miles home from the hospital for the first time, going 20 miles an hour the whole way, excited, nervous and in no way prepared for what being parents was all about.

miles peace

Suddenly, that little boy is nearly 5 years old and is preparing to start kindergarten. We toured his new kindergarten. I feel like if I keep saying it, somehow it will seem more real and less scary. I just can’t believe how the time has gone by just like that.

funny

Owen turned 18 months just about a week ago. He’s already making couch cushion forts in the living room, dancing and singing along with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, getting into anything and everything he can. We know that it won’t be long before we can’t (or at least shouldn’t) call him “the baby” anymore.

owen

And as bittersweet as it can be to see them growing up so fast, I am incredibly lucky.

There have been — and still will be — moments of frustration, tantrums and tears, from them and me. And in those moments I may be counting down the minutes to bedtime. What I’m choosing to focus on is the lifetime of memories — mostly amazing — yet to be made. There’s a world of firsts ahead.

And knowing that is the best blessing of all.

owen chicks