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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

KINDGERGARTEN round up day!

It’s here; it’s here! I can’t believe the day is here.

I’m trying so very hard to focus on the excitement of today — Miles gets to meet his new teacher, see his new classroom, visit is new school!

Yep, I keep repeating those things in my head — fun, exciting, new!

Fun!

Exciting!

New!

Fun! (Did we make the right decision?)

Exciting! (Is he ready?)

New! (Will he fit in?)

I’m going to throw up!

first day of pre-k 2015

Seriously, I’m not just saying that. My stomach has been doing flip-flops all day. I’ve done so much anxious toe-tapping and ankle jiggling that my feet are for sure going to be beach ready. All that’s missing is the pacing, and the closer it gets to 4:30 (start time for round-up) the more likely I am to be worked up to a full-on panicked, pacing parent.

Michael won’t be able to join me; he has to work. Thankfully my aunt is going to watch Owen so I don’t have to juggle into everything 1 1/2 year old extraordinaire and I can 100 percent focus on Miles, who is 100 percent unfazed by this daunting undertaking.

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“Kindergarten, cool,” he said this morning.

I’m sure we made the right decision. OK, maybe we didn’t. Who knows? We’ll never know. We’ll always second guess. EVERY DECISION, right. I think that comes with the territory.

We will ALWAYS wonder if he is ready. Again, I think that’s parenting 101 and totally a moving target. I still wonder if I’m ready. I often turn around and say, “What, I own a house? I’m someone’s boss? I have to adult today? Am I ready for all that?”

And I’m terrified about him fitting in. Heck, I don’t know if I fit in or if I want him to fit in… How I want him to fit in? This parenting stuff is SO HARD!

Back in the saddle

miles momCan I blame being a working parent for the fact that I haven’t kept up with my blog about being a working parent?

I’m the worst; I’m sorry.

But I’m vowing to be better.

My admission about being the worst is the first step. You see, what happens is is that I say, “OK, it’s been three days since you last posted.. what’s one more day?” Then it is four days… and then five. And then I’m like, “Yikes, it’s been two weeks since you last posted. You have to post. And it’s been so long it has to be incredible. It has to be so good. Your legions of fans (AKA your mom, well maybe not even your mom anymore because I think you still haven’t rebookmarked the page after she got a new laptop and your mom knows nothing about RSS feeds — let’s be real, you know nothing about RSS feeds) have been waiting.” So those huge expectations are tough.

And a couple of weeks turn until nearly a month.

So I put a stop to it! I bit the bullet. Instead, I’m writing about… not writing. Yep; I’m that cool. Here I am, blogging about being a terrible blogger. And, once again, vowing to not be so terrible.

I’ll fail, again.

If you read between the lines, this is pretty true to real life, at least for me. Life is kind of like this. We expect things to go one way. And for a good long while they do; they go swimmingly well — perfect, smooth sailing. Daily (or mostly daily) blog posts, or whatever life’s equivalent of that is to you. And then there is some small hiccup. A busier than normal day and you don’t get a blog post up. Life throws a curve ball at you; a unexpected bill, an illness, a child does something you never expected. That small bump in the road gets a bit bigger, and in what seems like an instant it turns into a giant pot hole.

And in the right circumstances it could turn into the Grand Canyon. Man, I’ve been there.

But we have to realize that it’s OK.

We’ll be OK.

We can pick up the pieces.

We can start again.

What is important is to be forgiving of ourselves and to remember that as we need support and forgiveness in the times of chaos and turmoil in our lives, we too need to provide that support to those around us who may be facing bumps of their own.

Be kind.

Parental amnesia

Parental amnesia — it’s a thing. Honestly, without it the world would cease to exist. If we didn’t forget lots of things (the swollen feet, contractions, sleeping in 20 minute intervals, discovering crusty spit up 2 hours into your work day) we’d never venture back into the baby making business. But it doesn’t stop at those early first few months. Oh no…

Just the other day, Michael and I were having a rough day and I thought, “We should go out to dinner, a nice treat.”

Hahahahaha!!!!!

I know, I know, I know. Those of you not suffering from parental amnesia or in the throes of living in my world who haven’t blocked out what it’s really like know how silly of a thought that really was.

“Honey, let’s go out to eat. It’ll give us a break from dishes, cooking. You wanted Mexican the other night. Let’s go!”

We walk in and are immediately seated in the “kids section” which started to rouse me from my parental amnesia.

I looked over at the nice couple with the well behaved, I’m guessing 6-year-old girl, dining quietly. There was an entire row of empty seats and the host sat us literally RIGHT ACROSS FROM THEM. Owen could nearly swat them with his grubby little hands.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

This is the kind of dining we'll stick to...

This is the kind of dining we’ll stick to…

I didn’t say this with my eyes. Nope, I meant it so much I said it with my words, an apologetic smile and my eyes. Throughout the meal as my amnesia quickly cleared away I was tempted to apologize by pulling out my wallet.

There was running around. There was lots of non-inside voice usage. There was food tossing. There were beans smeared in hair. Very little food was eaten. Very little adult conversation was had. The only thing I think Michael and I felt treated to was some judgement from other diners.

How quickly we forgot our pledge to never leave the house with toddlers again. If I look back on this very blog I will see similar posts written about similar outings taken with just one kiddo. Now that my amnesia has lifted I recall one trip quit vividly… there were several spilled drinks, countless tantrums and I can’t count how many times I picked his cup up off the floor… But the other day, I’d blocked that out completely. I’d blocked out the promise Michael and I had made to ourselves and all Tri-State dinners to stay home so everyone could eat in peace.

So, once again, we take the pledge.

Until parental amnesia sets in again…

 

 

Ready for kindergarten?!?

It can’t be possible.

Just yesterday I was encouraging him to walk.

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Wasn’t it last week that he was smearing a peanut butter sandwich in his baby soft ringlet-filled hair?

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But it is… and I have to.

Today, this afternoon, in about three hours I’m registering my kid for kindergarten.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT OUT. I still haven’t been able to say it aloud. That makes it real, right? It becomes a thing if I verbalize it, right? (And we all know what happens when it becomes a real, live thing, right? I cry. I cry a lot!)

In addition to not feeling like it is possible that my little guy is growing up, I also have conflicted thoughts. Is he ready for this? I’m a planner (shocking I know) and in my head he was going to be in preschool another year.

That was the plan. Well it wasn’t always the plan…

miles grad

The original plan was for him to start preschool at 3 (he started nine days after his third birthday actually) and to go two years, the first just a few days a week and the second on a more fulltime basis to prepare him for Kindergarten.

first and last

It was all planned out in my own head. But then the outside world weighed in.

“Oh, you can’t start him in school this young!” “Boys need more time to mature before starting school.” “You’re setting him up for failure!” “Let him have more time to just be a kid and play; there’s plenty of time for school.” “He’ll never be ready for kindergarten that young!”

Shhhhhewwwwww….. (that’s the sound of the wind releasing from my sails.)

So, I did some Googling (I know, it’s a terrible idea) and found all kinds of articles to support the idea that boys who are a “young 5” struggle with the adjustment and are better off being “held back” a year. Miles’ July 20 birthday puts him just 11 days before the cut off.

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I was convinced. He CAN’T possibly be ready for Kindergarten. The new plan was hatched.

Fast forward nearly two years… I stop by the office at my son’s preschool asking about registering him for next year.

first day

“Won’t he be 5 by the cutoff?” the secretary asks me.

“Yes, but we’re choosing for him to stay in preschool an extra year,” I respond plainly… doesn’t she get that that’s the plan? It’s already been established.

“You can’t do that. It’s not an option.”

CRASH. SLAM. BOOM.

There goes my plan.

Several panicked phone calls, some more Googling and a few tears. I learn she’s right. We could choose to enroll Miles in private preschool but if we want him to stay in the public school system he will be starting kindergarten this year. GASP.

I once again opened myself up to advice and insight. Some of the same folks who two years ago thought it would be a terrible idea gave me encouraging thoughts. They knew Miles and said he was ready. His current preschool teacher was supportive, other family and friends calmed my fears as well.

And guess what, the good ol’ Google found me several articles supporting the fact that my kiddo actually will survive. And maybe, just maybe, mom will too.

3 weeks miles

So… moral of the story, heck I don’t know. I’m too worried about registering for Kindergarten to make any sense today!

Treasure life, it goes so fast

It went so fast.

Each day he was robbed of something. One day he was walking fine, the next he needed a cane. The day after that a walker. And after another day a wheelchair.

My dad rarely did anything small. He negotiated traffic like a half-crazed lunatic. He once fearlessly pretended to be a roadie at a Buddy Miles concert just to get himself backstage — and totally pulled it off. He met my then-boyfriend for the first time ever wearing a child’s tutu on his head.

Now, this larger-than-life man was losing his battle with a monster — the cancer that had started in his liver less than a year earlier and had spread everywhere.

ab dad and sarah

We knew what was going to happen. The hospice people had explained to us that death was a process and that by being with him in his final days we would help him accept what was happening, and in turn be able to accept it ourselves.

Still, it went so fast.

I left work on a January afternoon with plans to be gone for a few days, spend some time with him and then go back to work. I never made it back to work before he died.
It went that fast.

dad book

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Yet when it did finally happen, those last breaths … it went so slow.

That morning we sensed it was coming so we all piled into the hospital bed in his makeshift room — the office space that had for so long been his sanctuary. He was surrounded by all of his music and sports memorabilia, family pictures like the one of my sister Sarah and I hanging baby faced from the monkey bars at the park, his pet lizard Cassidy, tchotchkes from family adventures.

family pre baby

None of us had slept much in days. The hours all kind of ran together. My mom hadn’t left his side, afraid even to blink lest she not be there for him. It had been a rough morning; his pain was intense. The hospice aid had just arrived, helping us convince our mom to take a few minutes, brush her teeth, change her clothes, have a moment.

It went so fast.

Sarah and I were still lying next to him in bed when what had been labored breathing suddenly turned into fighting, struggling breathing.

“Mom,” I shrieked up the stairs.

She came running down, toothbrush still in her mouth.

It was time.

We all huddled together crying and telling dad we loved him. It was OK. He could go.

And he did.

It went so fast.

It’s so hard to describe that moment. My grief was unbearable. We were devastated. The idea of going on without dad seemed impossible, unfathomable. But — and this is that thing no one feels like they can say out loud — there was relief.

dad back

Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating. I know our pain couldn’t hold a candle to what dad was going through. But it was so difficult. I was grateful his pain was gone. I was thankful that I could be there with him, along with my mom and sister, in those final moments, helping him say goodbye.

dad and mom

The past five years have zoomed by. So much has happened since Jan. 28, 2011.
I’ve had both of my boys, my sister her own son. Michael and I bought a house. Mom bought a house and moved to Newburgh. I’ve taken a new job. Sarah became a CPA.
There are the little things — we’ve taken family vacations, created new and silly family traditions, sent Miles off to school for the first time … things that I never imagined doing without my dad.

ab dad dance

Although we’ve lived the last five years without dad here, he’s continued to impact all of us. When faced with difficult decisions, I’ve often asked myself what dad would do, what advice he’d give. I’ve talked things out with him, listening for and looking for signs of his thoughts. It’s hard to get together as a family without laughing and sharing stories about dad. We miss him so much.

And my 30 years with him, well, they went so fast.

Never alone; thanks mom

This time of year is tough.

In just 15 days it’ll be five years since we lost dad.

This day a couple decades ago (I won’t say how many) my amazing, strong, resilient and rock star mom was born.

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It’s so hard to look at any of the days this month without having the countdown to Jan. 28. And, selfishly, I hate that amazing days — mom’s birthday, my sister and I’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday — are almost marred with this terrible, unimaginable thing.

But that’s life, right?

I fear sometimes that in my desire to honor and keep my dad’s memory alive — because let’s get real, he was an out of this world, over the top, loving, caring, awesome dad, husband, friend and advocate — that the stellar, shinning status of my mom is overshadowed.

mom

So, today, on the anniversary of the day of her birth, I’d like to shout from the rooftops — MY MOM ROCKS! I, without a doubt, would not be here today without her. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the fact that she birthed me (which she did, along with my twin sister in natural birth super star style.) What I mean is, I wouldn’t be the functioning successfulish adult that I am today. I wouldn’t be the loving, caring, trying to be patient, fun and rock star in training mom that I am today. I wouldn’t be a committed and passionate community advocate/volunteer.

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Yep, without her I would never be where I am today with my amazing family, a great job and an over-committed (but great) life. She’s been an incredible example for me showing me what it takes to be a powerhouse in the workplace and supportive, loving mom at home. She’s shown me the importance of having hobbies and passions and following through on them. She’s shown me how rewarding a life of service is and always modeled an accepting and tolerant sensibility.

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Without her unending support — emotional, financial and physical — I would have never graduated from college, become a peace corps volunteer, have a rewarding marriage and amazing children and countless other things.

Phone calls, tear-soaked shoulders, boxes and boxes of “just because I believe in you and love you” cards, silent but clear signs of support and encouragement… I truly have no idea what life would be like without her.

mom11 mom1

I’m lucky. I celebrate. I love.

So as these next few weeks drag on, and I’m flooded with the memories of those last days with dad that I simultaneously want to never let go of and also bury far away, I’m going to try to remember that this month isn’t all bad. It gave me a lot, and most importantly, it gave me my momma.

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This note in a card — the woman has single-handedly kept Hallmark and the U.S. Postal service in business — sums up her never-ending support and dogged belief in me, even in my jerkiest of childhood/teen years:

“Nothing would be the same without you being in my life. Be the special person that you are. Let everyone see what I see! Love Mom”

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Blast from the past

My mom called me a while back, talking through fits of laughter.

“I found this box of yours that said, ‘Do not open,’ with threats of death if I did. Of course I didn’t open it, but I really want to know what’s inside!”

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It turns out, she exaggerated a little — the box threatened a surprise attack by a cow (what was I thinking? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise with the warning proclaimed in purple marker.) I was kind of a strange kid. In addition to the cow warnings (which I put in three separate places) I had drawn my childhood dog Molly, a giant rainbow, two hot air balloons, a unicorn …box

Inside was an amazing collection of items dating back to at least 1991, though I suspect many are much older.

There were silly things like rocks, a plastic spoon (still in the plastic bag) and two straws from McDonald’s, buttons cheering on my alma mater, postcards I’d collected since elementary school, letters from friends at church camp, memorabilia from church youth trips, newspaper clippings mentioning my name, a hospital bracelet, my first-ever hair color box (Glints, gingergold), a papier-mâché bracelet I made from a cereal box, pictures from a million years ago including some terribly embarrassing prom pictures, stickers from every imaginable environmental group (I was a tree hugger even then) and a Biore pore strip (unused, thankfully) with Lilith Fair branding. Those all made me laugh, a lot, and cringe a little. box4

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But under all those silly treasures and memories was some incredibly important stuff — things I thought I’d not ever have again.

It’s been a year and a half since we lost many of our belongings in a fire. I was frustrated and angry about the loss of furniture, clothes and other valuables. But I was devastated by the loss of memories — photos, keepsakes from my adventures overseas, cards and letters (including from my dad who had passed away three years before then), photos, my son’s baby book and all of the mementos from his first two years of life … None of that can be replaced, and emotions were intensified by the fact that I was about six months pregnant with Owen at the time of the blaze.

So this treasure trove of unrelated items of “junk” is the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. I’ve been given some physical reminders of my amazing childhood memories.

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In the box, there were about a dozen cards and letters from my mom and dad. Some of my favorite tidbits from the letters and cards from my dad: 10/31/91 “Hi honey. I have been very busy at the workshop, but not so busy that I don’t have time to think about you. I realize how important you are to me when I go away. I realize how much I love you. Remember, it is who you are that I love and am proud of, no matter what you do.”

In that same envelope — written on stationary from an Omni hotel — was a nomination letter: “After long and careful thinking, the board of directors and I have decided that you would make the best choice as Daughter of a Lifetime. We decided this based on how frequently and effectively you prove how wonderful a girl you are. Your honesty, sensitivity, intelligence and beauty set you apart. Your mother and I are lucky; we love you. Respectfully, Daddy, co-chairman of the Brown Family Board.”

Card upon leaving for camp: “Show those girls what you’re made of, play tough, be fair, have fun.”

A just because card: “It’s amazing to me how often I tell somebody else how lucky I am, how great you are, how you are more adult and responsible than I am, how I wouldn’t know what to do without 1/3 of the best family a guy could have. You’re special, you belong here and I do love you.”

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I am incredibly lucky. I was, and still am, so loved. And, thankfully, my parents were willing and able to illustrate that love. The impact of these cards on me now — decades after they were written — are more powerful than I think can be imagined. And obviously they affected me when they were first written or I wouldn’t have had them tucked away and protected by an imaginary attack cow.

These were a reminder of how important it is for me to do the same for my boys. I heard my mom and dad tell me how special I was, how loved I was. And I truly heard those words; I felt their hugs. But reading it, being able to turn the cards over in my hands back then, today and decades down the road — it’s an incredible reminder of those facts when real life self-doubt and hate inevitably creep in. I am special. I am loved.

In this digital age I need to be sure I’m putting these same kinds of things onto something my boys can squirrel away in their room. So 20 years down the road I can give them their metal Paw Patrol lunchbox sealed shut with duct tape and a “do not enter” message.

And they can have those same laughs, tears and cringes and be reminded just how important they are to me, their dad and the world.

They are special. They are loved.

Wordless Wednesday

Merry Christmas from the Doyles. I made three Christmas cards (people only received one of each, I’m not that silly) because I couldn’t pick my favorite. And if you are on my Christmas card list… queen of procrastination didn’t get them out in time for pre-Christmas delivery. But they are, as the saying goes, “in the mail.”

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