Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why You Won't Find Us in Church this Christmas

To be fair, my husband and I are not very religious. We were both raised Catholic, we went to Boston College, one of the top Catholic Universities in the Country, but to say we have grown disillusioned with our Church of late is an understatement. Additionally, with the strong theological background I got from Boston College, and being raised in a family where questioning was encouraged, I can honestly say, there is much about the Catholic faith I no longer believe. And yet, if you asked me, I would still identify as Catholic. Being Catholic is not just about the doctrine to me, it is also very cultural. Much of my childhood is wrapped up in the traditions of my family's Catholic faith and that is indeed something that is important to me and something my husband and I both want to pass on to our children. So, while we rarely go to church, we still see the value in a Church community.   We have the intention of going to church more regularly when our children are older and can get more out of it. But presently, it is not how we choose to spend our Sunday mornings. But, we have always made a point to go on the "big days." Yes, we are one of the "hypocrites" (as my father-in-law would call us) that make it difficult for all the regular church-goers to get a seat on Christmas and Easter.

For the past 5 years we have traipsed each of our kids (currently almost 6, almost 3, and 14 months) to mass on Christmas eve. We get dressed in our dressy Christmas clothes. We get there early (at least 30 minutes) to try to get a seat, though we never do. If we got there early enough to get a seat (at least an hour) our kids would be DONE before mass even started. So, we cram into the back of the church where our kids can't see anything and have to stand. We try to engage them. We explain what is happening. We lift them up to watch the beautiful Christmas pageant that is so well done by the kids, but they can neither see nor hear very well. We try to be overly enthusiastic when singing songs in order to keep their attention. And despite all our best efforts we each end up taking turns walking the kids around outside, trying to distract them, and feeding them Cheerios. No one really gets anything out of it.  My husband and I had a long chat about how we could spend this time in a more meaningful way. So, this year will be different.

On Christmas Eve during the time that we would be going to church, we will instead be taking our children to a homeless shelter for women and children that serves our local community. We will go to Sarah's House and bring food, diapers, and toys for each of the 30 children who currently call this shelter home. This past Sunday the boys shopped with Daddy for the food, taking the time to talk about what kind of healthy food we should get, while including a few kid friendly snacks like Goldfish. Yesterday they shopped for diapers with me, and we also picked out 30 small toys. Ryan and Zachary were so engaged in choosing small toys that "any kid" could like since we don't know the ages of the kids. At one point I said, "what can we get for the babies?" Clearly, the fact that we had bought diapers hadn't really clicked with Ryan yet and he said, "Babies live there? There are babies who don't have a home?" The sadness and hurt on his little face was heartbreaking. And yet, he then immediately got to searching for the perfect toy for a baby, while also realizing that we don't know how many babies there are. So, he chose a collection of balls saying, "Babies love balls! But big kids can have fun with them too!" He turned his sadness about the realization that yes, there are babies that don't have a home into action. And that is a skill I hope my boys will carry with them far in life.

In addition to the toys, food, and diapers, Ryan, Zachary and I have been working on 30 hand made cards to go with each of the toys. We've talked a lot about how living in a homeless shelter, despite being surrounded by other people can be a very lonely experience. We've talked about how sometimes the people who live there might feel forgotten, and that by making these cards and giving these gifts we hope that each of the children and their parents will feel a little less forgotten this Christmas.

Our intent is to make this a tradition each Christmas for our family. I also hope to volunteer at this shelter with the boys throughout the year so that when we donate at Christmas time, it is a tangible place that they know and have a relationship with.

None of this is to say that Church isn't meaningful. And certainly, we could go to church and do what we're doing for the shelter, and one day, when the kids are a bit older, we will do both. But for now, this is what makes sense for our family. We will begin our Christmas Eve with the reading of the book I created for the kids the first year I was a mom. It's called "The True Meaning of Christmas" and it is a book that talks about how Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. We've read this book often. But we will read it again.  It explains that we celebrate Jesus' birth because he was a good man, who treated everyone with kindness and compassion, and who taught others how to live the same way. It doesn't even mention Jesus being the son of God...because if we're being honest, I'm not certain he is. I'll leave it to my kids to decide for themselves what they believe. But at the very least, I can fully embrace celebrating Christmas as a way to remember a man who lived life the way we should all seek to live our lives: in the service of the greater good. And so, this Christmas, my kids won't hear the Nativity story at mass. But they will experience a little taste of what it means to live like Jesus...and that, that is what Christmas is all about.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 1 Year!

My Dearest Connor,
Today you turned 1! Yes, one YEAR old! I spent much of today looking back at pictures and video of you being born. It was an amazing day…One I will never forget. I realized as I was looking at these pictures that I never really shared the video of your birth. Initially I didn’t because we weren’t supposed to take video. But, I’m fairly certain that ever since the story of your birth aired on NPR, with audio from the video we took that most of the world knows we recorded it. So, I’ve made a special video for you. (For anyone viewing it, it is a video of a surgery. So, there is blood. And yes, it is a video of a birth, so my chest is bare. Don’t watch if either of those things offend or bother you). Every time I watch this video I cry tears of joy. Connor, your birth was an AMAZING day. And Daddy and I are so very happy we got to spend your very first minutes on this earth, with you, together.

But as amazing as those early minutes were, the past year has been even better. You are just a joy to be around. I call you “Happy Connor C” when I tag pictures of you on Instagram and it continues to be true. You are rarely sad. The only times you cry are if you’re tired or hungry, and even then, you’re amazingly tolerant of our busy life with three boys that has you eating and sleeping on much less of a schedule than your older brothers were ever on. You’re a happy little guy who is happy to go wherever we go. Though, more and more you want to be up and about and are no longer content to just stay in the carrier snuggled against Mama or in the stroller.  So, outings are more interesting these days, but you still make traveling with three kiddos pretty easy, considering!

You love your brothers, you love your NeeNee and PopPop, you love Mommy and Daddy, and you love books! Boy do you love books. You love books more than any one year old I have ever met, including your brothers! You especially love the “That’s Not My….” touch and feel books and if you could, you would snuggle in someone’s lap all day long and have them read to you. Every morning, when Nee Nee or Pop Pop wakes up (because we are living at their house right now while we wait for our new house to be built) the first thing you do is grab a book, hand it to them, and wait for them to scoop you into their lap to read. It’s adorable, and I think it is one of the things you, NeeNee and PopPop will miss most once we move into our own house!

You continue to be a good eater. You are MUCH more of an adventurous eater than either of your brothers was at this age. You will try pretty much anything and so far there are few things you don’t like. I hope it stays this way, because having at least one kid who eats well is wonderful! (To be fair, Ryan is getting better….Zachary is still one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met!).

Sleep is another issue….but that’s Mommy and Daddy’s fault. We’ve spoiled you. We let you sleep in our bed once you wake up and I’m not sure how we will ever break you of this habit. Oh well, you’re only little once. I’ve made the song lyric, “let them sleep in the middle, oh, let them be little” our theme song. J

Connor, you are a wonderful addition to our family. We are so glad you’re ours and we cannot wait to watch you grow over the next year and all the many years after that. We cannot wait to watch the relationships with your brothers continue to develop. We hope the three of you will be best friends. We can't wait to see you develop even stronger bonds with the many people in this world who love you. You're a special little boy and it is clear that you have a special way of finding your way into the hearts of people who meet you. We love you so, so, so very much! Happy 1st birthday sweet boy!

Love always,


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 11 Months

Dearest Connor,

Somehow we are only one month away from your 1st birthday. I truly cannot believe it. While Ryan started Kindergarten this week, and I somehow did not get too emotional about that, I can tell you with certainty that I will be VERY emotional when you turn one. You're my sweet baby. My last. My littlest guy. I wish I could just stop time and keep you this little forever. And yet, you're such a joyful, special little boy that I am simultaneously excited to see what the future holds and to learn more about the little person you will become.

So, what have you been up to in the past month? Well, you continue to be our "HappyConnorC" who smiles constantly. You laugh the funniest laugh. Its actually more of a cackle. You babble and "talk" all the time. You seem to constantly be "saying" something, though we often have no idea what it is. You also do this rather obnoxious yelling thing anytime you want something or someone. You point and yell and reach for whatever it is you want. I do not remember your brothers doing this and I'm not quite sure how to get you to stop! While I am confident that I will never have to worry about you making your voice heard as the youngest of three boys, I am eager for you to be able to say actual words instead of yelling!

But you do have a few actual words. You say "Mama" very clearly and often. I hear you say Dada too, sometimes, but its more often when Daddy isn't here and you seem to be looking for him. You say "Ha" and "Bah" (hi and bye) and wave while doing so. And goodness do you LOVE to wave! You wave at anyone and everyone and you bring frequent smiles to strangers everywhere we go. One of my favorite things about having a baby in tow is the ability to bring joy to other people with such ease. Connor, you do this so naturally as a little guy and I hope that is a trait that will stay with you throughout your life.

You are a great eater, and not such a great sleeper. I may have finally figured out how to avoid a picky eater by the third kid (you'll eat just about anything I put in front of you), but the sleep thing I still haven't figured out. Although, that's because with you (and with Zach) I've taken a much more relaxed view of sleep and most nights just let you join Daddy and me in our bed. That allows everyone to get more sleep!

You continue to love your brothers fiercely and are perhaps at your happiest whenever they are around. Now that Ryan goes to school every day you and Zachary are starting to interact more and more. And every day when we pick Ryan up at school it is so cute to see you eagerly looking for him and then get so excited when he is finally there.

You continue to be very much a Mama's boy, but you are getting more and more used to NeeNee and PopPop. Living here with them, while we wait for our new house to be built, is challenging for all of us. Its certainly no one's fault ( might be a little bit our fault. It has to be pretty miserable for NeeNee and PopPop to have their lives invaded by all of us!). But, the absolute BEST part of living with them is seeing the relationship develop between them and you. I have a feeling you will have an extra special bond with your NeeNee and PopPop, and that's saying something, since they already have such a special bond with your big brothers!

In other news, you love crawling up the stairs. And if I take my eyes off you for even a few seconds I can be certain to find you on the stairs, crawling your way up, usually laughing hysterically as you go. Whenever I come around the corner and find you, you start giggling even harder. You know you're not supposed to go up by yourself and yet, you do it anyway, all. the. time. 

And perhaps the biggest news of all, is that you started walking! (Note: I started writing this on your actual 11-month-day, and I'm not finishing it until today, September 3rd) But just this morning, the 3rd, you took your first independent steps. You'll be flying around the house on two feet in no time! You were quite proud of yourself this morning after you took those first few precarious steps! 

Booyah! I can walk!! 

Connor, while I can't believe you're already 11 months, I also can't believe we ever lived without you. You bring such joy to our every day lives. You add to the immense joy we already felt from Ryan and Zachary. We are so glad you're a part our family, and we can't wait to watch you grow (well, we could wait a're just so much fun right now...minus the screaming for stuff you want. ;)

Happy 11-month-day, Sweet Boy! I love you more than you will ever know!

Love always,


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The First Day of Kindergarten

My Dear Ryan,

As I write this you are spending your first day in Kindergarten. You have probably eaten lunch by now. Hopefully you had fun at recess, and are enjoying meeting new friends. I hope its the BEST day ever!!

You were so excited this morning. So. Excited. It made me think back to your first days of Preschool. I remember you sobbing every day for at least a week either when I dropped you off, or often, after I left. You always seemed to keep it together for me, but then once I was gone you just missed me too much and the tears started flowing. Twice I got a call because you were so upset the teacher was worried I would have to come get you. It never got to that point. You always pulled your brave face out about 1 minute before I would pull up to the school and I'd get a call that said, "He's fine now."

But this morning was so different. You were eager and excited to get there. When Daddy, Zachary, Connor, and I walked you up to the front door you were ready to line up without even giving us a hug goodbye. But then the administrator who was about to take your hand said, "What about a hug for Mom and Dad?" Then of course you gave your signature "monkey hugs" and you were off. You headed into school with the confidence and swagger of a kid who'd been doing this forever. As I yelled, "Have a great day! I love you!" you tossed a nonchalant wave my way.

I'm not gonna lie...the ease with which you headed off today stung just a little bit. But mostly, I was just so, so proud of you. I know you're going to have a great day. But I know you are confident that I'll be there at the end of the day to hear all about your day. And I know you're excited for that, and for all that will happen in between drop off and pick up.

So many moms talk about how sad they are on this day. And I suppose if I let myself linger too long on the idea that you will now spend the majority of your days in the presence of an adult who is not me then I get a little sad. But then I remind myself that many parents spend the majority of their days away from their children who are in daycare, from the time they are tiny babies and I am immensely grateful for the past 5 and a half years during which I have been home with you almost every single day.

And yes, if I stop to think about how tiny you were, and how big you are now, and how there are so many moments lost in between that I don't remember, then I get a little sad. I can no longer hear your "baby voice" in my head. I don't remember all the cute words you said incorrectly. Sometimes I wish I could just make time freeze. But I can't. And so, I look at you, and at the beautiful person you are becoming and I rejoice.

Jumping for JOY! 
This morning I sent you off with excitement and pride knowing that you're ready. You are kind. You are brave. You are curious. You are eager. You will do fantastic in Kindergarten. And I am so proud that Daddy and I have somehow managed to help you develop into that beautiful little boy who is so very ready. Daddy and I didn't (and still don't) know what we were doing all the time as parents. We've stumbled and made mistakes. We've yelled too much at times. We've unfairly expected too much of you at times because you're the oldest. We'll no doubt continue to make mistakes from time to time. But looking back, I know each of your days was filled with love. There were always many "I love yous" exchanged, so many hugs and snuggles. Lots of books have been read, games played, matches wrestled, and tickles fought. And at the end of every day you have fallen asleep safe, secure, and confident that you are loved because you're you. And though we haven't done everything right, we've done that right.

So, today I watched you head into elementary school for the first time and I stood in awe of this amazing little person that Daddy and I created and have helped shape into a wonderful boy. I know you're not perfect. I know you'll make mistakes. But I know you're awesome. And today, I'm letting myself take a little credit for that. I am reveling in the fact that WE MADE IT! We made it to Kindergarten with your sense of self not only in tact but strong. I can't wait to see what the future holds for you, sweet boy. I'm so fortunate to have a front seat for what will no doubt be a fantastic show.

Here's to many more firsts!

Love always,


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Night Before Kindergarten

Below is a letter I wrote to Ryan and read aloud to him the night before his first day of Kindergarten:

August 26, 2015
My Dearest Ryan,

Tomorrow you will start Kindergarten. What adventures await you! You will learn new things, and meet new people.  Who knows, you may even meet someone who will be your friend for the rest of your life?! You will have so many new experiences. You’ll learn new games, new songs, new facts, and new skills. You will probably feel new feelings, too! School is a wondrous place. The possibilities of what you can do, achieve, learn, or change are endless. We can’t wait to watch the possibilities unfold.

But Ryan, I want you to know that there is nothing in this world that Daddy and I want more for you than to view school as an opportunity to grow as a person and to practice being kind and brave. I’ve told you before, we don’t care if you’re the smartest, or the fastest, or the best artist. But we care that you are the best YOU that you can be. Try your best, work hard, have fun, and be good. We know you are amazing. Now is your chance to show the rest of the world!

Part of being the best YOU possible is learning to be kind. Go through your day with your eyes wide open. Keep an eye out for the kid who is extra shy, scared, or lonely. Try to help them be a little less scared and a little less lonely. Say hello. Ask him to play. Smile at her. Offer to share your snack…yes, even if the snack is your most favorite snack in all the world and you wish that I had packed more of it for you. Being kind isn’t always easy. But, it’s always right. And sometimes doing the right thing means you have to be brave.

Sometimes it will be hard to do the right thing, the kind thing. Sometimes you’ll worry about what to say, or how to help. But dig deep in that big heart of yours. You are naturally caring. You instinctively know how to make people feel better. Trust those instincts. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference you can make!
There may be times when you see one student being mean or unkind to another student. These are the times that really require bravery. Don’t stand back. Don’t let that child who is being unkind think that it’s ok. Show him or her that being kind is the best way to be, and that doing otherwise will not win him or her any points or any friends. Show them what being kind looks like by standing up to them confidently. And if doing this seems too hard, or too scary, because sometimes it might, then tell a teacher or grown-up what happened so they can help.

Ryan, there is nothing you can or can’t do at school that will make Daddy and I love you any more than we already do. We already love you as much as we ever could or ever will. And that is a WHOOOOLLLEEEEE LOT! There is nothing you can do to make us love you any less. We love you because you’re you, because you’re ours, and you always will be. We hope that all the love we have for you will help you be able to show that love to the other kids you will meet at school.
Ryan, we want you to love school. We want you to have fun. We want you to explore, learn, create, run, play, ask questions, and have new adventures every day. But most of all, we want you to grow into the amazingly kind, caring, and thoughtful little boy that we already see glimpses of every day.

Have a blast at school sweet boy! We can’t wait to hear all about it! I love you so, so, soooooo much! I love you to Pluto and beyond!

Love always,


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 10 Months!

My Dearest Connor,

Today you turned 10 months old. I always find the 10 month mark a little bitter sweet. It's the point where you've officially been out of my belly longer than you've been in it. And it is a reminder of how fleeting those pregnant moments are. I know I will never feel the flutter of little kicks from inside ever again. And while pregnancy can sometimes seem to last forever, it really goes by so quickly. I cannot believe that you've been out and about in this world for 10 months! I look at pictures from a year ago, when you weren't here yet and it seems like yesterday. And yet, remembering our family life without you is hard to do!

I apologize that I didn't write a post when you turned 9 months. As I mentioned when you turned 8 months, I expected that might happen. July was a BUSY month. We moved on July 2nd, one day after your 9 month-day. So, while I am amazed I remembered to take pictures for your 9th month, I did not find the time to blog. And, honestly, its probably just as well. I was a little stressed out with life at that point in time. Who knows what that post would have said! But one thing I can say, is that despite the stress of moving, you were a constant reminder to just soak in the moments and not wish them away. I think as my youngest, you will always be a reminder of that for me. Its easy, when going through life with three little people to wish for the future....when you and your brothers will be more self sufficient; When you won't need me for every. single. thing. And yet, when I think of that, of not being needed as much, I can feel the tears brimming behind my eyes. I know I'll miss these moments. And so, I'm doing my best to soak them in the best I can.


And Connor, there is so much about you to soak in. You are just a joy. You smile often (just check out the HappyConnorC hashtag on Instagram for proof!...Will all those hashtags still exist when you're 30 and one day reading this?? I hope so!) and you giggle delightedly. Your laugh is truly contagious. You wave hello and goodbye at anyone who will wave back. You have mastered clapping and you do it any chance you get, particularly for yourself when you stand all by yourself. You get the biggest smile on your face, clap excitedly, and just wait for someone to clap with you and say, "Yaaaaayyy!" You say "Mama" as clear as day, and sometimes, I think I hear you say "Dada," even if its not as clear yet. You crawl anywhere and everywhere, pull up on everything and cruise around furniture, along railings, and up steps. You can't make your way down yet, and have precariously tumbled a few times off the single step between NeeNee and PopPop's kitchen and family room. Who knew one little step could be so pesky!

And while you are happy most of the time, that's not to say you're never sad or angry. You're very strong willed. If someone takes something from you that you want (but can't have) or tells you no about something you're trying to do, you yell and screech and have even been known to throw your little body backwards in protest or lay face first on the ground. Oh, your toddlerhood is going to be awesome!

But, I am certain your happy, strong-willed nature will serve you well as the youngest of three boys. I have no doubt that you will never let your older brothers take advantage of you. At least I hope not. Speaking of your brothers, they both continue to love you tremendously. Ryan still dotes on you and loves being the biggest big brother who can truly help with you at times. He will often play with you in your crib in the morning while I am getting ready since there is really no "safe" place for you to play upstairs at NeeNee and PopPop's house. Zachary is beginning to realize that you can now get into his stuff and thus you're a bit of a bother to him at times, but overall, he sees you as his "baby Don-na" (he cannot say Connor well, despite the fact that he now talks up a storm!) whom he enjoys playing with and he loves being "the big helper in our family" as Daniel Tiger says. I love watching the two of you play together and lately Zach has been asking to "read" books to you and it is so cute to see him make up stories as he turns the pages in books for you. I've told you this before, and I'll say it again: Your brothers will never be replaced. They are your first friends. They will one day be the only other people who remember your childhood. Cherish them. Love them. Forgive them. Call them (no, texting is not the same. Don't let anyone say it is. Pick up the phone. Hear each other's voices, and check in!). Enjoy them.

We've been busy the past few months not only with packing and moving out of our home, but also with fun. We went on your first ever full family vacation just two days after moving out of our house and into NeeNee and PopPop's house. The timing was terrible (we'd planned this vacation long before we ever knew we'd be selling our house!), but we still had a blast. Together with NeeNee, PopPop, Uncle John, Auntie Cindy, Uncle Mark, Auntie Catharine, Caitlin, Julia, and James we all stayed in a gorgeous big beach house in Bethany Beach, Delaware. You saw the Ocean for the first time, tried to eat the sand, rode a carousel for the first time, went swimming in the pool in our backyard daily, and just generally were a pleasant little guy to be around despite all the many changes that were going on in all of our lives (I don't think you had any idea where "home" was at that time). You had your moments, but for the most part you thoroughly enjoyed having all your brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and of course beloved NeeNee and PopPop all within such close proximity. We made many very special memories and had a blast!

Connor, you are so very, very, very loved, and I hope you never, ever forget that. We have so enjoyed you being in our life for the past 10 months and we can't wait to see what the next 1,000 months have in store!

Happy 10-Month Day!



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Just Eat Your Pancakes

If you are a parent and spend any time on the Internet, you have certainly come across the drama that ensued when a small child in a diner in Portland, ME was being loud and the owner lashed out and yelled directly at the child. There is of course a lot of back and forth going on. But, there are a few things we know for certain, as the diner owner hasn’t disputed them, or said so directly:
  1. The owner yelled directly at the child…who was not even 2. 
  2. The owner referred to the child on her Facebook page as “it” and a “beast.”

I think based on those facts alone we can agree that the owner of the diner has some, well, let’s be nice and just say “issues.”

The Washington Post has since published a response from the Mom of the child (you can read it here).  She paints a picture of a normal 21 month old, who was getting antsy as she had to wait a long time for an easy breakfast (three pancakes). She explains that it was raining, and that is why they didn’t take the child out of the restaurant, and instead decided to try to eat as quickly as they could and then leave. Honestly, I don’t really care what happened. What I care about are the reactions that people have had to this mother. In the comments section the parents are being made out to be monsters who should be “sterilized” and the diner owner is a hero.  One commenter said taking a child who is tired and hungry out in public is “child abuse.” Another said the mom is a “self-centered jerk.” I’m sure worse things have been said, but I only scanned the first page of comments (and there were at least 300 more pages to go).

I would love to meet all these perfect parents who feel that they can be so easily judgmental of a parent they have never before met. If so many parents have such perfect children, then the future is certainly bright! But a parent of perfect children, I’m certainly not one of them.

I have three boys ages 5, 2, and 9 months. And until recently I would say they were fairly well behaved almost all the time. Even in restaurants. But, we recently moved. And the creatures who have invaded my children’s’ bodies and taken over have given me the biggest dose of humility I have ever been given.

See, we didn’t just move. That makes it sound simple. No, we sold the only home my three children have ever known. Before selling we somehow managed to keep the house in pristine condition 24 hours a day for three weeks (yes, I know we were lucky it was only three weeks) while it was listed for sale. During this time the boys certainly weren’t able to play and make messes as easily in our house, as we had to be able to clean up and leave on a moment’s notice. The level to which they picked up on all of this was evident when my mom was babysitting and my two year-old said, “I dusting so we can sell house.” (No, I never made them dust. But, he was pretend-playing and had CLEARLY picked up on a lot.)

We purchased a new home to be built. But that home won’t be ready until the end of October. We moved out of our house and into my (very generous and gracious) parents’ house on July 2nd. On July 4th we headed to the beach for a week-long vacation with my entire extended family (parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephew) that had been planned long before we ever decided to sell our home. So, in 2 days time my boys were living in three different homes. I don’t think they had any clue where “home” was.

Clearly, they’ve been through a lot of change in a short amount of time, and it has been hard. Really, really hard. I’m a Social Worker. I’ve tried to prepare them, and help them understand, and cope as well as possible. But, when a little kids’ world turns upside down, well, they act out. Out of fairness to my children I’m not going to air their dirty laundry and tell any of their acting out stories. But, there are definitely some people in Bethany Beach, DE who probably think my kids are brats (for the record, they’re not) and I’m pretty certain my parents think I’m the worst Mom in the world given the way my kids have been behaving over the last few weeks. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! I swear they’re not normally like this…Really! They aren’t!)

All of this is to say that yes, I may be a little sensitive to the plight of a mom with an acting out toddler right now. But I hope that even before parenting these children who are so not my children that I would have been more understanding and non-judgmental to the mom of the 21-month old in the diner in Portland.

The whole time I read about this Diner Debacle I kept thinking of the quote that says something like, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” (which has been attributed to anyone from Ian Maclaren to Plato).  I’m not saying that my move is a battle, or that the parents in the diner were fighting a battle (the mom doesn’t mention one in her Washington Post response, but it’s certainly her prerogative to keep it private if she was). But, that diner owner didn’t know that! The harsh commenters don’t know that.  When did we as human beings stop giving each other the benefit of the doubt?  Especially, as fellow parents, who have been in the trenches with tiny dictators, we should know that parenting is HARD…so hard. Even when not fighting any particularly difficult battle, sometimes, parenting is a battle in and of itself. We should want to support our fellow parents and help them out, not break them down and berate them for responding in a less than ideal way to a typical toddler.  

And to people who don’t have children, please, just keep your mouth shut. Parenting is truly one of those things that unless you’ve done it, you have no place judging those who have. And even those who have done it, have no right to judge, because, remember: hidden battles.

 As I mentioned, I’m a Social Worker. I’ve spent my career working with really, really sick kids. I always think about these kids when I see children having a hard time out in public. Even when a child is really sick, they still want to be normal. Their families still want to do normal things, like, eat out at restaurants. You never know if the tantruming child at the table next to you is the sister of a child who is hospitalized and possibly dying. You never know if the little boy whining and crying in the booth across the restaurant just spent the past 60 days in a hospital for chemo or radiation or surgery, and upon discharge asked to go to his favorite restaurant. His parents probably knew it was a bad idea. But what parent isn’t going to grant that simple wish to their brave child?

So, let’s stop judging. Let’s start helping. Be that parent who brings a toy you have in your diaper bag over to the tantruming child to try to distract them. Be the parent who catches the eye of the frustrated parent and mouths, “Been there. Done that,” and smiles. Be the stranger, who doesn’t have children, who makes a paper airplane and sails it over to the child with a note that says, “smile.” (Yeah, that sounds cheesy, but I bet the kid would stop crying!). Be a helper. Or, at the very least, don’t be a hater. Don’t spew anger and judgment. Remember when you’ve been at your worst and how you’ve made mistakes, and acted in ways that you regret? Then imagine you’re 2 and don’t have a fully developed brain, and can’t process emotions effectively. And remember that when parents are stressed out and embarrassed they sometimes make poor decisions and can’t think straight and decide to just try to scarf their food down as quickly as possible instead of immediately removing their kid from the restaurant. If eating in a diner—come on, this was NOT Le Diplomat (if you live in DC and haven’t been….GO!) This was a casual diner. The kid could not have been disturbing that many people—just take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your pancakes. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Do We Tell the Children?

There are so many bad things happening in our world. And as an avid NPR listener—when in the car (don’t worry, I let my kids listen to Casper Babypants, and BNL Kids, and Rocknocerous too, but Mama’s gotta get her news fix somewhere!)—my kids hear about them. I’m a Social Worker by profession and I’m not one to shy away from a tough conversation with my kids.  And as my oldest gets older (he’s 5 now), those tough conversations have been getting a lot tougher. I’ve spent my career talking to kids who are dying (and their loved ones) about death. It doesn’t get much tougher than that.   But having these sometimes very sad conversations with my own kid is really hard.
So, what do we tell our kids when they hear about a mass shooting, with racism at its core, in South Carolina, or about another shooting in a movie theater/school/church/pick your place, or about an ISIS attack in Syria or Iraq, or about a family who got evicted because they couldn’t pay rent? Sad, scary, devastating stories about our town, country, or world are not things we should hide from our children. Instead, we can take an opportunity to talk to our children in an honest, caring, open way that I hope will help prevent many of these tragedies from occurring in the future. My hope is that my children won’t have to have as many of these tough conversations with their own kids.
When my son heard the reporter on NPR say, “9 people were gunned down by a 21 year-old in a South Carolina church,” the conversation went something like this.

Ryan: Mama, what did he say? What is gunned down?
Me: It means that one bad guy shot 9 people with a gun.
Ryan: Did they die?
Me: Yes, they did.
Ryan: Why did he do that?
Me: Because he was a very bad person. He wasn’t taught how to love people the way we do.
Ryan: Why did he want to hurt them?
Me: Sometimes, bad people think it’s ok to hate other people just because they are different. And we know that’s not ok.
Ryan: What was different about them?
Me: Well, the bad man who shot them had light colored skin like you and I have. And the people he shot had brown skin.
Ryan: He shot them because their skin was a different color?
Me: Yes, he did.
Ryan: That’s silly.
Me: Yes, it is very silly. It’s terrible…and very, very sad.
(long silence......)
Ryan: Mama,  are there bad guys like that near here?
Me: Maybe. But we are very lucky. We live in a very safe town, and the police, and all the other good guys do everything they can to keep us safe from any bad guys.

And that’s where it ended this time. He’s getting older, and one day I know the follow-up question will be, “But Mama, what if the bad guy near here had a gun and still was able to hurt people? What if they hurt us? Or someone we know?” And I would say, “That would be terrible. And we would all be scared and sad. But we would also all work together to help the people who were hurt. And we would then do everything we could to try and make sure it never happens again.” As he gets older, I’ll explain that it’s our responsibility to do what we can NOW. No one should wait until the next tragedy is in their backyard.

 Here are some general guidelines I use when talking with my kids, or other kids about really tough subjects:

1.     Be Honest:
Kids are smart and intuitive. They can easily tell when you’re not being truthful or are trying to hide things from them. And hiding things from kids only makes them feel more anxious and worried. Children have very vivid imaginations. If they feel that something is being kept from them they may imagine things are much worse than they really are. The truth is scary. But not knowing what to believe or who to trust is scarier.

2.       Give Information In Tidbits
In the conversation I had with my son about what happened in South Carolina you can see that I fed him little bits of information at a time. I let him ask lots of follow-up questions. I let him voice the questions that mattered to him. Sometimes, we can give kids too much information and overwhelm them. If we spit out too much information too quickly, we might cause them to worry about things that they haven’t even begun to understand, much less worry about. So, follow your child’s lead. Answer the questions they ask one step at a time.

3.       Don’t be afraid to show emotions
Not showing our honest emotions is akin to not telling the truth. And as I said, above, kids are intuitive. They know when we’re hiding something. When kids can sense that they aren’t being given the whole picture—and they can sense this at a very young age (a fascinating study on this topic was just recently published, you can read about it here)— they grow anxious and distrusting.  If we don’t let kids see us cry, or show anger or frustration, then they will think that doing so is wrong. Hiding our feelings teaches our kids to hide their feelings. Showing our emotions teaches kids that it’s ok to show theirs too.

4.       Give them hope
As grown-ups we all look for the positives in tragic situations. Not doing so leaves us feeling hopeless and paralyzed by fear. Children too, need that glimmer of hope. Mr. Roger’s quote (above) about looking for the helpers is one of my favorites. It can be used in many situations and circumstances. Develop the habit in yourself of looking for the helpers so that your children learn how to find hope in the most tragic situations.

5.       Keep the lines of communication open
One of the best things we can do as parents for our children is to assure them that we are always available to talk, that no topic is off limits, and that they can trust us with the really hard stuff. If we don’t talk openly, easily, and honestly with our children on a daily basis, then they won’t seek us out in scary, sad, and difficult times. Helping our kids understand, process, cope, survive, and thrive after a tragedy is not something achieved only in times of tragedy. We work toward it every single day. The way you communicate with your children and with the people you love teaches your children how to communicate with you, with the people they love, and the people they encounter on a daily basis. As Gandhi so wisely instructed us, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and begin with your children. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

From One to Three

Being the mom to three young kids ages 5 and under, I often find myself reflecting on how different my parenting is now with my 3rd than it was with my 1st. So, here are 5 of the most glaring differences between my first-time-mom self and my seasoned third-time-mom status.

1.    The Diaper Blowout:

FIRST KID: Carefully remove the shirt, trying desperately not to get poop on his face or in his hair, even though it's unavoidable. Promptly give baby a full bath. Scrub the shirt to remove stain from oh-so-stainable infant poop. Soak shirt in Oxyclean for 12 hours, then wash. 

SECOND KID: Remove shirt as carefully as possible knowing he's going to get poop on him. Give him a good clean up with a few wipes. Toss shirt in the laundry and hope the stains come out.

THIRD KID: Cut shirt off with scissors and toss in trash. Change non-poop-covered baby. He's as good as new!
(Only recently did that whole “oh! The collars on Onesies are like that so you can roll the shirt down instead of take it over their head” thing go viral. So, yeah, I had no idea about that….but, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything anyway. I’d still be throwing Onesies away at this point.)

2.    Books I’ve read about “How To Get the Baby to Sleep.”

FIRST KID: Allllllll of them. Every. Single. Freakin’. One.

SECOND KID: The one my Sister-in-law swears worked miracles for her son.

THIRD KID: None. And I threw away all the other ones I read before with the other two. Nope, I wouldn’t even donate them. No parent out there needs to worry that much about their kid’s sleep.
(To be clear, this change is not because I became some “master of getting my kids to sleep” by reading all those books. Noooooo, definitely not. I just don’t care anymore. I’ve accepted the fact that my children do not sleep through the night until at least 14 months, and I am OK with that).

3.    People who have seen my boobs (while nursing):

FIRST KID: The baby. My husband. Maaaaaaybe my mom.

SECOND KID: The baby. My husband. My older son. Definitely my mom, probably my sisters-in-law.

THIRD KID: The baby, my husband, my two older kids, my mom, my sisters-in-law, my dad, the pediatrician, the UPS guy, the old lady who came up to talk to us while my older two were feeding the ducks, the numerous guys at the construction site we frequent daily to watch the trucks, the nice woman in the coffee shop at the train station (that we also frequent daily to watch the trains), and maaaaaybe my brothers (but probably not. Some things will always just be weird).

4.    Questions I have for the Pediatrician at well visits:

FIRST KID: Soooooooo many. And they were typed out, on a neat list, that I printed the night before. I brought two copies. One that had been neatly glued in my “Baby’s 1st year” notebook so that I could take notes, and one so that the pediatrician could have a copy, because clearly, he needed a copy of my questions.


THIRD KID: Lots. But they are all about my oldest. I’ve done this baby stuff before. But I’ve never done this 5 year-old stuff before! I’m still a “first time Mom” to him. Basically, well visits for the baby are just an opportunity to get the advice of a doctor I have grown to love and respect tremendously over the years. I might need to keep having kids just so I can have regular advice sessions with him. I mean seriously, when my youngest is 2 am I really expected to go an ENTIRE year without the reassurance he provides that I’m not completely screwing up my kids?

5.    Visits to the Pediatrician outside of Well-visits during the first year:

FIRST KID: None. Seriously, I thought I was a freaking rock star! I mean, not one ear infection, not one stomach bug, not one case of pink eye! I was mom of the year! Clearly, my kid’s awesome health was because I was DOING IT ALL RIGHT!

SECOND KID: 37. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it felt like that. My oldest still never gets sick. My second gets a fever if you look at him crooked and has an uncanny ability to catch every cold in a 20 mile radius. They were both breastfed. Don’t let anyone tell you your kid does or doesn’t get sick because of the breast or the bottle. Some just don’t. And some do. And some get the benefit of an older sibling who shares allllll the germs.

THIRD KID: None. We’re only at month 8. But so far, no “sick” visits. But this isn’t because he hasn’t been sick. For the first 4 months of his life I felt like he had a constant cold. But my threshold for concern is much lower. (That visit to the ER doesn’t count, right?)

Whether you’re a first time, a third time, or a sixteenth time mom, this parenting thing has a constant and steep learning curve. Don’t be too hard on yourself no matter where you are on that curve. Some days it is easier. Some days it feels endless. But chances are, you’re doing just fine. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

The First of Many Graduations

Dear Ryan,

About 2 weeks ago you graduated from Preschool, Crofton Nursery School (CNS) to be exact. It was a wonderful little school with lots of parent involvement, and Daddy and I got to watch you blossom from a little boy who cried every day for the first three weeks of school during your "3s" year to a boy who bounded out of the car with such excitement each day of your "4s" year that you often forgot to toss a hurried "I love you, too!" my way as you headed out of the car and into your beloved school.

CNS was a place where you learned to love school. And that is all I wanted from your preschool experience. Yes, you made friends, and grew to understand the "social norms" of a classroom setting, and you learned about numbers, and bugs, and letters, and colors, and patterns, and experimenting, and fun. But mostly, you just loved going there, and that's all that mattered to me.

At your preschool graduation I saw so many moms who were teary, and emotional, and a little sad to see their sweet babies growing up. And I  totally get that. Really, I do. I look back at your newborn pictures and wonder where the heck the past 5 years have gone. But most of all, as I sat at your preschool graduation, watching you sing songs with enthusiasm, watching you do all the hand motions with precision, and watching you wink at me occasionally when you knew you were singing one of my favorite songs, the thing I was most thinking about is how every excited I am for you. This was just your first school experience...The first of many graduations to come. So much more lies ahead of you. I know you will thrive in school. You are inquisitive, eager, excited, determined, and kind. Every time I read a non-fiction book with you, either about trains, or trucks, or most recently about volcanoes I just love how you absorb every detail of information. You take it in. You swish it around in your brain for a bit, and then a few minutes, hours, or days later you come back with wonderful questions that show how you've assimilated all the information and are working to make even more sense of it all.

And so, instead of being sad that you're growing up (though, I'm not gonna lie, I still can't believe you're such a boy and not a baby anymore) I am just so thrilled that you are coming up on a point in your life where you will really take off, and develop new interests, and learn new skills, and explore talents you didn't even know you had. You're gonna do great, sweet boy. Kindergarten is going to be amazing!

Until then, let's enjoy this summer and soak in as much fun as we can. Because while I am soooo excited for you to begin "big kid" school, I can NOT believe that in a few short months you will spend the majority of every day not with me. I'm going to miss you! But I will so look forward to your stories when you come home (because really, you better not pull that whole "How was your day? Good. What did you do? Nothing. BS that I (and every other kid ever) has pulled on their parents. I want details, little man. I want to hear all about the new worlds opening up to you! You'll be the pilot, please take me along for the ride!

I love you, more than you'll ever know!



Monday, June 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 8 Months

Dear Connor,

You turned 8 months old the other day. (Yes, I am a few days late in writing this. I am actually writing it on June 5th, even though I will date stamp it as June 1st so that when you're older and looking for these posts you can easily find them).

You've been very busy this month! On May 6th you and I were on the local news talking about your birth, and once again advocating for Family Centered C-sections. The video of our television debut can be seen here:
(I often wonder if 5, 10, 15 years from now these news stories will still be there....I hope so!)

Other than being on TV you've also been accomplishing a lot at home. You are desperate to be able to move around. And despite the fact that you are so close to being able to crawl you generally get frustrated with trying and prefer to pull yourself up on anything and everything you can. You get soooo excited when you stand up and you just giggle and bounce whenever you're standing up straight holding onto something by yourself.

I have a feeling you will be an early walker like your big brothers were. But honestly, I'm ok with you staying immobile for quite a while longer. Life will change for all of us when you are truly mobile! Ryan and Zach won't know what to do with you and you might not be in their perpetual good graces any longer once you can move around and take their stuff. Daddy and I will have to watch you like a hawk because you already somehow manage to get into a lot of trouble even though you can't really move on your own yet!

In addition to trying to get up and about and take on the world, you've also made huge strides in eating. You recently learned how to suck on a straw and out of a baby food pouch. So, you now drink from a sippy cup and you have increased your food intake dramatically. (And yes, you eat mostly baby food pouches...but! They're all organic! I know I made almost all of Ryan's baby food and most of Zach's. I'm sorry that so far I have made exactly none of yours. But, between raising three kids and selling our house life hasn't left time to make baby food. But I promise, you're no worse for the wear!) You also love Cheerios, puffs, strawberries (that you eat whole and suck on/mash with your gums), whole wheat waffles, peanut butter, mandarin oranges, roasted carrots cut into small pieces, Greek yogurt, and whatever little morsels of food your brothers sneak you from their plates. You love sitting in your high chair when the whole family joins you. But you get sad when you're the only one sitting there. 

Just yesterday (June 4th) your first, front, bottom (right) tooth popped through. Consequently, you have been waking more at night than is typical for you. But to be honest, I have no idea how much you wake on a typical night. Usually you just co-sleep with me and when you want to nurse, you do, and I go back to sleep. I stopped trying to "sleep train" my kiddos after Ryan. I've realized that you will eventually sleep through the night. And the battle to get you to do it before you're really ready is too stressful for anyone at all. So, until then, Daddy and I are enjoying your baby snuggles. 

You continue to be an absolute JOY. You have an infectious giggle that practically brings tears to my eyes when I hear it because I'm just so. darn. happy. anytime I hear it. You give shy, sheepish smiles to strangers who say hello to you in the grocery store and you make those people smile too. Speaking of grocery stores, you rode in the cart for the first time the other day and you LOVED it. You smiled and giggled the entire time we were there. Lots of people smiled as you road by. You bring a lot of joy, to a lot of people sweet Connor and we are so very, very happy that you're a part of our family. 
A lot is going to change between now and your next month-day. We just got a contract on this house we currently live in. The people buying it want to settle on July 9th. Its crazy to think that we will be leaving this house, the only house that you, Zachary, and Ryan have ever known in about 30 days. Its very emotional. We are so very, very excited to move into our new beautiful home (once its built) but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to how sad it is to know you (and probably Zach too) will never remember this house, your first house....OUR first house. Its driven us crazy at times, but its been a good house. So, if I don't manage to write a 9 month post, please forgive me.

Happy 8-month-day, sweet boy! I love you more than you will ever know!



Friday, May 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 7 Months

Dear Connor,

7 months??? Seriously? Where has the time gone. I can still vividly remember the day you were born and the amazing experience of our "Family Centered C-section" like it was yesterday. Since I last wrote you a letter a lot more people have heard about your birth! You see, your birth was kind of a big deal. It was the first "Family Centered C-section" at the hospital where you were delivered. And because of that, we've been in the news a lot. We were on NPR, where people all over the world (millions of people actually) heard your first cries. There were blog posts about us, newspaper articles, and soon we're going to be on TV! Because of you sweet boy, lots and lots of other mommies, daddies, and babies are having better birth experiences and that is pretty amazing! You've made such a difference in this world already, and you're only seven months old!

But most of all, you've made a difference in our family. Having you around is just such a breath of fresh air. When your big brothers act a little crazy, you are my calm. You are the one I can just hold, and snuggle, and breath in deeply and say, "this too shall pass" about whatever chaos is going on. I know you won't stay this way forever, and already we are seeing signs of you wanting to grow up faster than we'd like, but I sure am going to soak in all your sweet baby moments while I can.

You bring calm and kindness to your brothers too. I continue to love watching Ryan and Zachary connect with you. They look out for you, worry about you, and seek to make you happy. Ryan makes you giggle more than anyone else and I can already tell you and Zach are gonna be great buds. You love to try to grab Zach's passy from him at bedtime. And when you do he giggles and says, "No, no Donna (yeah, when he says Connor it sounds like "Donna")!" and you smile and laugh right back...until you realize he isn't giving you that passy and then you start to fuss. But he will then immediately run and get you another one of his pacifiers, which you simply want to chew on and play with. (We're lucky, you could care less about sucking on a passy. And you didn't become a finger sucker as I originally thought you might. Hooray!!)  Its fun to watch the two of you interact and it makes my heart smile every time.

As I mentioned, you definitely want to grow up faster than you are. You are DESPERATE to be able to move around on your own and it frustrates you greatly that you can't yet join your brothers in all their antics. You want to move, and you want to move NOW! You sit all by yourself like a pro now, and don't ever topple over anymore. You love to be held and snuggle, but if your brothers are nearby you squirm and wiggle until you get a good view of them and you squeal in delight at watching them. You're not crawling yet, but I don't think it will be too much longer until you are.

You continue to be such a joyful, happy baby. Recently, we put you in the jumperoo (it was the second time, but the first time you really were too small) and you just LOVED it. I was planning to sell it at a yard sale. But I think this video makes it clear that I certainly can't do that!

 And as joyful as you are, there are other parts of your personality that are beginning to shine through. You have strong opinions and you voice them clearly. If you get a hold of something that you can't have, you make the saddest face and cry huge crocodile tears when it is take away from you. If you want to be held and no one is obliging, you will cry and fuss to such a degree that someone not in the know would think you were hurt. But, you always recover quickly. Its like someone is turning off a switch as soon as the situation is remedied to your satisfaction. But really, this is such a tiny portion of the way you spend your time. Mostly, you are just a happy, go with the flow guy.

Connor, in the 7 months that you have been here you have become an integral part of our family. I can't imagine life without you and I sure am glad that I don't have to!

Happy 7-month-day!

Love always,


P.S. I missed your six month-day post. But here are some of those pictures:

The Cam Fam has been Published on:

Scary Mommy