Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Letter to My Sons After Donald Trump's Election

My Dear Ryan, Zachary, & Connor,

I thought a lot about the letter I would write to you after this election. And this is NOT the letter I thought I would be writing. I thought I would be writing about how proud I was of our Nation for electing our first female President and for voting against a bully who represented hate and for a candidate who sought LOVE for all.

But sadly, that is not the letter I am writing because, that bully won. Last night Ryan, as we were snuggling before you went to sleep, as we do every night, you said in a most somber tone, “I just really wanted to see the first girl become President.” Me too, buddy, me too. And that fact that we are not celebrating that today and for many years to come is devastating.

My sweet boys, you will hear a lot of negative things said about Hillary Clinton. I know you’ve already heard many of them. And like I always told you, she is not perfect. She made mistakes. She did things she regrets. But she has also been under a microscope for the majority of her adult life. That means people have watched her every move very, very, closely. And we all know that if everyone watched my every move as your mom that they would see me make mistakes every day. Making mistakes does not make us bad. It does not make us unworthy of leading. They do not disqualify us from holding very important jobs. It is how we respond to those mistakes that defines us. For the things Hillary did that truly were mistakes (i.e. having a private e-mail server, calling a lot of people “deplorable” etc) she apologized and expressed regret. We believe in forgiving each other. Just as when I make a mistake as your mom, I always, always say I am sorry, I do my very best to do better, and I hope with all my heart that you will forgive me. Sadly, too many people refused to forgive Hillary and instead let her mistakes define her…not as a sign of her humanity, but as a sign of being unfit for the job. They were wrong.

There are two major differences between the mistakes Hillary made and the ones Donald Trump made:
1.       Hillary never spoke in hateful ways about large groups of people. Donald Trump spoke in hateful ways about women, Muslim people, Jewish people, Black people, Hispanic people, and people with disabilities. Hate is something that cannot be tolerated. It is something we must ALWAYS speak out against. And even though Donald Trump will be our President we must continue to speak out against the hateful rhetoric he spewed throughout this election.
2.       Donald Trump almost never said I’m sorry. The one time he did he qualified it—his horrible talk about how women can be treated—by saying it was “locker room talk” and his wife called it “boy talk.” You three know that we never speak in disrespectful tones about women, and the fact that the future President of our United States doesn’t know that is horrifying. But we also understand the importance of a sincere apology. Sadly, Mr. Trump does not understand that.

I hope that history will look fondly on Hillary Clinton. I believe she was a strong, capable, determined candidate and the morning after she lost the election when she gave her concession speech I was never more convinced of that. 

She was poised, honest, respectful, and real. She would have been an amazing leader for our Country. I will never stop believing that and I will never stop being grateful to her for all she did to advance women’s issues and to try to teach the world that women truly are just as good as men. She helped you three to understand that and I am proud that you’ll grow up never thinking otherwise.

As for the leader we are stuck with? I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m having a really hard time with the fact that he was elected. I know you saw my tears many times yesterday. I know you understand how sad and angry I am that Donald Trump won. I am angry and sad because the people who voted for him saw and heard the hateful things he did and they voted for him anyway. And as I’ve always told you, standing up for what is wrong is one of the most important things we can do as people! And all the people who voted for him DIDN’T DO THAT!  I will not say, “It will be ok. Our Constitution will hold firm and protect all of us.” Because unless an awful lot of us stand up and refuse to let hate take over, then it just might.

But, at the same time, I am soooo relieved that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. This means that more people actually voted for her than for Donald Trump. And sadly, because of an out-dated system, she doesn’t get to be our President. But knowing that the majority of people didn’t vote for her is a relief because it means we do have a HUGE group of people who will help us fight against hate and spread kindness.

And spreading kindness is what we are going to work really hard to do. We started yesterday. We gave out Hershey’s hugs and kisses to strangers; we brought cookies to the office staff at Ryan’s school; We brought cookies to the Firefighters at the fire station, and we bought two strangers’ coffee at Starbucks. So, when you think about the day we learned Donald Trump would be our President I want you to remember the joy we felt in seeing the smiles and hearing the gratefulness of the people we spread kindness to yesterday. I want you to remember that warm feeling bubbling up from somewhere deep within you that said, “This is right. This is good. This is how we spread love.” I want you to remember the pride we felt in knowing that instead of wallowing in fear or despair we went out and did something good.

Donald Trump may not be a good man. But he will NEVER keep us from being good. And while there is very much work to do to make sure that the majority of our Country understands what it means to be good and seeks to act out of goodness every day (and use our privilege of voting for good and not hate), I am confident that if you, and I, and our friends and family continue to spread goodness that it will in fact grow and make a difference in this world.

So, my kind, thoughtful, sensitive boys, the greatest thing you can do for this world is to embrace that sensitive side of yourselves. Look deep within yourselves and be proud of the fact that you have cried when watching a sad movie or when coming upon a dead animal outside. Be proud of the fact that you love to wear toenail polish (and do so with pride and joy) and love rainbows and bright colors like hot pink. Be proud of the fact that you know what it means to be sensitive to the feelings of others and have expressed sadness yourselves when seeing someone you care about who is sad. These characteristics may not be the most common among boys in our world, but they should be. And when more boys are like the three of you, then this world will be a better, more understanding place and we will one day elect our first female president.  

Spread kindness my sweet boys. Show love, be brave, stand up for what is right. Stand against what is wrong. And always, always, always choose to be kind. No one, especially Donald Trump, can take that away from you.

Love always,


P.S. To clarify, because a lot of people have been making this an issue in the past day and a half: Speaking out strongly and forcefully against hatred does not make you a hateful person. Hate is something we must ALL stand against. Hate wins when we are silent, or worse, when we make excuses or exceptions for people who are being hateful. So, always choose to be kind. But also always choose to be loud in your disagreement with those who are being unkind. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Opening the Conversation: Race in America

I have three boys. My neighbor is currently pregnant with her third boy. We live in the same town, in the safe affluent neighborhood, on the same street, two houses from each other. Her boys and my boys come from parents with advanced degrees. They come from loving homes full of opportunity. Her boys are kind, outgoing, and polite. Mine are too…most of the time. Her boys and my boys will go to the same schools. And yet, I know that her experience as a mother, particularly as her boys get older, will be vastly different from mine. Why? Because my boys happen to be white and hers are black.

I will fear for my sons’ safety as they learn to drive and get behind the wheel of a car because of reckless drivers and the poor decisions teens sometimes make. She will have these same fears, but she will also have to fear that her sons’ lives could be in danger for buying a bag of skittles or driving with a broken taillight. I’ll worry that my sweet boys don’t get caught up with a “bad crowd” or that they aren’t picked on or bullied at school. She will worry the same. But she’ll also worry that her sons will be seen as a threat to someone else’s safety if they happen to choose to wear a hooded sweatshirt. She will live in fear of how people will falsely view her children and how they might react when they sense a false threat.

Parenting is a fear-filled endeavor for anyone. But having that fear magnified by 1000 simply because of the color of one’s skin is an unfathomable injustice. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to live with that fear. I would be angry…I would…Actually, I don’t know how I would feel. And the truth is, I will never know. I was born white and so were my boys. And because of that pure luck, and because I will never know what it’s like to be anything other than white, I have a responsibility to try my absolute best to understand the experience of people of color, like my neighbor, her husband, and their three boys.

The recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have put in pristine focus for me the extreme ways in which other human beings react in a moment of perceived threat.  People can believe what they want about Mr. Sterling and whether he did something to attract the attention of the police. But that is a moot point. He was tackled on the ground and clearly overtaken by the police officers. There is no reason he should be dead. As for Mr. Castile, there are no reports anywhere that he did anything other than drive with a broken taillight to attract the attention of the police. He reportedly told the officer involved that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which he disclosed was on his person, and that he was getting his wallet and identification as was asked of him. And now he is dead. Perhaps worst of all, as these men lay dying the officers involved did NOTHING to provide aid or prevent their death. They did not provide first aid. In the case of Mr. Castile, who it seems was shot only in the arm, imagine if instead of pointing the gun at his girlfriend and handcuffing her if the officers had instead placed a tourniquet on his arm. A simple show of humanity could have saved his life.

We have all walked or driven through areas that we perceive, sometimes quite accurately, to be unsafe. But what we have to remind ourselves is that those areas are not unsafe because black people live there. They are unsafe because there is little opportunity in those areas. There are few programs for children and adolescents. The schools and other educational opportunities are limited. In the areas most in need of services and support, even basic needs are more difficult to attain. There are fewer grocery stores and department stores. People have to drive/walk/use public transportation to go further to get less. And when people are desperate, and they lack education, and resources, and support, they react out of fear and desperation, and do things and behave in ways they otherwise would not. Yes, these situations are desperate, and no, there are no easy solutions. Knowing where to begin, and what we can do to help is challenging and sometimes seems so impossible that we freeze. Donating money seems superficial. Volunteering time can be a struggle when we are doing our best to care for our own families. But one place we can all begin is by opening the conversation and committing to better understanding all of our fellow human beings.

I read today an article on race that compared racism to a gigantic societal-sized boot. The author asked, if racism is a boot, then who is “fighting the hardest to avoid being squashed by the boot?” Yes, people of color. And who is it that is wearing the boot? Yes, white people. And who then should be responsible for stopping the boot from squashing anyone? The people who are already fighting against the pressure of the boot or the people wearing it?

I hope you came to the correct answer yourself. But if you didn’t, let me spell it out for you. White people. White people have a responsibility to stop the boot. This author was not saying all white people are racist, and neither am I. I certainly don’t like to consider myself racist, and I hope I have never acted in a way that is. But, I also know that I have not openly acted in a way to challenge the racist beliefs of those I encounter. And as a white person, I am in a unique position to open the dialogue and potentially change the viewpoints of other white people who may be racist; a position that people of color are not in at all. And so, with this post, that is what I am attempting to do.

I also commit to better understanding issues of race in our country. I have already reserved the book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander at my local library. It was on hold and I am 3rd in the queue. This fact in and of itself gave me hope. Maybe other people in my community have had the same idea I did.  If you too would like to better understand issues of race, so you can open a dialogue that is not at all open enough, then check out the article I linked to above and check out this article which includes links to a reading list on issues of race.

Now, I started writing this article on Thursday before the horrific shootings in Dallas occurred. And so, I would be remiss to not address that tragedy. Those officers were assassinated. The actions of the people who carried out those killings are not justified…not even a little bit. Those individuals were no doubt angry. But they only made the situation worse. Instead of drawing greater attention to issues of race, injustice, and excessive force by some police officers they have provided fuel to the fire for people who will say, “See? It’s them. They are the problem.” And that will only serve to shut down an already difficult conversation even further.

And I fear that because of the actions of these snipers in Dallas that the overwhelming message will now be “black lives will only matter when police lives matter.” And that is not true. In fact, Dallas was an exemplary example of how the black community and the police community can work together. The police were out in full force making it safe for a Black Lives Matter protest to proceed peacefully and successfully. And yet, so many people seem to believe that you either have to support law enforcement or support people of color; that police lives and black lives can’t matter simultaneously. But they can, and they do. As John Stewart (seriously, when will that man run for office?) so eloquently said today “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.”

And so, we will all struggle with what to do and how best to react to the tragic events that have occurred this week. But please join me in my commitment to more conversations, more understanding, and more willingness to see both sides of this issue; an issue that is of utmost importance to the survival and success of our great Nation. It is my hope that I will raise boys who will grow up completely confounded by the idea that someone would ever judge someone differently because of the color of their skin. It is my hope that my three boys and my neighbor’s three boys have life experiences far more similar than I expect they will given the state of things at this time. But I have to believe there is hope that can change.  

Together, let’s ask questions. Let’s try to understand. Let’s accept that some people may not use the exact, most politically correct words when trying to better understand and instead of judging, let’s educate. The future truly rests in the hands of our children and it is our responsibility to raise children who will make this world a kinder place than it is now. We can only do that by opening and changing the conversation, by working together to lift the oppressive boot of racism. Start now. Start tonight. Open the conversation at your own dinner table. I know I will be.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Let It Begin with Me...and You

When I was 16 years old my parents planned a surprise birthday party for me. They invited a group of my friends to Planet Hollywood in Washington, DC. The day of my party also happened to be the day of the annual Capital PRIDE celebration. In order to get me to Planet Hollywood my Dad and brother framed it as “let’s just go check out DC for the day.” We headed into DC and started walking towards Planet Hollywood with the plan that my brother would just casually suggest eating there for lunch. In order to get there we walked smack dab through the middle of the PRIDE parade. At one point we were practically in the parade. I remember watching my Dad’s face to see his reaction. I remember the smirk on my older brother’s face as he smiled about the surprise that awaited me and probably imagined my mom walking through the same parade a few minutes prior with a group of my good friends, some of whom she didn’t know that well. I remember smiling in awe as I took in the bright colors, open expressions of love, and colorful personalities that surrounded me. It was a joyous event and one I have not and never will forget. We eventually arrived at Planet Hollywood and I was indeed surprised. But whenever I retell the story of my 16th birthday party Planet Hollywood doesn’t even get mentioned.  I like to tell it as “Mom and Dad planned a surprise party for me at the Capital PRIDE Parade. It was AWESOME!”

And awesome it was. This was my first true experience of LGBT culture and I don’t remember much except the immense feeling of joy and warmth that came from being a part of that parade. My Dad, brother, and I must have stuck out like a sore thumb walking through; But not for a second did I feel out of place or uncomfortable, because everyone there stuck out for their own unique style, beauty, outfits, hair, costumes, love, energy, and excitement. It was a wonderful feeling.

A number of years prior, when I was about 10 I remember standing in the kitchen of my grandmother’s house when I overheard a conversation in which I learned that my beloved cousin Paul, was gay. At the time I had recently heard in the news about there being a greater number of people who were gay who were contracting the AIDS virus. So, my first thought was one of worry. I just wanted my cousin, whom I loved dearly to be ok. Once I talked to my mom and learned that he was completely fine, then so was I. I loved him, and who he loved didn’t matter at all to me, or to my parents.

A number of years after that I remember meeting my cousin’s boyfriend (also named Paul!) for the first time at their apartment in Greenwich Village. I was there with my boyfriend, and the four of us went to lunch at a local restaurant. Paul and Paul had been dating for some years at that point but this was the first time I had the chance to see them together as a couple. I remember being struck by the tender and sincere love and affection that they shared and still do.

Since that time, through college and work I have been fortunate to call many men and women who are gay or lesbian, my friends. And from each and every one of them I have never felt anything in return except love, acceptance, and friendship.

Why do I write all this? It is to tell the Orlando shooter (who I will not even name) that he messed with the wrong group. Mr. Shooter, your heart may have been filled with hatred. And your goal was to spread that evil far and wide. You likely sought to silence and scare a group of people you rejected as “other.” But we will not be silenced. We will not be brought to our knees in fear. We will rise up. We will spread love. We will reject hate. And we will make this world a stronger and better place in light of the evil act you committed.

Yes, I say we. For the attack may have been directly against the LGBT community, but all of us who are their allies and friends will stand with them to spread the love further. We will recall the kindness, joy, acceptance and openness that we feel when surrounded by the LGBT community and we will seek to take the lessons they teach and preach so well, and we will raise better children; we will be better people; we will love more and hate less.

The same cousin I mentioned above currently lives in Florida. He posted a video this morning from a memorial service he attended last night in St. Petersburg. In the video everyone was singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I cannot think of a better way to honor the 49 men and women who died in the wake of such evil. Their deaths will not be in vain. For each of those brave brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands and wives, I say:

“Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”

Will you join me? 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Scary Mommy Taught Me

Earlier this week I was published on Scary Mommy for the first time. And yes, given that my piece was about the Obamas I was more than a little scared (see what I did there?) to see what the response would be. But who knew that such a simple experience could be a reminder about humanity in all its forms. These are the things that I learned as a result:

1.        Haters gonna hate
I chose to write about one of the most polarizing families in my lifetime. So, yes, I knew there would be some negativity. And of course there was. There were people who made obnoxious comments who clearly hadn’t even read the article. There was one particularly noxious woman that said I must be “Obama’s lover” to have written such “garbage.” There were people who made accusatory and false statements about the President of the USA that border on treason. But, I was also pleasantly surprised.

 2.       The vast majority of people are reasonable and kind
      There were many people who commented on my post and readily acknowledged that while they don’t agree with the Obamas from a political standpoint, they could still respect them as people. This was the intent of my post, and it was heartening to see that people “got that” and were willing to openly state their belief in someone’s value as a person despite their disagreement with their political views. Also, I was so surprised and flattered that so many people didn’t just comment on the post, but also took the time to compliment my writing. They had nothing to gain from that and I was touched beyond measure. Lastly, I realized…

3.       Some people are exceptional human beings 
 This morning, when I checked the e-mail account associated with my blog, I found an e-mail from a woman who, in her words, “I read your letter to the Obamas on FB, which led me to your blog, which led me to some of your writing and photos. (You know how the crazy labyrinth of FB works!)” She went on to tell me how she, too, is the mother of three boys. But the difference between her and me is that her sons are grown. She shared how she felt when she learned her third child was a boy (a bit disappointed), how angry she would get every time someone would ask “will you try for a girl” (I hear ya, sister!) and offered advice on raising kind, caring men who value their relationship with their mother (I’ll take all the advice I can!). She even included pictures of her three boys. As I read this heartfelt message from a stranger, as the tears rolled down my cheeks I was overwhelmed by her kindness. She went out of her way for someone she’d never met.

When friends and family started to realize that my article had been published on Scary Mommy I was warned “Don’t read the comments!” And as I read the comments I saw people who posted their expectation that the comments would all be negative and full of vitriol. But, they were not. They were far from it. So, thank you Scary Mommy readers. You have renewed my faith in humanity. I am grateful and I am honored to be among the ranks of readers and writers alike who are—for the most part—kind, caring, and compassionate people. Truly, thank you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Dear President & Mrs. Obama

Dear President & Mrs. Obama,

Today I saw the pictures of the two of you reading "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Besides being completely jealous of those who got to be there (that's right, I've entered the ticket lottery every year for the past 6 years since I had children of my own and not once did we get tickets...alas) I also found myself in awe, as I often do, of the two of you.

Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images                                                                                                                                                   
Ah! Too scary!
Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters                                                                                                                                                           
You see, in looking at these pictures, I didn't just see two confident people reading in a goofy way to a bunch of kids. Nope. I also saw two examples of humanity, kindness, and confidence.

Its no secret that I am a huge supporter of your politics, Mr. Obama. Any visitor to my Facebook page or blog would see very quickly and easily that I have been and continue to be a huge fan of yours. But one of the things that makes me so proud to have both of you as the representatives of our Nation is that there is more to you than politics. You clearly have a sense, everywhere you go that you are not only representing your own political views. You know you're more than just representatives of the United States of America. It is clear that you both realize you are humanitarians. You are examples of good will. You are an example to the world of what it means to be human. You are an example to children and adults alike, of how to be confident in who you are. Today, when my 6 y/o son, Ryan, gets home from school I will show him this video of the two of you reading. 

 You see, just yesterday Ryan delivered his first ever "presentation" in front of his class. His homework for a few days leading up to this presentation was to practice in front of his family. Having grown up competing in speech and debate I was eager to help Ryan with this project. As he practiced his "When I grow up" speech (OK, so it was just 6 sentences, but I think for a Kindergartner we can call that speech, right?) I coached him on how to look at his audience, how to effectively use hand motions to get his point across, and how to speak loudly, and not into the paper he was holding. A few times he said to me, "This is embarrassing." He's getting to the age where he understands the concept of embarrassment. Recently, when we went to see Zootopia in the theaters, just me and him, I started rocking out to Shakira's "Try Everything." I mean, how can you not dance to that song? And so, dance I did. And what did he do? He crouched in his seat and asked me to stop. Just a year ago he would have happily joined in the dance. But now, he knew people could see me (don't worry, we were in the back row, and this was the closing credits, we weren't bothering anyone). He was embarrassed. And to be honest, if he was your kid, watching you read at the Easter Egg roll, he may have been embarrassed too. Maybe Sasha and Malia were? 

But he's not your kid. He looks up to you. He knows you're our "Big Leader Guy" and even if he didn't state that he'd like to follow in your footsteps as President of the United States in his first big speech (sorry, the allure of a train engineer is just too great at his young age. Plus, he's wise. He knows being President comes with a lot of stress, especially with the likes of Mitch McConnell as leader of the Senate...but I digress) he does respect you and think you're pretty cool. So, yes, I will show him the video of the two of you reading Where the Wild Things Are and we will talk about how it can be fun to be silly and goofy in front of a crowd. We will talk about how the two of you weren't concerned about what other people would think when you made those awesome faces. You were just having fun and being yourselves. We will talk about confidence and I will hope that just a little bit of the message sticks. If we're being honest, I will hope that a lot of your messages stick. 

Just this morning, I was talking with my husband, and I said, "I think this is as good as it gets. I don't think our children will ever see another President and First Lady who are better examples of how to be a good person" than they have seen in the two of you. And sadly, two of my three children will likely never remember your presidency. Zachary and Connor are only 3 years and 18 months. I'm not sure either of them knows who the two of you are. 

Michelle Obama has her arm around me. Squee! 
But, I promise, they will know. I will share stories of your honesty, your integrity, and your leadership skills with them. I will explain that when I had the great privilege of meeting you, Michelle, in 2009, when I worked at Children's National Medical Center I saw first hand that your kindness and compassion is not just a show; It is genuine and natural. At the time I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with Ryan. You asked me about my pregnancy. You put your hand on my belly, you wished me the best of luck. You didn't just go around and talk with patients and families. No, you sat with them, you engaged, you cared. 

Star struck! 
I know plenty of people disagree with the two of you on many issues. I know many people do not think as highly of you as I do. And honestly, I have a hard time understanding that. Politics aside, you are true role models for children and adults alike.

As you end your time in the White House, and begin to think about your legacy and the work you will do in the remainder of your careers, I challenge you to think of ways you can continue to have an impact on the youth of our world. I don't want any of my children to forget you. Please, remain in the public eye. Please continue to show the world what it means to be happy, confident, smart, fun, and kind. Show the world what it means to have integrity; to have strong beliefs and to stand up for what you believe. Don't hesitate to continue to be an example of a successful marriage raising successful children. Our Country and our world needs more of the two of you! 

Photo Credit: Craig Lassig/EPA                                                               
President and Mrs. Obama, our world may not fully recognize it yet, but we have much to thank the two of you for. I think in the years to come it will be more and more obvious. I, for one, am most grateful to the two of you for putting a face on what it means to be compassionate and human, and for never making yourselves seem "above" the people you have served and represented during your time in office. I believe you think of yourselves just like the rest of us do: people doing the best we can, to do the best we can, in all we do. You have succeeded. Thank you. 

With greatest admiration and appreciation, 

Kristen Caminiti

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When Lack of Life Experience = A Lack of Compassion

I did it again. I responded to a friend of a friend on Facebook. I engaged in political discourse that is likely to go nowhere. But this time, it stuck with me.

A little background. This friend of mine on Facebook is one of my most reasonable and intelligent Facebook friends. Yes, he's also a Republican. And yes, we differ in political opinions quite a bit. But I always enjoy his comments on Facebook and often find myself seeking to understand his viewpoint because I respect him so much as a person. I know him to be kind, generous, and forward thinking. So, when we disagree, instead of saying, "He's so wrong! What an idiot!" I instead find myself wanting to better understand why he thinks what he thinks. Now, this friend, being reasonable, will often state his strong opinions but rarely engages in discussion or argument (he says such discussions are for the dinner table...I'm still waiting for our dinner date). I think he knows his blood pressure is better off because of this rule he has set for himself. But while this friend of mine is reasonable, his friends are not. And I often find my own blood boiling at the comments some of them make. There was one today, regarding a flat tax that I could not let stand. So, I responded, and an argument ensued. You can see it below through screen shots. I removed the name and profile pictures so as not to violate anyone's privacy:

(Apologies for the language...I was fired up!)

So, yes, I get it. After engaging in this long discourse with people I've never met and likely never will, I look like one of the "unreasonable friends" I spoke of above. But bare with me.

As I said, this discussion really stuck with me. I have never met either of these people. I know nothing about them, but, I have to assume that they have had very few (if any) real life encounters with hard working poor people. People who have made the best choices they can in life, given their life circumstances, and who still struggle to make enough money to support their families. And if they truly have never met and had the opportunity to truly get to know people who fall into this category then I get where they're coming from.

My world view was drastically different before I started my graduate degree in Social Work. During my training I had two of the most socially transformative experiences of my life.

First, I interned at a homeless shelter for families. In my role here I met weekly with mothers and fathers who were doing the best they could to provide for their children. These parents were employed. They weren't just sitting on the sidelines looking for a handout. Employment (or well documented disability) was a requirement of this particular program. These were hard-working, committed, and desperate parents. They wanted to do the best they could for their children but life had given them few choices and few opportunities, and so this is where they were. Many of them came from drug addicted parents. Some of them grew up in violent areas where leaving the house every day to get to school was putting one's life at risk, and thus they didn't finish school. Being desperate for money to provide for their families some (but not all by any means) had engaged in illegal activity--theft, prostitution, the sale of drugs-- and had convictions on their record that further limited the choices they now had. I was young, about 23 when I first had the privilege of meeting these brave, inspiring fellow humans. And because of my interactions with them, my world view changed dramatically.

Then, in my second year of internship I interned at Boston Children's Hospital in what was called the Advanced Fetal Care Center. Here I met with women who were pregnant and their partners. Each woman I met with was carrying a baby who had a life threatening abnormality or disease. I sat with mothers and fathers as they learned the most devastating news about their children. I sat with them as they agonized about the decisions they faced: 1) to continue with the pregnancy hoping the child survived to birth and hoping for a few minutes with their baby before he or she died, 2) to continue with the pregnancy with the plan to intervene in any way possible, hoping to save their child and give them a longer life, or 3) to terminate the pregnancy. None of these parents took these decisions lightly. All of the children they were carrying were wanted. But yes, for a host of reasons, all valid reasons, some of them chose to terminate the pregnancy. These brave women taught me that abortion is many things, but most of all it is a private, personal decision, and not one that our government should be involved in making.

Yes, as I said, I get it. I get how you can be so very certain of "the way things should be" until you are faced head on with the people behind the opposing viewpoint. I am one of the lucky ones. I have had these experiences I described above, and so many more in my career as a Social Worker that have brought humanity at its best and at its worst into focus for me and as a result my world view has changed for the better.

So, what do we do? How do we help the people of our Country to have more experiences with more people, who will help them to better understand that the world is not such a black and white place? I know high schools are trying to do it by requiring a service component to graduation, but clearly its not enough. Many colleges have wonderful social justice curriculum and volunteer opportunities, and yet, these efforts miss all those who never go to college. It must start younger, and it must include parents.

We must find a way to include children and parents together in encounters with people who live differently than they do. We must foster discussion, at an early age, about social injustice. I'm not particularly religious, but I know and understand the valuable role that churches can play in this effort and we must challenge church leadership to truly embrace the spirit of Jesus and show care and concern for the least of our people. Our churches must get more people involved in service and must engage their congregations not just in service of others, but more importantly, interactions with others. I fear as a society that we will not change for the better until the majority of our citizens have an opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people from different classes, races, ethnicities, and cultures. We are a Country of many. We must step outside our own little bubble and get to know the many as best as we can. Then, and only then, will we be able to develop a truly compassionate, caring majority who seeks, as I've written about before, to do the most good, for the most people.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Teach Your Children Well

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young said it first back in 1970. But the message is just as important, if not more so, now. Is there a greater responsibility in this world than to teach our children well? To teach them how to care for each other, for themselves, for this planet?

I've been thinking about all of this a lot lately in light of the political vitriol that is surrounding all of us these days during the Presidential Primary Election. Anyone who knows me personally knows I am very passionate about the things I believe in most strongly. I don't hesitate to speak up and say how I feel. And lately, I have been utterly disgusted by the display of inhumanity that has been the GOP primary season. Yes, I am a Democrat. But, I am also an American. And regardless of one's political affiliation I think it is obvious that the hatred, dishonesty, and bigotry that is on display in recent months is unacceptable and repulsive. And yet, apparently its not so obvious because he who does not deserve to be named is getting more and more votes.

4 years ago, on election day, when my oldest son was not yet 3 and my middle son was not yet born I wrote this letter to my children. At the time I felt so positive and uplifted about our Country and my State. It seemed likely that we would re-elect a man who I believe is one of the best, most human, intelligent, and honest Presidents our nation will ever see. It was also looking as if Maryland would become the first State to legalize gay marriage by a vote of the people. Both those things came true. Barack Obama was overwhelmingly reelected and the people of Maryland voted to legalize Gay Marriage. I could not have been more proud. But I wrote this letter before I knew these results. In this letter spoke to my children about the importance of election day. I spoke not of democrats or republicans. I didn't even mention who I was voting for. But I spoke of voting for the people and the issues that will do the most good for the most people in our nation and world

This is something I still strongly believe needs to be behind every person's decision when they vote. I may have a difficult time understanding "the other side" sometimes, but if you can convince me that you truly believe your favorite politician's efforts have at heart, doing the most good for the most people, then you have my ear. I understand that there can be different approaches to the same goal. And so, I can respect and value any person or politician who truly seeks to improve the state of being for as many people as possible. Not just the wealthy. Not just men. Not just white people. But, all people. At the same time, I understand that we can't please everyone all the time. That's why I am OK with taxing the wealthy to care for the poor. I'm OK with taking away guns from those with the potential for violence in order to protect the majority of people (hell, I'm OK with taking away everyone's guns to protect all people....but, I know that's unlikely to happen). I understand that sometimes, in very rare circumstances the lives of our brave soldiers must be sacrificed in order to bring safety to a majority of people. And because our leaders have to make decisions about such profound issues like the life of a fellow human being, they must have goodness at their core. I'm not saying any leader will ever please everyone all the time. I'm not saying that mistakes won't be made. But in order to earn my vote, you must convince me that your underlying and overarching goal in all decisions you make has at its heart the well being of the majority of humanity.

And while I ardently disagree with the approach of the vast majority of Republicans in achieving this goal of the most good for the most people, I do believe that there are GOP politicians who share this same goal. But this year? This election season? Nope. Not one. I do not believe for a second that a single person running to be the leader of our great Nation from the Republican party has this as their goal.

One cannot want to build a wall, or prevent all Muslims from entering the United States, or limit a woman's right to make decisions about her own body, or support at all costs an organization whose sole goal is to sell as many guns as possible, and still convince me that you have the best interests of the people you will serve at heart.

As Americans we have a responsibility  to elect a leader who will support us in teaching our children well. Someone who will support our efforts to teach our children what it means to be kind, empathetic, and honest. Someone who our children can look up to as an example of good in the world. Someone who, 10 years down the line you will be proud to tell your children, "Yes! I voted for him/her!" Someone who might make mistakes, who may have faltered at times, but who genuinely sought to be kind to the people closest to them, and to those they never met.

There is no greater resource in achieving greatness for our communities, our nation, our world, than our children. If we cannot with confidence lead our children in the direction of kindness, compassion, and honesty, then we have nothing as a society to hope for.

So, I implore you. I beg you, please, when you go to the polls this primary season and in the general election, vote for the individual who will support you in teaching your children what it means to be a good citizen of this earth.

Potty Training: If its difficult, just STOP!

I get it. I really get it. Changing diapers suuuuuucks. Paying for diapers suuuuuucks. Trying to find a container that  doesn’t emit  the smell of the stinky diapers into the baby’s room is nearly impossible. I get it. You want your baby to be potty trained yesterday. And you’ve been working on it, and he’s not getting it. She had 17 accidents yesterday and you didn’t even know it was possible to go to the bathroom 17 times in one day! You are Facebooking like mad asking all your fellow mommy friends what their potty training secrets are. You’re desperate to be DONE. WITH. DIAPERS. I get it. But really, if it’s not happening easily, please just give up. I promise you, potty training should not be a battle. It shouldn’t make you or your child miserable. How do I know? Well, I’ve had a little experience.

I have a three year old (and a 6 year old and an 17 month old). A few months ago, my Facebook feed and many of the threads on “Mom Groups” I am in were taken over by moms who were overwhelmed with potty training. I read these exasperated, desperate comments and thought, “Huh. It wasn’t hard for us.” But that was when I’d only potty trained one kiddo, and so, I was able to convince myself that the ease with which he trained (literally, in a day) was a fluke. We were just one of the “lucky ones.”

But, all this potty talk made me realize that my second born little guy was approaching the age his older brother was when he was trained (2 years, 8 months) and so, I decided to give it a go. A few things you should know: My oldest is a typical oldest. He, for the most part aims to please, he follows rules well (most of the time...), and he never met a challenge that he wasn’t going to take on full force. So, the fact that he potty trained easily was no surprise to me, really.

My second little guy is very different from his brother. He is sweet and lovable but cares very little about what others think of him. He’s not out to impress anyone. Back in the fall, when we were doing back to school shopping for his big brother, Ryan, I grabbed a pack of underwear and tossed it in the cart. Realizing they had BOTH Minion underwear and Paw Patrol underwear (two of Zach’s FAVORITES) I looked at Zachary and said, “Zachary, don’t you want to wear underwear like a big boy? Look! You could choose any pack you want!” Zach looked at me defiantly, and said, “No, Mama! I not wear underwear. I wear diapers.” When I would ask him if he wanted to learn to go on the potty he’d say, “Ummmm, maybe. But…not yet,” as he squinted his eyes, tilted his head to the side a bit, and shook his head in an adamant “no”. To say I had low expectations for his potty training success was an understatement.

But, HE DID IT! He did it in a day. In the first three weeks of training he had a total of three accidents, all within the first few days. He even stayed dry during naps and even all through the night practically right from the start. He not only exceeded my expectations but he blew them out of the water.

So, what’s my point, you ask? My point is, if potty training is hard, it’s not time. You’re trying too soon. Just stop.  

This is not me being judgmental. This is me trying to make your life easier. So, follow the advice below for an easier, simpler, less anxiety producing potty training process: 

                        If it’s hard, just stop.

If he isn’t telling you when he has to go, just stop. You reminding him to go every 15 minutes or making him sit on the potty for 30 minutes at a time until a few drops dribble out does not mean your child is potty trained.  It means you are.

If she’s fighting you on it, just stop.

If you’re miserable, just stop.

If your kid is miserable, just stop.

If you’re petrified to leave the house because your child might have an accident, just stop.

If you’re arguing with your spouse about how this is supposed to work, just stop.

If you feel like your kid is going to go to college in Pull-ups, just stop.

If you have to stay by your kid’s side every second of every day in order to notice the most subtle of subtle cues that she has to go, then, please, just STOP. 

So, now what? You’ve taken my advice, you’ve stopped the potty training that is clearly not going well, what now? You can’t leave your kid in diapers forever. (Or could you? Sometimes diapers are just so convenient). But seriously, most schools require a child to be potty trained so the “Diapers forever!!” approach isn’t going to work. 

I suggest just pretending like the whole potty training thing never happened. Come back to it in a few months once your kid is a bit older, and you’ve had a chance to develop a strategy that works for you and your child. I’m not going to suggest that my strategy is the absolute best. I’m sure there are many approaches that have worked for many kids. But, having potty trained two very different kids, both in less than a day, I know it does not have to be a long, drawn-out, miserable, makes you want to pull all your hair out, process. 

When the kid is ready, and the technique effective, it should be easy and quick. I’ve talked to a lot of other moms and they agree that all kids get to a point when they are “ready.” That time is different for every kid. And yes, if you push it before they’re really ready, you will eventually be successful, but will it be worth it? Will it have been worth the tears and frustration? It should not be an agonizing process. It should be a process that ends in lots of high fives for your little one (perhaps a few too many M&Ms) and the glorious realization that you now have a little extra money in the bank every month! And no, your kid isn’t potty trained if that extra money is being spent on Febreeze, pull-ups, and laundry detergent. Nope, you should be able to take that extra cash and enjoy a few extra lattes. You’ve earned it. 

P.S. I am fully aware that because I wrote this and put it out in the world that my 3rd kid is going to be a nightmare to potty train. Either way, you can be sure I'll write about it. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Above Average Average

In a February 18th article in the Washington Post, Erica Reischer published an article entitled "No, honey, you can't be anything you want to be. And that's ok." I read this article first in my edition of the Post that gets delivered every day and then I saw it popping up repeatedly in my Facebook feed. Some people whole-heartedly agreed with it, others stated "whatever could be wrong with telling our children they can be anything they want to be?" (You can find the article here.) I fell into the "whole-heartedly agree" camp. 

The basic premise of the article is that there is more than hard work and determination involved in success. There are things like chance, and bad (or good) luck. Ms. Reischer explains that in teaching our children that their success is simply dependent on working hard enough, wanting it enough, or believing we can do it enough that we are in fact potentially causing harm.  She states, "When they fail at something (as inevitably we all will) children who don’t recognize the significant role of random chance in determining life’s outcomes may blame themselves or stop trying...Conversely, those who do achieve prominent success may overestimate their role in it, and see those who have more average resumes as inferior or less deserving." In other words, we are potentially creating self-loathing children, or possibly worse: arrogant, condescending children. Reischer goes on to say, "When we create a mindset that high achievement is better than being average–that high achievers are more special or deserving–we diminish kids’ ability to value both themselves and others."

I think there is a balance to be found between encouraging children to "reach for the stars" and giving them a realistic view of what is likely based on the way the world works. There is a way to support our children's dreams while also teaching them that yes, sometimes the stars do not align and we don't always achieve what we set out to. 

I am reminded of my college application process. I had my hopes set on attending the same University my older brothers had. In many ways, it was all I knew, and being so in awe of my older brothers as I was, in my head (from the time I was 12 years old and first set foot on the campus) I was convinced it was the ONLY place to go. When it came time to apply I thought for certain I would get in. Both of my brothers had been exceptionally successful at this University (thus, they'd proven the good pedigree of our family!) and I had higher SATs than one brother and a higher GPA than the other. I had a wider variety of extracurricular activities than both of them. I'd worked hard my entire high school career and it seemed obvious, inevitable really, that I would get in. You can see where this is going. I didn't get in. There was no logical reason for me not to be accepted, but luck was not on my side. I was devastated.

But at the same time, my parents (equally devastated, perhaps) had prepared me for this possibility. Encouraging me to think of "my own path" and to look at other "fabulous universities, just in case." They knew my "resume" as well as I did. But they also knew the world doesn't always work out the way we hope it will and they tried as much as  they could to prepare me for such possibilities. So, my devastation turned to defiance and I headed off to Boston College, an equally exceptional University, with the confidence and swagger of a newly minted college Freshman who was going to show "that other school" just how wrong they were. I excelled, and was often rewarded for my hard work, long hours in the library, and dedication with awards from the University, two prestigious fellowship offers, and letters of recommendation from professors that still make me blush when I read them.

But what did I do with all that success? Did I become a CEO of a leading company? Did I become a doctor? Or an astronaut? Or a world renowned feminist who educates humanity on how to best serve the girls and women of the world? No, I became a social worker. And now, I am social worker who is a mostly stay at home mom to three beautiful boys. And I could not be more proud of what I have accomplished and what I have done with my life.

I grew up in a home with two "very successful" parents. My dad, among other things, was an executive at a small, Catholic hospital. My mom was a teacher who had spent 12 years as a stay at home mom in the middle of her career. I learned very young that these were noble, and indeed, very successful ways to live life. Early on it was clear that success was not measured in wealth or by title but by how you treat the people closest to you. In addition, it was always clear to us how lucky we were to even be able to consider the Universities my brothers and I each considered as we applied to college. Yes, we came out with significant loans, but already life had dealt us a lucky hand in so very many ways.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. But when I was in high school I realized that more than anything I wanted to be a mom. And I knew that the rigors of medicine would likely not allow me to stay home with my children in their early years. And so, I began to explore other careers, and in doing so,discovered social work. There was no part of me that felt I had to be a doctor in order to view myself--or be viewed by others--as successful. I knew that it was most important to do what defined success to me and that was being able to stay home and raise my children while also pursuing a career that would allow me to bare witness and support others.

Social work allowed me to work in medicine, a field I loved and still do, as a pediatric medical social worker, and gave me the privilege of supporting families and children during their darkest hours. Other than raising my own children, there is nothing I am more proud of than having been able to make the worst thing a family will ever experience: the illness and sometimes death of a child, just a little less painful.

You see, too often our children receive the message that in order to be "great" they have to be a Supreme Court Justice, or president of a company, a sports star, or the leader of the free world. But this is not the case. We need excellent people to do average jobs: We need exceptional plumbers, honest reporters, eager teachers, construction workers with a keen attention to detail, talented landscapers, kind daycare providers, creative web designers, and sensitive, caring social workers, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. 

The vast majority of people in the world are indeed "average" in the ways that society most often defines success: intelligence, income, influence. But it is possible to be exceptional in so many other ways: kindness, generosity, creativity, compassion, and empathy, just to name a few. So, perhaps the greatest lesson that we can teach our children is not that they can be anything they want to be, but rather, that there are so very many ways to be exceptional. We will create kinder, more confident children, and a better human race if as parents we instead focus on finding and embracing the unique characteristics of our children that will allow them to be most successful in their little corner of the world. And then perhaps, as a society we will learn to value the honest plumber, dedicated teacher, selfless stay at home parent, and caring social worker just as much as the sports stars, astronauts, and CEOs.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Zachary Joseph: 3 years!

My Dearest Zachary,

Today you turn 3 years old. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. It was the day I learned that my heart could grow exponentially in just a matter of moments. The night before you were born I was worried about how I could love two little people as much as I already loved Ryan. I truly had nothing to worry about! My heart felt like it might burst the day I met you and it has grown even more every day since you came into our family.

Zachary, you are a feisty, snuggly, silly, funny, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, smart little boy whom we are so proud to call ours. You give fierce hugs, you love to "nuggle" (your word for snuggle) and you show love and joy (and anger and frustration :) with so much passion.

This past year you have truly blossomed! Your language took off like crazy. When the year started I was a little worried about the number of words you had. Now, you constantly talk and tell us what you think. You ask excellent questions, and your attention to detail about the way the world around you works is astounding. We always had a sense that you "were taking it all in" but now that you communicate so clearly and effectively you're able to let us know that we were correct! For example, you notice immediately if someone got a haircut. The other day, I came home from getting my haircut and you said, as soon as I walked in the door "Your hair looks so pretty, Mommy! I like it!" This is a gift, Zachary. May you always notice these things. Your spouse will one day thank you! You also notice if one of your brothers gets something you didn't and you quickly speak up to correct this miscarriage of justice. You notice the most minute details on cars and when we see a van just like ours you'll often say something like, "That van like ours...but not ours! Different wheels! (or lights, or bumper, etc). You never confuse a car of the same color but different make as being like ours. You are now recognizing letters and you find "Zs for Zachary!" everywhere we go. Its so much fun to see the results of those little wheels inside your brain turning!

In addition to being a smart and inquisitive little guy you are also extremely kind and caring. You are always looking out for your little brother, and if he's doing something that you  think looks dangerous you will say, "Mama, get him! Connor could get hurt!" (Though, you don't say Connor...the way you say it sounds more like "Donna." A part of me hopes you never master that hard C sound.) You love Ryan so much and to this day, if you're given two of something (a treat, a small toy, etc) you immediately run to share one with Ryan, even if they were both intended for you. You give fierce "monkey hugs" and say "Uh ooh too" (Love you too!) in the sweetest, kindest, most heart-melting way. I must say, "I love you!" 100 times a day just to hear your sweet "Uh ooh too" response. You can say "love you too" but it has become habit for you to just say it in your little kid way, and once again, I hope you never stop. "Uh ooh too!" is the best thing I hear all day!

As exceptional as you are in some ways, you're also very much a three year old in many ways. One of your favorite words of all time is "poopie." You'll find any excuse to use it and when someone else uses it, especially NeeNee, you think it is HYSTERICAL! Your giggle is one of the most joyful sounds I've ever heard and yes, I've been known to say poopie on occasion as well just to hear that glorious sound of your giggle.

You also eat very much like a toddler. You LOOOOOVE foods that you love. The problem is, you only truly love about five foods: Macaroni and cheese, waffles, yogurt, steelcut oatmeal, and peanut butter (but not on a sandwich, just by itself on a spoon). You'll tolerate strawberries and mandarin oranges, and sometimes bananas. You won't touch a vegetable unless it is snuck into a pouch (thank god for whoever invented those things!) or a homemade smoothie, which we make often and fortunately you love. You detest any type of meat. I mean what kid doesn't love Chick Fil A chicken nuggets?!?!?!?! You, that's who. I have to believe that one day you will be a more adventurous eater. Auntie Catharine is convinced you're going to be a famous chef one day. You do love to help me cook! But that whole "let them help prepare the meal and they'll eat it!" adage is total and complete BS with you. You'll gladly and excitedly help. But you usually do so while exclaiming "dat smell hoooorrrrrrible!" Its clear you have very sensitive taste buds. One day, if you do become that famous chef, I'll be sure to be your biggest supporter and strongest critic. Let's see how you like it when I taste your famous filet mignon in a truffle reduction sauce and exclaim, "Oh, that's horrible!" Yeah, paybacks buddy....paybacks.

So, while your love of food is limited, your love of animals is vast. Recently, for your and Ryan's birthday (we got them a bit early) we got two pet rats, Rizzy (Ryan's) and Ryder (yours). It was Ryan who really wanted them. You just sort of seemed to jump on the band wagon. But since getting them you have proven to be an exceptional pet owner, especially for a three year old. You like to hold them and play with them and you are so very, very gentle and kind with them. Watching you with Ryder and Rizzy makes their smelly, stinky cage that drives me crazy all worth it.

In addition to animals you love your family. You're very much a home body. You're most content being home with the people you love most, me, Daddy, Ryan, and Connor and playing a game or watching a movie while snuggled on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. But you love your NeeNee and PopPop fiercely as well and you get sooooo excited when they come over. Your cousins adore you and you in turn get excited any time they come to visit. Julia and Caitlin dote on you with such sweetness and James seems to look up to you. He loves to give you spontaneous hugs.

This past summer and fall we lived with NeeNee and PopPop for 4 months. And while it wasn't easy on any of us (most especially on NeeNee and PopPop) I have to say, you were amazing. You went with the flow more than I think most 2 year olds would have and you proved that as long as you're surrounded by the people you love, you'll be just fine. Yes, you certainly had more tantrums than normal (and that's saying something because you're a very emotional kid and you show STRONG emotions when you're frustrated or angry) but overall, you did really well. I mean, what kid learns how to potty train in one day while in the midst of the biggest change they've been through in their life? You do, that's who! You mastered potty training literally, in a day back in August. It was amazing. And for that and so many other reasons and I couldn't be prouder of you.

Though you did great while at NeeNee and PopPop's, I have to say, since moving into our own home its been a joy to watch you blossom even more. It's clear you are glad we have our own home again. You're thrilled that we have all our stuff back. You no longer have to ask "it in storage??" when you can't find something that's missing. And when you see something in our new house that was also in our old house you often say, "Dis just like our old house! We have dis der too!" It is all very exciting for your newly minted little three year old self!

There are so many things about the world that you love so much, in addition to your favorite people. You love books and would sit and have books read to you for hours. You especially like the "Piggie and Elephant" books by Mo Willems and you can "read" many of them by yourself now and it is just so darn, adorable. You read with different voices for each character and with the same emotion and inflection that I use when I read. Sometimes I wonder if you might enjoy acting when you're older. You're sometimes a little shy, but when given the proper venue and audience, you shine! You thoroughly enjoy playing games and you are able to follow the rules correctly in a way that far exceeds your age. You love "Hi Ho Cherry-O," "The Cat in the Hat, I can do that!" and "Busytown" the most. We're just starting to play UNO with you and you're getting it more and more every day. You'll be beating me and Daddy in no time! (Just don't beat Ryan....he would have a difficult time with that!). You continue to love trains and this year chose a Polar Express themed birthday party. If we let you, you'd watch that movie every day of the year. But, fortunately, just after your birthday Zerk (our elf) brought it back  to the North Pole. Don't worry, he will return it close to Christmas time! You've picked up on Ryan's Star Wars fever and you love learning about the different characters and you too enjoyed going to the theater with me, Ryan, and Uncle Mark to watch Episode 7. You may have fallen asleep for some of it, but when you were awake, you loved it!

You also love to run and play and jump and just be active. You're an amazing climber and you can scale a playground with no help at all. You love to do the fire pole and you love big slides. You can do the monkey bars by yourself but you insist that I be right there when you do it. You're always trying to keep up with Ryan, and you manage to do a pretty great job! You learned to ride your scooter this year and you are a PRO! You zoom along so quickly when you ride it! Its really quite impressive. When we were at NeeNee and PopPop's we went for a walk almost every day and you would always choose to ride your scooter. You scootered so much that you wore a huge hole in the front of your right shoe!

And yet, as active as you are, and as much as you desperately want to be a "big boy" you are also still very much by baby. You still use a pacifier (that's going to have to go in the next few months) and you still have mommy snuggle next to you at every nap and at bedtime in order to fall asleep. These are things that yes, we will have to transition you away from in the coming year (yes, I have things I'd like to do besides lay next to you all night long) but I'll soak in those extra snuggles for as long as I can. You won't be little forever and one day, I will long to have you snuggle next to me so you can fall asleep.

So, my sweet boy, in  these early days of your life I am doing my best to enjoy every moment and treasure the snuggles and cuddles, because I know they won't last forever. But, my love and pride for you is something that will most certainly last forever! Happy 3rd birthday sweet boy! I love you more than you will ever know!

Love always,


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