My Favorite Subject Turns Four: Happy Birthday Michael!

Dear Michael,

It seems appropriate that I post this birthday letter to you on my blog, since you have single-handedly provided much of my material for it…and frankly some of my best quality material. Every time I finish a new blog post and read it to your dad, he always says, regardless, “I think it’s your best one.” Well, I know that’s not always the case, but I think we would both agree that “Dancing on Betsy Ross’ Grave” is probably one of our favorites. And that is all thanks to you and your “unique way of living life.” Mostly, I love that post because it means I will always have something to remind me of exactly the boy your were at the age of three-and-a-half. But today, my little man, you turn four years old, and I can not wait (and frankly, am a bit frightened) to see what this next year will bring.

Michael the cowboyYou certainly keep us on our toes, which (while not always amusing at those very moments) has certainly provided us with lots of after-the-fact laughs, suppressed smiles while trying to scold you, and I give up giggles. I have often said about you, “It’s a good thing he’s cute”…and you really are, in my completely unbiased opinion. But truthfully, I don’t want you growing up with the notion that those charming dimples and lashfully luscious baby blues will buy you a free pass to make your own rules…because guys like that are big fat jerks. And you, my little buddy, may have had a salty three-year-old tongue sometimes, but you are powered by a heart that beats sweet and pure. Besides, now that you are turning four, I’m fully expecting the “terrible threes” to kindly be on their way.

One thing I hope will stick around, even though you are getting older, is that I can always count on you for some really fantastic snuggles. You…are…momma’s…boy. Plain and simple. Though it is sometimes burdensome that I am always your first choice to do pretty much everything, I really adore that you adore me so. It is hard to resist your nightly request of “Momma, will you snuggle with me?” even in spite of the massive number of time outs I had to put you in or “Michael messes” I had to clean up that day. And in those moments where you are lying in bed on the brink of sleep, all I can see is a perfect little boy.

Reflecting on this past year, age three has really been something. Exhausting? Yes. Frustrating? Yes (by the way,…PLEASE get his whole normal healthy eating habits thing down. It’s just annoying.). But you have made it all worth while because it is impossible for your genuinely lovable and inquisitive nature not to shine through. And you may be getting wise to ways of covering up your indiscretions (like when I catch you sneaking a cookie and you almost instinctively hold it up and say, “I was getting you a cookie, mom.”), but it also seems that Osmosis Boy IS starting to catch on to the right way of doing things as well…like saying “okay” when we ask you to do something instead of ignoring us or blatantly refusing. And might I say it is pretty adorable when we reaffirm this by saying “Good answer!” and you reply, “Yay! Let’s have a good answer party! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!”

Instead, let’s have a birthday party today to celebrate the fact that you have made our lives complete for another year. And pretty jam-packed-super-full as well. I feel certain that age four will bring many more blog posts to come, but I would be lying if I said I was not excited to see what you will bring to the table, and how you will refine the talents you already posses. For instance, your emerging negotiating tactics that usually only consist of what you will get out of the bargain: “How ’bout you take me to the ice cream store. Would that be a deal?” Well buddy, I’ve got one for you…

How ’bout you just keep being exactly who you are, and I just keep on loving you all the way to Heaven and back. Would that be a deal?

Love, Mommy

Dancing on Betsy Ross’ Grave

What a strange title for a blog post you say? Perhaps I am about to launch into a commentary on civil liberties in our country. Or possibly I am researching unusual burial rituals throughout history. Maybe it is just a clever ploy to attract readers.

Or maybe on our Spring Break trip to Philadelphia last week, my son did just that: danced on Betsy Ross’ grave. Aside from being utterly embarrassed and a little afraid he may have committed a federal offense, what else can I do but blog about it?

So, yes. While perusing the grounds outside of Betsy Ross’ Philadelphia home, reading various plaques extolling her act of bravery in facing charges of treason by creating the very first flag of our grand country and bearing the heartache of losing not one, not two, but three husbands, I look up to find my son has climbed up onto the little wall protecting the sacred ground and is hopping around on the cement marker of her final resting place.

I would say I was horrified, but that would be a lie. In order to be horrified, there must be some element of surprise. No surprise here, as unfortunate as that is to say. There was a split second I thought about slowly backing away and saying to no one in particular, “Where are that boy’s parents?” But then I quickly faced the truth that I must own him…and it would have been pretty crummy of me to let my husband take all the judgmental stares boring into him alone.

Sigh. Nobody knows the woes of the mother of a three-year-old boy…except for another mother of a three-year-old boy. Like I said, there was not one hint of surprise at the sight of my son doing a jig on the burial ground of a beloved historical figure. Because frankly, the boy is a destructor of just about anything, sanity included. The number of near catastrophes that would have landed us on the news as “the family who destroyed the [fill in the blank with your choice of historical Philadelphia buildings]” caused me to wonder how history ever survived thousands of years of three-year-old boys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the REAL culprit of the Liberty Bell crack was a small grubby-handed child of the male persuasion.

****BREAKING NEWS**** Right now, as if on cue, my husband just yelled down to me and asked if I was still working on “The Michael Blog.” Because apparently the kid just rinsed off his toothpaste-sudsy toothbrush in the hubby’s iced tea. Now, back to our program…

I know, as a reader, you will be disappointed to find I do not have a photo of my son dancing on Betsy Ross’ grave. For once I did the responsible thing and stopped my child from doing something outlandish instead of prolonging it so I could get a good picture…which I may have been known to do in the past.

So here are some of those other pictures (which also serve to illustrate why the above incident was not surprising in the least):

And then there’s the poop story. No one wants to see pictures of that.

There it is. My son, in a nutshell. It’s a good thing he is cute. Hopefully Betsy Ross thought so too and decided NOT to come back and do some vengeful haunting.

What I WAS Going to Write About: The Enigma of the Three Year Old

doctor pediatrician
“There has to be something wrong, right?” (photo modified from Flickr under CC by 2.0)

Last week I began formulating an idea for a blog post, born out of the frustration that comes with being the mother of a three-and-a-half year old. I have often said that the age of three should be declared a medical affliction. After all, there has been many a mother who has gone to the pediatrician with complete certainty that there will be a diagnosis of an ear infection, a sinus infection, an ANY infection to account for the increasingly whiny behavior of her child, only to have the pediatrician tell her he is completely healthy…he’s just a three year old. True story. And if three is a medical affliction, then three-and-a-half is a chronic disease.

That WAS what I was going to write about in my post.

I WAS going to pepper the post with a slew of examples proving my hypothesis that the age of three-and-a-half is a chronic disease, examples from right under my own roof. Like last Saturday when Michael pouted that he didn’t want his dad to take him to the playground because he would rather sit in a gym with me and watch his sister’s basketball practice (yes, it is nice that he loves me so, but only a three-and-a-half year old could make going to the playground a bad thing). Or Monday when Michael noticed that I sprinkled just the tiniest dash of flaxseed in his mac ‘n’ cheese and would not eat it because it apparently smelled and tasted “ridiculous.” Or pretty much any time Grace has something worthy of being on video: every recording of her performances, recitals, or games has the sound of Michael whining in the background. And in the case of last year’s Christmas dance recital, he is actually physically IN the background (listen for the cue around the 2:43 mark where I whisper “MICHAEL!” in horrified embarrassment at what I know is about to happen yet have no power to stop).

I WAS going to post about all those things, until a series of good behaviors and heart-melting actions made me feel like a frigid mommy dearest for even thinking to disparage my sweet little boy. Like the fact that on Sunday we were in a church with no cry room for literally almost three straight hours (mass followed by a baptism) and he was a complete and total champ about it. Or the fact that on Tuesday, for pretty much the first time all school year, he walked right over and sat on the rug after hanging up his coat, instead of latching onto my leg and making the goodbye process a battle of wills. Or the fact that on any given day, at any given time, I can ask him for a snuggle and he happily obliges, usually throwing in a goofy little smile as he squashes my cheeks together with his little hands before planting a sticky kiss on my face.

So that is what I AM going to write this post about instead. About a little boy who pretends to be Santa and wraps up things around the house to give his sister. About a little boy who plays house with his four Batman figurines, designating a Dad Batman, a Mom Batman, a Brother Batman, and a Sister Batman who all throw a party in the Batcave for the “Terrible” Hulk so he will turn into the “Happy” Hulk. About a little boy who has me read Llama Llama Misses Mama over and over again because it helps him remember that his own mama might go away sometimes, but she also always comes back. About a little boy who, every day as soon as we drop Grace off at school, says “I miss sis.” About a little boy who calls the kitchen the “chicken,” thereby making it hysterical every time he scolds our dog by yelling, “Scout, get out of the chicken!” About a little boy who sounds like Forrest Gump when he says “ice cream,” and who makes us giddy by humoring us with the movie line we taught him to say for full effect: “Lieutenant Da-an…iiiiice cream!” About a little boy who still has the captivating sing-song voice of innocence, making me sometimes hang on even his jibberish ramblings just to listen to the way he says the words.

Yes, there is definitely a lot to complain about with a three-and-a-half year old. But fortunately, there really is so much more to love. And that is the best medicine for any chronic disease.

What I WAS Going to Write About

kid at the doctor
There HAS to be something wrong with him…right?

Last week I began formulating an idea for a blog post, born out of the frustration that comes with being the mother of a three-and-a-half year old. I have often said that the age of three should be declared a medical affliction. After all, there has been many a mother who has gone to the pediatrician with complete certainty that there will be a diagnosis of an ear infection, a sinus infection, an ANY infection to account for the increasingly whiny behavior of her child, only to have the pediatrician tell her he is completely healthy…he’s just three. True story. And if three is a medical affliction, then three-and-a-half is a chronic disease.

That WAS what I was going to write about in my post.

I WAS going to pepper the post with a slew of examples proving my hypothesis that the age of three-and-a-half is a chronic disease, examples from right under my own roof. Like last Saturday when Michael pouted that he didn’t want his dad to take him to the playground because he would rather sit in a gym with me and watch his sister’s basketball practice (yes, it is nice that he loves me so, but only a three-and-a-half year old could make going to the playground a bad thing). Or Monday when Michael noticed that I sprinkled just the tiniest dash of flaxseed in his mac ‘n’ cheese and would not eat it because it apparently smelled and tasted “ridiculous.” Or pretty much any time Grace has something worthy of being on video: every recording of her performances, recitals, or games has the sound of Michael whining in the background. And in the case of last year’s Christmas dance recital, he is actually physically IN the background. You can watch it here (listen for the cue around the 2:43 mark where I whisper “MICHAEL!” in horrified embarrassment at what I know is about to happen yet have no power to stop.)

I WAS going to post about all those things, until a series of good behaviors and heart-melting actions made me feel like a frigid mommy dearest for even thinking to disparage my sweet little boy. Like the fact that on Sunday we were in a church with no cry room for literally almost three straight hours (mass followed by a baptism) and he was a complete and total champ about it. Or the fact that on Tuesday, for pretty much the first time all school year, he walked right over and sat on the rug after hanging up his coat, instead of latching onto my leg and making the goodbye process a battle of wills. Or the fact that on any given day, at any given time, I can ask him for a snuggle and he happily obliges, usually throwing in a goofy little smile as he squashes my cheeks together with his little hands before planting a sticky kiss on my face.

So that is what I AM going to write this post about instead. About a little boy who pretends to be Santa and wraps up things around the house to give his sister. About a little boy who plays house with his four Batman figurines, designating a Dad Batman, a Mom Batman, a Brother Batman, and a Sister Batman who all throw a party in the Batcave for the “Terrible” Hulk so he will turn into the “Happy” Hulk. About a little boy who has me read Llama Llama Misses Mama over and over again because it helps him remember that his own mama might go away sometimes, but she also always comes back. About a little boy who, every day as soon as we drop Grace off at school, says “I miss sis.” About a little boy who calls the kitchen the “chicken,” thereby making it hysterical every time he scolds our dog by yelling, “Scout, get out of the chicken!” About a little boy who sounds like Forrest Gump when he says “ice cream,” and who makes us giddy by humoring us with the movie line we taught him to say for full effect: “Lieutenant Da-an…iiiiice cream!” About a little boy who still has the captivating sing-song voice of innocence, making me sometimes hang on even his jibberish ramblings just to listen to the way he says the words.

Yes, there is definitely a lot to complain about with a three-and-a-half year old. But fortunately, there really is so much more to love. And that is the best medicine for any chronic disease.

Damn Is for Beavers

With every milestone a child reaches, there are joys to look forward to as well as fears to dread. When a child begins walking, a mother will look forward to a whole new world of activities they can do together. She will also dread skinned knees and searching for her child who has wandered off in Target. When a child loses her first tooth, a mother will look forward to spinning tales of the Tooth Fairy and seeing the excitement when her child wakes up to a dollar under her pillow and “fairy dust” on the floor. She will also dread the future payments to the orthodontist when her child’s permanent teeth come in crooked right off the bat (this one is hitting close to home at the moment). When a child begins to drive, a mother will look forward to a little freedom from carpool duty and pick up from practice. But she will also dread speeding tickets, fender-benders, or something worse. And when a child begins talking, a mother will look forward to finally hearing the words I love you, along with all the other wonderfully charming things kids say. She will also dread all the not-so-charming things that will inevitably accompany them. Like “damn it.”

Michael is a few weeks into being three years old. I think by now it has been well documented that three is the new two…in terms of being preceded by the adjective “terrible.” A few months ago, Michael went through a tremendous language explosion, and almost overnight, he started sounding more like a “kid” than a “toddler” when he talked. And as it must surely go, he now also has the humor of a kid, and we all know what that means: potty humor. Oh , the number of times a day the child inserts the word “poop” into a sentence is staggering, and it is always followed with hysterical laughter. My new catch phrase has been, “Excuse me, but poop is for the bathroom.” Of course that has not stopped him in his potty talk. Now, every time he says the word “poop” in a random fashion, he just adds, “poop is for da baffroom.” Apparently he sees it as more of a disclaimer than a deterrent.

christmas story soap in mouth
“Oooh Fuuudge!” What punishment is worse than the guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Soap in the mouth, of course.

But I can handle the poop talk. It’s part of being a kid. I get it. And I can also handle his driving need to make people laugh (namely his sister) by saying, “Shakin’ my boooooty.” What I can not handle is that he has started saying, “damn it” when he is angry. I would like to blame the indiscretion on “kids at school,” but let’s face it. Preschool has been out for two months now. I hate to admit it, but I know he has heard it come out of my mouth…never at him or his sister, but there have been times it has freely fallen from my lips. And now I’ve created a problem for myself to fix.

Grace also went through a small “damn it” phase around the age of four. Overall, I’ve been lucky with her. She’s never been much of a potty mouth. So I thought back to what I did when she suddenly found a fondness for this “bad” word. I did not want to make a big deal about it and give it more power than it had, but I also wanted to make sure she knew it was not an appropriate thing to say. So I figured I would give her a funny alternative that would surely be more enticing. Very casually I said to her, “You know, how about instead of saying ‘damn it,’ we say ‘oh pickles.’” Well she seemed to like that, but it was not always so easy to remember. I recall one time I could hear her in the kitchen. She had spilled some water, and she whispered, “Oh damn it…I mean, pickles.” A minute later, she came up to me to confess: “Mom, I said ‘oh pickles,’ but I was thinking ‘damn it’“. Before I knew it, “damn it” just kind of disappeared from her vocabulary.

I am hoping the same will happen with Michael. In some ways, he seems a bit more stubborn than Grace, which I did not think was possible. But I know it is just another small battle a mother must fight, and hopefully if I teach my kids what is right enough times, they will eventually choose wisely. All in all, I guess a little “damn it” is not so bad, especially considering most of what comes out of Michael’s mouth is worth smiling over.