It seems like only yesterday they were wheeling me through the emergency room, rushing me up to labor and delivery, so you could be born as soon as physically possible. That whole day unfolded like a movie with more twists and turns that I could have imagined, but in the end, thank God, there was you.
You, the baby who healed my heart.
You, the baby who fell asleep on the bed while I spent fifteen minutes getting ready for the big bedtime routine which never ever needed to happen.
You, the baby who stayed in my arms and at my breast longer than everyone else thought necessary or possible.
You, the toddler with the head full of wild blond curls.
You, the toddler with the deep hobbit voice and the belly full laugh and smile.
You, the little boy who didn't talk to anyone else but me for years and years.
You, the little boy who whispered the deepest thoughts in the dark at bedtime.
You, the boy who taught himself to read on Calvin and Hobbes.
You, the boy who makes his teachers swoon.
You, the boy with the hilarious sense of humor.
You, the boy who sits down at the desk to play video games the same way old men check into the cubicle.
You, the boy who has a heart the size of Africa.
You, the boy who loves legos, comic books and sugar in any form.
You, the boy who everyone loves wherever he is, wherever he goes.
You, the boy who knows that laughter is always the best medicine.
I cannot tell you how happy I am you were born and how deeply I welcome being your mom, your friend and your sage guide your whole life long. May this year bring you new adventures in nature, new friends who you can talk to with your heart wide open and a sense of being loved and held through all the changes life always brings.
May you laugh so hard you pee your pants and have so much fun milk squirts out of your nose. May your tears be met with perfect understanding and support and healing. May your challenges only come with the perfect accompaniment of kindness and courage. May you learn to love new things and discover talents you never knew could be yours.
No matter what, I hope you know that we think you're the bee's knees. Nine never looked better.
Your Mom Jen Lemen
(you can read more about raising boys here)
"Mom, I want to go to the Secret Hideout with my cousin."
We are out at the lake at the family reunion and things have been awesome. But for the first time ever, Ethan is someplace where there is no one his age with which to play. Sure he has his brother (who will play whatever his older brother commands) for hours but for once, Nate has someone exactly his age who is keeping him busy.
In lieu of playing with the little kids all day, Ethan has discovered his older cousin Hayden. At eleven years old, Hayden is such a wonderful boy and has been nothing but extremely kind to his much younger cousin. He is so kind that I can see that he doesn't want to say "no" to Ethan when asked if he can tag along. He has taken him along a few times. The trouble is that Hayden really wants to be with his friends who are his age. I have absolutely no idea what eleven-year-old boys discuss but I am pretty sure it is way over the head (or should be) of a five-year-old.
Hayden is a very fast runner so I have noticed he has managed to escape a couple of times. A few times I have run interference so he can get away but he really shouldn't have to sneak away to be with his friends. I understand completely how Ethan feels though too. I never had anyone my age at family reunions and I wanted to be with the big kids.
My memories of the big kids seem to be the same ones Ethan is experiencing now. Everyone was always kind to me and they just disappeared when they wanted a break.
In addition to the conversational difference, the big kids stay up later. Before we left for vacation, Derek expressed his desire that the kids be able to embrace the Kid Anarchy he always experienced on vacation at the lake in summers when he was young. I reminded him that his memories of staying up late probably were not from when he was five years old and even if it was, too bad. Just like that old saying, "anything you can do after (insert your curfew), you can do before your curfew."
My kids do that crazy thing where they get up earlier if they go to bed later. I don't know why but I know it will happen as sure as I know the sun will come up in the morning. I told Derek that the kids could take a nap during the day if they wanted to stay up late or he could do morning duty at 4:15 (hello, time change). Unsurprisingly, he came around to my way of thinking.
As for playing with the big kids, I just sat Ethan down and explained it to him. I told him that he could be with Hayden every once in a while but that Hayden needed his space. I told him that Hayden was allowed to do things that Ethan was not because Ethan was still too young. I told Ethan the time would come when Ethan could do what the big kids are doing. I gave him all his choices for things that he could do so he didn't feel completely left out.
I think it worked, at least for today. What would you have done?
Summer is in full swing and now is the perfect time to reclaim the family goodness. As a parent, I find myself becoming a little more present with my kids during the summer time. It feels a little more free and open to do all the things pushed aside during the school year. Here are a few ideas for bringing your family together this season.
Get down with nature. A recent frog festival at a local community center in town had us all totally intrigued and we decided we must go. We left with 10 tadpoles and lots of excitement. Everyone had a job to take care of the little guys and watching them change into frogs brought so many interesting conversations.
Butterfly gardens and kits are another great at home family project to get close to nature.
The most awesome part is that it was short and sweet, no long term pet care.
Make meals together. With all the yummy fresh fruits and veggies of the summer, it is a perfect time to cook. Making meal time a family affair from start to finish brings you all together on lots of levels. Kids will be more invested in trying new dishes and the skill fosters independence for future self care. Try picking one recipe to perfect. Josiah, Lucy and I are out to find the best guacamole recipe. Between chopping and mashing, all ages are into making this dish.
Dive into art. Butcher paper over the dining room table and some crayons can be a simple way to start your family art hour. Instead of quiet time in the afternoon, we are opting for a watercolor hour. Change it up offering a different medium every week. Think process and not product with this family activity. Try to do it in a place where you aren't so concerned about potential mess and clean up. It will be lovely fun.
Get your clean on. If your kids are like mine, the house is a lot messier in the summer. More time at home means various projects in stages all over, more dishes, and more laundry. No one really wants to clean up individually but everyone is more willing if we do it together. We love to play family DJ at our house to get the ball rolling. Each person picks a song and then we clean until all the songs run out. Sometimes we end with the Cha-cha slide to gather back together. If you have a little family you can always pick more than one song. It's a super fun way to get it all done.
Do something kind and adventurous. Our family is in love with a pastime we call Ding-Dong-Ditchin'. We leave something kind on a doorstep of a friend or someone we don't know, ring the doorbell and run. It is more fun than you can imagine. You can see my kids in action here. Kindness has a way of bringing us together in a really awesome way.
What are your favorite family activities in the summer? Spread the idea love in the comment section.