Bro-thday Bash

One year and one week ago, I was miserably, hugely pregnant with our 3rd. I didn’t care when he came out or how he came out, just that he came out.

So on the night of our firstborn’s 4th birthday, I didn’t even care when I started feeling signs of impending labor as I play skeeball at Chuck-e-Cheese.

And I certainly didn’t care when our baby finally made his grand entrance the next day, making him and his oldest brother 4 years and 1 day apart.

I still don’t care that their birthdays are back to back.

It’s fitting, actually, seeing as my husband and mine are 2 days apart…at the beginning of August.

With 4 out of our 5 family members’ birthdays this month, we’re all *very* birthdayed out by September. (Well, all but the toddler.)

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In our house, during this month, dual-celebration is necessary.

And last weekend we did just that.

We invited our friends and family over for the first annual Bro-thday Bash.

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BRO-thday Bash (broh-th-dey baSH): noun
one party with two themes for two brothers with birthdays one day apart

Did you follow that?

Me either.

Construction theme for one kid, BABY vs. WILD [brothers] theme for the other.

9 families, 30 children.

It was mass chaos of the most festive kind.

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For the big kids, the excavator and wrecking ball won the day.

(Shoutout to my brother who sells tractors and brought this bad boy home from work.)

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For the babies, the teensy tiny canteens and kid corral were solid gold.

(As were the pictures on the mantle that displayed all the ways our favorite one year old “survived” the year. Between brotherly “love” [read: torture] and the little clavicle mishap, he is a true survivor of the suburban wild.)

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Heaven knows I love a good party theme.

But even more than that, I love a good reason to celebrate.

When I look at my freshly-turned 5 year old’s face, I see 5 years worth of love and joy and memories and personality to celebrate. I see God’s goodness so clearly in this “big” boy, and I am overwhelmingly thankful He would give us such a precious gift.

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And my freshly-turned 1 year old? Oh, mercy. I never experience God’s faithfulness more than when I see these big brown eyes. This little soul came so far out of left field (according to our plans, anyway); yet just a short year later, we cannot imagine a home or a heart without him.

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I can hardly think of 2 better reasons to throw a party.

We are so, infinitely proud of you, little bros.

30 Reasons to Celebrate our Favorite 30 Year Old

August 7, 1986: our favorite man in the world was born.

30 years ago today.

What a beautiful life he has lived up until this point. I mean….he’s created 3 additional humans, among many other accomplishments.

We are opposite in many ways. (Ok, every way. And then some.)

I love talking. He loves silence.

I love chaos. He loves order.

I love spending time with 82,305,342 of my closest friends. He loves spending time with our family of 5.

I love big parties. He loves when people forget it’s his birthday.

Unfortunately he’s out of luck this birthday because THIRTY. It deserves extra attention.

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So here it is.

30 REASONS WE LOVE TAYLOR:

  1. He is fiercely loyal. Once a friend, always a friend of Taylor’s.
  2. He can imagine with the best of them. I have a reputation for being the creative one, but THAT guy is the one who plays pretend with our boys like you wouldn’t believe.
  3. He desperately wants to be a storm chaser. (Nope.)
  4. He is logical. Period. Life just needs to make sense and add up. (Why he married me, a human with a shorted-out pinball machine for a mind, I have no idea but NO TAKE BACKS, SUCKAAA.)
  5. He makes perfectly uniform pancakes. They can all stack in a neat, nice pile because they are all exactly 4″ in diameter.
  6. He sees the positive in everything.
  7. He is wickedly smart.
  8. He always gets an appetizer, gets too full to eat his food, and then comments on the size of our check at dinner. And I love it.
  9. He is funny. Really funny. Whereas I travel with my own megaphone-voiced comedy routine, he is in the corner making hilarious comments to the person sitting next to him.
  10. He always knows an odd amount of celebrity gossip. He’s your go-to for who is dating who and what Rihanna’s new song is.
  11. He shows grace more than anyone I’ve ever met.
  12. He suffers from uncontrollable giggles at inappropriate times.
  13. He is kind to the core.
  14. He eats vegetables like a child. That is, to say, not at all. His gag reflex never aged past 4.
  15. He has a hipster inside to his accountant outside. His inside is pure manicured beard and Warby Parker glasses; his outside clean shaven business professional.
  16. He cares deeply for others. Especially those in need.
  17. He loves brainy nerd games.
  18. He is quite eloquent. Taylor uses approximately 0.02% the amount of words I do in our home, so when he does speak, we listen. And it’s always a wise, well-spoken thought.
  19. He still drives the truck he was given for his 16th birthday because “it still works”. A business executive with a 48 year old, rusted truck. *swoon*
  20. He is calm. (This is a big deal in our home.)
  21. He condones eating late night fast food as a second dinner while we Netflix.
  22. He will do whatever it takes to make the people he loves happy.
  23. He can’t keep a secret to save his life.
  24. He is a marketer’s dream. He once bought $400 worth of meat and seafood from a door to door salesman because “it seemed like a great deal”. (We don’t eat seafood. Also, no.)
  25. He makes a terrible disciplinarian. He’s way too nice.
  26. He is made of 50% human body parts, 50% Mexican food.
  27. He works hard and with integrity. (Kind of a rarity these days.)
  28. He is active on LinkedIn – the most social he’ll get on the internet.
  29. He drinks a Sonic cherry slush at least 4 times a week.
  30. He loves his family fiercely…and loves God even more.

It’s a good thing the numbers get bigger the older you get because I have about 3,023 more reasons to add.

We love you to the moon, Taylor Brooks.

And thank you, Lord, for this man and the family and legacy he is creating.

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P.S. when 4 of your 5 family members have birthdays in August, you get burned out on cake.

Sometimes a lemon popsicle with a candle zip-tied to it is just what you need, which leads us to a bonus reason why we love Taylor:

31. He is very easy to please.

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Celebrating Differences (and Teaching Our Kids to Do the Same)

“Dear ______, Stop _______.”

– the formula for titling your next culturally relevant blog post

These “open letters” are all. over. Facebook. All the time.

Have you seen them?

Something like:

Dear White People, Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”.

Dear Black People, Stop Protesting on Highways.

Dear Police Officers, Stop the Excessive Force.

Dear Everyone, Stop Assuming all Muslims are Terrorists.

Dear Republicans/Democrats/Liberals, Stop …..

Everyone wants to be treated equally (rightly so, obviously) yet we create all these rules and stipulations for how we relate to someone who is different than us. We have an army of writers and Facebloggers writing extensive bullet point lists of things each type of human can and can’t say, can and can’t do towards another type of human.

It leaves us in this awkward space where we either

can’t celebrate our differences because we can’t acknowledge our differences (“well I certainly don’t want to offend”),

OR

think we are so different we can’t find a way to do anything together, let alone celebrate.

It’s exhausting.

It’s also overwhelming.

You can drown in the weight of trying to understand all the sadness and divisiveness, let alone trying to explain it to your kids.

Police killing unarmed citizens. Armed citizens killing police. Terrorists plowing down families with a bus. Terrorists shooting children at a McDonalds.

Not to mention politics. Oh my heavens.

Everyone is losing their ever-loving minds.

I mean…can we even move forward at this point or should we all just buy those Home Depot storm shelter bunker things and wait it out with our own kind until Jesus returns?

(I’d vote the latter but we tried the floor sample out at our last trip there and the metal bench is most uncomfortable.)

Loving Tangibly

Silence doesn’t really help. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t really help. “Sending good thoughts” doesn’t really help. Writing blog posts about all the things someone else should quit doing doesn’t really help.

You know what would help? Doing. Learning about our differences and finding ways to celebrate others. Breaking our silence and loving tangibly.

And how about instead of pointing fingers here and there we start in our own homes?

It doesn’t have to be a series of life-changing events; simple intentionality can have a profound impact.

For instance, our home is ruled by a gaggle of volatile tiny humans, so our options for changing the world are somewhat limited.

But still.

We’re finding ways.

Here’s how:

  1. Praying through Ramadan

During the months of June/July, our family (along with our church and Mission Resource Network) prayed for different Muslim nations throughout the world.

Each day we watched a Prayercast video to learn about a specific country and to pray for the people of that nation.

It was a great way to expand our view of God’s kingdom. The boys loved seeing the colors and hearing the sounds of different people across the world, and it led to great discussions about how vast God’s love for ALL of His people is.

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Obviously Ramadan is over now, but the PrayerCast website has videos at the ready 24/7, a great activity to do solo or with kids or spouses or siblings or parents.

2. Thanking Law Enforcement

After the recent police shootings, we invited a few tiny friends over for a card-making play date.

We each made a stash of thank you cards to keep in our cars, ready to hand out when we see police officers in our area.

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A few days later, we spotted an officer in line at Chipotle. We gave him a card and thanked him for his service. He responded with polite appreciation. All in all, kind of anticlimactic.

Until we followed him to the parking lot a few minutes later.

There he sat, behind the wheel of his cruiser, staring at the cards.

As we were about to drive away, he rolled down his window and – with actual tears in his eyes – said, “I just want to thank you again for these. I can’t tell you how much this means.”

We went home and made 20 more.

3. Diversifying our Library

We have the whitest children known to man. But those boys will never – for one second – doubt our family’s love or our God’s love for people who look different than us.

One easy way to celebrate differences is through story.

Our current favorite picks of books about diversity are:

booksI Am Martin Luther King Jr by Brad Meltzer // We March by Shane W. Evans // The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler // Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

I could say more, but I’d be doing a disservice by not directing you to my friend Casey’s post on this subject instead: Books to Help You Discuss Race With Your Kids. It’s a fantastic list of age-appropriate books.

Loving others, you guys.

PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER and let’s figure it out.

Whatever it looks like…however big or small, whether it’s white, black, brown, or blue…let’s find ways to love tangibly.

Survival of the Summertime

I see you, mom bloggers with 5 kids and enough time to not only create homemade sensory bins but to post a how-to that same afternoon. I see you.

And I’m wondering where the heck your kids are while you’re blogging, because they certainly aren’t in the room with you.

The hungriest my kids ever get is when I sit down at my computer and start typing. Or when I pick up the phone to actually talk to another reasonable human. It’s like instant starvation when my attention is diverted from their angel faces. Either that or all-out war with each other. They’re kind of the worst.

(Especially the toddler. Did you see the post about how often he yells the word “penis” in public? Because that’s still going strong.)

This summer has been an epic survival experiment.

3 boys, 4 and under. No schedule. Summertime energy. Speedy 10 month old. Mischievous toddler. Bored preschooler. Spotty Netflix connection. Water ban due to ruptured ear drum (cool story for another time).

It’s insanity of the best kind.

In fact, I documented one day this week. Maybe you can relate.

Daily Summer Schedule:

6:45AM – Toddler’s first breakfast. Sprinkles.

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7:45AM – Toddler asks me to make “Sarah hair”. He means this:

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(Another casualty of summer besides brain cells: hygiene.)

8:30AM – Toddler gets naked from the bottom down and hides in the closet.

9:00AM – Bathroom door left open; infant unrolls toilet paper.

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9:30AM – Toddler takes bath in toilet.

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10:00AM – Get everyone dressed for the day.

10:15AM – Toddler gets wet (?). And naked. Again.

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1:00PM – Preschooler accidentally falls asleep (because “I’m not tired, it’s just that sometimes when I pretend I am tired I actually fall asleep”). Use SnapChat filters on sleeping child.

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2:45PM – Toddler tries to buckle himself in the car. Then asks for help. Then cries when he receives help because he wants to buckle himself with no help.

3:00PM – Grocery store run. Toddler is shirtless (?).

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3:20PM – Impulse buy after toddler “tests out” the sticker portion of an unpurchased product.

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4:00PM – Doctor the world’s most durable and well-loved plant with its third bandaid. Give thanks for the plant’s life after being potted and repotted and snapped in half at least 8 times since the end of school in May.

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4:05PM – Plant succumbs to its injuries. Funeral for world’s most almost-durable and well-loved plant that miraculously stayed alive since May.

5:00PM – SnapChat husband about impending death if he does not return home quickly.

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6:45PM – Sibling bath. Install ear plugs (for ruptured ear drum). Lose earplugs. Find earplugs. Repeatedly state, “Ear plugs are not chewing gum.”

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7:30PM – Bedtime. Sweet, heavenly silence.

7:33-8:12PM – Idle threats and/or bribery to make tiny humans lay in designated sleeping areas. Google plausibly of installing Benadryl misters along their ceiling.

9:15PM – Visit sleeping children. Experience a longing – despite all odds – to see their faces one more time.

Aaaaand repeat. Every day of summer.

Different variations of snack contraband, different injuries requiring bandaids (some plant, some human), but always ALWAYS with the naked toddler. And the toilet-paper obsessed baby. And the SnapChat filters. And the purchase of something we’ve ruined in the process of grocery shopping.

I feel like tiny humans need one of those warning labels stuck to them.

“Do not operate if you have any of the following conditions: heart disease, neck, back, or spine ailments, high blood pressure, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Maybe I’ll write my congressman to make that happen.

In the meantime: godspeed, fellow summer parenters.

We’ve got this.

(I think. Probably. At the very least, we’ll know soon enough if we don’t.)

Wildly Toddlerpropriate

“Teach them appropriate names for body parts,” they said.

“They’ll be more empowered,” they said.

You know what they didn’t say?

That a two year old yelling about his penis in a crowded public area is incredibly awkward.

Even more awkward is when you’re trying on clothes in a dressing room with running commentary in the background.

1st Favorite Son: “You look beautiful, my lady.” (?!?)

3rd Favorite Son: “MOMMY I SEE YOUR PENIS.”

…yep.

Have I mentioned that my two year old suffers from Megaphone Voice? (He comes by it honestly, but still.)

Couple things.

  1. I do not have a penis. Nor did he see any body part remotely resembling one.
  2. This was yelled in a Target changing room which – if you really think about it – is absolutely perfect considering its current status as the hub of all things transgender controversial. I can almost hear the phone call later that afternoon. “I heard it with my own ears, Wanda! A mommy with a penis. Canyouevenbelieveit.”

(You’re welcome, people who haven’t yet boycotted Target. We successfully pushed those still on the fence right on over the edge which means more sizes of the 25% off summer sandals to choose from.)

And last week with said two year old?! I still break out in hives at the memory of his little sausage fingers pointing at a (fully-clothed) elderly gentleman in a nursing home and informing everyone within a 10 foot radius that he “yiked” his man parts*.

(*medically correct male anatomy name I can’t bring myself to type again)

So, {….slow clap…..}.

Thanks for the suggestion, medical community. Not only will my son be incredibly “well adjusted” and “comfortable in his own skin”, he’ll “empower” everyone else to feel incredibly uncomfortable.

Two year olds are such terrors.

Hilarious, wonderful, foul-mouthed little terrors.

When our first son was two, he dropped the F bomb every time he saw a “fire truck”. I thought he might’ve set the bar too high for future Brooks toddlers.

I was mistaken.

Because now that our second son is two, we’ve discovered that he cannot for the life of him (and the sheer delight of us) pronounce the word “popcorn”.

HIM: “me hab some pocketporn.”

ME: “popcorn. pop. corn.”

HIM: “pocketporn. pocket. porn.”

ME: “POPCORN.”

HIM: “POCKETPORN. NOW, SARAH.”

He’s, like, so good at being two (a professional toddler, if you will), his discretion leaves quite a bit to be desired, and we simply couldn’t adore this pork chop any more.

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On the Road to {Vacation} Recovery

I see your summer vacation photos. Your trips to Maui and Cabo San Lucas. Your moonlit walks on the beach and leisurely bike rides through sleepy, romantic towns.

I see these and I raise you the scenery along my 98 degree run the other night:

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Yes, a steaming pile of poop that spells “hi”.

It’s kind of the perfect picture of our summer so far.

Not really.

But really, we are still recovering from our vacation from hell.

Last I left it, we were about to board our flight to come home.

Home sweet home.

Home, the place I was afraid we wouldn’t get to when Taylor lit up like a Christmas tree at airport security and had to have his palms swabbed. The palms, you know, that were covered in what appeared to be leprosy.

Please don’t detain us.

(They didn’t.)

Home, where I unpacked a suitcase full of standing water after discovering that the airline had left it sitting on the tarmac in the middle of a Floridian monsoon.

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Home, the site of the broken 8 month old that had to be picked up by his butt and left armpit only, making it appear to onlookers as though you’ve never held a baby in your life.

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Home. Still better than our beach vacation.

Fast forward 4 weeks….

Taylor is still not 100% back to normal. Turns out Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is a horribly disgusting virus that sticks around for – oh – 12 years or so. If you’re unfamiliar with this virus, basically your appendages rot off blister by blister and you grow all new ones.

Some people experience the virus in their hands, feet, or mouth. Taylor opted for extra measures of all 3. (Not recommended.)

In a random late night discussion recently, I asked what he thought was the most humiliating form the human body can take.

Personally, I think it is a toss up between retching and shimmying up palm trees. (I saw a 40 year old man with misplaced confidence attempt it once. It was…indescribable.)

Taylor’s answer was immediate: Hand, Foot, and Mouth.

He may be right.

As for the issue of the collarbone, I continue to be amazed at how bodies heal themselves.

This was taken on a Wednesday….

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…and he was crawling by Saturday.

I know. Makes you cringe, right?

Our biggest risk at this point is another child re-breaking the bone during the first 6-8 weeks, something I thought would be easily avoidable until the very first time I let him crawl around near his brothers and found the giant toddler SITTING ON HIM 14 SECONDS LATER.

It’s really a wonder he’s even made it this far in life.

Our vacation (or lack thereof) has continued to make us laugh.

I was talking to a friend the other day who said, “I thought you were just doing ‘that Sarah thing’ when you were posting about it. I didn’t know it was actually bad.”

First off, I think I’m offended.

Secondly, it really was that bad. Possibly worse.

Thirdly – and most importantly – it was just a vacation. It’s a luxury to even have the means to experience a bad vacation.

If there’s anything our family is good at, it’s laughing. (And kung-fuing inanimate objects, but that’s neither here nor there.)

In a world filled to the brim with hate and pain and tears, I’ll find every opportunity I can to share a smile, even if it’s at the expense of my husband’s flesh-eating disease.

I hope you find a reason to share a good laugh today. It rights so many wrongs.

Dear Vacation, You’re the Worst.

[alternate title: Our Life, the Sitcom.]

Oh, hey there. Just bloggin away from the comfort of our cozy little beach condo in Florida. It’s the last full day of our first vacation without kids in 7 1/2 years.

You’d think I’d be on the beach instead of blogging, but I have a wicked heat rash and my husband is curled up in a feverish ball on the couch.

True story.

‘Tis only the beginning, my friends. Only. the. beginning.

Here’s how our week has gone:

Saturday: Say goodbye to our boys, whistle the Hunger Games tune and salute my mom who is holding down the fort at home, board a flight, arrive in Florida, take a long walk on the beach, drink some weird cucumbery vacation drink.

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Sunday: play a round of golf at the world’s most hilarious golf course. Almost take out a snapping turtle chillin on the fairway. Get woken up at 3am from the upstairs neighbors’ party and, uh, love for each other. (I forget how intimate apartment life is.)

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Monday: BEACH DAY! (aka life.) Fishermen on either side of us catch 5 sharks, ranging from 2-4 feet. Fisherman #2 ends up being an ichthyologist with a degree from Stanford University (which makes us feel better about his random knowledge/the way he fondled the shark’s underfins).

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Also the man in the condo upstairs, unaware of our proximity, keeps coming out on the balcony to fart.

Tuesday: Taylor has a fever and body aches; sleeps all afternoon (probably flu). Mom calls from an urgent care at home where she is waiting for our 8 month old to be x-rayed following a seemingly small fall. I FaceTime in my consent to treat. Diagnosis: broken clavicle.

Wednesday: Taylor has an increasingly sore throat; sleeps all afternoon (probably strep). Drive to nearby town for cell service, spend 3 hours waiting for pediatric ortho doctor to call back to schedule a consult. Finish a novel on the beach that is “sure to be the most fun you have all summer”. (is not the most fun I’ve had all summer.) Beach fishermen begin catching hammerhead sharks 30 feet away.

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Thursday: Taylor breaks out in a painful blistery rash; sleeps all afternoon (definitely Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease…you know, the child’s virus that only affects 1 in 1,923,842,434 adults). Meanwhile, I get a full body heat rash from…my sunscreen? laying out? both?

Friday: House burns down, lose deposit on the condo. Shark bites left foot off.

Just kidding. Friday hasn’t happened yet. I’m hoping it’ll be: fly home, hug boys, figure out how to hold and clothe and transport an infant with a broken collarbone, scratch through Cape San Blas, FL on every map in our home.

I’m beginning to dislike this place and I think the feeling is mutual, as evidenced by our last trip here when my dad hit a deer, Beckett got strep, and Taylor caught a stomach bug (I’m sensing a theme – the theme being that his Texan body shuts down when he ventures into other parts of the continental US).

So. Maybe next time, instead of coming here where we share a tube of anti-itch rash cream and sleep in separate bedrooms for half the trip, we’ll do something more fun. Like get matching appendectomies in a back alley in Mexico or something.

Until then, peace out, vacation. You were the actual worst.

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The Evolution of Infants

At Mom Rush Hour at Chick-fil-A a few weeks ago, my toddlertastic son broke out of my grip and sprinted full speed into the crowded parking lot. I took off after him with his baby brother on my hip. (I would say the baby was “hanging on for dear life” but the truth is he is THE WORST holder-onner I’ve ever met. There’s no 50/50, Floppy McFlopperson let’s you do allll the work and then some.)

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As I maneuvered between parked cars trying to grab the toddler, I failed to notice where the baby’s head was in relation to a vehicle’s side mirrors…which is how I ended up ramming his face directly into one. Hard. Like, head-snapped-back hard.

He cried. I apologized, never slowing my pace. No time to check for blood with a feral brother on the loose.

This is my sweet third baby.

A third is a far cry from a first in so, so many ways.

When my first was 2 weeks old, I was sobbing uncontrollably trying to figure out how and when to go pee.

When my third was 2 weeks old, I was 3 hours and $200 deep in Nordstrom’s semiannual sale.

The evolution of parenting a baby is hilarious.

It starts off different from the beginning with response time to a crying newborn:

First child: .02 seconds

Second child: 3 minutes and/or after a Daniel Tiger episode has been turned on (whichever comes first)

Third child: sometime after the overflowing toilet has been fixed/hangry toddler has had a 3 course meal and before the return of Jesus…so roughly 17 minutes. Which, generally, is just long enough for said newborn to work it out on his own.

The differences only continue with feeding.

Like a baby’s first food.

First child: homemade, non-GMO spaghetti squash puree drizzled with breastmilk reduction

Second child: Gerber carrot puree in a jar

Third child: Fazoli’s meatball

Speaking of food, first babies are cleaner and wear bibs approximately 18x more than their third baby counterparts. They also have a better diaper changing situation.

First child: “The Pampers wetness indicator line is showing 3mm of blue. Time for a new diaper. He has sensitive skin, you know.”

Second child: “Have you changed him in a while? Me either. We should probably check.”

Third child: “Don’t you dare change that diaper. It’s not sagging yet which means there is at least 12% more capacity. Good stewardship, that’s what that’s called.”

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Even their milestone development is different. With the first baby, your camera is at the ready at all times. By the third? The first “person” to see them hit a milestone is usually the wall of their pack ‘n play. There’s a lot of, “Hey, babe…did you know he could crawl? How long has he been doing that??” and “Oh, crap. I didn’t know he could reach that yet.”

The pediatrician is well aware of the discrepancies. At well-check visits:

First child: “He has scooted a total of 12.4 feet and has 4 consonant sounds. Would you like to see my list of foods he has tried, ranked in order of favorite to least favorite as identified through baby sign language?”

Second child: “I’m pretty sure he has said ‘mama’. I know he’s pulling up because he pulled my coffee off the table this morning.”

Third child: “Can he pass a toy from one hand to another?? What kind of a question is that? He’s alive, isn’t he?! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM US. Also, he doesn’t have toys. He played with a clean diaper for 30 minutes before we came here.”

The last time we were at the doctor, another family was in the waiting room with us. The dad looked at me several times before finally getting up and moving seats to be closer to us. I looked at him questioningly and he replied, “Ma’am, you set your son’s car seat directly in the sun. I’m sitting here to block it from his eyes.”

Well excuuuuse me, sir. Maybe he just needed a little extra Vitamin D to go along with his singed retinas. He’ll be fine.

It’s funny, too, when my husband comes home from work and I give him a rundown of our day:

First child: “We watched 1 Baby Einstein, read Moo, Baa, La La La 4 times, tried spinach (bleh!), sang Itsy Bitsy Spider…”

Second child:*gives recap of first child’s day* Oh, and the baby thought a solo cup was hysterical.”

Third child:*gives a recap of first two children’s days* …aaaand now I’m trying really hard to think of something to tell you about the baby. What did I do when we only had one? Did I really tell you everything our 7 month old did?? What do 7 month olds even do that’s noteworthy besides be cute???” (actual conversation recently)

Sometimes I feel guilty about how different our third is from our first. But then I remember that I can now shower every day without the fear that he’ll die of exasperation in the 10 minutes I leave him alone and the guilt quickly dissipates.

Also, though? Third babies are kind of awesome. So much less stress involved. Way more time to just enjoy their baby-ness.

Our third is the snuggliest bundle of chill. He’s truly one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever encountered.

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What I lack in written baby book memories, I make up for in kisses and adoration, little nugg. (And intervening when your older brothers inadvertently try to kill you off by shoving Hot Wheels cars and pennies in your mouth.)

Our love for you is fierce and borderline dangerous, but it couldn’t be bigger.

 


 

PS I loved writing this post because it doesn’t seem like that long ago when this sir was in my belly as I wrote The Evolution of Pregnancies. I’m glad he’s out of the womb for many reasons, but mostly because he done near broke my insides.

Missing: One Toddlertastic Human

My camera roll is currently full of Hutton being an awesome 2 year old.

Eating a bowl of M&Ms for breakfast, coloring on his infant brother, polishing off a bag of popcorn in the pantry, painting the floor with acrylic paint…he’s, like, so good at being a toddler.

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(The best part of this picture is the sharpie-d on facial tiger stripes that I had yet to wipe off from hours earlier, long before the hair gel bath. SO toddlertastic.)

He’s my dicey child. He’s either sitting in your lap being an innocent snugglebug OR he’s in the shower getting both himself and my iPhone clean. There’s really no in between.

//

One fun thing about having 3 kids under 5 is that – at any given moment – I have no idea where at least one of my children is. It’s why we love enclosed activities these days. Open, public parks are our new worst nightmare.

Thankfully, though, our church has a great indoor playscape right in the middle of the atrium. One of our current favorite activities is playing in it after preschool. It’s clean, our friends are there, and it’s familiar. It’s far less stressful to keep track of your kids in a familiar place.

Allegedly.

But, of course, I lost Hutton a few weeks ago.

At first it wasn’t a big deal. Our playscape is seriously 3x the height of a Chick-fil-A playscape and fairly easy to lose small children in. But after not seeing Hutt emerge for several minutes, I yelled to Beckett and his friends at the top.

Is Hutton up there? He’s wearing a green and white striped shirt.

“Yeah…I see him.”

Ok great. Thanks!

5 minutes later, when all the big kids emerge:

Is Hutton right behind you? I still haven’t seen him.

“No. He wasn’t up there.”

Suppressing the desire to whine “but you saiiiid…” at a 4 year old, I started scanning the perimeter.

After what I deemed an appropriate time of calm perusal, I started jogging and yelling his name.

Still nothing.

The only downside to our awesome playscape at church is that it’s wide open. Countless hallways, classrooms, bathrooms, exits…all within several feet of the play area.

I ran into our children’s wing where our fabulous children’s ministers were working.

“HAVE YOU GUYS SEEN HUTTON? GREEN AND WHITE STRIPES??”

They immediately took off to look with me.

“You check the building, I’ll check the parking lot.”

Right when I was about to go into full-fledged panic, we found him locked in a classroom. Lights off, alone…and smirking so hard. That little weasel was loving every second of the drama.

It ended up being a nonissue, other than embarrassment of losing a kid in a group full of other, far more responsible parents who have no trouble keeping track of their treasures.

Just kidding. I wasn’t embarrassed then. Nope.

The embarrassment didn’t happen until Sunday morning when I saw our children’s minister and she launched into, “So…funny story about the other day…”

Turns out we had a group of leaders from a different, out-of-state church visiting that day. They were meeting with our pastors, asking questions about ministries, processes, etc.

While meeting with our children’s ministry team, they were inquiring about all things security.

“So if someone is having a meeting at your church building, can they hire their own babysitters?”

Our team: “No. For security and safety, only approved staff can babysit. Background checked, trained, etc.”

“So who are all the kids and adults in the atrium right now?”

Our team: “Those are our preschool kids and their parents. The parents are in charge of their own children right now.”

Which – as you probably guessed – is the moment I sprinted in and interrupted a meeting I didn’t realize was happening by yelling about my missing child.

Incredible timing, really.

It allowed our ministry team to turn to their ministry team and say, “This is why we rely solely on our trained, professional staff. Anyone less and, well, that happens.”

If my only gift to society is lowering the bar for everyone else and possibly providing a laugh in the meantime, I accept. You’re welcome, world.

And to my little toddlertastic hungrymuffin: you are my favorite even though you’re kind of the worst right now.

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The Great Physical Digital Divide

coloured-social-networks-elements_1010-427*blows dust off keyboard*

…is this thing still on?

One of the most frequent questions I hear from parents of teenagers regarding social media is how to monitor their child’s online activity.

How do I know what apps they use? How much involvement is too much? Isn’t “monitoring” an invasion of their privacy?

Great questions. Tricky subject.

Oh, and also? I really have no idea.

I don’t know how much monitoring is too much. I don’t know what age your child is ready for what apps. I don’t know what site your child spends most of his or her time on.

I think it’s a case-by-case, kid-by-kid conversation. Age plays a big role in these decisions, as does gender.

I can’t give you a list of specific rules, but here’s what I do know:

It’s critical for you to be involved, on some level, in their digital life.

…that’s vague and highly unmotivating.

Let me put it another way.

There probably isn’t a single parent out there who has given his or her son a subscription to Playboy for his 12th birthday.

There probably isn’t a single parent out there who has let his or her 13 year old daughter roam the city alone at night passing out headshots, asking for a 1-10 rating of her beauty.

And yet.

There are a whole lot of parents out there who have armed their 12 year old son or their 13 year old daughter with an unrestricted smartphone and unfiltered wifi. No game plan, no boundaries.

And it can be the exact. same. scenario.

Like my 14 year old friend who often retweets from sexually-charged Twitter accounts geared towards 20-somethings. Accounts that provide an exceptionally narcissistic, unrealistic view of relationships and create expectations for her future husband to look like David Beckham and spend an average of $500 a week on lingerie for her at Victoria’s Secret. (You know, for her perfectly toned size 00 body.)

Or my 15 year old friend who Facetimes his girlfriend until the wee hours of the morning, a perk of keeping his phone in his room all night because he “uses it as an alarm to wake up for school”. (Good news – $2.88 + your local Walmart = a standard alarm clock. Problem solved.)

Or my 13 year old friend whose parents don’t approve of the way a few primetime TV shows portray sex, yet allow her unmonitored access to Netflix. (Hello, Grey’s Anatomy and Orange is the New Black marathons. Because you teach such healthy sexual practices.)

Or my 16 year old friend who is often texting and Snapchatting men she has never met, hoping their virtual love makes her feel more beautiful in real life.

We’re experiencing a double standard of epic proportions.

Have you wondered why today’s teens seem…sexier? More daring? More knowledgeable?

I have an idea.

We hesitate sending them on an out-of-state school trip with chaperones we don’t really know, yet happily let them sleep each night beside a miniature computer with unguarded access to the world.

We meet the friends whose houses our kids spend time at after school, yet resist asking about the hundreds of Instagram and Twitter friends they spend hours with each week.

Do you see the discrepancies?

The virtual can have a severe impact on the physical.

Really, our teens don’t distinguish between the two worlds. Their virtual is their physical, their physical is their virtual. It’s one in the same.

It’s time to start parenting equally in both.

That doesn’t mean every text needs to be read. (Please don’t.) It doesn’t mean every follow and comment and hashtag they make needs to be controlled.

But it does mean parents cannot be entirely checked out of the digital world.

It means that our kids cannot have free, 24/7 reign over the entire internet because we are too busy or overwhelmed or uninvested to do anything different. It means that we cannot sit by and let the interwebs teach our 14 year olds everything they never needed to know about life, love, and relationships.

It means that we can feel confident in having the same conversations and asking the same questions and setting the same boundaries for their phones as we would for their physical world. It means we strive to be involved digitally to the extent we are physically – that we know generally where our kids spend their time and with whom. Anything less is a disservice to them, really.

It’s time to be present in both, parents. We can do this. Our teens are counting on us.

 


If you’re completely bumfuzzled* as to where to start, here are two of my favorite resources:

  • OpenDNS is a free, customizable filter for your wifi router. I like it because free. But also because it sets an overarching filter on each device that accesses your router (like a teen friends’ iPhone, xbox, etc.), in addition to the specific filters you set on each individual device (which I also recommend).
  • iParent.tv is a great site for learning about specific apps and age-appropriate suggestions

(*my recently-rediscovered, new favorite word that is oddly hard to work into everyday conversation. tips appreciated.)