Monday, October 28, 2013

In Search of the Magical Age

“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.” 
-Bill Cosby

When Spencer turned two years old, people gave me knowing looks laced with conspiring condolences of the Terrible Twos, but I never really quite understood the fuss. It wasn't until he neared his third birthday did I fully grasp it. He was suddenly a headstrong, strong-willed, whiny, stubborn monster prone to tantrums and meltdowns, where no amount of reasoning, discipline, and (don't judge) bribery could tame him. We simply had to ride out the waves and then swoop in with the lesson-learning, character-building, love-affirming chats that most definitely fell on deaf ears.

Every once and again we were blessed with days, or even weeks, of a much needed reprieve. He'd transform into the kid we remembered from long ago and submerge from the darkness a smarter, more charming, funnier individual. And all was right with the world. For a while, anyway. Until the next storm brewed and we were yet again riding the waves without a life vest.

Just like people warned us of the Terrible Twos, I shouted proclamations of how much, much worse age three was. Just wait until he's four, I comforted myself. Four is the magical age. They are much more agreeable, listen to reason, and understand consequences. I was geared up for this age, holding onto this notion as if it were my saving grace, the very thing getting me through the darkest hours.

Spencer turned four and I celebrated. Yes, we made it! And it really seemed true at first. I was even bragging to my mommy friends with freshly turned three-year-olds. Ha, I made it through the danger zone and it's brighter, happier, easier on this side!

It's true. It was. Until it wasn't. You see, I've come to realize something very important, something we should all come to terms with, embrace, embody, give into:

There is no such thing as a magical age.

Each age comes with its own challenges and obstacles and rewards and milestones. Each stage is filled with good and bad, and all we can do is grab on and ride the waves and hope to make it through to the other side. No sense in wishing time away until the next age or stage because even in the hardest, most trying times, there are those hidden gems that surface. And, man, I would hate to miss those!

I've taken many approaches to parenting during these difficult behavioral stages--some successful, some disastrous--but I don't believe there is a winning formula to apply to each kid or situation. As Ashton enters the Terrible Twos and Spencer navigates through this uncharted territory, I am trying with every ounce of my being to hang onto the things I do know: (a) they aren't behaving this way to goad me; (b) something is bothering them, even if they can't communicate the issue; (c) they need my guidance, not my anger; and (d) this too shall pass. (Oh, and, wine, lots and lots of wine.)

My latest philosophy with Spencer has been to utter this phrase: Tomorrow is another day. I've explained this to him to mean that tomorrow all our actions from yesterday are wiped clean and we start the day anew, giving us the chance to erase the bad from yesterday and choose to be different today. He's been parroting this to me lately, giving me hope that this current four-year-old storm will pass as quickly as it came.

Now to pour myself a glass of wine and brainstorm ways to lasso my ornery two-year-old's behavior, who constantly proclaims, my own--translating to mean his inability to share and the resulting wildfire emotions that follow.

To all you parents out there wading through these wondefully trying times--Cheers! Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Batter Up: Celebrating Ashton's Birthday

This weekend family and friends gathered to celebrate Ashton's second birthday. The invitation said to wear baseball attire, so there were plenty of Twins shirts in attendance. In my party planning process I somehow neglected to order Ashton's birthday shirt in a timely manner, so we broke out a Twins suit he was gifted as a baby that finally fits him. I'm certain the birthday shirt will arrive on Monday, a few days too late for the festivities, of course.

When I brainstormed party ideas it was a warm summer day. I didn't take into consideration that his birthday borders on November and the weather probably wouldn't be suitable for outdoor activities. Nevertheless, we bundled up and made the trek through the backyard to the baseball field to hit a few balls off the tees. The adults were shivering, but the kids didn't seem to notice the biting wind. They were far too involved in chasing balls and taking turns at bat. Once we were chilled to the bone, we retreated to the warm house for baseball-themed food, presents and cake.

Ashton didn't quite seem to grasp that it was his big day. I look forward to the birthday where he completely understands that these people are here to celebrate his life, another year gone with many more to come. Thank you so much to all who came to make his day special, even if he thought it was just another day at home, a few extra people and some cake included.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Ashton John!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ashton Turns Two

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
-Dr. Seuss

Today is Ashton's birthday. When Spencer turned two, it didn't seem as momentous as Ashton turning two. Maybe it's because this time my belly isn't round with another growing baby to replace him. I feel like Ashton should still be so far away from this milestone. Yet here we are. My baby is two. And there's little I can do about it, except embrace it and welcome the growth with open arms.

As is our tradition, we celebrated each meal with birthday singing and candles. I love when their little mouths aren't able to produce enough breath to extinguish the candles, their lips rounded into a small O with barely a whisper of a breeze coming out. Big brother assisted Ashton when his attempts proved futile.

While Spencer was at preschool, I hoarded some one on one time with the birthday boy and let him open a few gifts. The thrifted $1.50 pink princess grocery cart was a big hit. The rest were discarded and forgotten.

Tonight we celebrated yet another birthday in the McDonald's play room with just our little family of four. We stuck a few candles in some ice cream, sang to the birthday boy and showered him with gifts. The airplane Spencer picked out all on his own was the favorite of the night.

Ashton's big party is on Saturday, but there's something very special about our small celebrations on their actual birthday. Happy second birthday, Ashton John. Please steady your growing rate from now until your next big day.


I've been doing interviews with Spencer on his birthday for a few years now. I wasn't sure if Ashton would be a willing participant this year, so I've been doing faux-interviews for weeks in preparation. Before I got a lot of "I don't knows" and "That's its" so I was pleasantly surprised to produce some real answers today. Here is Ashton's very first birthday interview.


Ashton's last monthly growth picture with his beloved Daddy Bear.


One day this week as Ashton and I were driving to get groceries, we passed a scenic park with arches under the train tracks. A photographer's ideal shooting location. The fall colors are fading fast and the temperatures are already winter-like. I made a spontaneous decision that we must record this season before it's gone and replaced with a white wonderland. And why not turn the opportunity into a mini shoot for my soon to be two-year-old, I thought. I turned the car around to retrieve my big girl camera and returned to this gorgeous backdrop to snap a handful of pictures. As we were there, a few teensy tiny white particles fluttered down on us and you could see traces of our breath steaming out of our mouths. Enjoy my two year old boy encapsulated in this fall season.


If you're interested in how Ashton's story began, visit the links below:

My Miracle Baby  -  the story of how we almost never met this little guy.
Introducing Ashton John  -  the birth story.
A Year Ago  -  revisiting my misdiagnosed miscarriage.
Ashton is One  -  his first birthday.
Bye-bye Boobies; Hello 17 Months  -  a big milestone for the whole family.