Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jillian turns two

"Isn't it funny how
day by day
nothing changes,
but when you look back
everything is different.
-C.S. Lewis

So it happened. My last baby turned two. Never again will I hold a brand new baby that I grew in my body. Never again will I spend endless sleepless nights nursing my baby back to sleep. Never again will I feel those movements inside my belly telling me it's baby gymnastics time. Never again will I ready a nursery, prepare older siblings, and wait months to meet my newest love. And never again will I witness all the many milestones that tick off ever so quickly those first two years. Mostly I am ok with this. I love our family dynamics and don't really wish to go backwards to the baby days. But there's something so bittersweet about closing the door on a chapter of your life with such finality.

So Jillian turned two.  Just like that. We celebrated her all weekend long. And by the end of it, she was able to blow out the candles all by herself.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Real world practice with siblings

"Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring--quite often the hard way."
-Pamela Dugdale

My kids fight.  A lot.  Sometimes it feels like it's all they do. My head spins from the bickering and whining and tattling and screaming and hitting. They spend a lot of time in their bedrooms and they lose privileges quite often. If the above quote is true, then my kids are getting a whole lot of practice. They should be well-rounded individuals who know all about fairness and cooperation and kindness by the time they move out and join the real world. They will be experts on all of these topics since they practice as if it's their job. Let's put it this way, they excel at practicing the ways of the world on each other.

I fought with my siblings. A lot. And I'm sure my mom felt like it was all that we did; and her head was most definitely spinning from the whining and tattling and screaming and hitting; and we were exiled to our bedrooms and lost privileges, too. So I guess with all my practice as a kid, I am obviously an astounding human being. Practice makes perfect, they say.

I kid. (Kind of.) I mean, my kids do fight constantly. And I'm sure they will turn out to be fine adults in the distant future. But my point is to say our days are filled with a lot of noise. Some of it is the ordinary noise of a household of kids. Some of it is the noise of kids who need to be separated before the next big war starts in my house, one Mahlke against the other. So when we can get out of the house and turn our attention and energies elsewhere, it is always a good thing.

Such was the case last weekend when we hit up an apple orchard, the same one we've been going to since my eight-year-old was one. It's one of those places that will always hold a special place in my heart. From the giant haystack (that Jillian deemed "icky" and refused to climb) to the Haunted House (that Ashton ran through over and over and over again) to the corn maze (that once seemed so big compared to our little boys, but now seems rather small) to the hayride up to the rows and rows of apple trees (the tractor ride was the main event in Jillian's eyes).

This year the bees drove us away earlier than we were ready to leave. They crawled all over Jillian's face as she munched on an apple and chased after Ashton as he searched for the tiniest prize. Dave hoisted Spencer up into the trees several times in order to fill the bag, and then we beelined for the pumpkins instead.

Those magical hours at the orchard were free of bickering and whining and tattling and screaming and hitting. (Mostly.) It's as if my kids decided to put all their practice into practical use in the real world. But, rest assured, their normal behavior resumed as soon as they were buckled into their car seats. I mean, the van really is an extension of the home, right?

So from one head-spinning mom to the next: If your kids are tirelessly practicing the ways of the world on each other, take them to some magical place. Like an apple orchard. (But not a restaurant. Everyone knows restaurants are really faux-homes, set up to trick kids into believing it's still sibling practice time.) And, remember, all your practice as a kid with your siblings made you the astounding human you are today. So go thank your brother or sister (even if you're still salty over the time she stole your Cabbage Patch doll or chased you with a carrot peeler or swapped your good Halloween candy with her gross stuff). And hug your mom and dad because they endured all your life lessons and they deserve some recognition.