Amazing Grace

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FullSizeRenderOn nights when I’m at home without Brandon and left to put the boys to sleep by myself I always sing Amazing Grace. I never bothered to learn any actual lullabies so Amazing Grace is my go-to song. I just sing it on repeat until Noah falls asleep in my arms and William eventually gives up fighting sleep. Sometimes William tries to sing along and will throw in a word or two that he remembers. He often is the one to request it.

One night this week I had the two of them at bedtime by myself, and as I started to rock Noah to sleep William asked if I would sing Amazing Grace. Every time I got to the end of the song, Noah would sign “more” and I would start over. After I had run through the song at least eight times, Noah turned around, put his hand over my mouth and said, “Thank you.” He promptly went to sleep. This is funny for a few reasons. One is that Noah is pretty much nonverbal. He is in speech therapy and is starting to say a few words here and there but saying “thank you” clear as day in that context was amazing to me. Also, the fact that he had his fill of the song and was able to communicate that was pretty remarkable. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

 

A letter to William

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Dear William,

Last week you turned three years old and I wavered between throwing myself the pity party of “How can he be growing up so fast?!?” and “How I could I be so lucky to have this most precious, kind, loving and wonderful little boy be mine?” In the same week that you turned three, a couple from our birthing class when we were pregnant with you lost their 22 month old daughter. Witnessing their grief, struggle and pain played out on their blog and social media wrecked me. It brought close to home the reality of how precious my time with you is. I often get trapped in worrying about money or how our house manages to be a disaster an hour after cleaning that I forget to stop and laugh with you and wrestle with you and even jump on the couch and act full-on silly. And I’m not perfect. That emotional roller-coaster that played out in my head and on my heart hasn’t instantly made me the mother who throws caution to the wind and just jumps in the moment. But I am taking baby steps to be more of that mother for you.

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After your birthday party this past weekend we came home to an impending thunderstorm. It started to rain and I asked you if you wanted to take off your shoes and run around in it with me. You said, “Mommy, it’s going to thunder!” and were pretty insistent we shouldn’t go. Finally after a little more prodding you said, “Let’s go!” So, we took off our shoes and we ran laps around the yard during a heavy rain, hopped in our tree swing, splashed in the collected water on the patio and let ourselves get drenched. I loved every moment of that experience with you.

I have to tell you that every day I am amazed by you. Some days it’s the way you so gently guide Noah to an activity or offer him a hug unprompted. Some days it’s how you use “bad” language in the correct context but quickly ask, “Am I allowed to say that or is that a bad word?” When I tell you it’s bad, you don’t say it again! Some days it’s how you emulate me in the funniest ways – ways that drive your father crazy. When you get home from daycare each day, you immediately ask if you can put on your pajamas (just like me). And in the morning when Daddy tells us it’s time to get up, you throw out something funny like, “My back hurts, Daddy. We need five more minutes.” You are in many ways my mini-me and in other ways so much more open, adventurous and carefree than I could ever hope to be. You are forever seeking adventure and always offering a kind heart. Your sensitivity and emotional spirit are elements of you that I carry with pride.

You are a remarkable boy, son, brother and friend. I am so proud of you every day. I love you more than I could ever articulate. That will never change.

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Love,

Mommy

Noah:18 Months

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This week we had Noah’s 18 month appointment. To say it was anything less than exciting would be a lie. Because of his inability to communicate verbally, he gets frustrated when he wants something and cannot find a way to express it. He’s great at shaking his head “yes” or “no” and can point or follow directions wonderfully. While we were waiting for the doctor to come to our room he was frustrated that he couldn’t touch or get to whatever it was he wanted. His reaction to this frustration was to hit me repeatedly in the face, as well as take his metal car and hit me as hard as he could in the nose. He had several time-outs while we waited and I was struggling to calm him down and reassure him. All that to say, Noah is stubborn, fiercely independent and headstrong. In fact, he’s as headstrong as they come. When his reports come home each day, they say that he has been in time-out for climbing tables repeatedly, climbing his friends, biting or hitting. The contrast between this behavior and the sweet, cuddly, loving part of his personality is endearing and frustrating all at the same time.

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Noah’s weight and height are now around the 50% range which is great considering he spent so long in the 2% range as a baby. He eats like a horse. They did say he had an “expressive speech delay” which I knew already. He understands perfectly but cannot communicate. He also spent about a year of the past 18 months, if not longer, with ear infections so he never could actually hear very well. That could also factor into this delay. We have plans to meet with Early Intervention and assess if he needs speech therapy. Either way, I know that when he’s ready and able to talk he will catch up fast. He’s smart and attentive and I have no worries for his ability to make great strides when he’s ready.

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For the fun stuff:

  • Noah’s favorite book is “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?”
  • His favorite toys are cars, trucks, balls, riding his car outside, playing in the water table, and playing on his swing set.
  • His favorite foods are yogurt, cheese, Cheerios, french fries, broccoli, strawberries, watermelon, macaroni and cheese and all bread products.
  • He loves to watch Chuggington, Thomas the Train and Sesame Street. He also really LOVES watching Bob Ross on Thursday mornings with Daddy.
  • He gives the best cuddles and will still nestle into your chest for long periods of time. And he gives the greatest sloppy kisses when he’s not being obstinate.
  • He LOVES William and wants to follow him around, play with his toys and thinks he is hilarious.
  • His laugh is infectious and incredible.

Progress

In only another month and a half, my baby will turn three and my sister will give birth to my nephew. Big things happening around here!!

Every developmental milestone is a surprise and watching both my children as they hit their respective ones is fascinating. William is my verbal child. While I was once afraid of his lack of language, when he took off with words – he really took off. He explains feelings, asks thoughtful questions, remembers stories and facts (and promises!) and can easily express what he wants and is thinking. Noah is very nonverbal and at 18 months only says repeatedly “Dada” and Mama.” While I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried and anxious about this delay, I am more than thrilled at his fine motor skills. Much different than William in this category, Noah loves to stack things, put things together and take them apart and figure out how things work together. He even took their Harley tricycle apart! He literally took the wheels and axle off of the bike (it would not go back together and is no more). It is this skill set that makes me ease up a bit about his language and focus on the strides he is making in other ways. I think that is a lot of parenting – learning how to focus your energy on the positive and let go of the worry over what you cannot control. I know Noah will talk in his own time and in the meantime I focus my energy on the fact that my little baby can take apart a tricycle!

There are so many stories I wish to share and so many conversations with William worth putting out in the universe. For now I leave a few recent pictures until time allows for all the words I want to put down here.

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Time Lapse

This blog was something that started with a great amount of passion. I was newly pregnant with William and everything was a “first.” Not that things haven’t been equally thrilling with Noah, but they are indeed different. The game has changed a bit. We have little time between work and spending the few hours we get with the boys in the evening. Lunch at work now means working while eating so time for blogging is sparse. I hate to abandon this medium which documents my children’s lives so well.

So, I’m back with very little update other than to say my children are growing and thriving and surprising me every day. You think you can not possibly love your children any more than you do, and then the next day that love grows even more. It’s astounding to me how much love we can hold for these little people, especially when one of them starts hitting the terrible three’s and starts telling you, “Don’t say that to me” or “Don’t beg me” while pointing a finger in your face. I’m not a great disciplinarian. It’s not my style. I consistently remind myself that he’s learning emotions and how to understand and regulate them. I also remind myself that much like him, when I am hungry, tired, sad, or feeling sensitive I can act out and say things I don’t really mean. I have found the most effective method of parenting for my family to be scooping him up in my arms in that moment and just hugging him real tight. It always works for us.

I know times are different. I know most of us were raised in houses where spanking was acceptable. We were raised by parents who picked their own switches from the trees in their front yard. They believe wholeheartedly that a good smack on the hand or the bottom is the solution to a child who back-talks, throws a tantrum or says something out of line. I don’t subscribe to that method of parenting but I don’t judge those who do. Every family has to do what is right for them. It’s the same with all of the other debates happening out there (aka ‘The Mommy Wars’) and I don’t buy into those. Your family is your family and you have to do what works for you.

All of this to say – we are reaching a stage in toddler-hood that I’m having to learn day by day. And what I am learning is that my 2 year old responds most positively to a dose of affection and calm communication more than anything. And I always get an apology, usually one that is unprompted. I’m not saying there aren’t times where he drives me to being mad because of the way he speaks ugly to me or points his finger at me and hisses. But for the most part, I find it rather comical. He’s just learning how to live in this world with emotions and sensitivities and people who tell him what to do, all while he is learning to be independent and head-strong. That’s a tall order for any of us.

On the flip side, Noah is “all boy” as my mother puts it. He is climbing every surface, taking bruises like a champ and trying desperately to hang with his big brother. He is fiercely independent when he wants something, but he is one of the cuddliest babies I’ve ever known. In one minute he can be knocking over a pail of blocks and the next climbing up to nestle in your chest. He is finally starting to say just a few words but the amount of language he fully understands and responds to with a shake of his head “yes” or “no” tells me he is just waiting until he’s good and ready to talk. I’m learning to be patient and let him grow at his own pace.

And now for the best part of these loves of my life:

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William hanging with Stu at a Barrelhouse show.

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Noah realizing he doesn’t actually want sand on his hands.

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This is their favorite thing at Home Depot.

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A very tender moment captured of Noah kissing his Godmother Maria. We call her the “baby whisperer.”

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My darling. He always wants to help clean. Thank God for a man in our house who likes to clean!

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William with Henry, his best friend from daycare.

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The boys received this tricycle for Easter. For the record, we do not see Easter as a big gift-giving opportunity. Brandon just has a knack for consignment sales!

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A sad day for sick Noah but a wonderful day of snuggles for me.

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Another one of those awesome consignment finds by Brandon.

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Just watching Frozen for the MILLIONTH TIME!

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This boy LOVES to eat. Seriously.

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The Light

IMG_5703 IMG_5708 IMG_5721 IMG_5761 IMG_5780 IMG_5784 IMG_5793 IMG_5798Truthfully, Noah and William are both considered toddlers. But I feel compelled to still call them my babies because time is not slowing down and they are quickly reaching their individual stages of independence and defiance. Try telling Noah “no” and you will see a temper tantrum unlike any other. His face turns red, he balls up his fists and he lets out a wail. It could not be any more clear that he is now angry and you are the problem. And I love it.

Our life often feels like a tailspin and we are just hanging on by a thread. I think partly that’s the nature of life, and partly it’s because our children are 16 months apart and two and under. Most mornings I find that all four of us are tightly squeezed into our queen-size bed and fighting for covers. William is attempting to “chug” around the bed to pull in the “station” and Brandon and I are begging him to “please don’t wake up your brother!!” Then there’s the battle of Noah and William both reaching for/crying for my glass of water on my nightstand. I never get to drink it. I should resolve each night as I fill it up that I will never actually get to drink it. I’m actually just pouring it for William and Noah.

More and more they are playing together, communicating with one another and  fighting with one another rather than playing around or beside one another. When we tell Noah to get “brother,” he runs for him. William will pick Noah up, cuddle him in his arms and Noah will chase William down for an open-mouthed sloppy kiss. Watching siblings really become siblings is fascinating. It’s so easy to take for granted the built-in love and adoration that comes with having a sibling.

Growing up with sisters, and having only girl cousins, I really did not experience the wild, energetic craziness that is boys. William will run laps around the downstairs of our house for twenty minutes without stop. Noah will climb any surface, pick up any object and attempt to take it apart and be all the way up the stairs before you’ve had time to notice that he is no longer standing at the train table. They are adventurous, curious and free-spirited.

The highlight of this past week has been watching William really “take” to a song on the radio. Hearing him run around singing, “Uptown, funk you up. Uptown, funk you up” is incredibly entertaining.

At the end of a long day of work, or another ball dropped or problem to fix, it is these two that help me see the light.

 

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Tobias

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Most people who know me well know that my best friend and I have been friends since we were 11. This means that we are practically sisters and have been through more ups and downs than you can count. We have weathered large storms together, fought to figure out how to be friends with lives going in different directions, and without fail have committed to always being honest with one another, no matter the cost. All of those elements have served us well as we remain as close as ever all these years later.

When Paris got married to Maria I was overjoyed and excited and thankful that my friend had found her safe place to land. She had a best friend, of a different kind, who would treasure her and adore her, and it made me feel like I knew Paris would be okay. Their wedding day was a beautiful moment in my life because I witnessed my best friend join hands with the love of her life. Nothing sweeter.

But then, Paris and Maria became pregnant. With that came an entirely different flood of emotions. Because of my deep love for Paris, I knew without a doubt that I would love her child more than I could imagine. I have witnessed Paris and Maria love and adore and truly be present for my children. I knew that I would be the same with their children when the time came.

As Paris’ pregnancy progressed, we had a lot of fun guessing gender, then attributes, me begging her to tell me names they were discussing (she played coy A LONG TIME), listening to her detail their nursery plans, and on and on. But then one day, during a regularly scheduled hangout or FFM (Freedom From Maria) night, we went to dinner. Paris was a little quiet on the ride there, a little removed, but otherwise herself. We hadn’t had time to do more than place a drink order before Paris’ eyes welled with tears and she blurted out, “Our baby has down syndrome.” In that moment I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel or how I was supposed to react. So, I did what any best friend would do – I started uncontrollably crying. In hindsight, that might not have been all that helpful to her emotional state, but I was so overcome with feelings about how intense and scary and real that moment was for her. And I could do nothing about it. There was nothing I could say. So, we held hands across the table and both cried and I asked lots of questions. And as we left that dinner, all I could remember thinking was that this baby was so much more than a diagnosis and that regardless of what obstacles he would face, or Maria and Paris would face, this baby was being born into the exactly right family. And I don’t just mean “blood” family, but community of friends and family, far and wide. I knew this baby would know SO much love that it didn’t matter how bleak that moment looked right then and there.

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Tobias2 Tobias We are all fortunate to have the opportunity to love and adore and cherish Tobias Alexander Ball. And I can’t wait for the trouble our boys will get into together. I can think of nothing better than watching my boys plays with my best friend’s child (children, I hope!) as it shall be a wild ride, indeed.

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A letter to William

photoDear William,

This past weekend was one of the longest and most exhausting from recent memory. We tackled potty training and moving you into a “big boy” bed. There were tears, sighs, plenty of frustration, serious attitude and quite a bit of laughter. You are head-strong and determined and I love your stubbornness, even as it makes me shake my head and say aloud, “Why are you so stubborn?” Your grandmother put it right when she said you get it honestly. Indeed you do. I believe you come from two families full of stubborn folks!

I have an app on my phone called “Timehop” that sends me random pictures from the last eight years or so from my FB and Instagram accounts. This means that daily I see a photo of you from when you were a tiny thing, wide-eyed and unable to communicate. I think about holding you a year ago, two years ago, and how different it was then compared to now. I think about my frustration when you wouldn’t make a sound anywhere close to “MaMa” but how “DaDa” came so easily. I think about the short phase where you preferred your father to me (I was not a good sport about it!). I think about all of my fears and doubts about you hitting milestones on time and whether we were doing enough to help you develop your communication and social skills. Now it all seems so silly to me.

You continue to do things at your own pace, when you are good and ready. The day we told you that you needed to give up your pacifier when you turned two, you threw it in the trash can and never looked back. I’ll never forget that moment. This weekend we told you it was time to wear underwear and be a big boy. The first day was dramatic. You had four accidents in a row, you were scared of the dragon you insist lives at the bottom of the toilet, and you were clearly feeling too much pressure. We were asking too many times if you needed to go. The next day we backed off. We told you we knew you could do it. We asked less often. You were game every time we did ask and you were proud. The original plan was to keep you home on Monday with me so you could have one more day of practice. Knowing you as I do, I knew you didn’t need it. I knew you needed the challenge right away. We sent you to daycare and you went without a single accident. Not one! You were so proud when you came home. You immediately asked about a present (because you know to expect presents when you comply so easily…) and you opened up your package of Spider man underwear, Mickey Mouse toilet seat and a new toy car, and you were ecstatic. There’s nothing that makes me quite as happy as seeing you so happy and proud of yourself.

Last night as I lay beside your crib, as I do until you fall asleep each night, you reached your hand through the slat of the crib and asked me to hold your hand. About five minutes went by and you asked me to kiss you. You sat up, gave me a big smooch and then laid back down still holding tightly to my hand. We held hands until you were fast asleep. It is in moments like that I find myself so overwhelmingly grateful and surprised by how motherhood has changed me, opened me up. While I feel very sure in my identity separate from being a mother, it is being a mother that has made my heart full.

photo(9)You are a gift to me in every way imaginable. You remind me to be tender and open-hearted. You remind me that being stubborn isn’t always a bad thing. You teach me patience, so much patience, and you give me a way to see life in a new light, with new eyes. I am constantly reminded what an honor it is to be your mother, to watch you grow and change and tackle new obstacles. I love you.

Mommy

The Favorite

IMG_4184This morning, as is the case most mornings, William hollered from his crib, “Mommy, come get me!” I was exhausted  and actively avoiding getting up. Brandon got up to go to the bathroom and told William he would come get him. “No, I only want Mommy!” Brandon came back into the room and said, “I think you have to get up.”

I walked into William’s room and picked him up, tiptoeing out and whispering for him to please be quiet as Noah was still (shockingly!) asleep. William asked to go get in the “big bed” so I put him in bed with me for a few more minutes of sleep and cuddles.

William said, “Mommy, I like you the most.”

Brandon said, “You like me too, right?”

“No, I don’t like you! I like Mommy!”

I rolled back over and said, “William, you know you like Daddy. He plays trains with you and teaches you things. He lets you help him cook. Remember he’s the one who makes good breakfast. He makes you yummy eggs! Don’t you like Daddy?”

William, without missing a beat, “Well, I do like his eggs, so…..”

My boys

Inspired by a couple of people who are at the beginning of their pregnancy journey, and a couple at the end, and their blogging adventures, I decided it was time to get back here. To give an adequate update of what life is like in our family.

William is forever keeping us on our toes by the often surprising things that come out of his mouth. He is quick, witty, charming and pays close attention to everything and everyone around him. He’s a careful observer of his surroundings and not much gets past him. These days his favorite things are playing trains, helping us cook (he pulls a step-ladder up to the stove or counter and actively participates), books, music, watching Thomas, Barney or Curious George on TV (he’s very limited in the time he gets and it’s ALWAYS a battle for more time), going to the children’s museum and just going out – he asks to go to a restaurant or a store every day as he insists he doesn’t want to go home. I think the fact that we always took him out with us for any and all errands means that much like me he is not a homebody. He is much happier on the go.

William’s language skills continue to develop and the ability to have a full-on conversation with him now still blows my mind. He’s very much in a Mommy phase and continually tells me I’m his best friend, I’m his girl, he loves me or offers affection on his own. He currently is testing the waters with Brandon by letting him know, “I don’t like you.” Brandon is being a champ about it (I’m pretty sure I will cry when it’s my turn) but he’s holding steady and letting William figure out the power of language and the ways we use it or don’t use it.

Noah is a full-on walker and climber! He’s strong as an ox, eats like a full-grown man and still offers the affectionate head to chest cuddle when he’s tired or not feeling great. He is stubborn and determined and if you turn your back for a second you can expect to find him standing on a chair, climbing on a table or halfway up the stairs. And he’s now giving us the open-mouth kiss (along with Roxie) and loves to wave goodbye. He’s responsive to music and will dance along with any tune. He’s still not interested in story time – he’s usually pulling things off of a table or climbing under chairs or trying to scale the crib while we do our bedtime routine each night.

William and Noah’s personalities are so vastly different. I know you can’t ever expect that your children will carry the same traits but it is surprising to me to watch those differences emerge and to imagine what those differences will look like over time. I’m enjoying the dichotomy of their respective personalities as they figure out how to interact with one another. For so much of this year, William really saw Noah as more of a pet. He referred to him as “the baby” or “No No” and he would stroke his head or sometimes shove him down to see what would happen! Now, however, they are playing side by side at the train table, William is letting us know when Noah needs something, they pretend cook at their play kitchen and they even team up to cause chaos when Brandon and I are trying to read bedtime stories and get everyone settled down, or clean up the house and get meals ready. William is fiercely protective of Noah when around his classmates and very much claims Noah as his own. I have a feeling that Noah will hold on his own, as he has proven to already, and William will be in for a surprise.

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Much like me, Target is William’s happy place!

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Christmas Pageant!

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Our best effort at a family picture during our Santa visit.

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Both boys saw Daddy play a gig at Strangeways Brewing. William still has a hard time seeing his Daddy at the microphone and not being able to interact.

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This is my “Please don’t drop your brother!” face as William insisted he could hold Noah while we waited for a table.

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Success!

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The Children’s Museum is becoming a weekend routine for us. Watching the joy on their faces as they explore all of the activities is more fulfilling than I can adequately express.

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Shenanigans while we try desperately to get them settled for bed. This is every night in our house.

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This is the photo Brandon sent me when I went out for the night with a girlfriend. Both boys LOST it.

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Again, “Why has my Mommy left me?” There are perks to being his favorite but it’s also heart-wrenching when I want to go out.

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This smarty-pants figured out how to play t-ball on his own within a few days of William getting it at Christmas.

Our life is still chaotic and full of exhaustion and anxiety about how to navigate the demands of each day and still come out on top. We are slowly learning which patterns and routines work for us and which should be tossed aside. It’s been a rough year in our house for a variety of reasons, some known and some unknown, but we are held together by strong bonds of love and connectedness. William and Noah are constant reminders of how new and exciting the world around us can be in spite of the hardship and negativity we see on the daily. They keep us laughing, at them and ourselves, and the occasional dance party or family sing-a-long of the “The Potty Song” keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. image2 image6 image8  image13