30 April 2012

25 Rules for Moms and Sons.

As a working mother to an active almost two year old, let's face it--there isn't a lot of down time to browse, pin, (or repin), post, surf etc.  However, once in awhile you find something that is worth taking an extra 10 minutes to read and take to heart. Sometime in the past year, I came across this blog, Studer Team, and have been an avid fan/reader since.  I don't know this woman, but she seems like someone I'd like to be friends with.  Her posts are witty, insightful, and more often than not, I find myself nodding along in agreement and wishing I could give her a call to compare notes.

So when I came across this post, I immediately fell in love with it and also realized there was no way I could write it any better.  Hers was also dotted with photographs...I'm keeping it simple and just including these two from the early days.


25 Rules for Moms with Sons

Written by: Tabitha Studer at www.studerteam.blogspot.com
November 2011

After a mostly fruitless search for “rules” for mothers with sons (and a particularly hard momma day), I was inspired to write my own list to remind myself of what’s important, especially during those days that being a mom to an ever-squirming, ever-curious boy is both challenging and exhausting. Granted, my list will not be conclusive and may not be entirely uncontroversial. So agree, or disagree, or take with a grain of salt - but I hope to inspire other moms who are loving, and struggling, and tired, and proud, and eager to support the boys in their lives. You are the most important woman in his life, his first teacher, and the one he will look to for permission for the rest of his life. From "Can I go play with them?" to "Should I ask her to marry me?" It’s a big job, but as the mumma, we're up for it.

1. Teach him the words for how he feels.
Your son will scream out of frustration and hide out of embarrassment. He'll cry from fear and bite out of excitement. Let his body move by the emotion, but also explain to him what the emotion is and the appropriate response to that emotion for future reference. Point out other people who are feeling the same thing and compare how they are showing that emotion. Talk him through your emotions so that someday when he is grown, he will know the difference between angry and embarrassed; between disappointment and grief.

2. Be a cheerleader for his life.
There is no doubt that you are the loudest person in the stands at his t-ball games. There is no doubt that he will tell you to "stop, mom" when you sing along to his garage band's lyrics. There is no doubt that he will get red-faced when you show his prom date his pictures from boy scouts. There is no doubt that he is not telling his prom date about your blog where you've been bragging about his life from his first time on the potty to the citizenship award he won in ninth grade. He will tell you to stop. He will say he's embarrassed. But he will know that there is at least one person that is always rooting for him.

3. Teach him how to do laundry.
...and load the dishwasher, and iron a shirt. He may not always choose to do it. He may not ever have to do it. But someday his wife will thank you.

4. Read to him and read with him.
Emilie Buchwald said, "Children become readers on the laps of their parents." Offer your son the opportunity to learn new things, believe in pretend places, and imagine bigger possibilities through books. Let him see you reading...reading the paper, reading novels, reading magazine articles. Help him understand that writing words down is a way to be present forever. Writers are the transcribers of history and memories. They keep a record of how we lived at that time; what we thought was interesting; how we spoke to each other; what was important. And Readers help preserve and pass along those memories.

5. Encourage him to dance.
Dance, rhythm, and music are cultural universals. No matter where you go, no matter who you meet - they have some form of the three. It doesn't have to be good. Just encourage your son that when he feels it, it's perfectly fine to go ahead and bust a move.

6. Make sure he has examples of good men who are powerful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of men with big muscles and a uniform (like Batman and LaMarr Woodley) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he also knows about men who kick a$s because of their brains (Albert Einstein), and their pen (Mark Twain), and their words (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), and their determination (Team Hoyt), and their ideas 
(The Wright Brothers), and their integrity (Officer Frank Shankwitz), and fearlessness (Neil Armstrong), and their ability to keep their mouths closed when everyone else is screaming (Jackie Robinson).

7. Make sure he has examples of women who are beautiful because of their brains, their determination, and their integrity.
The examples of traditionally beautiful women (like Daphne Blake, Princess Jasmine, and Britney Spears) will surround your son from birth. But make sure he knows about women who are beautiful from the inside out because of their brains (Madame Marie Curie), and their pen (Harper Lee), and their words (Eleanor Roosevelt), and their determination (AnneSullivan), and their ideas (Oprah Winfrey), and their integrity (Miep Gies), and fearlessness (Ameila Earhart), and their ability to open their mouths and take a stand when everyone else is silent (Aung San Suu Kyi).

8. Be an example of a beautiful woman with brains, determination, and integrity.
You already are all of those things. If you ever fear that you are somehow incapable of doing anything - remember this: If you have done any of the following: a) grew life b) impossibly and inconceivably got it out of your body c) taken care of a newborn d) made a pain go away with a kiss e) taught someone to read f) taught a toddler to eat with a utensil g) cleaned up diarrhea without gagging h) loved a child enough to be willing to give your life for them (regardless if they are your own) or i) found a way to be strong when that child is suffering...you are a superhero. Do not doubt yourself for one second. Seriously.

9. Teach him to have manners.
Because it’s nice. And it will make the world a little better of a place.

10. Give him something to believe in.
Because someday he will be afraid, or nervous, or heartbroken, or lost, or just need you, and you won't be able to be there. Give him something to turn to when it feels like he is alone, so that he knows that he will never be alone; never, never, never.

11. Teach him that there are times when you need to be gentle.
Like with babies, and flowers, and animals, and other people's feelings.

12. Let him ruin his clothes.
Resolve to be cool about dirty and ruined clothes. You'll be fighting a losing battle if you get upset every time he ruins another piece of clothing. Don't waste your energy being angry about something inevitable. Boys tend to learn by destroying, jumping, spilling, falling, and making impossible messes. Dirty, ruined clothes are just par for the course.

13. Learn how to throw a football.
Or how to use a hockey stick, or read music, or draw panda bears (or in my case alpacas), or the names of different train engines, or learn to speak Elvish, or recognize the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherin, or the lyrics to his favorite song. Be in his life, not as an observer but as an active participant.

14. Go outside with him.
Turn off the television, unplug the video games, put your cellphone on the charger, even put your camera away. Just go outside and follow him around. Watch his face, explore his world, and let him ask questions. It's like magic.

15. Let him lose.
Losing sucks. Everybody isn't always a winner. Even if you want to say, "You're a winner because you tried," don't. He doesn't feel like a winner, he feels sad and crappy and disappointed. And that's a good thing, because sometimes life also sucks, no matter how hard (as moms) we try to make it not suck for our kids. This practice will do him good later when he loses again (and again, and again, and again, and again.....) Instead make sure he understands that - sometimes you win- sometimes you lose. But that doesn't mean you ever give up.

16. Give him opportunities to help others.
There is a big difference in giving someone the opportunity to help and forcing someone to help. Giving the opportunity lights a flame in the heart and once the help is done the flame shines brighter and asks for more opportunities. Be an example of helping others in your own actions and the way your family helps each other and helps others together.

17. Remind him that practice makes perfect.
This doesn't just apply to performance-based activities (like sports and music) but also applies to everything in life. You become a better writer by writing. You become a better listener by listening. You become better speaker by speaking. Show your son this when he is just young enough to understand (that means from birth, folks - they are making sense of the world as soon as they arrive), practice trick-or-treating at your own front door before the real thing. Practice how you will walk through airport security before a trip. Practice how you order your own food from the fast food cashier. Practice, practice, practice.

18. Answer him when he asks, "Why?"
Answer him, or search for the answer together. Show him the places to look for the answers (like his dad, or grandparents, or his aunts/uncles, or his books, or valid internet searches). Pose the question to him so he can begin thinking about answers himself. Someday, when he needs to ask questions he's too embarrassed to ask you - he'll know where to go to find the right answers.

19. Always carry band-aids and wipes on you.
Especially the wipes.

20. Let his dad teach him how to do things.
...without interrupting about how to do it the 'right way.' If you let his dad show and teach and discover with your son while he is growing up, someday down the road (after a short period of your son believing his dad knows nothing), he will come to the realization that his dad knows everything. You will always be his mother, but in his grown-up man heart and mind, his dad will know the answers. And this will be how, when your son is too busy with life to call and chat with his mom, you will stay connected to what is happening in his life. Because he will call his dad for answers, and his dad will secretly come and ask you.

21. Give him something to release his energy.
Drums, a pen, a punching bag, wide open space, water, a dog. Give him something to go crazy with - or he will use your stuff. and then you'll be sorry.

22. Build him forts.
Forts have the ability to make every day normal stuff into magic. Throw the couch cushions, a couple blankets, and some clothespins and you can transform your living room into the cave of wonders. For the rest of his life, he'll be grateful to know that everyday normal stuff has the potential to be magical.

23. Take him to new places.
Because it will make his brain and his heart open up wider, and the ideas and questions and memories will rush in.

24. Kiss him.
Any mother of sons will tell you that little boys are so loving and sweet. They can be harsh and wild and destructive during most of the day. But there are these moments when they are so kind and sensitive and tender. So much so that it can cause you to look around at the inward, reserved grown men in your life and think, 'what happens in between that
made you lose that?' Let's try to stop the cycle by kissing them when they're loving and kissing them even more when they're wild. Kissing them when they're 2 months and kissing them when they're 16 years old. You're the mom - you can go ahead and kiss him no matter how big he gets - and make sure he knows it. p.s. (this one is just as important for dad's too).

25. Be home base.
You are home to him. When he learns to walk, he will wobble a few feet away from you and then come back, then wobble away a little farther and then come back. When he tries something new, he will look for your proud smile. When he learns to read, he will repeat the same book to you twenty times in a row, because you're the only one who will listen that many times. When he plays his sport, he will search for your face in the stands. When he is sick, he will call you. When he really messes up, he will call you. When he is grown and strong and tough and big and he feels like crying, he will come to you; because a man can cry in front of his mother without feeling self-conscious. Even when he grows up and has a new woman in his life and gets a new home, you are still his mother; home base, the ever constant, like the sun. Know that in your heart and everything else will fall into place.

© Tabitha Studer

26 April 2012

Favorite things: Part 2

As the 2 year mark hovers closer, I find myself adding to the list of favorite things about you, G, that I started at 17 months.  With growth comes your larger-than-life personality, new antics, new challenges (read: frustrations!) and new endearments. And so it continues…

30. I love how every night on the commute home, in the exact same spot, you make a monkey sound. And I say, “Is there a monkey in the back seat?” And then you say “ribbit!” “Is there a frog in the backseat?” And so forth, until we’ve nearly exhausted the animal kingdom (although I don’t know why you always whisper “baaa” for a sheep.  Sheep are noisy!).  My favorite is your lion’s roar.

31. On same commute—you look for and question if we’ll see the “boons” that are right around the “corner”.  There’s a car dealership that frequently has all colored balloons tied to the cars, and the anticipation on your face at seeing these boons is pure joy.

32. I love when I ask “who were your friends today?” already knowing the answer, your face spreads into a giant grin and shyly you say “Berdo” (Bernardo) and “Car!” (Carson).

33. I love how on the morning ride in, we listen to music, and I catch you nodding your head to the beat and making Pooh and Giraffe dance.  Then you crack up when you see that I’ve seen you.  

34. I love that you build towers of cream when we’re waiting for our breakfast.  

 35. I love that you cannot wait for Daddy to get home and even though you ask me incessantly, “Dada? Dada? Dada? DADA!?”, you burst into excitement when he comes through the door.  I also love how the two of you snuggle together. 

36.  I love that you’ve never had a pacifier.

37.  I love that you plop yourself in the middle of anywhere to look at a book.

38.  I love that you’re still trying to make friends with the kitties. 

39.  I love this jean jacket on you.  You are going to break SO many hearts.

40. I love when I tell you something new, you say “Oh!”. And I love how you say “Ummmm” when you’re thinking about how to answer.

41.  I love that you eat vegetables with gusto!

42.  I love how you’re telling me when you’ve pooped.  Potty training is right around the corner.

 43.  I love how you say ‘Uh oh’.

44. I love how you crack up when you hear the babies go “wah wah wah” during the Wheels on the Bus cd.

45.  I love that you love the merry-go-round.  My favorite ride too.

46.  I love how much you love the dog and how you share with her. Particularly your food.  

47.  I love you in a pink Cadillac …and a blue one.

48. I love how when I’m trying to be stern with you, you smile and say “Hi!” as if to distract me.  I probably shouldn’t love that, but I do.

49.  I love how every day you say “Bye dad car!” when we pull out of the driveway.

50.  I love our silly bedtime routine rituals.  

51.  I love that Hush Little Baby is still the song that soothes you.

52. I love that you seem to enjoy ketchup just as much as me.  Although I wouldn’t dip my bananas in it like you do.  

53. I love that you tried spicy salsa. And kinda liked it. 

 54. I love that the Bear Snores On series is one of your favorites.  Mine too.

55. I love that even in the most challenging of times (yes, there are many!), when your beautiful blue eyes spill over with enormous crocodile tears, and your lower lip curls over, creating the saddest face (known to us as “The Lip”),you find comfort in Pooh and Giraffe and a snuggle with me or Daddy.  We hate seeing you sad.  

8 days until you’re two.  I’m taking the day off to spend with you.  I can't wait to discover some more favorite things.

16 April 2012

Spring has sprung.

The countdown to two is on, and with that comes new skills, new words, and new experiences.  This past weekend was one of those rare glorious ones spent most entirely outside, ending in sun-kissed cheeks, tired bodies, and hair that smelled of warmth and sunshine. Unfortunately, T had to work both days, leaving G and I to fend for ourselves and fill our time with endless fun.
Random doodle play

It started on Saturday morning, having breakfast with our besties.  There really is no better kid-friendly place than…Friendly’s.  Both G and his buddy opted for boosters, and both N’s mom and I opted to order them breakfasts that involved syrup.  They delight in the gooey mess, sticky fingers, and drippy chins.  There are not enough wipes to clean them up.  Fortunately, both had their dog siblings waiting in the car, ready to slurp up the spots we missed.  I think the waitstaff were entertained by these two blondies, conversing across the table to each other while chucking crayons, emptying out the napkin trays and threatening to spill salt and sugar shakers over the table and ourselves.  We fondly remembered the days when both would snooze in their car seats while we ate peacefully and unhurried.  Those days are lonnnng gone, but no less fun. 

After breakfast, we piled into our cars and headed to one of our most favorite spots and one I’m sure I’ve written about before.  The drive to this hike reminds me of just one of the 10,000 reasons I love living in Maine.  Located on Great Island in gorgeous Harpswell, the Cliff Trail is a 2.3 mile loop that crosses the highest point of Harpswell.  It’s dotted with fairy houses, views of muddy marshes and rivers, and offers a spectacular view from the 150 foot cliff that overlooks Long Reach.  Add the 30 lb child strapped to your back, and it makes for a very challenging workout.  The dogs love it because they can roam off leash, stop for the occasional mud bath or river dip, and run ahead to let us know where to follow the trail.  I’ve only been here one other time with G, last summer.  So this was the first time that he got to explore the trail on his own, touch the pine cones, wander into the evergreens, and maneuver those legs over the rooted branches.  He did so awesome.
The hike begins!

Buck and Gabs know the trail well.

Charging forward!

There comes a point however, where we have to stop, strap them in, and take charge of the hills ourselves.  It’s those times I wish I had Gabby’s four legs to pull me up the sides of the trail, while the little guy behind me plays with my ears or pulls my hair.  And who knew it would be so bloody hot in the middle of April deep in these darkened woods?  G was able to rest his head against mine at any time during this journey, while I plowed ahead, occasionally whistling for the dog to wait, while my friend and I kept up the chatter. 
The hike is made worthwhile by the top---sure, legs are burning, heart rate is pumping, but the view is one to behold.  On this day, the first I’ve seen here, the tide was out, and so down below the clammers waded through the muddy muck, dragging their sleds to capture the day’s haul. 

Digging clams somewhere down there

What does HE have to be tired about?
My absolute favorite moment from this day was on the way down, we finally had reached level ground, A and I were walking side by side, G had found the hood to my vest and was desperately trying to put it on my head, which caused N to burst into giggles.  The two of them were cracking up at their own antics.  The sounds of their laughter echoed through this forest, causing us to stop and want to just freeze this moment in time. I’ll never forget those laughs! The day was beautiful and exhausting, ending in a long nap for both my G’s.
Resting on the log

N is such a ham!

Hope I don't poke someone in the eye with this!


You’d think, after all that time spent outside, he’d be done with wanting to play later that day. Nope.  After nap and a snack, he was insistent about being outside to play some more.  Pushing his car, throwing balls, picking dandelions.   Suffice to say, by bedtime, he was ready.

Sunday was more of the same. The morning promised another lovely spring day, and I was determined to get some laundry out on the line.  Since G is an early riser, just like me, he joined me outside with Kitty, and frolicked around while I got his clothes to bask in the sunny breeze.  I had so many ideas for that days agenda, and finally settled on Freeport.  Scooping him up and plopping him into the car, we headed to my new favorite (yes, I realize that I have a lot of favorites) breakfast nook, The Fresh Batch.  Amazing menu.  Very kid friendly.  Sits below our favorite toy store.  Has a slide and climbing structure for adventurous toddlers.   What’s not to love? 

A giant blueberry (what was I thinking?) pancake for G, a delish breakfast sammich for myself.  He wouldn’t sit in the highchair OR the booster, so we made do with him in my lap. Not as much of a challenge as I thought.  Sustained by the pancake, and noticing that the other kids had now stopped playing, G was ready to tackle the slide.  Such a pro.

After breakfast, we did some birthday shopping at The Children’s Place, walking hand in hand, playing I-Spy (ok, I was playing, he was listening and pointing) and then, given that naptime was rapidly approaching and store shenanigans were fully underway, we made our last stop to Carter’s and then headed home.  He was asleep within minutes of his head hitting the mattress. 

Apr├ęs nap, snacks were in order, and of course, more outside.  This time, he helped me take his laundry off the line, not caring so much about the folding as pushing everything deep into the basket to make room for the next item.  Next it was fetch time for Gabs. I have to say, this dog is so patient with him.  I love how she drops the ball at his feet, nudging with her snout to make sure he knows.  He’s still a little wary about taking it directly from her, but he delights in her chasing his very capable toss.  (Future red sox player, anyone? They could use the help.)

Such a good helper.

The progression of the chair.

Now I want down!

No, this way!

A boy and his dog.

More time spent with our buddy N.  We decide to take the boys for a late afternoon stroll down the Brunswick-Topsham bike path.  There are several things I love about this path (the paved walkway, the fact that it parallels the river, the big open green space to frolic or flop on) and those I don’t (the fact that it also parallels the very busy route 1, the annoying walkers who don’t move over when passed, the lack of trash cans for dog cleanup).  The boys did well, riding along in their strollers, pretzel snacks, water, and the constant chatter.  On the way back, we stop on the big green lawn to toss a ball…tho really the two were much more interested in running around, practicing somersaults and succumbing to the overall mischief that now takes over when the two are together.

Nearing 6pm, and watching the sinking sun turn to a dusky glow, I was starting to fill with my usual Sunday night before Monday dread.  Thinking about dinner, bath, bedtime routines for G, and what to have ready for T when he got home (turned out it was a good night for pizza). We packed it in, tucked the boys into the cars, and drove our separate ways. Another weekend, come and gone.

Would you believe, arriving home, the first thing out of G’s mouth when I opened his door was “Outside!”?  What?  We had just spent the past 2 hours outside. How is it possible he had energy left to run around more?  Alas, this mama was tired and it was time for supper. 

And so we rolled up the day and the weekend just like that.  During story time, we did our usual ‘recap’ of the day, and this one was no different, except our daily activity list keeps getting longer.  I told him how I loved our weekend together, what a good boy he was and of course how much I loved him.  I say all this as I have my nose buried in his still damp hair, inhaling his fresh and delicious warmth still lingering from his bath. Then he flung his little arms around my neck and gave me a kiss without my even asking.  Though he might not be able to say it yet, I’m thinking he’s telling me that he had a good time too.