I wait on the edge of my seat as she counts the number of lines in the swirl. I’m holding my breath, hoping that the results don’t yield the neighborhood kid brother. She does the count, crossing out every sixth answer on my sheet until each category has only one line item remaining. ”A school teacher, married to Jonathan Taylor Thomas, with five teenagers, living in a mansion in Florida, and driving a minivan!!!” my older sister squeals at me. I jump around, cheering in response, as I have just hit the jackpot of all MASH games! I mean, who really wants to end up in a shack with no children and the kid brother? It wasn’t going to be me, that much I knew.
I turned thirty today. 3-0. THIRTY. Three decades on this planet, and I find myself reflecting back, mostly on my childhood, and drawing some comparisons between where I thought I would end up, and where I am now. When I was a girl, I thought that thirty was O-L-D. Really, I thought that “teenagers” were old. Sixteen was such a grown up. I couldn’t even imagine a day when I might be that old. At this point, my mom probably wasn’t even thirty, having given birth to my sister at 19 and me at 21. I thought that if I did, somehow, make it to thirty, that I would probably have a whole head of gray hair by then. I knew that I would have at least five teenagers. And I would be a teacher, and would totally be driving the coolest vehicle of all time….a Dodge Caravan. I sure hoped that I would be living in a mansion with JTT, but whatever house I lived in would be right next-door to my big sister, Angie and my super cool neighbor Pam.
As time went on, I still thought of 30 as pretty ancient. What 16 year old wants to be 30? At that point I daydreamed about every single one of my crushes or high school boyfriends and I beating the odds and staying together forever. We would be thirty, with a bunch of kids in a house, and that’s about as far as it went. College came, and I grew up. I realized that thirty was coming, and was excited to start focusing on building a life and a career, and eventually shacked up with the man that I get to be thirty with.
Throughout the childhood and teenage years, you draw a distinction between age groups. Sort of an ‘us and them.’ “Us” being the kids, and “them” being the grownups, of course. I always just recognized people who were of a certain age as adults. The age was probably 25, but then it crept to maybe 27, and so forth. I distinctly remember the day that I first thought that thirty isn’t that old. I had graduated college, started a job, and had a bunch of young, awesome colleagues who were all turning thirty. They dressed trendy, went out and partied, and were a really fun time to be around. That’s when I knew. I’m getting old. And I will probably be thirty too.
This weekend it has been really fun for me to reflect on those childhood MASH games and look at where I thought I would end up, with where I am now. I don’t live in a mansion with JTT. Bummer. I do have a home with a hubby who is probably ten thousand times better than JTT (sorry, bud). And actually, my best friend used to call him “Zachary Taylor Thomas” all the time, or ZTT for short. I certainly don’t have 5 teenagers, but I do have a threenager, who is probably even more frustrating than five teenagers at times. I didn’t become a teacher, but I did continue to love and value education. I got a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s degree, and work in higher education. I’m kind of glad I didn’t relocate to Florida, because it’s pretty humid in the summer, and I will never drive a minivan. Its pretty wild how eerily similar the comparisons are. Really, a lot of the answers are the same, just in grown up terms rather than the mind of a child. In any case, my MASH predictions were awesome, but real life is even better. Thirty never looked so good.
Scene: Tonight, putting Jackson to bed. Every night we talk about his day - what made him happy, if anything made him feel sad, and general musings. He calls it “chatting.”
Me: What made you happy today?
J: A Mad Face (his usual first answer)
Me: Oh, wow. What made you sad today?
J: A happy face!
Me: Who did you play with at school today
J: [names of friends redacted]
Me: What about Lucy*?
J: No, Lucy’s not nice.
Me: Oh no, why not?!
J: She doesn’t like it.
Me: Doesn’t like what?
Me: Oh dear. Well maybe she just likes to play different types of toys than you?
J: Yeah. Lucy likes doll things
Me: Doll things! That sounds fun! Maybe you can play dolls with Lucy. Tell her about your doll Jackula!
J: Nah, I like the boy toys. I don’t play doll things.
Me: Well, there aren’t really “boy” toys and “girl toys” - if you want to play with a doll, that would be great!
J: Yeah…that’s not gonna happen.
So I don’t know how he thinks that there are boy toys and girl toys. I have tried to provide ample opportunities to play with any traditionally girl toys that he could possibly want, but the kid just LOVES THE TRUCKS. He likes pink enough, and if I am painting my nails he will ask if I can paint his (lets me paint one nail and then is over it), but I just can’t seem to convince him to play dolls. Oh, and as I was leaving his room he said “Ok! Ciao! Bye!” - He is in rare form this evening.
*Name changed to protect privacy of classmate, who has a VERY unique name ;)
"I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!" he exclaims as he whizzes past us in the backyard, pushing the pedal, laughing excitedly. I watch as he fearlessly takes the hill head-on. The wheels spin for a moment, as if he were stuck in the mud or snow, but they regain their grip, and he is flying across the hill, behind the swing set, giggling the entire time. I watch his golden hair fly upwards in the breeze, his body lurching back every time he presses that pedal, as if he is surprised at the speed it has.
He speeds down the hill, but instead of taking the downhill head on, he cuts the wheel to the side and looks as if he might tip over. As his mother, my breath catches and I am afraid for a moment he may flip over, but my fears are eased just as quickly as they came on. He rights it and screeches to a halt on the patio. It’s one of those moments that I want to jump in and help, but feel immense pride when he accomplishes something on his own.
He sets to work filling the bucket, tossing in all of his trucks and toys. The first time he over fills it, and it dumps out before he can drive away. His toddler temper sets in and he hops off the tractor, kicking his toys with an angry face. Grandma helps him re-load a reasonable amount of toys into the bucket and he speeds off again. He nearly runs into my legs as he comes to a stop and dumps all of the toys out in front of me. He asks if I am glad that he brought the toys to me at Target. I tell him I am so glad, and he is off again for another load. Back and forth he goes, until the sun begins to set. He tells us that he hears the sounds of the night, and that he is thinking about parking the tractor in the garage now. Except the way he says it makes us laugh, because it sounds more like car-rodge than garage. I walk him around to the front of the house and help him park his toy for the night.
Before my grandparents leave, he showers them with affection for bringing him his new favorite toy. I, too, am touched by their generosity, and tell them so multiple times, although I have a sneaky suspicion that it was just as much for them as it was for him. As his mother I am now in on their secret: watching my boy be so excited over a toy that he couldn’t have dreamed was his own is the adult equivalent to being the child who is receiving it.
Thank you so much Grandma & Grandpa Rusty for the Tractor, he loves it so very much.
Today Wyatt went to an ENT to have an upper lip tie release (frenectomy). We had been last week for a consult, as I suspected that he had a lip tie, and sure enough, he had a pretty severe one. I was so on the fence about whether or not to have the frenectomy done, but in the end, decided to go ahead with the procedure.
When both of my boys were first born, nursing was really painful. I just chalked it up to “building up a callous.” While I do think that was part of it, now I know better. With both boys, the pain was temporary, only lasting for the first 4 weeks or so, and I got by with truckloads of lanolin and nipple shields, and at the end of four weeks we eased into an easy nursing relationship. Jackson, who was supplemented with formula from the start (9 lb baby, blood sugar requirements at birth, etc), self-weaned at 8 months old, long before I was ready to end our nursing relationship. Wyatt has been exclusively breastfed from day one, without a drop of formula, and he is super committed to nursing, and is really protective and territorial about my boobs, so I don’t think that he will be choosing to wean at 8 months like his older brother.
Anyway - over the past seven months we dealt with a couple of issues that made me think that something was off - clogged ducts, nipple pain, etc. It was pretty clear that his latch wasn’t right from the start, but I had thought we were in the clear after that initial few weeks of pain. Then, the worst of it all happened. I had actual cuts on each nipple and one day at work, as I was gritting my teeth through a painful pumping session, I looked down and realized that I had pumped 2 ounces of BLOOD. I felt pretty defeated and grossed out, and consulted Dr. Google about why the heck I had cuts and was bleeding when my baby was already 6 months old. I started looking at photos of tongue ties and lip ties and instantly saw, based on the photos, that Wyatt was pretty severely lip tied.
I did a bunch of research on lip tie releases and made an appointment to have a consult with an ENT, who confirmed that not only did wyatt have a lip tie, but that he has a really minor tongue tie, that can stay as is. I was so on the fence about it at the consult that, instead of moving forward with the procedure, I decided to think about it some more. We went on vacation, I got more nipple pain and a clogged duct, and I made the appointment to have the release done.
So, for a week I was completely dreading this appointment. Feeling kind of like an asshole. Was I just being selfish? Am I hurting him so that I can feel better? Shouldn’t I be able to just deal with the pain so that he doesn’t have to? Every piece of information I could find on lip tie releases is that it doesn’t actually hurt that bad. Our ENT said that it feels as it does when you accidentally bite your cheek really hard. Based on this, I made sure to bite my cheek really hard and see how it felt over a few days - not so bad. I talked to our pediatric dentist at Jack’s cleaning on Wednesday as well. She, too, said it won’t hurt him badly, but that it would be very bloody. I never felt better about making him go have his lip sliced, so I can’t tell you whether or not I am actually a complete asshole or not. Here is what i CAN tell you:
The procedure was very quick. They had us put him in his carseat, a nurse held his head, and I held his arms. Another nurse was there videotaping, because apparently a lot of parents are wanting to see the actual procedure, so I let them tape it. The doctor applied a local anesthetic with some q-tips, and then clamped the frenulum for 10-15 seconds. Doing this crushes blood vessels and makes it “bleed less.” After clamping he used scissors and cut it - this was the part that I couldn’t watch.
It bled. A lot. I expected this because our dentist told me to. She also warned me that he will swallow blood and that its ok. If he spits up, to expect a brown tinge, and that we might find blood in his diaper as well. I am glad she told me these things, because I would have absolutely freaked out. It bled a lot when the procedure was done, and then on and off throughout the day. The procedure was at 11 am, and it last bled at 4-5 pm. I put him to bed at 7.
He cried a fair amount during the procedure. I would say that he cried about the same amount as he does when getting shots. After the initial crying, there wasn’t anymore crying. In fact, he promptly fell asleep because it was nap time. This pleasantly surprised me.
He was back to his normal self pretty quickly. Here is what he looked like around 5:00 this evening:
He was able to nurse immediately after the procedure, and has maintained his regular eating habits (and appetite!) throughout the day. He did skip a nap though, so that was out of the ordinary.
I didn’t take Jackson with us to the appointment, which was a good decision, because he would have freaked. He doesn’t love it when Wyatt gets shots, so I can only imagine how he would have reacted to this.
Recovery is supposed to take 3-4 weeks in total, and we have stretching exercises that we need to do several times a day so that it doesn’t reattach, which is common with lip ties.
I was looking back at photos of Jackson a few weeks ago, and there is a photo of him leaning his head back laughing. I noticed that he, too had a pretty good lip tie. I wonder now if that contributed to his preference of a bottle over nursing and to his self-weaning at 8 months old.
Overall, the procedure wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected going in. It still weighs on me, because when my baby hurts, I hurt, and I just hope that all of the information out there saying that it is just a “mild irritant” are correct. So far, he seems to not be at all miserable, so that makes me feel a little better about it all. Also, the nurses today commented that his lip tie was one of the tightest that they’d seen, so that helped me to see that this was necessary. In the end, I am happy to have some relief from the cuts and clogged ducts and other ailments. I am also so happy to report that Wyatt’s latch looks completely different now, and I can feel that his suction is SO MUCH BETTER than it was before! It was an instant improvement, and I was astounded!
If you are having troubles similar to ours, and thinking about having the procedure done, know that it’s not as bad as it seems. Also, I feel like I should mention that some doctors and dentists use a laser to complete the procedure, and that it is then cauterized, and so much less bloody, if at all, so if blood makes you really queasy, maybe look into the laser separation instead :).
I don’t think it is much of a secret that I love taking photos. I love having tangible memories of the small moments that seem to get lost in the hustle and bustle that is life. I think one of the things I am most proud of is how well documented the lives of my boys are. I can open a file and look back at any time, and remember just how squishy Jackson was as an infant, or the way that Wyatt likes to practice various yoga moves, trying to get wherever he wants to be.
After three years of watching me snap away at virtually every moment, Jackson likes to take pictures too. He sometimes asks to take a picture of Wyatt when we are mid-photo session, and I always pull him onto my lap and help him lay out his shot. He is always proud of himself when we look at the final product. A few months ago I found an old point & shoot that I had back in my college days. Miraculously, I still had the battery charger, and so I set it up with an SD card and for months he has been carrying it around taking pictures of whatever he pleases. I enjoy looking through them and seeing what kind of hilarious stuff he manages to get on camera. Sometimes he manages to get some really great shots too! I thought I would share some of his work with you here, and start a new series called Photographer Jack. Everything below is directly from Jackson’s SD card.
There are things that are important to him like hitches and tractors:
People that he loves:
And then, what I was most impressed by, really great shots:
Teaching Responsibility | Chores, Toys, and Allowances
For some time now, we have found ourselves in that dreaded place where Jackson wants, and expects a toy every single time we go to the store. It doesn’t matter what store we go to - if we are anywhere, he is expecting a treat. We have done really well at managing him, making him aware that he doesn’t get a treat every time we go somewhere, and trying to reason with him (as best as you can actually “reason” with a threenager). Spoiler alert: He still expects a toy every single time, even if we haven’t bought a toy for him in the past month, he doesn’t let it go and we are those people. You know, the ones with the screaming toddler that makes you instantly want to claw your eyeballs out from the incessant shrieking and tantruming. Yup. Thats us. Instead of feeling like a total bitch every time I deny my kid a $1.00 matchbox car that he already has 10274438 of, and really doesn’t need more of, I set out to turn all of this shopping negativity into a learning experience.
CHORES. CHORES you guys!!! Jackson is three now. He is old enough to take responsibility for a few small tasks around the house, for which we will give him an allowance. We make a chore chart every week and it includes things like feeding the dog (a task that he has been doing for months and loves), picking up his toys (a task that he doesn’t like, but we ask him to do anyway - his mess, he can clean it); watering flowers, making his bed, and things that he has no option but to do like brushing his teeth.
For each day that he completes all of his chores, he earns a dollar. So with a perfect week he earns seven dollars. That last little bonus on the bottom - no potty accidents - well, that one is easier said than done, so if he has no accidents whatsoever, he gets an extra dollar for that day. (what is it about little boys that make them too lazy to stop playing and go pee?!) So, at most, he can earn $14.00 per week. This week he earned $12.00, which is far better from last week, when he earned $6.00.
He isn’t the best towel folder, though. He does like to pretend to be a ghost as referenced with the pool towel above. But mainly, my towels end up looking like this and in need of a complete re-fold:
Anyway - the point of this whole thing is that I hope to teach him some responsibility along with the value of a dollar, all the while looking like less of a bitch at the store when he wants to get a toy. If he wants a toy, he has to buy it with his own money. If he didn’t bring his wallet - no toy. If he doesn’t have enough money in his wallet - he has to pick something he can afford, or choose to wait and save up his money for the more extravagant option. And you better believe that when I give him his allowance, I always talk him into putting some of his money into his piggy bank to save. I want him to be able to clean up after himself (your welcome future daughter in law), understand that money isn’t just readily available, and to be frugal and a good saver as well. Hopefully by reinforcing all of these ideas he won’t ever tell me that “you just get money from one of those machines at the bank!” like my sister’s kids did one time, putting us both into a fit of laughter - it’s stuck with me all this time!
He chose the cutest wallet of all time on amazon. The brand is Stephen Joseph and they make TONS of options of SUPER CUTE options for the little ones. He was so thrilled when it arrived:
5 or 6 weeks ago, maybe the day of Jackson’s birthday party, I was balancing Wyatt on my hip, holding a cupcake in the same hand. I was standing in our kitchen and talking to Zac, who was sitting in the living room. Before I could even realize what was happening, Wyatt face planted right into the cupcake. He came up covered in icing, and deliriously happy. Since that day, he has shown so much interest in food. I can’t sit down to eat without him yelling at me and demanding that I feed him too. So, for weeks I would eat with one hand, and hold him while feeding him with the other.
With him turning 6 months old on tuesday (I know, what the hell. too fast. completely unfair.), this past week we decided to introduce some solids, and have a really gradual transition to, ya know, let him get used to learning to eat things other than my milk. So it started with a little cereal, which he wasn’t really into - and has practically no nutritional value anyway, so we tried some greeny things. Well. He DEVOURED the peas. And the green beans. And the spinach, and just this morning, he ate beets so damn fast that he was yelling at me for more in between bites. Basically, we have been starving him for the past six months.
Jackson was different when it came to eating - don’t get me wrong, that boy LOVED to eat. He had bigger rolls than I have ever seen, but he wasn’t so into the whole baby food thing one little bit. He spit a lot out and really quickly just ate table foods, but not too much of those for awhile either. Wyatt has been eating purees this week, but he also gnawed on a green pepper for awhile (seriously, who does this child belong to, because I hate green peppers. and beets too, for that matter!). I think we will just continue with some purees, since he is digging them so much, and also work on developing those fine motor skills with tiny pieces of food on his tray as well.
Oh, and I made Wyatt a new high chair cover this morning. Every time I make a new one of these (Jackson went through a LOT of them!), they get a little bit more improved with things like zippers one time (to remove the foam cushions for easy washing of the cover), or ties to attach it to the chair another time. This time, I remembered that my sewing machine makes real button holes FOR ME, so I used that handy trick to put the straps through! Safety first and all… (a tutorial for an older version of the chair cover can be found on my old blog here).
Dr. Seuss. I love you and think you are a literary genius, but really - 61 pages!? SIXTY. ONE. my kid loves you too, which is why I have to read all sixty one of your pages every single night. I have 90% of the story memorized, and while I’m reciting your clever rhymes, mostly from memory, I am longing for the days of reading the Mickey book (10 pages) and Big Boy Bed (20 pages). Although, I am NOT missing The Polar Express. Glad that one finally fell out of the rotation. And yes, I really do love that he loves reading and stories and know that there are so many benefits to reading with him daily, which is why I keep reading about the stupid cat every single night. In any case, my throat hurts and 61 pages is about 40 pages too many.