Park Nights!

Dinnertime sometimes evokes screaming and hollering and even gnashing of teeth around our house.  A seemingly harmless chicken tender and pile of steamed cauliflower can send a child into a deep spiral of pain, which then creates anguish for the entire family.  Since the weather has turned glorious, team parents hastily rushes through the dinner process and then suggests as if it is a new idea, “Hey!  Do you guys want to go to the PARK? How about the motorcycle park?”  More screaming and hollering but of the gleeful variety this time, and we carelessly squirt some soap on our dinner dishes, sweep up food thrown by the little guy, and scramble to the double stroller.

Generally Miles is still clad in dinner with something like ketchup on his face, and we are looking rag tag in who knows what attire.  (About once a week Jay pulls out a pair of white sweatpants he’s had since college, and Eden is usually wearing a princess nightgown or some “comfy clothes” ensemble.) The fortunate thing is that in order to go to the motorcycle park we have to book it through Utica Square which isn’t fancy at all.  We blend right in with the wine-drinking patio dwellers, especially when we stop for long periods of time to examine the flowers and determine which are suitable for taking with us: “Nope. This tulip is still planted in the ground.  Do you see any others with broken stems?  We can’t take the flower unless it is no longer rooted in the ground.  Look closely.”)  Surprisingly we usually find five or six flowers that have been liberated—or cast out—from their brethren.  We take these guys with us and stuff them in our pockets or pull apart their bodies mercilessly to create a pile of petals. park night

Once we arrive at the park, children descend from the double stroller and run to the slides both twisty and straight, the bouncy see-saw, and, of course, the motorcycle (which actually isn’t a motorcycle at all we discovered a few visits ago but rather a four-wheeler.  Who wants to go to a four-wheeler park?).  I become “the big scary monster” while Eden turns into princess Belle.  She isn’t allowed in my castle, the giant play contraption, although somehow she always outsmarts me and my made-up man voice.  Her cries of bliss get me every time.  They are such a  precious part of my day. Jay generally plays referee to the Bobo and supervises him on his slide endeavors and motorcycle/four-wheeler expeditions.  We carry on this way for a good thirty minutes, yelping and hollering and running about, until the five minute countdown comes.

A month or so ago, I missed the best park night ever.  I never miss.  Of all nights, I was getting my annual haircut (who has time for haircuts?), and three of the Stevensons were playing merrily.  Eden had torn off and tossed her princess slippers in the play yard, and she happened to notice a squirrel checking out her abandoned shoes.  She laughed and pointed at them to show her daddy, and Jay chuckled saying, “Don’t worry about that guy.  He’s just sniffing your shoes for some reason.”  More playing ensued, and then the squirrel stuffed his mouth full of slipper.  “What’s he doing with my shoe, Daddy?” Eden asked, and then they watched as the squirrel made a move.  He scurried up a nearby tree with slipper bulging from his mouth, carrying it all of the way up to his nest.  The little rascal!  They were stunned.  “NOT NICE, squirrel!” Eden yelled over and over mightily but to no avail.squirrel

A few nights later after her new Frozen slippers arrived in the mail, we humbly placed her solitary slipper by the foot of the tree just in case the squirrel needed that for his plush bedding.  Park nights are wild.  If you’d told me pre-kids the great joy I would find in park nights, I probably would have laughed and gone back to biking, reading, or doing who knows what.  (Do you ever wonder what in the world you used to do before you had kids?  I think I slept a lot.)  Anyway. . . the weather is looking like it will bring a beautiful park night tonight, and I am ready!

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Sibling Starts

The other night I was putting to Miles to bed, and Eden who just turned three wandered into Miles’ room with a panty-clad head. “Look, Mom, I have panties on my head AND on my bottom,” she grinned as she pointed emphatically to her head and “nakey” body. We laughed, and then she turned to Miles: “Little buddy, tomorrow I will make a picnic, and you can mess it all up. Then, I’ll make a REALLY BIG castle, and you can tear it down. Yes, you can, little guy.” In a three-year-old’s world, these promises mean, “I love you so much I’ll let you upset my attempts at perfection.” Of course, these promises are made easily at night when the budding chef/architect is not engrossed in play, and the young terrorist is stowed neatly in his crib behind bars.

These kiddos’ friendship is continuing to form and can easily mutate from one minute to the next. The other day at the park Eden was playing independently of Miles in attempt to hoard all of the acorns and sticks she could find. “Nooo, Miles!” she hollered anytime Miles began to crawl in the direction of her acorn amassment. (Apparently, the acorns were freshly baked cookies, and the sticks were ice cream or something somewhat nonparallel.) Upon the threat of another child toddling up to Miles and pushing him gently on his shoulder, Eden tossed her acorn cookies and ice cream sticks to the ground and ran to his rescue. Mama Eden then proceeded to trail him under every monkey bar and to every slide foot, casting narrow-eyed scowls in the direction of any toddling threats.

Embarrassingly enough, several months ago, in an attempt to continue to build the kids’ friendship, I began voicing the made-up thoughts of Miles. Eden responds to these made-up thoughts as if she is having a real conversation with her brother, and I kind of love it. I used to think Eden knew I was the speaker behind the little guy’s thoughts, but over time, I’ve noticed she really does believe she is having an actual conversation with him. Yesterday afternoon we were driving, and she was giving him the agenda of our errand list: “first the bank where I can get a wollypop. You can’t have one yet, Miles, because you would choke on it. Then, we will go to the library where you can get some books, and I can get some books. Mommy can get some books. (We did all get books.), and then we will go to the grocery store, buddy. You like the grocery store don’t you? You can have a lot of snacks there.” As she relayed this information to her brother, she kept seeking responses, so I voiced a few “Oh good’s” and a “yummy!” for our non-speaking child.

The conversation continued, and she began asking Miles specific things like, “Miles, did you know we came out of Mommy’s tummy? That’s how we were ‘burned’ (born), buddy” to which “Miles” responded, “Oh, we did? We didn’t come from eggs like dinosaurs?”

“No, Miles, we came out of Mommy’s tummy! Mommy, Miles thinks we came out of eggs; isn’t that funny? *small pause* Do eggs come from birds and dinosaurs? ”

“That’s pretty funny! Yes, they do!”

I kind of feel like I am three people, and I have a feeling this won’t change. . .maybe ever. Eden shares her brain’s mutterings with me all day long, telling me without intermission the thoughts that flit about in her brain, and Miles’ “voice” is technically mine. The three of us live it up in a multi-conversation way all day aside from the quiet room times (praise the Lord!) when my brain is on its own on a recovery table hooked up to an IV. I hear as they grow older kids begin asking questions about philosophy, theology, science, and so forth; I suppose by then, Miles will be chiming in with his own questions, and his little made-up voice will be a memory. I hope, however, like every mother, that their friendship is a haven throughout life. We shall see. Maybe I can train them to answer each other’s questions. Now that would be something!


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To Have a Sibling

Eden occasionally watches a show called Max and Ruby, in which a school-aged bunny interacts with her baby bunny brother. When Eden first began watching this show, Jay and I would discuss it and comment upon how poor Miles, just like poor Max, would one day become the brunt of his sister’s advice, patronizing doting, and other such sisterly activity. We began singing our kids names to the tune of Max and Ruby’s intro song—Eden and Miles, Miles and Eden—thinking ourselves clever for coming up with such a perceptive comparison. We didn’t know just a few short months ago that our prediction would come true so quickly.

Now that Miles is pulling up on EVERYTHING—floor vents protruding from the wall, swiveling kitchen chairs, the dishwasher, couches and chairs—he has his grubby, little hands into far more. This includes all things pink, and all things frilly, and all things related to a play kitchen set where massive amounts of wooden cookies and cakes are pumped out by the minute. On a frequent basis, Miles bee-lines his way across his sister’s carpet, army-crawling like the best of them, and pulls his fat legs up by his chubby hands as he latches onto Eden’s small play table. He flashes the few teeth he has in joyous triumph and then rakes his entire arm over Eden’s carefully positioned plastic tea cups and dining bunnies and dolls. As wooden plates and plastic forks fly, Miles attempts to shove a few pretend grapes and lemons into his mouth, perhaps as a flourish of victory although he seems clueless of the dark devastation he is inflicting upon his sister. “Miles, noooooooo!” Eden shrieks and grabs wildly at her fallen trophies, her ambitions atrophying in the hands of her oblivious brother. The poor guy is like a bull in a china shop. He tumbles to the side of Eden’s table confused as to why he is now lying upon his side clutching a mini lemon.
These interactions continue all throughout the day, and sometimes they are disheartening to observe but are generally a bit comical/safety concerning. Eden now tries to retaliate by taking all toys, even those deemed as Miles’, away from Miles. She scoops toys by the armloads and carries them to safety atop her wooden chest of drawers. “Miles, stop, buddy. You can’t have these. Stop, little guy,” she admonishes as a mischievous gleam sparkles in her baby blues. I walked into her room yesterday to find Miles’ pacifier perched just out of reach from his fat, baby hands. Life lessons in civil behavior begin early I suppose. Rudimentary teachable moments?Eden and miles
Even though he continues to terrorize her flawlessly arranged collections of Lego figurines and demolish airy castles made of blocks, she cannot help but smother him with her affections after she has worked through her losses. She insists upon picking out his clothes in the morning. “Miles, you can wear this today,” she says as she fishes out a green-striped shirt and sweat pants for a July visit to the park. “Hold still, Miles buddy,” she commands her wriggly patient as she takes pink hair pins and clips them all about his nearly bald head and then scrapes a toy blow-dryer across his scalp: “There. You are ready!” A few weeks ago, I had plopped Miles down in Eden’s room in front of a plate of steamed carrots, hoping to squeeze in a snack before we left the house. I left the room for a minute only to return to Miles wearing one of Eden’s doll bibs, strapped about his neck from what looked to be a drive-by bibbing: “Miles was all messy, Mama.” The love/hate relationship they have is still one-sided, for unsuspecting Miles placates most of Eden’s whims at this age. Several times a day, I am captivated by their sibling affections; I’ll be working on something like sautéing fish and steaming rice and look up to see Miles whiff at catching a golf ball Eden has rolled to him. The two guffaw, and my heart melts. I think they will make it out alive, and I’ll bet they might even be friends on their good days in the process. We shall see.


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Seize the Moment?

I feel like in our culture we have recently become very comfortable sharing in all forms of media and general speech how we find parenting a constant challenge. Sometimes we share this sentiment in rant form, other times in humility, and many times with humor. My husband shared an article with me the other night detailing the silly cartoons of artist and dad Brian Gordon, known for laughing at the daily exasperation parenting small children brings. I did have a good laugh as I perused a few of his cartoons, especially relating to a drawing that asks, “What would a crazy, homeless princess wear?” and then answers, “What my three-year-old asks herself every time she gets dressed.” So true, BG! Ha. Raising these little souls can create moments that feel like a chaotic eternity of agony, whether that is induced by a toddler throwing a screaming tantrum over not being able to wear wedding attire to mother’s day out or by a precious baby who has thrown up so much he is now dry heaving in your arms. (This second example is enough to saw a parent’s heart into two pieces. So sad!) Parenthood is not for the weak. Duh. And I just need to say “duh” again.

At the same time, and paradoxically, parenting is perhaps one of the greatest gifts life holds. Ninety-three percent of my facebook/instagram feed (including my own status contributions) is of jolly, sweet babies in their swimsuits; kiddos on their first and last day of school throwing a thumb up at dear old mom; and families nestled in the sand while waves swell behind them. My husband just dumped all of our vacation photos into a Facebook album yesterday, even the one of us all looking askew and pee-soaked clothes, because he can’t help himself. These precious people who sometimes cause us to lose our minds several hundred times a day also bring an infinite amount of joy. Soooo much joy! We can’t keep ourselves from over-sharing this joy with anyone and everyone. Just take, for instance, a simple holiday like the Fourth of July, a seemingly small holiday of fireworks and barbecues; it somehow becomes exhilarating once our kids are old enough to partake in the festivities. I’m already dreaming of the watermelon I want my two-year-old to dribble all over her legs, of the sparklers I will help her hold, and of the fancy parade we will go to that morning. I’m not a planner at all or even very patriotic for that matter, yet I’ve already hung flags about the house and have decided upon which flag-like dessert we will eat to celebrate the birth of our nation. Who is this person? (By the way, Pinterest should start giving out awards. I mean some of the decorating feats people accomplish are nothing short of amazing! I will be lucky if I can make a few red and white stripes on a piece of toast. Forget the stars—ain’t nobody got time for that. White blobs will do.) I am excited about this holiday because I know my daughter’s little eyes will marvel at that blue sprinkler in her hand. Parenthood is the best ever. Duh again.

So, this morning, I woke up much earlier than I had planned. I wobbled half-blindly down the stairs to fumble with the coffee grinds and select an album to listen to while I stared out the livingroom windows. My ears landed on Josh Garrel’s album Home, which is inspiring in the most beautiful way. As I sat there quietly, I began to soak in every moment of my morning. A few tears came to my eyes as I was moved by the music, and as the album ended, I hit the play button again. On the second time through, my somewhat grumpy two-year-old appeared in the arms of her daddy. I made her a breakfast of cold raisin bread so she could dip her finger into its coating of butter and nibble at its edges. As the album continued to play, I pulled her into my arms and hug danced her around the room. “Do you remember when I used to hold you like this when you were a baby?” I asked her. “You were sad, and when nothing else made you happy, we would dance in the kitchen.”

I smelled her and said, “You smell, lovely, Eden. How does Mommy smell?” She breathed in very deeply with her nose planted to my neck and exclaimed, “Yucky!” Something about her answer sent me into a fit of laughter, and we were both cracking ourselves up in the wee hours of the day. I don’t remember where this idea came from—maybe another half-brained blog like this one—but I’ve been trying to seize one very good thing about each day and hold it close—carrying it all throughout the day. Today’s one very good thing just came early in the morning. I didn’t wait long at all, and that moment of dancing and laughter helped carry me through a pee pee accident while we were out birthday shopping for a buddy and then later again as we wrestled with nap time woes. I owe a thank you to whoever had the idea of finding a joyful moment and holding it close throughout the day. It’s a good one. It seems to cause the joyful moments to override the difficult ones, bringing the day into perspective. With that said, this strategy by no means solves all of my problems as I am direly in need of Christ to make me happy.  Without Him, I am a floundering mess.  With Him, I am still a mess, but at least I am lavished with grace.

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hey, there, neighbor

“Please won’t you be, please won’t you be my neighbor?” Shoes are tied; smile is fixed; cardigan is pristinely pressed. Mr. Rogers taught me a thing or two about friendly neighboring although I don’t recall his neighbors per say—well aside from his mail carrier Mr. McFeely. Did Mr. Rogers have neighbors, and I just forgot about them; or were we (his audience) the neighbors? I actually really want to know. Growing up though, we knew everyone on our street, and I suppose this is because my sisters and I were always playing dolls or kickball or leave-a-mudpie-on-the-cute-boy’s-doorstep with those living next to us. As an adult, I know a few of my neighbors’ names and a bit about them, but in the whole year that we have lived on this street I’ve never had them over for dinner or pushed strollers side by side with them. This fact makes me a bit sad.

For some reason, I find myself waiting for the perfect opportunity to magically connect with one of these families dwelling next to us. Maybe I envision trimming our *dead* azalea bushes that line my northern neighbors fence and stopping for a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow only to see that my thoughtful neighbor is approaching me with a sparkling fruit cocktail and a few tips for mosquito control. We talk and laugh a bit, find out that we both enjoy the farmer’s market, and kindly agree that we should amble up there sometime early on a Saturday. From there, we hit it off and are stopping in here and there as time permits, watching each others’ babies so we can run quick errands to the grocery store and tag agency, living lives that are connected to a small degree.

Tonight while Jay was away from the house playing basketball, Eden and I began to make chocolate pudding made with avocado, banana, peanut butter, and cocoa. I had already mixed the first three ingredients together and was sorely disappointed when I saw that cocoa did not readily greet me when I opened our baking cupboard. “Hmm. . .what to do, what to do. . .” My first thought was to load up my pajama-wearing toddler and nearly “nakey” baby and drive to the nearest grocery store. “That’s just silly,” I thought to myself as I imagined the pounds and pounds of cocoa sitting unused on cupboard shelves throughout the neighborhood.

I then thought of our neighbors to the south of us, but I was hesitant for two reasons: 1) We always make shy, nervous small talk 2) we currently have a cacophony of bullfrogs in our swamp/undermanaged pool, which I find SUPER embarrassing. (When we turn out the lights each night to rest our weary eyes, we have the sensation that we are at Lake Stevenson. It’s loud. And gross. I know our neighbors can hear it too, but they are too gracious to complain to us.) All of this said, I reallyyy wanted to eat some chocolate pudding, and I reallyyy didn’t want to load up the caravan to make that happen.

Six minutes of shy, small talk and nervous laughter later, bam, we were putting the finishing touches on our chocolate pudding and ready to indulge. I think I had the secret hope that if I stopped by our generous neighbors’ house and fell back on the long-endured practice of borrowing a cup of sugar/an egg/a cup of cocoa that we would become instant friends. Not so. Instead, I spent the evening cleaning up a few bottoms, sweeping up crusty play dough pieces off of the ground, reading up on the news, and texting a few friends who live MILES away. I do not have park date plans with the SAHM next door. I did, however, enjoy some calorie-rich dessert. Why I am writing about this I don’t really know, but the older I become the more I think genuine community of all sorts is wonderful. I appreciate those friends who are comfortable enough with the craziness over here to stop by and lend a tomato cage in support of my gardening whim or swing by to share a cup of coffee and talk about their day. We are all busy that’s for certain, but we need each other, and I am grateful for that.

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Bye, Bye, Baby

That transition of changing from a baby into a child, while certainly gradual, seems almost immediate once it occurs.  I was flipping through iphone videos of my firstborn the other day, and like all other parents, I could not believe the changes that had occurred within my baby girl over the last year.    I used to feed her scrambled eggs piece by piece and sing songs to her about her fingers and toes, and she used to toddle around the house speaking gibberish.  While an ugly cry still happens from time to time over random triggers like not being able to listen to the “hop song” in the car for the fifteenth time in a row or being forced to wear socks with shoes, my little one is now a little girl.  *Still scratching head in wonderment*eden two

Of course, having a second baby in the house immediately advanced my firstborn’s age in my mind, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when the two of us were watching a cartoon together sprawled out on the carpeted floor of my bedroom that I really noticed how BIG Eden is now.  She leaned against my leg, and I put my arm around her shoulder to snuggle her.  We just felt close.  At one point in the show, the character bunny Ruby hurls a toy snake at her brother Max so that he has something to snuggle as he tries to fall asleep.  The snake wraps around poor Max’s face, causing the opposite effect of sleepiness.  It was pretty cute really, and both Eden and I laughed aloud at the comical result.  Eden roared though , and I stopped watching the show so I could see her shoulders shake and eyes narrow in laughter.  She looked over at me laughing and then laughed harder.  I loved it.  When did she become old enough to laugh her head off at a cartoon?  How did we think the same thing was funny?

Suddenly she has an interest in loading and unloading the dishwasher with me, competently clearing plates and bowls away from the family table and bringing them to me to rinse so she can find places for them in the two levels of dirty-dish-filled shelves.  “Where’s this one go, Mama?” she asks assuming I have a certain place to put soup ladles.  (Being a perfectionist is going to be difficult for her as she is being raised by two slobs free spirits.)  She finds the perfect place for the ladle after trying it not one but two other places first.  Heaven, help her!  She has real ambitions now that she isn’t a baby anymore and is always working on projects she makes up like lining up her baby doll and smelling their bottoms to see which one has the stinky diaper.  “Are you got poo poo?” she asks the last doll in her line-up and answers with motherly excitement “Yah, you do!”

For one of the first times ever, her ambitions aligned with ours this past week completely unprompted, and she went about tidying up the downstairs while we were not paying attention.  She stacked dirty dishes on the coffee table and carried them to the dishwasher, placed the pillows back on the sofa, and picked up an array of scattered toys.  “I cleaned up!” she announced in her little two-year-old voice, beaming with pride.  Umm that’s amazing.   How can we make this happen all of the time?  It is in a parent’s genetic code to think her kids are outstanding.  I suppose this may be because children are born knowing how to eat, sleep, poo, and give gas-induced grins; then, one day they learn how to load a dishwasher.  Something tells me they then learn how to drive and do calculus.  Oh sigh.  Well, I suppose I can just start stopping random mommies in the grocery store to tell them that I used to have babies, too, and that they used to like my scary bear impression and bath time songs.  There is always that.

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miles’ other mommy

This summer before we had Miles I began reading books to Eden about baby siblings and bought a doll for her for when her brother was born. I was fearful that she would envy the little guy and that jealousy would overtake her . The first time Eden saw Miles, however, she was love struck, and as she looked at him in his little two feet by three feet hospital box, she giggled with joy at every movement of his tiny fists and feet. He let out a little yawn or two, and she pointed at him in wonder. She barely needed that baby doll. That baby doll was secondary to Miles, her live doll, in every way.

In the four months that Miles has been alive, Eden has not shown jealousy unless she is making a firm, “My brother” statement to me, or to one of her friends, or to a complete stranger in the park. The girl’s eyes form into two perfectly shaped red hearts when she forces his binky into his mouth or pushes his swing at death-defying speeds. miles and eden 3In her mind, Miles is perfect. To keep her pacified, I allow her to paste diaper cream on his tiny moon (maybe that’s weird?), ask her to bring him various toys, and request her help with the washing of his feet when he’s in the tub. (Maybe she’ll think back to that last act one day when she’s reading the New Testament. For now, it’s keeping poor Miles alive as he’s not ready for her shampoo job.) She becomes as excited as I do when he learns how to do something new, like hold an object, or roll over, or make the sound “ga.” Hey, “ga” is exciting!

“Hi, tiny wheatheart. Aww. Little buddy,” she pokes her neck forward from her carseat so that she can watch Miles slobber and spit up. Even in her fun, she is aware of her small companion and will call out “watch this, Miles!” as she works in a special spin to her dance moves or as she piles a fifth plastic donut on top of a fourth to make a trembling donut tower. “Watch what E’en do, buddy” I hear over and over throughout the day.miles and eden 2

Then it happened. Miles laughed at Eden. The first time Eden laughed Jay and I had company over and were ignoring our guests until they finally excused themselves to barf as we cooed over our daughter’s sweet giggles. A baby’s laugh is all-consuming. Miles had already begun to laugh several weeks ago—his entire face lighting up with trembling lips bursting forth into a wide, wide grin that let out the most joyous sounds. To hear him laugh for Eden though! Oh my. He found her baby speech and twirling across the kitchen floor worthy of a genuine baby guffaw. Holding him in my arms, I looked down to see him staring at her with delight as he folded his hands across each other in anticipation for more nonsensical entertainment by a two-year-old.

I continue to get lost in the day to day jungle and forget that one day Eden will play with Miles. The two of them interacting—her playful banter and his engaged responses—melted me. I slid out of my chair onto the floor, making a pool of myself at the feet of my chair. How has this been happening for mothers of multiple children around the world since the beginning of humankind? I’d never considered how lovely seeing this interaction would feel. I am in love. This whole parenting thing is worth it.


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