Life Lessons from City Dog and Country Frog

In our house, reading is a big deal. We visit the library once a week, and it’s not unusual for us to have 25 books checked out at one time (20 of which will of course belong to Miles). My absolute favorite part of the day is our story time together; after Miles is in his PJs, we snuggle up just the two of us and read half a dozen or so books of his choosing. Story time lasts 30-45 minutes, and even then, time seems to pass with lightning speed. I am beyond happy and proud to see that Miles has an inherent love of reading, just as I do.

Because we are such avid readers, we have a well-established list of favorite children’s authors and books (Pete the Cat, all day). We do pick up new things from the library every week, and I pre-read them all before we decide to take them home – not only to ensure they are age appropriate, but also to see that they are challenging and encourage Miles to think creatively and ask questions (also: not lame). We checked out a book about Dumpy the Dump Truck once, in which the school bus broke down and in all her infinite wisdom, the schoolteacher thought it would be a good idea for all the kids to be taken home in the back of a dump truck. But don’t worry; Dumpy’s owner convinced her it would be perfectly safe because they would only drive 10mph, and avoid potholes. This is on our “never again” list, and it’s exactly why pre-reading is crucial.

When it comes to our favorite authors, however, I never feel a need to pre-read as we are familiar with their writing style and content of the stories. So when Miles picked up “City Dog, Country Frog” by Mo Willems, I dropped it in our bag without a second thought. Who doesn’t love Mo?

We've  never met a Pigeon we didn't like.

We’ve never met a Pigeon we didn’t like.

The book is truly a beautiful story, about the different seasons of life and the changes we experience, the valleys and the peaks. It’s told through the actual seasons of the year: City Dog meets Country Frog in the spring, and they learn frog games. In the summer, they learn dog games.

dog-meet-frog

Sweetest thing ever, right?

Then fall rolls around and all of a sudden Country Frog is “tired” and wants to play “remembering games.” Uh-oh. Cue the tears…

Adults, hear me now: the best time to find out that one of the main characters in your child’s book will die is not while you are reading it to your child for the first time.

I muddled through fall, as both dog and frog remembered the joys of spring and summer. I sniffled a bit, but did a superb job of hiding this from Miles. Toddlers have no acquaintance with death; this is not a concept my son will learn about now, and if I can help it, not for quite a while.

Me: *sniffle sniffle* I am a very tired frog. Let’s play remembering games. Country Frog and City Dog remembered jumping, splashing and croaking in spring…they remembered chasing, fetching and barking in summer. And that was fall. *sniffle sniffle* And then came winter…

And here came the tears. Because City Dog goes to their usual meeting spot and he waits – but Country Frog is nowhere to be found. So City Dog waits and waits and waits; all alone, in the cold snow, with big, blank wintery pages of no text and an incredibly sad face.

Me: *sniffle snort gurgle snot* But Country Frog did not come…and that was winter.

(Dear Mo Willems: THANK YOU FOR THE WARNING.)

Miles: Mama! Are you sad?

Me: A little bit, because City Dog is sad. You see it’s very cold outside, and frogs do not enjoy the cold, so Country Frog did not come to play with him.

Miles: Mama, will you be okay? I will give you a hug!

Me: *sniffle snot snort gurgle sniffle honk boohoohooohooooooo* Thank you, baby. I love you.

And then – THEN – spring arrives again, and very sad City Dog meets very happy Country Chipmunk. And all is right in the world. And I cried even more.

Miles: Mama, are you sad AGAIN?

Me: Yes, baby…sometimes when things make me very happy, I will have tears of joy. Mamas are really silly sometimes.

Miles: Mama, you are silly all the time. (then he gave me a hug and a kiss and he honked my nose – affection and comfort from a toddler at its finest)

Truthfully, the book is wonderful because it speaks the same message to both children and adults, but just at a deeper level for those of us who understand that Country Frog has gone on to the great Froggie Beyond. We do have different seasons in life, and nothing teaches you that in a greater fashion than becoming a parent.

When you have children, you enter into many seasons all at once in those first few years. You are in a season of joy and thankfulness, with the blessing of these tiny, tiny people who love you truly and unconditionally with every ounce of themselves. You are in a season of overwhelming love, as you feel your heart explode each time you sit back and take in what is now your life. You are also in a season of challenges, as you learn how to parent; how to take care of these tiny people, how to ease their pain, how to calm their fears, and how to not pull out your hair when you see all of the produce in your refrigerator has tiny, toddler bites taken out of it (side note: this is when we make vegetable soup). Life will be so much fun that you could write your own Dr. Seuss dictionary of new words that still couldn’t fully express the fun and love and joy you feel inside.

And that will be summer.

Your life outside of your children enters a new season as well. You will find friends and family with whom you are instantly closer, a bond that is renewed and strengthened. And you will find friends and family who disappear – sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently. You will adapt to this season of newness and change as well, in all its bittersweet moments.

And that will be spring.

You will settle in to the “new normal” of naps and early bedtimes, family-friendly dinners, ice cream parties on Saturday afternoons, finger paint and crayons everywhere. You will feel at ease; you will feel peace, you will recognize the pleasure of an unhurried existence during these young years.

And that will be fall.

Sometimes, things will throw you for a loop. A child will have croup, and you’ll spend the entire night rocking your baby under a humidifier, praying for healing, knowing that you would give anything to take the sickness away. A bully at school will come into the picture, and you’ll have a conversation about being brave, doing what is right, and loving people even when they are difficult, because we could all use a little extra caring at times. You will enter seasons of tough questions from young, inquiring minds. You will learn to navigate these as well as a Sherpa on Mt. Everest (and you will still pray for NO AVALANCHES, PLEASE).

And that will be winter.

I know my seasons seem out of order; the reality is that these seasons occur at any time, of their own accord, and sometimes coinciding with one another. The point is this: they are brief (sometimes only in retrospect, but trust me, the brevity is there) and we arrive at the next season sometimes with a smile, and sometimes with a frown, but always with a love and determination to carry on.

What was winter for City Dog quickly turned into a new spring with Country Chipmunk. My son learned that sometimes friends will move away, transfer schools, or start attending a different church, but that there will always be a new friend right around the corner. And I learned that things can be tough, they can be really difficult and sad and trying and dirty and messy, but soon, spring will arrive.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

Thank you, Mo.

four-seasons

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Ferris Bueller was right…

I’m standing at the kitchen sink, finishing the last chore of the day – the last chore of each and every day – washing bottles.  Miles is snuggled up in his crib, drifting off to sleep in this early evening hour.  It’s a cloudy night; rain today, like most early Summer days in Florida.  The sun is sending its beams piercing through the clouds; pink, gold, salmon, purple, all mixing with the blue-gray remnants of rain.  It’s a beautiful sky; it’s a beautiful night.  Just me in the kitchen, soaking up the calm and quiet.

“Soon, we’ll be weaning off of these bottles…”

This is a thought that my husband and I have had both silently and aloud for a few weeks, now.  The day will soon come where neither of us will be standing at the sink at 7:45pm, staring out the window as we take apart each bottle, and diligently scrub each of its five pieces, with each of our three uniquely sized brushes.

I am all at once consumed by emotion; I thought I was ready for this next, this very big step.  That I was ready for just sippy cups of water and milk; ready for no more uniquely sized brushes for the various parts of the very complicated (but very effective) bottles we had chosen long before Miles joined our lives, long before I was 41 weeks and going to the bathroom every ten minutes, long before I even put on my first pair of maternity pants.  Those very, very early days of “big” decisions: bottles, sheets, diapers, toys, books, furniture, carseats, strollers, burp cloths.  Many things that mattered immensely to our expanding family.

Newborn memories returned as I closed my eyes and paused in my scrubbing.  Two weeks old, four weeks old, three months old.  Carefully measuring the ounces in each bottle, then carefully warming it, eager to calm to the cries of a hungry baby…our baby.  Up at midnight and 3am, quietly feeding and rocking in the still darkness of his nursery, singing sweet songs, gently patting his tiny little tush, wanting to hug him close but also wanting to ensure he drifted off to sleep so that we could sleep.  Midnight feedings disappearing; early morning feedings disappearing.  Soon we’re on a very regular, normal, almost adult-like schedule.  No more midnight snuggles.  How we treasured the unbroken sleep then, and how I yearn for just one more snuggle, one more hug, one more precious, quiet moment now.

Quickly the newborn, young baby, half-birthday baby, almost crawling baby, almost walking baby days have passed.  Quickly we have outgrown clothes and diapers and baby tubs and swings and bouncers and sleeping on mom’s chest while she watches “Sex and the City” reruns on TV.  We’re a big boy now.  Walking, talking, running, laughing, playing in the water hose, feeding ourselves…we are growing up.

Silent tears run down my cheeks as I smile in this bittersweet moment of parenthood.  I am proud, so proud that my smile cannot be contained, of my very big boy.  And I am nostalgic for those early days, those “it’s you and me, kid, we’re on maternity leave!” days with my baby, my first baby, because we grew up together.  We are still growing up together.

So much love for such a teeny guy.

The number of times I’ve heard, “Time just passes in the blink of an eye!” is innumerable.  Standing there, washing just the three bottles of the day, I understood the passage of time at a very deep, maternal, gut wrenching level. Soon my baby will be graduating kindergarten, starting junior high school, going to prom, getting married, making us grandparents.

The moments that bring to focus the actual passage of time will absolutely break your heart, but in the most overwhelmingly joyful way.  We will cry many, many tears over the next many, many decades.  And while we will have more bottles to wash in the future, they will never again be those first bottles, as that chapter is nearing its end.

Oh time, please slow down…or at least put together a really great photo album for me to cry happy tears into as I curl up in my recliner in the twilight hours, reminiscing about these beautiful, incredibly, blessed golden days.

“Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you just might miss it.”

Jelly Handprints

Tuesday nights around our house definitely fall into the “Organized Chaos” category.  Miles and I typically arrive home for the day just before 5:30p.  We eat dinner, as a family, around 6ish.  And on Tuesdays, I’m out the door at 6:15p for rehearsal with our praise band, leaving Miles and Evan to enjoy some quality father-son time.  Getting from Point A (work and school) to Point B (leaving by 6:15p) is a feat that oftentimes involves acrobatics, negotiations, extra snuggles, and spending ten minutes searching for one of my ever-missing flip-flops (hint: it’s probably inside the play kitchen’s oven).  Tuesdays are cray.

I usually get home around 8:30p, and my sweet kiddo is long asleep.  The house is often in remnants of the chaos: blocks scattered from one end of the room to the other, rolls of paper towels or toilet paper unfurled down the hallway, piles of blankets and pillows forming a makeshift mountain in the living room.  You know, the usual.

This past Tuesday, when I reached the front door, I stood and peered in the window before entering.  The light was reflecting in the dining room in such a way that I could see two perfect, tiny handprints on the floor.  Jelly handprints, because PB&J was on the menu that night (organized chaos, remember?)  And instead of thinking about mopping, or at least taking a damp rag to the floor, I stood outside in the quiet, still night, and smiled to myself.  I stood there, and admired those two tiny prints on our dining room floor.  I imagined the game of chase around the dining room table after dinner that inevitably led to the mess on floor, and I laughed to myself, envisioning my boys.  I silently thanked God for my life, for my family, and for those jelly handprints.  Because I know that a day will arrive, sooner than I realize, in which jelly handprints will no longer be around for me to clean up.  Instead, it will be smelly gym socks and scads of homework pages littered across the dining room table.

I say this a lot, but really, Miles will only be little once.  We have just these few precious years before he’s on to the next stage.

Recently, while talking with a fellow mom about her nearly teenage children, she shared a wonderful story with me.  When her children were younger, a piece of wisdom was passed to her: The days can be long, but the years pass quickly.  And I thought to myself that truer words have never been spoken when it comes to raising children in their very early years.  Yes, there are days that call for champagne and confetti by the time bedtime arrives.  But before we’ve noticed, an entire year has passed.  Then another, and another, and in the blink of an eye you’re teaching someone how to drive*, how to balance a checkbook**, how to ask a girl to Prom***.

We are enjoying the little years at full tilt.  If I’ve read, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” for the 47th time today, you can bet your tail that if my sweet boy walks over and asks again, “Brow Beeyah?” that I’m going to tally up reading number 48.

Sticky and sweet,

K

*Rest assured knowing that I will never be the parent who teaches our children how to drive.

**I will also not be the parent who teaches them how to balance a checkbook.

***My children are not allowed to date until they’re 30.  House rules.

Time, slow down.

Time, slow down.

Crying over Cheerios

Tomorrow, my very big boy is moving to the toddler room at school.  This is a big deal; he’s moving early, because he’s thisclose to walking, and he’s no longer one of the “babies.”  Am I proud?  Unbelievably.  But my initial response when his teacher told me about the move two weeks ago was a total sob fest.  This is normal, right?

Last week, while shopping online for an Easter outfit, I came across some of those cute onesie and pants combos with little bunnies on the butt, and again, the tears began.  I realized that my big boy would not be wearing pants with anything on the butt ever again.  No footballs, no lions, no crabs, no Santas.  He’s no longer a onesie-wearing baby; he’s on the brink of toddlerhood.

I have found that, again, this is something our birthing coach failed to include in our eight week class: YOU WILL CRY ABOUT EVERYTHING.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

Kid eats a Cheerio for the first time?  Tears.  Takes two steps?  Weeping.  Learns to wave bye bye?  Hello, hysterics.  Not a single milestone has arrived with a dry eye for me.  Each day, I feel myself identifying more and more with the women on Lifetime and WE.

Also, James Van der Beek.

Also, James Van der Beek.

Where did my teeny, tiny, itty bitty baby go?  Over ten months have flown by since his arrival, and I just can’t find enough hours in the day to play with him, dance with him, teach him how to eat like a big boy, or stare at him while he sleeps (not as creepy as it sounds).

And so, I cry.  Not in front of Miles (often), but  cry.  I realize on a daily basis what a gut-wrenching job parenthood can be.  My tiny baby is growing up quickly, and I am not prepared for this.  Totally normal, right?

Send wine.

If I could turn back time,

K