Growing up too fast?

Gus-Gus is just about 16 months old now, and still breastfeeding. He’s gone on longer than my other boys, who still all made it past a year. The first one quit because I became pregnant again, the second because he was the same age as when his older brother was weaned, and the third because I was going out of town for a few days. Every time, I was kind of sad to finish nursing my babes. Each time, it was my decision to stop breastfeeding, not the baby’s.

I’ve gotten only a few comments suggesting that it’s about time to wean him, and a few raised eyebrows. Even moms I know who breastfeed for a long time have finished long before this stage. I find myself giggling and promising he won’t be a kid who keeps nursing until he’s five or six. Why do I feel the need to make excuses?

I don’t know if it’s because my days raising babies are numbered, or because I’ve gotten lazy, but I’m not really pushing weaning this time around, and I’m pretty sure that’s the right thing for us now. Gus and I have cut out a feeding or two, but we’re still entrenched in our wonderful, snuggly habit. Well, kind of. Lately, after just a minute or two of eating, he has been arching his back and rolling right off my lap, refusing to eat any more (and leaving me with a plethora of milk!).

I always thought that weaning an older baby would be harder, because he would be more aware of what he was getting and where it came from. (Does anyone remember the weaning of Gussie in the book “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?” One of the funniest stories I’ve read, because I’m pretty sure it was true!) Possibly, this could be the easiest weaning yet! Gus-Gus is just turning into a feisty, wiggly, curious little boy who has no time for lounging in his mama’s arms.

Maybe the reason I’m not in any rush is that with each successive boy, time speeds up and I become more aware of how fast they are growing away from me. I love watching my boys grow, and I know it’s a good thing, but I will never again hold my first three babies in my arms. (Well, not as babies. They hardly fit on my lap now!) Looking back, I can see all the times I rushed them forward, wanting them to grow up or move on past whatever phase they were in.

My boys are growing up so fast, and I have no desire to speed up the process at all. Society pushes kids to grow up way too early, and I don’t think they need added pressure from mom and dad. There are things I will be happy to leave behind (tantrums! diapers!), but there are some sweet moments I will miss with an ache in my heart. I will miss nursing my babes, even when this littlest guy can’t decide between breastfeeding and climbing on furniture, so I’ll let my baby be a baby as long as I can.

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How many dirty socks do you find scattered around your house on any given day? At our house, the bare minimum is 10. That’s on a good day.

Leave your number in the comment box below!

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Following the Leader

Gus-Gus loves to go outside. He wears shoes all day and won’t let me take them off, on the off chance he can sneak out the door with one of the big brothers. Lately, he’s started bringing me his jacket too. He doesn’t really talk yet, but I’m pretty he actually said “jacket” when he brought it to me yesterday. I rewarded him with a walk outside.

Last week we had the most wonderful, wet, slushy snowstorm. Wonderful because when I took Gus-Gus outside for his slow toddle to the mailbox, our two sets of footprints were perfectly imprinted in the thin, wet layer of snow—my big, long strides matched up with each half-dozen of his. I stopped to admire, then ran around the house so I wouldn’t disturb them on my way in to grab a camera. I knew there was a metaphor for life in there somewhere. Today, the metaphor smacked me in the face.

Today, my little Buzz was at his rudest and most frustrating. Ever. His mood, combined with the five short hours of sleep I managed last night, meant we were in trouble. Usually, I have a little extra patience for this strong-willed boy of mine, but today I lost my temper. Over and over. I have to admit, yesterday was pretty similar (on my part, not his). Sometime this afternoon, as I was yelling at him to stop being so rude to people, that terrible parenting mirror popped up in front of me. You know, the one that appears when you say “Don’t hit your brother” (spank), or “You don’t need any candy today” (right after sneaking a few pieces yourself), or any of those other lovely parental hypocrisies.

Buzz is mimicking how I’ve been acting lately. A little bit angry, a little bit rude, and completely self-indulgent.

These little people, they watch us so closely, don’t they? I wish I could hide from them sometimes, but parenting is kind of a 24/7 commitment. A friend of mine, years ago, was discussing her faith with me and talked about “walking with Jesus.” I love that phrase, which I had never heard before. We all walk with people, for short or long periods, as they influence our lives. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I always walked with Jesus, that perfect example? Too often, my footprints veer wildly off His path. My little boys are walking side by side with me for this brief period in their lives, before they leave me to choose their own paths. It is so selfish of me to lead them in wrong directions. Where I go, they follow, and the atmosphere in our home lately has shown that. A little less loving, less considerate, their footprints are just following mine. I think I need to watch my steps more carefully.

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11 Months Later…

A lot can happen in 11 months. Apparently nothing I bothered to blog about, but life goes on changing day by day until suddenly, it’s almost a year later. Only one major change, but it’s a happy one:

Last summer, in desperation, I started asking Buzz when he would stop wearing diapers; reminding him he couldn’t go to preschool in diapers; talking about how cool all his friends were because they wore underwear. He responded by saying, “When I’m four, I won’t wear diapers anymore.” Well, I kind of thought he might be serious, but we were still a good four months away from that day and I had to hope it wouldn’t take that long!

On his birthday, he informed me he wasn’t really four until he had cake and presents. So, after the sugar we sent him to bed all diapered up. (I was pretty sure his sleeping self would forget about his promise.)

The next morning I reminded him that he was four now, so he put on his underwear and kicked the diaper habit, just like that! He’s had fewer accidents than either of his older brothers, too. Sigh. I am glad I didn’t spend much time worrying about him, and I’m so happy it was this easy. I just wish he had decided on a different landmark, a few hundred diaper dollars previous. (Or that I had known how long he’d wait so I could save money by putting him in cloth!)

Did you potty train your boys early, only to have them regress? Is it gross to let them keep wearing diapers until they’re old enough to practically change their own diapers? Is it selfish or smart parenting to let them wait until they can make the decision (and follow through on it)?

P.S.–No more potty talk for awhile, I promise!

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Diaper Disaster

I took a week off from suggesting the toilet to Buzz. He was starting to act defiant, and the last thing I needed was a power struggle involving poop. Then a few days ago, he started taking his diapers off–the messy ones. He even took one off just because it was wet. If that’s not a sign that he’s ready to ditch the diapers, I don’t know what is!

So, out came the undies and the plastic pants. (Not sure why I didn’t use those with the first two kids!) Aaaand…nothing. He goes in the potty when I set him there, but never number 2. And even with a timer set every hour, he sometimes wets his pants anyway. NO motivation. The kid doesn’t seem to realize that he can keep himself clean if he just uses the toilet!

I have to confess that a lot of this is my fault. I’m busy! Three days a week we are away from home all morning, and two of those days he is with other people. I also have to pick up a kindergartner every morning before lunch. Since Buzz is on a morning schedule for his messy diapers, underwear is pretty inconvenient. I can’t ask other people to clean out the inevitable mess.

Back to the diaper story, so yesterday he took off another messy one while I was nursing the baby. He even got out some wipes and tried to clean himself up. Mr. Incredible was home and did his best to clean it all up. Sadly, he didn’t search the floor after throwing away the diaper. I walked in the room later to find a few choice chunks left on the floor. That just about used up my supply of Febreze.

Somehow I’ve managed to do this potty training thing twice already. (Oh yeah, but I didn’t have older kids or places to go every day!) It didn’t seem all that hard at the time. I think I really just need to psych myself up to make it a priority, and make it fun and easy for Buzz.

In the meantime, I could use a few words of encouragement. I didn’t mean for this blog to turn into a potty training diary, but that’s just my life right now. I’m sure a lot of you are right there with me. Those of you who are done with this business forever, please remind me that it will end someday. Maybe not very soon, but someday. Right?

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What’s the deal with boys and sticks? Buzz is a classic example. He spends his days carrying one of the following: a Harry Potter wand (he owns four), a sword (he owns three), a broom (he has a short one, but my five-footer will do in a pinch), a light saber (big brothers have five), or a regular stick, if he happens to be outside. He’s three now, but he has had this love affair with sticks since he started walking.

I am convinced that this is not learned behavior. Other than Harry Potter (who he didn’t discover until recently) and medieval knights (even more recently), Buzz’s favorite characters don’t wield sticks. Winnie the Pooh, Superman, and Ariel the Little Mermaid (more about that one later) are all stick-free. My little boy, like his brothers before him, feels some sort of inborn connection to his sticks. He just knows exactly what to do with a stick.

“What to do with a stick” happens to be hard to define. Yes, he occasionally whacks or pokes someone with a wand or a sword, which results in a time-out for the stick. Buzz is pretty smart, and has learned quickly that Mom won’t let sticks become weapons. Here is a partial list of what sticks can do:

  • Get contraband items down from a high shelf
  • Poke small objects down a heating vent
  • Defend a boy from big brothers in a pretend light-saber battle
  • Cast a magic spell (often in the middle of a church meeting)
  • Fly across the room and poke mom in the eye

So, not all of these are good. In fact, there are a lot of things I really hate about Buzz’s stick habit. But I think there’s more to it than I can put in a list. Somehow, a stick makes a little boy feel bigger, taller maybe, but definitely more powerful. Often, he doesn’t do anything with his stick. He just carries it around, waves it in the air, or uses it as a prop in his imaginary play of the moment. The stick doesn’t give him power because of its practical applications, but because it is whatever he wants it to be. The simpler the toy, the more possibility it has.

I’m glad my boys love their sticks. A toy gun is a toy gun, an action figure is always himself, and video games kill imagination, but a stick can be anything. With a few rules (and mama’s watchful eye), maybe these sticks will keep my boys playing for years to come.

What have your boys done with a stick?

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Book Review: “Do Knights Take Naps?”

We have had this library book in our house for about four of the past five months. It is my three-year-old’s favorite book of the year. Any book that I can read several times daily is a winner in my eyes.

We first checked this out when Buzz decided he needed to be a “sworder” for Halloween–he saw the coolest, shiny silver armor at Costco, and it came with a sword (which is the only part he really cared about). So, being a good mom that day, I checked out a few knight-themed books from the library. This one quickly became his favorite.

I love that Buzz has learned quite a lot about knights without realizing it. Each page details one aspect of a knight’s life, in a short verse of about 6 lines. You wouldn’t think that would provide much information, but Buzz knows about every bit of gear that a knight wears, what to do at a joust, and what a court jester is. My favorite line tells that a knight drinks “old apple juice,” a nice way of avoiding a discussion of the evils of alcohol with my toddler.

The pictures are cute, and the whole book has a lilting rhyme scheme that makes it almost singable. In fact, Buzz has memorized most of the book, even intimidating phrases like “Come forth, thou nasty bloke!” Even after 100-plus readings, I am not tired of it and neither is he. I think it’s time to buy this one so the library can have their copy back…

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Public Enemies

Mr. Incredible and I took all four boys to the Olive Garden for dinner this weekend.

(Stunned silence.)

I used to think our boys were really well behaved in restaurants. A little noisy and excitable, but with a timely walk right after ordering our food, they could usually hang on and be only just starting to go crazy by the time we adults finished eating. It’s been awhile, though, and we found out just how out of practice they are.

Friday’s excursion included about 25 extended family members. Six of those were boy cousins, all of whom my boys completely adore and all of whom they can’t communicate with in anything softer than a primal yell. “BEN!!! ERIC!!! Hey, let’s play tag in this 2-foot by 2-foot space between our table, the waiter, and those people eating dinner over there!!!” (Did you lose count? That’s 10 boys, almost half the party!)

I only agreed to this (crazy) scheme because I thought we’d be in a “private room” for groups. Well, it was a large area with our huge tables arranged in the center, and hapless victims, I mean, other diners in booths around the perimeter. Oy, they got an earful.

After two or three rounds of musical chairs, we got everyone seated. Too bad they didn’t stay that way. Buzz kept climbing all over people, had a “time-out” walk with grandpa, and eventually ended up worming around our feet under the table. Dash whined until his food arrived and then didn’t like it, and whined some more while we tried to get him to eat. Mowgli was well-behaved (though very loud), until he decided he felt sick to his stomach and ran off to the bathroom. (Nothing happened–yay!) Gus-Gus was okay for awhile, but burst out screaming as soon as my sister-in-law (the birthday girl) had her turn to hold him.

Half the time I felt embarrassed, the other half, defensive. I kept glancing at the older couple who came for a quiet dinner and instead got us; I was counting the dirty looks they sent our way, but I got lost after 20. I was secretly hoping they’d say something to us so I could defend my brood, but they never did. If I could have come up with the right line, I would have gone up to them and (sweetly) asked them if they enjoyed watching our darling children, but I don’t do impromptu one-liners very well.

At the end of the night, as we were leaving, I said to the waitress, “Thanks for putting up with us!” She laughed and said, “Are you kidding? Your kids were great!” I thought about it, and realized she was right. They didn’t spill anything, they weren’t rude, they patiently endured two hours in a restaurant and only really started going crazy at the very end. Sure, they were loud and wiggly, but they’re little boys! The only way they will learn to behave well in public is if I brave the chaos and take them out once in awhile. As we were getting in the car, I thanked my three older boys for being good…mostly. They grinned and asked when we could go to a restaurant again.

I think it might be pretty soon!

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Friday Favorite: Orange, blue, green

It seems like everyone has their favorite type of blog to stalk. Since I’m an occasional knitter and wanna-be crafter, I go to all the crafty blogs with pictures of bright fabric prints, gorgeous hand-knit sweaters, and mama-made baby blessing dresses. The problem with all these blogs? Almost all the darling clothes are for girls!

I’m pretty sure that if I had a little girl, she would not run around all day in a ruffly pillowcase dress, matching hairbow, and knit leggings, all made by me. We’d have a few picture-perfect moments, then spend the rest of the day in mismatched playclothes. (I’m not that great at accessorizing!)

We do, however, have a few cute boy moments now and then. Yeah, it’s easier with a new baby to dress up, but I find great looking gear for the older boys once in awhile too. Every Friday, I want to share a few of my favorite, good looking boy things with you. If you’ve got a favorite, send it in, post the picture, or share your link! (Share where to buy/how to make, too!)

This week I’ve got photos of my current favorite color combo. My fourth baby boy didn’t need much in the way of new clothes, but these gifts from friends really livened up his closet. These colors looks so fresh compared to his hand-me-down wardrobe of navy blues and reds.

Here’s Gus-Gus in his kangaroo suit. (See the pocket?) I love the long-john look. So sad that he’s pretty much outgrown this one.My favorite, favorite blanket that a friend gave him. Aren’t the stars cheery?

My other favorite blanket–love the airplanes!

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Potty Time

Right after my oldest boy finished the potty-training ordeal, I remember thinking, “This isn’t as bad as everyone says it will be. Little boys aren’t that messy in the bathroom!” Five years later and I now know that I was completely WRONG!

I didn’t realize that being an extra foot taller exponentially raises the splash factor, or that after a few years of thinking it’s “so cool” to finally be tall enough to pee standing up, my boys would quit paying attention and have more spills than we ever had during potty training. (Why can’t they just sit down? Why?) Really, is it that hard to focus for just thirty seconds??? I guess they could argue that I don’t know what it’s like, girls don’t have to aim.

My husband and boys are even in charge of bathroom cleaning (except when I step in for the occasional deep cleaning), but apparently the gross factor of that isn’t high enough to change their bad habits.

So, is it any wonder that now, on my third go-round, I have a boy well past three who STILL. WEARS. DIAPERS. Because I’ve decided my walls don’t need any more yellow at the moment.

I have to admit, there’s another reason my 3-year-old is still in diapers–I am lazy!! Disposable diapers are just SO much easier than training pants, accidents, remembering to send the kid to the pot once an hour, and public restrooms (on my list of top 10 gross-outs!). I’m not sure if I should admit this, but some days we get by with just two or three diaper changes–and it’s not all my fault. Buzz runs away when he sees me getting a diaper ready. It interrupts the flow of his day, and he just can’t be bothered like that. Pampers has pampered me a bit too much.

Maybe that’s part of why my fourth boy is the first to experience cloth diapers. Because after a few years of washing those out, I think I will be much more anxious to get the little guy doing his business on the pot. It will add a little motivation for him too–no stay-dry lining or weird little super-absorbent polymer beads, just good old-fashioned wet cloth. (Really, there are some other benefits too. I tried cloth diapers due to a combination of curiosity and a vague sense of guilt, and I’ve really come to love them!)

Now I need some public shaming to motivate me. I should have ditched the diapers long before boy #4 came along. With a new baby, then some family medical problems, then the holidays, then flu season, I keep finding excuses. Help me out here–what words of wisdom do you have? (Or is your little boy pushing the limits of the size 6 diaper stretch tabs too?)

I’m off to Costco to buy more diapers in bulk.

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