The Birthday Video – Gabe’s 4th Year

Every year we think for months about which song to assign the kids’ current year of life. This year the Gypsy Kings spoke to Gabe. ūüôā

Gabe is Four

Gabriel is now a kid. That is the news of the day. He can reach the toaster while standing on the kitchen floor. He no longer wears pullups to bed. He pees standing up. He eats apples (!!) without cutting them up. He makes 1,000 fart and poop jokes a day. He tells me, “Moooom I’m just being FUNNY,” when I don’t get it. When I mom-it-up.

Gabriel is so easy to play with. I say, “Gabe do you want to play with me with your boat?” YES. YES HE DOES. And I let him lead a grand adventure about ghosts and witches and animals that die. Die die die. They always die. Terrible things are always befalling everyone. And hexes. So many hexes.

He is up to play any game I make up. He is up for it all.

“Ok, you have to try and keep the ball up in the air for as long as you can, but you can only hit it with one hand and you have to be sitting and you have to sit on the hand you’re not using.”

These are my rules. He makes sure we all follow them and take turns.

He loves and hide and seek. But he isn’t very good at concealing where he is hiding or even where he wants to hide. If it is my turn and he likes where I’ve just hidden, he will tell me, as I am walking away to count, that he is going to hide there too. We are trying to teach him the point of the game, but so far have not succeeded.

He whines. Oh god, the whining. He stomps his little feet and throws a mini tantrum when I tell him no. His whining makes me not want to give him anything ever in life.

His favorite characters are the bad guys. Always the bad guys. They are the most interesting, the most complicated, the most magical.

He likes to be carried, facing out, so he can fly like a bird. If he stops flapping he wants us to start to slowly drop him to the ground until he starts flapping again. He is heavy. This is hard. We indulge him.

His dad is his absolute best friend. On Monday mornings he is sad to say goodbye to his dad when he leaves for work or when we drive away, leaving Kamel to grab his coat and lock up before heading to the bus stop.

When Gabriel gets scared or hurt that is where I’m most needed. Any injustice? Mom. Sometimes when he tumbles off something I quickly say, “Gabriel! Are you ok?!” And he shrugs me off. “Stop saying that!” as he jumps back up. Sometimes when he startles himself I hover over him, giving him the wide eyed shocked face of “woah.” He looks up at me with initial concern until one of us starts to laugh. He will try and hide is smirk and say, “Stop it….” but the giggles are too much. “That was funny,” I say. He will mock fall over again as we both laugh.

Last week we were driving home from somewhere just before nap time and I didn’t want him to fall asleep in the car and truncate his actual nap. I looked back and his eyes were starting to close. I said “Gabriel, don’t fall asleep buddy, we’re almost home.” He looked at me and then turned his head to the side and with absolute defiance squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could. It made me laugh so much. We were both laughing. He is a really funny kid.

He has also been hiding one of the loose bricks in the front of our house and driving Kamel mad about it. For a long time Kamel couldn’t figure out where the brick had gone and who had taken it. Then we found it around the side of the house and Kamel couldn’t stop talking about who could have possibly put it over there. (I continually said it was the kids, Kamel was not convinced.) Then one day Kamel caught Gabe in the act of re-hiding it. When he asked why he was doing it, Gabriel¬†said “because I wanted you to think it was monsters!” while laughing. He is already playing tricks on us at barely 4 years old.

The Burden of Being The Oldest

I have been thinking about this post for weeks but have not had a quiet moment to sit and right it until now. I have been feeling painfully protective of Gabriel lately. The necessity of mothers and fathers everywhere to hang back and hold your breath and watch your small (and big) child exist in the world becomes harder and harder the older they get and the more injustice and mean-spirited crap they face. I am just at the very beginning of all that.

But more than Gabe telling me that so-and-so doesn’t like him or someone at school doesn’t want to play with him, I am most protective over his interactions with adults.

When you are the only 3.5-4¬†year old at any event. When the other kids are babies and young toddlers, who are adorable even in their tantrums, whose desires are simple, who have only a few demanding words – it’s hard. I hear all of his questions, his attempt at organizing the world, his energy level, his magnetism to touch all the things he shouldn’t touch and play with all of the things he shouldn’t play with and I feel self-conscious for him. While other babies and his little sister toddle around, picking things up that we don’t want them to have, we chase after them, removing things from their iron grips or redirecting them to tissue paper. But with an older child we say, “No Gabriel. Don’t play with that. Put that down please. That’s not a toy,” or “Gabriel, gentle! Be gentle!” or “Not over there, Gabe. Stay out of that room.” And it’s not cruel scolding or even really a raised voice, but there is a sternness there, that only he is subject to.

Babies and young toddlers are adorable inconveniences. Older kids can be, genuinely, exhausting. But Gabriel isn’t actually doing anything wrong. He’s playing, or he is excited, or he is exploring, or he is talking without any volume control, or he isn’t hungry but needs to sit at the table anyway, or he has no awareness of his own physical space.

Almost every day at daycare pickup I have to hear about something Gabriel did that wasn’t awesome. Whether he bumped his head (oh well) or he smacked another kid with a block because they were continually pushing over his tower (not great but probably deserved) or if he didn’t eat the food that day (not surprised) or if he was “overly excited” (wtf he is a little kid) or if he was sensitive (he has big feelings) or he was grabbing kids faces (wtf Gabriel) or WHATEVER it is…. I get that update. And it makes me really uncomfortable.

I have great respect for teachers and assessments and if my kids turn out to suffer from a learning disability or have a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed, I want to be 100% on board. But I also don’t want Gabe to be labeled a bad kid because he is an energetic, goofy, theatrical, goober face. He is super loving, who has big feelings, who is still learning to follow directions and listen with his ears. I don’t want him to feel like he is a bad kid, because he isn’t.

I don’t think that Gabe is forever being scolded at school. I think his preschool is teaching all of those little hoodlums how to be actual humans in the world. How to sit in a seat. How to respect personal space bubbles. How to pick up after themselves. But these little picky feedbacks I receive paired with parenting being a constant lesson in picking my battles, consistency, and kindness, plus my sensitivity to his interactions within our social group – it has me feeling sad for him. He is still so little and I want him to be treated with patience and kindness. I don’t want people to see him as this giant limbed energizer bunny bound to destroy all things breakable. (I mean, he is, but he is also so much more!)

As kids grow they get more complicated. Gabe doesn’t stay where you put him. He gets himself up after naps. He gets his own milk out of the fridge. He wants to know why. He can acknowledge when his feelings are hurt. He hears what you’re saying to him and chews on it. A few days after he’s done something wrong he will often say to me (while in the car or during quiet moments) “Mama, I’m sorry I broke daddy’s glasses,” or “Mama, I’m sorry I splashed all the water out of the bath.”

In a lot of ways babies are more fun. They are so cute. Even when Fae adamently says “Nnnnnno!” I just want to scoop her up and cuddle her. When Gabe says, “NO!” I repeat what I’ve asked him to do and say, “If you don’t pick up the thing you threw on the floor by the time I count to three you’re going to be in timeout.”

I don’t want the bulk of his interactions to be negative. I don’t want the world to view him as exhausting. I worry they do because he is, but he is also so many other fantastic things too. I hold my breath and watch him exist in the world. But I also tell him how amazing he is.

(Long!) Weekend-ing 40

Thanksgiving happened!! And we roadtripped with the kids up to Vancouver BC to spend the long weekend with my best friend, Maris and her family. The end result was kid-palooza! And both Kamel and I talking about how much we LOVE to travel with our kids and wished we did it more often. More family vacations please. More more more.

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(That is real joy on my face after spending a really long time waiting for my to-go order before hitting the road northbound!)

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Our Vancouver airbnb was amazing. It was the perfect size and had a great kitchen, heated bathroom floors, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed running in circles all over it.

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When we got there, Gabe really wanted to document the place. So this next series of photos is all him. “Cheese with the movie!” (TV) “Cheese on the couch!” “Cheese jumping!” and so on.

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And then everyone jumped and promptly fell off the slipper odoman, so…

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The night before Thanksgiving was piling into Maris’s apartment with burgers and fries and all the babies.

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Gabe doesn’t sleep well alone in new places. So on vacation he usually piles into bed with Kamel and I if we have a king bed. This time around he got his own room, while Fae was in the packNplay in the master with us. Gabe was very excited that there were TWO pillows in his bed so that there would be room for one of us too!

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So I slept with Gabe the first night and Kamel slept with him the other two. Everyone sleeps, everyone is happy. Baby snuggles!!

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And then it was back to Maris’s where we headed out for a donut breakfast to kick off the holiday right.

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Exploring new playgrounds is one of my favorite things to do on vacation with the kids. It gets you out in the neighborhood, enjoying the day, and it makes everyone happy. We have playgrounded in Boston, Miami, and now Vancouver. Where will we playground next?

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Thanksgiving evening was total utter chaos. Because Thanksgiving with kids and babies and the cooking and the heat of the cooking and the children and the children and oh yeah the children… but it was chaos completely surrounded by love and family and the amazing spread Maris whipped up.

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Gabriel would not, could not stop talking about pumpkin pie. When will he get pie? Where is the pie? Is this the pie? Is it in the oven? Can he have it now? Why can’t he have it now? How about now? Is it pie time?

The whole time I had doubts as to whether or not he would actually EAT THE PIE because Gabriel… oh have you heard? DOESN’T EAT.

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He totally ate pumpkin pie. We all held our breaths and looked away and he proclaimed, “I’M TRYING NEW THINGS!….I get at treat because I am trying new things.”

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(Modern motherhood with my best friend, you guys.)

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The next day we had a relaxing start with bath time and Curious George before heading out to explore the neighborhood.

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(Classic auntie Maris, using her butt as an anchor.)

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In the afternoon we went to Kitsilano Beach Park and playgrounded hard.

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On our final day we made one last pitstop at Chez Maris for Uncle Alex’s Famous Crepes.

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And then… Maris and I literally ran to catch our booked sea-plane tour. Only to show up 5 minutes BEFORE the scheduled time and be told we couldn’t get on the plane because we needed to be there 10 minutes before.

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This is us after we watched our seaplane depart without us into the mist. Which probably caused a crappy tour anyway, so there.

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So we went on this super cheesy FANTASTIC video ride experience instead and it was amazing.

Meanwhile the kids were dry and warm, eating snacks.

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And then we drove home. And the next day we went to the zoo, which there are also photos of. But this post is getting to be literally a mile long so I will stop here.

I hope your weekend was fantastic and it somehow restored lost hope in humanity. Because yes.

Gabe’s 4th Halloween, Fae’s 2nd

This fall has been loony tunes but we are slowly making it happen. Things are starting to fall into place and that is a huge relief.

Last week was HALLOWEEN! And it was the first time that Gabriel actually asked to wear a costume that he picked out himself and wasn’t terrified at the idea of putting it on.

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Gabe came home one day saying he wanted to be Spiderman for Halloween. We have never seen any of the Spiderman movies or cartoons or anything in my house. But he knew exactly what he wanted and recognized the logo and the outfit in stores. So… sure! Last year when we brought him into the costume aisle he was shrieking in terror. Everything is a phase everything is a phase everything is a phase.

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Fae was a bumblebee.

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Buzz buzz buzz.

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Bumble Bee Down!

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It was raining and dark and cold when we went trick or treating, but it was everything my childhood was. Parents in rain coats with flashlights, hustling kids to the front door.

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Fae did so good, trotting along to each house, holding (mostly) her little bucket, picking out candy. Gabe was really into pushing doorbells and only needed to be held for the first two houses because “NO IT’S SCARY.”

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We ended the evening a few blocks over at Laura and Byron’s where my children terrorized their cats and dog for 20 minutes and we all dried off.

Definitely a Halloween success! Things are getting so fun around here.

Last Night

Fae started a habit of waking up at 1am. At first we indulged it because new house and new stuff and waking up not knowing where you are is the worst. At first you always indulge it. But then you start wondering what the hell is actually going on, why is my 14 month old waking up at all, please go back to sleep for the love of god.

So now we just ignore her. She puts herself back down in a few minutes, but it’s been more than a week of ignoring her and still she wakes up and cries. I hear her, I check the time. Anything before 430 and I’m not moving. I mentally pat myself on the head that everything is fine and she’ll be fine and then I go back to sleep.

Now when the babies cry out in the night I have a hard time figuring out if its Gabriel or Fae. Is it words? Or babbly? Is it a baby whine or is it the long drawn out “maaaaamaaaaaaaaaaaaa” that I’m hearing? Is it Gabe? It’s Gabe. We always go in with Gabe. I poke Kamel to wake up.

“It’s Gabe.”

“Is it?”

“I think so.”

We both pause.

“…maybe he went back to sleep?”

We wait. Nope. There it is. Kamel rumbles out of bed. I lay still and listen. Mumbles, whines, footsteps.

“He says he asked for you.”

Damnit. 

I rumble out of bed after Kamel. We both stand in Gabe’s room. He is half a sleep and doesn’t know what he actually needs or wants. We stand there, doing nothing, just being next to him, listening to his breath. When I hear that he is asleep I count to 90, then I whisper to Kamel that I’m going to go first and he should stay in case the creaky floor outside Gabe’s door wakes him up. I say it in less words between lips that are barely moving.

I mentally pat myself on the back for remembering where to step to avoid making much noise. Like I live here or something.

I crawl back under the covers, but the sheets are already cold. We haven’t turned the heat on yet but the nights have been dipping down into the 40s.

I lay still and listen.

I hear Kamel try and leave but he steps in the wrong spots and the floors creak and Gabe is startled awake. I hear whining and then footsteps.

“Hi mama,” Gabe says.

I pull the covers back so he can snuggle in between us.

“Snuggle me,” he says.

I wrap my arm around his tiny body. So small in our adult world of giant torsos. Gabe is at least 60% legs and one of my arms can wrap all the way around him at least a time and a half. Maybe more.

Gabe is good at sharing the bed as long as he doesn’t go horizontal. He falls asleep fast and I still have plenty of room on my side. But my sleep from that point on is full of bad dreams. Full of planning for future stuff I’m not looking forward to. Full of tossing and turning and hoping I don’t wake him up.

At 4:30 Fae wakes up for reals. Kamel goes and gets her and I run downstairs to make her a bottle and grab the blanket off the couch so Kamel can feed her upstairs, out of our bed, and still be warm. After her bottle she goes back into her crib, but hates it. She eventually puts herself down and I have to wake her up at almost 7am. Gabe is up at 6, but he is so happy. He is so sweet. He flips on the light to our bedroom and I hide under the covers.

“Oh, sorry, mama! I’m hungry, let’s go.”

I’m never rested, but it’s so good anyway.

Thursday

1.) My day started off at 5am, cuddling Fae.

2.) Everyone was showered and dressed by 6:30, when we had to wake up Gabriel.

3.) Why do toddlers become a screaming pile of irrational bullshit right before you need to leave the house?

4.) Why do they look at you 5 minutes later after you’ve wrestled everyone into the car and are sweating like, “why are you pulling out your hair, mama? Want a yogurt snack?”

5.) We bought a treadmill and it arrived today. In a box.

6.) The delivery man did not knock or ring my doorbell. He left it out front and snuck away.

7.) I cannot lift the box to bring it inside. Kamel has a hernia, he cannot lift the box either. Thankfully, this means that thieves probably can’t lift the box. Otherwise, why would they need a treadmill? This feels like some kind of ironic torture.

8.) Yesterday at bedtime Gabe said his ear hurt, which is pretty random since we were just looking at the moon.

9.) Maybe the reason my child is a mess is because he has a secret ear infection. He also has a cold. This could be a real possibility, making me mother of the year for the 3rd year in a row.

10.) On top of the fact that I am drowning in work, I now need to take my kid to the doctor (and my other kid bc she can’t drive) during rush hour. It’s going to be great!

Wednesday

I did promote that this week we would be fully back with print and podcast! But – as my post headings infer, we’re getting through this big move and transition and schedule change and and and – one day at a time. So here we are. No podcast. I had plans, but they didn’t make it to fruition. Soon though, soon.

Wednesday is about Gabriel.

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The older kids get, the more your heart breaks for them, because being human is hard and cruel and they still don’t know it and you never want them to. But they sense it. They get whispers of it. And it is confusing.

Gabriel is goofy and loving. He is imaginative and earnest. He is careful and nervous. He loves his sister. He is annoyed by his sister. He watches over her and teaches her things and plays with her and wants to get away from her and wants her to stop playing with his toys. He shares with her, he comforts her, he shows her things. He includes her.

“Fae. Faaaaeeeeee. Look Fae! Look at this! See?”

Gabriel is also annoying. He whines. He demands. He throws tantrums. He is defiant. He is stubborn. He is crazy in the way toddlers are crazy. If something doesn’t happen the way he expects, he is difficult. He repeats an act 5 times until he is satisfied that you have seen him do it the way he wants you to see him do it.

He sings his own made up songs that are narrating his life. He dances. He shows me his dances 700 times a day. He sings along to songs in the car.

He requests snuggles. With blankets. Before he gets up in the morning he asks, “Can I snuggle with mama in mama’s bed?” But lately it’s changed. “Can I snuggle with mama in our bed?” Yes. Always. Every day.

He doesn’t like to be rushed in the mornings. This reality is hard for everyone to deal with. He gets upset if we have to do something RIGHT NOW. He will freeze and do nothing if you get mad at him. It is not an effective way to handle Gabriel. Flexibility, softness above sternness, listening, patience – these are the things that Gabriel needs, these are the things Gabriel has taught me.

The transition to a new home and a new school has been a lot for him and he is doing so well. He is also being extra difficult. Extra frustrating, extra annoying. But also, my heart breaks for him. He has no control. He just wants a little control, but he has none. Everything is new, the rules have all changed, his little brain is grasping at straws.

At Gabriel’s old school he was very much loved. People there had known him since he was 10 months old. So when annoying little boy things start to develop (As they do in every child. We can’t all stay sweet sweet 18 month olds forever), I know that they had already been charmed by him. This new school, that is not the case. They get a Gabriel that is trying to figure out what they are saying to him (Spanish immersion), while navigating new friends, a new classroom layout, and new expectations. He also has a cold and a cough that is keeping him from napping. I see all the things these new teachers could see: He refuses to eat most of his lunch, he doesn’t nap well, he is whiny and difficult, he doesn’t feel like doing the art projects and instead decides to sit quietly and cut up the paper, when you’re giving him a direction sometimes he interrupts you and does a silly dance and then asks you to watch him doing the silly dance 5 times.

I see all of the good and all of the bad and I hold my breath on his behalf that he is liked and loved and finds friends and is happy. But even if he was the most trouble and the most annoying, which he is not, but even if he was an absolute terror, I would still feel complete heartbreak if people didn’t like him.

When I feel the urge to apologize for his inconvenience (and don’t) the words that are swirling in my head are this: You have to know and understand how much I love him. Please be kind to him, because I love him. Please be gentle with him, because I love him.

It sounds so… simple and shallow. But it is so deep. His hurt is my hurt. His discomfort is mine. Except I feel it a million times more in my attempt to absorb the impact.

Episode 26: The Shower Debate

Sometimes I begin a podcast thinking we’ll have something poignant to say and then it devolves into arguments over having time to make eggs for breakfast and taking long showers. This is one of those times

As a follow up – this morning Kamel got up at 530 and got showered and dressed before the kids got up. I also got up at 530 and prepped a bottle for Fae in case she woke up before 6 and I wouldn’t have to scramble. The kids chilled in their room until a little after 6:00. It was a great morning where everyone got to eat breakfast. Success!

When The Kids Wake Up Early

When the kids wake up early but they have both slept through the night it is the opposite of this. It reminds you of why you love the mornings the most and why you love living in the city. Death to suburbs. The city will always be where things are most authentic.

There is something about walking down a street filled with bars and restaurants and your shadow and the few shadows around you are long, but not because it is so late, but because it is so early. Just a few hours before this moment, the street was filled with people, buzzing people, looking for their ubers and lyfts, pressing each other against grimy buildings, limping in shoes that are too high and too tight and too fabulous. The flick of cigarettes and the under arm sweat from a stuffy bar or a busy dance floor being blown away by the night breeze. The honking horns and the yelling after friends or enemies, the vibration of strangers bouncing off of each other. There is something about walking along those streets in the early morning with just a few people within ear shot, just a few cars on the streets where there used to be many. The energy from all of that buzzing lingers in the quiet with the long shadows. If you stand still and put your hands out and close your eyes, you can feel it there, pulsing.

I love the city so much.

And I know it all happened because it was a beautiful night in Seattle, with a warm breeze after a hot, clear-skied day. And those nights here are more than electric. They make you forget every other annoying thing about this place. The long summer days that turn into summer nights while the sun is still up are worth anything and everything, you think. Even if that can’t possibly be true.

When the kids wake up early, but they are happy, and there is sunshine through the windows making¬†everything yellow, and there is Brandi Carlile coming through the speakers it makes you want time to stop forever. We’ll just live here, in this morning, in this day forever and ever and be happy.

When the kids wake up early they go down easily for an early nap. And you get to linger in the shower, which didn’t happen until 12:30, and truthfully that isn’t even that bad. You make sure to get a new razor before shaving your legs and you even try out a new moisturizer. You stand in your closet naked and damp and think about what to wear. Do you even own summer clothes? They have to be in here somewhere. And you have time to flick through the closet, finding that maxi dress you completely forgot you even had, because the kids are sleeping soundly. You have all the time in the world.

This is so much better than leggings and a t-shirt, you think. I should do this more often, you think.

Sometimes you get a babysitter just because you should really do that more often, and you make plans with your partner to go spend the day outside, doing outside things in this beautiful summer weekend. (Can you even believe how fantastic this weather is?) But instead you go to a bar and sit on their patio with sunglasses pushing your hair back and you both eat tacos and drink micheladas at 3 in the afternoon like you’re so unburdened. You’re so free you don’t even know what to do with yourselves. It’s sickening and it’s fantastic.

When the kids wake up early and you don’t even mind because you’ve slept, your partner sometimes muses, “I think that consistent sleep might be even better than sleeping in.” And you think, “oh my god, duh,” but you say, “For sure.” And nod in agreement.