My Pandemic Kid and the Lion King
Luke, my 5 year old honey badger, was 3 when the world shut down. Now, I am not going to lie and say that we did so many things as a family before COVID took over. The truth is, my husband and I are introverts, lead very busy lives, and are tired 100% of the time. So, the thought of piling our insanely energetic family into the car and going out in public is enough to keep us inside. Of course, we do the park and children’s museums but that is about the extent of it. Luke has never been to the movies, doesn’t go with me to the grocery store, and calls Target the “Gift Shop” because he only goes there when we have to buy a present for someone’s birthday and I want him to help me pick it out.
That’s why, when The Lion King came to our hometown, I knew it was time. First, let me promise you that the Lion King is Luke’s favorite movie. We watch the Lion Guard on Disney+ (seasons 1-3) at least once a week and he has a stuffed lion that he sleeps with at night. This was it. This was the time.
We spent the weekend before the play watching YouTube videos of the performance so he could be prepared for the puppets and the sounds. We went over all of the rules about not talking during the play and trying to keep our bodies still for 2 and a half hours. We made sure his belly was full and I snuck water in just in case he got thirsty. I even bought him a baby Simba stuffed animal at the tune of $42 so he could have something to hold onto when the lights went dark. We were ready.
What I wasn’t ready for was the sparkle in his eyes and the amazement that took over once those animals started coming down the aisles. I have an amazing friend who works for one of the sponsors of the theater. She was able to help me get incredible orchestra level seats, just a few rows back from the stage, on the aisle. Luke was close to coming out of his skin he was so excited.
He leaned over to me after about an hour and whispered, “Mommy, I am loving this!” and I melted. He pointed at the actors, clapped after every song, and, despite the conversations about calming our bodies, he wiggled and squirmed with excitement the entire play. I also had to keep asking him to stop lifting his stuffed Simba into the air and whisper-yelling “It is time!”
During the intermission, he was “starving” so we fought the crowds out to the concession to buy a cookie. Of course, because it is Luke, he fell on the way out of our seats and banged his head on the railing. He was fine but we had to talk about being careful even if we are excited. We made our way through all the very long lines, waited behind people that just couldn’t figure out what they wanted, and the announcement came on that we had to get back to our seats or they were going to lock us out for the first bit of the 2nd act. We grabbed our cookies and ran back to our seats, trying not to fall again. We made it.
About 10 minutes into the 2nd act, he leans over again, puts his hand on my hand and says, “Mommy, I think these are real people.” I almost cried it was so sweet. The whole way home he was beaming and we had to go home and turn on Lion Guard before he fell asleep. He was still talking about it this morning on his way to school. I am so glad we did this. It was exhausting but it is a memory I needed and I am glad Luke has it too.
The “truth” about Santa
Fifth grade has turned out to be one of my favorites so far in Noah’s little life journey. I remember fifth grade as awkward and full of mean girls and bangs. But, for Noah, he is really coming into his own and blossoming into a really cool human. And, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of a little young adult.
I really felt it on Christmas Eve this year when he asked me the question I knew was coming but was trying to avoid… Is Santa Claus real?
To set the record straight, I have never been a big fan of Santa. And, when I became a mom, I had full intentions of not buying into the whole fat man in a suit bringing presents idea. But that all changed when Noah’s little blue eyes sparkled in the lights of the Christmas tree. It was then that I realized that the magic of Santa was right in front of me- with no fat bearded man in sight.
And that is what I have tried to focus on when it came to Christmas- the magic. That feeling you get when you see the lights on the houses start to go up and when the Christmas songs begin to play on the radio. Magic is in the anticipation of seeing the look on your best friend’s face when they open the most perfect present in the world that you just knew they would love. And I watch the magic appear all around as we get the cherished family Christmas decorations out of the boxes and tell stories about the special ornaments as we place them on the tree.
All this being said, I picked Luke up from after school about 2 weeks before Christmas and, when I told him he would have to wait until after dinner to play on his iPad, he informed me that he not only hated me but he also “didn’t care at all about my Christmas magic because magic isn’t even real!” It is important to note that this is, probably, the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.
So, even after this incident with Luke – when Noah asked me for the “truth” about Santa – magic, the good kind of sparkling magic, was the only thing that came to mind.
How I revealed the truth about Santa:
“Noah, the truth is, Santa has never been a big fat bearded guy that sneaks down your chimney and leaves you presents. The presents part has always been me and your dad. However, that doesn’t mean that Santa isn’t real. Santa is part of the Christmas magic that makes this time of year so special.
Christmas magic is different as you grow up and, as a little kid, Christmas magic shows up as the idea of a kind and gentle person who loves you and all the kids of the world so much that he wants to share the joy of Christmas with children by bringing them presents. As these kids grow up, like you, Christmas becomes less about the presents and the magic of Santa turns into something else.
Right now, now that you are 10 years old, Christmas magic lives in more than just presents. Remember that feeling you had when you looked at all of the lights in the trees in Sunset Hills? Or that feeling in your belly when we sing Christmas songs together? Or how much you look forward to curling up in our PJs every year to stay up late and watch Home Alone? That feeling that fills your whole body is where the magic of Christmas lives.
Santa now has a different meaning. Now you get to watch the sparkle in Luke’s eyes when he walks into the living room to see the presents that Santa brought. Now you get to see the joy in our faces a little differently when you rummage through your stocking. And now, you will see that Santa is always real as long as you can feel the magic.
When you get older and become a dad, the magic of Santa shifts as you will become the holder of the magic. You get to help create the magic sparkle that you see in your kid’s eyes. And then, your experience of the magic will be even bigger than you could ever imagine. Because you helped to light the spark that you now see twinkling all around you.
Noah- do you have any questions that you want to ask us?”
And, Noah, after me pouring my heart and soul into this conversation that I had been psyching myself up for, in all of his innocent wisdom said… “Umm, do I have to sleep in a shirt tonight because it’s Christmas?”
And the world moves on because it is much bigger than us.
Turkey and Sweet Potatoes
We have been working on a lot of developing at my house. Luke recently got his first 2 teeth and Noah just got his first loose tooth. Luke has been trying to crawl for months but has only ever managed a hefty scoot. Well last night, he officially crawled on his hands and knees while chasing after a football. And Noah has his first flag football game this weekend.
We are busy.
Well, last night, Luke also tried meat for the first time. I have been looking for ways to help him sleep a little bit longer at night because he still gets up 3 to 4 times a night to nurse. Gerber makes all kinds of flavors of pureed 2nd-stage baby food that includes a little bit of meat for some added protein. Luke tried turkey and sweet potatoes and seemed to love it.
I watched him closely for a little while after to make sure there were no adverse reactions, Matt and I gave him his bath, and he went to bed right on time. Good night, right?
Well, Luke wakes up at about 11:30pm, which is normal for him. He wasn’t showing his regular signs of being hungry. He was fidgety and wiggly- basically full of gas. Most nights, if he nurses for a minute, it will help him to pass the uncomfortable gas but that just wasn’t working. So, I did all of my gassy-baby tricks. Nothing worked.
Then, when I decided to just give up and snuggle with him, he let out the biggest, wettest, loudest, explosive shit ever and it made Matt sit straight up in bed. Turns out, Luke’s tummy was not a big fan of the turkey and sweet potatoes.
There was yellowish-brown liquid poop all down his leg, and into the footie part of his pajamas. It was everywhere. We get him onto his changing table and he is still squirming a bit. We peel his PJs off him, trying not to cover anything else with poop (failing miserably as we go along), and get his diaper off.
Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, the Diaper Genie is full beyond capacity so we have nowhere to put the poopy diaper and the wipes warmer is out of wipes so we have nothing to clean the poop with.
At this point, it’s starting to be hilariously funny because it feels like this stuff only happens to us. We get the wipes refilled, Matt changes the diaper bucket, I get Luke all cleaned up, applying some diaper cream, and then……. Luke has another massive blowout poop all up my arm, all the way to my elbow. Awesome.
Matt takes over and gets Luke another diaper and cleans him up while I get myself cleaned up. We get him in new pajamas and I start rocking him to get him back to sleep. Next thing I hear is another loud, foul-smelling, wet explosion. This one was mostly contained in the diaper but did seep out a bit requiring another pajama change.
It’s well after midnight now and Matt and I are basically giggling at the absurdity of our situation. We get it! You don’t like turkey and sweet potatoes. No need to make such a big deal about it. Surely you’re done (famous last words).
Luke has quit squirming. Seems like the gas and diarrhea are gone. Luke starts sucking on his hands and showing signs of being hungry. He starts to nurse and I see his eyes close as he falls asleep. I can finally let my guard down and relax. Nope.
Luke proceeds to projectile vomit all over me, my pillows, the bed, the headboard, everything. Then, he just falls asleep. Almost like that was the last thing he had to check off of his to-do list for the night.
Meanwhile, I had to change all of my clothes, strip all of my pillows down before finally realizing that it soaked all the way through to the actual pillow, then had to find a new pillow. I could have changed the sheets but we still haven’t washed the other set of sheets from the last time Luke spit up all over them so I just laid a towel down over the mess and went to sleep.
Luke might be a vegetarian now.
Divide and Conquer
The first thing I need to tell anyone who is thinking about having a second child is that the transition from 1 kid to 2 is so much harder (and more complicated) than the transition from baby-free to 1 kid. It is still wonderful and rewarding (and a lot of other things too) but I was not prepared for the insane degree of difficulty that would be involved when trying to navigate a newborn/infant/baby and a young child all at the same time.
When Luke was brand new, he was what some people might call a “Velcro baby.” He had to be attached to me at all times. The moment I set him down, even for a second, he lost his freakin’ mind. He was the happiest baby imaginable as long as I was holding him. Add that on to the fact that Luke is hungry constantly, nurses to soothe himself, and nurses for his snacks between breastfeeding, and I didn’t get a lot done. And, it made it especially difficult to be even a halfway decent parent to our older son, Noah.
To deal with this, Matt and I just went with the “divide and conquer” method of parenting. Noah became his kid. Luke became mine.
Now that Luke is older, he likes to be put down some times so he can play and he doesn’t eat quite as much as he used to (sort of), so Matt and I are able to alternate kids a little more regularly. But it is still overwhelming.
I feel like I can only be a great parent to one kid at a time or a sorta-okay parent to both kids. And I miss my one-on-one time with Noah.
Matt is the one now that knows the kindergarten routine inside and out. He knows which shorts Noah likes to wear to bed and what his favorite TV shows are these days. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I don’t have to watch Odd Squad every night but I do miss the snuggles that come along with late night TV.
And while I am the main parent for Luke, that means Matt gets to swoop in when he’s being all cute and adorable and I get the late night feedings and the tearful daycare drop offs (my tears, not Luke’s).
But, Matt can’t parent Noah by himself. It makes it extra difficult because Noah is a high energy kid. And not in a “oh my kid likes to run around a lot” kind of way. Noah has to run around a lot ALL THE TIME. He only has 2 speeds- 90 mph and asleep. There is no middle, no range of energy levels. When we go to trampoline parks or bounce houses, he doesn’t fall asleep on the way home. These kinds of activities just add fuel to his already high-intensity fire.
But, like all things parenting, we are learning as we go. Matt and I have never strived for perfection. Our mantra has always been “do what works” and so far, what we are doing is working. I am sure we will continue to struggle. And we may have a few successes here and there.
In the meantime, we will continue to try to manage on 5 hours of sleep and minimal conversation.
Taking a Shower after Having a Baby
I never thought that taking a shower would be such an ordeal. I never imagined that along the way I would forget taking care of myself used to come so easily. But having a baby changes things.
Since I got home from the hospital with my perfect, healthy newborn, I have remembered that life with a newborn is always a new adventure to be navigated.
The shower, for example:
1. My boobs hurt! You would think that when the warm water hits my boobs that it would feel good. Lies! All lies. It hurts! In fact, when anything hits my boobs it hurts. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm water, cold water, or anything else, it hurts. Even when I dry off after the shower, the towel itself feels like sandpaper on my incredibly sensitive breastfeeding nipples.
2. My boobs leak. I forgot along the way, over the past five years, that any and everything makes my boobs leak. Just thinking about my boobs leaking makes my boobs leak. After the shower, if you wonder what that wetness is dripping down on your feet, it’s your boobs leaking.
3. I feel like I need to get permission to take a shower. I know that this is not the case. But in order for me to take 15 to 20 minutes off in order to take a shower, I have to check in with all parties to make sure that they can watch the baby while I take a shower. Then while in the shower, I hear the baby cry and I feel like I need to rush my shower in order to take care of the baby. My husband suggested, after I told him I felt guilty, that I wait until after I put the baby to bed for the night to take my shower but, that means I could sleep even less than I’m already sleeping. No thank you.
4. I just feel so gross. Between not being able to shower on a daily basis, wearing the same clothes day after day after day, and having another human being attached to me non-stop, I feel gross. There is no rhyme or reason to this, I just feel gross. Being pregnant sucks for a lot of different reasons, but at least I was able to shower on a regular basis. I might not have been able to see my feet or my downtown region but I was able to shower daily. Taking care of a newborn eliminates that possibility.
You never really think about the importance of a shower until you don’t have one. It doesn’t really feel like one of those first world problems until the ability to take a shower is a luxury. And then comes the mommy guilt because at the end of the day, I’m complaining about a shower when I’m responsible for another human being’s existence. I feel like a terrible person because I want to put the baby down and take a frickin shower. But then the baby screams and cries and wants to be on the boob and now I’m a terrible person who selfishly just wants to be clean.
Maternity leave should be called dirty mommy leave. Or something else similar because… I’m tired and dirty. What was I talking about?
A Sweet Goodbye
Last week, we sold our house. After 10 years, we sold the first home we ever bought together, the home where we started our marriage and our family. While it was a sad and happy time for me, it was only a happy moment for Matt as he was never the biggest fan of the house in the first place.
However, it was the only house that Noah has ever known. We have spent the last 2 and half months looking for houses and keeping the house clean for showings but, after all of that, it was clear to me that Noah was not fully aware of what moving actually meant. We talked a lot about how we would be living in a new house and a new family would be living in our house. That didn’t seem to help clear up the picture.
It still didn’t quite sink in even after Noah met the new family that would be living in our house. He said, “So they’ll be living in the guest room right next to me!?” So I knew we still had some work to do.
And we didn’t even try to broach the subject of how we would be moving away from his best friend next door. I just wasn’t at a place where I could handle the repercussions of that conversation.
However, when moving day finally came, the house was empty, and we were pulling out of the driveway for the last time, Noah did one of the sweetest things I could have ever imagined.
Me: “Okay buddy. We are leaving the house for the last time. Do you want to say goodbye?”
Noah: “Yes. But can I get out of the car to say goodbye?”
Me: “Of course you can.”
So I got him out of his car seat, he walked up to the house, and placed his hand on the siding. Then it happened.
Noah: “Goodbye house. Thank you for letting me live in you. Thank you for keeping my family safe. Thank you for letting my dogs play in your yard. Thank you for watching my toys while I was at school. Thank you for loving me just as much as I love you. I love you so much and I will miss coming home to you every day. I hope your new family is good to you. I love you.”
Me: [Sobbing like a giant, pregnant baby.] “That is so sweet buddy. Are you okay?”
Noah: “Yeah. I’m fine mommy. I’m ready to go now.”
It’s these moments when I remember how sweet and innocent they are. When the most important things in life are family, dogs, and toys. And when coming home is the most comforting thing to happen to you all day. On to new adventures.
Matt and I work very hard to make sure that Noah is growing up in a body-positive environment. We don’t talk negatively about our bodies, his body, or any other people’s bodies in hopes that he won’t develop any body image issues as he begins to develop. Or at least give him a strong foundation to build strong self-esteem.
Along with positive self-talk, we also have a “no shame” rule about nudity in our house. We don’t wander around naked but, we also don’t go out of our way to hide ourselves or cover up when getting out of the shower. We’ve had all of the talks about privacy, private parts, and about how rules are different in our home than they are in public. You know, all the standard stuff.
However, as body positive as we are, I was not quite prepared for the conversation Noah and I had this morning.
He woke up extra early so we stuck him in our bed so he could watch cartoons while Matt and I got ready for work. I had just gotten out of the shower and was walking around our bedroom getting dressed. [Reminder- I am 7 months pregnant and my body has changed quite a bit over the past few months.]
It went a little something like this-
Noah: “Mommy!! Look at your boobs!!!”
I give him a rather dumb-struck look and I say: “Yes. What about my boobs?”
Noah: “They are just RIDICULOUS!!”
I am now staring at Noah with a little bit of disbelief and a little bit of confusion trying to figure out exactly where this is coming from when, Matt, from the bathroom yells: “Yeah buddy! They are ridiculous!” in a rather macho tone.
At this point, Noah gives me a sheepish grin so I know he knows what he said was inappropriate yet incredibly funny. I have to now deal with my incredibly immature husband and try not to laugh so as to not encourage such behavior.
And, if I do say so myself, my boobs are rather fabulous. Thank you.
As you know, Mother’s Day was this past weekend. Noah’s school had a special Muffins with Mom event and all of the moms were invited. Well, his teacher had mentioned it to me a week before but, because we have about 90 things going on at once, I forgot. Thankfully, I noticed a sign-up sheet on the door on my way out which prompted me to ask what time I needed to be there. 3pm. Got it.
Well, 2:45pm rolled around, I had already arranged with my boss that I needed to leave early to go to Noah’s school for Muffins with Mom. It takes 15 minutes to get there, I’ve been really busy at work lately so every minute counts.
Well, as luck would have it, I hit every single red light on the way and got behind some very slow and pokey individuals. I get to the school and had to park a very long way away down a hill on the side of the road because there were so many other mothers who were there on time. It was 3:05pm.
As I walk in the door, the director of the preschool was, at that very moment, walking out of Noah’s classroom. She had Noah in her arms, his face was beet red, and he was fighting back tears with every bit of energy that he had. When she saw me, she said, “See Noah. I told you your mommy was coming.” (Dagger to the heart.) He runs as fast as he can and gives me the biggest hug.
I squeezed him and said, “I told you I was coming today.” Just those words were apparently the release he needed to let all of those tears he had been holding in go pouring out of his face. In the saddest, most tearful voice ever, he says, “I-I-I didn’t think you were coming.” (Another Dagger to the heart.)
Well, now I feel like the biggest asshole mom on the planet.
I finally get him all calmed down, face wiped, all smiles. We walk in the room and at least 5 different moms proceeded to tell me how sad and pitiful he was the entire time that he waited for me to get there. “His face was so red.” “He was so strong fighting back all those tears.” “You wouldn’t believe how upset he was.” (Dagger, dagger, dagger.)
Damn. I was only 5 minutes late. I’m here now people.
Then, another little boy in the class who had built some kind of solidarity with Noah because they both had deadbeat moms who were late, totally lost it when he saw me enter the room. He was okay when he and Noah were both mom-less. But now that I was there, the tears came on like waterworks. Well, seconds after this, his mom came in and all the other moms started the same comments. “He was so sad.” “He has been crying like crazy.” Seriously people. Leave her alone!
Well, all the mommy guilt aside, Muffins with Mom was really sweet. Noah got to introduce me and was so proud of his Mother’s Day card that he made me. We ate muffins, drank pink lemonade, and had a nice time. I even took him to the park afterwards so that I could make up for being 5 minutes late.
The other day, as a treat, I took Noah to Dairy Queen for some ice cream. He always chooses vanilla ice cream in a cone. I always get a hot fudge sundae. We are predictable like that.
The Dairy Queen is within walking distance so, to get out of the house and get a little exercise, we walked to get our frozen treats. Getting a 4 year old to walk any further than 12 steps when it isn’t his idea is quite a chore but, I persevered. And, even though he complained the entire time we walked there, he was happy licking his ice cream cone the entire walk back.
When we walked into the house, my sundae was already almost gone but his ice cream cone was still just barely licked and was dripping down his chubby little hands and wrists.
Naturally, all of this dripping ice cream was rather interesting to our dog, Poplar, who immediately began following Noah around waiting to clean up any drips (she’s a great cleaner that way).
Well, all of the following and licking made Noah a little flustered and, before I knew it, he was screaming to me from the living room that Poplar was eating his ice cream.
I walk out to find Noah standing with an empty cone, pile of vanilla ice cream splattered on the floor, and our black lab, Poplar, helping herself to the splatter. So, I do what any good mother would do.
I got a bowl and a spoon, scooped up the remaining ice cream, checked for any random hairs or dirt, and handed it right back to Noah. He immediately stopped crying and all was right with the world.
Fruit Snacks are the Devil
A few short months ago, if you had the opportunity to rummage through my purse, you would have always been able to find at least 4 packs of fruit snacks at any given time. Why? Because my kid was obsessed with them. He insisted on having at least 2 when you picked him up from school every day; they kept him occupied while I got my grocery shopping done; and they held him over if dinner was running behind. We eventually had to set a limit of no more than 2 packs per day.
Then, after a routine cleaning at the dentist, we got a referral to a pediatric specialist for a few too many cavities showing up on his dental x-ray.
My first reaction, I’m not gonna lie, was to ask if we could just pull all of those teeth. They’re going to fall out anyway, why not take care of that now and get a big cash-in from the Tooth Fairy early? After a very judgmental look from the pediatric dentist, I was told that the cavities would have to be filled and that one of the cavities was so bad that Noah would need a crown.
A CROWN!!!! ON A 4 YEAR OLD!! Seriously.
She then told me to cut back on the juice and soda. I informed her (trying to recover some sense of dignity) that the child doesn’t drink juice and he has never even had a soda. I then mumbled under my breath while simultaneously coughing, “But he does eat a lot of fruit snacks.”
She exclaimed, “Oh no! That’s one of the worst things you can give a child!”
Cue the mommy-guilt. You might as well call child protective services now. I’m an unfit mother.
This onslaught of mommy-shaming turned me into a drill sergeant about dental hygiene and sugar. Needless to say, he is no longer allowed to have fruit snacks. And he is no longer allowed to brush his own teeth. In fact, his tooth brushing regimen might include me putting him in a headlock. Whatever, it works.
Well, yesterday was the day for him to get his cavities filled and get the crown. He was pumped about going because it meant he got to miss a full day of school and the pediatric dentist has awesome toys and prizes.
I, however, having read the numerous pages of paperwork and anesthesia warnings, was a nervous wreck. I’m not going to confirm this but I may have done a good bit of vomiting the night before.
Once we get there, bright and early, Noah plays with the toys and I get to, once again, go over all of the warnings and health history questions (not to mention handing over a small fortune). I’m doing pretty a pretty good job at concealing the anxiety. My husband calls it “Get shit done” mode.
They give him a very small cup of Versed (medication used in children before a procedure or anesthesia to cause drowsiness, decrease anxiety, and cause forgetfulness of the procedure) and we go to a small room to read a book and wait for the medicine to kick in. In less than 10 minutes, Noah gets this sheepish grin on his face, leans forward, and topples, head-first out of the recliner. I manage to catch him before he hits the ground, thank goodness.
He proceeds to yell at me like a drunk person about a My Little Pony sticker. He says over and over again (and imagine this in a drunk college-kid slur), “Where’s my Pinkie Pie sticker? Mommy, mommy, mommy, where did you put my Pinkie Pie sticker?” He then sat there, all smiley, just saying “mommy” and giggling.
I began to wonder if they gave him medication or straight whiskey.
Well, I was sent back to the waiting room where I could just stew in my own anxiety. Turns out, I was nervous for nothing because he was an excellent patient. Everything went great and now he has a shiny, silver tooth to show off to all of his friends.
I also got an early glimpse of what he will look like as a drunk college student. Overall, I’ll consider it a win.