Baby Kolby and the Bad Word

In our home, we have two distinctions for withholding the truth.  One version is called a secret or a lie. Secrets are bad and we heavily discourage this type of sneakiness (except for mommy’s little beauty secrets, and those are between her and God).  We have serious consequences in our family for telling lies of any kind.

The other type of truth withholding is a surprise.  Surprises are good. In this case, the intention of the truth withholder is to simply bless the recipient, with zero malice on the agenda.

Now our daddy is the king of surprises. Tim loves to play tricks and create outlandish diversions to illicit a joyful response.  But, sometimes he takes it a little too far (though he usually has the best of intentions) and by the time we are actually surprised, we might also be slightly pissed off.

Labor Day was a day for surprises.  Both Tim and I wanted to create a memorable family day with the kids to celebrate the end of summer, thus the element of surprise was essential. We lounged around the house in the morning and finally got the whole family ready and into the Expedition by 10:00am. The kids knew food was on the agenda because we didn’t feed them breakfast, but this was the extent of their knowledge regarding the day.

About twenty minutes into the drive, I realized my husband was not taking the freeway to our Newport Beach destination, but was instead taking the scenic route along Pacific Coast Highway, a gorgeous drive, but double the amount of travel. I looked in the backseat and the kids seemed happy (for now) but I wasn’t too sure what would happen over the next hour without food. 

Kyle started in on the complaining first. “Where are we going? How long is it going to take?  I’m starving!” he whined.

Then Faith joined in, “My tummy hurts! How much longer?” she asked.

Tim just kept on driving and driving and ignored their comments.  An hour and twenty minutes in to the drive and my own tummy was growling, but I knew we were close to the ferry and our destination on the Balboa Peninsula. 

But Kyle was getting frustrated.  “Where are we going?”He demanded frostily, devoid of any fun or frolic in his voice.

Tim (now cranky himself) shot back, “We are going to Long Beach and it will be another hour! Just stop your whining or I can let you out and you can walk from here.”

Both Kyle and Faith went quiet, but our sweet little baby Kolby piped in from the backseat, “F… You!”

Tim and I looked at each other in amazement. Then again we heard her little voice ring out even louder.

“F… You!”

At first we weren’t sure if we were hearing her correctly, but she continued her diatribe louder and with more intensity.

Tim and I, than Faith and Kyle burst into laughter. We laughed until our insides hurt and then we laughed some more.

Now generally we discourage foul language in our home.  In fact, I’ve only heard my husband swear once or twice in our whole marriage.  If a bad word flies out, it’s probably mommy that let it slip, but the F word isn’t really one I use. (If the baby had said the S word, everyone in the car would have called me out)

We think she might have been trying to say “off shoe” but we aren’t really sure.

Maybe baby Kolby simply had enough of daddy’s tricks and wanted to eat brunch?  Either way, the truth is, she articulated what we were all thinking, maybe not in that vulgar of terms, but we were all pretty much done with daddy’s surprise of the day.  We just wanted to eat.

So maybe surprises can go a little too far sometimes. And maybe we should keep an eye on our verbal (i.e. sailor mouthed) baby.  She seems to be taking after her mother.


Writing on the Wall

Kyle getting his game on!

I sat transfixed; eyes focused on the head coach, listening to him describe the prestigious football program of his private high school and all that it offered to my son. The moment seemed surreal.

I glanced around at the plush meeting room of the athletic department and tried not to pinch myself.  It was a gorgeous facility, well-appointed and filled with the trophies and titles of students past- a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of dedicated coaches and athletes.

In the middle of the room, directly in front of the coach, perched my boy and his best friend; looking impossibly mature for their thirteen years. The boys leaned in, hungry to hear every word of the coach’s vision, so eager for the opportunity to pursue football glory. A passel of parents surrounded them, including my husband, ex-husband and Kyle’s step-mom. 

The baby and I sat on the floor near the edge of the room. After an extensive tour of the academic facilities, we were now into our third hour, and the baby’s patience was wearing thin.  Naptime had long come and gone and baby Kolby was near the end of her tiny toddler rope. I tried to distract her with a pen and a brochure I picked up along the way, but she whimpered and wiggled by my side scribbling on the paper while I tried to focus on the coach’s words.

I thought it would be so easy picking the right school for my son to attend. Let’s see…what district are we in?  I guess he’ll go there.  But I didn’t anticipate birthing a crushing tackler.  It seems to have changed the whole ballgame.

Coaches from random schools come up to me and ask to shake my son’s hand.  Seriously?

It reminds me of a delicate dance of courtship. Schools, much like a suitor, present their facility in pomp and circumstance, displaying their grand academia and illustrious sports programs. My son and his buddy, the belles of the ball (or stud athletes in this case) are fiercely protected by their mammas and daddies, who want to make sure their beloved boy has the best chance of success on and off the field.

And while there are no football scholarships for high school, there are opportunities with great programs that will give our son a better shot at garnering one in the future.

But all this wooing and playing hard to get, this unspoken ritual of team building, had me all worn out.

Then all of a sudden I felt the head coach’s eyes on me. I turned to look at the baby and a hush went around the room.  Kolby had moved from drawing on the paper to applying masterful pen-strokes to the athletic office walls with her ball point pen and in the blink of an eye destroyed a section of crisply painted walls. They were big black marks swirled in a pattern of childish delight.

I pulled the pen away from her hand and turned with remorse towards the coaching staff.  “I’m so sorry; I’ll pay for the damage.” I groaned.

The head coach raised his eyebrows.

I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide from embarrassment. “So much for remaining aloof and noncommittal,” I whispered to the baby.

Tears of humiliation stung my eyes and threatened to leak out.

(I just know they think I’m a terrible mom)

The room remained quiet and everyone held their breath.

I looked up at the head coach, and he smiled back and shook his head, silently communicating not to worry about baby’s graffiti.  His eyes twinkled with empathy, even levity, and I relaxed and finally smiled again.

 And I knew, in that exact moment, this is where I want my son to go to high school.

This man’s grace towards a bumbling mother spoke volumes about the integrity of his program and the condition of his heart.  I knew he would take care of my son, not only in football but in life as well.

And now that we’ve already left our mark on their wall, maybe it’s a sign.

(Of course, a large inheritance would also be a good sign to help foot the bill)

Donations welcome.

Baby Kolby--Born to be Wild

Diaper Disaster

Kolby feeding her dolly.

It’s not like she didn’t warn me.

I heard a tiny mew, barely above a whisper from the baby, “mama, poop.”

I didn’t smell anything, so I figured it was a false alarm.

Faith showing Kolby how to eat the orange jello like a little lady!

Or maybe I was in denial.  We were having so much fun scarfing down sticky cinnamon buns, delicate tea sandwiches, and rice crispy treats dipped in white chocolate at the American Girl Doll Salon to give it much thought.

Here's the poop face.

That is, until I picked up the baby to take her to the bathroom.

That’s when I realized she wasn’t kidding.  Her little poop was not so little. Think of a Carrie type explosion, but browner than blood and much lumpier.

Why is it only at the finest (AKA ritzy and overpriced) dining establishments that my baby has a butt explosion worthy of natural disaster?

I tried ever so subtly to carry her through the dining room, with her bum in the air, dripping poo, and somehow remain elegant and unfazed.  The waiters passed me with disdain and all the fancy women and little girls in lovely frocks turned up their noses as I walked by.

Once I got to the bathroom, I laid my little angel down on the changing pad and assessed the damage.  As I pulled off her diaper cover, poop splattered the wall.

All the little girls were pointing and screaming, “stinky!”

AAHHHH YES, the joy of motherhood!

Then the big decision, do I even attempt to salvage her cute little purple panties?

I quickly stuffed them in the trash. Then I used a whole bag of wipes to give a sponge bath. I fished out some extra clothes from her diaper bag and got her dressed.

Then washed my hands and arms and feet. That’s right I said feet.

It was a humbling moment to say the least.

I expected more of the demeaning looks on the way back to the table, but since we had been gone so long, the entire restaurant had cleared from the late-afternoon seating.

There sat my husband at the table all alone.  He glanced up and gave me a weak smile trying to feign empathy that simply doesn’t exist.    He had that “I’m so glad it wasn’t me who had to deal with this crap” look.

And we laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore.

Because sometimes, (quite frankly)  shit happens to the best of us.

A sweet feast before the poop fiasco!

Happy Mama

From somewhere deep within dreamland I hear the distinctive cry of my eighteen month old baby,” Maaaaaa Maaaaaa.”

I rouse and stumble to her room, pluck her out of the crib, and gently lay her down on the changing table for a fresh diaper. Slowly we make our way down the stairs to the fridge.

Kolby desperately cries and moans, “milka, milka, mama,” over and over.  I grab her sippy cup and pour the kiddie liquid gold.  She claps and squeals in delight. Then I put her on the counter and we grind the beans, and make fresh Starbucks coffee.

The house is quiet.  It’s a stillness so fragile, soon to be broken by the clambering steps of the older kids and daddy down the stairs.

With my treasured cup of coffee in hand, I hold Kolby close as we move to the sofa for morning snuggles.

I take my first sip…”Ahhhh” while Kolby slurps her sippy cup in delight.

I look at her and crack up at the absurdity of our morning addictions.  I need my coffee and Kolby craves her milka milka with a fierceness that border lines cranky. We are two peas in a pod, grasping our cups like they are a life force.

But today Kolby has a treat for me.

She places her chubby little hands on my face and cradles it. She looks deeply into my eyes and says, “Happy… Kolby happy mama.”

Did my tiny little girl just tell me how she felt? (I know right?  The kid is brilliant and reflective no less)

It took me about thirty years to be able to articulate my feelings and express them.  Quite frankly, I am still an emotional stuffer. And now here’s my verbal toddler teaching her mama to stop and smell the roses.

And then it hits me, our morning ritual is far more than milk and coffee, it’s a snapshot of our relationship.

A stolen moment of bliss between a mother and her child.

And we are content exactly where we are. 



Un balle-à-leunettes - a jack-o-lantern

Image via Wikipedia

My family moved into a suburban neighborhood like no other this last year.

It is akin to Wisteria lane on steroids.

Currently there are 49 children on our block.  Our home, a taupe colored shingled Craftsman, sits on the corner with a large wrap around porch and is dead center in the hub of activity.

Summer nights are filled with shrieks and laughter, street barbecues and ditch’em, hide and seek and babies in diapers crawling around on the grass as mommies linger outside to milk in the last rays of light.

Every fantasy I envisioned of a loving community of people doing life together has been more than fulfilled when I look out my window in the morning and see neighbors smiling and waving.

Coming from a cramped condo with three kids, there aren’t enough words to describe this bliss.  Now as Fall approaches, we are being indoctrinated into a new series of neighborhood rituals.

The Halloween decorations are beginning to pop up…pumpkins and spiders, webs and ghouls.  The trees are glowing with orange jack-o-lantern lights and scarecrows smiling at sinister zombies.

Our street is reminiscent of a Normal Rockwell painting juxtaposed with cheap Costco decorations.  It is Americana at it’s finest…awesome and over commercialized.

A few nights ago, I was at home cuddled up on the sofa writing. My older kids and husband were at sports practice,while the baby played at my feet and dismantled the neatly kept playroom, one toy at a time.  Out of the blue, the doorbell rang and I heard leaves crunching, feet running away and heavy breathing.

I nervously peered out the peephole, and saw nothing but ominous darkness. Wisteria lane had become Hysteria Lane in my mind as I conjured up home invasions and kidnappers.  I bolted the door and walked to the window.  Then it rang again, but this time I spied little feet running away and ascertained that it was a small child and probably not a big threat.  I slowly opened the door and looked around.  In front of the doorstep was a big bag filled with goodies.

On the outside of the bag…was the word BOO!

Inside the BOO bag were Halloween crafts, pumpkin decorating tools, outdoor decorations, candy, shoelaces and a letter.  It explained that we needed to display an orange pumpkin cutout that said BOO on our home and within two days repeat this activity to two  neighbors.  If the plan worked, by Halloween our whole neighborhood would be a BOO friendly zone, and every child would share in the excitement.

My kids were so excited when they came home and quickly dug into their booty.  Then we plotted and planned who would be the recipient of our booing.

Choosing which neighbors to BOO was the hard part, but we unanimously decided upon the new family across the street, with two little ones and our neighbor behind us, who is a widowed father. First we assembled the bags.  Dog bones, pretzels, ghost marshmallows, assorted candy and freshly baked cookies for the neighbor behind us.  For the young family we found Halloween cut-outs, plastic spiders, candy, cookies and toy boats handmade for their toddler boy.  We giggled and delighted in our efforts, then headed out the door on a mission to spook our neighbors and bless them.

First, we hit the neighbors with the little kids.  They live in a beautiful yellow clapboard home with a white picket fence and large front yard.  A little red baby swing hangs from the eaves of their porch and toys are scattered askew.

My son slowly opened their front gate, tip-toed up to the door, rang the doorbell and bolted.  The baby and I watched from our front window, while my daughter hid behind a car in their driveway with my son.  The young dad peered out his front door,  but didn’t see anyone. They have a beveled glass top door, so we were fortunate to be able to watch his reactions.

He looked around suspiciously, then slowly opened the door and spied the BOO bag.  He looked around again as my kids, hiding in his driveway stifled guffaws, then picked up the bag and upon realizing it was a surprise, called out for his little boy and they happily tore into the bag.  Mission accomplished!  We tricked them and then treated them…mmmm, I wonder if that’s how it all started?

House number two was a different type of BOO.  Not long before we moved in, our neighbor behind us had lost his wife to cancer.  He was still living in her dream home, a romantic Spanish style abode with a lush yard and arched entryway.  His daughter, a beautiful girl in her mid-twenties, had moved home to help with her mother’s care in the last days.  She is still living with him, and slowly recapturing her spirit after the devastation.  The younger son is in college but also lives at home.  He doesn’t smile much and keeps his distance.  They are fragile, at best, and we desperately wanted to make things better.  So we BOO’d them.  A simple but intentional move to show them we cared.

Our plan was to plant our nine month old baby on the doorstep, armed with a glow stick and the BOO bag.  I hid closely behind the arch as we rang the bell.  But in our sneaky plans, we forgot about their dog.  Bullet, a large Siberian Husky bounded up to the door barking furiously.  In a flash, I grabbed the baby who started crying.  Tim opened the door and there I stood…with a crying baby, a BOO bag, and two older kids yelling at me, “abort, abort.”.

I was a BOO failure!

Then Tim called the dog off and asked me what I was doing.  Before I could say anything, he saw the bag.  “Are you BOOing me?” he asked.

“Yes, but I didn’t do a very good job,” I said.

He didn’t say anything more, took the bag from my hands and slowly shut the door. Just before it closed he looked up at me and smiled.

So , maybe our covert operation was more awkward than finely tuned, but our hearts were full and our souls nourished as we headed home. The BOOing had allowed us, for a moment in time, to be a part of something bigger and to step out of the ordinary and mundane in our lives.  We learned that being a  neighbor isn’t just about living in a neighborhood…it’s about engaging in the stories of humanity. Mr. Rogers put it this way, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

And as I drifted off to sleep that night, a familiar song of childhood came to mind… “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Hi Da Da!

My baby decided to start talking.  After almost nine months of love, care and devotion, my little princess took her “first step” in verbal communication and moved beyond baby babble to string two words together.

I should be happy about this momentous developmental milestone but I find myself struggling.  This is the sweet little baby girl who nursed at my bosom, took 22 hours to deliver, and who watches the 4:30am early show with me each day over a bottle and coffee(while daddy sleeps).

After endless rounds of poopy diapers and my shoes covered in spit up, mama thought she might get some love. But to my dismay, the little angel that I dress in Carters with matching bows, play endless rounds of peek-a-boo with, and carry around in a sling like a kangaroo… shouted across a football field for all to hear, “Hi Da Da!”

My baby is a traitor.

When I try to get her to say “Hi Mama,” she smiles a big gummy grin, her one baby tooth poking through, and enunciates very carefully…”Hi Da Da.”

My husband loves every minute of Baby Benedict Arnold.

He proudly announced to our friends tonight that the baby prefers him, and then he chortled and winked at me.  We both know who does the heavy lifting for our little bundle of joy and his delight in the baby’s recognition of him is both genuine and tongue in cheek. He is careful to remind me of our deep connection and though his words are reassuring, baby’s first sentence has touched on something deeper than a daddy vs. mommy competition…my baby is growing up.

Despite his incessant goading, I can understand why my husband is so jazzed. The bond between a mother and baby is formidable and all too often daddy’s feel left out.  The baby cries when mommy leaves and daddy begins to both anticipate and dread time alone with her.  And though some dad’s are the primary caregiver and nurturer, most dad’s are just biding their time with baby until they are strong enough to be launched in the air and can play catch with.  As baby made a move towards him, he felt validated as a father and respected for his contribution.

So baby’s shout out to dad was as much a developmental milestone for her as it was for mom and dad.  For mom it represents the first in a long line of moments of baby separating and becoming independent. Baby chooses what she wants to say and asserts her burgeoning sense of self.  For dad, her words represent the promise of a deeper relationship as she moves out of infancy and becomes a little person capable of interaction.

And though I am still waiting for “Hi mama,” I can look into her innocent little eyes and delight at her achievement, while subtlety ignoring my husband’s heckling.

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