Mommy Confessions: Halloween Edition

Last Halloween Oliver was 3-months-old. We dug a Santa hat out of our Christmas decorations, took a picture, and called it a day.

This Halloween, at 15-months old, we are going all out. So far we have checked off trick-or-treating at the zoo, at the retirement home, and at the mall. With Halloween night right around the corner we aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. On top of wanting Oliver to get the full Halloween experience, I may have some other motives for our holiday gusto. For starters, since Oliver is on the verge of becoming an opinionated toddler, I view this as my one and only chance to have total say over what costume he wears. Next year he will surely revolt if I try sticking him in something this stinkin’ cute:

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And then there’s the matter of candy. I may be too old to trick-or-treat myself, but I’ll never be too old to appreciate free candy*. It just tastes better when you get it from complete strangers versus buying it yourself at the store. No?

As the mom of a too young to eat more than a couple pieces of candy trick-or-treater, I have a few confessions to make. I sincerely hope my son’s cuteness will make up for these if you happen see me at your door come Halloween night.

1) When I reach into your candy bowl to help Oliver make his selection, it’s only because I want that Reese’s that is hiding under the tootsie rolls and I do not trust Oliver to get it.

2) When my son innocently tries to grab multiple pieces of candy, there is nothing innocent about it. We have been working on his grabbing technique for months.

3) Likewise, if he rings your door bell again immediately after receiving his treat, he is simply utilizing yet another candy-accruing ploy I’ve taught him.

4) When I pick up and carry Oliver in between houses, it’s not because he’s tired. This kid just walks so darn slow and I want more candy!

5) After trick-or-treating Oliver will promptly go to bed so that his poor short-term memory will remove all recollection of said candy.

6) After setting aside all the suckers, I will then spend the next hour doing this:

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Happy Halloween all!

*Cost of “free” candy: $20 costume + $6 zoo admission + $1 candy bucket

 

Vacation From Mommmyland

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Best part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

Worst part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

My mom and I recently had the opportunity to visit my sister in Florida for a long weekend. We left on a Friday afternoon and were back home in time for lunch on Monday. Total time away from the baby: a glorious 72 hours. Or was it a heartbreaking 72 hours? How am I supposed to feel about this again?

Thankfully Oliver was left in the very capable hands of my husband and dad. Surely the two of them together could equal one of me in sheer parenting awesomeness. No? Brad, who often only sees Oliver for a couple hours a day during the week was looking forward to his father/son bonding time. I, who sees Oliver for almost every hour of every day during the week, was looking forward to spending some babyless time with my sister and mom. The fact that my sister lives in Miami is an added bonus.

Before having a baby I viewed traveling as a means to an end, an annoying but necessary step to get me where I wanted to go. After baby, I’m beginning to see it in a different light. What’s that? You want me to spend half the day sitting on my butt, relaxing, reading magazines and snacking on peanuts…without any interruptions? Woo hoo! You might as well be sending me to a spa with how rejuvenating that sounds.

It took a whole five hours before “I’m away from the baby bliss” gave way to “I’m away from the baby sadness.” When the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, a picture text of Oliver popped up on the screen. He was standing in the kitchen, sippy cup in hand, surrounded by every single pot and pan we own. Normally this “game” has me sighing in resignation once I remember it is much easier to clean up than lunch toss, another of his favorite games. But this time it brought a smile to my face. How cute, I thought. I wonder what other sorts of mischief he’s getting into.

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Over the next day, by request, the picture texts kept coming. I’d be lounging poolside with my mom and receive an image of Oliver riding on the back of Brad’s bike. Or I’d be walking along the beach gossiping with my sister and see a picture of Oliver playing with an empty milk carton he’d fished out of the recycle bin. While eating brunch, it was a picture of Oliver sleeping in the car seat after a morning at the zoo.

Two days into the trip I called Brad for our daily check-in and he said something that simultaneously melted and broke my heart.

“Oliver said mama today.”

“He said what?” I asked, unsure if I heard him correctly.

“He said mama. In fact, he’s been saying it all day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days over the past 14 months he could have chosen to say “mama” he picked one of the few days I wasn’t there to hear it. I looked out over the ocean. I listened to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand and the wind whipping through the palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and an equally beautiful symphony of sounds. But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Oliver say “mama” for the first time instead.

Brad must have sensed my disappointment. “He’ll say it again when you get home. Don’t worry.” I knew he was right. I’d get to hear him soon enough. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

“Enjoy your mini vacation while you can,” he added. “Because in a weeks time you’re going to want to trade in his endless refrain of mamas for the sound of the ocean.” I knew his was right about that one too. Sometimes my husband is too smart for his own good.

That’s the bittersweet part about time away from your baby. Leaving behind all the unpleasant parts of parenthood also means leaving behind all of the joys. Trading in screaming and crying for adult conversation also means missing out on baby giggles and coos. Trading in sticky fingers and pureed carrots for dinner out on the town means no laughing at spaghetti covered smiles.

And if you’re like me, experiencing the first uninterrupted night of sleep in months means not experiencing the first time your baby says “mama.”

The day we got home I was worried Oliver wouldn’t say “mama,” but from the time I walked in the door until the time he went to bed at night he said it on repeat. And then he kept saying it the next day. And the next day. And the next. And you know what? Hearing it for the first time wasn’t any less amazing because it wasn’t him saying it for the first time. In fact, I think I found it more amazing because my time away gave me an invaluable perspective.

Instead of getting caught up in the up-close, day-to-day struggles of motherhood, from a distance all I saw was the inherent joy and beauty in it all. And when I got home, my experience of motherhood might have gotten a little messier, a little louder, and a whole lot crazier, but with my refreshed perspective, it was all still beautiful.

Yes, even moments like this…

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A Letter to My Son About Kindness

This post was inspired by the 29 Random Acts of Kindness Project I am doing for my 29th Birthday. Please check it out at 29RandomActs.wordpress.com.

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Oliver,

There are many life lessons I want to impart on you during your youth. There are the obvious ones like “eat your veggies” and “get plenty of rest.” There are the hard ones like “life isn’t always fair” and “sometimes your best won’t cut it.” And then there are the ones that I hope will define you as an adult, the ones that will become the foundation of your character. Lessons like the importance of hard work and persistence and the value of  honesty.

There is one lesson, however, that I believe to be the most important, and if you remember one thing your mother ever told you it would be this: be kind.

Be kind in your thoughts and in your actions.

Be kind to yourself and to others.

Be kind when it is easy and when it is hard.

You, my son, have the potential to do amazing things with your life, to follow your dreams wherever they may lead. Maybe you’ll become a doctor who saves lives on a daily basis. Maybe you’ll become a teacher who inspires a love of learning in his students. Perhaps a lawyer, an architect, a pilot, a writer, or a banker. Maybe you’ll even take after your mother and be a stay-at-home dad for awhile. There are so many roads laid out before you.

My hope for you is that whichever road you take, you always walk with kindness. You see, living a truly fulfilling life isn’t about choosing the right path to follow. It isn’t about professional success, fame, or fortune, although that’s what most would have you believe. True fulfillment comes from connecting with the world around you through acts of kindness. It comes from focusing outward instead of focusing on within.

I’ve brought you into a complicated world. A world in which people sometimes do bad things for unexplainable reasons. It’s very easy to be blinded by the negativity. To get caught in a self-fulfilling cycle of seeing the bad that we expect. That is why I ask that you start by being kind in your thoughts.

Look at the world and the people in it in the most favorable light. Assume the best intentions in everyone you meet. Keep an open mind and withhold your judgment. Look for the inherent worth in every life, even the lives of people who do bad things. I promise you it is there.

Some might call this naïve or foolish. Some might believe you are setting yourself up for imminent disappointment. I, however, believe in the power of thoughts. I believe you create the reality you believe to be true. If you spend your time looking for the bad in the world, you are likely to find it. But if your thoughts are dominated by kindness, if you actively search for the best in people, the good will find a way to shine through.

But kind thoughts alone are only the wishes and dreams that change is built on. You have to turn your thoughts into actions. This can take many forms. From a simple smile at a stranger to giving of your time, talents, and wealth to those in need. It’s not the size of the act that matters but the intention behind it. No act of kindness is ever too small. No act is ever wasted.

The great thing about kindness is that it can be given away freely no matter your position in life. It is the one thing a rich man and a poor man can be equally wealthy in. And it is a wealth far more valuable than any material possession. When you show kindness, you are adding value to the world. It may not be a value that can be measured in dollars and cents, but it is a value that touches at the very core of what it means to be human.

I can already see how smart you are son. Everyday you do things that amaze me, things that convince me you will be up to the challenge. In your quest to be kind to others though, there is one person I ask you to be equally kind to: yourself. It’s very easy to dissect our own faults, to put them under a microscope, to enlarge them to the point of believing they define us. They do not.

Son, no matter your perceived faults, you are a worthy person…a person worthy of love, worthy of friendship, worthy of all the good things life has to offer. Extend the same kindness to yourself that you would to another. Love yourself unconditionally. Forgive your mistakes. Give yourself a break from time to time. And when that seems impossible, look at your faults through my eyes. You will be amazed by what you see.

Right now, you’re probably thinking “Okay mom, I get it. Just be kind. How hard can it be?” That sounds like a rhetorical question but I’m going to answer it anyway. Sometimes being kind isn’t hard at all. In those moments, I ask that you put your whole heart into it. Be kind at every opportunity that presents itself. Build up a reserve of good will. You will need it because sometimes the reality is that choosing to act with kindness will be the hardest thing you do.

I’ve mentioned that people do bad things and that there is a lot of negativity floating around. Thankfully, you haven’t seen too much of that yet. But I can only shelter you for so long. One day you will have to face it head on, and when you do, it will be so tempting to turn your back, walk away, and try to forget.

It is in that moment, the moment when everything in you is screaming to run away, that being kind will matter the most. Stand your ground and fight, not with hurtful words or swinging blows but with kindness.

Combat the negativity with positivity. Combat the hate with love. Tackle greed with a generous spirit and sorrow with joy. When those around you cower in fear, be brave. When the future looks bleak, find hope. Show kindness to those you deem deserving, but show even more to those you don’t. You will never be disappointed by the results.

This is the lesson I believe to be most important. This is the lesson I hope you remember. It is the one I hope to teach through example. Because whatever road you take in life, whatever you achieve personally or professionally, nothing will make me more proud than to have raised a son who walks that road with kindness.

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YouTube Channel Launch

What’s even cuter than a picture of a baby? How about a video of a baby? And what’s even cuter than a video of a baby? If you guessed a video of a baby playing with a puppy you’d be right!

With A Baby In Tow is launching its own official YouTube channel. To beg, plead, bribe, persuade you all to check it out I had to pull out the big guns.  That’s right, baby on puppy cuteness.

Here is a sneak peak of what you’re in store for just to wet your appetite.

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This isn’t what I meant when I asked you to get me camera ready.

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Yup, definitely not what I meant.

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Okay, seriously stop that. It tickles.

Because there are some things words alone can’t do justice.

Check out the youtube channel HERE