Friday, April 21, 2017

Dear Collins: Today You Are Three!

I've never been so acutely aware of the passing of time until I became a mother. It's more true than ever as our youngest "baby" turns three today and we gather to celebrate him for the party-est un-party I've ever thrown. I wasn't really planning on throwing him a party- I swear it. But then I thought to myself, "a play date would be a great excuse to get everyone together and drink mimosas," and before long I found myself in the party supply store buying balloons because when I had asked Collins what he wanted for his birthday, he quickly replied, "a party with my friends, big balloons and cake." 

Well then. Needless to say what the newly minted three-year-old third child wants, he gets.

Today we'll gather at our new home and we'll happily let twenty-something kids under the age of 9 run wild around the yard. With a tower of donuts laden with "prinkles" and frosting, we'll sing Happy Birthday to Collins and reminisce over this past year. In the midst of it all I'm sure I'll have several moments of "how did we get here?" and "where did my baby go?" but the truth is, I've never found as much joy in the chaos of watching my boys grow as I've had since welcoming Collins three years ago. 

Without further adieu, here's your birthday letter, Collins Mason! 

Dear Collins, 

Today you are three! I can't hardly believe it. You'd been walking around telling everyone that you're "forty-five" so I guess today is just another day to you but to me, your dad and your brothers, this day is one we've been talking about for weeks. As the third baby, you don't get a whole lot of dedicated "me" but today? Today is all about you. 

There's something extra special about third babies and even though I spend hours each day between drop-off's and pick-up's and errand-running and "gym school," telling you how much I love and how absolutely hilarious you are, it's true. There's just something so uniquely wonderful and comforting about you. When you were born you allowed me to let go of all the Perfect Mothering guilt that often comes along with having babies and you let me just e n j o y and take in everything about your infancy. With your oldest brother, that guilt was all-consuming. "Was I feeding him enough?" "Was I holding him enough?" "Was I just.... enough?" was all I could think about for weeks and months on end. 

When your second brother came along that guilt presented itself a little differently. It manifested itself in trying to convince me that I could never love another baby the way I could my first. In the days before he was born I lost sleep over the worry of how I'd be able to mother two boys under two, of how I'd be able to split my time equally between not only that first year but in the many years to follow. 

And then you were born and I worried about nothing. Fear wasn't a word in my vocabulary but rather there was just love. This instinctual love that comforted me and whispered, "mom, you are enough." You were and continue to be such a gift, Collins.

I couldn't wait to get you home and introduce you to your brothers. Actually, that's a tiny lie. The five days we spent together in the hospital were some of the best of my life because it was the only time in your little life when it was just the two of us, together. I knew as soon as I brought you home to face the beautiful chaos that is our family, I'd have to share you. That I'd have to share my time, my attention and my love and I wasn't ready to do that yet. I wanted to spoil you for as long as I could when it was still just us. I will forever remember those days as they were some of the best ones.

You were the greatest gift to our family, Collins and three years later you continue to be such a complete and utter joy. You have brought our family so much MORE of everything and if I had to think of a single word for your life it would be just that: MORE. 

Our days are full of so much more laughter and love because of you. We spend way more money on groceries since you came along (holy cow, can you eat!) and as you grew, a little more space didn't hurt either. But more than that, you arrived just in time to remind your brothers that they are not, in fact, the center of the universe. It's a great reminder that everyone needs now and again and you do the most perfect job of knocking them down from their high horses day in and day out. 

As the saying goes, "a cord of three strands is not easily broken" and the bond you have formed with your brothers is nothing short of incredible to witness. It's what your Daddy and I wished the most for you- that no matter where life takes you, that you'll always find comfort, encouragement and support in your brothers. The foundation the three of you seem to be solidifying is strong and there is truly no greater gift to witness as a parent. 

That said, you above anyone else know how to push each of your brothers' buttons and you cannot stand when they call you a baby and exclude you from playing certain games. You are utterly convinced that you are a big boy and will tell anyone who asks what your name is that it's "Big Boy." Just like that. I cannot tell you how many times we laugh and giggle in the aisles of libraries, grocery stores and shopping malls when someone asks you that question and you proudly answer and don't dare anyone try and correct you. "It's BIG BOY," you say with a huge exasperated sigh. 

I never want to forget how, each night when I'm laying in your bed rubbing your back that just before you turn away from me to sleep you say, "Goodnight Mama," and quickly whisper "Mom, you have to say 'Goodnight Big Boy." 

And I do. And I wonder how I ever got so damn lucky. (And how I managed to raise three less than stellar sleepers). 

You are such a ham, Collins and you know it. I see so much of Mackie in you- your mannerisms, your inflection, especially in your strong will and stubbornness. It appears as if you're both committed to giving me a run for my money and it makes me laugh and want to rip my hair out all in the same breath but I trust that this attitude will take you far in years to come. 

You do love me something fierce though, as evidenced by the fact that as I write this, you're sitting at my feet with Frozen on your Kindle and about 25 band-aids unwrapped and stuck to various surfaces of both your pajamas and my mudroom. You're the epitome of a velcro-toddler when we're home together and I only say all of this so that I don't soon forget how you once refused to allow me anywhere in the house without you. Even if I  have to run upstairs real quick for "just a minute" you insist on following me every step of the way. And trust me, it's a lot of steps and you're not very quick.  ;)

If I try hard enough when I stare at you, I can still see glimpses of my last little baby in those cheeks. In the way you refuse to go anywhere without me, in the way you refuse to be left behind, in the way you cannot fall asleep without the smallest part of you touching my skin.

As you grow out of the "baby stage" and into this full-blown Toddlerhood, I can see you struggling with the desire to be older than you are. To keep up with the big kids, to do everything they do including but not limited to play with the small LEGOS and go off to school. I'll never forget how hard you cried on the big boys' first day of school when we dropped them off in car line and you realized you didn't get to go with them. It broke my heart but at the same time, I wasn't close to ready to share you with the world. 

It was a hesitance I'll soon have to get over though, as you're signed up and ready as ever to start Pre-K 3 in the Fall. You'll be at school with your brothers and I know they'll take such good care of you there. It won't be for long and I'll surely miss the heck outta you but every day you ask if today's the day you get to walk through those doors with them and I can't help but laugh at how hard and fast you want to grow up. 

It's so tough being the littlest brother but sometimes it's also the best. We let you get away with far more than we ever let your brothers get away with at this age and maybe it's due in part to laziness but mostly it's because deep down, we all know you're ready to be a Big Boy. 

Collins, I cannot believe you are 3! You have the best laugh. Your favorite color is green. Yesterday you told me your favorite food is "breakfast" and that you're favorite thing to do each day is play. You love your brothers more than anything in the world, hopefully me and your Dad are a close second. You insist on doing everything yourself and get so sassy if I try one iota to help you out. You are strong-willed and stubborn, bossy and beautiful (as  beautiful as a boy can be) and smarter than any other 3 year old I know.

Raising you is a gift that I'm probably not the least bit worthy of but it's so, so fun. We are so blessed by you, Collins and we cannot wait to see what this next year has in store for you! 

Happy Birthday, Big Boy! We love you more than carrots! 

Mama, Daddy, Carterito, Mackie and Sheepie

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

This Is (Hilariously, Unapologetic-ally, Unfiltered) Us.

We were ready for Sunday service today with minutes to spare. It was the first Sunday in months that I attended Mass with the rest of my family. I have this thing about going to church and hating when I can't actually hear the homily, taking nothing away from the service but a barrage of thoughts about how my kids can't sit still, why can't more Catholic churches have adequate children's and family rooms and what kinds of tranquilizers must those other parents pour into their kids' Cheerios to get them to behave so well? (They probably don't even feed them Cheerios, they probably get a hot homemade breakfast 5 out of 7 days of the week). But that's neither here nor there.  

In between peeling Collins off of the kneeler and trying to keep Mac from incessantly whacking the gentleman in front of us in the back of his head with palm fronds (because, hello, Palm Sunday) I also thought a lot about myself, this new season of raising big-ish kids and how my life looks so incredibly different than it did just 18 months ago. 

Life is busy but it's the good kind of busy. Our days are filled with breakfast dates, school pick-ups, play groups, going to the gym and spending as much time out in the fresh air and sunshine as we can. Our winter wasn't even particularly harsh this year but now that the weather is more warm lately than it is cold, the sunshine pulls us outside for most of remaining afternoons and evenings after school pick-ups. It's truly glorious and makes me wonder why we live anywhere where the temperature dips below sixty-degrees for months on end.   

Sundays are no longer days of rest for us. There's church to attend, copious amounts of laundry to finish folding and putting up (which is what I usually do when the boys are at Mass in between catching up on my latest Netflix binge) and as of late, lacrosse practice and t-ball games to get to. Selfishly I thought we'd have another year before we gave up our weekends in favor of sports schedules but it's way too much fun sitting on the sidelines, cheering on our boys and watching them come into their gangly arms, knobby knees and feet two sizes too big for their bodies.

I can't believe I have these big-ish kids. It's as if I blinked and suddenly their nearing 7, 5 and 3 and I mean it in every cliche sense of the word. Collins, especially. Three. In less than two weeks- I just. can't. believe. it. 

But it's so much fun. It's confusing and overwhelming and I have no idea why age 6.5 is synonymous with Minecraft, eye rolls and big huge emotional sighing but man, if we don't laugh and have so much fun, every single day. 

We totally drive each other absolutely insane, every single day too. We fight and I yell and my husband yells back and at least one of the boys slams a door or two.  I have moments each day when selling my children to the circus sounds like a novel idea and thank God I have an enormous brand new pantry to hide in. 

Speaking of, I've been a terrible sharer in regards to the new house. Dare I say the novelty has nearly worn off and the walls are filled with hand prints and smudges and sometimes it feels like we've lived here far longer than the short four-ish months we've been here but I guess that's a good thing. We all feel really at home here and it's coming along. After sharing a little bit about the boys' closets on Instastories over the weekend, I got a bunch (okay, like maybe just nine) messages asking me how I manage to stay so organized which made me laugh because I'm not really that organized. It's just that we really have a lot of space here in the new house and when you get to start from scratch, it really helps keep the inner-Hoarder tendencies in check. If you really want to see/hear a bit more about organization in the new place, maybe one day I'll get to writing about it. 

When I sat down to write this post, in my head it was going to go in a much different direction than it did. I was going to show off this really adorable t-shirt that I got from Shop Tailgate and share a whole bullet-ed list of things that define us as a family but as I started writing it, it was really more about  me and no one wants to read a whole list about how i'll never make you "like to know it," how I'll never hire a photographer to follow me and the boys around for some perfectly styled blog photos or how it's probably time we invest in medical grade adhesive stock because my husband spent last night in urgent care with Carter when he tried to catch something with his face that one of his friends threw at him.

I mean, who cares, am I right?

But the truth is, This Is Us. Like, really really us. Ten pounds heavier than I'd like to be with two day old hair, a manicure that I literally stripped off in the garage right before these photos were taken (begrudgingly by my husband, no less) because it was so chipped and looked that bad. An almost-three-year-old in the same saggy diaper he was changed into at 7:30am, a middle little covered in dirt and our oldest sporting a neon band-aid ON HIS FACE the week before Easter. 

I have to laugh though. Last year Mac had a black eye for Easter, my hair was fifty shades of brassy and no one under five feet tall would tuck their godforsaken collared shirt in. And this year, why would it be any different? Why? We will never be one of those epic-ly styled picture-frame-perfect families- at least not for the next three to six years- but this is us and I love every minute of this confusing, loud, overwhelming, wonderful, crazy, testosterone-filled life. 

But seriously- if you have a minute check out Shop Tailgate. It's an online boutique filled with some really, really adorable stuff like this pineapple tee, this adorable boho tassel clutch, and this fantastic "who runs this mother" tee. I wear my "This Is Us" tee way more than I'll admit to and it's one of my favorite comfy t-shirts for throwing on and running all over town in. 

Heck yeah I received this t-shirt for free but no additional compensation was given and Channa, the owner of Shop Tailgate, didn't even ask me to write an entire post about this shirt. It's just that cool that I wanted to share it with the Internets. 


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