Now the mother of a FIVE-year-old

I have practiced saying this for the past couple of weeks: "My FIVE year old..." Rinse, repeat, go numb, freak out a little, freak out some more, fight a tear, flash of five years of memories, rinse, repeat: "I have a FIVE year old son..."

Today's the day. At 4:34 pm on May 28, 2004, my son Ethan was born.

What the WHAT?! Yeah his name is Ethan, not Boo, as I've been calling him here since I started this blog when he was 4 months old. Shocking, I know. :) Let me introduce you now to Ethan. MY FIVE YEAR OLD.

And my name is Marlynn, and I am the mom to said FIVE YEAR OLD.

Annoyed by the all caps yet? Well that's the only way I can think it, speak it, write it. I don't know why five is freaking me out more than four or three or two... but it is.

Maybe it's because at this age, he's truly come into his own person. Over the past year, my husband and I have watched his confidence blossom, he's become more outspoken and outgoing, which has just caused his already ingrained curiosity and fascination with every detail about everything just explode. He is no longer baby, toddler, but Big Kid. The conversations we have just blow my mind! The things he knows, observes, takes in, understands and the questions he has are so insightful and thoughtful... each day I feel like I walk around with a stupid awed look on my face because that's how I feel. I can't believe that's my son, my little boy, asking me those things, saying those huge words, doing all this math (and loving the math - he doesn't get that from me) and reading all of those books so well! My son! My FIVE YEAR OLD son!

I am in awe of the human being he's become, and can't wait to continue to watch him grow. He's taught me so much about life, about relationships, about patience, about my own strengths and challenges. He's my oldest, my dear sweet, helpful and kind son, and now he's FIVE.

Happy birthday, Ethan. You will always be my baby Boo, but also your own fabulous individual self. I am so, SO very proud of you, big kid! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my FIVE YEAR OLD!!!!

Ethan wearing his 5-year-old t-shirt a week early. He designed the "5" by choosing all of his favorite dinosaurs & helping me with layout. The kid knows how to do some basic work (with my help) in Photoshop already.


Wishing Others Happiness

I'm excited to watch tonight's season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. I'm not a regular viewer but after everything that's happened to them in the media the past few weeks, I feel this odd protectiveness of them. Do I think Kate can be a little overbearing sometimes? Sure. Do I think Jon really cheated on her, and she on him? Maybe. But in the end, what I think doesn't matter. What you think doesn't matter. It pisses me off to no end that there are hundreds of people out there who revel in other people's unhappiness. Why do people care so much about other people's personal problems and have such strong opinions? I don't get it. I mean, I get the fascination part: I am a sucker for bad reality television because it's a nice escape from the craziness of my own real life. But really, do I ever want anyone I see on television to be unhappy? Do I wish horrible things to happen to them if I disagree with their beliefs, think they're a jackass, or I can't believe what they have done? No. I think that's horrible. What kind of person thinks that way, about anyone, regardless of whether they are on tv or not? I don't care what you do behind closed doors. I don't care about your personal life. I simply wish you happiness and joy and the strength to triumph through life's many difficult challenges. That's it. I don't understand how anyone can ever hope anything differently for others, much less strangers.

So I'm a few minutes away from the Jon & Kate Plus Eight season premiere. In the end, she's a mom, a woman, a human being; he's a dad, a man, a human being. Together they are parents with good days and bad days just like the rest of us, and no matter what, you cannot doubt that they love their children more than anything. For that, they deserve happiness, they deserve positive thoughts and strength to deal with challenges as we all do, they deserve our respect. Life is not easy, for anybody. We should be here for each other, as fellow human beings all trying to do the best we can, regardless. Bottom line.


Farm Fresh Fridays

My husband and I are both a little schizo when it comes to where we prefer to live. Part city dwellers/part beach addicts, the one place we swore we'd never live is exactly where we are living: the 'burbs. We've been here for 4 years now, and love it. It takes us 15-40 min to get to downtown depending on traffic, 1 and a half hours to get to the beach, 2 minutes to get to the countryside, and 2-15 minutes to get to our favorite vineyards. One of the benefits of living in Portland, Oregon is the abundance of fresh, mostly organic ingredients pretty much everywhere you go; one of the benefits of living where we do in particular is our proximity to dozens of different farms. Farmers markets are great, but they're too overwhelming for our son, and it's no fun for me to spend the entire time chasing my daughter in crowded areas (she will not stand for being contained in a stroller or carrier). And while we've bought produce from our neighboring farms before, we've never gone there with the specific goal of teaching our kids about where food comes from and talking with the farmers about what they do.

So on a whim the other night, I decided it would be fun to do Farm Fresh Fridays with the kids. Each Friday, we're going to be visiting a different farm near our house and learning more about where food comes from by chatting with the different owners/farm workers. Today was the first day of this little experiment, and I am so pleased with our little adventure. First stop: the Schlichting Century Farm, one of the few that are open already to the public for the summer.

It's still pretty early in the season, so the kids were able to see little sprouts of different vegetables cropping up in the farm, but most of our time was spent in the farm's general store. It's overflowing with beautiful flowers, vegetable starts, and hazelnuts, honey and jams made from the farm's (and other local farms') bounty. The women there were very helpful and informative. I love that my kids can learn about where food comes from in its actual place of origin (for the most part). The best part about this place for the kids: The Coop. It's like a big chicken coop except instead of real chickens it's filled with the coolest metal sculptures of roosters, pigs, horses, and other farm animals. My kids could have honestly stayed in The Coop all day.

In the end, we went home with basil and mint plants, strawberries, garlic and corn. The kids were hungry & excited to dig in, so lunch consisted of strawberries with mint and basil, corn with basil lime garlic butter and some Tillamook cheese we picked up. Nothing exciting, but the kids gobbled it up and the best part was when my son declared "Food tastes so much better when it's fresh, mom." Uh, yes it does son, yes it does. A concept he doesn't quite get so easily from the store or even the farmers market, but it clearly resonated from visiting the farm today and then creating a meal with what we picked up. Again, we've done this before, but never with the clear purpose of teaching my kids and it made a surprising difference.

We may not do Farm Fresh Friday every week (f0r instance, my son & I have already talked about doing a Firefighter Friday where we go visit a fire station), but we're going to try. There are berry farms, vegetable farms, nurseries, llama & alpaca farms, dairy farms, nut farms, and vineyards all around us. I'm excited for my kids to see the places we've been visiting the past few years in a different light, and to get to know our local farms even better.



My son is a lover of rules and rituals. I know most kids crave them, but my son not only thrives on them, he relies on them and if one thing is off, the whole day is off. Sometimes, I would fear he lived in the world of rules too much. Things that are new are almost always a frightening battle for him. I cannot fully explain just how LARGE of a battle even the slightest tiniest little change from routine could be. As someone who loves systems but also thrives on impulse and creativity, it's honestly been a challenge for me to try to explain how breaks from routine can be a good thing, how drawing outside of the lines can lead to masterpieces.

About a month ago, we were playing with a stacking puzzle he's had for a while now. Everytime, he has to recreate the puzzle exactly as it's seen in the picture on the box, because that's how all other puzzles are done, right? Well this one is created so you can stack the puzzle in many different ways - the possibilities are endless! So on this one day, I was shocked and pleased to hear my son utter the words "mom, I don't need to make the puzzle look like the picture. I can stack them any way I want!" Oh the joy! Those are the exact words I have been saying to him since he got the puzzle! I watched as he excitedly created not one but three different stacks, moving the animal pieces here and there, trying different combinations. He seemed so liberated, so free, so happy, so... confident.

And that's when it hit me: we have the most ability to tap into our creativity when we are confident, when we feel empowered to draw outside of that line. I've been fortunate to be one of 10 Faculty Moms working with Pepperidge Farm's Fishful Thinking program, and one of the five key ingredients the research shows most positive, optimistic kids possess is empowerment: believing that they CAN. That's exactly what I saw when he did that puzzle that day: he was empowered to do his own thing.

Over the past year, my son's confidence has slowly been building. Being a big brother has helped give him that: he's good at it, really great at it actually. Big Brother is the role my son has always been meant to play, and he thrives in that role. As his mom, watching his confidence grow has been so incredible! But that day, that moment when the light bulb went off and he realized that hey, he really can stack the puzzle any way he wanted... well, it was one of those magical moments that mamas remember forever.


My Mother's Day Letter

Dear Kids,

May 28, 2004, I gave birth to you, Boo, the original inspiration for this blog. Then 3 years later, I gave birth to your sister. I still remember every emotion of those days, and the very moment you each came into the world and made it better.

Yesterday your auntie K - one of your many special magical aunties whom you are blessed to have in your lives, who doesn't have kids of the non-furry variety - asked why anyone would willingly jump into motherhood with all of its challenges. We moms are quick to openly vent about the sleepless nights, the challenging days filled with non-stop cleaning up messes, disciplining, illnesses, the oh-so-hard early days with breastfeeding, sleep issues, feeding issues...how so very tired and in pain we are physically, mentally, emotionally. And all of that is a necessary part of being Mom, including the venting. But at the end of the day, underneath all of the stress, sleep-deprivation, constant motion and hard, hard work, there is this: an unconditional incomparable love like no other that changes our world in ways we can never fully explain.

Above all the challenges, the pain, there is you:

And you:

Many of my friends don't have kids and many have decided that being a mom is not right for their lives. For me, personally, it is all I have ever truly wanted, something I could never live without; it is, in short, everything to me to be your mom. Being your mother is the greatest gift I could ever ask for, and I try never to take this gift for granted. You two make me laugh as I've never laughed before, you challenge me to be a better person all the time, and you teach me so many different ways to love, so many different levels of love, you show me a love I never thought possible. You give me hope, inspiration, and unconditional kindness. I may have given you life technically, but you are the ones who give me life each and every day. For this, I will work my hardest to be the kind of person who deserves to be your mom; I live each day to give that name, that title, the respect it deserves. I live each day for you, my littlest but greatest loves.

And there is no pain too great, no challenge too difficult, no experience too heavy to ever cause regret for my decision to go down this path. Because I know, in the end, you will always be with me, and I with you. And that, to me, is what it means to be alive.

Thank you, kids. Thank you for making me a mom. Thank you for giving me life. I love you.

All the love in the world,
Mama M


Word to All the Muthas

In elementary school, my friends and I would play house. Erick or David or Troy was always the dad, and I was the mom. Always. I never remember playing one of the kids, I just remember always playing the mom. Just like it's becoming evident that my son was always born to be a big brother, I feel like being Mom is a role that -no matter what other roles would or would not come my way - was bound to be part of my life in one way or another. And I so greatly admire and respect all of the other mamas of the world out there. What you do is your business, but the fact that you do it, day in and day out? I give you mad props for that, mamas. Because I am trying to do the same thing. I learn from you, and I thank you for doing what you do because you help teach me how to be a better mom.

That's why this Mother's Day, my wish (along with seeing the new Star Trek movie at the IMAX theater!!) is that we all just effing get along. For 5 years now, I've been a mom. In those 5 years I've seen motherhood bring out the best in women and the worst, and the worst is often the ugliness I see when moms are talking about or with other moms. What is that about? Why do we feel the need to pick apart how others mother? Their choices, their skills, what they feed their children, how they discipline, what they do or do not buy their children...Every.Little.Decision we make is overanalyzed and up for discussion.

I understand that part of how we learn how to be the best mom we can be is to watch others and decide for ourselves whether or not we would do what the other mom did. That's fine. That's human. But quite frankly, I don't give a flying crap whether or not you feed your kids all organic meals or whether you eat at McDonald's, whether you only have wooden toys in your house or whether you've got a big plastic jumpy castle in your living room, whether you give time outs or not, whether you work or stay at home, whether you take your kids to church or not. Maybe it's because I've got 2 kids now and they're out of the baby stages, but I have no interest whatsoever in engaging in debates with other moms about what's "right" and what's "wrong" in terms of raising our kids. I do my research, you do yours, and let's just BE.

Because in the end, it's the relationship between you and your child that matters. I have no idea what it's like to be in your house, and you have no idea what it's like to be in mine. I love that as similar as we may be, all of our lives are so different, all of our children are unique, and all of us moms are individuals with our own way of mothering. I have the privilege of working with hundreds of mothers through the work that I do, and every one of them is a FABULOUS mother. I cherish the fact that they all do what's best for their families and that what is best is different for everyone. I am constantly amazed by how they deal with the challenges they face, how they all have these amazing highs, how much they absolutely, overwhelmingly are crazy in love with their families. I am in awe of all of you moms out there. Hats off to you, mama! You inspire me and I thank you all for loving your children and for supporting me in the ways that I love mine.

This is the weekend for appreciating ALL moms, and I just wanted you all to know that this mutha certainly appreciates all of you. I wish you all a lovely Mother's Day filled with no judgment - just love & respect! Peace, mamas. Peace.


Happy Mother's Day

My son found a "C" bead made this bracelet at school, which is the first letter of my daughter's name. He decided to make a bracelet for his baby sis. Isn't it beautiful? Now, he's made a couple of bracelets at school before, but this one he made specifically for his sister. He was so excited to give it to her! BEST. MOTHER'S DAY. GIFT. EVER!

I wish all of you mamas a very Happy Mother's Day filled with love, peace and relaxation. Thank you for supporting this mama over the years!