I Promise: You Won’t Ever Be Lonely

It happened again today, as it does every so often. I held the dog’s
leash in one hand and pulled my son’s wagon with the other, strolling
up and down the streets of our neighborhood in the beautiful
spring-like weather. We do this a lot together.

Will and Puppy

A lizard crossed my path, the dog chased it, and I immediately felt a flashback coming on: there I was, 20 years ago, on my grandmother’s lawn, trying desperately to catch lizards alongside my brother. We had just moved to Florida.

I looked at my son and smiled at the thought that some day soon, he would chase lizards, too. Then I frowned when I couldn’t shake a quick thought that crossed my mind: he’ll do it alone.

Throughout the almost three-year journey of motherhood, I’ve cultivated and lost friendships over parenting differences and judgments. I’ve battled breast feeding or bottle feeding, homemade or jarred baby food, stay at home or work at home or work outside the home with a daycare/nanny/preschool. But I think the time people feel the most entitled to comment on my life is when I tell them that my son may be my one and only. I wrote a post discussing my feelings on having an “only child” which reiterated that it is my and my husband’s decision alone, but today, the topic struck me more deeply.

Because after I frowned, I thought. I closed my eyes and thought deeply about the future. And when I opened my eyes, peace overwhelmed me because I came to a conclusion, something I know without a shadow of a doubt: my son will not chase and catch lizards alone. I will be with him.

Life may not always go your way
And every once in a while you might have a bad day
But I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

Maybe instead of having a younger brother in his memories, as he grows he’ll look back on school days when I picked him up and took him on a special frozen yogurt date to reward his good grades. He’ll envision me crawling on my knees and hiding in closets during hide and seek. He’ll picture his daddy pitching him a baseball, his mommy standing next to his bike as he tries to pedal alone, his partners in crime helping him kill the bad guys with toy swords or squirt guns.

The sky turns dark and everything goes wrong
Run to me and I’ll leave the light on
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

He’ll remember the books we read and the stories we made up just for fun. He’ll think about the birthday parties we planned together and the friends he invited to play. He’ll see the years he spent in the yard climbing on and chasing his favorite dog, and the times as a toddler when he wanted to be a big boy and hold the leash. He’ll remember his toes in the sand, the shells he captured, the squint of his eyes, and jumping in the water holding my hand and my husband’s hand–The Three Musketeers.

For as long as I live 
There will always be a place you belong
Here beside me
Heart and soul baby — you only 
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

He’ll think about how monotonous it must have been for me to sit at a table and decorate and address Valentine’s day crafts for his classes–and I’ll tell him, or maybe I won’t, that those quiet moments were the most precious to me. He’ll remember tea parties with mommy and his stuffed animals. He’ll think about his classes and games at Gymboree and his daddy juggling just to make him laugh.

It’s still gonna snow and it’s still gonna rain
The wind’s gonna blow on a cold winter day
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

I hope he’ll look at home videos of holidays with his large Puerto Rican family, or see pictures of moments with my small family–KK wearing a stethoscope to play doctor, Gramps pushing him in the swing and letting him kick his chest, Uncle Teej trying to distract him from the show he’s watching by dropping socks on his head just because.

You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms
And I’ll never let go
Here’s a shoulder you can cry on
And a love you can rely on

Whether I ever decide that I am ready and willing to have another child–and that day may never come–my son will never ever be alone or lacking in the deepest kind of love. So thank you, small lizard, for showing me my past. Thank you, Mom, for giving me the gift of an energetic brother to play alongside me. But thank you, William, my one and only, for showing me that true love abounds no matter how many family members there are, where they are, or what they do together. My heart is yours and I hope all of your flashbacks are filled with joy, peace, and play whether you are with me, Daddy, at school, with extended family, or anyone else who may or may never come along.

For as long as I live 
There will always be a place you belong
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely


Some Things are Priceless.

I’m not the most organized person, but I certainly attempt to take care of valuable possessions and I consider myself a routine-oriented individual. Every night for five years—minus a few days that I wore a different ring to match other accessories—I have taken my wedding band and engagement ring off only to sleep. I put them in the same place every night—in a ring box on top of my dresser.

Yesterday morning when I got out of the shower, put lotion on my hands, and reached for my wedding rings—which I do every morning—they weren’t there. And panic set in.

I racked my brains. I had them on yesterday, I said to myself. I remember twirling them around my finger at work. Oh God, they are really loose since I lost weight. Did they fall off? Did I take them off at the gym? Did I throw them out? Where are they?

I looked all over my bedroom, but because I was late for work, I had to stop. I thought about it all day.

I’ve never been a materialistic person. I’ve never been into fashion, purses or shoes. I don’t like to spend money—I’d rather save it. And pretty much everything I have, save some pictures and mementos from relatives who have passed on before me, I wouldn’t mind losing. Most of my possessions are exactly that: possessions. Even the wedding band I lost, which my husband placed on my finger in front of our family, friends and God on June 21, 2008, is not really sentimental to me because I picked it out.

But my engagement ring, people? I thought about it all day. It’s expensive. But that’s not really why I thought about it.

I closed my eyes and remembered St. Patrick’s Day 2007, when my then-boyfriend and I went to my favorite place, Magic Kingdom, together. Just us. It’s been a long time since we’ve been just us. I remembered the girl I was, with all my dreams in front of me, just within my grasp. I reminisced on all the days I spent picturing a fairy tale wedding and a life with my prince charming. I remembered sitting on the rides together, the cool air, the dinner we had with Disney characters around us, the holding hands and laughing. And then…

The proposal.

In front of hundreds of people. After the sun went down. Fireworks above us. My parents watching.

I would never get that back. The ring he picked out when he was just 21 years old. The ring he shopped for, with his dad beside him to give him advice. The ring he thought would look best on me. The ring he sized and carried in his pocket all day and then put on me before saying, “Will you be my wife?”

I would never get that back.

I tried not to cry. I tried to tell myself I would find it. I tried to tell myself that even if I didn’t, my husband wouldn’t be mad and it would be okay. In light of recent events in the lives of those I know and even those (like in DC) that I don’t know, I couldn’t justify allowing this to upset me. There is so much tragedy in the world. Losing a ring is not a tragedy.

But it still made me sad.

And it made me remember. Which made me sadder.

You see, if I’m being honest, our five years of marriage have not been the easiest years of my life. Our first two years, spent learning each other’s ways and getting acclimated to new careers and making our house into a home, I remember fondly. We adopted a dog, we went out to dinner and movies every weekend, we played games, we enjoyed each other. But then came pregnancy. Which was awful on me and awful on our relationship. Then came baby. Which took a lot of learning and sacrifice and time away from focusing on our relationship. In the last year, we’ve finally gone back to the beginning. The baby is (slightly) more self-sufficient—at least enough that my husband and I can converse over dinner and sleep through the night—and I’ve grown more accepting of the fact that he can survive if we leave him with a babysitter to spend time together.

We’re finally getting back to us.

And then I lose a precious token that reminds me of where we started, of what I meant to my husband, of the commitment we both made to each other.

And it really hurt.

So I did what anyone in my position would do. I tore my house apart. With my mom’s help, I removed sheets and turned over mattresses. I looked in drains. I examined bags and bags of garbage and gagged while doing it. I emptied each drawer of my dresser, moved couch cushions, used a flashlight, took my jewelry box apart and turned it upside down just in case something got stuck inside, I called my gym and then went there to comb every bathroom stall, changing room and exercise machine I walked by, I cleaned my car. My mom went through each and every toy bin that belongs to my son.

And I gave up.

And I cried.

I just couldn’t believe it. Unless my dog ate it or someone stole it, I had no other explanation. My rings were gone. Both of them. And I had to surmise that it was my fault. They wouldn’t fall off together without my noticing. So I had taken them off. I had given them up.

I posted a Facebook status praying to Saint Anthony. I messaged a friend of mine who has a strange gift for locating lost items. I told my mother-in-law, who prayed, “God, just put it in a familiar place for Shannon.”

Last night, before putting the baby in his bath, I walked back into my room. I stood at the dresser, trying so hard to remember the night before. I came home from the gym, played with the baby, took a shower, then gave the baby a bath. I remembered that when I killed a mosquito after the baby’s bath, I didn’t have my rings on because I looked at my fingers and they were all red from clapping the mosquito. When and where did I take them off?

I started taking everything off my dresser one more time. And as I looked down, there they were. Next to a necklace I lifted up multiple times that day. Next to the jewelry box I had already taken apart. Next to all of the items my mom specifically placed on my bed. On the dresser I dusted and wiped.

Sitting there, staring at me.

Like someone placed them there.

I went first with logic. My husband did it. He found them and then put them there for me. But he swears he didn’t. Then I thought my mom did it. And she said she would never put me through something like that.

Your guess is as good as mine. They were just there. And if I had a video camera in my room taping my crazy behavior over the last 24 hours, you could see that THEY. WERE. NOT. THERE. That I tore that dresser apart from the top down and the bottom up. That I took EVERYTHING off of it.

But there they were.

My students think there’s a ghost in my house. And if there is, I’m okay with that.

I have my rings back, and I had a day to really reflect not only on what the rings mean to me, but also what my marriage means to me. It’s priceless.

Development and Difficult Decisions

I sit here crying as I type these words, not because my son is ill or because we lost a family member or because of some tragedy we saw on the news. I sit here crying because I love my son so fiercely, and because I’m angry at myself for self-doubt and weakness.

I spent a good portion of my adolescence under the supervision of, for lack of better words, controlling adults who manipulated my mind and heart under the guise of religion. Though I have always had the care and support of loving, determined parents, I wasted many days listening to the poor advice and misguidance of “leaders” at the church I used to attend. Don’t mistake what I say. There were (and still are) very kindhearted, honest, godly people at the church I attended and I was privileged enough to have some great experiences there. However, many of my negative experiences… Well, I refuse to repeat them on a blog. They stay in my heart and now haunt me only my dreams. Unfortunately, despite years of teaching myself to forgive others (and myself), and despite years of retraining my brain, I still fall back into the same self-doubt.

Since I became a mother, my son became my teacher. I knew next to nothing. I didn’t finish any of the pregnancy/motherhood books. And even if I had, it wouldn’t have taught me what he’s been able to teach me in just over two years. He is the one who has made every transition go smoothly, he is the one who has made every rough night of teething sweeter by his hugs and kisses. He is the one who truly taught me what parenthood, what sacrifice, and what unconditional love means.

In our time together, my son has amazed and surprised me. He rolled over at 3 months, crawled before 8 months, walked at 10 months, and melted my heart by saying “Mommy, I da doo” long before I ever thought a child should be able to speak.

I faced some difficulty early on in the mommy world and more importantly, in the mommy blogging realm, where often times, judgment abounds. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding, daycare versus staying home, extended rear-facing versus forward-facing. You all know it. Mothers, unfortunately, became other mothers’ worst enemies.

For the most part, I stood up for myself and my choices. Anytime someone questioned a decision I made, I would listen, then look at my healthy, happy child and brush it off. Try to forget it. To date, my kid barely ever cries. He loves me and he loves his father and other family members. He loves his toys and his dogs and he is CONSTANTLY smiling and filling the room with laughter. He runs and climbs and plays and hides and loves, loves, LOVES the water.

But in the past two months, after play dates with other children and after hearing talk of what should be happening developmentally with his speech at this age, I’ve begun to waver. Question. Doubt.

Instead of pushing comments aside and remembering that my family is my family, my intuition is real and valid, I have let those little seeds of doubt planted in my brain grow to fruition like a cancer and consume my thoughts the way I did when I was an impressionable teenager being controlled with negativity.

And I hate it. Every minute of it.

I don’t hate people who express opinions. I don’t hate people who write articles. I don’t hate people who voice their concerns or offer unsolicited advice. I don’t hate people who judge. I don’t hate friends who have asked me questions out of genuine care for me and mine.

I can’t control anyone but myself. And right now, I’ve begun to hate myself.

I’m sitting at home at night googling like a madwoman trying to figure out exactly how many words my son should be saying. He’s so physically capable, but what if he’s mentally delayed? Should he point? He should really know 7 body parts? Well, he only knows belly button and nose… He should listen to commands? Well, yeah, he picks up his toys on command…

I’m reading comments from people who want to instill fear in others about Asperger’s and Autism. “Don’t do what I did and assume it’s just a boy thing…”

My gut instinct this whole time has been that he is an only child, often spoiled, he has his needs met before he has to ask for them, he likes being a baby, and he’s quiet. It’s his personality. He reminds me a lot of my brother and my husband. My husband is quiet and can be shy. He is not a social butterfly nor does he feel the need to say many words when he can use few. My brother was practically a mute until 3 years old because I talked for him. Why should I assume there is something with my son because he’s like his father and uncle? Why should I hear people talk of developmental disorders and ESE labels because he doesn’t string three-word sentences together on a regular basis by his second birthday?

My cousin’s son was told he had Asperger’s. Eventually, they determined he was actually ADHD. I know the frustrations that come with having a child diagnosed young and dealing with therapists and making sure that your child is well-adjusted and has the tools he needs to succeed. I don’t take any of that lightly. I am thankful that science and medicine have come such a long way that we do see warning signs earlier than families did when I was a child. Sometimes, though, I fear it’s out of control. At least right now, for me, it’s out of control. And the anxiety attacks that I’ve been having this week and the tears I’ve cried this week have been out of control. The disconnect I’ve let happen between my son and me because I’m constantly wondering, “Shouldn’t he be able to answer that question” is out of control.

Mind you, the tears and anxiety surround ONLY what to do and what not to do. Who to listen to and who not to listen to. I am NOT crying thinking something is wrong with my son. Even if there is, I would never cry about it. He is perfect in my eyes, and whatever he needs physically, mentally, emotionally, we will make sure he gets it so he can be as healthy and functional throughout his entire life.

Today I realized, I can control myself and I can control my relationship with my son.

I called a friend who works in early childhood education, who suggested that I teach Will to sign words like “yes” and “thank you” if he’s not saying them. I called another friend who is a speech pathologist and sent her videos of him, and she suggested to get him around kids more but mentioned that his phonemes sound appropriate.

And finally, because of what has been said and because of observations I’ve made around other 2-year-olds, I took my son to the pediatrician. My last attempt at some serious advice so I could put my fears to rest.

“He does not speak in full sentences. He does not speak a lot. He says about 50 words. He likes to count. Sometimes, he tells me he has to pee. Sometimes, he doesn’t. He doesn’t say yes. If he wants something, he just gets excited at the mention of it but he never really points to things. He says ‘eat’ when he’s hungry and ‘water’ or ‘milky’ when he’s thirsty. He says ‘come here’ and ‘come on’ and ‘I go walk’ when he wants to go outside. And he’ll walk over to get his shoes on. If we’re walking and I say to slow down, he slows down, and he’ll pick up his toys on command. But in comparison to the other kids we’re around…”

This is what I find myself saying.

“He will get on my mother-in-law’s table and pick up an orange and say ‘o-winge’ but if I ask him, ‘What is this?’ he looks at me and says ‘Noooo.’”

And you know what my son’s doctor said?

“That’s personality. That’s not speech delay. There is a wide spectrum of normal speech at this age. I wouldn’t worry.”

Personality. My instinct the whole time. Quiet and stubborn. My husband in miniature form.

The doctor gave us a referral to an organization that will evaluate my son’s development and speech for free, if we want it for peace of mind, and I’ve been wrestling with the idea and discussing it with my husband all day.

And here’s what I decided:

If I had not done the compare-my-son-to-his-friend thing, if I had not let small comments seep into my spirit, if I had not started looking up experiences of others on chat threads, I would think nothing is wrong with my son. He communicates with me. I communicate with him. He understands me. I understand him. We’re not frustrated. If he doesn’t know his ABCs this month, I’m okay with it. If he wants to respond to Mr. Grouper on Bubble Guppies, but not tell me his colors, I’m okay with it.

I talked to a good friend whose son is a lot like a mine, I watched my son walk off our back porch into the rain and say, “It raiiiiin! Happyyyy!” And I decided.

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My son is my life. And my son is happy. It’s my job to look out for him, to protect him, to teach him, to make decisions while he is too young to do so for himself. So, I’m making a small decision today. We’re not having a stranger come into our home with a clipboard to scrutinize our son. Not yet. Prayerfully, not ever. And I won’t even let my propensity to regret step in the way of my decision right now. If in a few months, we discover Will does have problems speaking or learning, I will not say “I wish I had…” because right now, this feels right. In the words of Atticus Finch, “It’s not time to worry yet.”

My husband and I are in full agreement that if in October, when he is 2 ½, we notice little to no improvement, we’ll call that number. As it is, he’s said three new words this week: “ready,” “el-funt,” and “door coze.” As it is, he learned to say “pig” and started to count backwards from 10 last week. As it is, he’s growing, changing, learning. As it is, he’s fine. We’re fine. And even if he has a problem in October or next year, or the year after, we’ll always still be fine.

My Anti-Bucket List for Age 27

I don’t like to be a copycat, but I absolutely adore the way that Brandee of Chill Mama Chill and Brandy of MannlyMama take clichés like the Bucket List and twist them around to suit their sarcastic, don’t-take-life-so-seriously personalities. So I’m jumping on the proverbial bandwagon.

I’m not usually bothered by my age since I am often told I look much younger than I am. However, 27 means late 20s. It means on my way to 30. It means when I reach 30, my sweet little baby prince will be a full-fledged little boy in preschool. And that ish cray.

So in an attempt to not take life too seriously and embrace that I am another year older; in an attempt to laugh at myself; in an attempt to let go of that fact that many items on my real Bucket List haven’t been checked off yet, and maybe never will be, here are the 27 items on my anti-bucket list for age 27… Things I will NEVER do (or never do again):

  1. I will never ever ever sky dive. I don’t even like flying in airplanes (cue panic attacks/anxiety/all kinds of stomach issues because of said panic attacks and anxiety). Why would I jump OUT of one?
  2. Shave my head. I’m not vain, but I just don’t have that Natalie Portman V for Vendetta head. At least I don’t think I do. I don’t want to find out. Plus, no hair means cold ears.
  3. Tell my son what path to pursue or what to do (or not do) with his life or go a day without saying “I love you.”
  4. Eat veal. Poor little baby cows locked away in the dark.
  5. Play or watch football. Can’t get into it. Sorry guys.
  6. Use a tanning bed. The last time? A complete and total nightmare resulting in a lot of aloe on a seriously red ass.
  7. Stop using public restrooms. I WANT TO NEVER USE THEM. But I can’t. Because no matter where I am, I ALWAYS have to pee.
  8. Care about fashion, shoes, or purses.
  9. Wash dishwasher safe dishes by hand. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  10. Run a marathon. I like working out. I run… sometimes. Indoors mostly. But no way am I running for hours or paying to run.
  11. Listen to techno music.
  12. Go braless.
  13. Discourage my students. They need all the encouragement they can get when they’re in high school to succeed <3
  14. Get a grill. The one in your mouth, not the one to cook burgers on. Although I have to say, gold teeth always make me think of Home Alone.
  15. Pierce my tongue. The bacteria. The metal clanking on my teeth. No just no.
  16. Fire a gun.
  17. Eat salami. The look? The smell? I gag.
  18. Eat a fortune cookie. They know we only care what’s inside.
  19. Forget my grandparents or how much I miss them.
  20. Own a cat. I’m a dog person for life, thank you very much and I’m not a big fan of the litterbox smell.
  21. Drive under the speed limit. Places to go, people to see.
  22. Buy/lease/rent/drive a mini-van.
  23. Wear jewelry on the right side of my body. I KNOW. It sounds strange, but rings go on my left hand, bracelets on my left wrist, anklets on my left leg… I don’t know why. THEY JUST DO.
  24. Take a math or science class. EVER AGAIN.
  25. Dance in public. Oh, how I wish I had the rhythm, But it literally gives me hives to picture myself at a club or somewhere people are dancing. Can’t do it.
  26. Join the military. I admire those who can and do, but it’s not the cards for me.
  27. Grow taller… I haven’t grown since I was 14. FOURTEEN. But short people are cute, right? I’ll just keep telling myself that.

So, here’s to 27, as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, writer, woman trying to do it all but okay that she can’t. Here’s to 27, as I celebrate with a massage and facial and a little bit of “me time.” Here’s to 27, in the best shape I’ve ever been. Here’s to 27, and whatever this next year in my life may bring.

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You all can drink to me. Because I don’t really drink either ;)

Literary Quotations: A Letter to My Son on His 2nd Birthday

Dearest William,

This year marks the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite novels, The Kite Runner. This year, I read the novel for a second time, and still experienced the sorrow, regret, forgiveness, redemption, and inspiration I felt in the deepest parts of my heart when I read the novel the first time. This year, I sat in the tattoo chair for the fourth time and let the artist draw a kite permanently on my right shoulder blade, to remind me that there is always a way to be good again. And this year, on April 23, I remember the day I first met you and I celebrate your second year of life.

This is not a coincidence.

William, in this story I hold so dear to my heart, an innocent, kind-hearted child suffers. He is treated poorly because of his race, his religion, his status. He is done wrong by those closest to him, yet he remains solid, kind, optimistic, and good. The character who does the wrong is only a child himself, and must learn that before he can let go of the past, he must seek redemption. The story reminds us that the choices we make, our journeys in life, shape us into who we are.

“…what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”

When you came to me, vulnerable, soft, and crying, that day changed the course of my lifetime. No longer could I just be Shannon, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the wife, the teacher. No longer could my life surround my own desires. Because of you. You changed the course of my lifetime in the best of ways. You showed me that for the remainder of my days on earth, I will have in front of me in human form, a way to be good again. A way to impart wisdom and knowledge and love. A way to leave a mark on a dying, unkind world. A reason and a hope.

“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.”

You are two years old. It is so hard to believe that you are two years old. You say so many words—book, read, walk, puppy, bubbles, mommy, dada, car, orange, purple, green, bird—and you count to 12 with the cutest little lisp at “thix.” But you don’t really talk yet. You communicate by yanking my arm, by climbing, by lying on the ground in protest, by laughing, and by looking me in the eyes. We don’t have to carry conversations. [Most of the time] I know how you feel.

“People say that eyes are windows to the soul.”

When I walk into your room in the morning, and you’re standing, preparing to climb out of your crib, you don’t have to speak. Your eyes say, “Good morning.” You take out your pacifier just to kiss me, you look at me like you’ve been waiting all night to see me. And we know each other. We just know.

Your big brown eyes might be my most favorite of your physical features. They take everything in, they express such joy and curiosity, and they are the only part of you that I pictured before I met you.

“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”

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When you smile, it makes my day worthwhile. Since your first birthday, we celebrated Christmas, which was less than perfect. You weren’t interested in your stocking or opening presents. But really, that just tells me you are content. Since your first birthday, we took our first trip to Disney World. That was less perfect than we expected, as well. But it shows me that you are comfortable at home, where you belong. And in those rare moments when you calmed down amidst the chaos, saw something that you liked and smiled, my heart lifted. Because that’s why I do everything I do. That’s why I work hard and come home early and take you places and hug the stuffing out of you. I love to see you smile.

At the same time, I know the world won’t always be kind to you. I know I can do my best to protect you, and you may have to face difficult times despite my efforts. I know that in the past, I have experienced hard times. I’ve been hurt by others. I’ve cried. I’ve watched terror on the news. I know that there will be days of sunshine in your life, and days of rain and snow.

Yet if I look outside at the Florida sunset, if I listen to birds chirping in the trees, and if I look into your big brown eyes and see your smile, the snowflakes melt. The sadness fades. Because there will always be good to outweigh the bad. Always. Please remember that.

Last year at this time, I was planning a baseball themed party for my baby. He didn’t have a lot of hair. He didn’t say much. He had just learned to walk, then to run. Now, one year later, I’ve just hosted a Bubble Guppies birthday party for a full-fledged toddler with the biggest, craziest head of dirty blonde hair I’ve ever seen, who climbs on the furniture, watches TV upside down, and asks “Are you keed-ing me?”

In so many ways, you are a little boy. You eat more than any teenager I’ve ever met. You know what you want. But in more ways, you are still my baby. You fall asleep in my arms, you cling to my side in overwhelming crowds, you stare out the car window, curious, like everything is new.

In the last two years, you have taught me so much about life. I’m learning every day. For your 2nd birthday, I make this promise to you: I promise to always love and cherish every personality trait, every face, every quirk you develop—all the little snowflakes that are you.

I promise to let you eat your crust first and open your sandwich up. I promise that I won’t freak out if, instead of putting blueberries in a bucket, you pick them and eat them straight off the tree. I promise to let you stop and look up at every streetlight when we take walks around the block. I promise to let you pull the strings on your pants… or my pants… or Daddy’s pants. I promise to let you turn your matchbox cars upside down and spin them, instead of driving them rightside up. I promise to let you walk barefoot. I promise to let you be you.

I’ve lived my whole life trying to be in control, but I don’t want to control you. You are the most unique person I’ve ever met, and I don’t want to take anything away from who you are. Except when you put trains in your mouth—don’t do that :)

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

I’ve dealt all my life with forgiveness. I’ve struggled to forgive others, and I’ve struggled to forgive myself for my failures. Each day as your mommy, I question my decisions, my words, my actions, my reactions. I worry if I’m good enough for you, because you’re so so good. But slowly, since I met you, the pain of the past, the worries about my insecurities, have subsided. Because each day, for the last two years, no matter what kind of day I’ve had, no matter how I’ve felt, no matter what about myself I’ve abhorred, you have loved me. And I love you right back—more than my life.

So today, I celebrate you. I celebrate that you are a Mommy’s boy to the core. I celebrate that you have taught me that life and forgiveness, that regret and redemption go hand in hand. I celebrate our little family of three. I celebrate this last year, and hope for many more. Happy 2nd birthday, my prince.

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“For you, a thousand times over.”

Mommy

Honestly, The Happiest Place on Earth?

Preface #1: Let me start off by saying that every time I take a vacation, I feel like Ashton Kutcher’s going to jump out and tell me I’m being punkd. Because this happens every damn time.

Preface #2: I love Disney World. Always have. Spent my life watching The Little Mermaid over and over. Sing the song. Got engaged at Magic Kingdom. So I’m not a hater.

Preface #3: This post may be long and sarcastic.

And now, the story: For months, I’ve been planning our spring break vacation. My husband and I haven’t taken a real vacation since our honeymoon, we very rarely spend money on ourselves, and I wanted to go big. We decided—despite the possible lines, despite the fact that Disney blocks out the cheaper park-hopper passes on certain dates, despite the possible exhaustion, despite the unpredictable weather—to take our son to Disney.

I researched. I planned. I selected a hotel. I wrote an itinerary. I printed maps.

On social media, we see people post pictures and statuses about their lives. Many mommy bloggers in particular receive scrutiny because they try to portray lives full of rainbows and roses. They feign that they succeed creating masterpieces from steps they learned on pinterest, that their children never have tantrums and smiles abound.

I have a tattoo of an open book on my wrist, and although many people assume the ink relates to my love of literature, in actuality, I care deeply about honesty. I’m an open book. Always have been. I don’t hide who I am, even the parts about myself that I don’t like. And that’s just me.

So why hide anything about our trip?

As soon as we turned onto the exit on Saturday afternoon, I knew we were heading for the wrong hotel. Thanks a lot, Marriott! Although we spoke to a woman on the phone from a village of hotels with multiple pools and splash areas for children to choose from and booked with that woman, we ended up with a reservation confirmation for a smaller, lonely Marriott with a pool no bigger than the kidney-shaped pool in my parents’ screen room and without a hot tub or splash areas for children. My husband and I failed to check the reservation before we drove there (our fault) and the place we really wanted to be was sold out.

The plus side? We have a one-room suite, which means a LOT more room for the baby to run around, a lot more room for dining in (which we did after our long day at Magic Kingdom), and a lot more room for Walking Dead watching on Sunday night after the baby went to sleep in the OTHER room.  And, the weather wasn’t exactly pool weather anyway. So there’s that.

We decided to go out to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse after we checked into the hotel. Where my son threw his sippy cup in the fish pond, stood up in his highchair, yelled, and spit rice all over the table and floor.

And no one at the table was remotely sympathetic. Apparently they’ve never had kids. Or theirs are always gems in public. I call BS.

The baby slept great, thank goodness. He slept from about 8:30 p.m. until about 8:00, when I was already showered and dressed and ready to take him to Magic Kingdom! New day, new attitude, new smiles, ready to go.

We ate breakfast, left the hotel at 9:00, and at 9:30, boarded the monorail to the mother effing happiest place on earth.

We stopped to take the obligatory picture—you know, you offer to take one for a couple who speaks no English, and they take yours—in front of the “Let the Memories Begin” grass sign. Then we entered.

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And all was bliss. Cloudy day. A little breezy. Baby in a good mood. Mommy and Daddy skipping happily behind the stroller. Daddy carrying a backpack full of everything we could possibly need to have a successful day.

Street parade. The baby danced. Dumbo. New and improved! Ariel. Adorable. Winnie the Pooh. Sweet. It’s a Small World. Same as it was 50 years ago. Not one line was longer than 20 minutes. My dad drove over to surprise and meet us. My baby smiled. Lunch reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern. Delicious food, good service, baby sat in his high chair and ate all his food.

Could it be?

Oh, no. Ashton Kutcher was just getting started.

Now that we’ve finished day one here and our first trip to a Disney park with William, I am sitting here, dumbfounded and exhausted. But am I exhausted from a baby’s temper tantrums? Nope. Am I exhausted from all the walking of the streets of Magic Kingdom? Bring on the exercise.

I am exhausted from Florida. Freaking Florida weather. And shitty, inconsiderate service.

After our lunch, my dad, his girlfriend, my husband, my son and I walked to Peter Pan’s Flight to use our fast passes. The little man enjoyed looking over his little flying ship. When we exited that ride, I knew that I would eventually want to punch my husband for not buying the ponchos I asked for when planning the trip.

Jimmy wanted to go get fast passes for another ride, and since we weren’t alone anymore, he suggested I film my son on the carousel with his grandpa while he went to run to Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrow Land. Sure, I said.

What a bad decision.

The sky went from cloudy to torrential in about 4 seconds. We stood in line for the carousel, the workers running frantically and shouting, “We’re closing the ride!” They didn’t help anyone get off the ride or get out of the way or get somewhere dry. Children screamed. Thunder clapped. Rain shot from EVERY direction, hard. I stood shielding my son with a sweatshirt while my dad tried to shield me. He was soaked. I was cold. The baby was totally upset and confused.

We ended up standing in a princess store—A PRINCESS STORE which had neither toys for my son nor a dry t-shirt for my dad—for an hour. Or maybe a little less. But it seemed like an hour. Since my husband took our stroller and bag, I had no money, no clean clothes, no diapers, and a wet baby.

Fun times.

Eventually, my dad dropped money on ponchos so we could leave. Thank God he was there. We made our way to find my husband. Somehow, in the midst of this, my son fell asleep on my shoulder. I’m so thankful he did.

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We ended up in a café which was packed with people. Approximately 30 women stood lined up waiting for the restroom, about 8 people stood waiting with children for the family restroom, and—SHOCKER—no one stood in front of the men’s room. I had to pee, and I had a baby to change. And guess what? A janitor—a janitor who takes his job way too seriously, I might add—blocked the door. Told me even if no one was in there, I couldn’t use the men’s room to go to the bathroom or change the baby.

And that’s when I wanted to cry. I was too tired to be my bitchy self and push passed him. I bit my lip and waited in line. For the bathroom. Longer than I had for every ride. Watching no one go in or out of the men’s room.

We sat in the café for another hour, pacing, but thankful that the baby slept through it.

When he woke up, the rain was light enough that we decided to make our way to another ride. We made our way to Buzz Lightyear to use our fast passes, parked our wet stroller, left our beloved ponchos in the basket, and went on the ride.

There was no wait for the ride, the clouds were parting—or so it seemed—so, maybe we were on the up and up.

After we got off the ride, we couldn’t find the stroller. Evidently, despite the fact that 12 other people parked their strollers where we did, they were not in “designated” stroller parking areas. To which I say, WHO GIVES A SHIT?

A “cast member”—which, sorry, but no—told me that they have a right to move my property—MY PERSONAL PROPERTY—if it’s in the wrong place. We spent a decent amount of time looking for the stroller without the help of any of the careless “cast members” and finally found it across Tomorrow Land in front of a completely different attraction.

And I wanted to cry. Again. So this time, I did.

I am so glad my son did not notice my quiet tears as he sat on my dad’s shoulders, laughing and banging on his head.

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We went ahead and enjoyed the Swiss Family Treehouse—baby loved climbing the steps—Aladdin’s Magic Carpet, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

And then the clouds came back. I was too afraid to stay later.

So I did what I always do. As we left the park, I stopped in guest relations and I complained. I decided that I hadn’t experienced pleasantness from any of the staff members at Magic Kingdom, and someone needed to know about it.

I’m always the one to complain. When we go to restaurants, if something isn’t cooked properly, I say something. When our phones get poor service or shut off or our laptops need work, I argue with customer service. Sometimes, complaining gets you somewhere. Sometimes, you just have to hope that you tell the right person and maybe the wrong that was done to you isn’t done in the future to anyone else.

Today, I spoke to a delightful man named Austin about my experience with the café janitor and with the cast members in Tomorrow Land who moved my stroller and scared the bejesus out of me and wouldn’t help me find it. He listened. He took notes. He expressed his regrets that we hadn’t had the best experience and that he wanted to help us.

And my son got a huge stuffed Mickey Mouse toy for free, and we got passes to come to Disney another day.

So, I left there smiling. We experienced many of the rides we wanted to. My dad’s shirt dried. My son was still laughing and smiling. And we could come again if we wanted to test the unpredictable Florida skies another day. More positives than negatives, right?

We ordered take out, brought it back to the room, sat on the couch and relaxed.

And just before bath time, as we cleaned up our food and water ran in the tub, the baby pooped on the floor of the hotel room. Just because.

Thank God for The Walking Dead, or I would have had to call the whole day a draw ;)

And on to Day 2…

1 Husband, 1 Child, 2 Jobs

Today, I’m over on Liberating Working Moms discussing my decision to take on a second job despite already having a very full plate.

Last week, I did something I thought I would never do: I accepted an offer for a part-time job.

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Currently, I teach English to approximately 120 high school freshmen each day. I constantly take home grading, so I’m accustomed to working after hours. However, my days end around 2:30-3 and my evenings are spent how I choose. If I want to go out to eat, I go out to eat. If I want to attend a class at the gym (and I do exercise 6 days a week) and my husband is available to watch my son, I attend that class. If I want to spend time playing trains with my son or taking a walk, I play trains and take walks. If I feel like I need to chip away at my pile of grading, I spend some time doing that after my son falls asleep.

Now? Now my evenings are decided for me. Now my evenings are scheduled. Now my evenings are interrupted. Now my evenings are even fuller than they used to be—if that’s possible…

Continue reading about my 1 Husband, 1 Child, 2 Jobs…