Aaron and Sarah

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Dining Room to Play Room Conversion: Open for Business!

So, I forgot to take "Before" photos for you all, but I think my mad skills at wordsmithing can set the scene: it used to be a big beige room with six chairs and a big table covered in papers, craft supplies, and for some inexplicable reason, rain gear. Also, let me first announce that this is still a bit of a work in progress. As you can see, a lot of toys haven't moved into their new shelfy homes yet and taken over my beautiful color-coded arrangement of books. There's not a lot on the walls yet, and that is mainly because these walls are made of 90-year old plaster (including horse hair insulation!), and so every time you try to insert nail or screw, basically a big chunk falls on to the floor. I also have some delightful floor carpet tiles on order, so eventually I will be able to remove the blue tape the is currently the Line of Demarcation where toys are not allowed to impede safe passage through to the kitchen. You get the idea.

Based solely on the count of how many strangers on public transportation and in random stores the boys have told about their new play room being "FINALLY Open for Business," I think the work is going to pay off big time over the next few years. They have pretty much spent every waking hour in there for the past few days.

Also, I cannot take all the credit here. Aaron basically blew off work for the last week so he could be around to console me when big pieces fell off the wall or I discovered that none of our walls are formed in anything remotely resembling straight lines or regular angles. He installed this awesome new light fixture and lent muscles galore to the construction process. And also Jack was pretty helpful too. He even helped me level and hang that chair rail above the chalk board, so it was a total family effort, and I think we are all pretty psyched about it!

Dear Jack and Oli,

Photo credit: Lauren Bodie

Dear Jack and Oliver,

Usually one of my favorite things to do in the fall is write you a letter for your birthday and put it up here on the family blog for posterity. This year, the fall got away from me and so I guess I'm writing you a New Year's letter instead. One letter for two boys, together. Forgive me.

It's actually kind of strange to be writing you a joint letter because, for the first time since Oli was born, you two have started in the last year to shed the "two-peas-in-a-pod" vibe that you've always had. I was hopeful in the fall that being at different schools would invigorate you both to define yourselves independently from your brother, and I can see that starting to happen in your friendships with each other and with other kids. But you've both struggled a bit to find your place at your schools this year. I spend a great deal of time most mornings explaining to you why the government insists on children attending school, and why I happen to agree with the government on that particular sticking point.

Jack, most of your complaints seem to center around being bored and with not being able to do whatever you want whenever you want. Specifically, the lack of challenging work and, more than anything, not being allowed to jump around manaically with your friends while screeching and rubbing their earlobes. While I am so surprised that school is not the fun and fulfilling experience I hoped it would be for you (yet), I can't say I am totally surprised that you are in a funk about the lack of earlobe rubbing at kindergarten. I promise you that I will be understanding and help you over the next months and years to define what your needs are and I will help you communicate those needs to your teacher so that you can grow to love school as much as I know you can. Please promise that you'll keep and open mind and keep trying.

Oli, most of your complaints seem to center around the fact that you just would really rather never leave our house under any circumstances if you can avoid it, no matter how much fun you will inevitably have out there in the big world. Maybe part of this is not having Jack around you enough, and maybe part of it is that I'm just such a spectacular housekeeper that our house is like heaven on Earth for you! Just kidding, we both know it's not the latter. I think you are just in that tricky stage of wanting with your whole being to be independent in every way, and needing equally badly just to hold the hand of someone who loves you all the time. In the last couple months, you have taken to screaming "I hate you, Mama!" many times a day; sometimes this pricks a bit, and sometimes it actually ends up being a bit comical. I know you don't hate me. I think maybe you want to be sure that no matter what you do or say, I will still come running when you need a hug or someone to wipe your butt. Baby, I will always come running for you.

The point being, gentlemen, that as you grow and develop your own personalities and give me glimpses of your future selves, I love you and cherish you each uniquely more than I could ever explain. Even though I am personally challenged by you, I'm grateful for it. I am learning so much right now about the kind of parent I want to be, and the truth is, I want to be better. For you. Not perfect, because everyone has vulnerabilites and I want you to know that about me so you won't be scared when you discover your own vulnerabilities. I just want you to know that I see you. Each of you. I respect who you are right now and I respect that you will grow and change and I will be right there with you as you figure out what kind of men you want to be. 

All my love,

Mama

We have two kids! (aka, oops)

In the grand tradition of second kids getting less attention than first kids, here are Oli's back-to-school pictures. We forgot to take them before school, so they were taken at pickup. Then we forgot to post them online for a week. It's no small consolation to me that he is happy to his core and so far unaffected by my spaciness. He is enjoying his class and new friends. So far the best part of preschool continues to be play-doh. Love you, Boo, you are truly delightful in every way! (though I could occassionally do without the screeching...)

Kindergarten!

It would probably be an ok time to write something all mushy and sentimental here, and if I'm being honest, I am totally feeling mushy and sentimental about all this and let's just say tears have been shed. But actually, this is so awesome. He's so excited, already loves his teacher, knows a couple kids in his class from preschool, literally could not wait for me to get the hell out of there this morning so he could get down to The Brass Tacks of Kindergarten. So, way to go, Jack! You're growing up great and doing exactly what you should be doing and I'm proud of you (and if I'm crying it's only because I'm so freaking excited!!!!). Love, Mama

Jack and Baby Tayler

We had such a great time being back in Idaho to meet Tayler the last few days, but no one was more taken with him than Mr. Jack. It seems that every human, even a 5-year old one, knows that when you are holding a sweet little baby, the proper protocol is to nuzzle his sweet head and just take in that addictive new baby smell. Welcome to the family, Tayler! We've been waiting for you, and your cousin Jack is already making big plans for the next time you are together!

School Pictures

Amazingly, I think these pictures pretty perfectly capture the boys. Jack's sweet smile and mussed hair, Oli's scratched up nose and superhero cape. Yep, this is what the Longwell boys looked like in 2010. Sigh.

Jack is 5

Dear Jack,

When I sat down to write you this letter for your 5th birthday, I found myself at a loss for words. So, I went back through the birthday posts I've done for you in the past (when you turned 1, 2, 3, and 4, if you were curious). Honestly, the thing that really struck me is how these posts keep getting longer and more sentimental. I suppose birthdays do start to become weightier as we age, and maybe that's why every year I feel I have to say more so you and everyone who reads them will understand how I feel about you. And with each passing year, I do have so many more feelings about you. The truth is, you are just so much more of a person than you were when you were younger. But, in the interest of not turning into a puddle of goo right here in the interwebs, I will try to keep this short and sweet and to the point.

Jack, I love you so much. This last year you have really grown and matured in ways I didn't see coming. Your personality has developed so that I think I actually know you as a person now, not so much as a child I take care of, but as a human being that I care deeply and profoundly for. I will always love you for so many reasons, not least because I am your mother. But I can say now that every day I really find something else that I totally dig about you on a different kind of level. I feel like we have a great relationship and I want you to know how much fun I have just knowing you and being around you.

I also worry about you sometimes, Bub. The thing is, you are sensitive. I don't know how to describe it except that you are soulful and empathetic beyond your years. You feel the weight of the world in a way I wish you didn't have to. Here are some things I want you to always know, not only when things are weighing on you, but especially then: You are unique and no one has ever been or ever will be all the things you are, but lots of people know what you're going through at any given time; find those people and let them help you. Your ability to find joy and humor is one of your best qualities; let it shine. Sometimes people won't understand your instinct to be sweet and tender; be sweet and tender anyway.

Happy birthday, Jack. You are awesome and I want to be just like you when I grow up!

Love,

Mama

The Boy Who Lived

So I totally blew it and took almost no pictures of Halloween even though we had a really fun party at our house for the neighbor kids and some other friends. I didn't even get a good pic of Oli in his costume (he was Ron Weasley to Jack's Harry Potter - he wore a cloak and carried a stuffed rat called "Scabbers" and it was pretty stinking cute). Jack made me do up his costume around 10 am then had an identity crisis around 2:30 pm because "This black hair just isn't me - I have red hair!!!" It was pretty sweet. I didn't even get a picture of our costumes, which were pretty decent (I was Jamie Lee Curtis, Activia yougurt spokeswoman and Aaron did an awesome job on his costume of man-stuck-in-windstorm but people kept calling him Dilbert so I guess that's works too).

I always resolve that I'm going to take more pictures and then I always get distracted. There were a few pics (mostly blurry and of other peoples' children) from the party that I did put up on Facebook. Hope everyone else had a safe, happy Halloween!

Baby No More

Dear Oli,

I have bad news: it's the night before your third birthday and I've been on the verge of tears all day. Here's the thing - you're the baby of the family but you're not a baby anymore. You are totally and irrevocably a little boy. You'd just as soon tell me a fart joke as look at me and that's ok, I get it, that's what's supposed to happen, it's all part of the circle of life blah blah. But my breath catches in my throat when I realize where this is all headed. Not to get too far ahead of you, but I'm starting to realize that the day when I can no longer hold  you on my lap while you tell me your hilarious fart jokes is fast approaching. If I am losing my cool because you're turning three, just imagine what waterworks are in store for us when you go to college. Get married. Have a child of your own. You see where I'm going with this.

But here's the good news: You are amazing. Sure, you're built like a linebacker and I've learned to protect my face and gut when I see you coming. But there is nothing - and I mean NOTHING - in this world that feels better than your arms wrapped around my neck for one of your cheerful and sincere hugs and your laugh melts my resolve in every disciplinary endeavor. No one is surprised when they hear that your adorable face and sweet smile help you get away with just about anything. ANY. THING.

The fact is, you are so fun to be around and I am thankful every day that I even get to know you, much less be loved by you, much less be your "mama-poo-poo-head." You are so special and you complete our family and you make my life better and happier and for all those things, I thank you.

Happy birthday, baby. I hope that this year is one of amazing discoveries for you, and I know that even though you are a Big Boy now, you will continue to face every day with a sense of wonder and adventure. And the pure joy that is your trademark.

So much love,

Mama

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