Celebrating at school


029Though it can be a bit hard to tell now (most days he hovers between being vaguely lukewarm and basically unenthusiastic about going to school), there were a lot of things Liam really looked forward to about starting school and getting to be just like Benjamin — field trips, Lanternenfest, playing in the garden.  But none was so eagerly anticipated as celebrating his birthday at school (and yes, I’m still writing about stuff that happened back in September — I’ll catch up eventually).

Last year, which was his first year at school, he had a great time at his school birthday party, but having a September birthday, and being one of the first to celebrate, I think it was a bit overwhelming for him.  I think he was a little uncomfortable with having the attention of his entire class focused on him.  This year, though, he was ready.  He knew it was coming, and he was really looking forward to it.

031The way things work at the school (with parent involvement being limited to a few particular events each year), I don’t get to be there.  (Since not every parent would be able to come to celebrate their child’s birthday, no parents are allowed to come.  “It wouldn’t be fair.”  Which is a bummer for me — getting to help out at the boys’ schools was one of the parts of being a stay at home mom that I most looked forward to).  But, based on his stories, and on the pictures, he really enjoyed himself.  He got to blow out the candles, have cake, be sung to by his whole class, and open up a few gifts.  One, a stuffed dolphin, was a gift from his teachers, while a few others, containing puzzles, were from us and destined to remain at school, rather than come home with him.  (So he didn’t get to KEEP those, just OPEN them, which he wasn’t 100% on board with.)

643Generally, though he was so happy.  He was so excited that morning that it was his big day to celebrate at school, and he was so pleased when I picked him up.  As with the key chain his teacher made for him last year, he absolutely treasures his new dolphin.  He spent days afterwards cuddling with it and singing to it.  He was a very happy birthday boy, and he loved getting to celebrate at school.  Nothing really says, “I’m so big” like celebrating a birthday at school.  My little guy is getting to be so grown up.

Celebrating Liam’s 4th birthday

223I love birthdays.  I love celebrating the fact that someone I love exists on this planet and that I get to know them.  My kids’ birthdays are my favorites — I get to reflect on how my little guys are growing, ponder the speed with which time passes, and spend a whole day celebrating their existence.  We’ve developed a great set of birthday traditions in our family — Dan stays home from work, both boys stay home from school (for as long as Liam prefers to be home instead of at school for his birthdays — B, with a summer birthday, doesn’t really have to choose), the birthday boy gets to choose any birthday activity that he likes and he gets to select the meals for the day (and, of course, the cake and ice cream).  I just love seeing how each of my guys chooses to celebrate their big day.


This year, Liam wanted to go to the pool.  He was absolutely sure that he wanted to go to the pool and that he didn’t want a party — just family, and a day at the pool.  Great!  (The day before, he changed his mind and said that he DID want a party, but then he changed it back.)  But, when he woke up on the morning of his birthday, after opening all his gifts, he suddenly changed his mind and decided he wanted to go to the zoo, instead.  The zoo is one of my favorite outings in Vienna, and it’s absolutely fantastic in the early fall, and even better (and less crowded) on the weekdays.  So, that was also great!

245And so, to celebrate Liam, we went to the zoo.  We saw pandas and polar bears and penguins.  We saw the big cats eating their dinners (yikes!). We stopped for hot chocolate and chocolate pretzels and ice cream.  The boys climbed and slid and spun all around the playground and we all rode on the zoo train.  We had a great day.  Most importantly, Liam had a great day.

And then, at the end, my very grown up 4 year old boy informed us all that it was time to go home, and we did, and when we arrived there, he very shortly passed out on the floor for an impromptu birthday nap.  We finished the day with strawberry dinosaur cupcakes (by request).  (I made, for the first time ever, strawberry frosting from scratch for the cupcakes.  It was GREAT.  The kids hated it.  But the cake and the toy dinosaurs were a hit.)


My little guy turned 4 years old.  We celebrated his birthday the whole day long, exactly the way that he wanted to.  A good time was had by all.  It was a very good birthday celebration.  Yay for Liam and for turning 4!






Oh, my wonderful baby.  You’re 4!  That is amazing and incredible and awesome to me.  How big you are now!  I am shocked at the speed with which time passes, but so overjoyed at seeing you grow.  You are an amazing kid.  I feel so lucky to get to watch you grow up, and to see you every day becoming more and more YOU.

You are so big and strong, clever and funny, sweet and thoughtful, and so, so loving.  You are also stubborn, and willful, and opinionated . . . and I love it all.  I love all of you.  I love every bit of my wonderful Liam.

I love your stories and your jokes.  I love the way you count on your fingers.  I love your animated expressions and your silly faces.  I am so proud of the way that you have completely taken over caring for your lip injury from earlier this year — you want to do it all yourself, so you do, and you do a careful and thorough job.  I love the way you stick up your index finger and say, “Remind me …” when you want us to particularly take note of something.  I love how you know EXACTLY what you want, and how you don’t change your opinion to suit anyone else.  I love it when you’re quiet and cuddly, and I love it when you’re wild, too.

I love to see you build things!  You have amazing vision and creativity, and you do a great job seeing your projects through.  I love to see you with your stuffed animals.  You make families and friends from them, and you love to care for them and nurture them.  You’ve recently started singing to them, as well.  You are so sweet.

This past summer, we went “summer sledding” for the first time.  You loved it, so did I.  But my favorite part was that you chose, each time, to ride with me, even though your dad was undoubtedly the more exciting option.  We rode together, each time down the mountain.  We had a blast, and I enjoyed your company so much.  You are such a great little guy.  I love you with my whole heart, my littlest one.

You often ask me to hold you like a baby, and recently, you’ve started asking me to wrap you up in a baby blanket sometimes, too.  I think that you are starting to feel that the days of truly being a baby are behind you.  I will miss that, too, but you will always be MY baby, I will always be your mommy, and I will always love you more than I could ever say.

Even when I’m feeling frustrated — when you hit your brother, when you aren’t listening, or when you’re getting Bailey to chase you (again!) —  I am still grateful for the more challenging parts of who you are.  I think those characteristics will serve you well in life.  I love that you stay true to what you want and to who you are, and I love that your desire to take care of yourself is stronger than your desire to please anyone else.  I love that you won’t let anyone push you around.  You are a tough cookie … but you are also sweet, kind and loving.  You care about everyone, and you want to help comfort and care for all of us.  Benjamin, in particular, is very important to you.  You love him so much, and always want to catch up to what he’s doing or learning.

I love you, my exuberant, enthusiastic, creative, sweet 4 year old guy.  You are a whirlwind and a force of nature.  You are so wonderful.  You are not always easy to parent, but you are so easy to love.  I love you so very much, my sweet baby.  Happy birthday.

My day with Liam

Towards the end of the school year, when most of the formal work has been completed, the weather outside is beautiful, and the kids can barely be contained with their enthusiasm to run and play, the kids’ school days become peppered with outings and parties.  There are short jaunts out to the neighborhood playgrounds, trips out for ice cream, and big, full-day excursions around Vienna to celebrate the end of the year.  The kids have a fantastic time and come home thoroughly exhausted from running, playing, hiking, picnicking, riding on trains and splashing in ponds.  Yesterday was one of those “big” trips for Benjamin’s class.  We had to drop him off early and he didn’t get picked up until 4:00 in the afternoon.

Liam, though, had a normal school day (albeit with a trip to the green Prater to run in the grass), so I picked him up at the usual time of noon.  That left us with an entire afternoon, just the two of us, which I’d been looking forward to for a few weeks.  (And then, next week, when Liam has a full-day field trip, B and I will get a whole afternoon together, too!)

20140523-163316-59596854.jpgAt first he was worried about B, and he wanted us to wait around at the school until he got back.  But he got used to the idea, and pretty excited.   I gave him the choice of choosing anywhere and anything for lunch . . . and he decided to go to the grocery store and choose his own cereal and a set of stickers for himself and one for B.

We went home, had a cereal picnic on the living room floor while watching Team Umizoomi, and then he took a nap.  I’d been planning to do something fun and out of the ordinary — like a pre-nap trip to the playground — but his earlier trip out with his class (he was affronted that the teachers put sunscreen on him, because that’s apparently only my job) pretty much wore him out.


It wasn’t until we were most of the way through our day that it occurred to me that this will be the pattern of most of our days, starting in the fall.  B will be at school all day, I will pick Liam up mid-day, and we’ll spend the afternoon together.  I hadn’t really thought about that part of things before — I think I’ve been so focused on Benjamin’s experience next year, because it will be new, and because it required a lot of action on our part to get it to happen, that I never really thought much about how things are going to change for the rest of us.  I really enjoyed my quiet day with Liam.  It is so much easier to talk to and connect with the kids when we’re one-on-one.  Nobody has to take turns talking, compromise on TV shows, or play alone while I play with the other one.  But, even so, I think we’re going to miss B in the afternoons an awful lot starting in the fall.

Liam’s 3rd birthday

To my darling Liam —
Wow!  You’re 3!  What a big guy you are, and what a wonderful year we’ve had together — another chapter in your great adventure!  I love you so much, and I feel so fortunate to get to watch you grow and learn every day.  You are such a happy, loving, enthusiastic, bright and snuggly boy — I’m so glad I’m your mom!

013You’ve grown up a lot in this past year.  You’ve become quite an articulate talker, explaining everything you see and think.  (You aren’t always very patient with us when we don’t understand, though.)  You are fast and strong and sometimes a little too brave — you like to climb and jump, and you’ve got a lot of confidence that you’ll be fine when you land (or that I will catch you).  You’re a strong-willed little guy, too, and you test every boundary we set for you, just to make sure we mean it and to find out exactly what will happen if you try it.  This time last year, you were still working on leaving babyhood behind — you still carried your pacifier around with you almost everywhere — but in the past year, you’ve really become quite a little boy (although you’ll always be my baby).  I love to watch you grow.

Just recently, you started school, and you’ve done an amazing job getting adjusted.  You love your teacher, and you already have friends at school.  You *really* like that you get to go to school with Benjamin.  Each morning, when I drop you off, you happily go to play in your class — I don’t always even get a hug and a kiss before you’re off.  You are happy to go to school in the morning, and so happy to come home in the afternoon.  I love hearing about your day.

You learn so quickly.  You count, and read your numbers, and you remember things so well.  In just the first few weeks of school, you’ve learned so many new things, thoroughly charmed the teachers, and come home singing several new songs (in German)!  And you are very clever — you love to make a joke or say something silly, just so you can burst out in your loud laugh or watch us all giggle (you especially love to make Benjamin laugh).

You are just an amazing brother to Benjamin.  The two of you are so sweet together, always thinking of each other and wanting to play together (when you’re not driving each other crazy, which does happen, too).  At school, the two of you play in the garden together every day.  You love to do things together, and you’re usually quite happy to play by the rules Benjamin decides on.  As long as you’re with your big brother, you’re happy.

One of my favorite things about you is how much you like to cuddle.  You love to be held and to snuggle, and I love to snuggle with you, too.  I am so glad I get to hold you and kiss you every day.

If there was one thing that I think of when I think of you, though, it is the joyful enthusiasm with which you tackle each day.  You are a happy guy, and though you know what you want, and you’re never shy about taking care of yourself (nor quiet about letting us know what you need — which I also love), you are just generally so cheerful.  You love to play, and you will happily make a game of anything, anywhere we are.  You are a good sport, a good traveller, a good team player and just a great guy.  I am inspired by your optimism and willingness to choose happiness in almost every circumstance.

I love you, my Liam.  You are my sweet baby, and I feel so grateful to be your mom.  Having you in my life is a wonderful privilege.  I love you so entirely.  I love your enthusiasm, your humor, your sweetness and the strength of your opinions.  I love your big smile and your big laugh.  I love your clever mind and your loving heart.  You are an awesome 3 year old kid, and I am a lucky mom.  Happy birthday, wonderful boy.

Nope nopey nope nope nope

Liam’s first word was “no”, and judging by the frequency with which he uses it, it’s still one of his favorites.  Sometimes, though, a simple no won’t do, so Liam has gotten creative.  He does a “no” accompanied by a full body shake.  He’ll spit his tongue out, raspberry style, as a no.  He’s recently started saying, “Well, maybe not”, but it doesn’t mean “maybe” anything, it means “you are NOT going to do THAT.”

My personal favorite is when, instead of just no, we get “Nope nopey nope nope nope.”  It means, of course, emphatically no, and the adults around Liam have started using it, too — I think each person in the family said it at least once on the Italy trip.

It’s really excellent and very multi-purpose.  Someone cuts in front of you in line?  Just say “nope nopey nope nope nope”.  The waitress tries to take your plate before you’re finished?  “Nope nopey nope nope nope.”  The kids try to climb the bookcase?  “Nope nopey nope nope nope, misters.”  You don’t want to eat your peas?  “Nope nopey nope nope nope.”.  It works for anything.

Hello, I Liam!

Last week, on one of the few spring-like days we’ve had (and that was back when it was actually still winter), Liam and I went to the playground while B was at school.  We were happy and excited to be outdoors, playing in the sunshine and fresh air.  It was a relief for the cabin fever I hadn’t even realized we’d been feeling.

We definitely weren’t alone in that idea — the playground was overrun with kids.  There were a few mothers there with their little ones, but there were also two separate kindergarten classes there to play.  It was a zoo.  Kids everywhere, running, climbing, screaming, playing, falling down.

009Liam took it in stride and leapt into the fray.  He didn’t hesitate, just climbed the ladder to the slide, investigated the status of the baby swing (occupied), and ran off to play on some of the bouncing/rocking animals.

One little girl, a few years older than Liam (also probably older than B) saw him and wanted to play.  She followed him for a moment, and then invited him to ride on the seesaw with her.  He did.  They both smiled.  He grinned and said, “Hi!  I Liam!”  She giggled and looked at me, so I encouraged him to introduce himself in German, so he smiled again and turned to her to say, “Heisse Liam!”

010She didn’t respond, but they smiled and giggled and played for a few minutes, until she ran off to join another friend from her school group.  We wandered off to swing in the baby swing (now unoccupied) until we had to go home.

I am always so thrilled to experience Liam’s enthusiasm for life, his boldness, his confidence.  He is so brave, so open and easygoing.  He loves to connect with people, and is unfazed by bumps in the road.  It’s shocking and amazing to see him use German, although he’s yet to actually be taught.  (He seems to absorb it straight out of the air, by osmosis, although I imagine it’s more likely true that he’s picking it up from Benjamin . . . which is actually equally cool.)  He’s such a great little guy.  He inspires me.  I learn from him to embrace more and worry less . . . except when I’m worrying exactly about him being so fearless.


001Just recently, Liam’s verbal ability has exploded.  In a single 24 hour period, about 2 weeks ago, he went from stringing short phrases together, often requiring a lot of translation by me, to speaking rather clearly in complete sentences.  Whatever quantum of knowledge and skill is required to communicate in a more advanced manner, he achieved it, and he hasn’t looked back.  It is amazing, wonderful, and a little bittersweet to see him take this major step.  (But, mostly, it’s really cool to be able to understand him so well.)

Liam’s first word was “no”.  Early on, he naturally added “mommy” and “daddy” to his repertoire, but he came up with his own interpretation of B’s name — something that sounded a little like “Meh”.  I kept expecting it to evolve into something that sounded more like Benjamin, but it never changed.  He started with “Meh”, and that’s where he stayed.

And then, on Tuesday, folded right into these past two weeks of language revolution, Liam said, “Ben-ja-min.”  Just like that.  No middle step, no gradual transformation.  Just “Ben-ja-min”, just like that, and then he repeated it when I asked him to.  And he smiled and laughed.

He still uses “Meh” most of the time.  But I know he’s got “Ben-ja-min” in there.  Hearing B say, “I love you, Liam”, and then getting to hear Liam say back, “I love you, too, Benjamin”, may just be the most fantastic thing I’ve heard, ever.  I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to say next.

Happy first birthday, Liam!

011My sweet baby Liam — here we are, at your first birthday.  It’s a little unbelievable to me that we welcomed you to the world only a year ago . . . and at the same time, I can’t believe this day is here already.

You are a joy to have in my life.  I love your spirit and your heart.  You smile often and broadly — your smile lights up your entire face.  You have spent much of your first year with a paci in your mouth, but your eyes smile, too, so there’s no mistaking it, even when we can’t see your darling mouth.  You are a happy baby, except when you are not.  When you are displeased, there is no mistaking how you feel — you scream, you cry, you arch your back, you bang your head on the floor (the latter mostly from frustration) — you already throw full tantrums when you’re unhappy.  But most of the time, you are a smiling, joyful baby rushing headlong from one activity to the next.  You are fast — just a few days ago, you took your first steps, and you are already amazingly steady on your feet.  When you need to move quickly, though, you still crawl — at warp speed!  You are a fast little fellow!  I love watching you crawl at full speed around the house, after Benjamin, or toward the bathroom for your bath — it is just so much who you are.  I love watching the enthusiasm with which you explore the world.  You throw yourself into every new endeavor:  rolling over, crawling, walking, riding your new bike — and you learn so quickly.


You are an enthusiastic eater, too!  We often joke that poor Bailey is disappointed in you, after Benjamin.  When Benjamin was learning to eat, there was a lot of food left — on his tray, on the floor, on the walls, on himself.  Not so with you, my little friend!  You have yet to meet something to eat that you don’t enjoy.  Poor Bailey scouts for crumbs after every meal, usually to no avail.  He forgives you, though, because you are a sweet and gentle, creature, too — you pet Bailey so kindly, already.

Through you, I have seen Benjamin become a big brother, and I am thrilled and overjoyed at the way you two love each other.  He looks after  you, you adore him.  You are a happy, smiling baby . . . but never so much as when you’re with your brother.  You love to be with him, whether you’re cuddling together, racing around together, or playing together.  You both love to share hugs and snuggles.  It is so wonderful for me to see the way you are together, and how happy and loving you are towards each other.

You love to dance.  You love to snuggle.  You love to explore and do new things.  You love to try to keep up with Benjamin.  You love to get into mischief — you have a wonderful, mischievious grin and giggle that you reserve for when you know you’re doing something you shouldn’t be.  You are fast, and you are in to everything — you keep me on my toes!  You’re starting to be fascinated by books (for a while you just wanted to eat them, but that’s changing).  Months ago, you starting saying “Mama!” to me . . . more recently, that seems to have gone away, but it will be back, I know.  You’ve learned little things that surprise me — you recognize star shapes and always point them out.  Your capacity for understanding what we say to you is astonishing.

You have taken to our new location in the world very easily.  I think part of it is your age, but I know that part of it is just you.  You are happy when you are with us — you have your priorities in order, already, and you go with the flow.  You are happy where you find yourself, as long as we are there.  On the other hand, I am sad that we have taken you away from your extended family — they would be so delighted to know you better, and you would adore them, too.  They love you, from afar, and you love them, too — I giggle when you greet your Grandma, when we talk, with your scream of “Da!” and lots of pounding on the table.  You love to see her, and the rest of your family, too.  Even though we’re far away, you are very, very loved by all of them.

When I think back to your entrance into the world, I can’t help but remember how scary your first few days were, as well.  I am so grateful that your difficult beginning has left no mark upon you — if I hadn’t been there to see it myself, I don’t know that I could imagine you, with your overflowing vitality, struggling to be a healthy little baby.  You’ve really never looked back.  You are so strong, so healthy, so vibrant, so happy — it’s wonderful to see.

I love you, my little Liam.  I love you forever and ever, exactly as you are and exactly who you are.  You are my beautiful, sweet baby boy.  You are a joyous creature and a gift in my life.  I am so lucky to be your mommy, and I am so glad that you are here.  You are happy, sweet, opinionated, easy going, enthusiastic, loving, vital, kind and quick.  Our family, which was wonderful before you, has become richer — somehow better, in a way I couldn’t have imagined and can’t really explain.  It is as though you were always meant to be here, and that we all knew it — we were just waiting for you to arrive.

Happy birthday, my sweet, darling love.


Big brother Benjamin

A year ago tomorrow, Liam joined our family.  That was the day that Benjamin became a big brother.  It is so much a part of who he is, I can’t believe he’s only been a brother for a year.

We celebrated Liam’s birthday today (well, part of the celebration — the rest comes on Friday) and Benjamin helped with nearly every part.  He helped me choose the gifts that we ordered a week ago.  He helped me choose the gifts we purchased yesterday — he even helped me carry those around the store, and then carry them home.  This morning, he helped me bake and decorate Liam’s cake.  (He also helped blow out the candles.)  He helped me wrap the gifts, decorate the cards and set the gifts out for Liam to open.  (Then, of course, he helped Liam to open and play with his toys.)  For days, he’s been asking every few hours:  “Is it Liam’s birthday yet?  Is Liam 1 yet?”  I thought he was focused on the cake and the presents — be he kept asking, even after the celebration was done.


This only describes a little of how wonderful Benjamin is to Liam.  He loves him so much.  He looks out for him — he retrieves pacifiers and toys for him, he worries when he’s upset, he consoles him when he cries.  He wants to be around Liam — he wants to play with him, go out together, cuddle together.  He kisses him, hugs him, helps him, looks for him, smiles at him.  They are wonderfully sweet together.

There are, naturally, times where I think Benjamin would like it if we could put Liam away for a little while.  Liam likes all the same things Benjamin does (of course) and often “messes up” whatever Benjamin is playing with or the way he is playing.  Benjamin’s frustration doesn’t last for long though, and it doesn’t affect the way he really feels about his brother.  They are best friends.

119Benjamin, you amaze me.  You are capable of many things not expected of someone your age.  Before Liam arrived in our lives, I actually used to worry about whether you two would get along — whether you would be happy having a little brother.  My worries were needless.  Since the moment you met him, you have loved your brother.  You are kind, loving, caring, generous, sweet — you are all of those things even more towards Liam.  Being a big brother came as naturally to you as did everything else that makes you who you are:  being thoughtful, learning quickly, being fast and strong and agile.  He wants so much to be like you.  Thank you, my sweet baby, for welcoming little Liam into our lives.  Thank you for being your wonderful self.