In the six years I've been a parent, I've always believed in following the child. Attachment is often frowned upon, although in six years I've grown used to people's eyerolls when I say Ethan hasn't been left with a sitter or that I still lay with him until he falls asleep at night. I'm used to the way people like to lecture me that I coddle him or spoil him and need to "cut the cord." I've always believed that he would tell me when he was ready to seek out a little more independence and that's been true, as he always has. Still, independence burns at my heart despite me knowing it's on his terms and happening naturally (and confidently) thanks to our attached bond.

I remember the exhausting days when he refused to detach himself from my leg or wouldn't so much as look at other children who approached him on the playground. I blinked and he became the child surrounded by a crowd of eight other children on the school playground, holding hands and laughing and immersed in a game that they created together. Before bedtime, we talk about things that made us proud or made our hearts feel good (and sad, and mad, and all the other range of emotions one can feel in a day). The other night, he remarked that he felt "proud to be Ethan" and everything in me was overcome with peace. I remember just a few short months ago when he would lament how he was terrified no one would like him or would hide the silly riddles and big thoughts that his mind would think up. Now he runs up to children at the park and asks them if they want to hear a joke and, despite stumbling over the punchline, laughs through the entire delivery. The tremendous growth and the strides he has made in finding himself have made me feel peaceful and proud and have also made me realize the intricacy of motherhood at a level I hadn't before.

But it also hurts. Because this weekend, he went into the kitchen and made both of us lunch. He carried the clothing from the dryer to the couch and "folded" the towels before putting them into the linen closet. He asked for privacy as he washed up before bed and reemerged in his pajamas without even needing me to lay them out for him onto the bed. He turned down a trip to the museum on the start of his last week of summer to instead spend a day at his gym camp.

And these are good things. They are wonderful things because he has found his confidence and himself and he is growing! He is thriving! He is becoming the child he is meant to be at his own pace. He is excited for the future and letting me know that he is ready for more independence now, at age six. These are wonderful things! And they are the outcome I hoped for when I first cradled his newborn body in my arms and promised him I'd always be here, that I'd always be by his side, that we would nurture attachment and my job as his mother would be to follow his lead. But they still hurt because in all the ways he is ready, I am not ready.

I am not ready to drop my oldest child at Kindergarten despite the fact he is eager to see his classroom and meet his classmates, who he refers to as "my new friends." I am not ready to kiss him goodbye and watch him, backpack strapped to his back, walk into a classroom in elementary school. But he is, which he lets me know each day, multiple times a day, as he opens his organizer bins and double (triple, quadruple) checks that he has socks or clean underwear ready to go for his carefully planned out first day outfit. I am not ready for him to turn 7, or 8, or 17 and drive a car or have his heart broken or any of the other milestones that are to come. But I was not ready for him to turn 2, or 3, or 6, and still he does and still I follow him, letting him know I'm here as he should need me. Because that's my job, in all of its glory and sadness, and there is no better job in the world than to be his mommy.

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almost but not quite yet kindergarten

Every so often, I make a promise to myself to write more. I don't feel quite like myself in times when I don't write, but it gets complicated. Sometimes it's weird knowing my words are read by people I actually have to see in every day life (and when they don't like what I say, I get the awkward grocery store cold shoulder) -- or by people whose children my kids have a desire to play with. As Ethan gets older, I have to protect his privacy more than in the good old days of his tot schooling and potty training when his milestones were cute and universally understood by new parents everywhere. He is my number one support system when it comes to writing ("you should write books about Carmen and I, mommy") but he's also six. Still, writing gives me this feeling of peace that is unattainable anywhere else. I joined a boot camp, I've been slowly committing to decorating rooms in my house and staying on top of my laundry, but nothing compares to putting words and feelings down. There are just so many big feelings here, dying to come out.

Summer is basically over. I'm taking this extra hard because Ethan starts Kindergarten soon and I'm pretty lousy at changes in routine. I bought Carmen a shirt that says "say yes to new adventures" and cursed myself out under my breath as I tossed it in the cart because hello, I'm a hypocrite. New adventures are terrifying and scary and should be avoided at all costs by embracing sameness and hiding under the covers to avoid reality. Just me? Ethan is pretty stoked about Kindergarten and doesn't really seem nervous whereas I wake up at three in the morning having panic attacks about having to send my precious baby to a gigantic, actual elementary school. There are things that I don't like to admit to myself, and one of those is that unlike me, Ethan loves the idea of a class and being a part of a team. He's also pretty good about giving things an honest try, which is a quality I severely lack. So far his only apprehension has been that PE is a part of the curriculum (see? He is my child!) but he's even accepted that he may enjoy it after all.

Today, I cleaned out the drawers in a filing cabinet that has been stuck in a corner of our tot school classroom since we began, when Ethan was just 16 months old. I spent an hour bawling my eyes out as I combed through the artwork and projects that we had spent five years making. Ethan loved sitting with me and going through his old drawings and projects but "I'm not sure what you're crying about, mommy. I'll still make art at Kindergarten and when I get home, too." I try to explain to him the depths of a mother's love and pride and the bittersweet feeling that is a child growing up and becoming more independent, but he's six and so he doesn't understand. He hugs me and assures me that if I want to make him lessons and trays, he will humor me and do them so I don't have to cry.

I'm a little bit of a mess. That's nothing new. Time hasn't really made me bolder but regardless, children get older and I'm doing my best to put on a brave face and be convincing in my cheering from the sidelines.

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It's 5:03 a.m. and Carmen is barreling down the hallway holding a metal whisk in one hand and a plush baseball in the other. "Bruh bruh! Bruh bruh!" All the white noise machines in the world won't be able to stop her shrieks from waking up her brother, but still I try. "He's still asleep. He has to get some sleep, he has camp today." I redirect her to the living room. To the doll house. To the play kitchen. To her bedroom. To a pantry full of crackers and a refrigerator full of cheese and anything else she wants, oh my god, just take anything, as long as I can get five minutes to put on my pants and let Ethan sleep until at least 7. But she won't put down the whisk or the baseball. Not for anything will she put down the whisk or the baseball or give up her determined trek to the end of the hallway where her big brother (somehow) sleeps with the quiet humming of his white noise machine permeating from underneath the closed door.

Last week, Ethan invented a game called whisk ball where Carmen pitches him the ball and he whacks it with a whisk. The rules are still quite unclear, but they both run the bases (mulch, leaves and twigs found in our front yard) around the driveway together and then start again. Every evening in the lull after dinner and before bathtime, Ethan grabs the whisk and the ball and Carmen is right there at his feet eager to play. It's a little like magic, in those moments, even though the tired is usually burning at my eyes. Sometimes it still feels surreal to look up from where I'm sitting on the front doorstep and see these two playing their beloved game together, the laughter, the "I love you's," the nicknames. It's become normal, by now, the two of them and the chasing and the feeding and the chauffering and the classes and the naptime and the schedules. The newness has worn off and every day life becomes just that: every day life. At 5:03 a.m., as I'm chasing a wide-awake toddler down a hallway as she clutches a whisk and a baseball, it's hard to feel the magic over the exhaustion.

We made it to 6:50 a.m. without waking up Ethan, but soon he rolls out of his room with bedhead and a yawn. "Why is Carmen yelling?" He sits on the hall floor and wipes the sleep out of his eyes. She's yelling because she loves you, I think. She's yelling because she loves you so much and because her heart is so happy when she's with you and because she so very much cherishes the memories you make together. It's in the middle of these thoughts that I am able to feel the magic. These two. Despite the exhaustion and need for Starbucks and inability to find two minutes to put on a clean shirt, despite all of it, this is my greatest dream come true over and over and over again. Each time the whisk hits the baseball and two children collapse on the driveway in fits of laughter, it comes true again.

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I had all of these big plans for summer. That's how it always goes, right? Places to go, things to see and all that. Ethan, on the other hand, simply wanted to attend camp at his preschool. I understood his heart, of course. He is sad to leave his preschool and summer is for playing with your friends, which is what he gets to do at camp. The beach is still the beach in the fall, the zoo is still the zoo, the museum passes are valid all year -- but his preschool friends? Well, in the fall they all disperse to their respective schools and for many, that means Kindergarten. Like most things, Ethan is taking this short period before Kindergarten in stride (and I am not at all, like usual). He is excited to meet his teacher and see his classroom and while he says he is a little bit nervous, I am trying to follow his lead. This is just the next phase in the adventure.

Sometimes I feel like my kids are this mature, wise example that I'm supposed to follow. I'm clumsy and tripping and screwing up, but they've got this living thing down and transition from milestone to milestone without flinching. (And I fall on my face trying to follow them.) Carmen wakes up from her afternoon naps calling "bruhhhh bruhhhh" from her crib, knowing that it's just about time to pile into the minivan and pick him up at preschool. The sunniest part of my summertime is watching her face light up when she sees him on the playground.

We've been making the most of this summer, despite the chaos. The hypogylcemia and the hospital stay and the flu and all of the other nonsense that decided to tag along for a little bit. Mostly it's been hot, and mostly we've been spending time together trying not to melt. With the fall will come more regularly scheduled posts, and tot school, and routine...and Kindergarten. (Remember when I created this blog the day I learned I was pregnant with Ethan? Yeah, me too.)

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turning 6 is awesome: ethan's lego themed 6th birthday party

Ethan had his sixth birthday party this past weekend. He asked for a Lego theme and (because I'm his mom, duh) was very hands-on in the planning this year. This was his first year in school, and so he had so many friends to add to the guestlist. Having a summer birthday is hard because you never know if your school friends will be in touch or if they'll be traveling, but he was so excited that so many of his friends from school showed up to party. Our venue was My Gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, as it is year after year -- it's our home away from home and you can't beat a My Gym party (we love you, Mr. Lee!). Instead of the Lego-printed plates and decorations, I tried to recreate my own primary color scheme and go from there.

My best friend's dad and my sister collaborated on these awesome wood cutouts. Ethan was so excited to have them at his party!

The favors were primary color play-doh tubs with custom Lego mini-figure shaped cookie cutters, which I ordered from Etsy seller Cookie Cutter Supply. I packaged everything up in bags that I morphed into Lego bricks with the help of a craft hole punch.

I had the banner printed on Vistaprint. The cupcake tower and the cake stand were both inexpensive Amazon purchases that I painted and decorated with Lego Duplo blocks. My sister drew the Lego faces on the two glass jars (the held hummus and ranch) that I had also painted yellow. Ethan built the napkin and silverware Duplo structures and I love that he added his own little touch to everything! For food, we had pizzas delivered but I set out an array of snacks in different primary colored bins and containers.

My sister donned a Lego Ninjago costume for the first half hour or so of the party as a special gift to Ethan. All in all, it was an awesome (see what I did there?) party!

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