Saturday, August 8, 2020

When your baby boy turns 12



Aidan Kai turns 12 today. Our baby. The post below from his 2nd birthday still pretty much covers his personality. We knew he was special and funny back then. He still is. But as he's grown up, we've realized that he's also one of the kindest souls ever. Our "gentle giant." We are so lucky he picked us.
Love you Kai-sy, all the way to the stars. Happy Birthday. 


Originally posted here on August 8, 2010
No matter how many times we told you not to bite the candle, you just didn't listen...

Dear Aidan Kai,

You were born 2 years ago today. It was dramatic, your entrance to the world. It was so silent, that moment when they took you out of me, and we couldn't see you or hear anything, and from the other side of the blanket, we heard your shrill, powerful cry. I looked up at your Daddy, and his face crumpled in a way I had never seen: fear, stress, joy, relief. "He's got red hair!" the nurse pronounced, and I wondered: 'Where the hell did you get that?!?' but I didn't care. You were okay. I was okay. We'd be okay.

Then...and here's where it can get kinda funny...not funny in that ha-ha way, but funny in that ironic kinda way...that shriek we were so excited to hear when you were yanked out of me so violently became the soundtrack of our day-to-day for the first four 1/2 months of your life. And that is only a very, very slight exaggeration.

No reason, apparently. You just cried. All the time. It makes sense to me, now, when I look back on those early weeks, and I see you now, the little boy you are turning into: you cried because you could, because it drew attention, because you have a flair for the dramatic, because it matches your personality, which is big and loud.

You are an incredibly funny kid. I don't think too many people know that about you yet. You tend to be somewhat reserved around people, and you can be pretty stubborn in your anti-social behavior when you want to be (hmmm..wonder who you get that from). But you are hilarious in a way that I didn't really know toddlers could be. It's a subtle, clever humor, with a bit of "stick-it-to-ya" mixed in there for good measure. Your Daddy and I like to think of ourselves as pretty tough parents...consistent and firm with high expectations...but you...you have managed to pull all kinds of stunts and then get yourself out of them with this sly, dimpled grin and these squinty, knowing eyes.

If the methods you and your brother use to get out of trouble are any indication, he will grow up to be a lawyer and you will be a stand-up comedian. You manage to answer our rhetorical questions with the most unexpected answers, like tonight, when you bit me playfully and I said "Hey! Are you a dog?" and you immediately responded with "Yes" and then proceeded to show me your teeth, make biting noises, and go straight for the sofa. Never in a million years did we ever think we'd find ourselves saying the sentence: "No biting the furniture!" Of course, all such behaviors are punctuated with a wide grin on your proud face.

It's been an interesting couple of years, to say the least. We're still waiting for you to "get easy." We joke that perhaps you're getting in all your punches now and in a couple of years, you'll become the Easy One. You just never stop moving. You wiggle off the chair in sushi restaurants and manage to hang off the edge of the table going "Monkey! Monkey!" before we have a chance to put down our chopsticks and lunge at you. You fall off bar stools and practically bounce right back up onto them. You make your swim class teacher carry you around the pool on her back while she works with the other kids, because when she'd put you on the step to wait your turn, you'd run out of the pool, indignantly stomping "All done!" You stand at the edge of our own pool at home and put your head straight down on the concrete, insisting you can "Flip! Flip!" like your brother. And you would, if we'd let you.

It's been an interesting couple of years, to say the least. You certainly wear us out on a regular basis. But you're special, in a way that, I think, only your Daddy and I can truly understand. You make us laugh, a lot. You are silly and goofy and we can already see that you don't take yourself very seriously. You've brought an energy and life to this house that we didn't know was missing, and you've completed our perfect little family.

Happy Birthday, our littlest boy, the last baby, our fireball...we love you. Thank you for picking us.
Love, Mama

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Travel blog continues: Outer Banks, NC



Once again, we find ourselves not quite where we were "supposed" to be.

We originally planned Outer Banks as our first "real stop" on our 5-week, semi-spontaneous RV road trip. We had 10 days scheduled there and then we were moving on to Charlottesville, Va., Myrtle Beach, SC, Tybee Island, NC, and finally, Cocoa Beach, Fl. Well, after three and a half days of driving, 2 ferries, and 1000 miles overall, we arrived in our blessed OBX campground only to have four consecutive days of rain and record low temperatures. In spite of (once again) making the best of our situation, this was definitely not the OBX blissful experience we remembered from past years. We decided to extend our stay by a couple of days, but once the sun (and all the other campground kids) came out and the waves kicked up, the boys asked to stay even longer. In total, we spent the last 17 days at the Cape Hatteras KOA in Outer Banks, where there was an excessive amount of daily surfing, sunning, Dairy Queen-ing, and boozing (the boys did the DQ part and Hubby and I drank our calories). We decided to cut out the middle portions of the trip, head back home to South Florida for a few days, and then go back out as scheduled to Cocoa Beach, Fl. We were "supposed" to be in South Carolina right now, but instead, we are only a couple of hours away from home for our unexpected (and actually, very welcomed) mid-trip break at home.

This trip, admittedly, was very different from our other RV trips. The boys, now nearly 15 and 12 years old, are changing: they bicker more over stupid things, crave more time with other campground kids, and are not quite as eager to sit around playing Jenga and eating s'mores with Mommy. Because of COVID, some of the places and activities were closed or limited. After having quarantined at home together for so long prior to the trip, the four of us were not quite as good at being in a tiny space together for so long. And those first few days of crazy rain and cold definitely put a damper on things. But there's still a magic, for us, to this place. Even with an experience that was short of perfection, Hubby and I noticed it...it's the vibe, the energy, the feeling there, in that space. The first time we visited Hatteras, I said that if Hawaii and Key West had a baby, this would be it. That feeling is still there, and if this is our "consolation prize" for losing our pre-Covid planned Hawaii trip, then I am certainly not complaining. 


At Cedar Island, the campground where we catch the ferry early in the morning for OBX...
burning off some energy after sitting in the RV for a couple of days on the drive north.


No matter how many times we've done it, I'm still always amazed when we load up the RV and truck onto the ferry for the two water crossings over to the cape




Making the best of the rainy days with sightseeing




They surfed pretty much every day while I drank and read...
probably why I'm the only one who gained weight on this trip!
 

One of our traditions: nighttime crab hunting. They graduated from catching tiny ones with nets while squealing to catching huge ones with their bare hands.
Part of the magic of this place: the sunsets on the sound side of the campground


One of my favorite moments of the trip...
 the boys and I watching Daddy finally kicking ass on a kite board

 
Homebase for 17 days


Campfire plus the traditional OBX stilt houses lit up in the background equals magic


On the last night, right before bed, the boys thanked us for "an amazing family trip," so I guess in spite of the spontaneity, bumps, weather, and bickering, we did all right...


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The travel blog returns: where we were supposed to be today

We were supposed to be on a plane right now, heading to Kauai. We had planned it and saved up for it for almost 2 years, but then the bizarre situation that is our world these days stepped in. It sucks. A lot of things suck right now, but I am not so delusional or spoiled that I don't understand that my Hawaiian getaway is not nearly even close to high up on the list of Sucky Things Happening In The World Right Now.

But even though we are incredibly grateful that we have not lost loved ones, jobs, or our minds (although that last one really depended on the day), we are still, admittedly, incredibly sick and tired of being cooped up and having our lives put on hold. (Have you seen those pandemic memes about the introvert friends needing to check on their extrovert friends because they are most certainly, absolutely not okay? Yeah, that's us.) We, as a family, are rarely home. We rarely sit still. We are always out and doing, and when we are not, we are planning the out and the doing. So when our big trip to paradise had to be postponed another year (no, I am not even contemplating the possibility of 2021 being as fucked up as 2020), we sat down and said "Okay, so what can we do instead?" 

We are lucky that when COVID pretty much shut down every kind of travel option, we were able to resort back to our usual mode of summer adventure: our RV. We usually spend at least a year planning and organizing our summer road trips...from the stops to the activities to the daily mileage. This time, we turned to the kids immediately after canceling our flight to Kauai and asked "If we can't go to Hawaii this summer, what would make a good runner up?" Luckily, this was one of those rare times when all four of us had the same response: Outer Banks, NC...where our oldest learned what the word "bliss" meant many moons ago. So in an unprecedented and very non-type-A-personality move, we threw together a 5-week road trip with the only non-negotiable being a very long stay at our favorite beach campground in Outer Banks.

We loaded up and headed out yesterday, driving about 8 hours from South Florida to a little campground in Georgia where we just spent the night. Today, we were supposed to stop to sleep at South of the Border, the infamously tacky and frighteningly similar-to-a-cheap-horror-movie-set campground where we stayed a couple of years ago.  But after making really good time and only driving about 5 hours, we all agreed we'd stay on the road a few more hours.

But first, the boys humored me by recreating some cheesy pics from our last stop there: 

TODAY...
  


Then
...and THEN



Ben
TODAY..
.


...& THEN




Kai
TODAY...



...& THEN



We'll be staying somewhere in North Carolina tonight and head out tomorrow to Cedar Island, where we will kill time in a very isolated and oppressively hot beach area while we wait to get on the ferry to the Outer Banks early the next day.

Since I woke up this morning, I have been thinking about where we were "supposed" to be today. After all, the date June 10, 2020 had been figuratively circled on my calendar for more than a year. I even had one of those silly vacation countdown apps on my phone. It had a little Hawaiian-themed suitcase graphic on it. I am incredibly aware of how lucky we are...driving to spend all these days in our second favorite place in the world, and then moving on to spend more weeks discovering new places and revisiting old faves. So even though I was "supposed to be" on a plane right now, I am pretty damn happy and grateful that I am where I am, with my three favorite people around me, healthy and well.  And maybe...just maybe...on the road all together in our beloved RV is where we were "supposed to be" today all along. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Graduating during the pandemic: this is not the way it was supposed to end







On the first day of kindergarten, Ben walked up to his teacher, unprompted, stuck out his hand, looked up, and announced, "Hi, I'm Ben. It's nice to meet you."

When he was about 3 or 4, he asked me, "Mommy, if I'm holding your hand when you die and go to heaven, will I be able to go with you?"

He's always been this intense, special, old soul: wise beyond his years, sensitive, headstrong, outspoken. So bright, it's scary. The kind of kid who would question everyone around him all the time---his teachers, his friends, his parents--not out of disrespect, but simply because he was probably seeing some loophole in their rules or suggestions that did not make sense to him, and he, quite frankly, just wanted to know why... We have spent years trying to teach him how to keep that self-confidence and sharpness, but not step on the toes of those in authority (too much). There have probably been an equal number of days in our parenting lives in which we have had to say "Damn it, you're right," and "Damn it, 'cause I say so." So often, he is the one calling us out, making us look at a situation in a different way, bringing us together as a family in the midst of an argument or a disagreement or a moment of discipline. Sometimes when he is driving me craziest, I have to laugh and shake my head and remind myself: "Mannnnn, this kid could rule the world..." 

He and I are so alike, it's startling. There are countless times when we notice the same exact detail about something, make the same comment, understand each other's thinking in a way no one else can. How often does Hubby say "You two are exactly the same person." And so, we have a bond that's unique and comforting. But when we clash...you can almost see the energy surging around us. I imagine we must look like two fighters literally dropping the gloves and coming at each other, or those bighorn rams you see butting each other on the heads on the nature channels...but we come at each other with our words, usually powerful, often sarcastic, and always indignant. It scares me, sometimes, how alike we are, how connected I feel to him, but the true beauty of it is when we come out of it on the other side: the battles usually end up bringing us closer. 

And now he's about to finish up his elementary and middle school years. He is "graduating" from 8th grade and crossing over to being a High Schooler. (How in the hell did I become the mom of a high schooler?!?) He has spent the last 9 years at the same school (the same school where Hubby and I teach). From that kindergarten first day when he pretended to be all grown up meeting his teacher to this final year, he has excelled. (Did I mention that when he earned his first B on a report card in 3rd grade, he literally threw himself on the floor of our kitchen crying? When we tried consoling him, he sobbed: "Well, maybe it's good enough for you, but it's not for me!" Luckily, he's loosened up a bit through the years...) He's made every honor roll and been inducted into every honor society. He's won competitions in his STEM classes. He's missed (maybe) one or two homework assignments the entire time. This year, he took the award for Top Algebra Student (I can't even add tip to a restaurant check, so this is the one area in which we are absolutely nothing alike). But the ending of these years is not only special because of his academic achievements. He's made friends. Good, tight, special friends. He's played football. He was on the jump rope team. He built robots and made award-winning paper-mache masks. It's been a really, really good 9 years. 

And now he's closing this chapter of his life and is the only one leaving the area's school to go to his neighborhood high school. He's excited. ("I want to do ALL the activities!" he whispered to me at the high school's open house.) He's ready. We all are. This school will open a whole new world for him---one that includes not only academics, but sports and socializing and learning who he is in isolation of all those kids he's literally grown up around. 

But--it wasn't supposed to end like this.

Like so many other parents, students, and teachers, we are heartbroken by how this pandemic has affected our school lives.

He spent the first three semesters of this school year busting his butt to complete not one, but two, online high school classes so he could "play" in phys ed the last semester with his best friends. The day the last semester was supposed to start, we were already in quarantine. So here's this kid---my kid---who made the responsible choice for himself: "I won't take phys ed on my last year with my buddies, even though I really want to, because I should get high school stuff out of the way, but I'll make sure I get it all done early so I can have those last 9 weeks to hang out and enjoy myself..." and...nope. He was supposed to go on a graduation cruise with his best friend. There was a 3-day field trip he was especially excited about to the state colleges. Two trips to Orlando parks for the honor society kids and the graduating class. A graduating ceremony. He had already picked out his tuxedo (John Wick style, thank you very much) for his 8th grade prom.  

That's how it was supposed to happen. 

But as we know, nothing is as it's supposed to be these days. Nothing.

And so we have done like so many other families: we have made the best of a terrible situation with small socially distant gatherings with only his best friend and his grandparents...with car parades with posters and balloons and honking horns...with promises---oh, how we've made promises--of future trips and sleep-overs and beach days with his friends...all his friends...any of his friends....as many things as he wants to plan when this is "all over" (whatever that means). 

Of course, he has handled it all beautifully. Remember, he was born an old soul. Wise and sensitive and sharp. He understands he can't complain about a canceled field trip when there are people dying around the world. But somehow, that makes me hurt even more. Because--and I know I'm super biased here-- I feel like: Man, if there ever was a kid who deserved to go out with a bang, it's this one. My boy. 

********************************************************************************
Congratulations, Ben.  Words cannot express how proud we are...not just of your school achievements, but even more so of the young man and amazing soul you are. We love you. 






Tuesday, February 18, 2020

20 years ago


I walked away
from a life I thought I was supposed to want
from the plans I made because I thought I was supposed to
from the picket fence dream that was someone else's
from the expectations everyone had for me
and the ones I forced on myself

I walked away
from always feeling out of breath
restricted
trapped

my voice was always too loud
my clothes were always too bright
my ideas were always too outlandish

I thought what I wanted was not what I was supposed to want
I thought who I was was not who I was supposed to be

I thought I was not strong enough

I walked away
20 years ago
a lifetime ago
just yesterday

and walked into a life I never thought possible
a life I thought I was greedy for wanting
a life I thought existed only in movies or books or my dreams

I was strong enough to walk away
to refuse everyone's opinions
to trust my own
to trust you

I walked away from a life that was never mine
and walked into ours

I am still in awe

and although you still take my breath away
now I can breathe

Friday, February 14, 2020

I miss those little Valentine's Day cards




My knees barely fit under the table. It was my boys' coveted Little Einstein's arts-and-crafts-and-everything-they-wanted-to-do-table. There were accidental scribbles on it, and pieces of dried up play-dough. The cubbies underneath had mommy-assigned and boys-ignored designations: one was for the crayons, another for construction paper, and another for puzzles. (Needless to say, those cubbies were always a mess and it always drove me crazy.) I spent countless hours at that table. First with Ben, then with Kai, and sometimes with both. We drew. We colored. We made pizzas out of clay. When Ben had to decorate a t-shirt with 100 things of his choice to celebrate the 100th day of school and he absolutely insisted on making 100 paw prints (his school's symbol) in the alternating school colors in glitter, I sat at that table with him: I dribbled the 5 little globs of Elmer's glue with painstaking precision and he sprinkled the blue and gold glitter over each one. It took us days. But it came out perfect.


Today, the first Valentine's Day in which I have two middle school boys, is also the first Valentine's Day that I did not have to buy cards and candy for class distribution. Maybe if I had realized that last year would be the last year, I would not have complained so much about spending money on candy and cards for his classmates. (But isn't that the thing with parenting? You never know when those tedious tasks you rush through and sometimes dread...bedtime stories, bathtub battles, carrying them asleep to their rooms...will be done for the last time.)


I feel like it was simultaneously yesterday and a million years ago that I sat at that little table, for a few consecutive years, helping them form the letters of their classmates' names and making them fit on those teeny Valentine's Day cards. There were the years in which one or both would insist on finding just the right cards: they had to be Mickey, or Transformers, or sports, and we would have to go to multiple stores to find them. Doing those cards with them was one of those tasks that took forever, and I wondered over and over again why I wasn't doing what so many of the other moms would do: simply label the To/From myself. But it was one of those things that mattered to me. As a teacher and a mom, I felt that these were those important moments when your 2 year old kinda learns how to write and your 5 year old kinda learns some patience. It was tedious and tried my patience probably even more than it tried theirs. I don't really recall with absolute certainty the last time I did it with them. I think I was on the couch instead, and they were kneeling at the coffee table. It was more of a making sure they were following through and their handwriting was neat enough to fit within the card than actually doing it with them. I was probably a little impatient then, too.

This morning I excitedly placed their Valentine's Day gift bags and cards on the breakfast counter. Bags filled with nonsense that took me almost an hour to find at Target yesterday. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to find something cheap and Valentine-y to give a 14 year old who is now shaving?!?) As I roamed the store aisles, I debated skipping the whole thing. Why spend $40 or $50 on cards and junk and candy they really don't need? But the truth is, they're still my babies and I actually miss sitting at that little table and being annoyed and wondering how much longer it would take to go through that darned preschool class names list so I could go deal with dinner or watch TV or take a frickin shower. Those days felt endless. I felt like I was trapped in a perpetual fog of little kid responsibilities and mommy minutiae. And yet here we are now: I am spending my Valentine's Day remembering that little table and those little hands with the dimpled knuckles clutching the fat pencils and clumsily forming the letters of their names.

What I realize now, all these years later, is that all those hours I spent torturing myself by making all those Valentine's Day cards with them weren't just about their handwriting and spelling skills. It was about Me and Them Time. Days like today, when their time is spent in a whirlwind of adolescent distractions, and I am but a blip in their day, I can think back to the days at that table and sit with those memories. I can miss them. I can relish them. And I can know that even if they don't think that those days were particularly important, they were for me. Much more so, in fact, now that they are long gone. Don't get me wrong: I want no part of parenting little kids anymore. I love the young men they are becoming and the relationship and life we all have now, but those days filled with messy art tables and Transformer heart cards are forever etched in my heart. And those two big kids right there...they will forever be my little Valentines.







A blurry picture I managed to find of THE Table





Tuesday, January 28, 2020

You can love being with your kids--AND without them

I was at a kid's birthday party once, discussing vacation plans and travel tips with another mom, when I asked her if the trip she was planning was a family one, or just a getaway for her and her husband. She--I kid you not--literally gasped, put a hand to her chest, and said "Oh nooooo, we never travel without the children. I don't have those kinds of urges." While I was busy trying not to respond inappropriately nor giggle at the use of the word urges, she then threw in the following statement, unprompted, just for good measure: "I asked my husband once. He said he does not have those urges either." *

*Fine print: no portion of the aforementioned conversation was exaggerated, tweaked, altered, made up, or misquoted for the sake of comedic effect.

I do have those urges.

I had them when they were teeny-tiny babies and smelled delicious and their presence in my life felt as tender and unexpected as the soft spots on their heads. I had them when they were bigger but still so little and called me "Mama" in their raspy little voices. I have them now when they are pre-teen and full-blown-in-my-face-teen and simultaneously awe and enrage me.

I love my boys. I love snuggling on the couch with them on family movie nights. I love listening to them tell me stories about how they handled a socially charged situation in school. I love climbing into our RV and spending a bunch of days with just the four of us making s'mores, riding bikes, and searching for adventure. I love that they both still expect (and enjoy) their bedtime songs and nightly rituals. I love being Mommy.

But I love being Liz, too. I love paddle boarding by myself at sunrise and discussing books over wine with my book club girls and reading the 704th book from the Outlander series in peace.

And I love being Hubby's Wife, too. I love strolling on the boardwalk in the afternoon hand-in-hand to decompress from our day and talking with him quietly over beers at our favorite local bar and spending an entire day at the beach drinking way too many Jack and Cokes.

I have urges. Lots of 'em.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to go on many getaways with Hubby, sans kids, thanks to amazing grandparents. Most of the trips have been little getaways, designed to help us reconnect and recharge so we could do Us better, but also so we could do Parenting better. These days, we go on way more family trips than Just Us trips, because we know we only have so many years left with the boys before they: a) are no longer able to take time away from their school/sports/schedules, b) grow up and move away, or c) no longer want to travel with us. Plus, now that they are not babies anymore, there are a lot of places we want to show them and lots of things we want to discover. So for now, if we can sneak in a long weekend once or twice a year without the kids, that's enough.

We are getting ready to take the boys on their first cruise in the next couple of months, and planning for that got me thinking about the last time Hubby and I were on a cruise. It was the first time we went away together after Kai was born. We were parenting an almost-4-year-old and a very high-maintenance 6-month-old so let's just say we were urging Reading that post made me relive both the desperation we felt to get away and the sweetness of feeling like we were leaving someone behind who would miss us with nearly equal parts desperation. Let's just say Ben's reaction, at age 4, was quite different to what his reaction would be now, at 14, if we were to announce we were going away for a few days. It definitely made me a little melancholic, but I guess the bright side is that as they get older and less dependent on us, the more opportunities we will have to satisfy those other urges.

So here's the Throwback post from that cruise getaway originally posted here on July 7, 2009:

Pina Colada, anyone?

"Four days?!? You and Daddy are gonna be gone for four days?"

"Yes, Ben, that is why (pause here for dramatic emphasis) you get to rent FOUR Blockbuster movies for grandma's house!! Isn't that gonna be cool?!?"

"But Maaaamaaaa, I don't waaaant you and Daddy to be gone for four days. I want to be with you guys aaaaall the time."

We have been telling Ben about our upcoming "Mommy and Daddy Vacation" for a few days now. I think it just hit him today that maybe, just maybe, he might have a problem with it. It seems that 4 rental movies do not cancel out 4 days of no Mama and Dada. Darn.

Hubby and I are big believers in spending quality grown-up couple time together. We do not think a fancy dinner can be romantic with 2 children sitting at the table with us (in spite of what some parents we know tell us...repeatedly). We do not think a family vacation--although wonderful in its own right--is as relaxing or as recharging for the marriage as a true getaway all alone. I realize that not everyone has this option. We do. We have my mom, Babysitter Extraordinaire. We are lucky. Really lucky.

So we will be leaving in exactly 40 hours (um, ehem, approximately), and we will tap into our Old Selves. The ones we were before we were Mama and Daddy. The ones we were when we met. And dated. And held hands. And kissed. And giggled. And flirted. And, uh, other stuff. It's hard to be Those People in our daily lives. It's hard to...and we try, Lord knows, we try. We reach out across the expanse of our family room, strewn with rattles, Hot Wheels cars, balls, books, and Nerf darts, and we try to reconnect as often as possible. With winks. With kisses. With smiles. With hugs. And after we put the boys down to sleep, we try to, with some regularity, open a bottle of wine, put on some music, talk (yes, really talk) and love each other. On the best nights, it feels like old times. On the worst nights, we're too tired to even bother with any of it. On most nights, we manage to steal an hour to ourselves before we collapse with exhaustion. This is Our Lives right now. It's what we want. But it's hard.

If you're lucky enough to be parenting with someone you'd still marry all over again, then it can definitely be more rewarding, but in some ways it can make day-to-day life even more frustrating. Because when you actually like the person you're parenting with, when you actually miss him even though he's still right there, living with you, sleeping in your bed, making breakfast with you everyday, helping you turn little boys into men, well, then it can be doubly hard because it's the parenting that's keeping you apart. So to have four...count 'em...four whole days and nights to OURSELVES on a cruise ship...away from the Real World, away from Our Current Lives, away from...yes, The Kids...it will be heaven. But as I finalize my packing, as I count down the last few hours, as I get my passport ready, I realize that I am leaving behind 2 little boys...one who will notice our absence, really notice it, for the first time, and in spite of the promises of Blockbuster movies, special outings with the grandparents, no bedtimes, and extra candy, well...the truth of the matter is, fortunately or unfortunately, he still likes being with us best.

So when I heard the panic creeping into his voice today, I felt a bit of the same panic creeping into me. Not so much because I will miss him, but because I want him to behave for Grandma and Grandpa...I want him to have fun...I want him to be happy...and, I have to admit, I want to leave guilt-free. And if he is clinging to my leg upon my departure, it will take me more than a couple of umbrella drinks to unwind and really let go. And letting go is the whole purpose of this trip.

I think I'm gonna need a lot of singles for the bartenders.





Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Forty seven and happy (AF)


I am 47 today.

Forty-seven!

Definitely an age I used to think of as "old." Didn't we all? I mean, my parents were 47. My aunts and uncles...my teachers (gasp)...they were in their forties. Forties were old.

When I turned 40, I didn't really have an issue with it. I was distracted with fabulous birthday plans and stilettos and cocktails. Besides, Gwen Stefani and Sarah Jessica Parker were already 40, and they were awesomely cool and soooo not-old.

Then 41 and 42 and 43 got a little weird. I was like, "Waaaaait a minute...40-SOMETHING is not quite as fun as 40 was...I'm not going to Vegas and it's really not quite a novelty anymore and holy shit...I just realized I'm closer to mid-forties than 39...WTF?!?"

It was at about the 45 mark that I started to notice that there wasn't much of a difference in how I looked in pictures between, say, 32 and 41, but there seemed to be a sudden (and sometimes shocking) difference in the pictures between 41 and 45. It was as if all those years of sleepless nights due to early parenting had suddenly caught up with me. (Yes, I am sure that my obsession with the sun and booze has absolutely nothing to do with it.)

So let's just say there was a bit of an adjustment period somewhere in there. For the first time in my life, I started trying expensive skin creams. I looked into those crazy expensive laser treatments at the dermatologist. I upped the SPF. When I'd enter a nightclub I never, ever got carded anymore. (The worst was when we'd go with our still-in-their-30s-friends and they'd get carded ahead of us and as Hubby and I started looking for our IDs, the bouncer would just wave us in.)

Fast forward to now.

I don't know what happened. I'm not exactly sure when it happened. It just did, and I've realized it pretty recently.

I'm happy. Like, really, really, really, contentedly, unapologetically happy.

Let me clarify: Technically, I've been happy for a very long time. I've been married to my absolute favorite person for 17 years. I have two ridiculously awesome boys. I love where I live. I (usually) really like what I do for a living. I am surrounded by amazing friends. My family is healthy and nearby.

But I mean I am happy with myself...having nothing to do with all these amazingly lucky blessings. I feel like I woke up one day, looked around, and realized I am completely happy with Me. Don't get me wrong: I am still (and always will be) working on self-improvement in some area. But overall, I feel like for the first time--ever--I am no longer pining to be skinnier/cooler/better dressed/richer/ calmer/fitter/prettier/fill-in-the-blank-with-pretty-much-any-word. I know what I like now. I won't apologize for my music or drink of choice. I know I have waaaay too many ripped jean shorts that would never pass the "What Not To Wear" test, and I use the words "dude" and "fuck" way too often.

I'd love to tell you how I got here. I am well aware that I sound like one of those essays you'd find in a "Forties" book or in the Oprah magazine: "Oh, now that I'm in my forties I have arrived!" Puhleeze. I would be totally eye-rolling too. Truth is, I'm not sure. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my kids are a little older and more independent, so I can spend more time on myself without feeling guilty. Maybe some of it is that I have put so much effort into my eating and exercise choices over the last few years, that I finally feel like I'm good with what my body's doing. Maybe the two knee surgeries I had to have over the last couple of years taught me how truly disciplined and bad-ass I can be when I need to.  Maybe it's the meditating. Maybe it's the big life move we made a few years ago that freed up so much of our money and time so we could go to the beach any damn time we please.

I am sure it's some of that and some of this. The point is I'm here now, and it's an incredibly peaceful feeling.

It took me nearly 47 years. It's a good thing I didn't know that going in, because that's a long ass time. So, today I'll celebrate, because...dude, I'm happy as fuck.




Friday, November 29, 2019

...but then her kids became people

I fell in love with the power of a perfectly-crafted sentence when I was in second grade.

Ms. Davis was one of my least favorite teachers ever. She rarely smiled, had a raspy, nicotine voice, and had some sort of scarring on her neck that scared the hell out of my 7-year-old little self. But every day after lunch, she would perch herself upon a wooden stool and read aloud a chapter from Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I fell completely in love with mischievous little Ramona. When Beverly Cleary wrote about the pink eraser Ramona's father gave her as a little gift, I felt like I, too, could feel its rubbery smoothness in my palm and smell that perfect new-eraser smell. I didn't know that I could fall into a book in this way simply because a writer could write a good story. (Remember, I'm old...my kindergarten reading memories consist mostly of sitting in front of a giant chart and reading sentences about a girl named Meg, her dog, Spot, and all those Dick and Jane bores.) After Ms. Davis finished Ramona, and I found out there were more books about Ramona and her sister, I made my dad take me to the public library, where I had the librarian teach me where I could find the rest of the them. I then proceeded to methodically check out, read, return, repeat until I had read all of the Cleary books (yes, even the ones about the mouse and that Henry Huggins kid). 

A bit later, cheesy pre-teen paperbacks came into my life. Whenever we visited the cousins, I spent as much time as possible in my older cousin's room, admiring all her uber-cool, teenage paraphernalia. She had a closet door covered with posters and high school football ribbons and a book shelf filled with paperbacks that had pouty, preppy-looking girls looking wistfully towards mannequin-handsome football player types. I was fascinated. She would lend me any book she deemed not too racy and I could never wait to go back. It was like my own little teenage-themed public library. I still have the book she lent me that made me want to write. I can't, for the life of me, remember what, exactly, it was about, but I remember finishing it and feeling something really important that I could not name. It sits on my bookshelf, still, among Hemingway, Outlander, Tuesdays with Morrie, and my poetry books. Every time I do one of those house purges, I pick it up, look at it, feel a bit sheepish for keeping it, think about putting it in the "donate" pile, and then put it back on the shelf. I am pretty sure it was right after finishing that book that I really started to try my hand at "chapter books." I still have a huge box in my guest room filled with rubber-banded, typed chapters of unfinished "novels." My ages when I started them probably range from 11 to 17. I have not read them in years. They take up a ton of space in my nearly-tiny house. I still can't get rid of them.

I started this blog because early parenting made me feel stifled and overwhelmed. I had a hard time figuring out how the life I had before I had kids would transform into the life I was living now. Don't get me wrong; I always wanted kids. In fact, Hubby and I had quite a few struggles having Ben, so I was quite grateful we managed to have 2 healthy boys. This, however, just contributed to my feelings of guilt and confusion in those early years: I wanted this, so why am I not feeling like those "happy-happy-joy-joy" women who came before me and told me things like "Becoming a mother was the most fulfilling thing I've ever done" or "I knew the moment they put my newborn son on my chest that I loved him more than anything."

The boys grew up on these pages, and really, so did I. I suspect if I look back and count, I wrote more posts venting about the bad stuff with a bit of humor mixed in than gloriously gushing. I was totally, completely honest. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. Suddenly, I was hearing lots of "Me too!" and "Ohmigod, this parenting thing sucks!" and "I didn't know it would be this hard!" One of my most statistically popular posts was called "Sometimes I don't like my kid." I never felt like I was betraying them. Really, they were barely people then. Ben was 3 1/2 and Kai was a few months old. I complained about potty training and preschool playground drama and my toddler flipping me the bird. My readers either related to it or they didn't, but if they judged, they were judging my parenting and perception of it, not my kids.

It's different now.

Over the last few years, they've turned into actual human beings with opinions and passions and their own mini struggles. Almost every time I thought "I gotta write about this..." I stopped myself. If I wrote about my teen's social struggles, there was a really good chance someone who knew someone who knew him was going to read about it. I knew my son did not want his pre-teen dramas unfolding on my pages, because no matter how insignificant or typical they were in reality, they were neither of these to him. My 11-year-old is just now entering those years of social trial-and-error and trying out different personas and becoming interested in girls. Although he does not have the intensity of his older brother, I know he is easily embarrassed and hates it when I talk about nearly anything that is even slightly-possibly-maybe-personal in front of just about anyone else.

So. This blog sat here silently and I tried repeatedly to silence my words inside my own head. I told myself I was done and that it had served its purpose and that really, who the hell even uses the word blog anymore and they weren't babies anymore and there was no need. But here's the problem: the theme of this blog might have been my kids, but what it really always has been is a space for my words.. And now that my kids are (almost) their own people and I am (almost) feeling like an actual person who is way more than just a mom in survival mode, I still have (almost) perfectly-crafted sentences left to write. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I am a writer




I am a writer

always have been


I remember
when I was little
I did not covet
my sister's clothes
so much

it was 
her typewriter

I could not
get to it
fast
enough


Sometimes

it lies dormant
for whatever the reason
I can not
tend to it

and I think
Oh
It is done
I am good
that part of me
I've had enough
I've done enough
I'm good

Then

it comes back
it gnaws at me

I ignore it
push it away
scoff
ignore
eye roll
wait
it will recede
that feeling

but then the feeling
becomes a need
and I am
simultaneously
irritated and relieved

it's there
it won't go away

dammit

I have to write again
I am a writer
always have been

and so
I am back
begrudgingly
here I am 
unavoidable
you can only ignore
who you are
for so long