Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Gifts



My grandfather, who had a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for martyrdom, spent the last 15 years of his life wondering out loud if "this would be the last Christmas/birthday/Easter/random Sunday" he would live to see. I have this clear memory of him, sitting in the overstuffed chair in our living room, unwrapping his Christmas gifts (almost always beige socks and Old Spice shaving cream), sighing deeply and sucking his teeth about it. The rest of us would usually roll our eyes at each other and chuckle.

It seems, however, that the older I get, the more I am understanding my late grandfather. I wonder how many more Christmases I will have surrounded by Everyone. Every One. We have had the same little family of people doing the same little family traditions since I was a baby. With a few wonderful additions (the husbands, the children, the in-laws), it's been the same dysfunctional happy bunch for all 38 years of my life. Every Christmas Eve, we've dressed up and eaten Mami's pork. Every Christmas morning, we've gathered in her living room, each one of us taking turns opening gifts as the rest of us oooooh and ahhhhh and call out "Who's that from?" or "Wow, that's nice!"

Not one year...not even once...not because of work or illnesses or death or better plans have any of Us not been there.

* * *

Now, I can admit that I like the material part of Christmas. Always have. My parents were really good about getting me what I wanted (Baby Alive!), and now Hubby is so good at shopping for me that I'm seriously considering just giving him money and sending him off to shop for me all year long. So yes, I like the presents. They're fun.

But even when I was little, I understood that there was a real joy, a true gift, in being able to sit around the tree, my dad's Elvis Christmas album playing for the millionth time, laughing and eating and opening gifts with family. Now, having children of my own, seeing my parents aging more each day, understanding that life really does sometimes hand out senseless tragedies, I appreciate the normalcy, the simplicity, the predictability of having Everyone there.
.
.

I've always been big on Christmas. I loved the magic and the frivolity and the sparkle of it all. I was lucky to have grown up in a house where it was a month-long celebration of tinsel and merriment and yes, that Elvis album. But today, as I watched My Boys all building and assembling and playing, as I ate my mom's leftover pork from Christmas Eve, as I started (already) to store away some of the decorations, I realized I have an even stronger sense of immeasurable gratitude for the Christmases past...for the Gift of having Every One there, every year.

Merry Christmas, Grandpa...sorry 'bout the eye rolling.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running Like a Mom: Party of One


I ran for two hours the other day.

It wasn't the amount of time that was the major accomplishment, however. It was the fact that I did it Alone. Up until that day, I had never run for an extended period of time by myself. And up until that day, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to do it.

I like to run. I do. But the whole doing-something-for-a-couple-of-hours-straight? Well, let's just say that my attention span isn't so great. I start counting down the minutes left. I start thinking about all the other things I could be doing. I start obsessing over how the inseam of my sock is rubbing my pinkie toe. I get bored. I get antsy. I get tired. I lose my mojo.
.
When I trained for my previous half-marathons, I always had Hubby as a running partner. We had just started dating when I started training for my first one, and back then, the idea of running for over an hour seemed, to me, like an absolutely impossible feat. So...there we were, two twenty-somethings with not much to do and lots of time on our hands...so he ran with me. Being a bit of an extreme athlete (mountain biking, off-road triathlons, 3-day-expedition races) a little half marathon training wasn't such a stretch for him, so he became my official Support Crew. He carried my water, paced my time, handed me jelly beans, cheered me along when I'd hit the wall...and on race day? He did all of that AND ran ahead every so often to take pictures of me. No joke. (A few times, he even ran off the race course and stood along the sidelines with the other spectators to literally cheer me on and make me laugh a bit.)

Fast forward one decade and 2 kids later...if I want to train for any kind of event, it's gonna have to be on my own, because we just don't have that kind of time these days. When I tackled the idea of this race, one of the motivating factors for me was that I wanted to do something scary again, and as uncomfortable and downright painful as this training and the 13.1 race day miles is going to be, I wouldn't qualify it as scary. I've done this twice. I know I can complete the event. But what does scare the hell out of me is having to do this all on my own.

Today I went out for 2 hours and 10 minutes. I had to pack my own stuff, plan my own route, carry my own water. When I got tired and thought I was going to have to lie down, right there on the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, it was only my own voice telling me I could do this, telling me to keep going, reminding me that during long runs it's gonna hurt but I will finish.

I realize that for many people out there, doing something like running by yourself (especially if it's something you've done for a long time) is not such a major personal accomplishment. But you have to understand, I crossed my first busy street when I was 21. Yes. You read that right. 21 years old. I was on vacation in New York and my ex-boyfriend wanted to take a picture of me in front of a restaurant. I looked for traffic, ran across, and smiled "Cheeeeese!". It dawned on me immediately that I had never actually walked around amidst traffic before. (I know...WTF?!?) I've mentioned before that I was brought up extremely sheltered. Pair that with a childhood and adolescence in a city where no one walks anywhere, and you have yourself an adult who had never had to cross a street alone before.

So now you have this 38-year-old mommy of two who finds it incredibly monumental that in a couple of months she will be waking up at 3:00 a.m., lacing up her sneakers, pinning on her race number, figuring out exactly where the hell one carries a disposable camera and some jelly beans for 13 miles, and getting on a Disney bus that will take her to the start of a long distance event...all by herself. This time around, it will be Just Me. I am the only one pushing Me to train, to run, to go. I am relying only on Myself. That's a pretty cool thing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where, oh where, did my little blog go?

I was never a daily "post-er."
But I would get in here...two, three times a week. My mind was often on my blog: What will I write next? Oooh, that will be a good one! I've got to get that one done tonight.
Lately, I have nearly abandoned it.
It's not that I don't have material. It's not that I don't want to write.
In fact, I post almost everyday...in my own head.
I "write" posts in the shower, on my runs, on my drive to work, while I'm loading the dishwasher. They are usually incredibly spot-on, full of insight, poignancy, wit, and honesty.
But...they rarely make it online anymore. They only exist in my head.
Here's the thing: when I can finally get to that post, that idea that has been born inside my head, that fleeting moment of inspiration is gone. Poof. It went down the tub with the boys' bath water, or it fell out of my head as I stretched post-run, or, more often than not, it just doesn't seem that important later on.
The truth is that most nights, there's a full-out fight: at 9:00, after I've been up since 5:00 a.m., after I've spent the day teaching 53 fourth-graders, after I've helped Ben with his Letter Of The Week Homework, after I've packed my gym bag for the next day, and searched for "just one more" thing in the latest I Spy book, it comes down to..."Do I blog or do I sleep?" And, as evidenced by my recent absence, sleep usually wins.
It's just easier to snuggle under the covers (especially on these frigid South Florida nights of 50 degree weather...what can I say?...I'm a true beach bum) with a book and dim lighting...or curl up on the sofa as Hubby watches the Heat game and rubs my feet...or literally just crash and be sound asleep by 9:01.
Perhaps this is all proof that I never really was meant to be a "real writer." I mean, a writer should have the constant need to write, right? A writer must actually write...Monday through Friday...a real job. It seems that as my blog now nears its 2nd anniversary, the drive in me is slightly lessened: "It's okay...I'll write that one tomorrow." But lately, it turns into tomorrow, and my bed or my sofa beckons yet again.
Sweet dreams.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Routine Life: Six Word Friday


Routine. For me, it brings on
.
Dread and Calm. Resentment and Certainty.

Routine allows for Life to be

Still. Easy. Expected. Smooth. Contained. Controlled.

But along with routine, comes the

Boredom. Restlessness. Tedium. Complacency. Stagnancy. Depression.

Routine has become almost a requirement.

Without it, the day to day

Becomes unmanageable. I lose my grip.

And so, Life becomes a series

Of rushed timelines, deadlines, and bedtimes.

Within these tight constraints of Life

I've realized the necessity, the power

Of veering away. Defying the restrictions.

A spontaneous night with wine, conversation

Becomes almost like a rebellion against

What Life has required of Us.

An occasional alarm clock ignored becomes

A snub at responsibility and reality.

The routine, I've realized, is only

Effective when I'm willing to bend.

Break away, every now and then,

And remember what my Life is

And who I am without routine.

What does the word "routine" evoke in you? Join Six Word Fridays at Making Things Up!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disney Princess Half-Marathon: Coming Full Circle


I started running to get away from an unhappy life. It was my escape--literally--out of "that house" and gave me an excuse to be by myself, to do something for me. I had never been athletic. I was one of those kids who got straight A's in every subject but begged the PE coach to "give me a D and just let me sit out." It wasn't that I couldn't do the things they wanted me to do; it was the discomfort I felt being watched while I had to do them. (I will not even get into the horror I felt whenever I'd come out to phys ed and see the Shuttle Run set up.)

But running was easy...not so much physically, since I literally couldn't go longer than 2 minutes at first without feeling like I was going to die...but emotionally. All I needed was a pair of sneakers and my headphones, and to just go: put one foot in front of the other. The results came quick and were easy to measure: At first, I just went around the block, running the corners and walking the straight-aways. Within a few days, I could run the straights and just walk the corners. Before I knew it, I was running 10 minutes straight. And then...my first 5k. Up until that moment, when I crossed my first-ever finish line, I had never ever been so proud of myself. A year or so later, I started toying with the idea of a half marathon. When I mentioned it to my nears and dears at the time, most of them scoffed, pointed, and ridiculed outright. "13 miles? You? There's no way."

Another year (and one divorce later), I crossed the finish line at the 2001 Walt Disney Half-Marathon.

Although there was no longer a need to escape my life, I kept running...although my distances rarely went over 3 miles.

Then in 2004, after nearly 2 years of trying to get pregnant and 13 weeks of a joyous pregnancy, Hubby and I had a miscarriage.

Devastation.

After a few weeks, I knew I wasn't getting "passed" it. Rock bottom was starting to feel pretty damn close, and I realized that if I didn't "do" something, I was going to drown.

So out of nowhere, I decided to go back for another Disney Half with the goal of improving my previous finishing time. Over the next 4 months I focused completely on this race, my training, and my fitness. It gave me something to do. It gave me an outlet for my stress, my thoughts, my emptiness.

At the expo held the day prior to the race, one of the vendor booths was set up for little kids to make signs to hold up during the race. I stood by and watched little girls and boys making banners with puffy paint and sticky letters and markers: "Go Mommy!" "You can do it, Daddy!" "We love you!" Surprisingly, I didn't break down then. I turned to Hubby and said, "One day, I'm gonna come back to do this race, and my kids are going to make signs for me."

The next day, I ran a good race and did beat my previous time, in spite of having a very upset stomach and a lot of nausea the whole way. When we ran through the Magic Kingdom and passed the Dumbo ride, the tears finally came. I mourned, right there on mile 9, for the loss of this little spirit, this baby that wasn't to be, this dream that had been shattered.

I came home and found out a week later that I was pregnant. Ben Kincaid was born on September 16, 2005.

A couple of years after having him, we decided to try again, hesitant and fearful that we'd have to go through another difficult time.

We got pregnant with Aidan Kai on the first try. He was born August 8, 2008.


* * *

Now, I'm going back.

I registered for the Walt Disney Princess Half Marathon, February 2011. A decade after my first big race, and 7 years after crying at mile 9, I will be running for my kids and for myself. We'll go back to the expo and watch Ben and Aidan make "Go Mama!" signs. And when I cross that finish line, this time by myself, I'll run into the arms of My 3 Men: the one who has run along beside me literally and figuratively, and the 2 little ones who came to join us, the ones who made me Mama.

Friday, November 19, 2010

There's no place like home

Usually messy, toys strewn like landmines
Disorganized closets, laundry baskets, dirty dishes
Still, my soft place to land
My sofa...head in Hubby's lap
Their rooms...bedtime rituals, whispered goodnights
Our bed...snuggling undercovers, peaceful bliss


What is HOME to you? Join Six Word Fridays at Making Things Up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I can have anxiety.

It's not there, all the time. It used to be much worse. You might have even referred to me, once upon a time, as a bit of a hypochondriac (I hate that word). Every symptom paralyzed me with fear and every non-symptom prompted me to imagine one. After years of learning that most of the time, it was "nothing," or, in the rare cases when it was "something," I was able to deal with it and move on, the anxieties eased. Somewhere along the line, over the last few years, I stopped being so afraid.

But recently, I've noticed it lurking...the old familiar fear, seeping back into me, stalking. It's subtle, and definitely more manageable than it used to be. But I sense it.

Thankfully, I've grown enough (and spent a few good years in therapy) to recognize it now, even before it takes hold of me. And so I've spent some time contemplating: why? Why now? Why, after all this time, are some of my old ways coming back, messing with my head, my days, my life? And then, it hit me: It's all good.

Life, I mean.

It's good.

Things are calm. Happy. Easier.

I've been pretty busy the last few years...having babies, buying houses, becoming a real grown-up (albeit begrudgingly at times). Life's been frenetic: sleep-training, potty-training, weight-training...and then, trying to keep my job, my marriage, my social life, and my sense of self all in working order. But lately, things seem to have settled. Hubby and I don't have to fight for quiet time (as much). We aren't waking up in the middle of the night (as much). We're planning exciting adventures again. I find that we are no longer "in survival mode"...we have made it through the infant years, we have settled in, gotten comfortable with parenting, found our groove, and have continued on with our plans for This Grand Life. And so...

There it is.

The anxiety.

The fear: When will the other shoe drop?

It can't be this good. I can't be this lucky. It can't be this easy.

* * *

It reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from the Sex and the City movie (yes, I am going to refer to SATC in the middle of a pretty serious blog post...and to those of you who know me: Why are you surprised?) when Charlotte admits to Carrie that she's scared because she has everything she has ever wanted:

Carrie: What makes you think that something bad is gonna happen?
Charlotte: Because! Nobody gets everything they want! Look at you, look at Miranda. You're good people and you two both got shafted. I'm so happy and...something bad is going to happen.

That is exactly how I feel. I have everything I could possibly want: a husband I am so in love with I can hardly believe he's mine; two healthy, smart, sweet little boys who grin and squeal "Mama" when I walk in the door; a home I never thought I could buy; amazing family; and my list can go on and on. Nothing "bad" is happening. Every one is "good." I am blissfully happy.

And terrified it's too good to be true.

The worst part of it is that the older I get, the more I know of people and their stories...their sadnesses, their losses...and like Charlotte thought: Why not me? Why not us?

It's a terrible way to think. I hate it. I detest it. It is not even easy to write about, to put "out there," because then I almost feel like perhaps I'm making it more real, more me. And I absolutely do not want That to be a part of Me ever again. I refuse.

The crazy thing, the contradiction, is that I don't actually believe in any of this. I believe in surrendering to the universe. I believe in God. I believe in karma. Energy. Trusting. Letting go. I believe in optimism, the strength of spirit. All of it. But sometimes, it's hard for me to apply, to live. And I well know that living in fear, in worry, only has a negative power on my psyche, my day to day, and my health. I get frustrated when loved ones (who I've obviously been influenced by) expect the worst. I want to hit them over the head, yell and scream: Expect the best! Only the best! Let go! Trust! Believe! And most of all, Live! Live life and drink it in...all its joys and blessings and good. Perhaps, it is myself I am really trying to remind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Living in the In Betweens

Life
is full
if you're lucky
of celebrations
.
momentous occasions
.
they mark our lives
our days
.
they give us
something
to cling to
when Life
gets
in
the
way
when it sucks our energy
and drains our passion
.
but
in between
those moments
in between
the celebrations
IS
Life
.
it is in
the in betweens
where we miss out
.
where Life really happens
.
the real cause
for celebrating
.
the nothings and the everythings
of our everydays
.
hiding
in the in betweens
is
a Monday night
with
wine
and
the good stereo
and a candle
or two
and a rekindling
of
You
Him
Us
Life
.
There.
.
there it is
.
in the in between

Friday, November 5, 2010

Change: Six Word Friday

Somewhere along the line I became
the girl I wanted to be.

What does the word "change" mean to you? Join Six Word Fridays!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Never underestimate the power of a little body glitter and some wings...

Parenting can take you to extremes...heavenly joy one minute, hellish frustration the next. Your days can become a blur of lunchboxes, birthday parties, soccer games, frantic mornings, and endless bedtimes. Being a parent almost defines you. Your life revolves around these precious little beings.
.
.
Which is why it's really nice, every once in a while, to swap the holiday-themed t-shirt and hair clip for some stilettos and eye glitter...
.
.
Admittedly, it took a strong cocktail to get me to walk out of the house like that...but boy, did it do wonders for my self-esteem (and it didn't hurt my marriage much). I'm not one to quote pop stars (I swear), but maybe Usher knows what he's talking about when he sings the "DJ's got us fallin' in love again." 'Cause for a few hours, we sure didn't feel like Mama and Daddy, and in spite of the splitting headache we fought off in the morning, trick or treating tonight was even more fun because we'd felt like we'd played hookie the night before.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Taken for granted treats



relaxed meals
sleeping in
living spontaneously

What treats do you miss from your pre-mommy days?

Join Six Word Fridays! Find out more at
Making Things Up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Confessions of motherhood

There used to be a time, not so long ago, when you couldn't really talk about how hard it is to be a parent. Motherhood, especially, was cloaked in fantasy and illusions and assumptions and judgments. All you heard were words like "rewarding" and "wonderful" and "miraculous."

Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Women are speaking out--through blogs, books, articles, even musicals--about how hard it actually is. We know the truth: motherhood's not glamorous. And despite what some women wanna make you believe, it's not all glorious and totally fulfilling. We are finally being honest with each other about those days when you want to run away--the days when the kids are fighting and the laundry's piling and the bills are late and the baby refuses to sleep and everything is going wrong.

But what about the other days?

What about the ones when everything is relatively calm (we all know I'm using this word loosely) and we still feel like maybe, just maybe, we could run away anyway?

I've come to realize that I hate about 50% of parenting.
Even on easy days.
Cause here's the thing: there are no easy days.

Parenting is tedious. Parenting is exhausting. Parenting is stressful.

I don't enjoy giving my wiggly, whiny, tub-hating toddler a bath.
I don't enjoy convincing my strong-willed, opinionated 5-year-old to share his "special toy" with his brother.
I don't enjoy trying to figure out how to make semi-healthy school lunches night after night.
I don't enjoy emptying and cleaning said lunchboxes night after night.
I just don't like the every day monotony of parenting two little kids.

So this is where I interrupt this regularly scheduling ranting to pop in the usual cliched disclaimer: I love my kids. I love their wet kisses and their squeaky voices and the way they smell like saliva and Cheerios and boy sweat all mixed together. But I don't like parenting.

So the other night, when I was scrubbing my kid's hair in the tub and he was wailing that the tear-free shampoo that was not even in his eye was making his "eye hurt! eye hurt!" I was just like: "Man, I hate this." And then I was like: "Oh, man. That can't be good." I mean, it was a typical night. No real drama, no major parenting problems to tackle, just a regular day. And yet, there I was: little patience, exhausted, annoyed, and resentful.

And guilty.

Really, really guilty.

Because, c'mon, what kind of mom am I if I want to run away on the "normal" days?

Then, of course, I make myself feel worse by telling myself that I'll be sorry one day...that I should be enjoying them more...that one day I will miss the days of tear-free shampoo and Scooby-Doo lunchboxes.

And then I feel worse.

Cause now I'm not only beating myself up for hating this, but I'm stressing myself out because I'm hating this and then I'm wishing I could just be responsible for washing only my own hair and then I'm looking at this fat little face and he's stopped crying and I'm feeling guilty-er cause really, shouldn't a mother enjoy washing her little angel's strawberry blond curls and what the hell is wrong with me, anyway?

We are finally at a point where moms are being honest. We're admitting that no, sorry, but the stretch marks probably won't ever go away after you have the baby, and hell, yes, the labor hurts like crazy, and no, having a newborn around really wasn't what I thought it would be, and no, being a mother isn't enough for me... So I thought that maybe it'd be okay if I could just admit that, even on the pretty good days, sometimes I struggle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Damaged Goods

I get migraines.

I've had them since I was a little girl. I have this very clear memory of being in 4th grade and asking my teacher to let me call home because of one, and she kept saying, "You just need to relaaaax. You'll be fiiiiine."
"You don't understand..." I tried to explain.
I had to wait until the Spanish teacher came in to the class and my regular teacher left so I could go to the office and call home.
I hated my fourth grade teacher forever.

I've always felt like it's something I have to explain, like I have this pre-existing condition that can pop up at any time, sometimes without warning, and completely knock me out, make me totally incompetent, paralyzed, useless, helpless.

It's inevitable that if you've known me for any given period of time, you know I get these headaches with some regularity. So my husband had been "forewarned" when we started dating. My very first migraine with him was memorable: sudden, acute, and accompanied by vomiting. Sexy.

"Teach me how to help you," he had said. (It's easy to see why I fell so hard, huh?)

After 10 years, he doesn't need to ask. He knows the routine, even for the most severe ones: ice pack for the head, Tiger Balm for the temples, bucket of hot water for the feet (according to my Chinese medicine doctor), prescription medication, neck rub, dark room, and assurances that I'll be okay.

He has never complained, but I have always felt guilty. I can't help but wonder how much he dreads those words: "I'm getting a headache." My migraines can't be helped, but still, they're an imposition. They make me an imposition. They make life come to a screeching halt...like last weekend when our Friday date night plans were replaced with the aforementioned routine. He must think it: "Here we go again." I know I do.

And I so resent that in this world of tension headaches and computer neck strain and general stress, the word "migraine" has become almost like a catch phrase. People throw it around to signify a "bad headache." How often I've heard, when I'm in the throes of one, no less: "Oh yeah, I know how you feel. I get the woooorst headaches..." or "Ugh, I had such a migraine the other day, I went home and had to have a glass of wine."

No.

No, you do not have "the worst headaches," and no, you did not have a migraine if you went home and cured yourself with alcohol. Lord knows, this girl likes herself a cocktail almost more than anyone, but when I have even the slightest hint of a headache, alcohol is the last thing on my mind. And I'm certainly not saying other people around are not entitled to their aches and pains, but those of us who suffer from actual, real migraines sorta know those around us who suffer from actual, real migraines, too. It's like a twisted, sad, sympathetic, resigned private club.

I've tried it all: meds/no meds, more exercise/less exercise, identifying triggers, keeping my sugar balanced, stress-relief, meditation, chiropractors, acupuncture, neurologists.... Some of it helps. Sometimes. Other times, like the last 2 weeks, nothing seems to help. I feel like I'm walking around, waiting (which, I know, probably makes it all worse), praying, hoping, and literally being aware of the absence of pain.

I realize that along the spectrum of chronic medical "issues," I can not complain. Most of the time, I manage. But pain really has a way of seeping in to your soul, tearing up your spirit and your resolve a bit, sucking the joy out of your everyday. And, not to mention, it can really piss you off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stretching out of my comfort zone



As I contorted myself into side-angle pose and inhaled deeply, I tried to clear my mind.

It is one of the things I struggle the most with: clearing my mind of the constant noise...the ideas, frustrations, to-dos, dreams, anxieties...the unrelenting noise in my head. No matter what, I can't shut it off.

It was one of the reasons I fell in love with yoga over 5 years ago: the poses, the balancing, the breathing...it required being in the moment...stopping, being still--literally and figuratively. But this class was different...I couldn't still my mind, even when the poses required all of my concentration.

Because all I kept thinking was: I am so fuckin' proud of myself.

Yeah, I know...probably not appropriate to be cursing in your own head during tree pose...doesn't seem very new age-y and ommm-like. But I couldn't help it. I was near giddy with simple self-pride.

Life is filled with opportunities--big ones and small ones. But grabbing even the smallest ones can have a major impact on our psyches, our sense of selves, our well being, our pride.

Last week I wrote about friendships, and I mentioned that because of what I'd learned over the past couple of years, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and invite someone I hardly knew to "hang out." A minor thing for many. A major thing for me. As if that had not been enough, I decided to throw myself a double-whammy and go do said "hanging-out" at a yoga class at a real-deal yoga studio.

I hadn't practiced yoga in a loooooong time. And attending this particular class was not exactly super convenient. And I already work out plenty. And really, I don't have much room in my budget or schedule for another passion. And so I probably could've skipped it altogether. And I certainly have lots of friends already. And my social calendar is already quite full. And I definitely did not need to make a new friend or take time out of my week to sit post-yoga and chat over sushi in order to get to know someone. Really, the yoga class...the "girl date"...it was all unnecessary.

But not really.

Because I wanted to get to know this person. Because I want to open my social circle to see who else might be out there on the playground. Because I miss yoga desperately. Because when I attend a really good yoga class, I feel safe and calm and still and in control and quiet.

So all of it? It was necessary. For me.

But isn't that what we all get caught up in? Life's busy. I'll get to it later. I don't have time. I wish I could, but there's laundry and children and groceries and husbands and relatives and oil changes and bills and appointments and...and...and...

Attending this yoga class and meeting this person required effort. And I realized, smack in the middle of one of the poses, how incredibly proud of myself I was...that I had made the effort...that I had inconvenienced myself and my family a bit in order to do something I really wanted to...something that wasn't super easy, something that required planning and rescheduling and more than a 15-minute drive.

In the middle of the yoga class, our instructor was talking about being open enough to discover and enjoy "the full potential of this life experience."

I was struck by this statement. Yes, she might have been referring to life in a grander, more spiritual way. But isn't it the little things, the everyday decisions, that make up our existence? Hadn't I, by opening myself up to the potential of this new person, to this new class, stretched myself in a way as to better enjoy my life experience?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The more the merrier

I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately.

My dearest friend's 7-year-old granddaughter is having some issues on the playground. She can't quite understand how her best friend can be her best friend one day and completely ignore her the next.

"That's just rude, Gram. And it hurts my feelings."

It's tough being a girl. Women are difficult creatures. We desperately need each other but we push each other away, claw and snap and bitch, and talk behind each other's backs.

My friend assured her granddaughter that "one day" she'd find that one true best friend:
"Really, Gram? You promise?"
"I promise."

I told my friend that I thought that had been a terrible promise to make (we're honest like that). I'm not sure I really believe in the notion of a best friend anymore, although lately (and here's the truly ironic part) I feel I am in some of the healthiest relationships of my life. The notion of That One True Best Friend--the promise that little girl is holding out for--puts a whole lot of pressure on her and especially on the girls around her. No one person should be responsible for being every thing to anyone.

That little girl may be so busy looking for that One Girl that she may miss out on all the ones skipping happily around her on the playground.

* * *

In spite of the fact that most people would probably describe me as very outgoing, I've actually spent most of my life being somewhat anti-social. Growing up, I was never accepted into any of the Cliques Of The Moment, and more often than not, I'd find somebody who was "like me" (read: a little too loud or a little too dramatic or a little too awkward or a little too whatever I happened to be at the time) and I'd latch on. I'd found her: my friendship soulmate! And eventually, as is almost always inevitable with females, she'd screw me over. There was Marilyn in 3rd grade, who one day came back from lunch and abruptly and silently pulled her desk a few inches away from mine and refused to speak to me. I remember Lena, in middle school, who decided hanging out with "the other girls" was way cooler than hanging out with me (she was probably right). The list goes on and on. I realize there were probably many times that I, too, had disappointed them...I don't doubt that I said something completely inappropriate to Marilyn that day at lunch, but couldn't she have told me what that something was?

What I've come to realize over the last couple of years is that all that time I spent excluding everyone else to be with my One True Best Friend, I had missed out. A lot. On people, outings, experiences, adventures, life lessons.

I now find myself surrounded by a lot of really remarkable women...some I had pushed aside for years because I simply "didn't have the time" to spend with them. I am more open, less judgmental, and having a whole heck of a lot more fun. My "collection" of girlfriends are all incredibly different: with some I can discuss, in great details, Marc Jacobs's personal make-over...others shop "exclusively" at Walmart and Target. For some of my friends, sweating is restricted to dancing and sex...others are game for anything from a 5k to a full-out adventure race. I would not call any one of these women my Best Friend. I know who I can call in the middle of the night when my kid is running a fever of 105. I know who I can call when I'm desperate for a night of dancing and drinks. Some of these women know secrets about me that the rest of the world would be shocked to know. Others, I'm just starting to truly trust.

Today, I "asked a girl out." Well, that's what it felt like, anyway. I recently started to talk to someone at work who seems to be so amazingly interesting and intelligent and just plain "cool," that I stepped out of my old comfort zone and, after 30 minutes of chatting about designer galoshes, world-wide travel, Christian Louboutins, mamas' boys, marriage and children, I decided to make a plan to get together next week. This may seem like a totally normal thing to do. But for me, it felt foreign. This woman may become one of my girls. Or, perhaps we will get together and have absolutely nothing to talk about (although after that 30-minute-all-inclusive-chat, I doubt it!). But the point is that I have finally figured out that I don't need one Best Friend. I need lots of really fantastic friends. I am no longer disappointed, because I don't put all my eggs in one basket. I have lots of baskets, and I'm skipping happily around with them on the playground.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

You made me "Mama"





Dear Ben,

You were born 5 years ago today, my first baby. I have not been able to stop thinking about the fact that it was exactly 5 years ago that I became a mother. You made me a mother. Your entrance into this world changed me forever, in a way that I could not even begin to understand then.

We wanted you. Desperately. We waited for so long and went through so much. As much as your Daddy and I loved each other, as happy as we were, as blessed as we felt, we knew there was something missing. While we were going through that time, we didn't understand why.

Then you came. And we knew.

All along, all that time, we had been waiting for you.

You came along and joined our little twosome and rocked our world. We weren't even sure what to do with you. We didn't recognize our lives, our selves, or each other. Let's just say that there was an adjustment period. But you were fantastic. Maybe you (or someone greater) knew that we weren't quite able to handle too much then, and so you were The Easiest Baby On Earth. You slept. You ate. You sat happily for hours staring at the wall. By the time you were two, we thought we were surely the best parents ever, since we had obviously been fully responsible for this little being who was so perfectly behaved and easy-going and smart. (We know better now...as evidenced by many posts on this very blog referencing playground punching and general acts of absolute insubordination....at least you waited until we had recovered from the postpartum, grown up, and gotten a better handle on the challenges of parenting.)

You are growing up to be quite a kid. You're wicked smart and always trying to be one step ahead of everyone. If you apply your skills of manipulation and persuasion to good rather than evil, you will undoubtedly be incredibly successful. You seem to have inherited your father's goofy sense of humor but my fear of embarrassment. You like things a very particular way (how I wish, on those mornings when we're running late because you've had to adjust your socks 18 times so the stitching lands just so along your toes, that I could tell you that I still do that before a run). You still have not figured out that you are not, actually, the center of the universe. You finally seem to have taken a sincere liking to your baby brother, and when I see you helping him, trying to explain something to him (like last night when you were showing him how to draw a clown), it makes my heart swell up with a love, gratitude, and relief that I can not put into words. Your manners are near perfect. Your sense of humor, flawless. You are, quite simply, a really cool kid (which is a good thing, since you refuse to allow us to call you "cute", only "cool" or on occasion, "handsome").
.
There's something special about being the first born. You were the one who Changed Us...the one who turned us into Mama and Dada. You squeezed your way in to our little cocoon for two, and actually made us want to slide over and make room. You are amazingly special, Ben Kincaid. We love you "sooooo much" and "all the way to the back of the moon."
Happy Birthday.
Love, Mama

Then and now...



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Petty and Pissy

Once a month, I get crabby.
Bitchy.
Overly sensitive.

Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.

But that's sorta understandable, right? I mean, we all know there's a physiological reason why this happens to most of us. We have an excuse.

But what about when you don't have an excuse?
What about when you're walking around, generally pissed off, and you can't blame the calendar?

I have no reason to be pissy.
Except I do.


Petty things that are currently pissing me off and I have no idea why:

1. What the fuck is wrong with people who think the general laws of traffic
do not apply to them? (This is especially aggravating when said people are your
colleagues and you want to kick them when you see them in the school
hallway.)

2. I've been busting my ass for 3 1/2 weeks to lose my summer weight and I
can't close one goddamn pair of pants without getting a muffin top, yet my
lovely Hubby eats 2 salads and works out 3 times and *poof!* his abs are
back!

3. Especially chipper people...you know, the ones who squeal "Smile!"
whenever they see you.

4. The fact that every night the only conversation I seem to have energy for is the same set of required questions: "You going to the gym in the morning?" "Did you prepare the coffee?" "Are the kitchen counters already wiped?" "Whose turn is it to read to Ben?" "Is everything ready for tomorrow?"

5. The general bullshit hypocrisy of people who pretend to be something they're not: like the person who has a rosary hanging from her car mirror but doesn't remember who she slept with last night, or the one who throws out risque comments every chance she gets but is really just a jealous prude.

6. The alarm clock needing to be set to 4:45 a.m., and knowing that the latest I'll be able to sleep in on the weekend is 7:15, if I'm lucky.

There.
I think I kinda feel better now.
Maybe this helped.

And if it doesn't, that's okay, I'm sure in a few days this random senseless pissiness will pass...
...just in time for that time of the month.
At least then, I'll have an excuse.

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's no inspiration

I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way.

More often than not, inspiration comes to me in the form of angst.
Drama.
Discomfort.
Heartache.


Lately, there's just been...Life.


Life without angst is a good thing. I am not complaining. I've got it good, but I'm not exactly longing for my laptop so I can pour out my musings.


Truth be told, I'm not musing much lately.

I'm too tired.
I'm just trying to keep up.


After the Summer Of Salsa, I find myself still struggling to catch up to Reality. I feel like I'm on a perpetual treadmill: always going, going, going.


None of it is "bad:"
I have a good job with good hours.
I have an amazing husband who truly sees our life as a partnership.
I have incredibly selfless parents and in-laws who constantly pitch in with babysitting.
I have time to myself almost on a daily basis.
I have two healthy, happy kids who (mostly) follow their tightly-set daily routine.

There are no crises, currently.

It's all good.


But still, I find that I struggle with day-to-day life. I find the everyday tedious and frustrating and, well, repetitive. I sometimes think that we spend so much of our life wasting away at jobs and errands and laundry and bathing children (even if I do sorta like my job and my children are pretty damn cute when they're splashing in the tub). It's just Life. Life is busy and hectic, even when it's good and boring and drama-free.


And then I feel guilty...guilty that I struggle, that I complain, that I'm always so tired. Because I am well aware of how lucky I am, how truly blissful life is when there's nothing to write about.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Words

The things people say can shape us, our choices, our lives, who we become and how it all turns out...

Don’t worry about your curfew tonight.

Why are you marrying this guy?

The unemployment line is too long on Mondays.

You’re too loud.

You want too much.

You never deserved me, anyways.

Are you sure you don’t want to move back home with us?

I think you should move back home with us.

I'm worried you will always need the drama in your life to be happy.

Maybe you knew what you were doing all along.

You’re the coolest girl I’ve ever hung out with.

You guys are gonna end up together.

If you let me, I’ll take care of you forever.

Why don’t we just move in together?

Will you do be the honor of being my wife?

I’m ready.

I’m sorry, but the fetus stopped developing weeks ago.

When you feel like you're drowning, hold onto me.

Yes, you’re pregnant.

It’s a boy.

I think I'm happy with just one.

I think I want another one.

Let’s buy a bigger house.

Yes, you're pregnant.

Yes, it's definitely another boy.

This is harder than I thought.

This is getting easier.

I'm happy; are you?



This was inspired by Maria's post at Mom of Three Seeks Sanity on "Things you thought you'd never hear." She was inspired by a comment made by someone about pink eye, of all things! What started out, for her, as a funny post turned into something bigger and more important. Then when I tried her angle, my post took on a life of its own, too. As I started to type, my memory took over, and this is what came out. It was strangely stream-of-conscience-like and cathartic.

Funny or important, memorable or painful...what words have been spoken to you?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Replaced

I've already forgotten her...

that girl from summer

the one who didn't take herself so seriously
the one who didn't care if her jeans were a little too tight
or if the kids were up too late

The one who smiled
and laughed

a lot

How could I have misplaced her
so quickly?

I miss her.
I think everyone else does
too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Visiting a friend with a tribute to Ms. Bradshaw

Simone, at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket, invited me over to guest post on her amazing blog, which is always a parade of beautiful images: celebrities, fashion, landscapes, quotes...
A click over to her always make me feel inspired or relaxed, or both! Check out my guest post over there (it's a recycled one but one of my personal faves and perfect, I though, for her site), and then dig around her in her laundry basket...I'm sure you'll love what you find!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What the hell am I gonna do when they go to college?



I have been a teacher for 14 years.
I have been a mother for 5.
This week, my 2 selves collided in a way I couldn't possibly understand until now.
I think I'm a good teacher. For the most part, my students have always liked being in my class. I've always tried to be kind. I've always struggled to teach my students to the best of my ability. I have always been in it "for the right reasons."
I thought I really "got it"...the power of a teacher.
14 years, 4 different grade levels, 2 schools, and probably 400+ students later, I really "got it."
.
But my professional epiphany had nothing to do with my job.


On Sunday night, I lay in bed, trying to sleep, looking forward to the school year ahead, and thinking about my boys. Ben would start his first day of VPK with 2 certified real-deal degreed teachers and weekly homework (!) that Monday morning. Aidan Kai (my little rambunctious just-turned-two baby!) would be starting his first day of "school" in the "baby class" at his big brother's school that Tuesday. And as I lay there, I realized the amount of hope and trust I was placing in these teachers, these women who would be helping to mold my little boys over the next year. I was excited for my boys. They would learn and play and jump and laugh and cry and push the limits with these teachers. And in that moment, in the darkness of my room, I realized that, most likely, in many homes a few miles away, there were other moms (and probably dads) thinking the same thoughts and having the same feelings...about Me. Those parents were probably also laying in their beds, wondering what would be in store for their children when they entered my classroom the next day, hoping and trusting, too.

That was the moment when I truly realized the importance of my job.

And the incredible amount of gratitude I feel towards these teachers when they show an extra moment of patience or tenderness or understanding with my boys.


Lesson learned.
* * *


Ben's been attending his school for 2 years. He started 2 days a week when he was three. Last year he increased to 3 days a week. Monday he started "official pre-k"...5 days a week, full time. He was excited and happy.



Each afternoon, he's worked on his homework for this week.

Sometimes, it's like pulling teeth:
"C'mon, Ben, focus." "No, Ben you have to do some of the writing yourself." "Ben! You know what a letter M looks like!"
.
Other times, it's mommy ecstasy:
"No, Mama, I want to write that part myself." "Let me show Daddy." "I know that Aidan's name starts with a letter A."
.
I can't quite believe I've arrived (so soon!) at the point in my parenting career where I have to come home (after an entire day of working with 52 kids) to patiently and lovingly teach one more kid.
.
* * *
.
Last school year, whenever we went to pick Ben up from school, Aidan Kai was the one who'd pick up his brother's lunchbox from the cubby and carry it to the car. He sometimes even asked to stay. So we decided this year, a full year sooner than Ben, we'd start him out at the same school 2 days a week for half days. Although I knew it was the right thing for him at this point, I was a wreck.
.
The morning went so smoothly that I was sure all hell would break loose at any moment. He ate his breakfast, he helped pick out his clothing, he picked up his lunchbox, and was ready to go. When we arrived, cringing that surely at any minute he'd start his usual schtick of "Up! Up!" and cling to us, he instead insisted on walking himself down the hall to the front door.
That picture?
.
It's the one that made me cry when I looked at it later as I pulled into the parking lot at work.
* * *
I feel like we've started a whole new chapter in our parenting lives. I'm excited and proud of our boys, but I'm a bit melancholy and emotional about the days we're leaving behind. The feeling I've been walking around with today is one I can't even put into words, which is probably why this post has turned into more of an account of the facts than one with a point. I just feel emotionally full and emotionally spent at the same time, and I knew I had to chronicle this event, because it's yet another in which I realize there are some things you can't understand until you're a mom.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Real life ain't sexy

There's a reason couples have more sex while on vacation.
Vacation is sexy.
Real life? Not so much.
On vacation, there's no laundry piles, lunchboxes, piles of unopened mail, alarm clocks.
The only To-Do's are sightseeing, eating, shopping, sleeping, and romancing.


We've only been back to our Real Life for a week (and it hasn't even been the full-blown version, since the boys haven't started school yet), and already some of the friskiness is gone.


During the summer, it was all about "What do you wanna do tomorrow?" or "Do you wanna open a bottle of wine tonight?" or "When can your mom have the kids again overnight?"


There were full days on the beach, Just Us, with picnic lunches, cheesy magazines, lots of sunblock, and even more vodka.


There were nights of getting all dressed up: over-the-top smoky eye and glittery liner, patent leather red stilettos, and way-too-short-for-a-mom-over-35-mini-skirts...and then dancing the night away.


There were early evenings conspiratorially rushing the bedtime routines so we could then sneak into our loft, with red wine and cheese and lingerie and John Mayer.


But now?


Now, the luxury is pizza standing up at the kitchen counter (only 2 small slices...I know, I know, I've gotta lose those summer pounds!), Blockbuster rentals, and 2 exhausted back-to-work teachers/parents trying to get back into the routine, snuggling into bed to actually sleep.


I've read it a million times: when you're married with children, you have to schedule sex.


Yeah. That's real hot.


So, yes, I know, my last few (and I do mean "few") posts have all been about how great my summer has been and how lazy and indulgent I've been, and now, here I am just complaining and whining about it being over. I know most of you are thinking I'm a spoiled ingrate who does not even appreciate the fact that she has the 2 months off with Hubby ever year.


But I'm not really being whiny, and I'm not an ingrate. Just the opposite. I'm incredibly grateful for the past several weeks, and am actually feeling like I'm almost back in the swing of things with work and life in general. I'm not even pouting about it (too much) anymore.


But the fact is, I miss my sexy summer life...where the freedom and sun and frivolity and extra babysitting contributed to my libido.


So back to my last post and my new (school) year resolutions...
I've got to find ways to sneak in the sexiness. Somewhere amidst the Lunchables and the lesson plans and the 5:00 a.m. alarms, I've got to make an effort to remember the heat of summer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Summer of Salsa and Chips

If you ever watched "Seinfeld," you may remember "The Summer of George."

I, once, had a "Summer of Liz." I don't really remember what I did with it, or why I needed it, since it was back in the days of "Before I Had Kids."

Being a teacher, I have had the luxury and blessing of having the summers off. And being Type A and slightly neurotic, I have spent most of those "doing" something.

There were a couple of "The Summer of Pregnancy."
There was "The Summer of Home Buying."
There were quite a few "Summers of Slimming Down."
One way or another, summer was always about doing something.

This summer, we ate a lot of salsa and chips.

We drank a lot of beer.
And wine.
There was lots of wine.
No, wait, maybe there was more beer.
Yes, definitely The Summer of Salsa, Chips, Beer, and Wine.

I went away one weekend with my girlfriends to sit on the beach and laugh.
I went away with Hubby a few times for overnight getaways.
We slept in when we could (once, we even hit 9:30!).
I finally tried stand up paddle surfing (twice!).
I watched "Blue's Clues" and "Scooby Doo."
We went dancing.
We took the boys on mini-adventures (one ended up as an adventure all on its own at the pediatric E.R., but that's for another post...or perhaps no post at all, since I want to forget the whole thing).
We went to the beach.
We went to water parks.
We went nowhere.
I gained weight.
I got almost nothing accomplished.
But I was happy.
Really, really happy.

The school year starting (for all four of us) will definitely require routine, discipline, and scheduling. (And my barely-fitting-jeans will definitely require my old eating and exercise habits.) And I do know that routine brings a certain amount of ease and organization and calm, especially when dealing with two small children. But I don't want to go completely back to the person I was before this summer. As much as I need (and want) to go back to healthy, planned eating, to the 5:00 a.m. gym visits, to the hyper-scheduled bedtimes, I want to keep this sense of "Who cares?" and "Why the hell not?" As the summer has steadily dwindled down to its end, I've come to the realization that it is not the free time I am panicked about losing.

It's my attitude.

So I've made a few new (school) year's resolutions:
~Crack open a bottle of wine with Hubby if we feel like it, even if it's a Tuesday
~Skip a gym workout if it's a beautiful afternoon and hit the beach with the kids instead
~Not have every second of the entire week planned and written in stone
~Go on more bike rides around the neighborhood, even if it means we have dinner an hour later than we're "supposed" to
~Not care all that much and truly understand that yes, the closet that needs organizing and the photos that need arranging will all be there...tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day
~Laugh as often (or nearly as often) as I did this summer

Sunday, 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


Monday, August 2, 2010

Find your joy and you find your Self

"Celebrate we will
for life is short but sweet for certain."
~Dave Matthews, "Two Step"
.

DMB concert 2009 photo collage courtesy of www.gilcelia.com

A year ago, Hubby and I went to a Dave Matthews Concert with friends. The skies poured down for hours before the show and turned the open-air lawn into a muddy, slippery, soggy mess.

It was the first concert I'd been to in a long, long time. I stood there, listening to my favorite band, Hubby swaying behind me, his arms wrapped around my shoulders.

Connected.

That night was a turning point for me. It was the first time I felt like Myself after having had my second child. Standing there, high on the music and the beer and the company, I was happier than I had been in a long time. It was like I remembered...

I remembered who I was.
I am not sure why, but I can tell you I felt Free.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We went back to see Dave in his Summer 2010 Tour.

As much as I had been looking forward to the concert, I was a bit worried that I'd be disappointed. I didn't think it would be possible that I could feel "that" again. I thought, surely, it had been a product of a weird time in my life, a time when I was just coming out of a year blurred by colicky cries, sleepless nights, and postpartum weight.

And maybe, just maybe, I had thought, I had even been a tad bit drunk last year.

But no.

There it was again: the feeling.

Joy.

Freedom.

Me.

Again, brought upon by the music, the lights, the night, the company.

It's easy to pass on stuff in life. When you have small kids and large bills, it's easy to say: "No, we're not going to do that right now, because babysitting is tough/we really can't afford it/it's too far/it's not necessary/we're too tired/too busy/too everything."
But then you forget. You forget who you are, what you love, what makes you feel most like You.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Plans

Back when my summer started, I made a long mental list of plans. After all, I thought, Hubby and I will be off for 2 whole months together, with the boys at home. We'll have plenty of time and energy to enjoy our time together and get a lot done. It would be the perfect, balanced combination of efficiency and enjoyment!


My Summer To-Do:
1. Lose the 3 pounds I gained since Spring Break
2. Completely empty and re-organize the guest room closet
3. Spring clean the entire house (we're talking move furniture, empty bookshelves...serious shit)
4. Organize over 1000 photographs into corresponding albums and photo boxes
5. Design and order 4 photo books using the professional pics dear friend took (including the maternity ones, which are now over 2 years old!)
6. Get back on my mountain bike again


You know where this is going, right?


Here's how it's turning out:
1. I've maintained the 3 pounds and gained an additional 2 due to the near-constant beer and wine drinking, also known around here as: "Aw, what the heck! It is summer, after all! Crack open a bottle!"
2. I sat and watched as Hubby emptied out some of the stuff in the guest room closet and placed most of it back in (no real organization took place but we did come across some really great old photos).
3. We've vacuumed twice, mopped once, and scrubbed the bathrooms once. No furniture movement of any kind has occurred, unless you count to find a runaway Hot Wheels car.
4. The 1000 photos have now multiplied to about 1400.
5. One photo book has been designed and ordered, and it wasn't even the maternity one.
6. I watched Lance Armstrong ride his bike in the Tour de France for the last time. Does that count?

Pretty amazing how during the school year, I can get 6 things done in one day, yet this summer even a list this short is too long. But I have become incredibly efficient at laziness and decadence...and joy. Who knew being an underachiever could be so satisfying?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Closed for Summer Vacation


Photo courtesty of www.zazzle.com
.
.
I am a thinker.
A ponderer.
A muser.

I like to reflect, analyze, and then over-analyze.

I like to sit and think.

But apparently, not in the summer.
It turns out, this summer, I just like to sit.

I think about my blog all the time. I think about my online world of friends and fellow-thinkers. I think about all the drafts I've started. I think about how many days it's been since the last time I was on...

And then, well, then, I stop thinking.

I pack the beach bag and leave the house with my three favorite men.
I flip through the channels and watch the day's stage of the Tour de France yet again.
I call my friends and meet up at the local bounce house place.
I go to the gym.
I do laundry.
I eat chips and salsa.

I am very, very lazy this summer.

All the projects I had in my head in May: the two-years-worth of photos to be organized and put in boxes? The photo books to be designed and ordered back from when I was pregnant with Aidan? The closets to be purged and cleaned? The massive behind-the-sofa-spring cleaning? The steam cleaning of the boys' rooms' carpets? The every-other-day blogging?

Nope.
Not one.

I feel guilty about it when I'm in bed, mainly, at the end of the day, trying not to count how many weeks are left of this no-work, no-school, no-schedules kind of life for the four of us.

There will be so little accomplished, I think.

And then, I stop thinking.
I go to sleep.
And I wake up the next morning to more of the same lackadaisical living.

And you know what?

It's nice.

For someone whose brain is always frickin' noisy, whose mind is always on hyper-speed, whose lists of to-do's are endless, it's nice to just wander a lot instead of wonder.

And on those nights when I lay in bed and think for a bit about all the things I have not accomplished this summer, I also realize that maybe this has been one of my most successful summers ever...one in which I've actually been able to Just Be.
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Popcorn and M&Ms for lunch


There's something about summer that makes it feel totally appropriate to swap my usual healthy lunch with a week's worth of sodium, saturated fat, and chocolate.

I felt only joy as I alternated nibbling between the too-salty, fake-butter-tasting popcorn and candy coated chocolatey treats. It didn't even bother me that I had swapped my scheduled workout and house cleaning with a spontaneous trip to the movies. If I can't be a tad bit irresponsible and unhealthy in the summer, when I'm home with my boys and my husband, then when can I?

Summer's been in full swing for...what?...almost 3 weeks now? (I refuse to keep track of summer days; it's my defense mechanism). We've spent a week out of town with a friend and her grand kids, been to Orlando for a night of drinking and dancing, been to Key West for a 2-night romantic getaway, been to the local water park twice with our kids and practically everyone else's, played at the local bounce house gym, and had so many pool and beach days that I'm sure our fingers will be permanently prune-y and wrinkled.

Before kids, our summers used to consist of very late nights and equally late mornings. We'd stay out 'til dawn or watch movies 'til 2. We'd rarely open our eyes before noon. Summers were lazy and indulgent.

Then we had Ben, and we spent one summer pregnant, uncomfortable, and anxiously holding our breath for his arrival in September. The following summer was spent trying to figure out how we could still have our beach-filled days with a one-year-old who needed two naps a day.

Just when we were getting our bearings, another summer came filled with pregnant expectations and apprehensions for our August baby.
Then, last summer, every trek to the beach was a comedy of errors: Aidan writhing and rolling off the towel as we tried to change his diaper, Ben wailing every time the salt water hit his eyes. And still, there were those darned scheduled naps.

This summer, there are still naps (well, only one), but our beach days are more fun than trouble. Aidan's rolling on the sand with his big brother more often than rolling off the towel during diaper changes. There are attempts at skimboarding on the shore. Sandcastles. Breakfast by the pool. Spontaneous trips to the movies.

The freedom of this summer is certainly worlds apart from the summers when we were two childless teachers living in a tiny townhouse with a tiny mortgage and a cleaning lady. But there is a new freedom to this summer as well. (And, I suspect, this is just a taste of the summers to come.)

As I watched the ending of "Toy Story 3" today in that dark movie theatre, our oldest son sitting between us, I was surprised by how much crying I did. (Caution: Spoiler alert!) I had been warned that the movie makes you appreciate how quickly time goes by. I had been told most moms (especially of boys) get at least a little teary as Andy gets ready for college. But I was not prepared for the flood of emotions I felt when his mom walks in to his bare room, when the grown-up Andy finds a new home for his beloved toys...and when I recognized the look on little Bonnie's face when she meets her "new" toys...a look of innocence and awe that can only be seen on the face of a small child...I really had to control myself, because at that point, I was not only crying the silent, private tears of a good movie ending, I was nearing full-out, noise-making, only-in-your-own-house sobbing.
What got me was the realization that that look...the look on little Bonnie's face...is on display in my house practically every day. And yet, many days, I miss it (as I am sure so many of us do) because I'm too tired or too stressed or too busy wishing they'd grow up already.

So I didn't feel too guilty about my lunch of popcorn and chocolate. 'Cause I know that in a few years, the summers of learning life lessons from toys will be over, and the days of packing for college will be here. And I'm sure I'll have plenty of time for salads and workouts then...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Questions about dying

"But I don't want you and Daddy to die."

This, from a sobbing four-year-old...my sobbing four-year-old...a child who screams a lot but rarely sheds a real tear.

He was clinging to me, still damp from his shower, his yellow towel wrapped around him, his hair still dripping.

Sobbing.

We have no idea where this came from.

We have had (knock on wood, thank God, insert any and all superstitious sayings here) no deaths or illnesses in the family. We have not watched anything new on TV. Nothing. We'd had, in fact, had a lovely afternoon, the four of us, at the outlet mall, shopping for, specifically, "super-hero PJs." We'd ended our shopping with a ride on the merry-go-round, and had come home for pizza and chocolate ice cream. I'd been cutting up tomatoes and listening to the Beach Boys when I heard some whimpering and something about "getting old" and "dying" coming from the bathroom, where the boys were being bathed by Hubby.

I walked in to find Ben with his towel over his head, making noises which were either muffled cries or silly giggles.

When I took the towel off his head, sat down on his step stool, and asked him what was wrong, his face crumpled.

"I don't want you and Daddy to die."

Hubby and I had done our best to be truthful without being scary, feeling completely unsure and at a loss. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to be somewhat matter-of-fact. I wanted to be calm. I did not, under any circumstances, want to scare him. But I also would not, under any circumstances, lie about something like this.

So here it was: The Heavy Stuff.

We explained to him that our Mommies and Daddies were still around, and that they were old. That being old did not mean you died. That we'd be around for his whole life (okay, that was a slightly twisted version of the truth). That people lived to be, "like a hundred," and that "a hundred was, like, forever." We told him that that was why we took such good care of ourselves, why we ate healthy foods and exercised and slept well and drank water and visited our doctors for check-ups, because we wanted to be around for a super long time. We wanted to get older because then we'd get to watch him and his brother grow up.

"And I'll grow up, and I'll have babies, too."
"Yes. You will. And we'll get to see that."

We explained to him that everyone gets older, that it's okay, that it's normal, that old doesn't mean "too old", that it's part of life. We mentioned all of his loved ones who are "old."

"But who will die first? You and Daddy or me?"

Never could I have been prepared for a question like that...a question with an easy answer (God willing, again insert every superstitious saying here, please), but a question that was too heartbreaking to hear my little boy ask me.

"We will, honey, because we are much older. Your life is just starting."

"Who will die first: Tata, Pepe, Abelo, Aba, or Tantala?" (every grandparent plus his pseudo-godmother, all in their late 60s and early 70s, and all integral parts of his daily life).
"I don't know, honey. No one knows. There is no way of knowing that."
"I think Abelo will," he responds, "because he's got really old hair and a really big belly." (The one humorous moment of this conversation.)
Then a pause.
"So I will die before Aidan." He didn't sound upset when he said this, just mathematical.

And at that moment, I can not...I simply can not...believe I am discussing with my four-year-old whether he or his little brother will die first.

"I don't know, honey. You guys are really about the same age. I know it seems like you're much older, but you and Aidan are about the same age, like your Aunt and me. And you guys are going to be really, really old too."

I assured him, yet again, that he had nothing to worry about. That Mommy and Daddy were gonna be around for a long, long time.

"We're not going anywhere, honey. We're gonna be around, for, like, ever."

We went about our business then...he putting on his brand new Spiderman PJs and jumping around like a superhero, me pressing "play" on the iPod for more summer tunes, Hubby cutting the pizza and opening the wine. There was no more talk of dying. We discussed how many toys we'd be bringing him back from our upcoming weekend away to Key West, whether or not Key West was an island and what did it look like, and the location of the Skittles purchased last week.

But after the boys were down, after everything had been cleaned up, after I'd showered, I knew I had to sit down and write this post.

I had to get it out.

I hoped that by doing that, I'd be able to let it go, not dwell, move on.

The conversation left me feeling anxious, vulnerable, scared, and helpless.

I am sure this could have been a beautifully written post, one with poignancy and poetic life lessons, but honestly, I feel spent. I have no "point," no beautiful ending, no epiphany. What I have is a heavy heart, because the conversation I just had with my little boy made me realize how little I can really do to keep him (and us) from the harsh realities of life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lesson #372 of Parenting: The Terrible Twos WILL Find You

When Ben was a toddler, we kept waiting for the Terrible Twos. We read books about it. We asked friends how they handled them. We were ready.

But then they never came.

Well, there was one (yes, one) incident when Ben was two and a half and I took him to the bookstore and he threw a fit on the floor. I quietly picked him up, put him back in the stroller, menacingly whispered right into his face that "this was unacceptable and we were leaving" and we did.

And that was it. It never really happened again. Ben just seemed to skip right over those dreaded twos. (Before you get too envious, let me remind you that we have, however, had delightful moments of four-year-old-going-on-13-year-old-behavior, so really, you swap one developmental nightmare for another.)

But then there was Aidan...


Hubby and I have had to admit that They are here: The Terrible Twos.
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We're not gonna be so lucky this time around.

Now, I do realize how incredibly fortunate we were to not have had to deal with these horror stories with our first child, and I do realize that perhaps I never should have even slightly entertained the possibility that this kid would also give us a "Get out of jail free" card, 'cause, really, who gets that lucky??? But...you might remember that I have mentioned on just a few occasions that Aidan Kai SCREAMED his WHOLE ENTIRE first FOUR and a half MONTHS of his life.

So I thought that maybe, just maybe, I'd paid my dues on this one.
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Nope.

Not only has adorable-as-hell Aidan Kai turned into a foot-stomping-wailing-holy-whiny-terror, he also has turned into a not-sleeping-through-the-night-anymore-for-no-apparent-reason-wailing-holy-whiny-terror.

Last night it started at about 1:20 a.m., and it was nearly 4 in the morning when we finally started to let our guards down long enough to dare close our eyes again.

And you'd think a child who'd spent a good portion of his day whining and stomping and carrying on would be pretty pooped out, especially when he spent a good portion of the evening whining and writhing and screaming and carrying on, but good ol' energetic and adorable-as-hell Aidan Kai? Up at the crack of dawn this morning. Barely 2 hours after we'd finally been able to get back to sleep. He was UP...demanding "Blue's Clues" and "meeelk!" and trying to force feed me cereal and pushing me "up! up! off! off!" the couch while I tried to sneak in just 5 more minutes.

The clincher?

He is, apparently, a serene and easy-going little fella when he is with others. Oh, and sleeps through the night, too. Yep. We spent this past week visiting our out-of-town friend, and when we left for one night and day of bar-hopping, shopping, and general alone time, our friend reported a very easy day with our little ball of personality...and the little shit slept from 7:15 p.m. to 8:10 a.m. in one shot.

Now I realize that parenting is all about stages. Everything is temporary. Just when you think you can't possibly go on like this any longer, the behavior suddenly disappears. OR, just when you think you've finally figured this one out, a new challenge pops up. I get it. Hang in there. This too shall pass. Be patient. Yada yada yada. But the sleep? I can't do it. Can't.

The main reason Hubby and I counted every second of the newborn stage was because of the sleepless nights. We can be pretty laid back parents in many areas, but we take our sleep training very, very seriously. It was the one area where we've always said "We got this." Our methods and preferences may not have been for everyone (yes, we let them cry, and no, we never, ever co-slept), but they worked for us, big time. Now, here we are, more tired than usual from dealing with the daytime tantrums, only to be robbed (yes, I said "robbed" and yes, I'm being melodramatic) of our much needed sleep to be awakened every 5 minutes throughout the night.

I mean, really, I know we lucked out and got the Terrible Twos with only one of our children. That is a 50% success rate, right? And perhaps we should be happy enough and just stop complaining... But is it too much to ask that the Random Sleeping Disruption Cycle have waited for the Infamous Twos to have been through with us?
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(It's a good thing he's cute...)
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