Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I think I'm moving into Cinderella's Castle

Disney really is magical.


Who knew?

I expected to return from our trip exhausted, dejected, and perhaps a bit disillusioned. Four days in Disney World with a strong-willed 4-year-old, an even stronger-willed and just-learning-the-power-of-tantrums 17-month-old, my worry-wart of a father and my always-trying-to-please-everyone Mother? I was sure Hubby and I would be kicking ourselves for even coming up with the idea.
I was wrong.

Yes, Disney is exhausting and expensive. But, to be quite honest, it really was fantastic. It was near perfect. I kept looking around, waiting for some kind of minor catastrophe to befall us. Weather? Absolutely perfect: not too hot, not too cold and no rain. Dysfunctional family issues? Dad and I managed to avoid all of them. Ben, who can hit 104 degrees with a cold, got a fever on our first night and it magically went away by morning. Aidan Kai, also known as "The Extra-Extra-Extra Light Sleeper," laid right down in his port-a-crib, newly purchased Buzz Lightyear doll in hand, barely uttering a peep all night. We saw every character the kids had hoped to meet. We rode every ride they wanted to ride (some, more than once). There were no headaches, no stomachaches, no projectile vomiting, no fighting siblings. If I didn't know better, I'd think we'd been sprinkled with a bit of pixie dust upon arrival.

And believe me, I didn't go into this with these kinds of expectations. I should I put it?...preparing myself for the worst. I expected regrets (mainly mine).

We came home with bags of souvenirs, 178 pictures, a little more debt, achy backs, and a whole new sense of family.

I am not sure what happened to my boys on this trip, but they seem to have bonded, if this is possible between a one-year-old and a four-year-old who does not like to share the spotlight. One night, I asked Ben if he wanted to sleep next door with his grandparents, just for fun. "Is Aidan going to sleep next door, too? 'Cause I wanna sleep in the room with Aidan." Since our return, Ben has insisted on pulling Aidan's high chair so close to his own chair at the dinner table, that their elbows are nearly touching. They have played together, unsupervised, for hours on end, and (here's the shocking part) Aidan has managed to go unscathed.

And it wasn't just the boys who benefited from this trip. I was able to spend time with my parents away from the reality of life, away from the demands of daily childcare, of work stress, of to-do's. I saw my mother happier than I've seen her in a long time. I was able to put my petty issues with my dad aside for 4 days, and just enjoy his attention, affection, and occasional nuttiness.

And as much as I complain about parenting, it is almost a relief when I feel those moments most moms talk about...the really good ones, the ones in which you know, with absolute certainty, that it is, in fact, all worth it...that there is nothing in the world that can make you feel "that way:" the look on Ben's face when he met Stitch and Lilo, Aidan's wide eyes and pointing in "It's a Small World," my two boys all showered and soapy-smelling in their PJs playing in the hotel room together, trying to squeeze out every last opportunity for fun before bedtime.
The trip reminded me of why I chose to "do this." Although I am not a big fan of the infant stages, and most days I'd consider trading in a kid for a full night's sleep, and the lack of personal time makes me feel like I'm chained to my children (literally), I wanted a family. I wanted kids. I wanted to hear them play, to watch them grow, to be Mom and Dad, to go on adventures together. Now that Aidan is 18 months, I am starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel...things are getting easier, more fun, more rewarding.
On the first night, as I lay in bed, listening to the sounds of my three "men," all of us, for the first time in one room, on our first real vacation together, I was struck by the fact that this was my family. How had this happened? When did it happen? It used to be just "us" against the world.

Now, the "Us" had turned into a different "Us."

And then there were four...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Disney or Bust!

So we're the most magical place on earth (and probably most expensive).
We leave today for our first "big" trip to Disney. We took Ben last year for his first time right after Aidan was born, but that was just the 3 of us and for only one day. This time (gulp) we are taking The High-Maintenance One (no, not me...the baby!). Considering the fact that he wakes up shrieking if he just temporarily misplaces his rag or if a hair is out of place, we are thinking it might be a long few nights. Grandma and Grandpa will be coming along. We figure it's an equal trade: you enjoy watching the look on your grandchildren's faces, we enjoy having extra help. This is either gonna be really good or really bad...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If I didn't officially call it a resolution, can I give up on it already?

My promise to myself for 2010 was to live lighter. This meant stress less, worry less, laugh more... I envisioned myself shrugging things off.

Here's the problem I'm already encountering, and it has not even been a full month yet: I am not a light person.

I'm not.

I'm more on the deep and heavy side.


About everything.

It's who I am.

This means that I worry, I stress, I anticipate catastrophe. I overanalyze. I overreact. I panic.

This also means that I am loud. I am passionate. I am energetic. I like to live big, dream big, laugh big.

Hubby once told me, many many years ago: "Your highs are real high. But your lows are real low."

That's me. You can call me a lot of things, but moderate I am not.

Here's the conundrum: I like the high highs. I like the big, the over-the-top, the enthusiasm, the flair for the dramatic. I like the loud.

And with just as much passion, I hate the stress. The anxiety. The make-myself-crazy-side of my personality. About everything. About nothing.

I am not sure if there is an answer here, or even a point. I just know that I am totally and utterly exhausted from reminding myself, over and over again, to live lightly. It's really starting to weigh me down.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Headline: Heckling Parent Gets Knocked Out at High School Basketball Game

No, that didn't really happen.

But maybe it should have.

Last night, we went to my nephew's high school basketball game. It's slightly important to note that I'm a public school teacher, and am very pro-public school spite of all its issues and flaws. My sister's boys, on the other hand, have attended the same private Christian school since they were in kindergarten. For years, she and I have half-teasingly gone back and forth about the merits of each. Our ongoing joke is that the people from "her" private school are a bit more "clean-cut" (read: less delinquent and more refined) than the ones who attend "my" public schools.

Apparently, that rule does not apply to some of the parents of the athletes. 'Cause sitting two rows behind me, that woman (think: Rosie O'Donnell sans make up and censors)...well, refined she was not.

Both teams were pretty aggressive, and it was an exciting game. The few people in the bleachers (it's a very small school) were pretty vocal: cheering, stomping, complaining about calls made and calls missed. The aforementioned mother? Um, yeah, vocal. Offensive vocal. And considering the size of the crowd, there was no chance she'd blend in.

When the handful (and I do mean, handful) of parents from the visiting team would clap or stomp during a foul shot, she would taunt: "What are you? Horses? There goes the stampede! The horses are stomping, everyone! As if it's gonna make a difference!" When a kid from the opposing team was fouled out and benched, she chanted: "Left, right, left, right, left...that's right! Sit down!" as he walked off the court. When a boy from our team unnecessarily fouled an opposing player so hard that the kid slammed into the floor, she shouted: "C'mon! Man up! What are you guys? A bunch of babies?" She punctuated every shot with an "In your face!" and then, as if all of this were not enough, she suggested singing "Hava Nagila" (we were playing a Jewish school). This was just too much.

I wanted desperately to stand up, turn around, and yell right back at her: "Shut the fuck up, you ignorant, prejudiced, crass idiot. These are kids, for God's sake!"

I didn't. I wanted to. But I didn't. Had that been my kid on the court, had that been my son's school, had I had any connection to this woman at all other than sitting in the same auditorium with her, I would have said something. But this was not my place. (And truth be told, as big and vulgar as she was, I'm pretty sure Hubby would've had to step in to keep her from pummeling me into the shiny hardcourt.)

My sister and I chuckled a bit: "Guess you can pay for private school, but you can't buy class."

I just kept thinking: Isn't this supposed to be a Christian school? I realize the type of school doesn't matter at all, and that this kind of stuff happens all the time on the sidelines of every youth sport, no matter the age or location, but...

I mean, mugging someone is bad, but mugging someone while sitting inside a church has gotta be worse, no?

I know this scenario is not uncommon. I've heard about these stories. Hubby grew up playing sports, so I've even heard first-hand accounts. But to witness this in person was painful. Ben just started his second season of soccer, and after attending two of his big cousin's games, has started asking about basketball. We know there is a very good chance we will spend countless hours of the coming years on the sidelines, cheering, clapping, stomping, and supporting. I realized last night that in spite of how impulsive, big-mouthed, and "passionate" I can be, I will never be that mother.

People are always talking about today's youth: disrespectful, undisciplined, and entitled. It's not MTV that's making them that way. It's not the Internet or movies or the media. It's parents like that.

I understand that parenting is difficult, that we make mistakes, that it's sometimes hard to realize how negative some of our behaviors can be when witnessed by our children. But this is not about parenting, really. It's not about childhood development or disciplining strategies. And it's not about sports. It applies to driving, to standing in line at the grocery store, to working alongside someone in a cubicle.

This is about kindness, plain and simple. I've realized that if I teach my children nothing else except kindness and consideration towards others, then I will have succeeded as a parent.

And how are Ben and Aidan Kai going to learn this? Yes, we will talk. We will have many conversations. Questions, answers, wondering, teaching. Like last night when he asked why his cousin's teammate had knocked down the other kid. I had to explain: "When you play sports, you play strong, but you play fair. And that wasn't right. It doesn't matter whose team he is on." But more than through our words, our sons will learn by watching...watching us, our behaviors, our actions. Everyday.

So I think of my future on the sidelines...and I think of that mother. And I worry. I worry not that I will be the one yelling obscenities or spewing meanness, but that I will not be able to control myself when someone else does on my kid's sideline. I worry that I will, in fact, turn to that lunatic and curse and yell and curse some more. And then my kid will see that, too. And isn't that a gray area? Where does one draw the line between mature restraint and a necessary verbal kick in the ass? And then isn't that a life lesson, too?

Monday, January 11, 2010


I used to listen to the radio on my way to work every morning. I loved it. Depending on my mood, I'd listen to everything from the local DJs' off-color banter to National Public Radio to old school hip hop at full blast.

This morning, my listening choices were limited to two: Aidan Kai's incessant shrieks at full blast or my nasally voice singing "Old Macdonald" over and over and over and over again.

Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if I could have at least jammed out with some variety...a little "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" mixed in with some rockin' "Pat-a-Cake." But no, it was just "Old Macdonald." That was all he wanted.


At the end of every barnyard round-up, I'd cheer wildly and pause and pray that he'd had enough and I'd be able to drive in my not-a-morning-person-especially-in-30-degree-weather mental state of mind. But no.


So I'd break into my most enthusiastic version of "Where is Thumbkin?" or "You Are My Sunshine," but no.

"No-no. No-no. Mooooooo. More."

Damn that farmer and his stupid cow.

So there I was...all 32 minutes of my drive in South Florida traffic on a Monday morning with record low temperatures. Me. Miss Don't-Fuckin'-Talk-To-Me-In-The-Morning-Cause-I'm-Too-Sleepy-To-Even-Be-Cordial...singing.

I guess I could've stopped. I could've just let him cry and scream. That's what Hubby would've done, I think. Not because he's mean, but because he's laid back, actually. As in: "Don't worry about it. Just leave him. He'll be fine after a few seconds." And he's right. Usually he'll fuss for a bit and then will stop when he's not getting any attention. I know this. I've done this. I've had a kid before, remember? I was pretty good at training that one. But this one? I don't know. Let's just say my second one's got a bit of an advantage. I'm much more tired now than I was with only one child, for starters. I'm also not quite as obsessive-compulsive over doing every single thing right and picking every single battle to fight. I've also realized most things are phases with kids, and no matter how tough they are, they outgrow everything, eventually. And let's just say that Aidan is less pliable than Ben was. Oh, yeah, and he's cuuuuuuuute.

So when the wailing started, and I looked at him in the rearview mirror...his dimpled chubby cheeks and pudgy nose all rosy from the cold, the rest of him completely enveloped by 3 layers of pajamas and a fleece jacket...I couldn't help it. One little song will calm him, I thought. And it did. It was like hypnosis. He just sat. Calm. Still. Content. Quiet...except for the repeated requests for more barnyard noises.

And so I sang. I mooo'd. I baaaa'd. I quacked. I neighed. At 7 in the morning. And if I hadn't been so busy trying to think of more animal sounds, I would've laughed. Yet another example of how motherhood changes you. I used to be cool. I used to listen to the radio in the morning. I used to say I'd never cater to my children. I used to say I could never (fill-in-the-blank) in the mornings.

But then I had kids.

I changed. Just like everyone else said I would. But not too much, not completely. Just enough, for them. And sometimes, for me. And sometimes, for that damned farmer.

Now everybody: "With a moo-moo here..."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Perhaps I should do a happy dance...

Let's have a cocktail and celebrate, shall we?

Simone, over at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket, posts the most beautiful images and quotes on her blog. It makes me happy just to see the amazing photos of dresses, places, and people. So how appropriate that she should award me with the uber-cute Happy 101 Award...given to bloggers who make you smile! I'm pretty happy that I'm making Simone happy since she makes me so happy...ah, such warm fuzzies abound around here today! Now, I am to share 10 things that make guessed it...happy.

10. Cupcakes: I'm not sure what's up with my obsession with cupcakes, but they make me smile. They're just cute and girlie and yummy. And if they happen to be the red velvet cake kind, all the better.
9. Disney World: Yes, it's overpriced. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, it's over the top. But I love it. Every bit of it. I'm a sucker for the magic.

8. Getting my hair colored: I know, I'm shallow, but nothing puts a spring in my step like a fresh set of golden highlights. And if there happens to be a pink streak in there, all the better.

7. Words: I'm a word nerd. I love words. Words are tangible, alive, powerful. Finding just the right one makes me happy.

6. Make-up: I'm not one of those women who refuses to leave her house without make up. I wear my naked face with pride. But make-up makes me happy. There's something fun and creative and whimsical about palettes of eye shadow and tubes of lipstick. And if there happens to be a hint of glitter in it, all the better.

5. Vacations: Planning them, going on them, remembering them...nothing better on which to spend my money.

4. The beach: There is no place on earth I'd rather be. There's something about the sand and the soothes my soul. And yes, even at 90+ degrees and the infamous South Florida humidity, I'm happy. Give me an umbrella, a cooler, and plenty of SPF...and I am a happy, happy girl.

3. Shoes: It doesn't matter if they hurt. If they are fabulous, they make me happy.

2. My kids: The irony of this one? The boys would also be on the "10 Things That Drive Me Crazy List" too!

1. And the number one thing that makes me happy? Hubby. I'm one of the lucky ones.

So thanks, Simone, and I pass on my Happy 101 Award to some other bloggers who make me happy...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Let her eat cake!

Over the holidays, I had an affair.

A wild, messy, to-hell-with-the-rules kind of affair...with a cake.

This was not just any cake. I would never be so wanton. It was red velvet cake. My friend's homemade red velvet cake. It was left over from our Christmas Eve party.

I asked her to bring it.

I knew all along what I was doing.

I admit it: it was premeditated.

I knew after the guests had gone, the cake would be wrapped up nicely in foil and would sit in my refrigerator. And I would eat it. And not give a damn about the calories or the fat or the cholesterol or the Weight Watcher points each slice was worth.

"Guess what, Ben? We're gonna have cake for Christmas morning breakfast! How does that sound?!?"

Yep. I used my child as an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

That wouldn't have been so bad if it had only been the one time. I mean, it was Christmas morning, for heaven's sake! If you can't have cake on Christmas morning...

But I proceeded to have cake again for the following two mornings. Cake. For breakfast. Me. My usual breakfast consists of bran flakes with almonds, flax, oatmeal, blueberries, and soy milk. And yes, I actually do enjoy that, but on velvet cake mornings? Fuck bran.

It wasn't just breakfast, either. I had it as dessert...after every meal, everyday, and sometimes for a snack. I had it down to a science: 5 days later, when the cream cheese frosting was hardening slightly, I simply nuked it. 7 seconds was too little. 10 seconds was too much. 8 seconds. Exactly 8 seconds. And the cake would taste like she had just made it.

It has taken me a lifetime to figure out my relationship with food. Over the last several years, I've realized, with great relief and satisfaction, that I've finally made amends with it. I have conquered it, if you will. A big part of this victory, however, is the complete and total understanding that I can gain it all back at anytime. What do they say? It's a slippery slope? Yeah, well, apparently, my slope's greased up with frosting.

I made it to my dream weight back in October. Soon after that, Life happened: Halloween festivities, sick children, sick parents, holidays, more sick children and sick parents...before I knew it, my gym visits had gone from 5 times a week to maybe once. This is the thing with weight. Life. It can get in the way. Needless to say, I am not quite at my dream weight right now.

So here I am, a couple of weeks later, still trying to forget my red velvet lover. It was a passionate, intense relationship and there are days when I miss the wild, reckless abandon. It was good while it lasted, but what is it Samantha says to Smith at the end of the "Sex and the City" movie? "I love you, but I love me more."

Yep. Me and red velvet cake. Samantha Jones and her hot young lover. Same thing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I fought Sponge Bob and Sponge Bob won

I don't get Sponge Bob. The voices are incredibly irritating. The jokes are total toilet humor. And the damned sponge? Idiotic. Who makes this stuff up? How does someone say to a studio exec: "Hey, I have this great idea for a kid's show! There's this sponge, see? And he lives in a pineapple. But not like a regular pineapple out in a field. No, his pineapple is in the ocean. And the best part? The sponge wears pants!"

Ben was 3 when I officially lost the fight. Up until that point, my personal knowledge of children's television was incredibly limited. I knew Sesame Street, Little Einsteins, and had heard of the Wiggles but wanted no part of them. Imagine my delight when my kid introduced me to most of the others...

About 2 years ago:
Ben: "Hey Mama! Go back to that channel! That's Handy Manny. He speaks Spanish."
"Hey Mama! Go back! That's Lazy Town. Robbie Rotten's the bad guy."
"Hey Mama! Go back! That's Sponge Bob. I looooove Sponge Bob!"
Me: "Um, Ben? How do you know these shows?"
Ben: "I watch them at Grandma's house."

That was one of my first lessons in parenting: When your mother watches your kid for free, you lose some power in the Limits Establishing Department.

Of course, at that point, I had heard of Sponge Bob. But I refused to allow him into our house just yet. My kid was two! No way my 2-year-old would be watching anything that wasn't quality television (oxymoron, anyone?). After a simple explanation about some shows being for older children, Ben agreed to go back to a nice "educational" show featuring a red rocket and four very cultured little kids.

But I knew that Bob was getting snuck in on occasion at the Grandparents'.

It wasn't until Aidan Kai came around that I started to, ahem, soften up a bit on The Sponge... Aidan Kai, who, let us not forget, wailed the entire first four and a half months of his life... Aidan Kai, who, to this day will not let me use the bathroom without clawing at my knees and crying "Mama! Mama! Mama!"

It is amazing how one child can change things.
It is also amazing how many things one says one will never do when one is a mother until one is one.

About one year ago:
Aidan: "Waaaaah! Mama! Waaaah! Mama!"
Ben: "Hey Mama, wanna play pirates?"
Me: "Hey, Ben! Wanna watch Sponge Bob?"

"Hey Daddy! Check it out! Aidan Kai learned how to say something new! Listen!" (Points to TV) "Aidan, who's that?"
Aidan: "Spa Bob!"