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 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 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.


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.

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??? 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.

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?
(It's a good thing he's cute...)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Frivolously Unapologetic

The scene in my bathroom an hour ago: Tattooed, shirtless, long-haired, hot guy holding a Crayola-brand paintbrush dipped in fuchsia hair color, meticulously applying it to a one-inch section of my blond hair and then carefully wrapping it in foil.

Now that's love.

I've got my streak back. After debating it for months, I decided I missed that peek-a-boo pink so much that I had to go for it again. After all, it is summer. And that means I'm off...glory and hallelujah!!...all summer to roam the beach, barbecue by the pool, and use those Crayola paintbrushes (for what they were really intended for) with my 2 little boys.

So after consulting with my stylist extraordinaire, she told me what I could do at home to replicate what she had done for me repeatedly last year (she's pretty awesome that way). And Hubby? He's always game (he's pretty awesome that way, too).

I debated for a while. I mean, really, I know.

I know.

I'm a 37-year-old mother of two.
Hanna Montana (and every other teenager in the mall) has sported the look.
I kept worrying: What if I look like I'm trying too hard?

But here's the thing...
I love my flash of color. Literally and figuratively.
It makes me happy.

And so, if I know I'm not actually trying at all, who the hell cares if everyone else thinks I am?

Welcome, summer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Greasy cheeseburgers + salty fries + ice cream = Unexpected joy

Image courtesy of photobucket
I am a girl who loves pomp and circumstance: when I make plans, I like them to be big.

I am a girl who loves routine: my weekdays follow a very set, disciplined pattern.

But earlier this week, I threw routine and discipline out the door, and I learned that the simplest of plans can make you feel pretty damned happy.

Hubby and I cancelled our workouts and plans for a healthy, home-cooked meal. Instead, we put the boys down a little bit earlier, got take-out from the local burger joint and ice cream shop, and watched half of the first season of "Sex and the City."

As we sat there in our pajamas, munching on extra salty, extra crispy fries, the grease from the double cheeseburgers dripping down our hands, laughing over Big and Carrie's first meeting, we realized we were quite happy.


We are lucky to have babysitting regularly enough that we have quality time together often, but...our nights usually consist of at least semi-luxurious outings, involving overpriced cocktails and fabulous shoes (SATC on the mind, perhaps?). If we have an opportunity to do something, we often feel the pressure to do something major.

And our regular weeknights are very carefully planned: we watch what we eat and rarely skip a work-out because then it throws off our week (and my weight), and we have most afternoons scheduled down to the minute because, well, because when you have two small children chaos occurs naturally so a routine tends to keep things at least slightly semi-organized and pseudo-controlled.

But that night's spontaneous and silly plan felt luxurious and decadent. We giggled (literally) as we snuggled under my childhood Mickey Mouse comforter and felt like we were breaking all the rules. From the calories to the viewing selection, the entire evening felt irresponsibly and deliciously undisciplined.

That night has carried me through the rest of the week. I felt like we were co-conspirators, beating the system, somehow. The frivolity and simplicity of the evening made me realize that sometimes you can find joy in the most unexpected and simplest of things...and a couple of cheeseburgers.