Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mommypants

You might have noticed a nifty new little button on my blog. It's right there, see it? No? It's RIGHT THERE! To your right! No, your OTHER right!

There are going to be some big doings around here very soon, blogosphere. I say "very soon" in hopes that it will, in fact, be so.

I'm relaunching. Relaunching, renaming, rebranding (whatever the hell that means, but it sounds very "social media" of me to say it, no?). I'm moving up, moving out, moving on.

It's been in the works for quite awhile and I feel like we're finally entering the home stretch. By "we," I mean the guy who's designing the new blog and is responsible for all things technical. My only job is to make him insane by sending him emails demanding to know WHEN this will all be done - pretty much right after I send him emails asking him to move things and change the colors and to do something about those fonts!

By the way, yes, that is me. And my ass. The shot was taken by my neighbor Robin who conveniently is a professional photographer. Let me tell you, I had no idea what I looked like until I saw the proofs.

I have come to the conclusion that I'm okay with it.

I'm okay with me.

Yeah, it's not the greatest ass in the world. But it's MY ass.

I realize I've become a LOT less self-conscious in my old age. I'm ancient and I have three little kids and nobody's looking at me anyway.

But I hope you're looking at my blog, and that you'll stick with me - and bear with me - during the move,  which hopefully will happen within the next few weeks.

I am SO excited and nervous about the whole thing. I will be giving you some more info as we get closer!



Friday, May 28, 2010

She mangs! She mangs!

I was overdue for a haircut. WAY overdue. The situation was so dire, my hair had morphed into something very, very unfortunate.

I hope this has never happened to you. But if so, know that you are not alone - and there is a cure!

Oh! And for some reason, the video is too small to show in this window, so you have to click on it. Sorry! I don't know why, but possibly one of you wise vloggers will clue me in!



See? You, too, can be a hot mom. Just say NO to the mang!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Love is a three-legged race

Have you ever met someone and thought, I wish SHE were my Mommy? Even when you are 41 and she is young enough to be your, well, much younger sister? This is how I feel about my guest poster. Jen is the owner of Ellie Bellie Kids (she makes the most amazing tutus, capes, messenger bags and crowns) and she and her talented husband publish Classic Play, the wonderfully creative eMag that is a must-read, and I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm a contributor. 

Jen is the type of mom who stays up late making a tie for her son to wear the next morning to his preschool graduation. The birthday parties she throws for her kids have all those little touches that 1) I'd never think of and 2) make them so, so special. AND she's willing to instruct me, via the magic of Skype, on how to do a little craftiness of my own (emphasis on the little).

She knows just how to spark the creativity in her kids, and helps inspire them to dream. She is incredibly thoughtful and fun and genuinely inquisitive about all things big and small. Also? She's beautiful. I try not to hate her, especially because if she WERE my mommy, then maybe I'd get some of those genes. So please give a warm welcome to Jen, as she poses a very interesting question to her kids. I'm so totally doing this next time I'm trapped in the car with my own kids!


I'm driving in the car with my kids. They're squabbling about something. I think my son has touched my daughter's drink holder. I need a distraction, so I ask them, "What is love?"

I do this a lot. I'll ask an open-ended, global questions as a sort of exercise. I like to think that by asking these questions a couple things happen:

1) I encourage the kids to think and develop their communication skills
2) I demonstrate there's a culture of openness so in the future they'll always feel they can talk to me
3) I show them that I care what they have to say, that I'm willing to listen
4) I get a peek inside what's going on in their little noggins.

I have all these lofty reasons for doing this exercise. It's true. And mostly, they're all pretty academically sound. At least, I think so anyway. But, between you and me, my favorite part of this exercise is hearing all the amusing things the kids come up with. It's fun!

So why this question of love? I guess you could say it was in the air.

My youngest (age 4) is involved in a sort of love triangle at school. He likes this girl. This girl likes him. But wait! There's another boy who likes the girl too. It's profound. And at the same time, it's not. Four year olds are fickle that way.

I also wanted to check in with my oldest (age 7).  At the beginning of the school year all the girls were whispering about marriage. It seems the girls in the class wanted to marry one boy in particular. They even formed a girls' club where they'd draw pictures of weddings and scribble professions of love on pieces of scrap paper. The marriage talk eventually fizzled. In its place, I noticed something quieter, more refined developing.

It happened during a three-legged race.

A couple weeks ago we attended our school's spring fair. There were games, snowcones, hot dogs, face painting, little red tickets and all the makings for an old-fashioned good time.






There were field games too—a sack race, a crab walk and a three-legged race. While my daughter isn't very athletic in the traditional sense, she is pretty competitive. (What can I say? She's her mother's daughter.) Naturally, she rushed to the line when she heard there was a chance to win a ribbon.

First up, the sack race. My daugther quickly got in her sack, and did some practice hops to warm up. You know, one needs to get a feel for the bag.

The race started and she looked pretty strong. But after the fifth hop she fell down. From then on, things went downhill. Each time she fell, though, she got back up and tried again. Eventually she crossed the finish line. But she came in as one of the last. She was visibly disappointed. Her head hung. There would be no ribbon.

Next up, it was the crab walk race. Disappointed but determined she rushed to the starting line. She got into the crab position and waited for the start. They were off!

She tried so hard to crawl backwards on her hands and feet. But try as she might, she just wasn't able to do it without falling every third move. She reached the finish line dejected. Again, there would be no ribbon.

Losing twice was too much for her. She ran to the bleachers where we were sitting, watching the drama of competition unfold. Her eyes turned red. She cried. We did our best to convince her that it's not always about winning, it's about getting back up. She said she understood, but I don't know if she really did. It certainly didn't seem to make her feel any better.

"Line up for the three legged race!" the announcer bellowed.

My daughter broke free from my hug and ran back to the start line. There were still tears in her eyes. I was proud. I am certain I would have given up at that point. But her? She didn't. (What can I say? She's her father's daughter too.)

Now at that particular moment, something happened. Something sweet and almost magical. A little boy from her class walked over to her, grabbed her hand and said softly, "I'll be your partner."

Joined together at the ankle by a little blue strip of fabric, my daughter and her friend stood there on the start line, hand in hand.





The announcer yelled, "On your mark! Get ready, get set, GO!"

They were off.

From the bleachers I cheered. I yelled their names. I made a fool out of myself. And you know what? I didn't care. I wanted my daughter to know I would always root for her. It didn't matter if she won. What matters was that when she fell, she got back up.

And just like out of scene in a movie, one by one all the other kids tripped, fell or came apart in their mad-dash attempts to cross the finish first. But my daughter and her friend were steady. They worked together. They never let go of the other one's hand.

They crossed the finish line first. And this time, there was a ribbon. Two as a matter of fact. Two purple ribbons with the letters MVP written in gold. I'm pretty sure I heard Chariots of Fire playing softly in the breeze.

When my daughter talks about this friend now she smiles shyly and says she likes him. When asked why, she responds, "because he's a really good friend."

Back to that scene in the car. How did the kids answer my question about love? Here's what they said:

"Love is when somebody looks pretty and she is nice." age 4
"Love is a warm, cozy feeling." age 7

And me?

"Love is being there for you through every stumble and fall—and cheering you on the whole time." age 33


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A foreigner in my own kitchen

If you're looking for the most recent writing workshop post, you will understand why I linked to the wrong post when you read it here.

X holds up his arms for me to pick him up. He then points imperiously toward the kitchen cabinet.

It's time for a rousing game of "Guess what X wants?"

"Ba."

I open the door. I see a bag of goldfish crackers and hold it up to him. He takes a shot at it, knocking it out of my hands and onto the floor. Clearly it was not what he had in mind.

He points again. 

"Ba."

Ba? Could "ba" be a box of raisins?

Wrong again.

"BA! BA!"

Now he's getting pissed. I mean, CLEARLY he's telling me what he wants, and I'm just too stupid to figure it out.

I'm getting frantic. He's getting red-faced. A storm is a-brewin'.

"BAAA!!!"
  
Wheat crackers? Veggie sticks? Pretzels? Potato chips? Tin foil? What? Yes? Tin foil?!?!

No. You can't eat that.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

We're both in tears at this point.

Because I have no freaking idea what he wants. I don't understand "ba." I don't get "Uh." 

Clearly, I don't speak his language. But I should. I should.

He's my baby. We should have this down, shouldn't we? Instead, I need a Rosetta Stone course in Toddlerese. 

He is now sitting on the kitchen floor, screaming and kicking his legs. 

I walk away. He follows. Screaming. Tears. Snot. He's reaching for me. I pick him up.

We start again. 

"Ba! Ba!"

I frantically scan the contents of the cabinet once again.

Um.. Cookie?

He vigorously nods his head, as if to say, "Yes! Finally, you moron! Like, duh!"

Duh, indeed.

I'm learning.

This post was part of Mama Kat's writing workshop. The prompt was "Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating with someone who speaks a different language than you."


Mama's Losin' It

Zenesday

Every so often, I have a moment of Mommy Zen

I step outside to find my toddler 
still in his footie pjs
playing in the dogs' water dish


And instead of hustling him back inside to get him changed

Instead of worrying about the mess

Instead of leaping to No


I thought, "It's only water."


Even when he climbed into the sandbox



To play with his big brother
who yelled "He's all wet!"


I said, "It's only water."




"It's only water."



I let my independent, determined
joyful little guy
be all that
because
Finally
I understood

It's only water

What's your latest moment of Zen?


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blame Canada

It's a great day to get out of The OC, y'all. Not that we say "y'all" around here. I just like the sound of it.

So I've traveled north. To the Great White North, actually. My stop? CrazyTown! Have you been there yet? No? You totally should. The Mayor has four kids AND she's a cheer mom! A CHEER MOM! Y'all know how I feel about cheerleading.

Anyway, I'm guest posting over there today for her May Mahem series featuring lots of fabulous, fun mom bloggers. And me. What can I say, I have incriminating pictures of her. She HAS to let me in.

Would love to see y'all there! It's my first guest posting gig, so your support is, as always, appreciated! And I promise I'll never say "y'all" again!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Say it loud say it proud



A year ago, when X was not quite 10 weeks old, I went back to Hell.

Okay, maybe that's a ginormous slight exaggeration. It wasn't unbearably hot and fiery or anything. Otherwise, seriously, it was exactly the same, with horrible devices of torture and an evil, cruel being who made me do unspeakable things.

That's right. I went back to my personal trainer. 

It was awful. I could barely do biceps curls because my muffin top was in the way. Sit ups? Not happening. At least, not without a crane.

In truth, my trainer is more Bob than Jillian. Only funnier. Better-looking, too. But equally as effective. The guy knows his shit.

I worked out with him once a week. I looked forward to my hour. Not just because I was gradually losing weight and getting stronger. It was often the only time I did something completely for myself, with nobody grabbing at me or whining or asking for yet another cookie. Sometimes I showed up a few minutes late, as X took his time nursing. But I always made it.

No matter how cranky or stressed I was, by the time I got my blood pumping, I always felt much better. Even when it hurt. 

And, frankly, I don't want to be the mom who talks about those 15 pounds she still needs to lose after her last baby - which she had five years ago. I'm old, people. Weight does not just fall off like it did in my 20s. Not that it fell off then, unfortunately, but you know what I'm saying. I have to work hard. As an older mom, I really need to stay fit so I can keep up with my kids and, hopefully, be around long enough to see grandchildren.

So. One year later, I'm down more than 30 pounds. And at least three sizes. Maybe four.

I have muscles. 

I can run a 6-minute mile pace. Granted, I can't hold it for much more than 45 seconds, but for me, that's pretty good. Especially considering this time last year, maintaining a 12-minute pace for 45 seconds would've required the defibrillator. 

I see my cheekbones. And my hipbones.

There is still a LOT of room for improvement. I'm not going out for runs on a regular basis. If I manage three times a week it's a miracle. I've run more than three miles just once. My diet isn't great, but now that X is down to nursing just twice - and sometimes only once - a day, I'm eating some dairy and soy and even wheat so I no longer skip meals or rely on Lay's potato chips as a major food group.

Having three kids in five years is not kind on the body. I've got the old lady skin on my stomach. I've got cellulite (yes I do. I said it. I own it. I have it.). Crows feet. Should we even discuss which direction(s) my boobs are heading?

I'm incredibly self-critical, but just for today, I'm going to celebrate my achievements. This is something I never do. I think this is something MOST of us never do.

So today, join me, silence your inner critic, and give yourself credit. You've earned it. You deserve it. And besides, you look fabulous. You do!

I may not be a MILF to anyone but my husband, and I'm not back to the marathon-running shape I was in when I got pregnant, but for a 41-year old mother of three, I look pretty damn good.

Pretty damn good.

This post is part of the Mommyologist's celebration of Mom Sexy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reeking of Gleek

I did it.

I went to see Glee Live on Thursday night in Los Angeles with Ciaran from Momfluential, leaving my husband in charge of the three kids, including the One Who Nurses Before Bed.

What can I say? I'm a Gleek first, mom second! Okay, not really, I mean, I don't think so, but, well...

In honor of the occasion, I did my very first vlog. And you'll see that when I actually say the word "vlog" it is with emphasis. Cause I really mean it! Also, please ignore the kids in the background in the end part of it. I don't know what Sawyer is doing to X, but we'll have words about it tomorrow. I mean, I have photographic evidence!

Anyway, please be gentle when viewing this. The first time is always awkward, you know?





p.s. I know you want to hear how X did without me. Let's just say he woke up at 7:15 this morning - I assumed he was exhausted from crying for hours last night. Because he misses me! He needs me!

Not so much. The boy apparently went down without a peep at 7:15 p.m. That's right. He slept 12 hours! Couldn't he have thrown me a small bone and at least whimpered for a minute? Where is the love, I ask you? Where is the love?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't Embarrass my Kid - Please!

Are you a crafty person? Do you get super-excited when your kids come home with an assignment for a class project? Yes?

Then we're through here.

I kid, I kid. Truth is, I NEED YOU! I'm the Anti-Craft and I'm terrified because my kindergartner just came home with an assignment to make a farm.

Read about it at the OC Moms Blog and then come back here and give me ideas.

Unless, you know, you really don't care about my poor kid, who's been "blessed" with me as his mom. Because this project will be on display at Open House night! The humanity!

Looking forward to your help!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Warning Signs

Sometimes, kids - and moms - should come with a warning sign..



Like this delightful child..


Or maybe this one. Notice the lack of tears? It's anger, people. A-N-G-E-R.



Or, quite frankly, this Mother of the Year candidate. Relax, lady!




Lets end on a positive note, shall we?

video

What would YOUR warning sign say?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yes is the hardest word

This is the final prompt from Momalom's Five for 10. It has been a great experience for me to have a chance to crack my literary knuckles. I've learned a lot about myself as a blogger, and I've also found a lot of other really tremendous blogs out there. If you haven't checked out the site, you should. You'll be amazed at what moms - and some dads - have to say. Today's topic is Yes.

My girlfriend Skype messaged me this morning.

It's like instant messaging, as opposed to using the cameras to chat. Which is a good thing. I mean, it WAS the morning, people, and my poor friend had been up working like a dog til 3 a.m. Although, I have two dogs, and all they seem to do is interrupt their lying around for the occasional ferocious barking at the UPS truck. So let's just say she was working really, really hard. Like maybe an ant. Now THEY are hard workers, judging by how tough it must be to find that one crumb left on the kitchen counter.

Okay, I'm sorry. Here's the point. She said she wished I wasn't still nursing. Not because she has a problem with it. It's just that she might be getting tickets to the Glee concert in Los Angeles. For this Thursday night. And she thought I might like to go. Did I mention they're VIP tickets?

And blogosphere, I considered it. I did.

I looked over at X. He has this little chair he inherited from his sister that he loves. So he's sitting there, chillin' with his sippy cup, and he looks at me and smiles, all dimples and crinkly eyes and startlingly white baby teeth.

I think, how can I say yes to the concert?

Because a Yes is in fact a No to him. He's nursed every night before bed for all but one of the 432 days he's been on earth. It's one of my favorite times, because the child is so busy during the day it's tough to get a quiet moment until bedtime. We snuggle. He tries to stick his finger up my nose or pull my lip down to my chin. Sometimes he pauses to point to the elephant painted on the wall. But he always settles back in, and I get to stroke his hair and whisper my dreams for him into his tiny perfect ear.

Then I'll ask him if he's ready for night-night, and he'll nod yes. I put him in his crib with his lovey, and he goes to sleep.

It's our routine. We both love it.

The only time I missed putting him to bed was when he was four weeks old and I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I pumped a couple bottles and David put him to bed. But since he was still waking every three hours or so, I nursed him when I got home. He hasn't had a bottle since.

So how can I go to this show knowing his world is going to be rocked?  He'll cry. He'll wail and scream and wonder what the hell is going on and where's his MAMA?!?!  And, you know, those things she has under her shirt.

Now, logically I realize he won't be scarred from one night without me. He'll be very upset, and then he'll stop or cry himself to sleep. Eventually. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about it.

I have said "no" to a ton of stuff since X has come along. He's the first one I've successfully nursed past six months, but I've made some sacrifices in order to do that - whether it's food I can't eat, or places I can't go because of his nursing schedule:  No to volunteering in Sawyer's class. No to farm field trips to with Sage. No to cupcakes. No to beer. No to watching late afternoon Little League games. No to dinner parties. No to an early-morning running group.

I don't begrudge him these things. Not at all.

It's my job. As a mom. We put our needs second (if we're lucky. I think mine are somewhere behind the three kids but possibly ahead of the dogs). We do the best we can for them, even if it means missing out on things that are important to us or that we'd really, really dig.

I'm guessing this is why is it so hard for me to say yes to something I want, if it means saying no to my baby. Did I mention these are VIP tickets to Glee? I did?

I literally was in tears talking to David about it. He encouraged me to go. He knows I'm a total Gleek. And that I never do this kind of thing. He was not at all concerned about X, but dads don't get their heart wrenched out by the sound of their sweet baby sobbing like mothers do, you know?

While I waited outside Sawyer's classroom to get him after school, I told a couple of the other moms about the concert. It was funny. ALL of them told me to go, that X is 14 months old now so it's not like he needs to nurse for nourishment. That David can handle it.

They reminded me we do so much for our kids. We have to remember to do things for ourselves.

We have to say Yes.

Yes.



Sunday, May 16, 2010

In a Sun Hat

Oh, you crazy girls over at Momalom. Did you just know Lust would be the toughest topic of all? I admit the first post I wrote on the topic will never see the light of day. I realize I actually DO have boundaries, after all. With that, I completely shifted gears. 

Bonnets.

Little knit hats. Rompers. Skirts that reveal roll upon roll of delicious chubbiness.

I so, so wanted a girl.

When I found out we were having a boy for our first child, I felt only a small swallow of disappointment. My husband and I planned on having another child - another chance for a girl. (Do I need to even say that OBVIOUSLY our first concern was that the baby was healthy? Just in case you are tsk tsking to yourself. Which I know you're not, because that's not how you roll.)

I mean, I love my son. He's adorable and, in retrospect, was a very easy baby. But I didn't see myself having a tea party with him, or later, getting pedis together.

So when we got pregnant when Sawyer was a year old, I started daydreaming about pink. But I just knew it would be a boy, because really really wanting something does not make it so. And why should I be so lucky?

It was a boy. I was sure of it.

Then we had the ultrasound. David and I stared at the black and white image on the screen. It was so clear, we could see the motes floating in the amniotic fluid. And we weren't first-timers. We'd seen boy parts before. I cocked my head to the side. David leaned in. Finally the tech said, "Do you want to know?"

I said, "It's a boy, right?"

"I'll put you out of your misery," she said. "Imagine the baby is sitting on a glass table. And you are under it, looking up. That's the view you're getting. Of your baby girl."

David and I looked at each other through tears. We couldn't believe it.

A girl.

Pigtails. Ballet shoes. Dolls. Pink. Did I mention pink? Because when you've dressed your child in blue and brown and green and in shirts with trucks and footballs on them, you might go a little overboard with a certain other color.



I hoped for another girl when I became pregnant with our third. I love to shop. And I may have bought enough to outfit North America and parts of Canada a few too many things for Sage, so it would've been nice to get another wear out of that cute velvet skirt.

Of course, we had another boy, and he is perfect for our family.

Still, I feel sad Sage won't have a sister. I can't imagine not having one, even though mine tormented me occasionally - like telling me, at age 4, that one day I would bleed from my Private Parts and there was nothing I could do about it.

She also came racing home early from two hours away to raise holy Hell when she heard my father and grandfather were telling me how fat I was - on the eve of my college graduation. She was my biggest champion. Who would be that for Sage?

If David and I were younger, if we had a bigger house, if we made more money, then maybe we would consider having another child. But we're old, live in a tiny house, and are lucky to do okay on one salary.

The shop is closed.

Baby lust. It's going to have to be put on hold til someone calls me "Grandma."

Maybe that someone will be a sweet baby girl in a sun hat.




Friday, May 14, 2010

Ballpoint Pen on a Paper Bag

The following is Prompt #3 from Momalom's Five for Ten. The topic is Memory.


The brown paper bag is clutched in my hand until the top is wrinkled like the skin of an old lady.

Inside the bag, the prized can I carefully selected waits, wrapped in tin foil to keep in the cold. But always it explodes pink frothy warm.

A drawing in ballpoint pen decorates the front of the bag. Today it is of the replica historical village we visit, where we learn about survival before they had yellow school buses and black cherry soda.

I was the only one with such a drawing, as I was each time our class went on a field trip.

Love from Mom. Love. The word I didn't hear. Maybe this was proof?

Special, for once. Me.

Only she does not remember now, this thing, so profound.

I prompt:  Were you bored? Did you want me to know you were thinking of me?

She said she didn't know. She'd ponder, get back to me.

So I wonder, will my kids call one quiet afternoon, grown up, and ask, Do you remember?

I want to. I want to.

What will stay with them? Not the manufactured memories of trips to SeaWorld and Princess birthday parties we try so hard to give them.

Small moments.

When they knew they were truly seen.

When they knew they were loved.

Ballpoint pen on a paper bag.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Blogging Rachel Ray

So I'm everywhere this week. And when I say everywhere, I mean a few places. Whatever. Stop being so literal. I'm currently the Rachel Ray of blogging. I'm over-exposed. I'm saying cute things like "yum-o" and designing cookwear and appearing on every blog you look at.

Perhaps I exaggerate. A little.

Okay, a lot.

The first place I want to tell you about is a very cool eMag I write for called Classic Play. The Food issue is  out and it's amazing, if I do say so myself. I love that there is something in there for everyone. The writers are all so different, yet come together in a perfect way. Check it out. I write about my Year Without Food, but I hope you take a look at the entire issue. You'll thank me.

The second place is on the Orange County Moms Blog, where I blog about being an Older Mom. If you haven't been over to that site before, there are some tremendous writers. Poke around if you have some time.

The third place is, well, here! I've been participating in Momalom's Five for 10 writing challenge. They provide five writing prompts in 10 days, and you can write a post on it and link it over at their page. Anyone can participate. What I love about it is I've actually had to really think, to try to stretch myself and concentrate on every word. Not that I don't ALWAYS put that kind of effort out for you, Internets! Anyway, the prompts are: Courage, Happiness, Memory, Lust (woohoo!) and Yes. I have been blown away by some of the blogs I've visited during this.

So the fourth place is the Momalom site. I've had some new visitors over here because of linking up over there, and if you notice, as of this moment I have 93 followers. NINETY THREE! Not bad, considering a few months ago I had 12. My goal as a blogger is to connect with people, to get conversations started, to hope my words can make someone think, laugh, and sometimes, even cry. So thank you. I appreciate each one of you more than you'll know!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Riding with the top down

Back for my second post for Momalom and their Five for 10 challenge. Today's topic is Happiness.

Happiness is simple, when you're a child.

Mommy's smile.
Powder-blue cotton candy.
A new toy.
The box a new toy came in.
Christmas lights.
Star Wars pajamas.
Ice cream. For dinner.
Whooshing down a slide.
Splashing at the water's edge and shrieking when the wave breaks.
A hug.
Hot chocolate. With three handfuls of marshmallows.
Snow.
Snow days.
Running. Skipping. A hula hoop.
Hearing "Yes."

When did we lose this? When did happiness come with conditions?

I will be happy when I graduate high school and get away from these people and this small town.
I will be happy if I move to this dorm, major in this instead of that.
I will be happy when I have a boyfriend.
I will be happy when I lose the weight.
I will be happy with this job, that job, when I move here, when I leave there.
I will be happy when I'm engaged. Married. Have kids.

The problem with all this is, of course, failing to live in the moment. When was I truly happy? Tough to say. I was too busy thinking it was just around the corner. If. When. I didn't take the time to just be and appreciate where I was in the now.

Because happiness? It's right here. If you take the time to see it.

My third child has taught me this. He is my last, and there is enough space between he and his next older sibling that I can actually spend uninterrupted time getting to know him and his joy. And my own. He has made me savor.



I consciously slow down. I inhale the warm, toasty scent of his head. I blow raspberries on his squishy tummy and we both crack up. He climbs into the sandbox on the back patio and I sit in a chair, close my eyes and feel the sun heat my face. I breathe.

I roll as he escapes the bath and runs, chubby legs churning, naked and dripping and screaming with laughter as my husband chases him down the hall.

Watching my toddler has also made me appreciate my older two kids more. The way my first son's face lights up when he sees me waiting for him outside his classroom door. How my daughter shouts, "Watch, Mommy, watch!" as she wiggles like a hula girl, jumps in the pool, pedals her bike without training wheels.

Rejoicing in their victories: their first steps, first soccer goal, first time they read a sentence.

And yet, I know my own happiness can't be derived solely from my kids.

I've always been a glass half-empty, lemons-instead-of-lemonade type of girl. I fight that. I look for my happy.

I've found it, more and more. Happiness isn't always about explosions of unicorns and rainbows. It's there when I'm doing a good hard run on a beautiful day. Watching the ocean. Finding my husband has cleaned the kitchen - even wiping the counters - while I was out. Writing a well-turned phrase.

Riding with the top down.

Giving into it.

Being present.

How do you find your happy?


Monday, May 10, 2010

Courage is within all of us


I'm attempting another writing exercise, this time from the sisters over at Momalom. Today's topic is Courage.

I do not consider myself a brave person.

I'm scared of lots of things. There is the silly stuff that terrifies me, like big hairy spiders (okay, even the small bald ones) that crawl across our ceiling and, if my husband doesn't immediately squash it, I'm positive it will descend on its silken string and investigate my ear drum in the middle of the night; scary movies, especially if they deal with paranormal creepiness; mayonnaise; the sight of my hair after it air-dries.

Then there's the BIG stuff: Something happening to my husband or, heaven forbid, one of my kids; dying before I see my kids grow up; dying at all; not being a good enough mother, wife, friend.

And yet.

I have courage. I know this. Even though I might like to say things like,"It had to be done, I had no choice, if I can do it, anyone can," the truth is, we always have a choice, and not everyone can do what I've done.

We need to give ourselves credit and for once say, "Yes. I was extraordinarily brave." Even if the person next to us has done that very thing a million times - before breakfast. It's not about other people. It's about us, stepping out of our comfort zone and facing our fears.

It's not always about the grand gesture. It's the little things inside each of us, the small victories.

Here are some of my moments (and for some reason, I keep hearing the Cowardly Lion snuffle, "Courage!" after each of these):

Hauling my exhausted body, clad in extra-large sweatpants, to a new mom's support group when Sawyer was seven weeks old. I'm not a joiner, but I knew I needed to get out of the house, no matter how awful and embarrassed I felt about myself.

Going to a Team in Training meeting, thinking I'd sign up for a half-marathon, and ending up registering to run the whole 26.2 - and then doing it. Twice.

Telling my OB that no, I would NOT be getting an internal every week after my 36th week of pregnancy. Learning that this society has a very effed up perception of childbirth and deciding I would take control - as much as I could. Having a surprise home birth and then, with X, a planned home birth. No drugs. None needed. I learned I am far stronger than I'd imagined.

Advocating - again and again and again - for my son due to his peanut allergy. I don't like confrontation, but I will do it - EVERY TIME - in order to protect him, no matter what his teachers or other parents think. Even if my heart races and my stomach hurts and I have to see their eyes roll.

Watching that son disappear into his kindergarten classroom for the first time and not rushing the door to hug him one more time. Letting X run on his unsteady feet, because you have to let him go, even if you're sure he's going to take a digger.

Writing my truth. This is by far the most courageous thing I do (other than raising my children). Words, once out there, can't be taken back. I write things that maybe other people wouldn't: my ambivalence about my pregnancy with X, that being a mother sometimes really sucks, about my tummy cellulite. I speak up for those who don't. Or can't.

This doesn't always make me popular.

But it always makes me real, like it or not.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

All About Moms




This past Friday, Sawyer's kindergarten class put on a fashion show for the moms, then invited us back to the classroom for a snack. Sawyer was SO proud to hand me a plate of cookies and a cup of lemonade. He also presented me with a few things: a paper bag that contained a breakfast bar and a tea bag, and on which he drew a picture of me..




a handmade card, and a booklet entitled "All About Moms" in which each child answered five questions. I'm going to share the questions and Sawyer's response, and then I'll put my answer.

Q: How can you tell someone is a mom?

Sawyer: She has long hair and she's a girl.

Me: She has spit up on her shoulder or a chocolate handprint on the back of her pants that she has no idea is there. Well, she has SOME idea it's there, because she had a toddler clinging to her leg for an hour or so and there's bound to be some residue. She probably has bags under her eyes from sleepless nights, either from insane o'clock feedings, countless trips leading a child back to bed, or simply from worry worry worry. She actually does have a third eye, right in the back of her head, which is how she always catches a small hand sneaking an extra cookie. She is also blessed with the unique ability to wear her heart on the outside, where it skips and plays and sometimes falls. And she will always light up when her child walks into the room.



Q: How did your mom learn to be a mom?

Sawyer: From my grandma that's alive.

Me: I was absolutely influenced by my own mother, that's true (and for the record, BOTH grandmas are alive). We are ALL shaped by our mothers, one way or the other. Mostly? It's on-the-job training. We learn what works - and what doesn't. It's an ongoing process, and just when we think we've got it figured out, we realize we don't have the slightest clue what we're doing. We understand that giving birth was actually the easy part.



Q: What does your mom do while you are at school?

Sawyer: She usually makes lunch and plays.

Me: These days, when Sage is also at school, I have lots of one-on-one time with X, who no longer takes a morning nap. We go to the park. We go to Target. We play in the sandbox in the backyard. We snack. We try to check email. We're not down with that (well, ONE of us isn't). We get up and play with the Little People tractor. We try to check Twitter. "We" hear someone whining, trying to get our attention. We read books. We drink water. We share our water. We realize three hours have gone by and now we're racing down the street to get big brother, leaving piles of unsorted laundry and untouched dirty breakfast dishes behind.




Q: Why did your mom want children?

Sawyer: I don't know, she never told me why.

Me: Why, indeed? It's a question I've asked myself, after the end of some particularly awful day full of barf, poop, snot, whine or other unpleasantness that makes me long for those days Before Children. But really, I always knew I wanted kids. I can't figure out how you can go through life without wanting to become a parent. What else is there to do that's more important? What is more rewarding, more life-altering, more amazing?  To me, it's such an honor to have these little beings calling me "Mommy." Sometimes the love I feel for them is so overwhelming it's tough to breathe. Of course, sometimes it's the anger that knocks the wind out of me. But then one of them hugs me, or brings me a flower they carefully picked from the yard, or squeals with delight upon seeing me, or is wonderfully sweet to a sibling, and I think, heck ya, there IS nothing else.



Q: What makes your mom so special?

Sawyer: She does art in the garage with me.

Me: That one's easy. What makes ME so special are my kids. I am forever changed by them. They make me deliriously happy, and so furious I want to rip their cute little heads off. They bring out the absolute best and worst in me. They make me want to be better: kinder, more patient, more in-the-moment. They make me see my failure - on a daily, if not hourly basis - and they love me anyway. Every day is a new chance for me to be the mother I so want to be. Maybe they wouldn't have picked me if they had some other options, but they're stuck with me, and I will try to deserve them. Every day.









Happy Mother's Day. And thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Getting Jeggings With It




I have a pair of jeans in my closet that I got before kids. Before husband. Before I even MET my husband.

We've been together for 11 years. My husband and I, that is.

They're a dark wash (the jeans, that is. My husband is more a light-brown wash), with kind of a fringe around the ankle. Not like a cowboy or anything. Just a little added flair. At least, that's what I thought when I bought them.

I remember sqeeeezing into them in the dressing room at the Gap. And then immediately turning around to check my ass in the mirror.

They were tight. But I liked them and I'm sure they were a screaming deal.

I might have worn them twice. Then I got too big for my britches. Not that I threw them out or anything. I just pushed them to the back of my drawer.

Thing is, they're still there. They are also now a size or two too big, which is the least of their problems. The waist is a little high, not approaching mom jean territory, but close enough. The fit is kind of...odd. I'll know I'll never wear them again. Them, or a couple other pair of jeans that keep them company in the drawer.

Why can't I quit them?

Jeans. We love them. We hate them. We can't get rid of them.

Remember lying on the floor and wiggling and jerking as you pulled up that pair you just HAD to get into? So you're yanking them over your hips, which are practically touching the ceiling so you can tuck your butt in to make it smaller. And then you get them over and up and THEN you have to button them. So you suck your gut in up to your throat and you hold your breath and you get it fastened.

Now you actually have to get up. You look around, searching for something to hang on to. Time passes. Leaves change colors and fall to the ground. It's snowing. Finally, the dog wanders over, wondering if you're in fact dead and considering whether he can start gnawing on your leg. You grab him and hoist yourself up.

Then you start doing deep knee bends, trying to get some give in the denim.

And you do, eventually. Because jeans are like marriage: they're made to hug you, but they're also made to have a little give.

Now that I am old, I don't do the Jeans Dance. Okay, maybe the knee bends. I don't want them real tight. I just want them to fit. And be comfortable.

This may not seem like much to ask. But it is. Anyone else gone to the store, brought in 47 pairs of jeans and left with exactly none? You can try on a dozen pair in the same size and they will all fit differently. So you never really know what your size is.

You might finally find something you like, but they ain't cheap. I mean, I'm not shopping at Walmart, people. So I maybe can justify one pair, like the 7s I got as a reward for losing the baby weight after Sage. But that's it for the year.

The problem with a lot of jeans for me is that, when I squat down to play with the kids or tie a shoe, David will mention that there's a leak under the sink that needs fixing.

That's right. Plumber's crack.

So this week I got to try on   Miracle Body jeans at a blogger get-together hosted by Ciaran at Momfluential. They're supposed to make you look like you've lost 10 pounds in 10 seconds. Without the stomach flu!

There were about a dozen women there of all shapes and sizes, the perfect models to see if these jeans truly are a miracle. I tried on a pair of their Samantha jeans which looked so fab on everyone else and... I didn't like them. They were fitted in the thigh, but were too big around the waist. I just wasn't happy and knew they'd join their denim cousins in the back of my drawer.

There weren't any other styles in my size. But there were a pair of their jeans leggings (forever more known as jeggings) in the next smaller size. After encouragement from everyone, I tried them on. And I was stunned to discover I liked them. How exciting to find something I liked after trying on just two pair! It must be some sort of record.

The jeggings have an elastic waist, like leggings, but they are real denim. The lycra helps keep them from giving you the saggy baggies, and if you made a pig out of yourself at lunch have had a few kids, it has a built-in panel to suck in your belly.

They're totally something to wear with a tunic (because this is not 1984 Boca, so the pink pumps and half-shirt get-up would be retro in a horrific sort of way).

They're a fun addition to my wardrobe. I think they're cute. And comfy.

Interested in a pair? You can get a coupon code for $20 off simply by entering Miraclebody's We Shape Women contest. You nominate a woman who's shaped your life - or you can even nominate yourself. The winner receives a trip to NYC, a celebrity makeover, and a $1,000 denim wardrobe. What's not to love about that?




See how happy I am? That could be you, reader. But with different hair. And maybe a different shirt. Possibly you'd pose somewhere other than the sidewalk in front of your house. Still, you'd be rocking the jeggings or one of the other styles and that's all that really matters.

Miraclebody Jeans provided the pair I am wearing. The opinions are provided by me.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thank you Mrs. Edwards, wherever you are

Mama's Losin' It

Kathy over at Mama Kat's Losing It has some great suggestions this week for her writers workshop. I chose writing a poem to a teacher. But actually, I don't do poetry. Because I suck at it. So I'm going to just write a letter to her.

A little background: Mrs. Edwards was my high school English teacher. I had her for regular English class my junior year, then for AP English as a senior (and I did so well I placed out of two semesters of college English, thanks to her!).

Here is my letter to her:

Dear Mrs. Edwards,

Where are you? I've googled you and searched for you on Facebook, but it's like you've disappeared. Maybe you go by a different last name. Or maybe you don't do the whole internet thing.

I'd like to think of you sitting in some lovely garden somewhere, sipping tea, listening to the sweet song of nearby birds. I imagine you'd be reading. Writing, possibly.

I wonder if you ever think about us.

We were your first Advanced Placement English class, from 1985-86. Rockville High School. Remember? We were a diverse bunch, comprised of brains, jocks, and even a Mormon - which was VERY exotic in our small Connecticut town.

Remember when you had us read "The Hollow Man?" It was the first piece of literature that I didn't get. I mean, I REALLY didn't understand it. To the point where I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do the assignment.

And then, and after much agonizing, fist-clenching, tears and chewed pen caps, I figured it out by, as I tell my son, "using my own brain." You know, that organ up there in my head that does the thinkin'. I discovered, in my final year of high school, that it actually WORKS if someone cares enough to get those gears shifting.

You are the reason why I know T.S. Elliot wrote about wearing the bottoms of his trousers rolled, that Walt Whitman's road less traveled made all the difference. I know these things without having to look them up, because you made us learn pages upon pages of quotes, burning them into our memories.

We read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I'd never even heard of existentialism, didn't realize authors really thought and agonized and created astonishing works of art.

I wrote papers that year that, when I came across them a few years ago, I couldn't believe I'd done them. They were really, really good. Better than what I'd slap together later on in college. Or in this space, to tell the truth.

But you know what the best part of your class was? It's when we just talked about Life. When you'd go off on a tangent of some sort - remember you telling us boys get turned on by table legs? - and we ate it up.

You talked to us like we were People, not just air-breathers filling chairs for 50 minutes. You were interested in our thoughts, our dreams, our teenage angst.

You were the first person who really believed I was someone special. You told me I'd blossom in college, that I'd find plenty of boys who'd understand me (I didn't, but of course I didn't know that at the time).

You brought the best out of each of us. This wasn't a small task. But you cared. A lot.

So much so, you only taught one more year after we graduated. You said kids were changing. You didn't enjoy teaching like she used to.

I wonder if you were worried you'd become bitter. Or worse, disillusioned.

So, here's something: I became a journalist, can you believe it? A professional writer. I'd love to know if you're at all surprised, of if it's something you expected.

I really want you to know, no matter what you're doing now, that you mattered. You made a difference to an awkward teen who lacked self-confidence, just by being so sure I'd be okay.

Most important, you opened the best part of me: my mind.

Thank you, Mrs. Edwards. Your lessons are still being learned.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Raise a glass for my Dad - it's his birthday

I don't remember the date my father died.

I have to go back and look at my blog once we get into July. Maybe it's because he'd been so ill for so long and his death was, while still sudden in a weird sort of way, not unexpected.

Or maybe I just prefer beginnings to endings.

He was born May 5th. I never even heard of Cinco de Mayo growing up. Partly this was because I lived in a small town in Connecticut where the closest we got to the Mexican culture was when my mother served tacos (it's unfortunate she didn't also serve margaritas because some days we all could've used one). But mainly it's because it's always been Dad's birthday.

I wish I could remember fun things we did that day. But I can't, which I guess is pretty typical when you're a kid. Nothing is bigger than your OWN birthday, right? As we got older and moved away, it usually was just a phone call.

My Dad and I didn't always have the easiest relationship. We were too much alike. Stubborn. Opinionated.

He was also hot-tempered and impatient and sometimes embarrassed the hell out of us in public by either shouting about something or joking with any stranger he met.

There were times I'd call the house and he'd answer and I'd just ask for Mom. How much that must've hurt his feelings, that one of his daughters didn't want to talk to him.

But he was so proud. Of all of us. I think he might have told me that once. He liked to brag about his daughter the lawyer, his son the computer genius, his youngest daughter the sportswriter. 

And he genuinely enjoyed kids. He would take an afternoon off from work to come watch my sister and me play basketball. He let us dive off his knee in the pool, or let us pull him around by his big toe as he floated on his back. I think there were games of Candyland when we were small.

We loved it, when he would just play.

What he never got to do is enjoy my own kids. He met Sawyer twice, once as an infant and once when he was about 18 months. My Dad talked for his remaining years about Sawyer riding in his wheelchair.

He never met Sage. He died before I was even pregnant with X. He missed out. So did my kids.

So did I.

He would've loved to have visited us, to sit in his chair and have the kids climb on him and show him their toys and just talk to him about the butterfly they saw and ask him how it is we got into the Milky Way, anyway? He could've come to watch Sawyer play Little League, Sage dance at her recital. X do his own bouncy-legged, head-bobbing boogie.

And they would've loved him, even though he was not the same man that I grew up with. He was no longer the 6-foot-4, overweight, fire-red haired larger-than-life guy with the ear-blasting cackling laugh.

No. They would've just known him as Grandpa. Who always sat. He was thin and his hair had faded (although he still had that cackle). He seemed smaller. But the child within him wasn't.

I'm angry. I think it's not fair, and didn't he love us enough to take care of himself? He quit smoking, but he was overweight. His diabetes went untreated for too long. He cheated with the chocolate bars he'd hide. One health issue led to another and another and another. There was no going back.

Unfortunately, there was no going forward, either.

Dad's gone. Grandpa's gone. 

Today is just another day for my kids. No homemade cards to send. No off-key singing on the phone.

But I remember.

Happy birthday, Dad. Happy birthday.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Eating my words about red-shirting (at least they're fat-free)




This week is kindergarten round-up at the elementary school across the street.

Sage is eligible. She turns 5 in September, and the cut-off in California is the first week in December.

But after a LOT of thought, a lot of evaluations and a lot of cursing my position as a grown-up having to make tough calls, I decided to give her what is known as the "bonus year."

That's right. We're red-shirting her. She's going to pre-K.

Even typing these words are difficult. I just hate that I have to make a decision like this, that other parents' decisions are influencing mine.

And yet.

blogged about this topic two years ago. I'd never heard of kids being held back. It just wasn't done when I was growing up back East. My Dec. 31st birthday was also the cutoff date. I was the youngest in my class, starting kindergarten at 4, graduating high school at 17 and starting college three months before my 18th birthday.

When I wrote that post, Sawyer was just getting ready to go to pre-K. He did great there, and I was really glad he missed the cutoff date for kindergarten so I didn't have to make a decision.

I still believe that if a child's ready, she's ready. The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what ready IS these days.

This is not her parents' kindergarten. It's first grade now, people. And it's full of first-graders.

Let me explain.

Many parents out here in The OC hold their kids with fall birthdays back a year from entering kindergarten. Some even hold them if they're born in the summer. Or May. So you have kids who are a year older - or more - than others in the same class. They're held for many reasons: maturity being the main one.

Kindergarten is also more academically demanding then it was when we went. If you're not reading, you're already behind.

I thought for sure I'd send Sage to kindergarten when her time came. She's a girl. She's a second child. She's tall and physically coordinated. She's smart and is starting to read. She does dance class with kids who are all 4-9 months older than her, but you wouldn't know she was the youngest.

David and I have gone back and forth, agonizing over what to do. Yes, it's only kindergarten, but it's the start of a long time in school. What's the best way for her to begin?

I decided to have her evaluated by a company in the county which specializes in kindergarten readiness. We went back in February, when Sage was 4 years, 5 months old. She didn't know why we were going, other than a lady was going to ask her some questions.

I sat in the next room and listened during the interview. I heard Sage ask if there was water so she could have a drink. I heard the woman ask her to pay attention. More than once.

It lasted about half and hour. They came out, and the woman commented that Sage seemed like a "young" 4 1/2. Apparently, one person's "young" is another person's "dramatic."

I received the official evaluation in the mail. It is done by age, and she was above age - in some areas by more than a year - in everything but two things, where she was marked at 4 yrs, 6 months. And based on that, she was deemed "not ready," because they want everything to be at least 4 yrs, 9 months.

I called for a consultation. I spoke to one of the owners, who does not do the actual interview, but reads the notes and makes her evaluation. Basically, after we talked for awhile, she said she thought Sage would be fine if she went, that she believes Sage is probably gifted. BUT she thinks that if she got an extra year for her maturity to catch up with her academic ability? She'd be a leader.

This is kind of what David and I had talked about. Do we want her to go this year and do fine? Or do we want her to kick ass? A little more confidence could go a LONG way.

Of course, her preschool teacher gave her a glowing evaluation. Sage does really well there. She can sit in circle time and participate, she "uses her words" with her friends, she gets along with everyone.

So then we started thinking that we WOULD send her. Clearly the teacher has a better idea of how Sage is than someone who meets her for 30 minutes - or someone who just reads about her. Still, I've noticed that Sage tends to hang back a little in a group. She also can be super-sensitive - and we all know how mean girls can be. Could she be better prepared with an extra year?

My last "official"  conversation was with the pre-K teacher. She's taught the program for more than 10 years. She said she'd never had a child who she thought should've been in kindergarten instead. She told me about another mom who was on the fence like I am and decided to hold her daughter. The girl is now in the gifted program in second grade.

Hmm...

I also thought about my own experience. I loved being the youngest in my class (except the part about not getting my drivers license until the second half of my junior year). But now, I wonder. I never felt like I exactly fit in. I was socially a little behind. I always seem to hang out with younger kids.

I mean, I have an older sister and brother, so it wasn't like I didn't know how to behave around older kids. It just didn't translate to being confident among my own peers. And I didn't have the issue of having kids more than a year older than me in class like Sage would. I wasn't competing to get into college against those older kids: most states have a Sept. 1 cutoff (if they had that cutoff date here, I guarantee you'd see kids held with January birthdays) so if we lived in, say, Florida, this wouldn't even be an issue.

I know other kids with similar birthdays who are going to kindergarten.

Of course, I can't compare Sage to anyone else - including her mother.

She is her own girl.



I can only try to do what I think is the best for her (and it's not the best for ME, let me tell you, I could use a year or two off from paying for preschool!).  I'm thinking it's one of those things where we might regret sending her, but we won't reget holding her.

Besides, I can still change my mind. But I won't. I don't think.

Where's the grownup when I need one?
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