Archive for January, 2014

Sage advice from Mom

January 15, 2014

One of the greatest gifts I have received as a mom is to have my own mom travel this journey alongside me. My mother-in-law passed before Hubs and I were even engaged and there is a hole in our lives where she should have been. My best friend’s mom is alive and well and completely estranged from her daughters and grandchildren. But my mom has been there from the beginning. She babysits my children two days a week while I work and has for the past four years. She buys important items for the boys like same-color-socks so that their mother (me) doesn’t have such a hard time when it comes to matching. And she always has the best, most down to earth, honest perspectives of motherhood. And that may be what I value the most.

I love being a mother. I have embraced the gift of more time with my kids since I have opted to work part-time this year. I love going on playdates and to music classes and playgroups. I love cuddling up in the middle of the day and reading books to Bubba before a nap and then watching Calliou with Rocketman. These are moments that are fleeting. Ones that I will not get back.

And everyone tells me so: Enjoy them while they are young! It goes by so fast! Remember these moments. In a minute they will be packing for college.

These comments breed panic within me. I have a grumpy moment or feel overwhelmed, and these voices will ring in my ear as I picture a teenaged Rocketman rolling his eyes at me while I lament the beautiful little boy that once believed that all guns shoot only water.

And then I have a conversation with my mom. And that grounds me.

Today is Monday. In every way. It was a difficult morning. It was a challenge getting both kids and myself ready and out the door. We finally got into the car at 10:45 to go to an OT screening and speech class for Rocketman. I had waited all morning to eat a cardboard-tasting Atkins bar, but had not had time, as my focus was on getting the boys well fed, dressed, and out the door. I rejoiced, now, that I had time during this seven minute drive to put something on my stomach and elevate my blood sugar. I had not quite gotten it to my mouth when Bubba spotted it and started to whine. Then scream. You see, it does not matter how well fed this child may be. If a person is eating something that he is not, he feels the need to also eat that something. Immediately. And if he doesn’t get it, he screams and screams.

And so, with half of an Atkins bar hanging out of my mouth, and one hand on the steering wheel, I manuvered my other hand through the diaper bag and then thrusted it into the backseat awkwardly to reveal a handful of animal crackers. While the serving method wasn’t ideal, I felt pride in the fact that I had been able to present anything at all. And then Rocketman said, “I don’t want animal crackers. Don’t you have a juicebox I could have?”

We arrived at our destination. I dragged both kids into the school, signed in, dropped R off and walked back out with Bubba. We drove to the McDonald’s drive thru, and then to a picnic area close by. Here Bubba and I enjoyed a 10 minute winter picnic before we had to jump back in the car again to go pick up Rocketman. Again, I dragged Bubba into the school.

As we sat waiting for Rocketman to complete his class, Bubba immediately discovered a large rubber exercise ball that had been left in the hallway. We spent about ten minutes pushing the oversized ball back and forth to each other in a calm, quiet manner until Rocketman came out. At which point all hell broke loose.

As I attempted to speak with his speech teacher, Rocketman and Bubba reunited and their combined energy caused a grand explosion in the form of the two of them doing belly flops onto the exercise ball and laughing uproariously. I immediately stopped my “conversation” with the speech teacher and grabbed Bubba with the theory: minimize the stimuli and calmness will ensue. This lasted for about one minute as he shimmied in my arms until he was on the floor again, racing for the ball. In desperation, I attempted to gather the necessary information from the speech teacher while wildness clearly escalated behind me.

And then an unknown teacher yelled, “Ladies! THEY should NOT be playing on that BALL!” as she barreled down the hallway. Apparently, she had witnessed Bubba coming uncomfortably close to putting his head through a wall as he flew over and off the ball. I separated the boys again, made an uncomfortable comment about wall/ball injuries being the story of my life and slunk out of the school embarrassed.

Rocketman strolled behind me as I made a beeline toward my car. He stopped to smell a garden full of dead flowers. I kept going, furious about his behavior. I turned around at the end of the sidewalk as he strolled toward me. I yelled at him to hurry up and he started running toward me as a teacher arrived at the front door near him. He lost his footing and fell down on the sidewalk. The teacher glanced my way and made a disgusted face as she noted that I was much too far away to help my injured child, and also that I was not budging. She crouched down over him and asked if he needed help getting up and shot me another nasty look before she disappeared inside the building.

Once in the car, I expressed my displeasure about R’s behavior on the ball in the hallway. His only response was that he wanted to go to a restaurant. I told him that I had gotten him McDonald’s and that I had thought it would be nice to have a picnic in the backyard since it was such a beautiful day, but now I was unsure that he deserved it after his behavior in the school. We came to a decision that from now on, he would walk out of speech and sit down in a chair in the hallway until further notice. He apologized and we agreed to have a picnic.

I pulled into our driveway, unpacked the car, and set the lunch up on the picnic table. I waited until Rocketman was enjoying his nuggets and then went into the house to let the dog out and nuke my coffee. Rocketman showed up at the backdoor a minute later for no apparent reason. Before I had a moment to remind him to leave no food unattended with the dog around, he was screaming at the top of his lungs because the she had knocked his meal to the ground and was devouring his nuggets. Stuck behind him at the top of the stairs, I encouraged him to run at her and get her away from his lunch. He just stood there frozen and crying. By the time I had made my way around him, all that was left of the Happy Meal were apple slices.

This upset Rocketman immensely. He sobbed into my shirt as I tried to reassure him. We had spaghettios in the house. He could have some yummy chefboyrdee. He cried and cried stating that all he ever wanted today was to eat his Old McDonalds. I felt I had no choice. I dragged the naughty dog into the house, threw both kids in the car and drove back to Old McDonalds. Half way there I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Back home, back to Old McD’s, and back home once again to set up my third picnic of apple slices and McNuggets and to get some sort of satisfaction out of watching Rocketman relish them.

By Bubba’s naptime, I had a migraine. I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head. And then my mom called.

I told her I had a migraine and she told me she’d let me go. And then I found myself going on and on about my terrible day. And this is what she said: No wonder you have a migraine.

She went on to say that as she travels with the boys and meets other grandmothers, she is often confronted with the idea that one needs to embrace every moment for it is all too fleeting and will soon be lost. And, while she knows it to be true: this time does go by fast. Little bodies grow big. Squeaky voices grow deep. Sometimes these moments are absolutely exhausting. Or monotonous. Or dirty. Frustrating. Worrisome. Because these precious little growing creatures demand so much. So much of the time. Your time, your patience, your body, your guidance.

And we take pictures of the cute, the sweet, the cuddly. But not the ugly, the ornery and the prickly. And so we forget those moments. And maybe that is a good thing. But maybe not. Because if we remember that moment- the one where we have a piercing migraine and are completely exhausted by midday because our kids are being brats and the dog ate their McDonalds- then maybe we can appreciate the future stages of childhood and adulthood even. Maybe we can look back at the photographs and embrace the cute, sweet and cuddly moments each snapshot holds and at the same time embrace the satisfaction that is received in each passing year as they become more independent.

And eventually, when the kids have established a career, married and have kids of their own, I could patiently listen to a young father banter about his hectic day with his children and, as my mom did today, shout out, “I love my quiet boring life!”

Holiday Magic

January 6, 2014

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years came and went.  I spent one month working on balancing the stress of everyday adult life with the magic and wonder of the season seen through child’s eyes.  I made a decision at the beginning of the season, the day Alvin the elf (on the shelf) arrived at our home.  I promised myself that I would not let the stress of the season disable me from embracing its magic. I knew that, if I provided the opportunities, I would be able to see that magic reflect in the eyes of my four and one year olds. And I decided not to miss it.

There were plenty of challenges.  There was a six week period between November and December that at least one member of the family had strep throat.  Bubba got it twice, and I needed to go onto IV strength antibiotics to wipe it out because the Z-pac just didn’t work. And that was during parent-teacher conferences (as the teacher), where I was essentially working 12 hour days for two days straight and couldn’t get a break from talking (which is an absolute job requirement for me). So that sucked.

Plus, there was gift buying and ugly sweater parties and report cards. And we needed to visit Santa Claus and find the coolest Christmas lights and decorate Christmas cookies.  And none of the latter should be a chore.

So, I pushed through and checked out that reflection in those my kids’ big blue eyes. This is what I saw:

Alvin, the Elf on the Shelf

Though Alvin didn’t do anything crazy like sit on the toilet and poop Hershey’s kisses or zip line through the living room on a candy cane, he changed his location every day (mostly) and quickly became a like a member of the family. Rocketman began with daily conversations about what he would like for Christmas (a Batman helicopter).  But as each day was opened on the Advent calendar, his conversations became more complex.  He would share stories of the day, or run up and show Alvin his most recent craft or project.  while  Rocketman’s daily checkins with Alvin did sometimes  include tattles on Bubba that he assumedly hoped would be reported to Santa, overall Alvin’s visit provided a daily magical reminder of the innocent faith in magic that we all once possessed as children.

Bubba’s Obsession with Santa

Around 10 months, Bubba started talking.  By 12 months, he spoke about 20 words.  By 15 months, he had decided to stop talking.  And there seemed to be little progress as months went on. Bubba turned 18 months old two days before Christmas.  Suddenly, he is talking up a storm.

Most of his words have turned out to be seasonal: tree (“Oooooo! A tree, a TREE,” when he woke to find an undecorated tree in our living room), christmas lights (sounding more like, “hushus lights,” as he repeated his brother after passing every single house that displayed even a single candle in the window), snow (“so”).  But, beyond anything else, Bubba’s favorite phrase for the last few months has been: HO HO HO….MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! And he bursts out repeating this phrase over and over whenever he sees so much as a Santa hat.

So this was something that needed to be checked off the Christmas Magic list: a visit with Santa. Although we brought Rocketman to the local Polar Express train for the past two years, we decided to try something else this year, as to not take the magic out of the Polar Express.  Instead, we visited a local attraction, Edaville, USA.  The attraction included a train ride that crossed through acres of creatively themed Christmas lights, as well as carnival type rides and games.  The best things that we encountered there, however, were the giant blowup snowglobe that the kids could actually go inside of and play with pretend snow, and Santa’s village which featured scenes from the North Pole and lots of toy train activities and displays.  It also included a gift shop….and Santa Claus.  Bubba, who had spent the entire trip repeating, “Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas,” finally had the opportunity to meet his mentor.

Upon first sight, Bubba’s interest was peaked.  He craned his neck and pointed and even squealed a little bit.  There were a few “ho ho hos” muttered and then it was our turn to sit on Santa’s lap.  We scampered quickly to his platform, trying to place children and then move out of the way in time for the teenaged photographer to take the overpriced photo.  Image

Cole was not impressed.

But I couldn’t help but to spend the $17 to remember this moment as to share and laugh about it in years to come.  It couldn’t have been that dramatic as Christmas has come and gone and Bubba is still walking around saying “HO HO HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!”

Rocketman’s Holiday Play

Have I mentioned how much I love love love Rocketman’s Pre-K teacher? She goes above and beyond in every area to give her students the best possible educational experience.  And for the last two months, Rocketman and his classmates have been practicing their play, “The Night Before Christmas.”  Starring Rocketman as “Prancer the Reindeer.”

Nana, Auntie, Hubs, Bubba and I attended the show, along with many other Pre-K families and it was quite the Pre-K treat.  A magnet that was supposed to hold a stocking with care malfunctioned and dear Ms. Ana had to run and fix it as the 4-year-old actors in PJs waited awkwardly.  “Dasher” the reindeer wheeled 5-year-old Santa in on a wagon disguised as a sleigh, took one look at the crowd, froze and started bawling.  He continued to do so as Ms. Ana scooped his rigid body off the floor and out of the room.  The rest of the reindeer (including Rocketman’s Prancer) gave star performances, scuttling across the floor on their hands and knees and then waiting patiently as Santa gave a command performance.  (By “waited patiently” I mean scooped up fake snow from the floor and threw it up in the air over and over again until it was time to scuttle out of the room.)

As an encore performance, the class sang “Jingle Bells” and “Feliz Navidad.” Rocketman stood right in the front of the group and his voice could be heard above the rest.  As he sang, “I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heeeeaaarrrrtttt,” he swept his arms up like a V and then started dancing around lifting his shirt up and down.  Everyone laughed and I thought, “Pre-K holiday plays don’t get much better than this,”

Refreshments were served after the show, but we went to the local ice cream parlor afterward anyway to celebrate his performance.  The balloon man was there, and Rocketman had a hard time eating his sundae as he anxiously waited for the balloon man to visit our table.  When he finally arrived, he made a balloon giraffe for Rocketman and a balloon turtle for Bubba.  Before bedtime, we reviewed the fantastic, busy day and asked my nightly question: what was your favorite part?  Rocketman responded, “My favorite part was when the balloon man made me a giraffe and Bubba a turtle.”  Therein lies the simplicity of a 4-year-old’s expectations

Christmas and Christmas Eve themselves were full of wonder.  Rocketman is the best, most emphatic gift receiver ever and Bubba got a great kick out of it all, tearing open his gifts and saying “Ooooooooo!” It was great to spend time with family and we ate so much that I need to go on a sugar detox yesterday.

But, I am happy now, on January 3, to return to some sort of routine of normalcy.  I welcomed going back to work yesterday (though today I did not get out of my pjs thanks to a bitter cold snowstorm causing school’s closing) and am excited for Rocketman to go back to Speech on Monday and Pre-K on Tuesday after 2 weeks off.  As of today, nobody in the house is on antibiotics, though Bubba has a pretty nasty cough and cold and Rocketman a sore throat and runny nose. But I am so glad that I made that decision in late November, to embrace the season’s magic as much as possible.  Because it is evident to me everyday that these kids are growing faster than I can even understand, and if I dare to blink, I may soon no longer hear little voices calling out, “Christmas lights!!!” from the backseat or be met with the rolls of eyes when Alvin suddenly appears the day after Thanksgiving.  These are the short years of Holiday Magic and I desperatly need to embrace them before they are gone.