"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

the kickball game

Molly and I arrived at school Friday afternoon to pick up the boys, like we always do. On that day, however, for the very first time, we would be bringing home a 10-year old. It was Evan's birthday.

We met Max first and together we walked to the front lobby to wait for our big boy. The bell rang and a stream of fourth- and fifth-graders flooded the hallways. After just a minute or so, I saw him as he rounded the corner. He looked different...bigger. A smile spread across his face as he caught my eye. It's not that he was just so happy to see me, his mama. No, it was something else. A sparkle in his eye, his chest puffed up a bit. It was joy, but it was also pride. I swear my little guy looked ten-feet tall walking towards us.

Before I could tousle his hair, sneak a top-of-the-head kiss, and say "happy birthday," he began:

"Picture this," he said, as we three listeners stood rapt, ignoring the swell of the crowd around us.

"This afternoon. Bonus recess. Kickball game. We're down by three, 13-10, and we're kicking. It's the last up of the game, 'cause Ms. G had just given us the warning to finish up. So I get up to kick. As soon as they see that it's me coming up to kick, all the kids on the other team in the outfield come in real close. Probably because they know I usually don't kick it really far...."

[I have to stop myself from reacting to this. This is Truth, provided without emotion or self-consciousness. It is merely a logical description of Fact, from my very logical kid.]

He continues without missing a beat:

"So the ball's coming toward me and as soon as I kick it, I know it's awesome. It goes sailing. Over. Their. Heads. and WAY out into the outfield. I start running. Man on third gets home. Man on second gets home. Mason's rounding to third and they try to peg him out but the ball misses him by, like, thismuch. Mason gets home. I'm still running. I GET HOME. It was an INSIDE THE PARK GRAND SLAM HOME RUN. And I helped my team win the game!"

You know I started to cry. Right there in the freaking lobby of my kids' school, I teared up over a freaking kickball game. As Max high-fived him and exclaimed, "OHMYGOSH, Evan!! Good job, bro!" I hugged my game-winning 10-year old tight and he didn't protest.

We talked about it the whole way home. We talked about it again when Sam got home from work. I could hear that kid of mine tell that story 100 times and it would make me tear up every time. Evan, the MVP.

When Evan's Destination Imagination team won 1st Place in the State tournament a few weeks ago, I realized that, for a kid like Evan, who has never played team sports, the biggest thing he's missed out on is the feeling of a Team Win (and yes, a Team Loss). He's had plenty of time and space to develop a lot of the other skills that are so fundamental to playing organized sports, but never that feeling of Collective Victory. DI was great for Evan for a number of reasons, but those 1st place medals that he earned together with his teammates were among the top of the top.

Friday's kickball win made me feel so similar to his DI team win....He was proud of his accomplishments, yes, but he knew that it wasn't he alone who won the game. The beauty of teamwork is that, win or lose, you're in it together. But, damn. I'm so happy my kid got to experience what it feels like to Win.

Lesson Learned:

The icing on the proverbial cake is that, when kids started arriving for Evan's party later that evening, two of the moms said to me, "I heard all about Evan's big kickball game today!" The boys went home and TOLD THEIR MOMS about something awesome my kid did WITH A BALL. ON A FIELD.

A birthday miracle, indeed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Decade

I spent a whole day with my biggest boy this week, on a field trip to Jamestown Settlement in eastern Virginia. It was such a great day. I enjoyed watching his interactions with his peers, I swelled with pride as I listened to him rattle off fact after fact of colonial life to the museum docents, I just loved being with him....when we became separated in the group, being sought out by him...still, after all these years. 

I had planned, originally, to sit with a friend of mine on the bus. I assumed that, at nearly 10, my big boy would want to hang with his buds on the bus. Evan had other plans. 

"You can sit with me on the bus, Mom!" he said, as we packed backpacks and lunches and water bottles the night before. "We'll be field trip buddies! Ms. G said we each need a buddy. You'll be mine and I'll be yours so we can keep an eye on each other."


It was sweet...if controlling. But that's how Evan rolls. He always has. He has a heart of gold, that double-digit kid of mine...


...as long as he's the one calling the shots. 


A Decade. Today, that's how long I've been a mother. Longer than it took for me to progress through high school, college, AND my Masters program, but in the blink of an eye.

Wasn't it just yesterday? Last week at the most? No, I know it's been a journey. We've gone through so much and grown in such unexpected ways, my First Born and I. It's been a week and a lifetime all at once. The new mother, just two weeks in to her new role, who called her husband at work from the glider in the nursery, sobbing as she was unable to soothe her baby's hysterical cries. That was me. A different me. An anxious, overwhelmed, afraid-she-wasn't-up-to-this-monumental-task me. I can handle crying babies now. I know so much more.

I know the shush and the sway and the bob.
I know food allergies and reflux and colic.
I know teething and overtiredness and growth spurts. 

I can DO babies now. 

But that's no longer my task.


Now you're a real live human being who is actively having an impact on his world.

Ten.

Am I doing this right? Am I teaching you the right things about respect and love and acceptance and kindness and responsibility and generosity and hard-work and perseverance and social justice and fundamental rights and ..... it goes on and on. The list is never-ending. Are you listening? Are you watching? Are you learning? It's my duty, as your mother, right? To send you off into this world with the tools and the drive to succeed but also the yearning to improve the world around you? Am I doing enough?


I'm back to being that anxious not-up-for-this-task mother. Only now, given the hindsight stretching a decade in my rearview mirror, the stakes seem so much higher...the time in which you are still my captive audience so much shorter. How do you raise a 10-year old? I've never done this before so, once again, you're my test subject. It's not fair but it's all we've got. 

But it's not all about me. It's about YOU. As you get older and you start to peek out from beneath my wing, begin inching towards the edge of our nest, peering out into a world that is all your own, I can see you. I can see more of you than when you were just beside me. You're no longer hidden from me within my shadow of Motherhood. You are your own person, a complete person! Your strengths, your gifts, your heart, that will touch the people around you and make an impact on this world that ripples beyond where you can see...beyond where I have the capacity to influence. Your gifts, my love, are plentiful.


You are Determined. God help the person who sets a limit for you, for you will be there to challenge him. As the person negotiating things like your Bed Time, this is a tricky point for me, but this will serve you well in adulthood. You will test boundaries and fight arbitrary limits because you're a rule follower...when the rules make sense. When they don't, you fight against the system that created illogical rules (mostly me and dad, when we assess a consequence that, to you, doesn't fit the crime). Don't ever give up your fight. Your moral compass is strong and true and, if you continue to follow it, you'll never be steered wrong.


You are Tender. You still struggle to show affection...unless you're in the same room as a baby or a dog. You are a Whisperer. You have a way with animals and babies and young kids that can't be taught. When people ask (because they always do) why I, a not-a-dog-person, would get a puppy, I say, "For Evan." Because you're not quick with the hugs for your mama or the "I Love You"s, you needed a dog to pour your love on. Jake is one lucky pup to be on the receiving end of your affection. I'm just happy I get to witness it.



You know your stuff. You told the Jamestown Settlement tour guide this week that an American Indian living in the area around Jamestown could fire 12 arrows from his bow in the same amount of time that it took a colonist to fire his musket once. The tour guide said, "I'm not sure of the specifics on timing, but..." "It's 12," you replied. Yours is an encyclopedic mind, which drives me crazy when I'm retelling a story with generalizations, but which just makes you so damn endearing. Who doesn't love the kid who always has a relevant Fun Fact to share? No one, that's who. Your Great Mom Mom called it Nickel Knowledge...information that isn't worth much, but it sure makes you a fun guest to have at parties.


You know who you are. I've been amazed, ever since you started school, at how uninfluenced by peers you are. I mean, sure: You pick up on social cues and cultural fads like the other kids (you can be sure that it wasn't me who introduced you to Minecraft, Pokemon, or Star Wars). You don't follow the herd, though, and THAT is impressive. You don't apologize for liking (or disliking) what you do, despite how other kids your age may feel. Whatever it is that you're doing or into, you own it. And that might be my very favorite thing about you...the one thing that, above all else, I hope sticks with you forever. 


Just keep being you, kiddo. 

Be quirky and goofy and introspective and emotional and strong-willed and hilarious. Be a walking encyclopedia. Be stubborn and gentle and get mad as hell every now and then. Be persistent and insistent and inquisitive. Be the last one up at night and the first one up in the morning. Continue to overpack your overnight bags because you're right when you quip, "You can never be too prepared!" Be smart and thoughtful and precise. Keep bringing books with you wherever you go. Always be the one to ask just one more question....and rattle off one more answer. 

That list right there? I love that about you. I love it all. I've been loving it something fierce for a decade now. It's the one thing in this 10-year long roller coaster ride of motherhood that hasn't changed a bit. 


Lesson Learned:

Happiest of Birthdays to you, Evan, the one who made me a mother. The one who forever changed my world 10 years ago today. Welcome to your double digits, kiddo. We can do this. YOU can do this.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Beauty....and Beastly

We had been looking forward to tonight for weeks. By the good fortune (luck o' the Irish) of having wonderful friends, we had the opportunity to be the guests of a real estate company for a private showing of the new Beauty and the Beast.

Molly, in particular, was counting down the hours and minutes until showtime. "I'm gonna be Belle today, Mommy. All day. And do my hair 'up and down' like Belle, too." So I hemmed and mended this worn-out, seam-ripped, too-long gown until it was fit for a princess. It took me all morning, but it was worth it. I tied her hair up in a perfect bun, which was adorably messy and loose within ten minutes. She was ready.


We arrived at the theatre early, as we do, so we could get good seats: way up high and in the back. We don't prefer to be too close to the lights or the sounds or the action. I passed out the candy that the leprechaun had smartly delivered to the kids this morning ("movie theatre-sized boxes" of Sour Patch Kids for Evan, Skittles for Molly, and Rainbow Nerds for Max) while we settled into our seats and Sam went back out to buy beers. You read that right! Beers in a movie theatre. You can get a full meal, too, but we had, again...smartly, eaten a nice, healthy, family dinner before the movie.

We are so organized and well-prepared for a nice night out at the movies!



While Sam was still waiting on our drinks, a man walked into the theatre with, presumably, his wife. "I didn't know this showing was in 3D!" he said casually, as he shuffled his drink and popcorn to better hold his 3D glasses.

And this is when we started to fall apart.

"Wait. What?!" Evan began. "I ALSO did not know this movie was in 3D. I was not told. You did not tell me. I will not wear 3D glasses. We need to leave. Let's leave. I'm leaving. Where's Daddy?"

"What glasses?" Molly asked. "Like sunglasses in a movie?"

And then Max chimed in: "Wait. Do things actually pop out at you when it's 3D? Like will the water splash us or something?"

"Alright, guys, hold on," I said, trying to remain calm but also realizing that, if it is indeed a 3D movie, we WILL not last and I WILL not get to see this movie that I (just now realized I) had been looking forward to for weeks!

"We don't even know that it IS 3D. I think we would have known when we got the invitation. I think the glasses are for a later show. We'll find out when Daddy gets back."

Evan continued to protest even remaining in the theatre awaiting an answer while I explained the difference between 3D movies and those interactive theme park "experiences" to Max. Molly seemed perfectly content with or without the shades.

Finally, Sam returned, handed me a giant, movie theatre-sized beer and immediately turned around to ask about the dimensional status of our movie...Evan leading the way.

A huge breath of relief later as we discovered that our movie was the standard, non-glasses-requiring movie, I opened the kids' giant boxes of candy and we counted down the last few minutes until showtime.

Now, I have to say, I was a fan of Beauty and the Beast before I even saw it. I love the animated classic, I love the music, I love Emma Watson (and I was so pissed at Slate for publishing that "but Emma can't sing like a Disney princess" article), I love the much-hyped ostensibly gay Le Fou subplot, and I knew that this movie was going to have to veer wildly into realms of weirdness if I was going to change my opinion on it.

What I didn't expect were the actual, legitimate goosebumps I felt during so many of the big, emotional scenes. The opening dance scene, the provincial-town hilltop scene, Be Our Guest, the ballroom scene, of course...but even others: Belle's rebuke of Gaston, her father's tenderness, the moment with the wolves when Beast saves her, then she him...and so much more. It was So well done.

But it was scary. The beginning was dark, the fight scenes intense. Molly and Max were buried deep in our chests and I could tell it was getting to Evan, too. I kept reminding them: "Beast isn't evil, he's just sad and lonely!" "This movie has a happy ending!" "Belle is fine!" and then, "Beast is fine! Remember? Just wait for the magic!"

There was one scene, though, that I wasn't prepared for....and I wasn't actually in the theatre when it came on....[spoiler alert....if you don't want to know, skip to the stars.]



Right after the scene where Belle begins to see the man within the Beast ("Something There"), I left with Molly for a potty break. It was such a lucky break. We came back to a pub scene.....and a hysterical Max. Like, sobbing. Apparently, we had missed a flashback. The scene depicted a family suffering from the plague. There was a brief, but not-to-be missed image of a doctor treating the family. The doctor was wearing one of those horrifying plague masks. Stuff of nightmares, that mask.


**********

Max tried valiantly to pull himself together but he was just done. It was late. He was tired. It had been an intense movie. Sam took him out to the hallway, while I whisper-hissed after them "Come back for the happy ending! Don't let him leave the movie on THAT!!" Meanwhile, Evan was also asking to leave the movie and Molly, who thankfully had missed the worst part, was asking why her brothers didn't like the movie.

I convinced Evan to stay for the Furniture Strikes Back scene, one that truly did not disappoint and for which Max returned to the theatre just in time. The end of the movie progressed relatively smoothly, with many frantic reminders that there would be a happy ending, but well enough.

As the first of the ending credits rolled, I kissed Max, told him I was proud of him for bravely coming back in to watch the rest of the movie, and exhaled that we had made it through the entire film.

Annnnnnnnnnnd as I exhaled, I spilled Max's entire box of Nerds off my lap. He had probably eaten an eighth of the huge, movie theatre-sized box and those freaking Nerds spilled down from our seats, Way Up High and In the Back, cascading down the stadium seating, Nerd by Nerd, plink by plink.

It sounded like a freaking rainstick...and the sobbing began anew.

We literally could not leave that theatre fast enough. As we ran-walked past the St. Paddy's Day revelers on the pedestrian mall, Max continued to cry: "I'm not sad about the Nerds! I'm scared of that doctor! And I just don't do well at night in the dark when we're outside. And I'm tiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrreeeeeedddddd."

Evan distracted his own tired and over-stimulated mind by planning his actions when we returned to the house: "First, I'm gonna get some scotch tape. That'll keep the rest of these Sour Patch Kids safe and sound in this box..."

And good old Molly hiked her ball gown up by the ruffles so she didn't trip over it with her silver sparkly high-top sneakers.

All three fell asleep on the way home.

And I could really use another giant, movie theatre-sized beer right about now.

Lesson Learned:

My own family's antics aside, the movie was phenomenal. Three cheers for visual representation of interracial relationships, a gay (unrequited) love-interest, and a (reciprocal) budding gay romance. For this masterpiece, they even flipped the old "embarrass a guy by dressing him up like a girl" gag...two of the three forced into drag looked horrified, the third straight Owned that corset and rouge and winked at the camera 'cause he knew it. Well done, Disney.

And Emma, don't listen to the haters. That girl can sing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Molly's Whole Hand Birthday

Today, this beautiful girl is Five.


By the time Evan reached his just-before-kindergarten birthday, he was practically reading. It came as no surprise to me. We spent several times each day, and every bedtime, looking at books together...telling stories by the pictures, sounding out words, and me reading, reading, reading aloud whenever I had the chance.

When Max turned five, it was mostly the same. I had an older kiddo and a toddler at the time, so our reading time was limited mostly to bedtime, but still, we read a lot and, while we read, there was more than a little direct instruction in Reading Strategies and Skills.

Poor third kid, Molly. She's practically never without a pile of books within reach. She loves looking at picture books (and even some of the boys' old chapter books) but, sadly, there is no formal reading instruction happening in my house for her. Here she is, at her Whole Hand Birthday, counting down the months until she joins her big brothers in Elementary School, and I have neglected to prioritize this critical skill.

It wasn't on purpose. We're just busy. In the brief window of time together between when I pick her up from preschool and when we get the kids from school, we sometimes read or play a game but, more often than not she's off on her own in the playroom...decompressing from school while I try to check a few more things of my never-ending to-do list. I'd feel guilty if she wasn't so content to play on her own.

It hit me as I tucked her in the other night. I pulled her covers up tight and placed her stack of books beside her. Sam had already read to her (it's their nightly routine) but, for the life of me, I couldn't remember the last time I had. I sat down on her bed. "What are you reading, love?" She showed me the cover of her book...an anthology of stories I had grown up reading: The Best Nest, Put Me in a Zoo, Go Dog Go, and A Fly Went By.

"I'm reading the one about the Fly."

She turned back to her page and pointed to the first word: 

"So," she read.

And then she went on: "The fly ran away in fear of the frog, who ran from the cat, who ran from the dog...." She needed a little help with the word "fear" and the word "who," but once she heard them once, she mastered them within the repetitive text. She read then entire page to me, then looked up at me, at once proud and nonchalant.

"Molly," I began. "You just read! You're a READER!"

"I know," she said, with the confidence that flows through every bone in her tiny body. "I just look at the words and I just know what they say."


I had tears in my eyes...from pride, yes, but mostly from the fact that I felt like I missed it. I remember each stage of Evan's and Max's reading progression...from the very slow and deliberate identification of beginning sounds, to the stretching out of words and finding smaller chunks of known phonemes within larger words, to sight word awareness, and finally, to Reading. 

Molly is not some super-advanced reading savant. She's bright, yes. Very. But developmentally, she's doing exactly what she should be doing. It's not that she's mastered the skill before she should be ready to, it's that she's so much older and wiser than I ever give her credit for being. 

Poor third kid, Molly.

Try as she might to grow up, she'll always be my baby.

She says Big Kid things now like, "I forgot to mention...." and "So, the other day...."


A few nights ago, when I reminded her that she was perfectly capable of using the potty without me having to get out of bed to help her, she said, after sighing audibly, "I just feel like you're never nice." So, you know, we're even practicing for the teenage years already. 

But still, she's my baby.

By the time the boys were her age, there was another kid or two beneath them in the birth order. They were expected to be bigger than their ages should have required because, frankly, I needed the help. She sleeps in our bed (a nursing infant no longer needs the space) and I carry her back to the car from preschool (without a carseat to lug around or a baby strapped to my chest, I've got the extra hands). 

I probably shouldn't baby her so much. She's so big. She's so capable. She's so strong.

I just can't help it.
She's my baby.


This girl. With her big heart...



Her confidence and grace...


Her sense of self....and of style...



Her humor, her sass, her imagination, her kindness, her adventurous spirit, her bursting vocabulary, her willingness to try new things (not new foods--she's still as picky as ever--but new experiences), her ability to hang with the big kids, her tenderness...her spunk...


She's my favorite girl in the world. And this world? It's a better place because she's in it.

As we walked out of school after picking up her brothers the other day, she said, "You know what, Mommy? I'm a little bit nervous about being in Kindergarten." I assured her that everyone feels that way. "I was even nervous about my first day of Kindergarten when I was the teacher!" I said. I squeezed her hand a little and felt that pang in my chest. Before I know it, she'll be off on her own in this great big world of Elementary School. She's ready and so am I....but damn. What a day that will be when I kiss all three of my little ducklings goodbye and send them off together. There's the beauty in being the Baby, though....when she's off on her way, she'll have her two big brothers beside her.


And is there any better place to be? 
Little girl of ours, you are so loved.

Lesson Learned:
On this, your fifth birthday, I have just one request from the universe on your behalf: Come true, wishes! Every last one of them. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

there's a first time for everything

To be fair, it wasn't actually my first time. I had been once before. It was in college and I only went because I was the victim of peer pressure. I knew before I even donned the requisite form-fitting attire that it wouldn't really be my scene, but my roommates were going and I went along with the crowd. Baaaaa.

It was the most awkward 30 or so minutes of my life. I walked around aimlessly, trying not to make eye contact with the beautiful people around me. They belonged there, not me...and it showed.

Unable to shake the intimidation the actual equipment inspired, I finally got down on a mat. I did a few sit-ups. I stood back up and wandered around a bit more. Finally, realizing that no, this was definitely not my scene...and craving breadsticks from the dining hall, I left....thus ending my first ever trip to The Gym.

After that, I discovered yoga. The studio was my scene and I never thought to reenter the sweaty, bulky world of Exercise Equipment again. When the kids came along, I couldn't even find regular time and energy to go to a studio. I started doing yoga in my living room (with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube). I was content with my level of activity. My genetic-disposition to a thin build, a healthy metabolism, and very little family history of health issues, coupled with the fact that I am a busy mom of three, led me to believe that I was taking good care of my body.

And then, my littlest sister became a Personal Trainer.

She, very kindly, educated me on the facts of (a long, healthy, and active) life. It's not enough to be thin and, what I consider to be, "active." In order to protect my body and my bones and my joints and my organs, I need to incorporate core-strength development into my routine. I don't have to bench hundreds of pounds of weight, but resistance training is important for protecting the muscles I will depend on to remain as active as I want to be as I age. Yoga is great, she agrees, but she had a few ideas in mind (and a free personal training session) for me....if I could just meet her at The Gym.

I agreed. And not all that reluctantly, either! I agree with her that, even if the most active that I ever strive to be is to be able to hike with my family, to have the stamina to keep up with their busy lives, to work out in my garden, and to age well, I'll need to work to protect the body that, up until now, I've largely taken for granted.

There was just one problem...and I called my sister the night before our session to talk it over.

"Um, hi," I started.
"Uh-oh....what?" she asked, probably thinking I was about to bail on her.
"So...it turns out...don't laugh....I don't have any shoes."
[snicker] "Wait, what?"
"Yogis go barefoot! And I don't think my hiking shoes are gym-appropriate. So, can you bring an extra pair?"
[barely audible through the laughter] "Sure. Ohmygod." [laughter continues as we hang up]

So, with that one tiny little hurdle behind us, we met in the parking lot of the gym the next morning where we did a little shoe switcheroo.

"Are you nervous?" she asked, as we entered the gym.
"Not about the exercise. I know you'll go easy on me. But I'm just a little worried that I'll see people I know here. What if they look at me? What if they're all 'What are you doing here, Sarah?'"

She smiled, but I'm pretty sure there was a sisterly eye-roll thrown in there, too. "Okay, really? It's not like that. I promise. It's a safe space. Everyone's welcome."

She introduced me to the gym manager at the desk and, while we shook hands, I caught the eye of a friend of mine over her shoulder. We did a quick smile and wave and she went back to her machine.

"Ugh. SEE? I know people!" I whined.
"Ohmygod, stop worrying! It's totally fine."

We walked over to the lockers to stash our bags. I saw two more fit and confident women, whom I know from school and the neighborhood. Brief smiles were exchanged as I nervously wiggled my toes in my sister's shoes.

"Alright, let's start back here," my sister instructed, leading the way to a quiet corner of the gym. We sat down on a bench and she brought out her Personal Trainer paperwork to do an assessment of my fitness goals. She hadn't started with question one when a friend of mine on the stair stepper machine glanced over her shoulder and spotted me.

I waved and, rather than just ignoring me and going back to her machine, she REMOVED HER EARBUD.

"Sarah! I never thought I'd run into you here!" she said with a little laugh.

"Ugh, I know! She forced me!" I said, half-joking, as I introduced her to my sister.

"I think it's great!" my friend said, stepping the hell out of that machine, though you'd never know it by just talking to her. I would have been too winded to speak. "Hey, you're here for the first time...I'm trying yoga for the first time this year!"

I felt a bit better. She would probably feel just as fish-out-of-water walking into a yoga studio for the first time. I relaxed a bit...even though, my social fears confirmed, she was literally the fourth person, in as many minutes, that I knew there.

Annnnndddd...then another neighbor walked by and said hello.

So apparently the gym is a social scene.

Another one of my favorite things. Awesome.

*****

We were there for an hour and I'm so proud of my littlest sister. She did a great job with a less-than-ideal client. With her help, I identified my fitness goals:

  • to age healthily
  • to maintain an energy-level that enables me to keep up with my kids
  • to maintain heart health
  • and yes...to keep my tummy flat(ish) and my arms toned (gotta keep that bicep tattoo from sagging!)
She showed me how to use several of the machines safely and effectively, then instructed me on a floor circuit for core strength and free-weights circuit for strength and balance. My favorite of all of the activities were the ones using the Bosu (the half-exercise ball) and the wobble board. It felt like playing, but I could feel my body working. Just like yoga.

Did my session with a Personal Trainer change me? Yes and no. I'm going to be honest: I'm still not joining a gym. I told my sister that my issue was mostly motivation. If I knew that she would meet me at the gym several times a week to walk me through an exercise routine like the one we just did, I'd consider signing up (as long as I was able to get over the working-out-in-public self-consciousness). I just don't see myself making the most of my time there without someone telling me what to do next. She suggested group classes....but then there's the whole "other people" issue. Ugh. I'm the worst.

My sister did inspire me, though. She left me with a list of activities that, with minimal or no equipment, I can do at home. Maybe...just maybe...once I become more comfortable and confident with my practice at home, I'll give the gym another go. Third time's a charm?

Lesson Learned:
To my friends and neighbors, if you ever see me in the gym, let's just pretend we're strangers, 'kay? Thanks. Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a Personal Trainer, I happen to know a great one. Let me know if you want me to connect you!

Friday, December 30, 2016

a perfect day

We are dragging ourselves across the finish line of this godforsaken year by our fingernails. Instead of eagerly anticipating the dawn of a new, fresh start, I'm looking towards Sunday as the beginning of a four-year-long sentence in a torture chamber where the punishment is, at its best, the egregious lack of common sense and decency by the People In Charge. At its worst....well...I guess simply the end of the world as we know it.

Even if that sounds melodramatic, this truth is irrefutable: The negative impact of this incoming presidency threatens to last far longer than the president elect's time in office. We are going to need to pace ourselves and take care of ourselves (and each other) in order to withstand the approaching storm. We can do that by finding the positivity where it is to be found. Though the next four years will be rough, not every day of each year will be. Despite who the leader of the free world is and what he does with the power of his position, there will still be moments of peace and joy and growth and human connection and scientific advancement and love and kindness.

There will be because there has to be. We will make it be so.

I've circled my emotional wagons. I've deleted Facebook from my phone (though I still manage to check in daily because, damn, I can't quit you, baby) and have stopped reading every article that follows a sensational, blood-pressure-raising headline. While punctuating my days with calls to my representatives and donations made to the organizations that are going to end up being the ones to save us from this new reality, I'm focusing my mind and my heart more locally...hyper-locally, in fact. It's self-preservation through self-centeredness.  

Right now, all that really matters to me is my family.

****

We started 2016 with a resolution of strengthening our family bonds through Kid Dates...one-on-one time with just one parent and one kid, engaging in anything from breakfast out to archery practice to a visit to the library. Once, Evan and I spent our date in the basement, facing off in a Nerf Battle the likes of which I never thought I'd participate in. It was awesome. The last few months of the year became hectic, though, as they often do. Much of our time was spent together as a family, but we didn't prioritize our one-on-one dates. It's something I want to get back to in the new year.  

Selfishly, I want that time with each of my kids to distract me from the rest of the world. Less selfishly, I want that time to be a chance for each kid to feel like he or she is the center of my attention...what truly matters. Regardless of what these next four years turn this world into, my children will feel Special. Loved. Worthy. Capable. 

We don't need one-on-one time with our kids to teach them these things...but it's how I am choosing to send the message loudly and clearly: You Matter. Just You. All of You.

****

Molly and I fell into our date by chance this week. The boys wanted to go see Rogue One, which I knew wouldn't be right for Molly. Rather than try to find a movie showing at the same time that was more her speed, we decided to do our own thing. 

She picked Ice Skating. 

SK8R GRRL. Little badass on blades.

It was her third time to the rink and her first time standing (and walking) on her skates unassisted! She still held onto my hands for dear life once out on the ice, but she's starting to gain her confidence on the ice and I wouldn't be surprised if she ventures out on her own (though still on the wall) next time.

After about six laps around the rink (with breaks after each complete lap to watch the semi-pros twirling and jumping in center ice) she was ready to go.

Rather than heading straight home, we popped into some of the shops downtown that the boys never want to browse through. We looked at fancy jewelry, played with toys out on display, paged through holiday books on the clearance rack, and tried on hats.


We even found a wooden rhinoceros that we almost brought home with us. It was gorgeously carved out of a single piece of wood and Molly fell in love immediately. We were short on cash by about three grand, but otherwise, it would have been ours. 


Finally, we stopped by Uncle Mike's juice bar where Mom Mom was working and where we snagged one of the last Peppermint Bark nut milks of the season. 


When we got home, we took a nap on the couch. It was such a perfect day.

Lesson Learned:
I'm glad I spent it with You....

Monday, December 19, 2016

the evolution of Knowing

It's been the topic of many whispered conversations between me and my fellow parents-of-9-year-olds this year: How much does your kid Know? And yes, sometimes we're comparing our kids' notes on puberty, sex, and the biology of babies being born...but more often than not, we're talking Magic.

There's just something about 9-year-olds, I suppose. The schools have deemed them ready for "The Puberty Video," (which they showed at the end of the last day of school before Thanksgiving Break, leading to a number of interesting Thanksgiving Dinner conversations!) And, similarly, many of us parents-of-4th-graders have found ourselves, at some point over the past year, face-to-face with our not-so-little kids asking to be told The Truth about holiday magic.

Our Day of Truth happened last March, on St. Patrick's Day. At the time, I felt as though I handled the conversation well. Evan certainly didn't seem traumatized or disappointed with his new knowledge. And rather than mourning the loss of his innocence, I was actually really looking forward to this year...our first Post Knowing Christmas. I was excited to have his eager help with the elf and, to be honest, a Christmas morning "Thank You" directed at me and Sam rather than shouted toward the ceiling would be pretty awesome. (A mom can dream, right?) And so, right after Thanksgiving, when our elf, Bear Ticklish, arrived, I pulled Evan aside.

To his wide-eyed, solemn face, I whispered, "It's time, buddy! Time to help make the magic for Max and Molly! Are you ready?"

He nodded, slowly. Unsurely. I was a bit confused by his deer-in-headlights reaction. I dropped the issue until bedtime.

After we were sure the littlest were asleep, I went to retrieve Evan from his bed.

"Put your book down for a minute! It's time!"

We tiptoed downstairs to where Bear Ticklish sat on the shelf.

Evan stared at the elf. I looked down at my big boy.

He didn't move a muscle.

"Go ahead, buddy!" I urged.

"So.....what do you do?" Evan asked.

I furrowed my brow a bit and said, "Well, what do you mean? You make the magic!"

Nothing.

"You...move him." I said, as I started to sweat.

"I...move...him?"

"Um...yes." Wait. What?! I thought we were all clear here. Hadn't we discussed this? Hadn't we talked about how Daddy and I make the magic and that, now that you know the truth, YOU are going to help us make the magic, too?! 

"So. Like. With my hands?"

Oh my god.

"I. Like. TOUCH HIM?!"

What have I done?!

"Um, yeah, buddy. Remember? Remember what we talked about? Daddy and I and now YOU help make the magic for Max and Molly. Remember?"

Please tell me you remember. Please tell me I didn't just blow this for you.

"No, yeah! I know! I just...I can't believe I get to see what he feels like!"

Okay. Deep breath. We're good. He knew.

He moved the elf and has continued to do so most nights. He seems to enjoy it, and he plays it so cool in the mornings. "Man, guys," he'll say to Max and Molly as they all wander from room to room, looking. "I just can't seem to find him anywhere."

But, it occurred to me that we should tread very lightly with The Truth this year. His Knowing seems so blurry...so incomplete...like he's trying to put a puzzle together, but doesn't have all of the pieces yet. I want him to find the pieces on his own...I don't want to just hand them all over to him if he's not ready to see the whole picture yet.

I'm so glad we did.

Last week he came home from school, abuzz with information to share.

"MOM! You'll never guess what the guys in my class were talking about!"

True. A bunch of 9- and 10-year old boys? I didn't want to guess what kind of stories they were telling.

"So there was this team of explorers exploring around the Arctic and, all of a sudden, one of the explorers bumped into this invisible wall! Like a force field or something! And they were talking it over with the other explorers and they think it might be the secret entrance to the REAL North Pole! Now all they have to do is find the secret handle on the entrance and, voila!, we'll know all of Santa's secrets!"

I stared at him. "Wow," was all I could say. Was he putting on this act for the little kids? They were both staring at him, too, mouths agape. No. He's good, but he's not That good. "Can you imagine?" I responded, turning to look at their homework folders to hide my expression.

"Yeah!" he said as he skipped away to the play room. "Wouldn't it be awesome to really Know?"

Lesson Learned:
Baby steps toward knowing the truth, I suppose. I'm more than okay with that.