Saturday, December 31, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
This time of year a lot of folks belly up to the pulpit, or step on a box or just write in their annual Christmas letter about the true meaning of the season. So I’m here to keep it real.
Our oldest has a December birthday. And so it seems that we open presents all. Month. Long. It’s a virtual parade of LEGOs, puzzles, books, games, you name it, and we’ve seen it. And those gifts really do mean something to that little boy born in a month wrapped in tradition and dedicated to something much more magnanimous than him.
His little brother, too young to understand the weirdness of a December birthday, too sweet to care about the clout of the newest video games, and too kind to give anything but his whole heart gave Cooper his favorite gift.
Back in November when all the stores had Halloween costumes and candy corn on clearance Mason happened upon a small plush monkey that was dressed in a skeleton costume. The monkey looked like Cooper’s Mo – the original lovie – but in costume. Mason found this hysterical and immediately said, “We should give this to Cooper for his birthday.”
Because it was only a dollar I agreed and tossed it in the cart. In the coming month Mason would occasionally tell me he was looking forward to Cooper’s birthday then he would lean into me, put a hand to his mouth as if to tell a secret, and whisper, “Because of that surprise, mama.” I enjoyed the conspiracy from the point of view of Mason, but I also fretted that his brother wouldn’t find it as awesome as Mason found it. After all Cooper is actually getting old enough to constrain his requests to very mature gifts – scooters, NFL jerseys, a new chess board.
Then with just a few days before the big day Mason busied himself at the kitchen counter drawing and writing cards to Cooper. Without any help at all he drew a stick figure of Cooper wearing a party hat emblazoned with a 7, and spelled out Happy Cooper. He also wrote another note that simply stated, “I love you, Cooper.” Then he folded them into small little squares about ½” by ½” and asked me for an envelope. Instead I found an old box from Valentine’s day.
The box sent Mason over the edge. It was pink (which I thought would make him reject it) but it had a monkey with a heart on it. He squealed with delight proclaiming it was perfect and put all the notes he had drawn inside. Then he patiently waited for Cooper’s birthday.
On the morning of Cooper’s birthday, we started with an early breakfast and present opening. Cooper tore through new video games, a CU shirt (I know, vomit), and some other things he had wished for including $35 cash. And then he came to Mason’s gift. Mason’s little heart was so filled with love his chest was visibly bursting. And I braced myself hoping against hope that at the very least Cooper would be gracious.
Cooper opened the box of notes and read them carefully. He smiled. He said thank you. He gave that monkey in the skeleton costume a hug. All the while Mason grinned from ear to ear. I felt it was a success, but I brushed my feelings under the rug along with all the other commotion of the day.
You know the routine: classroom treats, 27 kids belting out birthday wishes, special stickers from teachers and the principal, all a very big deal in the realm of 7. In the quiet at the close of a long day, however, when I opened Cooper’s backpack and unpacked the remains of his lunch and homework I found a booklet.
It was a book stapled together by his teacher. Apparently something she does for all the kids on their birthday. It was a journal of sorts. He was meant to illustrate and write about his day. On the page dedicated to “Your Favorite Gift” Cooper had drawn a picture of the monkey, the monkey box, and the teeny tiny notes with a huge message.
Every day my children remind me that while I created them, and endured the discomfort of carrying them around in my belly as close to my heart as a womb can be for the better part of a year; they have their own thoughts, their own hearts, and their own amazing lives. This is the gift I open ever year on Christmas morning, and the day after, and the day after that, and every day forever more.
PS -- In case you are wondering, Cooper is NOT in Boy Scouts. That shirt is a hand-me-down that he loves.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Who’s idea was it to put an anxiety afflicted little boy in front of hundreds of parents in a huge auditorium? Yep. We’re those parents.
Considering Mason’s fears and sensitivities we considered this a triumph.
The following morning at drop-off I can’t tell you how many parents approached me and said, “My husband and I just laughed hysterically watching your son.” Or, “We took more video of Mason than our own daughter.” I was actually late taking my other son to his school because there were so many parents who wanted to talk to me about Mason’s performance from the previous evening.
He was doing pretty well, until the kazoos started. Then he was in tight ear-plugging mode*. While I was laughing myself, my heart was going to him. The noise, the people, the commotion, the break from routine – all a little more than he could handle.
At one point I mouthed, “Are you OK?” And he sternly shook his head in a resounding, “NO!” that was clear from the last pew where I was perched.
On the evening of the program as we walked to our car reflecting with him on the awesomeness of his not singing, but not fainting achievement we asked him how he liked standing between his nemesis and a new boy we didn’t recognize. And he started with great enthusiasm and explained:
“Oh that boy is Lache**; but let me tell you: Do NOT ever call him Mache because he will freak out on you!”
*If you are connected to me on facebook you saw an excellent picture example of this earlier this week.
**Names changed for obvious reasons.
Friday, December 16, 2011
We write on our Christmas cards. I'm not saying people should. But for me and my house we can't stand to waste a stamp without a little correspondence thrown in. Besides, I really like the people I send cards to and I can't help saying hello. This year, the boys declared they were old enough to help. Also, it was penance for opening all the advent doors in one night.
So if you receive a card and the return address is a little askew, or the message on the back of the card looks something like this: HAP HALIDAS, know it is sent with extra love and phonetic concentration. The 7 yol and 5yol variety, which is the very best, I say. And if you don't get a card, it's because I'm not organized enough to keep track of the addressees of all my friends and family. Hell, I even had to call my brother before shipping his gifts because I wasn't a hundred precent sure of where he lived. My brother, people.
Also, let me just say it here. I believe I adamantly professed that this year I was going to send Thanksgiving cards, not Christmas cards. What is my problem?!!?! Can't meet a deadline to save my life.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Shall we review the two tenants of mythical thinking that most parents toss about before The Elf is actually in play at their house?
1) Under the watchful eye of The Elf my children will be absolute angels.
2) It will be so fun to find The Elf every morning.
That Elf, he is a mischievous fellow. Last year my children shook him out of the Christmas tree or something. He ended up in the Elf Infirmary for a better part of December. That was heavenly.
This year my boys have been surprisingly controlled in their interaction with Elf. They have not touched him, not even once -- or so I am told. But under the close observation of Elf they have managed to cut a hole in the sofa with a pocket knife, search for and find Christmas presents, urinate all over their bathroom, forget their backpacks, skip homework, be woefully late for school, stay up hours past their bedtimes, and open all the doors on their LEGO advent calendar in one night (in fact, the first night). See myth no. 1.
You know the mystery of Elf? The mystery of him being in a new place every morning? If for some reason someone in your house falls asleep before the magic happens, you will have really freaked out kids at breakfast. Really.
Enter the joy of Pinterest. I have found so many Elf ideas on that site. Thank goodness. This morning, I cooly asked Mason to get the syrup for pancakes. Guess what he found!?!??!?!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
It could be argued that candy night is every night in our household. But when we say it is candy night, we mean we're going to make our own candy and share it with our friends. This is a tradition that we recently re-examined with an academic eye because of Coop's homework assignment to present to his class a family tradition that is carried out at this time of year. We have a lot of traditions that he could have selected but he quickly settled on candy night. (Secretly I am SO glad because it meant more candy.)
As with many families the origin of the tradition was a little unclear. And on the night Cooper decided to interview his grandpa about this tradition we called and called and couldn't reach him. Living in another state as a majority of our family, it's not uncommon for us to be unaware of goings on, so we started calling the family tree. First the oldest sister of my husband, then the second oldest sister of my husband, then the oldest daughter of the second oldest sister of my husband. You see where this is going. No. one. answered.
When someone finally got back to us -- of course a teenage cousin -- we learned that the family was together and they were making candy! What luck.
Cooper's research unearthed some interesting facts and he assembled enough information to give a great oral presentation. But first -- for research's sake -- we held our own candy night. The boys were expert ingredient measurers, nut crushers and chocolate breakers. They were careful to avoid burns by 300-degree sugar and the night was a splendid success.
Then the final question of the assignment came, "Why do you do this tradition?" Ahhhhhh.... why. Why indeed. Well here's the answer: If you receive something we have handmade and hand-delivered you can rest assured we love you. While we may stumble over words of appreciation, announcements of admiration, and communicating our feelings -- we can cook and craft and whip up love in our kitchen. If one day you step out onto your front stoop to find a baby bag with peanut brittle or English toffee tucked inside, don't flinch at its seeming smallness. It's a big gesture of our affection. For reals.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
OH oh oh, it had fake grass weave wallpaper in a soft but decidedly off blue. Brass and glass was the consistent theme replete with half globe brass light sconces above the garden tub. Have you ever seen a reflection of your naked self floating in a bathtub stretched across a half globe brass light fixture? It really is enough to cause permanent and ruinous behavioral issues. So we tore that shit out.
Then my husband and I spent a great deal of time and money deciphering the mysteries of our house's original design and working with our contractor to come up with a lovely, relaxing plan B. I believe we achieved as much as we could. But I can't gloss over the trial of that period of time. Sporadic stretches of no water, constant changes, surprises, extra money, extra time, unforeseen injuries, and typical woes of reno. But what no one tells you and I am about to so listen up is that your house becomes a gas station bathroom. I am not exaggerating when I say every sub-contractor and in fact our very own general contractor all used our other bathroom every day. I do mean to say they USED it. Before driving a nail, painting a stroke, sweeping up sawdust, wiring lights, or laying out tiles those guys first dropped off the kids at the pool. Gross, gross, and gross.
Please don't think I'm bragging about the bathroom. I just want to show you my newest baby. I worked really hard and I put up with a lot of crap -- literally. Our bathroom and new laundry room are not the finest rooms in the world. Not the biggest. Not the most luxuriant. But I think they are fine examples of what a little planning and forethought can do to a smallish space. We basically added a room to our house without pushing through any exterior walls. And the new bathroom feels bigger than the old bathroom. There is just as much storage. We enjoy just as many amenities. There is more natural light and more privacy. The bathroom and the laundry room do more!
Design, good design is important.
PS -- I'll take pictures of the new laundry room tomorrow.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
All chubby cheeks, big wet eyes, long lashes, and Chiclet teeth fit for a monster. Cooper has been a beautiful baby. For about a week the portents of metamorphosis have been lurking with every bite of an apple, flick of a tongue, or scrape of a toothbrush he made. His baby smile was evolving, and the adult grin was about to break through.
So each morning when I’d push him into line at school I’d say, “Let me see those baby teeth,” or “Can I see your baby smile one more time?” He’d always grant my wish. Every afternoon I’d pick him up fully expecting him to be toothless and carrying a nurse’s office issued treasure box containing one lower left central. But no.
Then tonight, it happened. I left the house to drop off the babysitter and returned to discover the transformation was complete. Boo! I missed it.
His note to the toothfairy read:
Dear Tooth Ferre. My name is Coop. I lost my tooth today.
Oh this boy was slow to grow those teeth. I still remember the copious amounts of sloppy wet drool that would simply drip off his big bee-stung lips. So so so so so so cute. He was a beautiful baby. And now, well now, he’s a strapping young first grader with an awkward smile and a big dark gash where a tusk used to be. I shudder to think what will grow in its place.
PHOTO NOTE: Couldn't find great baby picture with his little teeth in it (just lazy and didn't spend that much time). But look at how cute he is!?!?!?!?
Thursday, November 10, 2011
So to you good mothers and fathers who if they heard their child curse would sharply gasp/freak out/smack their child’s face/wash their child’s mouth with soap/talk sternly to and add time out… you may not want to read any further.
I’m a good mom, too. And mainly because I was a curious child who asked a lot of questions that resulted in some, if not all of the aforementioned responses from my good parents I’m another kind of good.
Which is why I didn’t even flinch when my 5-year-old said, “I know ass is a bad word.”
Instead I thought to myself, I wonder if I can peg this on my husband.
“Oh that’s a new word. Where did you hear that word?”
“Nowheres. I just knowed it. What does ass mean anyways?”
“Just to be clear, it all depends on who says it. If you’re reading a bible story at school and they say ass, it means a donkey. But usually moms, dads, and teachers don’t like to hear little kids say that word.”
“Oh right. But what about the Ass Jack?”
“You mean Jackass?”
“Yeah, Jackass. (Let me just say it is uncanny how easily jackass rolled off his tongue. It was like he was talking directly about Rick Perry.)
“Oh that’s a terrible thing to say. It means jerk. Like a really dumb jerk who is mean.”
“Anyways, Mom, what about that ass of the kicking?”
“You mean like, I’m going to kick your ass?”
“Yes. Like when Cooper said that at the zoo!”
“Oh that is a naughty way of saying, I’m going to kick your butt (and here I nicely kicked him in the behind.)”
“Oh-ho-ho, now that would hurt worser!”
And that was basically it. No immediate intrigue and mischievous smile that told me he understood he was in trouble; but couldn’t wait to be in that kind of trouble again. Just, a stoic and placated peace from the backseat. See, I’m not that bad.
PS -- Remember when Cooper kissed my butt?!?!?!?
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Now I’m talking crazy and putting too romantic a point on a very plain event. I ran a race. Nope. That’s not it.
I boarded a plane, carrying two small bags filled with running clothes, tennis shoes, an iPod, a Garmin, 3 headlamps, and 4 reflective vests.
When I sat down in my excellently spacious exit row seat the joker next to me asked if I was traveling to Vegas for business, or pleasure. I hesitated and said, “I’m going to run a race.”
And it was nice.
But when I told this nice gentleman with a voice like Penn and Teller (whichever one of them talks) he raised an eyebrow and said, “What kind of race.”
A short description of Ragnar Relay, Las Vegas and I got an earful of how foolish I was. Not just from him, but from the whole row!
And it was nice.
There is a courage that comes from doing what others think is senseless, particularly if you’re prepared -- and for once in my life -- I was prepared. So, I was confident – though a little afraid of the dark – and ready to take on this adventure known as the Ragnar.
When I think about why I agreed to train and travel and participate in this particular relay there is really only one answer. My brother asked me. He said it would be fun. He said it would bond our family together. He said I could finish. And I believed him.
Now that it’s all over and we did indeed finish I’ve been shuffling through the photos and I’ve come to this conclusion. I didn’t go to Vegas to run a race. I went to Vegas to discover who is my family.
And it was nice.
It turns out; family is more than your brothers and sister. It’s not just your parents. It is your running partner who logged countless miles and hours at your side and converted you to early morning runs. It is your husband who stayed behind to watch the kids. It is a neighbor who sent you a text in the middle of the night to wish you luck. It is one of the other 1st grade mothers who wrote you an e-mail just to tell you how amazing you are just days before the race. It is the woman you’ve known since you were 5 who saved you from chaos and provided you a safe and quiet place to land after the race. It’s anyone and everyone who touches your life and knows that those who have felt the greatest need for help give the most relevant help. Oh my gosh, I love my family!
Aside from learning that I like my family, I determined I want to test myself. Running through the desert in the middle of the night wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. I think a marathon is next, my friends. (Or I could be convinced to do another 200-mile relay with a 6-man team.) So, if you’re wondering…
I’m going to run a race.