Monday, June 29, 2015

Love wins.

I love a good news week.

So often, I feel like my head's in the sand when it comes to the goings on in this world. And frankly, a lot of the time it is. I'm way too sensitive and surrounded by little people to get caught up in the 24 hour (bad) news cycle. I don't want to be scared or worried or stressed or overwhelmed so I just turn away from the noise and concentrate on the here and now.

Myself, my family, our friends and neighbors, our home, and if there's any brain space or energy left after that, our community. Beyond that, honestly, is just more than I can give attention to every single day. That probably seems selfish or ignorant or like it's not even allowed but I think of it more like survival. I know that letting in too much negative influence is bad for me. Hearing about the terrible thing that happened to someone far away who I will never meet or be able to help doesn't do me (or anyone else in my life) any good. I can't speak for everyone, but I know for me, less is more.

GOOD news though? I'll take all of that you got!

If what you focus on expands, it only makes sense to celebrate when things go well. Right? Really get the momentum rolling! So, this weekend, that's exactly what we did.

Propelled by the fantastic Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and a desire to teach our children love and acceptance while seeing history in the making, we gathered our crew, rainbowed up and walked across the bridge to the Nashville Pride Festival.

It's hard for me to believe, but this was the first Gay Pride celebration I've ever been to. There's no good reason for this other than sheer laziness or it usually being too hot this time of year for an outdoor festival to seem appealing. But this year? Well, this year was different. Not only was gay marriage JUST legalized in every single state (woohoo!!), it was also 75 degrees and sunny in Nashville. There was no way we would have missed it.

I really didn't know what to expect. Bill thought it might be a little over-the-top for the kids (he recalls a lot of S and M stuff at the last Pride he went to...) but I figured they could handle it. Worse case scenario, we could just play in the fountain and enjoy a nice walk on a beautiful day.

I think we were all pleasantly surprised. I mean, sure, there were more people flaunting their jiggly bits than we usually see on a Saturday afternoon but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. And there was music and dancing and rainbow colored everything and short range Frisbee games and incredible people watching and the most positive vibe of community and celebration and LOVE I've felt in a long time and happy, smiling faces everywhere you looked.

The fountain was pretty fun, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fennekin's wake.

We recently returned from our first adventure of the summer. We started on the Big Island of Hawaii (our favorite place in the world) and followed it up with a week in Reno and Tahoe visiting family and celebrating our 20 year high school reunion (!). It was an incredible three weeks of snorkeling, sea turtles, night swimming, new friends, hiking, lava pool adventures, getting spoiled by Grandmommy and Granddaddy, old friends, lots of laughs, and, of course, Pokemon (the boys’ current obsession).

It was a busy and relaxing trip with the usual mix of highs (Finn swimming in the ocean without a life vest!) and lows (our 15 year old cat passed away while we were gone).

As far as missteps and oopsies though, it was pretty much uneventful until the end.

We were on the final stretch of our trip - almost home to our dog and our friends and our very own beds! We landed in Las Vegas for a quick layover and the boys promptly prepared to deplane. Backpacks over stuffed with random supplies? Check. Neck pillows securely attached? Check. Disguises in place? Check. Favorite new Pokemon stuffed animals stuck inside the front of their shirts with nothing but heads poking out? Check!

As you can imagine, tromping through a busy airport with two boys in Groucho glasses who think they own the place turned more than a few heads. This was also our first time flying without an umbrella stroller (i.e. “straight jacket”) for Finn so I’m sure Bill and I looked like a couple of crazy cat herders trying to rein him in.

But we did it. We made it to our gate on time with everyone accounted for! The A group was just about to line up for boarding when Bill turned to Finn and said, “Where’s Fennekin?”

Yep, you guessed it. His favorite new Pokemon stufty. Gone. I grabbed my boarding pass and took off to retrace our steps quickly before the plane to Nashville took off without me. I fast walked like a mall lady through the entire C gate taking extra care to check all around the New York Seltzer vending machine (Vanilla Cream Soda! Almost as good as we remembered…) and in the tiny bathroom stall Finn and I squeezed into together. Nothing. His new favorite toy was GONE.

This isn’t the first time Finn has lost something he loved so as I raced back to the gate, I felt sure it would be hard but he could handle it. I recalled a time when he was about two when I called our babysitter during a rare night out to check in. She said the kids were great but the dog had just eaten ALL of Finn’s new horse figurines. “Bummer,” I said, laughing. “It happens.” She was shocked. “That’s what Finn said! I was prepared for him to lose his mind - that’s what the other kids I babysit for would have done - but he just shrugged his shoulders like, ‘Eh, what can you do?’”

Sure enough when I got on the plane and broke the news about Fennekin, Finn was sad but stoic. Then, almost immediately, we jumped to the bright side.

“Just imagine all the adventures Fennekin will have!”

“If someone finds him it will totally make their day!”

“He’s even better than a lucky penny!”

“Maybe whoever finds him lives in Hawaii and he’ll get to go back there FOREVER!”

After we got home and finally got the kids to bed, I told Bill how proud I was of Finn. He had spent every second of our trip with that little stuffed friend - from the moment Bill surprised him with it on our first flight to the second it slipped out of his shirt at the airport - and yet he hadn’t even cried when he lost it.

“Do you have any idea how awesome that is?” I asked Bill. “So many kids would have had a complete melt down! Not only did Finn keep his cool, he actually saw the silver lining. I think that’s pretty mature for a four year old…”

He agreed but didn’t say much else. It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out why.

Hopped up on jet lag, Finn climbed in bed with us at the crack of dawn. While I tried to go back to sleep, he and Dada cuddled and chatted. They were talking about Fennekin and it sounded like Bill was apologizing. Apparently, while I was retracing our steps in the airport, Bill had been overreacting and laying a guilt trip on Finn. Instead of coming from a place of compassion (I’m so sorry you lost your favorite toy), he reacted with frustration (Why weren’t you more careful?!). Only after I went on and on about how mature Finn had been did he realize how much he’d messed up.

“Finn, I’m so sorry I got upset,” he said sweetly. “It’s hard to lose a friend and I should have been more compassionate about that. I messed up, bud. I’m really sorry.” Finn just nodded but I know how much it must have meant to him. I’ve been on that side of an apology with him more times than I can count. It’s a big deal when a grown up tries to right a wrong.

Later in the day, we returned home after running some errands and found Finn’s second favorite Pokemon guy laying in the gutter where he’d accidentally been dropped.

“Dude!” I said, rescuing the little stufty from underneath the van. “You could have lost another guy!” Finn snatched him out of my hand and smiled. “Yeah. But I didn’t!”

So I guess the big takeaway from losing his toy was - nothing? Oh well. Pretty sure this was one life lesson not meant for the kids.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Don't cry over spilled milk.

Hi guys. It's me, Liam.

One night when we were driving to a friend's graduation, I had a cup of milk in my cup holder. When I reached over to grab the milk I accidentally only grabbed the lid so when I tried to lift it, the lid came right off and the milk spilled everywhere. I was like, "Oh no! My mom's gonna kill me!" I actually cried over spilled milk!

A couple days later when it got hot, the car smelled terrible. Now my mom was really mad!

We tried cleaning it with a mixture of vinegar, water and Dr. Bronner's soap. I poured it on and then scrubbed it. The smell went away! But then it came back. Now it smelled like vinegar and sour milk.

To Google!

Here are some ideas I found on the Internet:

*Take the floor mats out and wash them.

*Sprinkle coffee grounds on the carpet, wait a couple hours and vacuum them up.

We tried both ideas and it worked! Now the car smells like coffee but, it's better than milk!

{Turning stinky situations into a learning opportunities since 2006...}

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me.

My Mother's Day wish list is generally pretty short. I like to sleep in, eat good food that somebody else made, and do whatever I want. Sometimes this means getting a drink with my friends or reading a book in the hammock all by myself. But sometimes it means having a fun-filled day with my family. There are no rules. Whatever mood strikes is what I like to do.

But first things first. I will sleep in.

Except this morning, when I heard Liam turn off the alarm to let the cat in, I knew there was no way I could fall back asleep. Because the dream I awoke from was about my mom. And it was a really good one.

In my dream she was lucid. Talking, smiling, remembering. It wasn't like we went back in time and the Alzheimer's didn't exist, it was more like she somehow shook it off. She kept shaking her head in disbelief. Not at how much had been lost but at how happy she was to have a second chance.

She was overwhelmed with gratitude. We all were. Every time she hugged me I could feel how much she loved me. It was dreamy. She would look me in the eyes and say, "My oldest!" or "My first born!" or something like that, then hug me so tight I could hardly believe it.

It was the best Mother's Day gift I ever could have asked for.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The life changing magic of having a friend.

Finn waddled his cute naked bum past my bed on his way to the bathroom at 8:50 this morning. Ten minutes before he's supposed to be at school. An hour and a half after he usually wakes me up.


We had stayed up past bedtime enjoying a bonfire with friends which, I have to say, is a pretty great reason to be late to preschool. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, texted his teacher, and pulled Finn into my bed for one of his famous good morning hugs.

I told him I was glad he woke up because it was already time for school. "Wait. Right now?" he said, incredulously. "But... I'm not going to get dressed." He slid out of my arms and right off my bed, then waddled back to his room and got in bed.

A few months ago, this would have sent me into a panic. Getting Finn to school in the morning was an absolute nightmare. Easily the biggest stressor in my life. He hated it. Or, at least, that's what he said while we battled our way out the door each morning. Once we were at school and I had successfully pried him off my leg and ran out the door (often crying), his teacher would text me that he was fine. Great even!

When I'd pick him up, same thing. He'd give me a big hug and say he had a great day. The pictures and notes from his teacher confirmed it. He was friends with everyone! Totally engaged and silly and loved by all.

And then the next school day would roll around and we'd be back at it.

"I'm not going!"

"I hate school!"

"School is the worst!"

"You can't make me go!"

It was awful.

But now? It's fine. Great even! So what changed?

It could be any number of things. I mean, for starters, four year olds can be certifiably wacky. One day it's up, the next it's down. Unless you say it's down and then it might just be sideways! Finn says it's better because I let him be in charge after school if he's had a good morning. (Bribery, man. If it works, it works.) I think it probably has a bit to do with me taking better care of my mental state (if Mama won't engage with you, what's the point of pitching a fit?).

But I really think it comes down to one thing.

Finny has a friend.

He's never not had friends in this class (and playdates and everything) but there's a big difference between wandering around the classroom, deciding which of your friends to jump in with and knowing without a doubt where you belong.

When we showed up five minutes into circle time this morning, Finn hesitated at the door for about a half a second. Then saw Jagger. They smiled and sort of half waved and, just like magic, the spot next to him opened up. Finn - the child who has cried, run out of the classroom, made me stay for circle time, clung to my leg, you name it - ran right over to his buddy and sat down.

I may have had to leave school in tears again, but at least they were happy tears.

At the beginning of the school year, Jagger was the only kid in class that Finn had a problem with. One day, he came home with a note that said, "On the playground Finn was trying to hit a boy with his jacket. When we asked him what was going on he yelled, 'He called me butt cheeks!'" I was so sad for my poor sweet boy. Until a friend of mine pointed out that Finn's butt cheeks are always showing. "Maybe the kid was just being descriptive? Like, 'Hey you with the blond hair!' only 'Hey you with the butt cheeks!' Hmmm. Considering Finn's chronic plumber's crack, I was willing to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. (Plus, I'm sorry, but that is pretty funny.)

A couple weeks later, I was helping out in Finn's class when he pointed to a very frowny boy giving me stink eye and whispered, "That's Jagger." I couldn't believe I gave this kid the benefit of the doubt. He looked like such a meany! But when Jagger sat on my lap a few minutes later and followed me around school the rest of the day, I realized he might not have been the happiest kid in class that day but he certainly wasn't mean. 

I talked to Finn about this, of course, and anytime he would say he didn't like school or didn't want to go I'd be quick to point out that he was not the only kid in class who was having a hard time. Then, around Christmas, things started to change. 

One day, his note from school said, "Finn and Jagger worked together on their Christmas Tree paintings. Finn said, 'This is peaceful.' Jagger agreed. It was just the two of them in the classroom with one of the teachers, the rest of the class had already gone to play in the big room."

When I asked Finn what had changed he shrugged and said, "Jagger and I are like brothers because we both hate school." So when we showed up for class a few weeks later and I noticed Jagger sitting alone in a chair looking sad I went up to him and whispered, "Hey buddy, Finn's here! He really likes you, you know. He wants to be your friend. Do you want to sit at the art table with him?" Jagger nodded and I walked him over. Soon after that I got this note from school:

Being friendly with everyone is not nothing. But having a friend is everything. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Looking back, moving forward.

One of the things I love about having this blog is that I can look back and see where I was or what I did or how I felt weeks, months, even years ago.

That's also one of the things I don't love.

Because it's not always comfortable to look back at yourself. Sometimes I read something I wrote a while ago and I think, "Who wrote that? Did I really feel that way? What was I thinking?!" It must be how Madonna feels when Like a Virgin comes on the radio.

You're welcome.

But, for better or worse, I WAS THERE. And if it seems silly or pathetic or whatever now, it must just mean that I've grown. Which I'm gonna go ahead and say is a good thing.

I'm particularly sensitive to this when I have something published somewhere other than this blog. Usually I read and re-read and edit so many times before I hit publish that I know every last detail of a story before it's shared. It's like I know it so well, it almost stops having meaning. And once I hit publish, it pretty much disappears from my mind.

So when I read something I wrote a while back in a space other than the one I edited it in, it's kind of a shock. It almost feels like I'm reading about someone else's life. Which is probably a good thing. Otherwise I'd probably feel super exposed or uncomfortable about sharing personal stories with strangers.

But I don't. Because it's me. But not really.

Power of Moms just published an article I wrote several months ago (the original is here) and when I read it on their site last night, I almost couldn't believe it was mine.

I was having such a hard time when I wrote that! I wanted to reach through the Internet and go back in time and give myself a big hug and a glass of wine and say, "I'm so sorry, friend! I've been there. It sucks. But just keep on keeping on and I promise you, IT WILL ALL BE OKAY!"

Which I guess is why we share our stories. So someone else who is having a bad day or week or life can know they are not alone. And when we read the great stories, the ones that make us laugh or inspire us or teach us something new, it gives us hope that we too can be our very best selves. Because there's always a silver lining - sometimes we just need a little help finding it.

Power of Moms is a gathering place for deliberate mothers which...right on. I really love that. There are so many stories from so many different perspectives on this site - it's pretty fantastic. I'm honored to be included. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dinner dilemma.

Isn't it crazy that dinnertime comes around EVERY SINGLE DAY? Even when you had a late lunch or the kids are totally engaged in something fun or you just made dinner yesterday. You can almost set a clock by it.

My mom used to tell a story about a friend of ours who sometimes "forgot" to make dinner. Her husband would get home from work and she'd be like, "Oops, I forgot about dinner again! I guess we'll have to go out..." My mom thought it was hilarious. "Who forgets about dinner?!" I thought it was hilarious because my mom was not exactly Suzy Homemaker and we frequently hit up the Taco Bell drive through for dinner (women in glass houses and all that). But I also thought forgetting about dinner was a pretty good strategy if what you really wanted to do was go out.

Now that I'm the grown up and dinnertime is my responsibility, I have a completely different understanding. I bet our friend really did forget about dinner! I do it all the time. Half the time I'm totally on top of it; the other half it sneaks up out of nowhere and bites me on the ass.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Around 4:00 Bill texted me:

Random, yes. But also the hint about dinner! Now I couldn't forget about it. I had a house full of kids and not a house full of taco stuff. Even though I had been to the store almost every day this week...

Thankfully his next text just said he wanted pizza and IPA.

We wuz confused. Dinner has a way of doing that to us sometimes. Because what seems easy in theory - going to get pizza - is usually anything but. We'd have to find a place to park, wait for a table, fight with the boys about not getting soda, spend a bunch of money, and get home later than bedtime. Suddenly cooking at home sounded like a walk in the park.

I went into the kitchen and did that thing where you look at all the random stuff you have and try to turn it into a meal. We had apples and eggs and broccoli and lots of avocados and some salad and...none of it was exactly screaming dinner.

Then I heard a knock at the door and the friendly UPS guy handed me our new toaster oven. Which meant the boys could have veggie corn dogs and avocados and we could have whatever we wanted! Things were suddenly looking up. And by the time Bill got home, the boys had eaten and our cheap, easy, healthy dinner was plated and ready to go.

I made a salad (mixed greens with herbs, avocado, walnuts, dried cherries, and creamy balsamic), warmed up some quinoa/rice (this stuff saves my life all the time - we get boxes of it at Costco), and roasted some broccoli via this recipe in the new toaster oven. It was delish. And so much easier than going out.

Now to figure out what we'll do tonight...