Friday, May 20, 2011

Friends with benefits.

I just glanced at the calendar and noticed that tomorrow we have not one, but two birthday parties, AND dinner with friends. While that's not totally unusual for us, it's still kind of amusing to think that most of our weekend is comprised of plans we made on account of our five year old.

The birthday parties are for kids of adults that we friended first, but the dinner is with friends we met because of Liam. This has been happening more and more lately. As he goes out into the world and starts movin' and shakin', his social life is inevitably becoming our social life. Which - so far, knock on wood! - has been really great.

But I can't help but wonder if (or, more likely, when) my kids will start to feel like I remember feeling. I swear, for most of my awkward years I thought, "OMG! My parents are so lame. They wouldn't even have a social life if wasn't for me." Charming, wasn't I? If I could time travel bitch-slap myself I'd be like, "Well, duh, little lady. Do you have any idea how much damn time you consume?!?"


But of course I didn't. No kid does. That's why it's the parents' job to be super smart and selective when it comes to choosing neighborhoods and schools and extra-curriculars. That way when you wake up one day and realize you maybe wouldn't have a social life if it wasn't for your kids, at least you'll be enjoying the ride. We may not be able to choose our kids' friends but we can certainly help guide them to make better choices.

Location, location, location!

I mean, who has the time to parent effectively and have a killer social life (and, like, make a living or whatever)? If we want to have friends and fun and raise our kids, we have to double up whenever possible.

For example, at pre-school drop off and pick up, I can almost always snag myself an adult conversation with a parent I really like and have something in common with. This was not exactly the case at Liam's last school (I hardly ever saw the other parents) and I can tell you, it's a major benefit (and a total sanity saver on those particularly bleary-eyed mornings...).

And all of our social commitments this weekend? Even though we'll be busy-busy-busier than I typically like, I'm actually really looking forward to it. I know we'll all have fun, because we'll all have friends!

Since Liam has been so great about only making friends with kids who have cool parents for us to hang out with (that was his plan, right?), I do my best to return the favor. Unless I'm forgetting someone rotten, I can honestly say that ALL of my friends are in it for me and my kids. Which is not only incredible, it's essential.

I mean, imagine if my friends were like, "Um, kids are kinda...sticky. And they talk ALL THE TIME. Can't you just leave them at home?" I'd probably have to break up with them! Not because that isn't true - it so is - but because, unless they want to spring for a sitter, chances are pretty good that they're gonna see my kids. You know what, even if they did get a sitter...love me, love my kids!

With me as always...

Luckily for us, most of our friends like Liam and Finn so much they went ahead and had kids of their own for them to play with. (Score!) But our friends without kids? Just as awesome. I mean, who needs a playmate when there's a library of Dr. Seuss books in the guest room and a chalkboard the size of the kitchen in the kitchen? In the past week alone, Liam has received an e-mail, his very own Gyrobowl (it's like an as seen on TV dream come true!), and an invitation for an after school dance party. And he told me if he ever has trouble with a bully, he knows exactly who he's going to call.

That's what I call friends with benefits.

But sometimes, even though I know my kids are welcome just about everywhere I go (or if not welcome, at least expected...), I do something wild and crazy and call a babysitter. Because holding a cocktail and a cake pop AND a baby sounds like way too much work for a Friday night.

Ditto margaritas, skates and glow sticks on a Wednesday night...

Cheers to babysitters and busy weekends!

Full disclosure: This post was mostly written (but never finished) more than two weeks ago (so forgive me if it's a little jumpy!). This weekend is shaping up to be blissfully boring. DOUBLE cheers to that!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet little lies.

At Finn's last well visit, our pediatrician talked to us about introducing solid foods and mentioned things he recommended and things he did not. For instance, biter biscuits and things he can easily grasp are okay; Cheerios are not.

I put on my best A-student face, nodding in agreement and looking interested and informed. "No Cheerios, got it." Nod, nod, nod. "Mash up the table foods. Okay, yeah, that makes sense..."

I could tell Liam was staring at me but I didn't dare catch his eye. What if he ratted me out? I was already lying to a doctor in front of my kids. How much smaller did I need to feel?

Fortunately he kept mum but as soon as we went downstairs to the frozen yogurt shop (our post-pediatrician treat), he laid into me.

"Mama, why did you lie to the doctor?"

It's a tricky thing, lying. We all do it to some extent but how do you explain that to a five year old who sees things strictly as right or wrong? And it's not just lying. The older Liam gets, the more I notice most things fall into the grey area. I sort of miss the toddler world where everything was black and white. Sticking your finger in the outlet is a NO. Pulling the cat's tail? Not okay. Now it's like everything is on a sliding scale depending on the situation, who else is involved, how it came to be...

But lying is wrong. Sort of. So I did my best to explain my actions.

"Liam, you're right about the Cheerios. But this is kind of a tricky situation. See, our doctor has to tell us what he thinks is best for Finn. That's his job. But it's my job as his mother to take all the information I get and decide what I think is best for him. Even though I respect our doctor and think he's a good guy who wants to help us, I may not always agree with him. And that's okay. I'm comfortable taking responsibility for the choices I make for you and Finny because you're my boys and I know you better than anyone else in the whole world. If anyone knows what's best for you, it's probably me."

"Yeah, but why did you lie? You could have just told him you gave Finny Cheerios. Then you wouldn't be lying."

"That's true. But here's the thing. He would still have to tell us what he thinks is best and I would still have to do what I think is best. And neither one of would be wrong. Some babies probably aren't ready to eat Cheerios at this age. But Finny is. So we're both right. If I told him I disagreed with him, what would be the point? He has one opinion; I have another. If I said something, all we would do is argue. But by letting him say what he needed to say, we're both able to do our jobs. Does that make sense?"

"I guess so. But I still don't think you should lie."

By the time we arrived at the pediatrician's office yesterday for his well visit, he had all but forgotten about my indiscretion.

He got weighed and measured, peed in a cup, did a hearing test and an eye test, giggled when the doctor tapped his knee and his foot kicked all by itself, and then sat quietly while the doctor asked me some questions.

"Does he enjoy a variety of activities?" he asked.

"Oh yeah, definitely. He likes to read and play with friends, he's really imaginative with his stuffed animals and toys. He plays a few video games. He likes to play outside and jump on the trampoline."

"Does he ride a bike?"

"Yeah, I mean..." I looked over at Liam who had his eyebrows raised. "Sort of."

"Training wheels?"

"Yeah."

"You have a trampoline in your backyard?"

"Yep!" As soon as I said it, I knew where this was going. I've seen America's Funniest Home Videos and Tosh.0. I may as well have told him we got an alligator for an indoor pet.

"Just be REALLY careful," he said, eyeing Finn on my lap. "I mean, he's probably too young to be on there yet but if there are other kids around, ONE AT A TIME on the trampoline."

I didn't dare look at Liam.

"Right," I said. "One at a time..."

As soon as we got our frozen yogurt and sat down, Liam said, "I know the doctor said one at a time on the trampoline but that's something that's our choice, right?" He was shaking his head as he talked, using that voice that says, "Are you with me? This is ridiculous!"

"That's right," I said. "Kinda like Finny and the Cheerios."

"Yeah, I mean, it's his job to tell us what he thinks is best but we're careful on the trampoline. We'll be okay!"

"Right," I said, glad to be off the hook. "We have to make our own choices and take responsibility for them."

"Yeah," he said, still shaking his head and scoffing a little. "We'll be fine!"

Power to the people...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Risky business.

Liam's always been a cautious kid. He rarely does anything without thoroughly thinking it through and seems to weigh the pros and cons of each step in his mind before ever moving forward. This can be good a thing - I think he's only needed a Band-Aid twice in his entire five years - but it will no doubt keep him from enjoying some of life's greatest pleasures.

So we're working on it. I use the mystery round on Wheel of Fortune to talk about risk versus reward. I say things like, "You never know until you try," a LOT. I push him out of his comfort zone without warning once in a while so he can feel what it's like to leap first and look second. I don't coddle. I talk about how much we can learn from failure. I do my best to let him fail.

But it's not easy. Liam hates to be wrong (not that he's EVER wrong...) so taking a risk that can lead to failure is not high on his list of priorities. Especially if the risk is my idea. So we take it day by day, slow and steady. Which is perfectly fine by me. It's a BIG lesson. One that a lot of adults, myself included, continue to work on every single day.

But while slow and steady may be the approach that works best for me, Bill's take is slightly different. I think it's classic quantity versus quality. I'm with Liam almost all of the time so I can afford to trudge along and wait for a good teachable moment. Bill has considerably less time with him so he has to make up for it with a lot of sparkle.

Like last week at dinner. Out of the blue Bill said, "Liam, I will give you a hundred dollars if you taste this hot sauce." I nearly choked. A hundred dollars?! Shoot, I'd drink the darn thing for a hundred dollars!

"Wow," I said to Liam. "A hundred dollars is a lot of money. What are you going to do?"

He didn't have to think about it at all. "No, thanks. I'm not going to risk it."

"Are you sure, buddy? That's like five $20 bills." Look - a multiplication lesson! I'm all about the teachable moment.

"Yeah, I'm sure," he said. "I'm not risking it."

So that was that.

Or, at least it was until Saturday night.

We had some friends over for dinner and were all sitting outside on the front porch, listening to the rain and the cicadas and having our dessert. I went inside for something (to get more wine? to put the baby to bed? who knows...) and when I came out, everyone was laughing and Liam was looking bigger than I'd ever seen.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Dada's going to give me a hundred dollars and all I have to do is taste this sauce," Liam said proudly.

"Wow, bud, that's awesome! But I thought...didn't you say you didn't want to do it?"

"I changed my mind," he said, planting his fists firmly on his hips and smiling. "I'm risking it!"

It had only been a week since Bill first made his offer and yet Liam's attitude had changed completely. What possibly could have happened to get him from point A to point B so quickly? I think the answer depends on whether you look at quantity or quality...

Let's start with quantity since I'm the one writing (and because it seemed like the clear answer when I started this post...). All week Liam and I have been playing a new dice game called Farkle that he picked out at Target. I said yes when he threw it in the cart because it said something about risk-taking on the package and five bucks to help him get more comfortable with risk and practice addition sounded like a pretty good deal to me. At first, he was a very cautious competitor. But after I beat him a few times by risking my small points to score big, I noticed his strategy starting to change. He started taking a lot more risks (calculated and strategic risks, of course) and has beat me every single time we've played since.

But it wasn't until I started writing that I remembered something else that happened this week.

On Mother's Day, we went for a walk down to the duck pond by our house. Bill and I were walking, Finn was in the stroller and Liam was on his little bike with no pedals (it's called a "Strider" but he calls it his "Sketcher" because the font in "Strider" is the same as the font on the Sketchers commercial...). As soon as we started down the hill, Liam started picking up speed. Like, a lot of speed. He was flying faster than you can imagine and all we could do was run after him, making weird little noises. It was like we could tell he was losing control but we didn't want him to know that we knew just in case he had no idea. So we didn't scoop him up or scream his name (not that we could catch him), we just kept running down the hill like a couple of people who don't run, panting and grunting and crossing our fingers. There were cars coming on one side of him and a pretty steep hill down to a stream on the other side of him and the front wheel of his Sketcher was doing that thing that front wheels do right before bikes crash and kids go flying.

We were kind of freaking out.

And then it was over. Liam stopped at the stop sign just like he's supposed to and sat waiting for us on his Sketcher, waving at all the cars that drove by and shouting, "Happy mother's day!" He didn't seem fazed at all by his near-death experience so we shook it off and played it cool.

But later, when we were walking up the hill, Liam and Bill fell behind and had a little man to man. Liam admitted that he had totally lost control of his bike. He couldn't slow down and thought he was probably going to crash. But instead of freaking out, he took a risk and went with it. You might think, "What else could he have done?" but I've been in that situation before and I can tell you it's still hard to give up control like that even when there are no other options. (For the record I was on rollerblades and chose to play it safe by crash-landing. My friend Emily did the same and we were both bandaged and limping around school for a week. And we weren't in preschool; we were in high school.)

"Wow, Liam," Bill said. "That's the kind of thing that will change you forever. I bet you'll remember that moment your entire life."

And even though it may be too soon to tell for sure, I'll take a risk and say I think Bill was right.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Irrational (non) fear.

I think we can probably all agree that the world we live in is a pretty scary place. Between all the wars and global warming and junk in our food and Autism and tsunamis and roofs flying off of planes (not to mention the motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking planes!), we just can't catch a break.

That is, if we allow ourselves to give a rat's ass.

Which I? Do not. I just can't be bothered. For one, The Secret pretty well convinced me that I have the power to destroy the world if I let myself to go there. If I ever start to get scared about something my mind immediately flashes to that scene in the movie where that guy is all worried about leaving his bike so he locks it up only to discover 10 minutes later that it's been stolen. His fault! If he had just been like, "Whatever, man. I've harnessed the power of the universe to watch my bike. Locks are for haters," he would have been golden. (That was the takeaway there, right?)

So my official stance on fear is whatevs. At least for the things I can't control.

Like the recent storms that ripped through the South leaving catastrophic damage in their wake. We watched some of the local coverage on TV not because we necessarily felt we needed the information, but because Liam loves the News 2 Stormtracker even more than he loves commercials and infomercials (he's obsessed with EZ Cracker, Gyrobowl and severe weather!). It honestly didn't even dawn on me to shut the windows until one of our neighbors posted on Facebook that she and the kids were headed down to their cement storm bunker.

Because if a tornado is going to hit my house, what the hell is being scared of it going to do? Sure, it could prompt me to run my kids down to the basement or climb into the bathtub like a bunch of sardines but it's a TORNADO. I don't think you can outsmart something like that.

(Okay, I totally lied - tornadoes are terrifying! I just did a Google image search for an applicable photo to post here and had to rock in the the fetal position with my hands over my ears for like 10 minutes to recover. And...my head is back in the sand. Phew!)

It's like living where we live. Sure it can be scary to read about all the crime and break-ins and muggings on the listserv. So that's why I don't read the listserv. (I read the regular listserv, just not the crime listserv. Yes, we have one just for crime.) I did for a while there but it made me so freaked out I couldn't sleep at night. So I stopped. It's a survival tactic, really. I mean, my husband travels some for work. If I can't be home alone at night without being afraid, what? Is he supposed to quit his job or something? That's crazy. So I just pretend there's nothing to be afraid of and go on about my life. Sometimes it's hard to stay blissfully ignorant - like when you're woken up at midnight from the sound of a helicopter circling overhead and searching for something with their spot light - but being scared when something is actually happening seems totally acceptable.

I just can't let myself get scared that something bad might happen. Imagine if every time I heard a helicopter I got nervous. Like last Friday around lunchtime when there was one flying all around our neighborhood. Should I have freaked out? Dropped everything and called for reinforcements? It was the the middle of the day for godsakes! Who gets scared in broad day light?

A couple hours later when I noticed I missed a text from a friend a few streets over - "Police are saying stay inside with the doors locked!" - I wondered momentarily if I should be more cautious about things like this. But we were totally fine. Even though the entire time the helicopter was overhead I was sitting in the hall with the front door WIDE open, watching the baby roll around while Liam and his friend played the "inside/outside" game that involved pretending I wasn't home and going out on the front porch all by themselves.

And yet, we survived!

So when that whole terrorist take down situation quickly prompted some people to fear retaliation, I was not one of them. Even when my husband was packing for New York the very next day I didn't make the connection that this was a situation I should be scared of. "But it's like the ground zero of ground zero," he said. "Meh," I said supportively. "You'll be fine."

And thank Secret he was!

So what about the cicada invasion that's due to hit Nashville any minute now. Am I scared of that?!? Grossed out, definitely, but not scared. For one, bajillions of big ass bugs all crawling out of the ground at once to swarm, mate and die is about as abstract and hard for me to imagine as a wind so strong it could take down my house. (Even though Google has plenty of proof...lalala, I can't hear you!) I'm not necessarily excited about it. Definitely not looking up cicada stir fry recipes like my neighbor down the street. But I'm pretty sure it won't be that bad. And once it's over, we'll be able to say WE WERE THERE!

But there is one thing I'm kind of afraid of. Really afraid of, actually. Kindergarten. I'm scared shitless of my baby starting school. There are a bunch of sentimental reasons that I don't want to get into right now (i.e. MY BABY STARTING SCHOOL), but what really has my panties in a bunch is thinking about having to be somewhere at 8 in the morning. FIVE DAYS A WEEK. I mean, isn't that considered torture or something? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get out the door on time with a slow moving five year old and a baby? And that's not even taking my lazy ass into account.

I don't think I've looked presentable at preschool drop off EVER but yesterday was an all-time low. First I almost walked out the door for Liam's class field trip without washing my face or putting on makeup. (Don't you love that the thought of showering didn't even enter the equation?) I had Finn on my hip and my diaper bag slung over my shoulder and all of Liam's stuff and Liam and my keys and my sunglasses and our picnic and I was about to walk out the door when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, "Who the hell is that? She looks busted!" Not that a clean face and a little mascara is going to rewrite history or anything but it certainly makes going out in public seem slightly more acceptable.

But that's so not the worst part.

Later that day on the way to karate (on the way as in I had already left the house and was in the car), I happened to pull down the rear view mirror to see what I was working with and noticed that the entire tip of my nose was bright orange. Evidently I had gotten a little cheese sauce on there while tasting Liam's macaroni and cheese. With the wooden serving spoon. I was this close to taking my poor kid to karate like that. So getting dressed and out the door BEFORE 8 am FIVE DAYS A WEEK is pretty much the scariest thing I can imagine.

If you can't find me come August 15th, I'll be in the cement bunker down the street eating mac and cheese with the big spoon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I heart mother's day.

Last mother's day I noticed that a lot of people had posted the following quote as their Facebook status:

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."

Seriously, I think that might be the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I mean, who pretends not to like pie so their kids can have it all to themselves? Ever heard of sharing? Or leading by example? How are your kids supposed to learn to fend for themselves if you never show them how? I don't even really like pie but if there happens to be one in my vicinity you can bet your sweet ass I'm going to have some. With my kids. Because stuff like that is actually way more fun when you share.

Anyway. I'm glad that I didn't see that quote posted anywhere this year. Maybe we're learning. Maybe the whole, "Put your oxygen mask on first and then assist your children..." philosophy is starting to sink in to our collective consciousness.

Or maybe I just haven't been on Facebook today.

Instead I've been allowing myself to be spoiled. I slept until 11. I had breakfast in bed. (Bill and Liam made French toast twice - the first time they brought it in I was like, "You guys, 9:00 is not sleeping in...") Liam keeps saying, "We want to do whatever you want to do. It's your day, Mama!" And I'm more than happy to oblige him. We went for a walk. I didn't feed the baby...

I imagine (because of that quote) that some moms struggle with this sort of thing but I really, really don't. I guess being selfish just isn't that hard for me. On mother's day, for sure, but at other times too. What can I say? I just know that if I suffocate and die because I'm putting on everyone else's mask first, we're all screwed.

So I eat the pie. And you know what? I honestly believe it's what's best for my kids.

Take the mother's day card Liam made for me at school. Inside he drew a picture of a beautiful sun and a cloud and a rainbow and wrote, "She always does nice meditations. When she sleeps she lets me watch shows."

Sleeps as in sleeps in. Because sometimes I can't be bothered to get up with him first thing in the morning. So he gets up and makes himself breakfast and watches a show and lets me sleep until I'm ready to start the day. AND HE LOVES IT. It's like his 2nd favorite thing about me! And while I suspect that for now he's just enjoying his independence, my hope is that he's also learning - by example, of course - to go through life saying yes to pie.

Mother's Day 2011

And now if you'll excuse me, it's time for our annual mother's day night out! (It's that thing where like a bunch of moms leave their families at home on mother's day night to go have drinks with their girlfriends at a bar wearing aprons!) It's a fun tradition and one I would encourage all of you to start. (We'll be at 3 Crow if you're local and awesome!). I promise - your family will be just fine without you.

Cheers to all you amazing mothers out there! Tonight I'll raise my glass to you and you and you...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Easter out-takes, 2011.

I am a little behind always lately, so last night when I was uploading April photos to share with the family, I realized *gasp!* - I didn't post the annual bunny pics for Bill's mom. I took them - on time and everything! - but taking pictures and doing something with them are soooo not the same thing (just ask the 600+ photos on my completely full memory cards...).

Although, it's only the first week of May and I'm already uploading photos from April. That's like...amazing. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I think I'll go fix myself a cocktail to celebrate pat myself on the back.

Ahhh...that's better.

Now, where was I? Oh, right. The bunny pictures. So yeah, I took them on time and they turned out really cute and I FINALLY posted them on my boys' blog (which is just pathetic lately but I suppose it's better than nothing).

(Bunny pics from Easters past here and here.)

Cute, right? If I didn't know better I might think I was a super fantastic photographer or had mini Zoolanders for children. But that's just crazy talk! I know far too well that every "good" picture takes at least a couple dozen practice shots to get there. Not that the out-takes aren't fun to have. In fact, sometimes they turn out to be the real keepers.

It wasn't just the bunny pics that had their share of out-takes this year. Take this one, for example, of Liam at his buddy's egg hunt.

Just a simple affair at the country club with a fully staffed buffet, two Easter bunnies, a magician, an egg hunt and a take home candy bag station that looked like Willy Wonka's wet dream.

My boys and I totally fit in.

Please note the lady on the back left in the tennis skirt (one of three or four I saw that day!) as she was one of my personal faves. Liam's Easter basket is empty because we missed the egg hunt portion of the egg hunt (evidently 2:00 does not mean 2:15...) and he's wearing a Run DMC shirt instead of something smocked or pastel because that's how we roll.

As you can see by the egg hunt at our house...

Shoes and (properly buttoned) shirts not required.

Classic Easter, no?

We're like a freaking Lilly Pulitzer ad!

I'm so glad my neighbor shared some family photos with me over coffee recently because it was obvious digging through her box of memories that the pictures treasured for generations to come are not the perfect Kodak moments but the one offs, the almosts. "Oops! Grammy has a wedgie in that one." Keep it! "Why is that person looking at me like that?" Who knows? But it will only be funnier ten years from now. "Ohmygod...what am I wearing?!" File it - future you will feel so hot when you dig it up! "But the baby looks kinda...crazy." HIT SAVE FOREVER!

Don't even get me started about the post-Easter photos...