Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Just this blogger's mouse.

Stop on by, Big Guy. Cookies and reindeer treats await...






Merry Christmas to All
And to All A Good Night!

Snowmageddon 2008

I never thought I would ever write these words...I'm so glad it's finally raining!




The cozy blankets of snow that have been falling for the past 10 days have been a blessing of sorts. We're healthier than any December since bringing the little petri dishes into our lives, since we've been unable to interact with the outside world and therefore unable to collect its germs. Long, hibernating nights during this Solstice week have made for happy little morning bears (and well-rested Mama and Papa bears, too).




The week before Christmas this year has found us gift-making instead of buying, since driving to shops is on the list of dangerous activities that might also include eating radioactive waste and playing hide and seek with tiger sharks. We've enjoyed extraordinary meals prepared from the contents of our freezer/pantry and have managed to get equal amounts of energy-sapping snow shoveling and cozy couch cuddling in each day. Mr. Wonderful's daily trek to the gas station to see if the paper delivery truck made it (Yay! Boo! Yay!) have kept us connected to the outside world and its necessary provisions.



I've really enjoyed this week of having our family together to focus on what matters most to us this season...each other.

Well, that and dry socks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just a little off the top, please



It was time. The curls were fraying out and my little man was beginning to impersonate a small troll spinning upon the top of a pencil. The little devil wings above his ears were sprouting into horns and we made the family decision for a FIRST HAIRCUT.

Mr. Wonderful and Max have built a beautiful relationship around their trips to the barber together; replete with lollipops, trucks and a stop at the Daddy Store (aka hardware store). Although it was very hard for me to undo the apron strings and let Daddy take him for his first haircut, I decided that this was a gift that needed to be shared with Sam, too.

I only cry about the lost curls three or four times a day and keep wondering who this big boy is who showed up at our house and keeps calling me "Mommy." He's cute, though, and he seems to really like it here, so we're going to keep him. And the little bag of curls that I've taped to the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Golden Days of Yore

I've been searching in my ornament boxes for something to put on our tree that doesn't have wheels, treads, propellers, a sword, or a corn cob pipe. Even my favorite glass icicles, dangling all shimmery and oh-so-breakably, add a rather phallic tone to the Man Tree in our living room. The Man Tree is complete with a star on the top of it that Max made in preschool out of an empty roll of toilet paper covered in aluminum foil. If an empty roll of toilet paper doesn't scream male to me, then I don't know what does.

While plucking through these boxes of Christmases-past in search of something that represents the feminine in our family, I came across a picture.

A family photo taken ten Christmases ago, when my brother and I both had hands without gold bands and not even a glimmer of the little monkey boys who would one day change the holiday season forever for us. We look well-rested, unfrazzled, and well, calm.

It was the Christmas in which Mr. Wonderful asked me to do him the honor of becoming his bride, and my grandparents had come out to visit. Grandma has on a festive vest and I'm sure she told Grandpa to wear The Red Shirt. Or maybe she didn't say a word, but after fifty Christmases together, he knew.

We went to visit my mom's cousin and his family and shared our last Christmas with my Great Aunt Valerie, who had a tradition of sewing matching night gowns and night shirts for me and my brother every year. We joked about sleepwear while drinking martinis and eating cannelloni by candlelight. My little cousin, who now towers over me and knows all the songs being played in the Brass Plum section of Nordstrom, was five and she BELIEVED. Her mom believed, too. We all believed that year.

The next year, for the first time in my life, I didn't come home for Christmas. Mr. Wonderful and I shared our first Christmas tree and started our own family traditions that continue now and will continue for our boys in the Christmases to come. Hopefully some of these traditions and memories will even remain well after I'm no longer in the picture.

The holidays, while certainly merry and bright, also bring out the ghosts of Christmas Past, sometimes at the most unexpected moments. The ache can be overwhelming, especially at a time of year when we're supposed to be happy and bombarded with imagery of family and sentiment and mournful versions of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

Today I send out hugs to all who are missing dear ones. Whether that footprint is fresh or old, it still leaves a mark. Polaroids don't replace the hugs and laughter shared over a glass of eggnog. But I'll offer a toast to those no longer decorating the tree, and to those who still make it merry and bright while feeling the pull of the past.

*Clink*

It's not just my tree that needs more angels.

All The Way Home

It was a Winter Wonderland at our house with about six hours of snowfall today. The view was beautiful and bright and beckoning to our little boy who just cannot resist Mother Nature and Her gifts; wintry and otherwise.

Shortly after waking, Max was out the door in the falling snow without shoes, hat, coat or mittens. And back in. And out. And in. And out. Cheering with glee and getsitement and proclamation and anticipation while I was making eggs for a sobbing, starving and very impatient Sam.

Out and in. Out and in. The golden jingle bells hanging on our front door announced his indecision each time, until the door slammed and there was a crash and a "MOHHHHM!"

**********************

On the floor next to the door lay a crippled wooden horse that used to hang in my grandparents' farmhouse welcoming their guests. With two freshly broken legs. It's a sentimental item, and, along with the countless other holiday items that are missing feet, arms, wings, hats, etc. due to little hands dropping or squeezing them, kind of broke my patience. I burst into tears and mumbled about how everything gets broken around here and I can't have special things out and Wahahhwaaaahwaaah. Totally ridiculous, but thoroughly shocking and unexpected - for both them and me. The boys became hushed and apologetic, exchanging worried glances and wondering, hopefully, if I was just laughing.

Max even suggested that I might need to go to my room until I could stop crying.

Dude. If only I could.

My frustration was brewing faster than my eagerly anticipated morning coffee until I looked out the window. And what to my wondering eyes did appear?

A reminder...

That in the midst of the chaos and the cold, in the bleak and long gray days when I am stuck in the house with the ricochet of two preschool-aged boys, there is beauty. And stillness. And a tiny imprint of what will one day be much bigger and won't return back to my door in such a rush.



Wooden horses? Those can be replaced. These little piggies?

Irreplaceable.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The One Where The Minnesotans Totally Laugh At Us

We got a little dusting of serenity this weekend in the form of the season's first snowfall. People who live in parts where this is a frequent occurrence might find that we are making a big deal out of something fairly mundane, but for the kids around here, the cold white stuff is pretty getsiting.


Max wanted to go out and touch it immediately. As soon as he was done with breakfast he was pulling his boots on and running out the door and licking the lawn and asking if he could half-pipe down the driveway.

This dusting of snow completely shut down our world for no obvious reason and made people drive like frozen lobotomized bumper car operators. The snow also resulted in the cancellation of pre-school. On Max's sharing day.

And it was Garbage Day.


The universe is clearly out to get me.

After dragging the kids, the garbage and the recycling down to the road, we got the sled out and had a little lesson in friction and speed that was highly disappointing and rather like launching a bottle rocket without any fuel.

Leave it to Max to find his own propulsion.


Winter X-Games, anyone?


This is Max attempting to sled backwards down a hill into a semi-frozen creek. And me standing up the hill taking a picture. The DNA is so not working in his favor.


Fortunately, he's got his brother to slow him down.

His dear, sweet, obliging brother who had to wear a size 12 month snowsuit. Sam is, oh, say, 31 months old now? A very large 31 month old, I might add. A very large 31 month old who had to squeeze into that thing two winters ago and yet again today. I'm quite certain he will never forgive the snow (or his mother) for such a painful experience. He also may never be able to father a child or sing baritone after I hung him by his underarms and shoved his long limbs into the powdery blue suit of doom that zipped him right out of potential puberty.

But at least his butt was dry.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holiday Math: or how to divide the joy

Karma, you certainly have a sense of humor.

About ten years ago I sent my future nephews (ages 4 and 6 ish at the time) an advent calendar filled tiny pieces of chocolate, one for each day in December until Christmas. One chocolate advent calendar: two boys. I'm pretty sure that someone could develop a mathematical equation termed the ratio from hell and it would involve those two numbers. But that's about the extent of my mathematical genius (thank you liberal arts degree), so I will leave that bit of configuring to the geniuses at MIT or wherever those smart types hang out these days. Clearly, it's not at my house.

2:1

Because counting down the unbearably long days until Christmas comes so easily to small children, and sharing a miniscule tidbit of a petroleum-based sugar product is always so rewarding. It was one of those good intention gifts that really ingratiated me into my future family and warmed them to my generous spirit.

2:1

This year I spotted a darling advent calendar that I was sure that I had checked to make sure that was NOT of the chocolate variety, because who needs candy to further flame the countdown? Apparently not only am I not good at math, I think I may have also failed vocabulary. Of course it's filled with chocolate.

Which I didn't discover until making a really big deal about letting the boys each open their advent calendars (my brother got us one as well - yippee, one for each! I thought). The only thing worse than having to divide a piece of microscopic candy is to have to explain to the child who opened said piece of candy that he needs to share it. Yeah, that ratio just got a whole lot harder to work out.

So from now until the day the fat man wiggles down our flameless chimney, I will have the evening ritual of dividing the mini-est of bells, snowmen, and stars into two equal pieces (again with the math, ugh).

2:1 - Really spreading the spirit of season.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Home Sweet Home

An hour after bedtime:

Max 's Big Boy Bed is covered in tractor blankets, books, dinosaurs, orca and humpback whales, sharks, books, monkeys and other prized collectibles. Looking like an oversized baby doll, Max is passed out dreamily among the menagerie.

Sam's little toddler-sized bed across the room is Empty.

A quick survey of the room draws my eye to the wall next to the bed stand. Two large pillows are propped up against the wall, behind them Sam's wild and crazy curls calm my panicked heart.

"Shhhhhh" he hushes, little curls peaking above the denim pillows, "Max is seeping, me hiding."

I scoop him into bed, smiling into his tired eyes. Queen cars are tucked into awaiting fingers, blankets nuzzled around, and kisses placed on his chubby cheeks.

There's nothing better than your own bed, little one.

Night Night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Over the River and Through the Security Line

Millions of Americans this week will stick their hands into the frigid neck hole (or worse) of a cavernous, slippery, naked and butchered bird to retrieve a dismembered neck bone and livery innards. As they silently make a prayer to the Holy Defroster that everything will turn out okay with El Butterball, they'll be thinking that this is one of the more unpleasant aspects of the holiday season.

They'd probably be correct, unless they'll be traveling via airplane with small children during peak traffic times.

Much like stuffing a turkey, there are no holiday warm fuzzies when navigating (a) the holiday season and (b) TSA and (c) anyone who requires you to yell "RED LIGHT" in public.

I'll do whatever it takes to get my kids through the parking lot, ticket counter, security line, and boarding gate without a meltdown. And THEN I can deal with hours of restrained seating in a hurling sardine can full of germy, antsy strangers and my own un-napped and over-stimulated little ones who know that they've completely got me because hey, there's no 'time out chair' on a Boeing 737.

I understand how much I ask of my kids to be cooperative in stressful situations, and travel messes with the holy trinity of sane children: food, sleep, and sanitation. In a world of long lines, loud noises, irritated travelers and over-stimulated and over-restrained toddlers, a mama needs more tricks up her sleeve than Q offers to Her Majesty's secret service.

One of my favorite tricks is the "Airport Nack". This is when I break down all my self-imposed rules and prejudices about fast food, sweets, and overpriced junk offered up as a source of nutrition. It's pure distraction and bribery and I'm completely down wit' it.

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On a trip home from Chicago a few months ago, I bought a very large bag of artery-busting buttery popcorn for our flight. After strapping on our seatbelts and getting our groove on with Bob The Builder in the DVD player, I pulled out the popcorn and put it between me and Sam to share. We collectively munched away, our hands rubbing up against each other in the buttery bag as he happily watched the movie and I ever-so-happily read a magazine. Ah, bliss.

And then it started to smell rather ripe around us. There were several small kids nearby and I remember thinking "Ugh, someone's gotta deal with thaaat", and then naively popped another crunchy kernel and went on reading about Gwenyth and her secret to happiness and beauty and other important nuggets of truth (FYI: eating no white food and hiring a staff of minions will make a girl happy and waifish).

And I should put it out there that Sam does not so much dig the dirty D; he's pretty clear with me when he needs to be changed and seemed to be quietly enjoying his dinner and a movie.

Denial. It's not just a river in Egypt.

After a few sideways glances where I'd seen the little guy happily mesmerized by the wonders of Scoop, Muck and Dizzy, I did a double take and watched as he stuck his hands up through the leg opening of his shorts, into his diaper, retrieved his own scoop of muck, and mechanically wiped the contents of his diaper onto his seat back. And then took another handful of popcorn out of our shared bag.

Yeah, there's a reason they no longer serve food on airplanes and it has nothing to do with cost savings, by the way.

With eternal gratitude to a very helpful and mortified flight attendant, the mess was quickly cleaned up and disinfected, Sam was changed into a new outfit, and I'm pretty sure that a call was made to notify Haz Mat to meet our plane at the gate when we landed. The teenage girl sitting next to us probably is still having poo nightmares or seeking counseling. She never spoke to me again after I saw her covering her mouth in a blanket while making gagging noises at the window. Clearly, there will be no need for a "family planning" talk with this girl. She may never try air travel again, either.

I, however, I am just not that smart.

Earlier this month I got caught in the poo triangle when BOTH boys decided to simultaneously empty their bowels as our aircraft descended. If you've never had the privilege of having to make choices about your children and whose poo is going to get ignored the longest, consider yourself very, very lucky.

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Somehow the snow covered sleigh being pulled by horses who know their way to Grandmother's house seems a whole lot more appealing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Smells Like Toddler Spirit

Our very vocal, social, and earnestly sweet little Sam sometimes struggles with being understood. His words - though loud and vibrant - are difficult to decipher and result in an adorable, albeit frustrating cocktail of conversation. We get about 80% of his words and guess at the rest based upon the pretty predictable pattern that is the world of a preschooler. Time spent with him is like being in a foreign country where I kind of get the gist of what's going on, but the details are fuzzy and imprecise and the language is clearly not working in my favor, but hey, it's fun and new and pour me a glass of wine and I'm just gonna roll with it and act like I know what's going on. Shhh, it's my secret to surviving motherhood.

Sam seems content with his interactions with the world 99% of the time, but then, there's the rest of the time. The times when he wilts into a ball of mucus-y ooze with a wail that could call the Yeti down from the North Country. Oh. My. God. The horror. The screams and tantrums. The flailing, kicking and fetal positioning. But enough about my PMS. This kid really knows how to turn the drama flame up high (I have NO IDEA where he gets it) and demonstrate what a two and half year old who can't find the words to describe his emotions, wants, demands, should look like.

And people, it's not pretty.

Sam has the benefit of a highly skilled interpreter in his brother, who sometimes tells us what Sam wants, "He wants that bran muffin that he shoved under the couch this morning" and other times Max just rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders, and mumbles, "Red", referring to his sobbing baby brother as the quick-to-cry, scared-of-his-own-shadow 1960's-era fire truck character from the harbinger of all culture in our home, Pixar's CARS.

And although I KNOW I'm not supposed to EVER compare my two children, because they are both individuals, different spirits, different learning styles, yadahh yaddah yadahh, I am baffled with this sensitive and mysterious lad. Max pretty much came out of the womb ordering a cheese pizza with aged Italian pepperoni with no mushrooms, unless you have fresh morels and then I'll take them, but no tomato chunks and a fine shred on the fresh mozzarella, please.

Sam, he just lays on the floor clutching the Domino's ad and wailing. But is he crying about the pizza ad or the $3 off car wash coupon on the back? I NEVER KNOW!!!!

We've tried lots of tricks, techniques, approaches and well, a lot of wine, too. I know this stage will pass, that he will master language very soon and there will be a day in the very near future when I will be thinking (because I'll never have the chance to actually TALK), that "Ugh, will this little guy EVER stop talking about catalytic converters and fuel gauges and tire treads?"

Until then, we just continue with lots of talking, reading, playing and loving our little guy. Last week, I took the boys over to see their cousins, including the cutest little 3 month old baby boy that you have ever seen. And while saying our goodbyes, Sam knelt down and kissed his baby cousin, wiggled his pudgie fingers in a tiny wave and said, "Bye bye Babee Ashah. Come ovah foh dink suhtime, ok?"

Mama's never been so proud.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dude

I totally saw this one coming...



If you are going to wake the entire house up at 4:30 a.m. while recruiting me to read you a book about the Mesozoic Period, I predict that you won't make it past 6:30 p.m.

Fifteen hours ago I would have predicted that you wouldn't make it past 4 1/2 years old, but lucky for you, I think you're cute.

Now get some sleep and no questions about brachia-whats-his-ass until at least 8 a.m.

Monday, November 3, 2008

VOTE!

The election process just got a whole lot sweeter...Ben & Jerry's ice cream shops are giving out free cones to voters tomorrow! I think some Half Baked, Phish Food and Cherry Garcia are great ways to celebrate the privilege of democracy. We can all agree on that, right?

Free Ice Cream on Election Day

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tricks and Treats




Costume parades, sugar rushes and night night walking ..it is all beyond compare. Halloween is connecting us with neighbors and family and dear devils who delight us with their unbridled joy, mock fear of fleecy dorsal fins, and enjoyment of all the wonder and surprise that childhood represents.



I love how Halloween brings out the sideways glances in the boys who can't really believe that this is for real. Costumes! Candy! Walking OUTSIDE at NIGHT! This could NOT get any better! And yet it just does and does and they keep peering to us and to each other as if they can't really trust that this will continue to be so fun.

The boys are a sea of getsitement and stirring even in their sleep. I am reveling in the memories of my own fascination and childhood delight with this holiday of dress-up fantasy. Like so many aspects of parenting, I find myself immersed in the experience and yet only half experiencing it in real time. The other half is being replayed in the reel of my own silent and scratchy home movie; not quite in focus and playing the same scenes over and over.



It's a candy bag filled with childhood friends, costumes of tuille and tap shoes, flashlight walks through the neighborhood of my youth, and finally the sweet satisfaction of Starburst and SweetTart sorting, exchanges and bartering.

Yes, Halloween is bizarre and awkward and a mountain of work if you're stupid enough to try to take on costume preparation while home alone for 10 days with two preschoolers. But like so much of this chapter in my life, the sweetness far outweighs the salty and the bitter. And isn't that what Halloween is really supposed to be all about? Letting the sweetness overcome us while acknowledging the scary, the dark, and the fantasy? While never, ever letting anything win out over a roll of Smarties, a miniature Hershey's bar, or fabulously over-the-top attire? Life lessons, I say, all wrapped up in a plastic mask and wax lips and pure chocolatey gooey goodness.





Tricks and Treats to all!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Couger and her cub



In Mr. Wonderful's absence, my main man Max took me out to dinner on Friday night. I had planned on going out to eat with both boys, but after chatting with the kind of friend who knows when to stop you from doing something horribly stupid, it was decided that Sam should opt out. Dodi and Aaron graciously offered to entertain the wiggly two-year old so that I could spend some quality time with my Max.

I suggested pizza, and he said he knew the perfect place..."Costco!" Considering that it was my birthday, I wanted something without cement floors. High maintenance, I know.



My date was charming, witty, very affectionate and enormously appreciative of the opportunity to be alone with me. Every date should go this well. Except, of course, that I drove and picked up the tab. Hmm, kind of like college all over again.

It's probably in bad form to take a video while on a date in a restaurant, but I couldn't resist:

video

Ahhh, saved by the arrival of the good ship lollipop beverage delight.

video

Table manners aside, it was a wonderful date.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sharkskin Sweatshop Closed Due to Poor Work Conditions

AP News Feed: Authorities report that the chief seamstress at the Monkey Ranch Sweatshop has closed her shop due to poor work conditions and possible shark sightings. It is not known at this time what made the operator of the one-woman sweatshop throw up her hands in victory and yell "DONE!", but speculations abound. Perhaps it was the disastrous condition of her working environment, as evidenced by the piles of laundry, legos, blocks, Thomas the Train parts and roving dinosaurs scattered throughout the operator's shop. It is also presumed that when the bags of recently-sorted items destined for Goodwill were discovered and dismantled by the two minors employed as reluctant costume models, the operator may have issued some obscenities and considered closing her shop at that time. In addition to unusually late work hours, authorities are also concerned about the hygiene of the work space. Dishes in the sink may have been there for quite some time and it is believed that the seamstress may not have received a hot meal in days. When asked why she would attempt to operate under such conditions and without adequate supervision or assistance, the Sweatshop Owner had only this to say, "Trick or Treat!"



Friday, October 24, 2008

Mahalo









I could not let this day go by without some heartfelt and way overdue gratitude.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for caring for the little keiki while we sunned and snorkled. Your gift was immense and will be treasured always. Now go sleep.

Thank you, Mr. Wonderful, for saving the tiny umbrellas from our Mai Tais and promising to return them to me in the dead of winter when I'm rainlogged, overrun by muddy and stir-crazy boys, and my eyeballs are receding into my skull from the absence of sunshine.

Thank you, Max and Sam, for understanding that Mommy and Daddy needed some time to finish their sentences, meals, thoughts, and laughs. We even managed to talk about a few things other than the two of you.

Thank you Ocean, for your soothing sounds, salty silences and tireless reminder that the constants in our world roll back to us like waves. Some days are gentle and warm, others are fierce and chilling in this limitless sea called LIFE. Waves return, though never in equal form, and it all rolls on.






Mahalo nui loa.