Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gossip Girl

It's been a while since I was around gossip of this magnitude. 

I adore my circle of female friends.  ADORE.  And I love stumbling on new friends who speak my language.  Many of them are moms I've met through my kids. While there's sometimes an amazing connection (generally with moms who share my love of books, humor, wine, baked goods and conversation) even the moms I have to make more of an effort to converse with (their discussions center on their diets or home furnishings, neither my forte) are good people who generally don't say unkind things about others and that's why I like them.

Look, I live in a small town and I think, on some level, all of us want to play nice because we realize we're all stuck together (at least through our kids) for the next 13 years. Even more if you have younger children.  But it's been refreshing that the way I've experienced the moms around me has been specifically as "non-gossipy".

We've all gossiped at one time or another, right?  Especially in our 20s, when we were young and irresponsible and perhaps hadn't discovered more enriching subjects about which to chew the fat.  For me, there's always been a high correlation between how insecure about myself I am feeling at the moment and the nasty things that come out of my mouth about others.  It would make me feel better about myself to put someone else down.  But, (and not always) for the most part, that ship sailed many years ago. On my best days, anyway. 

It's been a long time since I've been around nasty dirt-dishing and I only realized it when I was confronted with it the other day.

When I look at my life and my interactions, now, I can see why I was so floored when faced with three other women dragging people we collectively knew through the mud.  The  friends I'm lucky enough to have tend not to be gossip-mongers. Whether intentionally or not they have been selected to fulfill roles in my life. Most of those who adore gossip have been eradicated from my circle, moving away from me and towards those who share their interests.

So when I was in the midst of it, I didn't know how to react. You see, it's been a while.  The three women I was with were going for the jugular as we drank our coffee.  One laughed about a "friend" who hadn't covered her greys in MONTHS!  I gulped, wishing I had worn a hat that day.  Another claimed that the children of her friend were "always acting like brats". 

"She's annoying!" the first affirmed. "She never wants to go anywhere without her husband."

"Oh God, I HATE that!"  I got quieter and quieter until it was obvious that not only had I checked out of the convo, I was sending decidedly judgey vibes towards these women. 

"Oh stop it!" one said "We're scaring Natty."

I wasn't scared but I knew that our blossoming friendship was probably not going to work out.  While they were very nice to me, I felt sure that they would talk about me the moment that I left.  It made me not want to have any more coffee with them. But they're good people. Good people that like to gossip. 

So, I'm not in the club anymore. It's okay, I don't need to be in that club.  I know what I needed to do to be in the club.  Agree!  Exclaim! Make jokes!  Validate our collective superiority by putting others down.

There are so many amazing topics of conversation.  So many events, emotions, ideas and notions worth discussing.  Why talk about how much weight a fellow mom has gained? Maybe she's under incredible stress. We don't know.

I'm not a Little Miss Merry Sunshine.  Realistically, we all have people we don't like.  You can't like everyone. There's a mom I'm acquainted with that I don't like.  It's because she triggers one of my pet peeves.  The way I experience her, she is incredibly rude.  I don't like rude people.  They bother me. Every time I have come in contact with her, she would say something to me and the way I would take it would ruin my day. But I don't drag her name through the mud when she comes up in conversation.  I don't try and enlist others to dislike her also.  I try very hard not to do this, because it's a waste of my time and energy.  I try hard not to do this because I don't want someone who experiences me as rude to try and get others to gang up on me. So, finding this individual rude, I don't hang out with her.  Fullstop. If I bump into her, I'm civil, even friendly (but not familiar). Just because I don't care for her doesn't mean that other people will feel the same way.

I know that it may sound unrealistic to try not to gossip. Everybody does it, right? But it hurts people...and mostly...putting someone else down makes you look bad. It really does.  And from the upcoming election to our fears and hopes for our kids to wallpaper potentially making a comeback to wine to movies...well, there are so many fascinating topics of conversation that won't leave you feeling like you need to wash the ick of your hands because you just dragged someone else through the mud.

Mediocre people talk about other people. Smart people talk about events. Brilliant people talk about ideas.

I'd like to try to be more in touch with my brilliant self.  Thanks to all the wonderful moms surrounding me who seem to feel the same way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In the company of men

A few weeks ago, Big G and I were invited to an Irish breakfast on St. Patrick's Day by a friend of ours.  Big G, as is his way, got up early went to work and called me an hour later saying "I FORGOT today was the Irish Breakfast! Arrgh!" 

"Oh well," I responded, "I'll have some bangers for ya, my lad!"

Bangers means sausage.

When I showed up there, it truly was a sausage party. There were 5 dudes.  And me.  But there was also piles of eggs, bacon and coffee so I figured I would stay. I felt awkward for a fraction of a second but then got over it.  All the men present, besides being very nice, were talented musicians. So not only did I have a delicious breakfast cooked for me, I got to witness a truly amazing jam session that was totally awesome.  I was so glad I didn't leave due to my status as the only chick present and I was also happy I didn't just not come at all because my gentleman escort forgot we had plans that morning.  I would have been denying myself great food, terrific music and conversation with other parents who just happened to be male.

See, I am one of the few people who truly believe that women and men can be friends.  Real, actual friends.  I have a number of close male friends, but two particularly come to mind.  One is close friend high school that I've had since I was 14 and another I met in my early twenties at work. Both are amazing men I respect, love and admire and both I consider to be family.  In all of our years together, although I feel their love for me with certainty, neither one of them has ever made a pass at me and if they're even reading this I'd imagine at this point they just fell out of their seats laughing at the awkwardness of such a prospect. 

Thanks a lot guys.

Friendship between men and woman will enrich your life immensely but only if you follow a few guidelines I have discovered along the way.

Your male buddy can only be married if you and the wife adore each other. Fullstop. If she doesn't like you, or even just kind-of-likes you this is not going to work. Because she will get totally jealous and think something untoward is going on when really all you're doing is quoting lines form Arrested Development.  The wife doesn't like you?  The friendship is over.

You cannot be friends with a man who you are attracted to.  I remediate this problem by being friends with men who possess many of the traits I find physically unappealing.  Men who dress better than I do, men who wear jewelry, have long hair, have excessive tattoos or who are overly dramatic make great male friends while also making them sexually unattractive to me. It's a win-win!

By the same token, you cannot be friends with a man who is attracted to you.  Since most men are attracted to everything, even a pumpkin (which I fear I resemble now that I've done all my winter eating) this can be tough. I try to make this easy for my male friends. I tell them in great detail about my child birth, I unload my problems on them demanding advice I likely won't take and I talk constantly about eating. That usually does it.

If that doesn't work, I'll often raise issues about regularity and what works for me.

Example of phone call between male and female friends:

Incorrect:

Male:  Hey. What took you so long to answer?
Female:  I just got out of the shower.

No, this is wrong on many levels. It's flirting. The dude just unwittingly pictured you naked. It's not even his fault.

Correct:

Male: Hey, what took you so long to answer?
Female:  I was picking at an ingrown hair, actually. Then I considered brushing my teeth because it's been days but instead I decided to eat a bag of potato chips while watching Downton Abbey. Do you want to get the kids together?

Viola!  With that statement you have just made any man within 100 mile radius completely unattracted to you and you've likely disgusted some lesbians too.

Male-female friendship doesn't work if said male is waiting, "in vulture position" for your relationship to break up. Ten years ago there was a guy I thought was my friend and one day when we were having a business lunch he busted out with "If you and Big G weren't married, don't you think we'd be an amazing couple?"  I almost choked on my turkey wrap in shock but rather than being flattered I was totally taken aback. 

"Never.  Like never, ever." I admonished him.

"Why?" 

"Why?" I sputtered.  "The way you're gnawing on your pulled pork sandwich is reason enough."

"Please don't tell Big G I said this," he pleaded.

But I had to. I couldn't have a secret with this guy that I would keep from Big G.  That would create intimacy between me and Pulled Pork Sandwich. And it's not like he was friends with Big G. He wasn't even really friends with me, it turned out, or he wouldn't have said something to make me feel so uncomfortable. I never had lunch with him again and stopped taking his calls. Like a canker sore on your upper lip, he eventually went away.

Which brings us to, you cannot be friends with a man that doesn't also love and respect your partner.  When I think of my closest 4 male friends, I will bet you dollars to donuts they would rather hang out with Big G than with me or both of us together. Whether it's because I'm around more during the day or less of an introvert than my spouse, who knows.  But they love and respect my husband and that's what makes me able to be friends with them and often puts them that strange grey area where your friends become so close to you they become family.

And for all of this to work, you have to have a supremely trusting, confident spouse who knows you think the sun rises and sets on him. He has to appreciate that you get things from your male friendships you don't always get from your female friendships. He not only trusts you around all your male friends but trusts all of your male friends around you.

If Big G doesn't like someone, that person is out of our circle of friends. Fullstop.

And I'm glad that Big G is so wonderfully adjusted.  Because when I think of all my friends, both male and female, I sift through the laughter, the tears, the adventures, the sad times and the unbelievable ways in which they've added so much to my life, I feel incredibly lucky to not have just limited myself to one gender. 

You know that famous old saying -- "Female friendship is awesome. Male friendship enables you to base an entire friendship on lines from movies.  Stay away from Pulled Pork Sandwich."   It's so true.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oh, behave!

Not too long ago I was with a couple of other mommies and they were trading war stories of instances of their kids being rude and misbehaved. We all have those, right?  I certainly do, in spades. But these moms had just met me and didn't yet know our family's rich history of terrible behavior.  I was gearing up to add a few of my own tales to the pot when this happened.

This one mom sighs and says of my 5 year old son "Big A is so good. He never misbehaves...you're so lucky."

I am not making this up when I say I almost laughed in her face. I don't mean this figuratively. I mean I literally almost lost control of myself and began going "Hahahahaha!" right up in her grill as I slapped my thigh and tears streamed from my face.  I had to settle for biting my lip and grimacing so it sort of looked like I was about to take a really big shit.

Because this:

Some kids are born wonderful. They're mellow and lovely from the get-go.  It's unfair, but true.

Unfortunately, the stork didn't bring me one of those kids.

What the stork brought was a high-strung, emotional and demanding little critter whose looks of pure disgust as an infant caused his aunt to dub him "The Angry Fisherman".

As new parents, my husband and I handled our difficult child the only way we knew how.  By always and consistently letting him have his way. Often at the expense of others and our own sanity. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. We were learning. And believe me, we learned. The hard way.

By the time Big A hit pre-school, he was hitting. He was scratching. He was intimidating other kids with his size and taking their toys away.  He was screaming AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS when he didn't get his way.  He wasn't going to win any prizes for Mr. Congeniality, that was for darn tootin'.

I was mortified. I went around doing damage control, apologizing to the parents of his many victims and generally feeling like an incompetent loser in the game of parenting.  But the biggest loser in all this?  Big A.

I was unsurprised, but nonetheless heartbroken when I heard one of his classmates, Suki, say to her mother in the parking lot, "Big A destroyed my sand mermaid today. I hate Big A!" 

"I don't blame you Suki!" I wanted to yell. "And I'm so sorry about your sand mermaid!"

After many instances of Big A's less-than-charming behavior toward his classmates, we were called in to meet with our pre-school's director (and also his teacher) to get a full accounting of his crimes. I began sobbing like a Real Housewife who's had her Botox taken away.  It was a combination of feeling like a failure as a parent, my embarrassment at my son's behavior and my sadness that he was being mean to other children.

"HE'S A BULLY?" I wailed at the top of my lungs.

"No, he's not a bully," the director assured me, "he's only 3 years old."

"Do you think he's going to have...you know...EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS?!!!????"  I blew my nose loudly into a tissue as my husband looked pained.  "Do you think this means he's ..like...emotionally DISTURBED!??" I sobbed noisily (as I'm sure both teachers were thinking  Big A might very well have a genetic propensity for just that very thing.)

"No, I don't," the director assured me. "All it means is this.  You and your husband will have to worker harder with him.  That's all."

We would have to work harder with him?  That's literally the first time it occurred to me.  This parenting thing which has brought me unspeakable joy, adorable Christmas photo cards, unlimited snuggles and taught me to love unconditionally and blah, blah...it's work?  I did not know that.

My hubby and I went home and discussed. I cried to my mom and my sisters. I berated myself for being such a jellyfish of a mother to the detriment of my child. The blame lay squarely on our shoulders. And though it was humbling, there was some empowerment in that.

We went back to the preschool the next day and said "Okay, clearly we are part of the problem, but the good news is that this means we can also be part of the solution. What do we do?" 

Both the pre-school director and the teacher looked flabbergasted. The teacher said that usually parents are defensive.  They offer excuses instead of solutions for their child's bad behavior.

Fer serious? we said.

Fer serious, they said.

We talked about providing rewards for good behavior and most importantly, (and most difficult to enforce) consequences for bad behavior. We talked about accountability not just in Big A, but in ourselves in order to get him on the path to righteousness.

As the year went on and Big A's bad behavior got better, I noticed the birthday party invitations came trickling in. He began being asked on play dates. And what's more, he seemed so much happier. He wasn't angry and lashing out all of the time, because he was no longer tasked with the anxiety of having to set his own limits. That's a lot for a little kid.

Big A seemed comforted by knowing what the rules were and by the consistant consequences that would follow breaking them.  He knew if he hit another child at school his beloved trains would be in timeout for the rest of the day.  He knew if he screamed into the face of a classmate that we would not, in fact, be going over Grandma's for cookies.  That deterred him and helped him to control his behavior.  And mostly, we talked about feelings. Not his feelings of how unjust it was he couldn't always have his way. But rather, we talked about the feelings of others. How he might feel, for example, if he joined another child to play in the block corner and that other kid shoved him out saying "Go away!"

5 months later, around Valentine's Day Suki's mom mentioned that Suki said she loved Big A and he was her valentine. She also explained that Suki wanted Big A to be her business partner one day in a chicken nugget venture.  It was a huge turning point and something I will never forget because it seemed to be a mile marker of his progress. Suki used to hate him, and with good reason.

When I think back on that agonizing pre-school year, I can't believe we got through it. It was SO HARD to always be managing my son's behavior to help him improve. But honestly, what was the other option? We do nothing and let him stampede about the classroom, being mean to other children and turning himself into a miserable and lonely social pariah?  

I look back at that time 3 years ago and I wonder what kind of a first grader Big A would be if I had opted out of the hard work of teaching him how to treat others with respect.   He surely would not enjoy his wide circle of friends that leaves us with rarely an afternoon where he doesn't have someone to play with.  He surely wouldn't be as happy. Because no one would have wanted to spend any time with a tantrum-throwing, hitting, toy-grabbing, shrieking 6 year old.

It's possible, sure, without my husband's and my interference Big A would have worked things out on his own. But knowing the emotional nature of my son, I doubt it.  I shudder to think I could have been part of creating such a lonely future for my wayward child.

Because what we've ended up with, in Big A, is a child who is complimented not on being a superior athlete or the best artist or the smartest in his class. What I hear again and again whether it's from parents, his teachers or even occasionally other kids is what a sweet and respectful boy our son is towards others.  And knowing how hard his road (our road) has been, no compliment could mean more.

So if you have a kid who's acting like a punk like mine was, please don't give up on him.  You can help bring him through that phase...just keep at it!

So, I'm brought back to that day not too long ago when that mom said to me:

"Big A never misbehaves...you're so lucky!"

Of course he misbehaves.  Still. And big time.  He's a kid.

But after all the tears (both his and mine), doubts and agony we went through with him as a little kid, after all the play dates I had to drag him OUT OF for being mean to another kid (where they were freshly baked scones, mimosas and desperately needed adult convo, might I add), after the many times I wanted to throw in the towel and give him his way, BUT I DIDN'T, I say thank you for such nice praise to my son.

But what I don't say is that if you knew him back in his wild years, you'd know that luck had very little to do with it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Be You Bravely

In my small county of many amazing women who share close friendships, there's one woman who stands out. She's universally adored. Her name is...um....I'll call her Gladys. She is beautiful, smart, fashionable, funny, hard-working, thoughtful, genuinely nice and effortlessly cool and confident.  She is beloved and respected by all the down-to-earth, kind, awesome and interesting moms (the moms I tend to gravitate towards, naturally) and feared by the handful of moms who are not so nice.

Anyway, Gladys is just one of those chic, witty women who seems to fit into no particular mold and fits easily into a number of different groups.  No sooner than someone drops her name than someone else chimes in "OH I LOVE HER!" and actually means it.  When I hang out with her I have to literally restrain myself from taking a selfie of us and posting it on FB so everyone knows we are friends. She's nearly ten years older than I am but manages to look about 28 and yet, I cannot hate her for it.

Sometimes she does things that are so interesting and cool that other people try to emulate her. 

And although people all inspire one another in different ways, I find it unusual when people try to BE Gladys.

Gladys is awesome. Gladys throws great parties.  Gladys has the best handbag and mixes the best cocktails and has the best thing to say to you when you feel fat and ugly but no matter what anyone does, they will never be Gladys.

I mean, I will NEVER be Gladys. Even if I wanted to, (which occasionally I do) I would never succeed because there is only one Gladys.  Whatever Gladys is doing seems very appealing. She is universally loved!  So maybe if we all do what Gladys does and wear what Gladys wears we will all be successful, popular and admired.

But no.  Because no matter how hard any of us would try, we would only come up with being a second-rate copy of Gladys.  Which seems to be an enormous waste of time considering we could easily and with no effort be a first-rate version of ourselves.

Sometimes it's hard to be yourself.  Sometimes it's much easier to look around and see what everyone else is doing and race to join the pack and do it too.

But some famous writer guy said "Know thyself!" as I creep closer to 40 it seems easier and easier to embrace who I am instead of trying to fit in.

No matter how uncool it may seem.  So here's some things I'm going to be more open about from now on and if people don't like it, then oh well.

As boring as it seems, I ADORE being alone in my house reading books.

Even though I feel a little regret about it, I don't want to have any more children even though it seems everyone has three kids.  And my desire to not want a third makes me feel guilty sometimes.

I find huge parties stressful and concerts annoying but I love hosting/going to small dinner parties with interesting food and more interesting people.

NERD ALERT! If given the chance, I will go to a playground that has built in chess boards and try and get another parent to play with me.

It's nice of you to ask but I will never join your boot camp, Mudderella team or train for a marathon because I believe any of these things could possibly kill me and I don't want to take the chance. Do you even know me? 

I may limit their screen time but my kids can eat as many home made cookies as they want.  Even if it's close to dinner.

I am baffled by those who do not drink wine and troubled by those who feel a need to always drink the whole jug. 

I like wearing a dress over jeans.  It's kind of my thing.

I like pinning my hair into a bun and I rarely, if ever, wear it down unless I've just gotten it done. I know I should take the time to make more effort with my hair but I don't because I'm lazy.

I don't ever watch the news because it makes me cry or feel scared.

I did not enjoy the new Cinderella movie very much.

I adore picnics, I hate horror films and I love being a Christian.

I'm not actually sure if Zack Brown is a person, an entire band or a sandwich.

I sometimes lose my temper with my kids, yell at them and feel really, truly, wretched afterwards. I then usually call my older sister, lament about what a terrible mother I am and she tells me to get over it. It always helps.

One of the highlights of my weekend is taking an adult karate class with a lovable collection of weirdos. I fit right in.  I've kept this a secret from many people for over two years. 

Gladys would never do that.  Or would she?  Gladys might keep a secret if she felt like it.

Because the thing with Gladys is that she owns it. If she were to begin wearing rubber gloves as a fashion accessory it would catch on because of her confidence. I could picture her saying "Oh yes, they're much easier to clean than cloth so it saves water. And they protect my manicure.  Super convenient!"

So, be you bravely!  I'm off to go read a book now and practice my jumping front kick while feeding my kids cookies.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

50 Shades of Huh?

Without exception, Fifty Shades of Grey is the most poorly written book I have ever read. As someone who reviews books for a living, I can't even imagine what I would have written if I had to review this piece of crapola.   Just a series of zzzs and a sad face emoticon would do.

The main character was a wet rag.  The romantic hero was a cheesy weirdo.  It didn't make a lick of sense and seemed, at times, to be taking place in the early 80s. If Ana wrote "Oh my!" in italics one more time as Christian ravaged her yet again I was going to throw up in my mouth. Now that's kinky.

And yet, there were explosive sex scenes throughout the book where Ana had mind blowing orgasms that often left Christian with his teeth clenched saying "Sentences. With. Each. Letter. Capitalized. And. With. A. Period. After. Each. Word!"

From a literary standpoint, this book was a belly flop. I tried to read it twice but I found myself getting frustrated with its sheer awfulness. It didn't particularly turn me on so much as make me laugh, embarrassed that not only did someone publish this piece of shiza but that it's an international sensation.  But then again, my secret crush is Alan Rickman and I find guys in wool socks ridiculously sexy so we can all agree my tastes are rather...singular.  Ha!  Ba dum bump!

But the truth is that scores of women bought and loved this book. And I think I know the reason why.

I've spent some time coming up with an answer since my husband keeps begging to know why everyone seemed to adore a book that I keep snickering at as I insist on dramatically reading him passages aloud when he's trying to sleep.

I think women love the book because all of us moms are way too busy, work too hard, and do too much.

Fer SERIOUS!

Sometimes I dream of escaping and  having an affair one afternoon a week. I picture a gorgeous white hotel room that I don't have to clean. There is a freshly made bed and quiet. No one is pressing me to make a meal or pestering me to design a reading poster. I'm not spackling Hello Kitty stickers off a wall or trying to referee the latest family fight while trying to meet my work deadlines. It's just me, the quiet hotel room and perhaps a book, a nap and room service bringing me a bowl of some kind of delicious cream soup and a giant slice of peanut butter pie that I don't have to share with anyone. There's no other person involved in my love affair. That would defeat the whole point.

To an extent, that's what I think Fifty Shades did for the army of women who couldn't put it down. It introduced the fantasy of man who does everything for Wet Rag Ana. She, as Christian Grey's submissive, has no responsibility whatsoever.  He makes all her decisions, from ordering for her in restaurants to picking out her clothes.  He chooses her car, and being a stalker he always knows exactly where she's gong to be without her having to tell him, let alone give him directions. Also, being a stalker, he notices everything about her, which is the complete antithesis of the husband who's so clueless he wouldn't notice is you ran around nekkid with your knickers on your head. She's totally witnessed by him!  Rather than criticizing her about her weight he forces, FORCES her to eat so that she will be strong enough to withstand their latest round of mind-blowing sex. (That was really the only part that turned me on. When he was instructing her to eat.)  And he's amazing in bed and does all the work while she just lays there, since, being tied up she can't really do much anyway. And he's ridiculously wealthy so he pays for everything!  That means no arguing about the household expenses.  

I think that this fantasy, of the responsibility-free life, where everything is blissfully out of your control (more than Christian's Red Room of Spank), appeals to women everywhere who are constantly over-stressed and overworked.  Although...come to think of it, if you're being spanked, you're usually laying down which seems restful. And if you're all tied up than you're not doing mindless dishes or picking up your kid's legos for the umpteenth time.  Ah to escape into the sweet fantasy where the only thing on your To-Do List is a hot millionaire.  And Ana isn't just Christian's sub, you know.  He gifts her with a car, buys her awesome clothes and even flies her to Paris on his private jet in exchange for all the sex and spanking she allows him.

Wait...this makes Ana sound a bit like a prostitute.  Oh well, that's a blog for a different day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sick Kid

I haven't left the house since Sunday afternoon.

My 3 year old came down with a bad cold and with our vacation looming mere days away, and in an effort to get her well, we went on lockdown. 

Little D was fine at church this past Sunday but around mid-day when we realized how sick she was, we left my folks' super bowl lunch early. I didn't even get to eat any football cake. We cancelled making the rounds of two Superbowl parties and stayed put at home.  Where we've been ever since.

Since Little D's default state is to zip up the nearest flagpole and hang upside down singing a VERY LOUD SONG it was sad to see her as a slumped little lump balled up in the corners of various couches, beds and laps.  We pumped her with fluids and vitamins, vaporized her and blew her nose countless times.  We snuggled up and watched Disney movies.  We cancelled her ballet and gymnastics classes and called off any play dates for our older son.  Grocery shopping?  It could wait.  I pulled a veggie lasagna out of the freezer and discovered a case of corn niblets in the back of my pantry and rogue jug of apple juice trying to hide behind the gift bags. Perfect.  

And you know what?  Besides the slight cabin fever I'm rocking now that it's Day 4, (and besides that no one likes to see their child sick, of course, there's that) there were a number of silver linings to her little cold.

A.  I stayed in my pajamas from Sunday night until Tuesday morning.  I was giving so many hot baths to my sick child I didn't get a chance to take one myself.  I'm Natalie.  I'm disgusting. I haven't done that since New Year's Day of 2006!
B. I got to snuggle the kids indefinitely and watch Beauty and the Beast. And Lady and the Tramp. And even Frozen.  (Though my kids protested)
C. I didn't have to drive anywhere!  No schlepping the kids in the car in the ice-cold deep freeze.  I didn't want to make Little D sicker so we just stayed home.  It was glorious
D.  But the best Silver Lining was my pleasant surprise at how many family and friends reached out to see how Little D was feeling.  It warmed my heart that our support system would think of her and wish her good health, knowing that we would soon be leaving town. These check-in phone calls are particularly appreciated when you're trapped inside for three days straight with an extremely irate 3-year old who's coughing up flem.

And while no one likes to see their child sick it's an occurrence that forces everything to stop. (And I am not talking about the parent warriors who suffer the agony of having a terminally ill child -- I am merely referring to most of our experience of having a kid with a mild virus or temporary cold) It forces you to focus on your kids and nothing else.  I got zero books reviews done. I didn't go to my work-out class or run any errands. I had to be completely present and available to my daughter without letting even one distraction get in the way.  Because we all do so much in addition to parenting (work, cook, laundry, volunteer, exercise, etc.) it's rare that I get to stay home for three days straight with the kids. And it makes me feel all the more indignant on behalf of moms who work out of the home -- moms who can't stay home three days with a sick kid.  Unfair!  There should be extra sick days for working moms for when your kids are sick. 

I so happy to say that Little D is feeling great today. What a difference three days can make.  Not just for her, but for me also.  I'm not glad she got sick but I'm glad it caused me to slow down and rest a bit myself before we tackle Disney.

Now let's just keep our fingers crossed that her brother doesn't come down with it.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How your kids make you cheesy...the Disney World post

You know those people that have giant inflatable snow globes on their lawn come Christmas?  (Maybe you ARE one of those people).  For many years I thought that was the tackiest thing I'd ever seen.  I wondered WHY would ANYONE put such an atrocity on their front lawn?

And then I had kids.

And I understood that a lot of these families do not have bad taste....they just have kids.  And the joy and delight that fills up their child's face at the prospect of having something SO MAGICALLY COOL on the lawn come Christmas trumps the parents' desire for their home to look classily festive.

And this is why I found myself with a line of light up plastic candy canes festooning my walk this past holiday season. 

There's something else that will happen soon that I never thought would happen.

We're going to Disneyland!

(Actually it's Disney World. But it's so much more fun to say you're going to Disneyland.)

I hate crowds. I mean I REALLY hate crowds and my husband is not much better.  Going to a boy scout pack meeting requires many deep breathing exercises, attending school Halloween parades is best done after a shot of tequila and visiting Funtime America is to be avoided at all costs.  I'm the person who likes to eat out at 5 pm like an octogenarian because no one's at the restaurant and we only go to Chuckie Cheese (once a year) at 10 ON THE DOT on a weekday so that we are the only people there and can then scurry out the door like Chucky's namesake character when it starts filling up.

When we go on vacation, it's always somewhere somewhat obscure, very non-touristy and usually off season so it's nearly empty. Some people thrive on the energy and excitement of crowds but I'm not one of them.   I like quiet, particularly when I'm on vacation trying to recharge. I love when there's "nothing to do".  Jackpot!  More books to read! ( I know what you're thinking..."We MUST HAVE HER at our next party!")

And yet, next month we're going to Disney World.  My oldest is nearly 7 and I had several families urge me to go "before the magic wears off" and this terrified us into booking a trip.  This trip has all of my least favorite things -- crowds, rushing, lines, frantic schedules, bright lights, constant noise and giant turkey legs.

A part of me longs to tell the children that Disney burned down and then go to Block Island instead to sketch lichens and visit the island's lone alpaca.

But their joy in realizing that they're going to Disney is sort of sweeping me up in the excitement also.  My youngest can't wait to see Minnie Mouse and my oldest wants to battle Darth Vader.  They can't believe they're going to visit a haunted mansion and spin on the tea cups.  They are thrilled and euphoric that we're finally going on a vacation in which the main event doesn't involve hiking through a beachside trail because that's really all that there is to do.

And while my husband and I are aren't exactly donning mouse ears yet and prancing around the house to "When You Wish Upon A Star"  I have to admit even we're getting pretty excited. I've been sharing details with the children of our itinerary "Eating with Lady & The Tramp! It's A Small World! Fireworks!"  It's a far cry from our previous non-kid vacations which include visiting the Tate Modern in London and sampling mussels in St. Jean de Luz or sailing completely around this random island as I alternately vomited and went snorkeling for an 8 hour period.  But those kinds of activities aren't geared for children that young. Well, except maybe the vomiting.

Yes, in many ways Disney will be my kryptonite -- over-stimulating, crowded and noisy.  It's the anti-vacation for someone who's at heart an introvert. But I think the looks on our kids' faces and the happiness this trip will bring them will far outweigh any panic attacks I'll be experiencing while we're there.  Or at least I hope.  If it's dreadful we don't have to go again.

Even though it's a giant pain in the ass and extremely expensive, I think travel is really important every so often, not just to get out of your normal environment but to have your kids experience other parts of the world.  There will be a time, yet again, when my hubby and I can go back to the southwestern part of France or take our teenagers on the 12 hour flight to the North Shore of Oahu when it's deserted.  But at this point, it's the Magic Kingdom.  The things we do for our children.

I'll pack my flask. (Is this frowned upon?) Dumbo the Flying Elephant here we come!