Monday, January 31, 2011

Crap. Middle child syndrome

Earlier this week, in a burst of sheepish realization, I figured out that Andrew very rarely has alone time with me.  Jack has me for 5 hours on Thursday, while the two Littles are in Jackie's Montessori class.  Simone gets a few hours with me on Friday, while the boys are in co-op.  But Andrew's age category rounds up or rounds down so easily that he never really drops through the cracks of activities.

Whoops.  I was going to be so good about that one!  I was the Middle Child, even.  But there were 2 main variables that kept me from being "lumped"...so I'm not sure I got an accurate viewpoint on it.  I was the only girl between two boys, and the only one without Muscular Dystrophy. 

I'm going to have to try harder with Andrew.

I didn't have Julie's tonight, so I planned a Date Night with Andrew. The plan:  Dinner somewhere fun, Trader Joe's to buy lunches he wanted this week, painting a plate at Color Me Mine (thank you, Groupon), and to the thrift store to buy a book for bedtime.  We talked about it all day.  He was so excited that he couldn't stop bouncing when we talked about it.

We went to Tropical Smoothie for him to order anything he wanted.  He got a GIANT smoothie (holy cow, it was as big as he was)...pizza...and a chocolate chip cookie. 

The sweetest, most heart-warming part of dinner?  How he sat there quietly across from me (ever so tiny in his 4 year old body) and just ate his food with a content little smile.  He didn't even talk much.  Just smiled and gazed at me.  And picked through his cookie to eat all the chocolate chips first. 

He looked so happy.  On the one hand, it made me so excited that we could bring him joy like this so easily.  We can make this a part of our routine. But a part of me ached for how rarely this happened in the past.  

The most soul-bending moment?  When we were driving home, and Andrew said in this soft little voice: "I think I'm about to cry." 

Me, stunned: "What? Why?"

Andrew: "Because I am so so so happy right now.  It's about to come out my eyeballs.  I loved hanging out with you."

Really and truly, I don't understand how my world existed before this little crew of humans came into my life.  Because the feeling I felt when he said that?  My goodness, there are no words for the love I have for this little boy. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Well, thank goodness she wasn't dead!

In the car today, Andrew was asking about when he was born.  Jack was naming off all the things he remembered about Andrew's birth.

Simone: "Was I there too?"

Jack, in his sweet, high-pitched, reassuring voice he only uses with Simone: "Your DNA was still building your beautiful eyes and your princess feet...and all your princess stuff.  You weren't dead!  But you weren't finished yet."

Our Daily Routine, V 2.1

I've been re-vamping some areas of our daily process lately.  Nothing monumental, but definitely positive changes.  I figured I'd document it here, so when I forget the routine I look back and remember what worked for awhile:

(1) Changing my wording to include the end goal. Example: Instead of, "Can everyone change out of their clothes for PJs?"... I'm trying: "Clothes in the hamper! It's time for PJs."  My thought was that it creates the visual of putting dirty clothes in the hamper, instead of a visual of taking the clothes off - but needing to remember to put them in the hamper. I give this new technique 6 stars out of 5.  Instantly successful, and no push-back from the kids.

(2) Doing a dinner between 3-4pm. Seriously.  Like, full-on burgers, salmon and rice, whatever.  We call it "Dinner #1" and it keeps them from being hungry around 4, but dinner still an hour or so off.  Snacks didn't help, since they spent the next hour asking for more food.  Since we have things most nights, like kung fu, it also makes sure we're not rushing them through dinner to get there on time.  Then I can give them a lighter round of food before bedtime.

(3) Putting breakfast outside my bedroom door for Andrew, my earliest and hungriest waker-up.  Even a bowl of popcorn seems to work. If he has food, he lets me sleep longer without suffering the despair of a few minutes without food.

(4) I used to remind them to put away their coat or whatever, but sometimes remind them and then do it myself.  As I was hanging it up: "Hey, coats in the trunk next time!"  Now, I just non-chalantly ask: "Hey, Jack...can you put your coat in the trunk, please?"...making sure the child does it himself.  Muscle memory forming, I hope. :)  I don't want them feeling reprimanded, because I know they're still so young, but I also don't want to send the message that little elves will eventually pick it up - but nag while doing it.They are definitely forgetting less in the last couple weeks.

(5) Having them pick out their clothes the night before.  Before:  I picked them out after they went to bed, or they dressed themselves in the morning.  Why I never combined them before, I have no idea.  Life is evolution. =) 

What's your favorite strategy for daily routine?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Meals on Wheels

Based on a conversation last night, I realized I haven't really chatted much about Meals on Wheels.  That we do it has popped up, I think, but not how truly awesome it's been for our family.  I figured I'd write it up here, because it seems to come up a lot in face-to-face conversations about how to do more service with young kids.

I'll be honest: I had serious doubts that Meals on Wheels could go well with three children 6 and under.  When I signed up the first month, it was for ONE go-round.  How bad could an hour be?  We had such a blast that first month that we're now on the rotation for the last 5 months.

What I liked about the idea in general:

(1) Our church does it once a month, so there's no way it will get dropped no matter how busy we are.  We can always make time for an hour a month.

(2) It gives my children a chance to meet a demographic that isn't really in our life.  We see a lot of kids and moms, but not really elderly persons.  I always loved visiting nursing homes as a child, and this is a way to serve people who deserve some kindness after giving to the world all these years.

(3) It only takes an hour.  This seemed like a perfect child-friendly option.  

What I LOVE now that we've been doing it for 5 months:

(1) The people on the route adore seeing the kids.  Last month, Jack brought pictures for everyone on the route.  This time, they not only remembered his pictures, but Evelyn had pom-pom-balls and scissors waiting for when he came, so he could make her more.  

(2) We have some amazing conversations in the car about why bodies break, when people die, why some of the persons are sleeping when we come even though it's the middle of the day.  It's exploding their understanding of the complexity of life stages, and I think good things are coming out of it.  

(3) My children absolutely love it.  When I tell them it's Meals on Wheels day, they dress faster than any other thing in our life.  All three say something along the lines of, "I don't want them to get hungry waiting for us!"  Teaching my children that they are needed and can give valued service back to the community is an incredible side effect.  I wasn't really predicting that. 

(4) They are building relationships.  When we get in the car after one drop-off, they're excited to hear who the next person is.  Andrew: "Oh, John is next? He was wearing a blue shirt last time.  I remember him."   My children have never once acted like this is some duty in their lives, but something really special to them.  I know it's because it's about people and not just a vague sense of helping.  I like that they are meeting the persons they're helping.

Those are the highlights, but I'm sure there are more.

Miracles really do happen

Today, Simone and Andrew were under each others' skin all....day...long.

Possibly because I was actually well-rested, possibly because of the rockin' moms last night re-fueling my mothering tank, but I was feeling equipped to manage the antagonism.

When they'd get into it, I kept trying new tricks.  Big goofy family hugs, spontaneously announcing that we were all going to make monkey noises, and other such nonsense.  Thank goodness there are no hidden cameras in my house.

Around 5pm, they were arguing over Legos again.

*Deep breath*

I called them over and said: "I remember when Simone was born, and you were sooooo excited to meet her.  I know you two love each other so much.  Do we really want to fight about Legos and squash all that love?''

Then I pulled up the pictures of when Simone was born and Andrew meeting her for the first time.  Thank goodness for my blogginess. ;)

They loved them!  Oohs and aahs.  Then reached over and hugged each other...then ran off to build a "super cool thing" out of Legos together.  They were giggling.   Telling each other how nice the other one's project was, and other such miraculous moments.

The funny part to me, is how I sometimes need to go back to that new-baby-innocence to get back my soft feelings back.  The squishy, sleepy, fat-wristed little bundles. 

Maybe I'll wallpaper our home with newborn pics.  It appears to reset all of our love-tanks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Simone's enthusiastic maternal instinct

Super cute (but slightly awkward in public settings) is my 2-year-old's response when she sees a baby she thinks is cute.  She points at the baby and squeals:

"I want to grow THAT one in my belly!"

Apparently, her biological clock is ticking already.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Just one last "sorry"

I overheard Andrew (4) in the other room, saying exasperatedly to Simone: "Simone!  Don't say 'sorry' all the time."

I called out to him: "An-drew?"

Andrew: "Sorry, Mommy."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My 6yo's greatest regret in life

Jack: "What did you want to be when you grew up?  Back when you were a little girl?"

Me: "A lot of things, I guess.  I still do.  If I could go back and do it all over again, though, I'd be a biologist."

Jack: "If I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't have let Daddy throw me up in the air in the pool that time...that time my swimtrunks fell down and I showed everyone in the pool my heiny."

Motherhood is so easy once they fall asleep

No matter how much my various children might boycott breakfast... refuse to wear a coat to preschool and then whine about how cold it is... leave Wedgits spread from one end of the living room to another... leave dirty clothes *next* to the hamper instead of in it... spill more wild rice across the table than made it to their mouths... squabble the entire way to and from kung-fu practice...and then cry in the office supplies aisle because it's way past their bedtime and their mom had to drag them out for an emergency errand when Dad wasn't home...

They are so.so.so stinkin' beautiful once they are asleep.

Serene, peaceful, perfectly formed little cherubs.  

I need to carry that picture around in my wallet, so I can stare adoringly at it during the 2-year-old's next exhausted, overtired tantrum in Aisle 5.

Motherhood will illuminate every emotion the human is capable of feeling, even ones you didn't know existed before children. 


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unloading groceries and DNA. A rather convoluted post. More so than usual, even.

Sometimes, gratitude comes in strange ways at strange times.  Like unloading groceries from my car at 9:30 at night.  Feeling grateful for the beautiful Virginia beach weather today.  Feeling grateful that a loving husband was upstairs tucking in three healthy children.  Feeling grateful that there is always enough money to buy not just food...but luxuries like organic chicken and pre-cut potato wedges. 

Our life is so filled with abundance that I can feel at a loss as to where to spread the overflow.  I can have moments of feeling ashamed, like I'm not grateful enough.  I'm not aware enough on a minute-by-minute basis.  But at the end of the night, I do understand, on a soul-level, that this is not the life of most of the world. 

What to do with that awareness, I'm not always sure.

Our life isn't opulent, but it feels like it when I'm immersed in the global perspective.  We keep budgets on Excel spreadsheets and work normal-people jobs and try to keep decisions scaled within income. But when we need something, I know we can get it.  If my child needs something, I know we'll make it happen. 

The Lost Boys' Director sent around an email this week.  There's a boy in one of the African boarding schools, a 6th grader, who is losing his eyesight to juvenile glaucoma. All the sight in one eye is gone, the other eye is quickly catching up.  They called his mother to come see him, so he could see his mom one last time before going blind.  We're scrambling to come up with $2000 for a surgery for him ASAP, to spare whatever sight we can. 

When I think of these things going on every second of every day all over the world, it's easy to become overwhelmed.  We can pitch in money to help him, I can forward it to some friends who can help, and we can help this one little boy.  But then there's another behind him, and then another and another. 

I have been carrying this in my heart today, as a backdrop to this completely suburban-mom day. I even used my gift certificate at Starbucks. There are little boys in Kenya going blind, and yet I'm sipping on a Starbucks waiting to have my hair professionally bleached.  Yes, it's odd.

Finding balance in my own life and our own path, while also creating awareness of the Need out there, is likely going to be a lifelong journey.

I know it's because of my brothers' handicaps, my genetics, that I feel this so strongly.  That I MUST do something, even when I don't know what it is.

My DNA was wired to have a 50/50 chance of the Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy they have.  The mental handicaps that came with it for my generation's level of the disorder.  So I can sit here and feel like the ability to create salary or to build a family or all these other variables of my life are actually hard work or effort, but really it was the crapshoot of not inheriting the DNA that gave me a 70 IQ. 

My brothers' paths are 95% about genetics, and not about anything they did or a lack of effort.  Craig collected carts at a grocery store while I was going to graduate school for economics.  Same gene pool, but one little gene out of place. 

DNA, geography, family background, so many things.  And feeling grateful for so many of those variables in my life, I can't just sit and do nothing. 

In my teenage years, there was guilt about it, and there was definitely the threat of it becoming the primary emotion back then.  I don't feel that guilt now.  I feel the responsibility, though.  Somewhere along the way, I think I realized that guilt wasn't super productive.  Throwing myself into helping underdogs seemed to replace that guilt with a feeling of ownership instead.

My children are growing more independent.  No one is nursing anymore, everyone can fall asleep with Daddy, they can play as a trio for long periods in another room.  And my psyche can feel all this Stuff brewing, and it's about to explode all over my life.  I can feel it.  A volcano of life-shifts. 

I think 2011 is going to be a very interesting year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"They're just muscular"

I have really big cheekbones.  If you've noticed it, no worries.  I've not sensitive about it, so you can make fun of my chipmunk-cheeks all you want.  :) 

Current Facebook profile pic at left, as Exhibit A of my Big Cheeks.

I said to Steve, when looking at this picture: "Goodness, I have big cheekbones.  It looks like I have cheek implants."

Steve, trying to be a reassuring husband: "I love your cheeks.  They're not chubby or anything.  They're just...muscular."

Even writing this here, I burst out laughing again.  "Muscular cheeks"??  Goodness, I love this man.  It needs to be part of the permanent file of ridiculous things said in our family, although there's hardly a shortage there.

Aren't you glad you wasted 2 minutes of your life reading about my chipmunk cheeks? :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Private hope and dream"

"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." John F. Kennedy

Aren't I quotey this week?

It was funny that this quote fell into my life this week, because Steve and I have been discussing this all week.  How if you line up 100 people and asked them their "secret career wish" - no matter whether it would be lucrative or even make sense on a logistical level - how you'd likely get 100 different answers.

I'm married to a man who wants to be an auditor and a CPA.  This makes no sense to my non-number brain, how he can dream of spending an entire day crunching numbers.  He's a math teacher for a few years for work-life balance when the children are young, but this is his plan for his life.  Immersed in number-crunching.  I doubt that is many people's dream for their lives.

I want to go to developing countries and set up infrastructures for empowerment - better schools, hospitals. Teaching literacy, business skills, helping start businesses.  Create solid community foundations that are self-sustaining, so they don't need to depend on foreign aid. 

In my mind, I can't imagine this isn't everyone's dream, that's how potent it is to me.  It feels like the most perfect life, sitting in a dusty schoolroom somewhere, helping write curriculum for mothers to start businesses in their area.

I do think this is one of the great miracles of life. How we create in ourselves this blend of all these different areas that might actually make sense for some highly specific niche.  My finance education and my teaching career, along with a hunger for other cultures, all come together to maybe serve an area that could really use it.

Watching my 3 children come into their personality and wirings, it's what I love the most. Jack falling in love with Russian.  His engineering mind that takes any toy and has to turn it into something else.  Andrew's existential, philosophical mind who is drawn to numbers - but also, his highly physical side that loves motion and action.  How will all these different areas of themselves come together, if they're true to themselves?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Opposites attract

Me: "I'm applying as a United Nations volunteer.  Would you go on a peace-keeping mission with me?"

Steve: "A PEACE-keeping mission?  Eff no.  I'm not ready to die.  And you aren't either, I hope."

Me: "Don't worry, I know. I'm only volunteering domestically."  [pause]  "For now."

Steve: "I'd go to a UN conference in Sweden with you, if you want." 

Um, thanks. ;)

Steve is definitely the "Greg" to my "Dharma."  And y'know, I'm not quite sure what I'd do without that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Churchill o' the day

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained.”   Winston Churchill

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I want to marry iTunes and have its babies

Words probably cannot describe how I feel right now...the most perfect exhilaration...but I feel like typing anyway, so I'll just word-vomit on my blog about the wondrousness of today.  Even though Blogspot tells me "wondrousness" isn't a real word.

I can't even take the credit for the wondrousness, because the catalyst was my children banding together and calling my NPR station mean things like "boring"..."too much talking"... and "where's music, like when Daddy drives us places?"  

I started thinking about it, and our schedule of listening to each of their favorite songs on repeat for awhile and then switching to NPR wasn't really that thrilling.  I mean, we talk and things in the car (good lordy, how they talk!).  But maybe they're right and we need more music.

A post on Facebook seeking requests (and getting fabulous ones) and about 5 hours on iTunes - including the time to actually DOWNLOAD iTunes, as I've never even bothered to do it - and suddenly, I get it.

I really, really, really get it.

We are meant to have music.  Even persons like me...who can't carry a tune and lip-synced the flute after the first year of band.  There must be something in our souls that are wired to be hungry for it.  

The type of music might vary, but music is such a balm for the psyche that it must be primal.

I feel like someone just threw me a surprise party with my long-lost friends.  That is, back in the day when you COULD  have long-lost friends, before Facebook made that concept null.  

Some of these songs, I used to have to REWIND MY BOOMBOX CASSETTE PLAYER to listen to it 400 million times.  Rocky Raccoon, Leader of the Band, I'm Gonna Be (500 miles), Your Song, Let It Be.

Our wedding song, Home to You, which is strikingly perfect for our couplehood even after a decade has gone by.  Return to Pooh Corner, which brought me to my hypnotic, peaceful place when I was birthing Andrew. 

Ani DiFranco's, You Had Time, which I had on repeat the entire last month of my time in Prague - when I was getting a major case of cold feet about coming back to Steve and what our relationship would look like after all that time across an ocean from each other.  Listening to that song today, I can still conjure up those feelings I had...and now wish I could go back and tell That Sarahbeth that all would be fine. 

Oh my goodness.  How did I ever think I wasn't a music person?  Maybe I can't create it, sure...but that's completely different from curling up on the couch with my daughter and rocking out to Eye of the Tiger.  Jack's eyes lighting up when he heard Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer.  Simone asking for Bohemian Rhapsody "again and again." 

We are never going without music again.  I will never see that as Steve's area to cover in our life.  I've got my own musical history and personality, and I need to re-discover it. 




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The girl has big dreams

Simone (2): "When I grow up, I go to work."

Me: "What would you like to do at work?"

Simone: "Buy a lunch."

Me: "What kind of lunch?"

Simone: "Umm...a type of sandwich...tacos...things like that."

Me: "What job would you do at your work?"

Simone: "Just eat. And watch the Letter Factory. And do dot-to-dots."

Andrew's vision of fatherhood

After reading about the Coen brothers, I asked Jack and Andrew: “Would you two ever want to run a business together?”

Jack (6.5): “Yeah! Andrew, what business would we run?”

Andrew (4): “Making toys.”

Jack: “Yeah, we could be toymakers. That would be good.”

Simone (2): “And I’D make princesses for my babies.”

Andrew: “You know, Simone, you have to marry a boy to get a baby. You really do.” Face scrunched up like he's disgusted: “Jack and I have to marry GIRLS to have sons.” (This same child makes vomit noises when I kiss his father).

Me again: “What are some things you'd like to do with your sons, do you think?”

Andrew: “Love them. And I’ll show them my glasses. But when I’m BIG, my glasses will be too small. And...my sons will probably just BREAK them.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Where is her mute button?

Sometimes, I feel like a hunted animal cowering behind a bush in the forest.  Except the predator is my 2-year-old daughter, and the bush is my bedroom door that doesn't lock.

Andrew is sick today.  A precious, adorable, heartstring-pulling sick where he mostly sleeps and just wakes occasionally to ask for a sip of water.  If parenthood always consisted of such low standards of me, I'd definitely be in the running for Mother of the Year.

We canceled our plans and I'm still in my flannel PJs. His limp, sleepy, feverish little body covered in PJs just makes me want to crawl into bed and snuggle him back to health.  He's so stinkin' adorable.

Simone is attempting to squash our family's scheme to sit home and do nothing, with her little flitting, singing, dancing, jumping, chatting little self.  I'm feeling impatient with her inability to sit still and veg out in front of Thumbelina. Or her inability to get her own damn lunch.

Jack has watched so many movies today that I've lost count.  A few movies ago was something about giant arachnids throwing meteors at Earth, and I sat next to him for awhile to watch it and bond with him.  He might  be fighting something too, because he's low-maintenance, sendentary, and completely adorable.

Simone, on the other hand, has just been chasing me around the house announcing her actions like a play-by-play commentary.

I ate all my pasta, Mommy.
Can you turn on the light, I have to go pee.
Is there any poop on my butt?
Why is there a zebra on my cup?
Who broke this piece of paper?
Why does my butt do this? (and then does a little booty-dance) 
I talkin' REAL quiet so I don't wake up Andrew. (Um, no.  You're not.)
Do you want your glasses?
Do you want your drink?
Do you want your slippers?

Actually, no.  I really just want my chatty child to go to sleep, so I can snuggle with my low-maintenance sick ones.

So I shut my bedroom door and hide.  Hoping if I'm out of sight, I'd be out of mind.  And then I hear footsteps in the hallway and a little girl singing the alphabet song, and my heart freezes in terror.

She's back.

The door flings open.  "CAN I HAVE SOME FOOD?"  Andrew wakes up.

I tell her I think there's something shiny and pink in the living room, and she goes away for a few seconds to check.

"I CAN'T FIND IT, MOMMY!"

I have a very bad attitude today.  I left a voice mail for Steve, muttering something about how grateful I am for my energetic, curious, gregarious children.  And that we are battling only minor feverish sleeps and not real illnesses.  More of a reminder to myself than to him, since he couldn't even understand my mumbling recording.

But my attempt at an attitude adjustment didn't work. 

If we ever genetically modify human beings, my first request would be a mute button.  Selectively used, of course.  But there should at least be the option.

My ridiculous family

We found "MadMenYourself" online today, and spent an embarrassing amount of time as a family creating pictures.  Well, not Steve. He's too mature for such things (and he has a job), but he did think his child-designed portrait was funny.  Especially since they gave him a donut. :)

You pick hair style and color, nose and mouth, everything.  All three kids took their choices so seriously.  Like they were doing some real and important.  When you get to Simone's, below, you'll see why this is particularly funny.  Andrew wanted to represent the glasses he just got today, and wanted to wear a "gentleman suit."  Jack is a pirate. 

Here, apparently, is how my children view our family:





































Ah, Simone. My darling girl, who spent long periods of serious contemplation picking out her cigarette, her pink nightie, her glasses...and her "cute juice" (aka, a Bloody Mary). When she was done she propped her little head in her hands and stared adoringly at the screen. "I look boo-tee-full."



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Unexpected Fairy Tales

I've been thinking a lot about fairy tales since Tangled.  I've been thinking about how I actually do believe in fairy tales.  And how I want my children to believe in them, also.  And I'm not sure that's a bad thing. 

I think the problem is when we think everyone's fairy tale should look the same.  Or that someone else should create it for us.  Or that the fairy tale can't change.  Or even that it should be perfect.

A lot of conditions.

The truth is, I really do love my fairy tale life.  And I know it wouldn't be someone else's fairy tale.  But I think that's how I know it's mine.  Because I love it no matter what anyone else tells me.  No matter what anyone else does.  No matter how different my path might look from everyone else I see, this is the one I choose.

The fairy tale Steve and I set out to create isn't the one we're living, but I like that.  I like that it's fluid and changing and keeps evolving as we evolve.  Dumping our belongings out of our life like a ship going down is definitely not everyone's fairy tale.  But when I picture my little pod of loved ones in a tent in Europe, a boat in the gulf, or an RV across the country...that IS my fairy-tale.

I want people, not things.  I want experiences, not stability.  This is my fairy-tale, designed around Steve's and my shared belief:  If there's stability within the family, then all the other variables (geography, home, careers) are just details.  I could be a lot of jobs in a lot of places in any country in the world.  But if I come home to these three children and Steve, then it doesn't much matter.

I don't think it's "settling" that my most precious times with my Prince Charming are staying up WAY too late talking, when we both know he needs to get up at 5AM...but we can't stop saying one more thing.  And then another and another.  I love that my Prince is so perfect for me, no matter how crabby or irritable we can be with each other sometimes, that not one person on Earth could convince me there's someone better out there for me.

This is where I want to be.

I didn't think children were part of my fairy tale, but I always assumed I'd eventually have them. That some mystical maternal instinct would kick in and I'd find all babies beautiful and perfect.  Turns out, that didn't entirely happen until I had my own, and now I realize that creating life is the most incredible honor the world could possibly have given me. 

And this little daughter on my lap, stroking my face and muttering in my ear while I type?  Not one person on Earth could convince me there's a more beautiful, intelligent, sweeter, funnier little fairy-baby than this sweet little Simone. 

This is where I want to be.

Marriage and three babies isn't everyone's fairy tale, and perhaps I could have been just as happy roaming the planet with my backpack and tent and doing war journalism. The vision I thought I had for myself, pre-Steve. 

But when I send my children out into the world, I want to tell them to create a life that makes them FEEL like it's a fairy tale, no matter what anyone else does or says.  That they can think of their dream job, then do what it takes to get there.  Schooling, unpaid internships living on ramen noodles, whatever.  Only marry someone who looks at them like they are cherished and adored, and makes my child feel like he or she *IS* the only person they could have married. 

Hold out for fabulous, and I think that's what makes it a fairy-tale.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The day has FINALLY arrived

I don't think I was sent to the world to make movies, but I might have been sent to watch them.  I love them.  Analyzing scripts, pulling out themes, admiring graphics I never could have made.

Cinema just amazes me.  When it's done right, it just knocks me sideways.  I sat through 3D Avatar just breathless, and thought it was one of the most magical things I'd ever seen.  I came home and dove into James Cameron's biography.  What created that genius? 

I also love "Making Of" documentaries about movies, and how MUCH time/effort/brilliance went into making them.If one of my children becomes a film-maker, it would be the proudest moment of my life.

Up until about this last month in parenting, I would have been terrified to take all three to the movies without back-up from Steve. 

Okay, "terrified" is a strong word.  But help me think of some emotion that is really, really bad. :)

Steve took the boys to see Tron last weekend, and Simone was heartbroken to be left behind. I think the days of her not realizing what's going on are OVER.  So I showed her trailers of Tangled on my computer, thanks to her current love of princesses, and we made plans to see it on Monday.  Several things went awry, so we went today instead.

I am so in love with the realization that it was *awesome* to have all three kids at a movie.  We loved it!  No one had to go pee (thanks to a right-before-movie-bathroom-break), we brought plenty of food in, and only in the last 15 minutes did Simone get squirmy.

Fabulous milestone in my mothering career.

I think we might have a standing date to go to the dollar-cinema every Wednesday, if it keeps going this well.

Simone might be a future cinema-lover herself, as she's already reviewing movies: "It was really loud and there weren't enough princesses, but I still want to see it ten and a million times."

My favorite part was during a long stretch of sword-fighting, when she leaned in and said: "This is NOT a princess movie."  She sounded so betrayed.  I love having a 2-year-old daughter.  She keeps surprising me with her funny thoughts and how GIRL she is. I love it.

Tomorrow: A family outing to see MegaMind at Cinema Cafe.

Bigger kids are so much fun.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Emergency Sunrise

I was standing at the refrigerator at dawn this morning, and caught a glimpse of the sky through the window.  Sunrise!  Pinks and golds and radiant reds filled the sky.  It was amazing.  I was disappointed the towering oceanfront hotels were covering up the best part...and then I had a thought:

"Kids, quick!  Get on your clothes and jackets...we're going over to the beach to watch the sunrise."

The scramble was hilarious.  Andrew threw on a Buzz Lightyear suit and cowboy boots.  I threw on the first clothes I found: cropped spandex pants, white athletic socks and my clogs, with my gray wool coat thrown over it.  Simone put on her dress-up princess shoes with feathers and heels.  Jack wore his PJ top and some sweatpants and his parka.

I threw the little ones in the stroller and we RAN breathless down Atlantic Avenue to get to the other side of the oceanfront hotels in time.

Spectacularly gorgeous.  It's mind-blowing, really, how breathtaking the world can be.  I need to see more sunrises.

Thoughts:

(1) Thank goodness we were the ONLY ones on the oceanfront at that point, as we looked like we'd dressed out of the dumpsters, and our hair was straight out of bed.  If we'd been spotted, someone would have likely given us a dollar and a sandwich.

(2) I'm grateful my lungs didn't shatter from breathing the COLD morning air as we ran and laughed the whole way over there.

(3) For as strange, chaotic, and silly the whole scenario was...it felt really good to do something strange, chaotic and silly with the kids.  We need more mornings like that.

(4) The universe is a freakin' gorgeous place to live.  I feel so honored sitting front-row to miracles like oceanfront sunrises, little boys wearing Buzz Lightyear suits, and a little girl in love with her feather boa and high heeled plastic shoes.

Life is good.

Simone

In the fall, when I asked Simone (2y4m) what she wanted for Christmas, she said: "To go to school."  Her deepest heartbreak at co-op is that she isn't old enough for classes, like the boys.  She can't go until fall.

So when Jackie said she could be in the Montessori class with Andrew on Thursdays, I jumped on it.

I deliberately didn't tell Simone the plan before today, because I didn't want to hear about it non-stop.  Yes, I'm lazy like that. 

So today I said: "Guess what! You're such a big girl that you get to start preschool tomorrow!"

Simone's first question, quite seriously: "What's going to be in my lunch bag?"

Words cannot describe how much I love this little stinker girl.

Later we were snuggling and I said: "Wow, I'm going to miss you tomorrow!"

Simone: "Wait. When I'm at pre-school?  You're going to be gone?"  The funny part is, this new piece of news sounded super-exciting to her.  Without waiting for me to answer she kept chatting away:  "And then you're going to pick me UP?  And give me a big hug?  Oh yeah, you're going to do that!" 

And then ran off to tell Daddy that she gets to go to school all by herself.

My little baby girl.   It really does go so fast.  In *this* blink of an eye, it's a one-day-a-week Montessori class for my 2 year old.

A few more blinks of an eye: Backpacking Europe, out of state college, who knows.  I imagine the boundaries are endless with this little sprite.

Travel Notes: Las Vegas with Children

It's a bit different trip than the one outlined in The Hangover...but still pretty fun. :)  Steve hadn't been to Las Vegas, and I hadn't been since childhood.  The variables for success seemed stacked against us:  We don't really care about gambling, and are only moderate drinkers.  Oh yes, and we had a 6, 4, and 2yo with us.

And yet, it was completely awesome. 

These are the things we did, but there were many things we ended up missing, even being there a week.  We could easily have been there another week and not run out.  That city is jam-packed with fabulousness.

***WHERE TO STAY***

Everything I read pointed us to Circus Circus or Excalibur for family-friendliness, but once my boys saw the castle pictures of Excalibur, the vote was cast in stone.  We saw oodles of kids there.

I'd heard Excalibur was a bit run-down, so I made sure to reserve the newly renovated Widescreen Tower Rooms.  Our rooms were nice, seemed clean, and a good price. 

The location was excellent.  Right on the strip, and close to MGM (lion habitat in the lobby), Luxor (looks like a pyramid), and Mandalay Bay (Shark Reef Aquarium in resort, $16.95/adults).

Excalibur had a kiddie arcade in the basement, which the kids loved.  We did the Polar Express 4-D theater ride (in the arcade) on Christmas Day, where the seats move and it blows real snow at you.  $15/ticket.  I'm not a huge fan of kiddie-arcades (high cost to win crappy stuffed animals you could buy cheaper at the dollar store), but I reserved my minimalist/frugal judgments and let the kids have fun there.  :)  They really *did* have a blast.

For full analysis value: There was a "Dick's Last Resort" bar in Excalibur that could be awkward if your children really process a lot of sexual innuendo and you have issue with that.  All the awkward things went over my children's head, even things Jack could read.  It's completely possible to stay at Excalibur and bypass Dick's, though. The place is gigantic!

If we do it again with kids, we might try staying at Treasure Island (other end of the strip, and pirate themed).  If I go back with just Steve, I really liked Venetian (we went to Venice on our honeymoon, so it'd be appropriate) and MGM had great restaurants for dates.

Note also: I've read good things about the Station group casinos (Sunset Station, Red Rock Resort, and Green Valley Ranch) as having childcare, movie theaters, and great pool facilities and arcades. 

***WHERE TO EAT***

My kids adored the all-you-can-eat buffet at Excalibur, and we got the all-day passes for $24.95 on 3 days out of the week. Kids under 4 eat free. Not a bad deal, especially considering how much my children gorged out on food. :)

We ate at Rainforest Cafe in MGM, which we all love.  If you haven't been to a Rainforest Cafe, definitely check one out.  They keep the kids occupied with all the jungle theme decorations, and the food is excellent.

We meant to eat at the Elephant Bar and ran out of time, but it's something else to keep in mind.  I also wish we'd gone to Planet Hollywood, since my boys love movies and would recognize a lot of the artifacts.

***WHAT TO DO***

 SHOWS

We bought tickets for Tournament of Kings, which is part dinner, part show.  Medieval knights on real horses battled a "dark knight."  Impressive effects, and Simone was pleased they had groups of dancing princesses to break up all that sword-play.  I definitely recommend this if your children are into knights and medieval play.  We all loved it.

Other shows that are supposed to be good for families:
Blue Man Group (in hindsight, we should have gone), Mystere from Cirque de Soleil, and magic shows like Nathan Burton or Mac King. 

LOBBY EXHIBITS:
  • MGM Lion Habitat (free).  We got to see a 12 week old baby cub.  Adorable!
  • Mandalay Bay: Aquarium in the lobby is free, but the Shark Reef Aquarium exhibit is not ($16.95/adult)
  • Mirage: Until 3:30pm, you can see the dolphins and tigers at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.  From 6 until 11pm (on the hour), you can see the volcano erupt outside of the hotel.  Both are free.
  • Live flamingos at The Flamingo
  • Pirate ships and free pirate show at Treasure Island
  • For $16/person, you can do gondola rides at The Venetian. Children under 2 are free.

***Things I hoped to see but we ran out of time***

Madame Tussaud's Interactive Wax Museum at the Venetian
Lied Children's Museum
Ethel M Chocolate Factory

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Corn dog moments

Must.remember:

Andrew had his first corn dog in Las Vegas.  He thought it was pretty cool that it was on a stick, and then started to "unwrap" the breading like it was a present. 

His eyes got SO BIG and he said in awe:

"Oh...my...goodness!  There is a HOT DOG in here!"

Muffin top morning

Last night, we decided we were going to have a real breakfast this morning.  It's rare to have a weekday where we don't have to be somewhere until 1:00, like today, so we were going to do it up right.  The kids picked out the menu last night: Simone wanted bacon, Jack wanted broccoli and hash browns, and Andrew wanted muffins.

Fast forward to this morning, and Simone is shrieking about hash browns being on her plate, and Andrew was angry and crying that I just bought the frozen "muffin tops" and not real muffins.

Not okay.

I started into my eery-calm-but-don't-mess-with-mama voice:

"I am not happy right now.  At all.  You *don't* have to like the food, but you have to be respectful. This family is kind to each other. If you drew me a picture or made me a breakfast, I would never-ever treat you this way about it."

Simone went completely calm.  Then looked at me very seriously and said: "Mommy.  I too young to cook."