Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Momiversity: The Collapse of Parenting

I picked up this book because a friend had mentioned it and because Leonard Sax is a well-known author of parenting books, and well, I'm kind of a parenting book junkie.

In this book that just came out this year, Sax, a family doctor, psychologist and father, tackles pretty much everything all at once. It was like a giant manifesto of his parenting philosophy and it felt like he was verbally vomiting all the things he wanted to tell the parents he saw during his decades of medical practice.

And I quite enjoyed it.

The first half of the book is dedicated to the most common "problems" he sees with kids today. The first is what he calls the "culture of disrespect". He kind of sounds like an old grandpa that starts every sentence with "In my day...[insert example of how kids never disrespected their elders or complained about working hard, etc.]"

His general point was that kids now care more about what their peers think than what their parents think. This he attributes to the dislocation of a child's primary attachment from parent to peers. He has observed this happening as early as 8 or 9 years old. "For the first time in history," Sax quotes another author saying, "young people are turning for instruction, modeling and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers, and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role--their own peers."

And how does this happen? Sax believes it's because many parents abdicate their roles as authorities over their children. Instead of taking their rightful role as limit-setter, giver of firm commands, and makers of the law, parents are misguided into thinking it's best to give their kids "independence" and let them choose their own values with which to guide themselves. Alternatively it may happen if the parent is simply afraid to anger the child and lose the child's affections.

The next "problem" he notes is kids being overweight. Again, the grandpa voice - in 1970 only 4 percent of American children 5 to 11 were obese. In 2008 almost 20 percent were obese.

The reasons for this are pretty cut and dry to Sax:
(1) kids eat too much junk,
(2) kids don't do enough physical activity (because screen time), and
(3) kids don't sleep enough

And underlying all of this is again, parent abdicating authority and not setting proper limits for their kids.

The next "problem" Sad addresses is why so many kids are on medication. Kids are being treated for bipolar disorder and ADHD at record rates and Sax has some compelling data to show that it is indeed an over-diagnosis that had its origins in faulty research data propagated by scientists that were financially incentivized by pharmaceutical companies.

Sax believes the real problem is excessive video-game playing, severe sleep deprivation, and again, permissive parenting that fails to set firm limits for behavior.

The last "problem" Sax addresses is why kids are so fragile. They seem to crumple at the mere touch of criticism. One failed quiz and some kids seem to despair of life itself. Sax attributes this to kids valuing the opinions of peers or their own self-constructed self-concept more than they care about the good regard of their parents and other adults. This creates a "cult of success" because success is the easiest way to impress your peers and yourself.

The solution? Kids need to feel secure in the unconditional acceptance of their parents, and obviously they need to respect their parent's opinions in the first place. Not the most satisfying answer to me, but at least it gives you somewhere to begin.

In the second half of the book Sax rolls out his 3-part solution to all of the problems facing kids today. And it's totally not what you'd expect.

Unlike the vast majority of parenting advice out there, Sax's solutions are a sucker-punch to the Kantian/Enlightenment categories we've all come to unconsciously accept in polite secular society. Instead of sticking with "scientific facts" in the acceptable public sphere of discourse, Sax reaches right into the private sphere of socially constructed "values". Sacred bleu!

Sax recommends that parents:
(1) Teach humility,
(2) Enjoy their kids, and
(3) Teach them the meaning of life


Most unscientific advice ever...but it has the ring of moral intuitive truth to it...but maybe that's just because it's borrowing constructs from a post-Judeo-Christian society...

Either way, this is how Sax proposes a parent does each of the 3 prescriptions:

(1) How to teach humility - give your kids menial chores to do. Strongly limit their time on social media to keep them out of a culture of self-absorption. And spend lots of time in nature so the vastness of creation can give your kid perspective of his relative smallness.

(2) How to enjoy your kids - Don't overschedule your kids in activities. Spend time doing fun stuff with them.

(3) How to teach kids the meaning of life - First, some parenting tenets to AVOID...

Do NOT have the mentality of the common American Dream - the point of life is to (1) work hard in school to get into a top college; (2) go to a top college to get a lucrative job; and (3) get a lucrative job to make a good living and thereby be happy.

Sax notes that all 3 of those assumptions are FALSE. Just because you work hard, doesn't mean you'll get into a good college. And just because you go to a good college doesn't mean you'll end up making high six figures. And just because you make high six figures doesn't mean you'll be happy and fulfilled at all.

Here's another common American tenet to avoid - making personal success the highest goal for your child. Life should not be about what you DO (accomplishments), but who you ARE (character).

So what is the point of everything? Why work hard in school? Why get good grades?

Sax offers these 3 reasons:
1. meaningful work
2. a person to love, and
3. a cause to embrace

Is that the secret sauce to human flourishing?

If so, our culture is really failing our kids.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our First Date

A few weeks ago I had a mild panic attack as I considered how long it had been since I actually had some quality one-on-one time with Judah. A year ago? Over a year ago? Basically ever since Noah stopped napping.

At this rate, my panicked head calculated, he will become a teenager before I've had the chance to develop strong relational bonds with him, and then he'll prefer the company of his peers over mine, and I'll lose whatever influence I could've ever hoped to have had over him, and he'll fall down a pit of depression and addiction and/or video gaming and drugs! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

So after I got my heart rate back down to normal, I told the Spouse I wanted to institute special one-on-one times with the kids. We'll each take a kid once a week or so and hang out with them for about 2 hours. No chores. No errands. Just being together.

And so that's just what we did.

We told the kids about the upcoming "dates" and Judah especially was happily anticipating it. Just to see him looking forward to it so much made me feel already that (a) this was a good thing to do and (b) long over due.  Noah was like, meh, whatever.

Judah looks so happy to not have Noah around, ha!

I decided to take Judah hiking since he loves nature and becomes much more unguarded in the woods. We talked about school and he told me how everything was going well except that it was hard for him to find play mates during recess.

He asked why nobody wanted to play with him. Why some kids were popular but he was not. He shared how bad he feels when everyone walks back to class in groups of twos and threes while he faces the long walk of shame alone.

Once he asked his classmates to wait for him so that he could go back and get his water bottle but no one waited. He described that incident with a rhetorical flourish I will always remember with pride - Mommy, today, I felt like dust. Dust!

Great simile son!

I asked Judah what things I could do to make him feel more loved. He seems so different from my familiar toddler/preschooler who loved huggle snuggles and asked incessantly for me to play with him. He asks for so little now, I don't really know what he needs anymore.

But much to my surprise he replied, Hugs and kisses!

Well, I guess somethings don't change all that quickly. I guess what I interpreted as a diminished need for physical affection was really just a big kid feeling like his mom was too busy to sit and hug for awhile. Which wouldn't be wrong. But should be fixed.

After our walk, I let him chose where to eat and he predictably chose his favorite "restaurant" - Starbucks, and ordered his favorite "meal" - cream cheese and bagel and a chocolate croissant. Our kids are on the opposite of the low-carb diet, obviously.

The entire time, he was aglow in a way that I haven't seen for a long time. He was happy. Really, really happy. Beaming, actually.

And even after our date, the after-glow continued for several days. He was much more affectionate than usual and called me his "date-buddy" frequently. It's a little weird, but also very sweet.

I was surprised when sometime in the middle of our date, he did something he hadn't done for over a year--stooped down to pick a flower for me.

I thought we were done with that phase. The phase where he showers me with love scribbles and flowering weeds and loves me to the moon and back and needs lots of assurance that I feel the same way.

But no, we're not. And I'm so glad for it...and to have found that out before it was too late.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Momiversity: Your Six Year Old, Loving and Defiant

I picked up this book for obvious reasons - I have a six year old. But I didn't find it to be that helpful. It's full of very broad generalities that didn't really resonate with my observations of Judah and in the end I feel like I read about everything and nothing.

But I'm going to blog about it ANYWAY because otherwise it feels like I just wasted 5 hours of my life.

So...random snippets:

--"Five was lovable...early Six was handful...Six and a half can be truly gorgeous. What makes him so much fun? His lively intellectuality for one thing. Intellectual tasks are now a challenge. He loves to count for you, loves to say his ABCs..."

Uh, my THREE year old loves to count for me and say his ABC's. I really don't see how this just pertains to Six and a half year olds...

--"Five may think you're perfect. Seven won't be quite sure. But the Six and a half year old child likes you and you like him. No question. There is a warmth at this age quite unlike anything seen at most other ages."

Uh, what does that even mean? We like each other...okay...

--"Parents...looking back, remember their Six year old as argumentative, oppositional, violent, tantrumy, difficult. And then they think of Seven as silent, withdrawn, suspicious, complaining."

Uh, I remember my TWO year old as argumentative, oppositional, violent, tantrumy and difficult. Again, how does this really just pertain to 6 year olds? And wow, get ready for those moody 7 year olds!

One chapter of the book I did think was helpful, was regarding "Techniques" to handle your kid:

--Praise! If your kid is being a monster, a word of praise (however difficult to dig up) can work miracles in turning the ship around.

--Chances. If your kid blatantly resists your instruction, tell him he has 3 chances to comply. A face-saving way to preserve his autonomy and your authority.

--Counting. Let's see if you can do _____ before I count to 10. Judah responds really quickly to this because it sounds like a challenge - and he hates to lose challenges. But it also makes him surly because deep down he can't help but feel coerced, which truly he is.

--Bargain. If you do this, I'll give you that. The authors acknowledge this is basically bribing your kid to comply, and warns that it shouldn't always be used. But it works! I save my bribes, er, bargains, for only the most crucial and onerous tasks, which for Judah, is practicing his Chinese lessons.

--The remaining techniques - Give in, isolation, and ignoring - speak for themselves. In general, the authors counsel you to just let things go. Don't sweat the small stuff. Six year olds have atrocious table manners and zero awareness of the giant messes they make. Pick your battles.

My favorite part of the book, and the only one that made me glad to have read it, came at the Q&A part in the end. The authors reply to various letters sent in by parents and one of them addressed the biggest problem I've had with Judah ever since he was born - and something that exploited my greatest insecurity - feeling like I'm a bad mom because my kid doesn't think I love him.

I feel like I could've written this letter:

Dear Doctors:

My son, Frank, is Six and a half years old. He is a normal child in every way and is also a very good child...The problem is he says I don't love him. Even when he is just sitting around, all of a sudden he will say, "I love you but you don't love me." I tell him this is not true, but he insists it is...

The authors replied:

It is natural and reasonable (i.e., feeling that he is not loved as much as he loves) but you should not take it too seriously. You can talk with him about it to a certain extent. Tell him this is the way lots of children feel and that usually (and especially in his own case) it is not true. You do love him....

Chances are he just wants a little special reassurance....Going-to-bed time, with a Six year old, is a specially good time for a little snuggling and affectionate talk. In the daytime, when he makes his complaint just take him on your lap and talk about what a good little boy he is and how glad you are that you have him. Tell him how much you and his dad think of him....

Above all, try not to feel hurt that he talks this way. It is, with most children, just a part of growing up.

Thank you doctors! It's just such a relief to know I'm not the only one.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Small, Grey, and Bright-eyed

Small, grey and bright-eyed.

Small, grey and bright-eyed, he repeated on the drive home from preschool.

Mommy, what does bright-eyed mean? means like happy and healthy.

Oh. You are big, peach and bright-eyed Mommy.

Uh...thanks Noah.

Another day, another flower from Noah to tuck behind my ear.

And you my love, are the reason why I am bright-eyed much of the time. Noah, for all his fussiness and inflexibility is still ridiculously delicious and charming to me.

He is a master of communication (as demonstrated above for his love of new words and phrases) and I often find myself adopting his own made-up conventions. In particular, he invented a way to express EXTREME approval - the Four Thumbs Up - in which you give two thumbs up twice.

Simple and effective, no?

I also often adopt his thumb-to-the-side convention to signify moderate approval. As in, Noah, do you like the new noodles I cooked for you?

I like it [side-thumb] medium, Mommy.

And it isn't just me. On the rare occasions Judah and I are alone, Judah often asks me - Mommy, tell me what Noah says. I want to hear more about him. What does he tell you?

Such is the ridiculous delight that issues forth from Noah's little mouth.

Aside from his creative expressions, he also delights me daily with flowers. Practically every day Noah will grab a dandelion or daisy off some green field and present it to me as a token of his love. Some days I have giant handfuls. Other days I have bright fuschia blooms from a neighbor's prized bush - sorry neighbors!

It never fails to remind me of his older brother, who used to do the exact same thing, but hasn't done it for over a year.

Six year olds are just not as obsessed with their mothers as 3 year olds, alas. When I get home from an outing Judah barely lifts his head in acknowledgement whereas Noah will stop, drop and barrel down the stairs to me, giggling and chortling the whole way.

Oh how quickly the window closes for me to feel like a rock star to my kids.

And so, with a relish that I didn't have with Judah, I embrace his fierce embrace. I know how precious and truly short-lived it is now.

And how it will never, ever, ever be quite like this again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Stuff of Nightmares

Today I realized I am literally my child's worst nightmare.

When Judah awoke this morning, I asked him, as I usually do, how his sleep was and if he had any dreams.

I had a nightmare mommy. You were really mad and yelling at me.

Uh, maybe that's because I AM always yelling at him. But not really because I'm mad at him. It's mostly because Noah is causing great disruption and WE ARE LATE!!!! And I'm flustered and annoyed at Noah, but everyone gets a taste of my scattershot wrath.

Judah endures yet another unpleasant trip - you and me, both kid.

But Judah's nightmare recounting really sobered me up.

I realize I yell at the kids all day, every day.




Actually, you can substitute any variety time-sensitive events for "school" - church, Chinese lessons, doctor appointments, etc.

If we need to be somewhere at a definite time, there's one thing the kids can count on - Mom will be yelling.

I really really REALLY need to plan more margin into our departure times. But as someone who loves efficiency, it totally offends me that I have to allot 10 minutes to the mere putting on of socks and shoes and a jacket. I'm not even exaggerating just a little bit!

Ten minutes! For what normal people can do in 30 seconds!!!! But the alternative is, apparently, a nightmare.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Reign of King Noah

Recently, Noah's been obsessed with being a king.

It started a few weeks ago when I mentioned that kings have a lot of treasure and instantly something clicked inside him. Now he often tells me he wants to be a king when he grows up and will elaborate in great detail:

When I'm king, I'll sleep in a...giant king bed.
And in the day time I'll sit in a...king chair.
Everything will be soft and cushiony, my king bed, my king chair, and even the floor and ceiling of my palace.

You can bring me green jewels.
And Judah can bring me silver jewels.
And daddy can bring me gold jewels.

And I'm going to be a good king.
I'll keep some money for myself.
And I'll give a little bit to the children.
And I'll give a little bit to the poor - small jewels, not my silver and gold ones.

And there you have, the benevolent reign of Noah.

But in reality, being with Noah is more like being under a reign of terror.

Noah on his king bed - well, actually my king bed - contemplating a cushy life

Noah has entered a very inflexible and grumpy phase of his life. Everything displeases him and his displeasure lasts for hours.

Just yesterday he dropped a sticker in the toilet while he was pooping and insisted that I get it back for him. When I explained that it was soiled and that I would absolutely not get it back for him, he exploded in rage.

A few days before that, he asked me to hand him his breakfast bar. I opened the wrapper and handed it to him and he immediately melted down in rage. No! No! No! I didn't want you to open the wrapper!!!!! he screamed while I stood there annoyed and perplexed.

But don't you want to eat it? I asked.

No! I wanted to just hold it! And NOW I want to eat.

Okay, well just eat it now.

No! You opened the wrapper too soon!!!!!!

Somehow that extra 30 seconds of exposure to the elements rendered that bar unfit to eat for King Noah. Noah promptly asked me for a new one. In horror, I realized that that was the last bar in the box and told him so.

For the next 5 hours, I kid you not, Noah repeatedly demanded that I go to the store and buy him a new box of the exact same kind of breakfast bar, refusing any substitute food. The kid would NOT let it go.

When Noah kvetches about something, which he does many times a day, he has a standard script that goes something like this:

I'm sad Mommy. I'm going to be sad forever. Even in God's new world, I'll still be sad. My whole day is sad. (repeat on endless loop).

And so, when I found myself near a drugstore later that day, I popped in with Noah to buy him his stupid breakfast bar. Of course the little 'good parenting' voice inside my head was telling me - don't do this! You're giving into bad behavior! You're reinforcing that whining works! You're creating a monster!

But all the other parts of my brain were saying - oh good grief! LET IT JUST END!!!!!

And so I bought him his bar. He asked for me to hand it to him. I gingerly handed it over like a live grenade - WITH the wrapper still intact.

He asked me to open the wrapper for him.

I double-checked and confirmed that indeed - you want me to open the wrapper for you? Right now? Or later?

Right now, he said.

And even then, I tensed my shoulders and sucked in my breath post-traumatically as I tore open the wrapper.

He smiled and reached for the bar and ate a few bites.

And I lived to serve another day.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Momiversity: Girls and Sex

I recently read Peggy Orenstein's fantastic journalistic book on the sex culture of girls between 15 - 20 years old.

At first it seems completely random that I would pick this book up since (a) I don't have girls and (b) I don't have teens. But it actually makes sense when you consider that I'm officially old. And as an old-timer, I want to understand the younger generation. What are those whipper-snappers up to?

I want to be informed about youth culture since that's the missing link between me and my kids, and since I hate youtube and instagram and twitter and being on the internet in general, I have to get my data from good ol' fashioned books - harrumph! Back in my day, we read books! Real books with pages. That you flipped. One by one. Dang it!

And so I picked up this fabulous book that just came out a few months ago. Orenstein is a prominent journalist for publications like the New York Times Magazine and has written broadly about girls and culture. She interviewed 70+ girls, mostly from wealthy Bay Area neighborhoods, and includes all facets of sexuality in her book - views on sex, sexual experiences, assault and rape, coming out as gay, etc.

It was...informative.


And...I'm just a little bit glad I don't have girls.

There's no way I can sum up this weighty book in a single post, but here's my top 3 takeaways:

(1) Looking Hot
Orenstein shows how prevalent and pervasive and all-consuming the cultural message is for girls - your value is significantly based on how hot you look (hot as defined by Victoria Secret models). Whether you are a teen, a young adult, a senator, a business woman, a scientist, a presidential candidate - your hotness is always up for evaluation.

The girls in Orenstein's book will say, matter of factly, that they're having a good day because they feel like they look hot that day. Or they were having a bad day because they felt insecure about their looks that day.

This is not a surprising insight. Nor is it a new revelation. It's just...really, really sad.

(2) Porn
Porn is pervasive. Most teenage boys consume so much porn that there is now an epidemic of porn-induced erectile dysfunction due to the inability to feel any sexual stimulation outside of watching porn.

But what was most disturbing to me was Orenstein's very graphic description of the typical content of porn. I always, in my completely innocent head, imagined it was just a very long extended version of the stuff I see in regular movies. Nope. Wrong. Totally wrong.

It is, in a nutshell, degradation of women as titillation. The more degrading, the more titillating.

This may not be surprising or novel. But it is, again...really, really sad. Especially when you consider how this form of media automatically becomes a social script for young men.

(3) College
Apparently the run of the mill female college experience goes like this on the weekends:
Drink 3-4 shots with your friends before going to a frat party (aka pre-gaming).
Drink 3-4 more shots at the frat party.
Dance, make-out, fool around at the frat party.
Drink more shots.
Lose track of how many shots you've had.
Lose track of everything.
Wake up the next day feeling not great (best case scenario) or like you had non-consensual sex (one of the worse case scenarios).

This also is probably not surprising, but again, very heartbreaking.

And there you have it.
Girls and sex.

Hide your daughters.

Actually, Orenstein advocates the opposite of hiding. She thinks one of the main contributors to this broken culture is the lack of parental guidance and instruction on sex. Most parents, whether conservative or liberal (yes! they have one thing in common when it comes to sex!) do not tell their daughters anything about sex or their bodies beyond the typical 5 minute spiel about waiting until you feel ready, being safe, using a form of birth control, etc.

And so girls are left adrift to find out and explore for themselves.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Six Year Old Version

Judah recently turned the big SIX and I'm still reeling at the thought.

Almost every day concludes with me staring at this tall lanky boy and wondering - did I ever cradle you in my arms? (yes) Were you ever ridiculously chubby? (yes) How can you be such a fully formed human being when for so long you were just a sweet little blob?

As a baby and toddler Judah was incredibly demanding, constantly talking, wanting to be interacted with, eschewing all toys for PEOPLE. REAL PEOPLE ONLY! Okay, actually, it was more like MOMMY. MOMMY ONLY. ALL THE TIME.

I used to despair that I would ever get more than 10 seconds of breathing space from him. No seriously, I often Googled "emotionally needy child" in search of relief.

And now. Now, he is my flexible, easy-going, mellow, compassionate, eager to please guy who is happy to spend long hours doing his own thing. I don't even know this guy. Seriously, some aliens came in the night and replaced him.

So here he is at Six!

See the resemblance? The night you turned six, in the blink of an eye.

At the beginning of his 5th year Judah was sure he wanted to be a ninja assassin and therefore would not get married as to not risk leaving his poor wife bereaved, you know, an assassin being such a dangerous line of work.

Judah and sweet friends at his much belated party

And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of his 5th year, Judah declared he was going to be a home-stay dad (he means stay-at-home dad), a throw-back to his aspirations from his 4 year old self. Just like that, he wanted a life of domesticity and care-taking.

And then, just a few weeks ago, Judah announced that his one goal in life was to be a jungle survivalist. He wants to learn how to live by himself in the wild - hunt, build fires, make camp, forage for food, etc. I have to say, this last career change has really caught me by surprise.

And I'm a little sad that he so badly seeks isolation. So I asked if I could accompany him on his jungle adventures and he said, yes. But only me.

And then I remembered how I wanted to be a cowgirl and live 3 hours away from civilization on a remote homestead in which I grew my own food and raised and butchered my own livestock and suddenly, Judah's aspirations aren't seeming so weird to me anymore.

Noah takes out all his jealous rage on Judah's pinata - he still claims it was his "worsest" day ever.

It makes even more sense when I realize that Judah, like me, is extremely sensitive to other people's feelings. Judah will often do things that he doesn't innately want to because he's worried the other person will be mad at him. He is a classic people-pleaser and will avoid conflict at all cost.

This makes it extremely easy for Judah to make friends and get along with pretty much anyone. Even in the most heightened competitive situations (which happens often with 5 year old boys who will turn everything into a "race") Judah will purposely let the other party win out of pity and concern for that person's feelings.

But it's exhausting. You feel like you're never free. Always beholden. Constantly on alert. Though Judah got along well with all his kindergarten classmates, he never considered anyone a safe place to land. A haven of free expression. A let-it-all-hang-out, come-just-as-you-are, just-be-yourself kind of friend.

I feel for him. Cuz I know all too well. It's a long lonely road for the likes of us.

And a shy road. Judah loves singing and praying but he will rarely do it in front of us. He will share his most silly or non-personal songs, but the most heartfelt ones about loving Jesus and caring for the poor, he reserves.

I find the best way to get Judah to open up about his personal life is to go for a walk. Something about stretching our legs towards a stretched out world loosens the jaw and vise-like grip he constantly has on his heart. I can see a lot of hiking in our future.

Because I can sense that Judah is slowly walling himself off. Self-consciously editing. Already he is critical of his own natural self.

He tells me he hates the shape of his face. He wishes it were rounder, not so long and sharp. Rounder like me and Noah.

He tells me he hates his dark skin tone. He wishes it were lighter. Peach toned, like me and Noah.

He is ashamed that he can't do the monkey bars and can't swim yet. So ashamed he told me he never wants to set foot near a pool again, although he absolutely loves playing in the water.

And of course it breaks my heart, but at least he tells me.

At least, for now, he tells me.

I wonder how much longer he'll permit me to accompany him on his lone survivalist wanderings.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stick a Fork in Me

We are at the tail end of Summer and I'm feeling the burn.

Seriously, I think my skin is actually crawling and itching every time I look around my chaotic house where nothing is in the right place and no cabinets are in order (just crammed to the gills with junk). And the garage. Oh, don't even get me started on that sinkhole.

Although Judah has started 1st grade last week, Noah has yet to begin. I have one more week doing childcare duties 24-7 and honestly, that may just be one week too long. It may just break me.

After being a mom for 6 long years, I finally know where I stand when it comes to time with the kids. Some moms thrive on being with kids all day every day. And I used to think something was really wrong with me for not feeling the same way. But now I get it. I'm a "less is more," "good things in moderate doses," "I can't be with the kids more than 6 hours a day and still feel sane" kind of person.

Unfortunately, I've learned this too late to do much about it and so things like a loooooooong Summer with the kids are just about killing me. Kill. Ing. Me.

But one more week. One week more! I am counting down the days until I get more than 10 minutes of uninterrupted time. Oh the bliss of that glorious thought!

Meanwhile, Judah's had a good start to first grade. At first he was really nervous about being in school a "full" day instead of just the 3.5 hours of kindergarten, but he now realizes the time goes by pleasantly enough. He was also worried about bullies and having to do work that was too hard for him.

I now fully realize that Judah is an anxious child and that he confronts all new situations in his life with worry and fear. He's a classic Nervous Nelly. Exactly like his mom.

Poor little guy. You got a long road of fear and dread ahead of you, my friend. I know all too well.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cleveland, You Really Do Rock

Just a few days ago we came back from a 7-day "vacation" in Ohio.

I know, right? There's at least two reasons why I put vacation in quotes.

First - Both my kids were there. Enough said.

Second - Ohio.

Noah - ruining family photos even in the Midwest

When one imagines a trip destination, several major cities may spring to mind - Honolulu, Maui, Miami, NYC, LA, Chicago even...but a suburb near Cleveland? Nope.

Cleveland Rocks! But we didn't go to this famed hall of rock and roll because our family does not rock.

We did go to the Space and Science Museum next door - because: nerds.

And on top of the "non-destination-ness" was layered the fact that we caught the tail end of a month long heat wave that welcomed us with 90+ degree heat and 90+ percent humidity, and of course an A/C unit that was broken and wouldn't be fixed for an indefinite period since other suburban Ohians all discovered simultaneously that they all had the same problem.

How to sleep during a nasty heat wave (with windows open and fans blasting of course)

And yet, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable 7 days I've had in a long time (gotta love how parenthood drastically lowers all your set points!).

At the Natural History Museum - they just liked looking at all the butts. Yes we are in that phase. Send wine.

We love Lucy!

Noah takes his place in the family tree - might I say he hasn't ventured far...

We escaped the heat every day by seeking out air-conditioned places, enjoyed a lot of really great museums in Cleveland, libraries, indoor pools, and best of all, had the great pleasure of spending lots of time with the Spouse's mom and step-dad.

They are two of the most loving, thoughtful, and pleasant human beings there could be (yes, I totally won the MIL lottery) and Judah especially reveled in their love and attention like a flower opening to the sun. On the last day of our trip I told Judah we were leaving and his face instantly crumpled and tears filled his eyes, poor guy.

Judah and two of his favorite people (and the brother he tolerates)

Noah, on the other hand, asked to leave every day, hahahahaha. But mostly it was because he wanted to go to Target to buy Hot Wheels, which he now assumes he will get every time we walk through those hallowed automatic sliding doors (but that's another post).

Enjoying the indoor pool at the community rec center - never had this in Cali!

For me, it was truly enjoyable - I sincerely enjoy my MIL's company and always find out so much fascinating family history (which I always can't believe my Spouse hasn't told me at all about for the last 18+ years since I've known him!!!!) and she made food - lots and lots and lots of unending rivers of food. As a domestic-slave (otherwise known as SAHM), my appreciation for someone ELSE doing food prep is unbounded.

Captain Noah and his (sea) monster mom - not too far from reality.

This is why you need a selfie stick - some strangers don't assume you'd want everyone's full face in the pic

Two of the most weird and wonderful creatures - I'm referring to the kids.

The awesome shark tank at the end - wasted entirely on tired kids.

And on top of all that, the kids are at an age where they can actually play with each other and entertain themselves for a good chunk of time each day. Not NEARLY as much as I would like, but enough for me to have conversations with adults and even read a few pages of a book! Oh how giddy I am for just 10 minutes of non-kiddie time.

All I can say is that this local public library SAVED OUR LIVES

Brothers make the best sidekicks (and occasional arch enemies)

One of the great highlights of this trip was celebrating Judah's actual birthday with Grandma and Grandpa Neil - not least of all because Grandpa Neil baked FROM SCRATCH the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever had. Oh. My. HEAVENS. That cake (and especially the icing) should be called "Some things are worth getting diabetes for" Cake.

What's a birthday without festive head gear?

Man, I love you SO MUCH, oh yeah, and you too Judah

But my favorite part of the trip was probably a very special single hour (special because it's so rare), in which the Spouse and I got to escape our kids and take a walk through the Cleveland Greenbelt (a chain of hiking trails) to celebrate our 13th anniversary (thank you Grandma and Grandpa Neil!).

We talked, we laughed, we snorted and chortled. We marveled at how "old" we've become. How can this guy that I started dating when we were both undergrads now be turning FORTY next year? When did this all happen? In the blink of an eye.

In the blink of an eye, our babies are no longer babies. We have mortgages and property taxes. Thinning hair and achy joints. Our vision and hearing grow worse by the year.

And all this life we've lived.

Soaking in the ubiquitous greenery in the great Midwest

And all this life we have yet to live.

Words of wisdom at the Space and Science Museum

And all this with a person that makes us feel unreservedly safe, irrepressibly happy, and unconditionally loved.