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.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Escaping the 'Burbs

This week we did something we rarely do - venture out to The City.

Although SF is only 45 minutes away, it might as well be an entire continent if you hate being out and about with whiny fussy infants/toddlers who desperately need to nap but can't do it on the go. For half a decade this was the boat we were in. Very sad face emoji.

But now that Judah's almost 6 and Noah's 3.5, we are free to roam and enjoy the city without schlepping a diaper bag, ergo/bjorn, or sippy cups - wooohoooo!

We putzed around Golden Gate Park and visited the de Young Fine Arts Museum and the Spouse's favorite place, the Japanese Tea Garden.

Noah - ruining family pictures since 2015

We saw a real heron! Catching a real fish!

So much to love in this picture

Even in this place of serene beauty, Noah must desecrate it with his jiggle-butt dance

And you know what? It was exhilarating!

Outside the de Young - interesting at every angle!

My worst nightmare - triplets of him!

I never realized how much my mind was shriveling up and dying in the uninspired routine sameness of our boring suburb (no disrespect for our little town, but honestly, there is literally nothing there except single family dwellings and nice public schools...like, we literally go to Rite Aid for entertainment).

Just another city kid and his ennui

The second I stepped foot in the park, I swear I could hear the cells in my body gasp like a suffocating man sucking in air. Culture! Inspiration! Creativity! Art! History! BEAUTY!

Garden of Enchantment exhibit...or glorified subway grate?

After drinking our fill of the interesting and bizarre, we decided the kids needed to run around at the playground. I parked the stroller next to the play structure and immediately this cheeky squirrel comes bounding over, jumps into the stroller and starts foraging for food! Man, these city squirrels are BOLD.

I make a loud braying sound (what sound should one make to scare off wild rodents?) in an attempt to save our goldfish crackers, but that squirrel just flinched a little and kept right on foraging! That's when the tables turned and I realized I was the scared one.

Judah and Noah quickly came over to see what all the hubbub was about and it soon became an all out buffet for said squirrel. The kids would not stop feeding that poor animal who will probably now die of rodent diabetes thanks to all the processed food he consumed.

Later at night, I asked the kids to share their favorite part of our day trip. And of course, it was interacting with that poor soon-to-be metabolically challenged squirrel.

And ogling toys at gift shops.

And seeing a painting of Superman by the wannabe abstract expressionist painter turned pop artist, Mel Ramos.

My little lifes imitating art

Of course.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Ugh, I'm so behind on blogging. Why does every other post begin with that sentence?!

Summer is speeding by, thanks in part to lots of little trips here and there. One of the biggest highlights of our Summer was our 5 day getaway to sunny San Diego to visit one of my very best friends of all time.


I met this special lady over 10 years ago when I was still single and completely adrift in life. I had no real direction or sense of place - one of those really wandering, lost 21 year olds trying to figure out how to "adult".

This was the first time I've been back in over a decade and I was shocked when old acquaintances actually recognized me upon first glance. How could I possibly resemble my old self? Even to myself, I'm unrecognizable.

Growing up, getting married, having kids, working like a corporate slave, working like a domestic slave, all of it, all of it, utterly unknown and unknowable to that young girl in her early 20's. Just as my 5 year old doesn't resemble in the least bit his baby pictures, I should have changed and morphed a hundred shades and degrees.

And yet one thing has been remarkably unchanged - our friendship.

We have each moved multiple times to multiple cities, held down all kinds of jobs and no jobs at all, discovered the insane and unfathomable depths of motherhood together, and yet, I still feel, as I did those many years ago, like I could tell her anything, like I want to tell her everything, like she understands, truly.


On our last night in San Diego, we decided to go to the beach in the evening. Being the very responsible moms we were (not), we decided dinner for us and the kids would be a giant vanilla ice cream cone. As we walked down the end of a very long pier to a diner, the sun sank low and red to our right, flooding the water with fire.


And as we walked back from the restaurant, chins dripping with sweet cream, the moon beamed silvery and bright to our left.

And my heart could not feel more full of so many good, good gifts.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Damn You Size 2T!

I'm never prepared for the tightness in my chest and the welling up of tears right behind my eyeballs. It always catches me off guard.

How can putting away my kids' too-small-for-them clothes hurt so bad?

All I can say is, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I'm just sorting through cheap cotton clothes for crying out loud! *sniffle sniffle*

And yet with each little t-shirt and pajama set I put into the donation pile, my heart sinks lower and lower.

This is good-bye. This is the end. This is where I have to acknowledge that every item represents a real, irretrievable, incontrovertible loss.

Of what, exactly, I'm not sure.

All I know is that it hurts like hell.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Momiversity: Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating

So I picked up this book because I was sick and tired of Judah's picky eating.

Ever since Judah was a 15 months old he would eat only a few "safe" foods. It was exhausting always preparing separate meals for the kid and the adults and never being able to eat in a restaurant or at a friend's home without always packing Judah's "safe" foods.

I always thought Judah would just "grow out of it". I mean, toddlers grow out of all kinds of stuff, right? You know that old saying - if you don't like how your toddler behaves, just wait awhile and it will change!

But when Judah was four, I realized, this is not really getting better. I was still hopeful that he would eventually turn into a "normal" adult on his own, but then I met this young man who told me he literally only ate a couple "safe" foods his entire life until he was POST-COLLEGE because he was an extreme picky eater.

Then the panic set in.

And the book reading commenced.


I chose this book because it was highly recommended on Amazon and it follows the basic tenets of Ellyn Satter, the Godmother of child feeding issues.

So here are my thoughts and summaries in no particular order:
--This book helped me realized I should be grateful cuz there are a LOT of kids out there who are wayyyyyyyyyyyyy pickier than Judah.

--This book spends 80% of its pages talking about what NOT to do (which is everything that I've been doing!)

--You should NOT make dessert conditional on eating a good meal first. You should let the kid have his dessert first if he wants. I'm sure this advice is totally supported by professionals everywhere, but honestly, I'm prob gonna ignore this advice cuz it's just not how our culture eats. It's just...too weird.

--You should never pressure your kids, either by making negative comments (shaming, disappointment, threats of punishment) OR by making positive comments (praising 'good eating'). I dunno, what's wrong with a little positive pressure? Isn't that called "encouragement"?

--You are in charge of WHAT is offered and WHEN it is offered. The kid is in charge of HOW MUCH he eats. Basically the age old adage - you can lead a toddler to broccoli, but you can't make him eat it.

--You should make mealtimes as pleasant as possible. Make it a time for family bonding. Eat at the table without distractions (electronic devices, toys, tv, etc.). Make it pleasant and free of pressure and anxiety.

--Always give them a "safe" food so there's always something on the table they can eat.

--You should always have a "spit out" napkin next to them at meal times so they can spit out whatever food they don't like on it discreetly and without it being a big deal. It's a safety blanket for them!

In a nutshell, this book was about trying to reduce anxiety and pressure surrounding meals as much as possible. The bottom line is pressure of any kind only BACKFIRES and makes your kid a worse eater in the end because of all the negativity surrounding the activity.

I think that's probably true for kids who are EXTREME extreme picky eaters. But I think Judah actually benefits from mild pressure...very, very mild.

One friend suggested I make a chart of foods Judah can try and each time he tries it, mark it off the chart. And keep doing it until Judah has tried it about 15 times since that's the average amount of time it takes for one's palate to accept a new taste.

I've tried that a few times, and I have to say, that bit of advice was more helpful than all 213 pages I've read of this book. Because of Judah's "I tried it chart" he now eats spaghetti WITH SAUCE and pizza WITH SAUCE and cheese quesadillas.

Which just goes to show, as with any parenting advice/book, you gotta know whether or not it applies to your child. I thought this book was going to give me lots of great advice like that, but it wasn't addressing my, apparently "run of the mill" picky kid. It was talking about the way extreme outliers, of which Judah is thankfully not one.

But the book did help me realize that I have to put in a LOT more thoughtfulness and planning into my meals than I currently do. I've been slacking.

I should be proactively trying to introduce new foods into Judah's diet instead of relying on the old standbys. I should be creatively thinking of how to "bridge" the old foods and the new foods by adding sauce here or a new ingredient there.

Instead, I've been just throwing something together at 6:05 pm when everyone's super cranky and hungry because dinner should have already happened at 6:00 pm.

Ugh. As someone who has never enjoyed cooking and domesticity, this is a huge challenge for me. But whatcha gonna do? Kid's gotta eat.

Yet another way in which motherhood is pushing me to do things I wouldn't otherwise do...sigh.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Momiversity: A Mother's Reckoning

This week my kids are enrolled in a Summer camp program for 2.5 hours each morning. Hallelujah!

It's not actually enough time for me to drive home so I decided to just camp out at a nearby Starbucks and catch up on all the parenting books I never had time to read.

My classroom for this week.

And then I thought, I should blog about what I read cuz that greatly enhances my comprehension. And so I bring you this new series of blog entries: MOMIVERSITY

Today's book review is actually not one of typical parenting advice books - it's a memoir by arguably one of the most "failingest" moms in history (no, not me, surprise!) - Sue Klebold.


Remember the Columbine shootings? Sue's son, Dylan, was one of the two shooters. Sixteen years later she revisits every detail and reveals private moments and diary entries from her and Dylan's journals, trying to put the pieces together and answer the question - HOW?

How could I not have known what my son was planning?
Indeed, how could I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, not even a tiny hint?

And how could I resist such a juicy read? Part anti-parenting manual, part mystery novel, part horror show. Total catnip to me. And I devoured it. All 280 pages of it.

And in the end, after all that sturm und drang, I really can't say I came away with anything conclusive. Any real answers.

Sue talks about her deep guilt and regret. Her genuine befuddlement and lack of foreknowledge. Her happy home life. Her total lack of any kind of concern over Dylan whatsoever because he was her "sunshine boy," her easy child that never caused her any worries at all.

Even just 3 days before the shooting, Dylan went to his senior prom and had a really happy, jovial time just being a regular teen.

Is Sue just blinded by her need for self-justification or genuinely so obtuse and unaware that she lacks the psychological capacity to see the problems surrounding Dylan's upbringing?

I don't think so. It doesn't appear that Sue is any more obtuse or oblivious than the average, reasonably loving and attentive mom. In fact she seems more loving and attentive than average and in all respects, their home life was as good as anyone can hope to provide for their kids - good suburb, happy marriage, good friends from childhood through adolescence, etc.

So then how? How did this happen?

Sue's catchall answer is not that helpful - brain illness.

Brain illness is her adopted terminology for what the rest of the world still calls "mental illness." But because there is a stigma attached to "mental illness" she prefers to use the term "brain illness."

Dylan was suffering from suicidal thoughts as early as 2 years before his eventual death, as evidenced in his journals, which Sue read posthumously. He was deeply and madly in love with a girl at school that "didn't know he existed." He felt worthless and hopeless. An "unsalvagable" and summed his life up in these words "the most miserable existence in the history of the world."

But on top of his suicidal desires, was a psychopathic friend, Eric Harris, who tried to interest at least 2 other of his friends in a mass shooting at his school. No one took the bait, except Dylan.

Layered on top of this was a culture of extreme bullying at the high school. And Eric and Dylan being frequent targets of such bullying.

And there are all the pieces: suicidal intentions + psychopath best friend + steady diet of shame and humiliation + brain illness = mass murder / suicide.

Okay, fine, but how could she NOT have even a whiff of that? How could she have no inkling what was going on with her son?

This is the question that haunts me.

My parents had no idea how I thought or felt, but I always chalked that up to the fact that they weren't interested in my inner life. As long as I brought home good grades, that was all that mattered. But Sue Klebold was not an Asian immigrant parent - she cared deeply about her sons inner life, she was an artist herself and wanted nothing more than for her son to feel cared for and loved.

She talked to Dylan about all things, big and small. She asked how he felt about them. She did everything she could to nurture his inner life.

And yet she knew nothing.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Sue received many letters and a good proportion of them were from people who said essentially:

We don't blame you. My parents didn't know what I was going through as a teen. That I was raped / bullied / suicidal / etc. No one knew. I kept it a secret for years, decades.

And then I realized the chilling fact of the matter: there is a point when we as parents will no longer know what our kids don't want us to know about them. And that point probably comes sooner than we'd ever imagine.

One of Sue's journal entries was written in response to her reading about Dylan's suicidal thoughts for the first time: Dylan was so loved. But he did not feel loved...

Ultimately the question of "how" is still largely unanswered in my mind, but with the little light that has been shed, I am groping toward my own understanding of how to parent...and I'm realizing that parental love is not enough. Children need more from us than just love.

There is also the matter of Truth.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Art of the Deal: Kindergartener Edition

Yesterday we were at the discount bookstore and I had just checked out and put my wallet away when Judah spotted something he desperately wanted - a set of 4 button pins with Justice League symbols on them.



I gave him "the look" that I hoped would shut him down immediately, but he would not be dissuaded. And to be fair, he did have $2 of his own that he was free to spend on whatever he wanted. So he begged me - please Mommy, can you just tell me how much this is?

I asked the lady at the checkout counter to scan it and she told us it was $5. Sorry Judah, Way over your budget. Denied.

But he would not be dissuaded.

The guy actually asked if he could borrow money from me, like I'm some kind of revolving line of credit. Uh, no. Not until you have some kind of employment history, buster.

And then he got really creative.

How about I just give you $2 for two of them and you keep the other two?
Uh, no.
How about I give you $2 for two of them and Noah gets the other two?
Uh, no.
Wait, Noah, Noah, don't you want to buy these buttons with me?

Noah took one look at the buttons and immediately lusted after them. He loves all things Superman so he was in. He also had $2 to spend so between the two of them, they had almost enough to buy the buttons. I felt generous so I told them I would chip in the extra $1 if they pooled their money together.

Judah felt elated, except for one small problem.

They could not decide who would get which buttons.

They BOTH wanted the Batman/Superman hybrid button. And understandably, no one wanted the Wonder Woman symbol.

I was adamant, I was not going to buy the buttons if it was going to cause them to argue indefinitely.

Judah whispered and cajoled Noah until they both agreed - no more fighting over the button.

So who's going to get the Batman/Superman button? I asked.

No one, said Judah, we'll figure it out later.

Yeah, said Noah, we'll share it!

I knew that's just a recipe for a future headache, but they seemed so proud of figuring out a temporary working solution, I just didn't have the heart to press the matter.

I bought the buttons and for the rest of the day, the two brothers were happy as jaybirds.

Judah kept holding and swinging Noah's hand singing - We made a deal! We made a deal!

Images of my previous corporate law life flashed before me and I appreciated anew the art of the deal. If only every party felt the way Noah and Judah did after settling a tough agreement.

Of course, later in the day Noah became annoyed again that he wasn't getting the Batman/Superman button outright, but somehow Judah, with his snake oil salesman voodoo, whispered sweet nothings into Noah's ear and got him to agree to give up his coveted pin.

Noah settled for Superman and Wonder Woman.

And now I'm just a little bit afraid of Judah's powers over me and his brother.

The next day Judah told me he was in possession of all FOUR of the pins now. Apparently he had wheedled and dealed Noah into trading them all away...for much more inferior things.

That ol' son of a gun. I think I could actually learn a thing or two from him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Things

Knowing this will probably be my last Summer of staying at home with the kids (I'm planning on going back to work in the Fall), I'm trying to pack in as much fun as I can.

This weekend we visited one of our sleepy little town's hidden gems - a small lake that does a great job simulating a real beach experience.

Although we've lived here for 4 years now, this was my first time taking the kids there and they had a blast! Although you couldn't tell from looking at this guy:

Mr Grumples at the beach. I want go home now! - he whined loudly and repeatedly.

Mr Sunshine at the beach - with his trunks on backwards, oh well.

Next on the SAHM Summer Bucket List - Going to the County Fair! We chose a really nasty hot day to go - hello sunburns! But we were all pretty pumped anyway as this would be our first time (and the first time in my ENTIRE life) going to the fair.

At the ticket counter - we could not be more excited!

First the spouse went on a ride with Judah and realized he now has "old person ride syndrome" where you get really nauseous on even the gentlest rides.

Whelp, his ride riding days are over.

And then I went on a ride with the kids and realized I too have "old person ride syndrome". Man, we're old.

Whelp, my ride riding days are over too!

Needless to say, the next few rides Judah just went on by himself. This kid used be afraid of everything (really, read my blog archives, like, literally the wind). So how the heck did he turn into the fearless kid going down the super slide by himself?! I don't even know this guy.

Judah finally does something that actually scares me!

The kids were most excited to do 2 things at the fair - eat cotton candy and go on the Ferris wheel. And so that is just what we did.

Sugary tufts of air - who invented this AMAZING THING?!

Although I've been to amusement parks a few times, this was indeed the very first time I've been on Mr. Ferris' ingenious invention. I was probably more excited than the kids.

They've only seen this giant wheel on books and would often talk about whether they would be brave enough to actually ride it. Even during the car ride to the fair Judah backed down several times and said - No! I'm too scared! I can't go on the Ferris wheel!

But with one parent sitting with each kid, they mounted the contraption serenely and we were all delighted to find this monstrous wheel was in fact as gentle as a lamb. Except for the spouse, who gripped onto Judah like a lifeline - apparently he is seriously afraid of heights, who knew?

A few seconds. A lifetime. A gift.

But for me, I relished the view from the top.

It all seemed like one giant metaphor that I have yet to figure out.
A kind of haiku for life:

Circles, turning
Breathtaking, Sky, Blue, Sun
Together
Joy

Monday, June 20, 2016

Their Dad

For many years, I didn't quite appreciate the spouse's role as a parent.

The kids vastly preferred me and more or less ignored their father, or even saw him as an Oedipal competitor. Freud was really on to something!

Five years ago, when I sorta felt like a single parent.

When the kids were babies, the spouse would get exhausted with them after just a few minutes (it seemed to me). He would always say "this is just not my stage. I'll be a great parent when they're older!"

Well, now that Judah is almost 6, I'm seeing the truth in that more each day.

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that they have such a good, good father.

The spouse is daily diligent to impart truth and wisdom to Judah. He has one-on-one time with Judah nearly every day and uses that time to talk about character, virtue, and eternal things. The stuff that really matters. The things that will shape the inner man.

Is there anything more essential?

But more than that, their father is the embodiment of unconditional love and support. If they express interest in something, their dad is always their number one supporter and encourager in that thing. A few weeks ago Judah saw ribbon-dancing in a Taylor Swift video and instantly connected with the beauty and artistry of it.

So what did the spouse do?

Despite having very little interest in the arts himself, he looked up a bunch of ribbon-dancing videos with Judah on You Tube. And the next day ordered some $2 ribbons for him from Amazon.

No judgement. No gender biases. Nothing but 100% support and encouragement.

Judah, age 1: holding a toy bus bought by dad, because Judah expressed interest in buses of course!

Judah (and Noah) is one lucky kid.

And, if his stated career goals work out, one awesome future ribbon-dancing ninja assassin.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Riding in the Car with Kids

This weekend was wedding central at our house.

The spouse's sister (the kid's much beloved auntie) was getting married and the whole family pitched in. I said a toast, the spouse officiated and the kids played tweedledum, the ring bearer, and tweedledee, the flower boy, to perfection.


The venue was an hour drive away so there was a lot of car time this weekend people. A lot of car time. 2 round-trips - one for the rehearsal and one for the actual wedding. Phew.

I never know what to expect from the kids when they're in the car longer than 20 minutes, so it was...um...interesting.

Trial by Fire Commute #1

The first time we did the commute, the kids watched a "Franklin the Turtle" DVD the entire way down. Judah, a TV-lover extraordinaire thought he had died and went to heaven. Noah, halfway through, started whining and fussing and begging (way too loudly) to get out of the car.

Alas we are at the stage where Noah can actually unbuckle himself and open the car door. Let's just say I have never felt so thankful for automatic car-door locks!


Commute #2

On the second commute, going back home, Noah was a total crank-en-stein, probably because he just had a long day of rehearsals and no nap.

He spent the first 10 minutes of the trip whining loudly about not having any pennies (apparently Judah had found some at the venue) and Noah had some too, but, as with all little objects in Noah's possession, soon lost them all.

The spouse spent a good deal of time digging around the car for change to appease El Dictator, but it seemed no matter how many coins he threw at the kids, the noise decibel level did not go down.

Hmmmm...how can that be?

Because you can not negotiate with a terrorist people. They just crazy.

Just when I thought I was going to loose my mind from all the whining and crying, a miracle happened. Judah got in "appeasement" mode and decided he wanted to help his brother calm down.

I kid you not, when Judah puts on his "calm Noah down" hat, it's freaking magic. Judah IS the Noah Whisperer. Only he can reach across the divide and enter "crazy toddler" land, a place untouched by reason or logic, and tame that raging beast.

And that is just what he did for the rest of the 50 minute car trip.

God bless that boy.


He told Noah that his dull sad pennies were very special. They're Canadian pennies Noah! What? I didn't even know Judah knew there was a place called Canada. Amazing things they pick up in Kindergarten.

At one inspired point he told Noah to pretend to call his preschool friends on the phone and talk to them. And Judah, like some actor in an old-time variety show, deftly played the various roles of said friends - Lucas, Sophia, Jordan, etc.

In general, he continually flattered Noah and told him how cool he was and how great his stuff was. You know, what I imagine top North Korean officials do for the most part of their day for their Dear Leader.

I braced myself for when Judah would stop being so solicitous and Noah would resume his fussy whining, but it never happened. Judah tamed the beast the entire way and afterward said, Mommy, didn't I do a good job? But now I'm sooooo tired.

Yes my love, and now you know a little taste of EXACTLY how I've felt every minute of the day for, oh, just about the last 5+ years.

Commute #3

On our third commute down, I had no spouse to help me and no DVD players. Talk about living life on the edge!

The trip started out shakily, with Noah complaining (again, way too loudly) about something and me trying to distract them with a "game".

Let's play - What would you wish for if you had 3 wishes?

Judah: I want to go first!

Noah: No! Me! I go first!!!!

And since the scariest dude always gets his way, I let Noah go first.

Noah: I wish for...me and Judah (mumble mumble mumble, I didn't hear him but pretended I did so as not to upset El Dictator). And my second wish is (mumble mumble mumble). And my third wish is for a new Paw Patrol toy!

Judah: My turn! First, I wish that I would always love God and believe Him (man, he's such a good pastor's kid). And second that I would always love my family. And third (something I forgot, but equally morally lofty).

Me: Wow Judah! Those are great wishes!

Noah: No! No! No! My wishes are stupid! I want to go again!

Noah, at this point has realized that his wishes must've seemed to worldly in light of Judah's elevated desires and now begins the cycle of shame and rage that spells doom for all citizenry of dictators everywhere.

Just as I was racking my brain for a good way to avoid the tsunami of anger and tears that were about to rain down on us (should I suggest playing a different game? should I start throwing out pandering compliments to Noah? should I suggest that Judah throw out some pandering compliments to Noah? should I pass the kids some gummy bears? think woman! think!) suddenly the storm abated. The dark clouds of Noah's displeasure dissipated on their own.

Phew.

I can save the gummy bear bribes for later in our long day. WIN!

The rest of the trip passed in relative quiet as we drove along the quintessential landmark of Northern California landscapes - endless golden rolling hills, spotted with flecks of green treetops.

It stirred memories of my own childhood, staring out the car window for seemingly endless hours, marveling how the hills truly looked like gold shimmering in the bright sunlight.

So I shared the thoughts I had as a kid when I was in their exact place: Did you know a long time ago, explorers thought these hills were made out of actual gold? And they came from far away to get this gold only to discover that it was just dry grass after all! Can you imagine how disappointed they must have felt?

This, I knew, would unleash a bunch of questions from Judah and it was just the kind of information that tickled his noggin. I love this stage of his childhood.

And, as often is the case, he asks a darn good question that stumps me.

Judah: Mommy, why does the grass turn yellow when it dries up?

Me: You mean, as opposed to turning black? Or brown?

Judah: Yeah.

I told him I didn't know and thought I would try to help him think one step further.

Me: If we don't know the answer, how do you think we can find the answer?

Judah: (pause for thinking)...we can shrink down to miniature size and look at the grass?

Whelp, kid logic sure is a funny, fuzzy thing. I think he's referencing his favorite TV show at the moment, The Magic School Bus, in which all science questions inevitably lead to the shrinking of the school bus and students.

And because we are a spiritual family, I told Judah the thought that always comes to my mind when I look at dry grass - Judah, did you know the Bible says that we are like grass?

Here today and gone tomorrow. A mist. A vapor. A hundred-year-blink-of-an-eye.

Judah contemplated it receptively.

But El Dictator was displeased.

Shoot, I woke the dragon.

Noah: No! No! No! We are not grass Mommy!!!! Grass cannot talk! Grass cannot walk! Grass cannot eat!

Oh yeah, toddlers take everything literally. Ugh.

Thankfully, El Dictator was appeased by my vehemently agreeing with him - You're right Noah! We are not grass! That's so silly! Of course we're not grass! And gently distinguishing our meanings - I just mean we were a little tiny bit like grass. Just a little. But we are definitely not grass!

And soon, we arrived at our destination, not a minute too soon.


Commute #4

After the wedding, we packed into the car in happy moods. I knew El Dictator would be reasonably calm since he had a monster nap at the wedding, such is the exhaustion of walking down the aisle while sprinkling petals from a straw basket.

I finally gave them the reserve packs of gummy bears I had been saving for the entire day, hoping that would start us off on the right note. And things were fine for about the first 20 minutes.

Unfortunately the remainder of the trip was filled with this frantic chorus from both kids:

Mommy! I need to poo!
Mommy! Poo is coming out of my butt!
I'm trying to hold it in but it keeps coming out!
It's knocking on the door and I'm trying to lock the door but it's coming!
I'm putting 100 locks on the door!
Mommy, how long until we get home?!?! (uh, 40 minutes) No!!!! It has to be less than 10 minutes!
Mommy drive faster!!!!
Mommy, I farted. Fart is the start of pooping. (Noah's helpful observation).
Mommy, how much longer now?!?! (uh, 30 minutes) No!!!! That's too long!
(repeat ad nauseum)

I mentally prepared myself for poopy accidents all over the car and drove like a maniac. But the kids kept contracting their rectal sphincters like pros and I'm happy to report, it ended with a simultaneous pair of satisfying dumps at home in actual toilets.


Kids, never a dull car moment.