Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Beginning

Today my "baby" had his first day of kindergarten.

The whole world (read: FB) saw this confident happy face:

But, as always is the case with FB, that wasn't quite the full story.

Judah's true emotional state more resembles this face:

And then the Spouse said - Judah, don't look so nervous, open your mouth!

And then the Spouse coached - look happy Judah! look like you're having a good time.

And thus, a confident looking kindergartner was born...for the camera.

But in truth, Judah is a bit of a nervous Nellie, like his mom. I'm an anxious person. I don't like meeting new people. And I especially don't like being in places where I know no one and have no friends.

And that is exactly why Judah told me he was nervous about school. After bravely anticipating his first day for months, he let his strong exterior slip last night and tearfully confessed that he was scared to go to kindergarten. Mommy, I don't have any friends there.

Judah is shy. Judah is sensitive. And Judah is not at all a rough-and-tumble active boy like most kids his age. He always tells me he's an "inside boy" and begs off going to the park so he can sit at home and peruse comic books.

I know it will be at least a few weeks, maybe even a month or so before he makes a friend. And until then, every day will be a struggle. All emotions I remember very, very well from my own childhood.

While Judah was in class I worried.

I worried he would have a pee accident and chastised myself for forgetting to bring a clean change of clothes for him as his teacher had requested during orientation. Dang it woman! Why couldn't you just do that ONE thing right?! Argh.

I worried he wouldn't be able to poke his straw into his 8oz prepackaged milk container.

And I worried he would feel sad and lonely.

When I picked Judah up after his 3 hour class, I wanted to hear the full report. I peppered him with questions like Larry King.

He told me the special sign for needing to use the restroom.

He told me everyone has to wear brown tomorrow from head to toe (shoot - he literally does not own a single shirt with even a little bit of brown on it).

He said everyone has to use 1 squirt of hand sanitizer after using the restroom, but not 2 squirts because there are harmful chemicals in the sanitizer. And then he added that he refrained from going to the restroom because he doesn't even want to have 1 squirt of harmful chemicals on him.

I asked him to rank his day on a scale of 1 - 10. 10 being the most awesome day ever and 1 being the worst. At first he said 4, then adjusted it to 5, and finally landed on 10.

Really Judah? A 10?! You had a really great day?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Birthday Un-Party

A few weeks ago Judah turned 5.

I wanted to be really low-key this year (read: lazy) and decided just to bake him his cake of choice (chocolate with real whipped cream and berries) and share it with our immediate family.

This sad (but yummy) cake was so slap-dash I thought the Pinterest Police would show up at my door to arrest me.

Easy, peasy, backyard breezy.

And then I thought, why not have balloons. Balloons are nice.

And while I was tying up balloons on our patio chairs, our neighbor (Judah's best big kid friend) did the coolest thing - he stuck his head over our fence (a la Wilson does to Tim the Toolman Taylor) and said - watcha' doin'?

And that's how we ended up with a very sweet little neighborhood party.

So unbelievably blessed to live near these awesome kids.

Our sweet neighbors even drew big celebratory posters and taped them all over our backyard. I absolutely LOVE kid art - such pure and joyful self-expression.

Customized art at its finest- everything Judah loves is on this page!
They crafted some home-made gifts that they KNEW Judah would love (because he's always fondling these things when he goes over to their homes) - origami ninja stars and a necklace with a giant gem.

The best "big boy" friend Judah could ever ask for.

And one very lovely gal rehearsed and directed a song and dance for Judah - he stood in the middle while she sang this sweet folk tune. For a minute our suburban fences fell away and I felt again the strong bonds of tribe and community. Oh what we've been stripped of in our tiny subdivided individualistic western societies.

A gift like no other.

Even now I can hear her sweet clear voice - O happy birthday, O happy birthday. We think you're great, let's celebrate, your happy birthday.

It makes my heart ache for a homeland I've never known.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The secret to actually enjoying a trip with (my) kids

A few weeks ago we took another 500 mile trek back down to L.A. for a dear friend's wedding and again we went in the car. With 2 whiny kids. In particular, one tiny but loud and extremely inflexible dictator-tyrant (aka, a two-and-a-half year old).

This time, however, it was a thousand times better than the first trip we took a month ago. For starters, we rented a giant SUV instead of just going in our compact sedan (this gave us the room to road trip with our lovely friends):

All we're missing here is the tiny tyrant-dictator in the back with me.

Also, I finally figured out what car activities actually work:

Forget fancy toys, just get masking tape. Lots and lots of masking tape.

And sticker dots.

For 2 year olds, the Melissa and Doug "water magic" coloring books are fantastic. And the good ol' smartphone selfie camera is always entertaining for a few minutes (but have fun deleting all those photo bursts of your toddler's blurry nose).

I now have 1000 photos of essentially this.

Another great perk we had this time was spacious, beautiful hotel rooms. Apparently toddlers like to nest in down as much as baby birds!

Kinda unbelievable how long "nesting" occupied Noah.

And the food. Omg the food. L.A. rendered me unable to button up my pants for a few days. But it was totally worth it.

Korean BBQ - I still dream about you.

The wedding we attended was a glorious affair - at a beautiful traditional church with stain-glassed windows and classic architecture. Every design detail was impeccable and just quirky enough to capture the sweet goofiness of the bride and groom. Sigh, if only I got to enjoy it...

Here's my experience of the wedding under El Dictator-Diablo:

At least I had a pretty corsage to look at.

But all in all, it was a great time. And my number one tip for a successful road trip with little kids? (cue the drum-roll)...

Go with friends!

This awesome kid was THE BEST toy my kids could have had and provided us with hours of endless chuckles and silliness. He single-handedly saved me from having to play with Judah and Noah for hours.

Uno, bionicles, minecraft, angry birds - this kid entertained like a pro.

But seriously, our sweet, kind, generous travel companions made all the difference, especially this lovely lady who not only watched my kids so I could get ready in a leisurely way every morning, but also plied me with drinks at night.

My matron saint of good times.

Sorry sweet friend, you have to travel with me forever now.

Now that I've tasted the good life, I can never go back!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Long Goodbye

I had a thought last week that made me inconsolably sad.

Ever since Judah was a baby, he was so needy. Needy for hugs, needy for attention, needy for interaction, needy for ME.

Back when he was 1 and I was his whole world.

Sometimes he would sense my exasperation and say, "It's okay mommy, you can leave now."

And with great relief and a quiet prayer of thanks, I would free myself from his suffocating grip. Finally, a little "me" time. Time to do all the things I want to do (aka, watching netflix with a bowl of ice cream).

But the thought hit me - in a few years, we will trade places.

I will want him to hang out with me. To share his thoughts with me. To share his heart with me. To stay awhile. And sensing his exasperation, I will say, "It's okay honey, you can leave now."

You can go hang out with your friends. Go to that party. Go play your video game. Go to your fortress of teen solitude, aka, your room, and shut the door.

And he will be relieved that his needy mom has finally released him to carry on with the things that he really enjoys.

For all the pains of parenthood, it is this pain that aches the most, by far.

The inexorable march toward independence - independence in every way.

I will look back at the small boy who left me dozens of love notes every week. All the crumpled flowers he picked to put in those notes. All the hearts he cut out "for love, because I love you mommy."

The things that were so mundane and taken for granted. So rote and common place.

Asking for hugs. Asking to sit on my lap. Asking for ME.

Already he asks for hugs about half the amount he did last year. Already he much prefers to play with his friends than with me. "Sorry, but you don't really know how to play Bionicles, mommy."

Already he has started leaving me.

Back when he was 2 and only wanted to play with me.

For so long I wondered how to help Judah be more independent. I scoured the wisdom of the interwebs and googled "emotionally needy child." And now I have my double-edged sword.

Darn it if it doesn't hurt. Darn if I'm not crying right now as I type this.

And darn if I don't spend the next few years, whatever years I have left, trying to catch every little drop of love Judah sends my way.

Back when he was 4 and told me everyday I am the most beautiful girl in the world - even more beautiful than Elsa.

And you bet I'll be frantically googling a new topic from this day on - how to make your kids like you more so they don't ever want to move too far away.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

On being happy

Today I was putting Noah down for his most hated activity in the world - his mid-day nap.

He lies down and says "Mommy I'm sad."

Why Noah? [I fully expect him to bemoan how he must now take a nap.]

Actually, I'm not sad...I'm happy.

[Color me surprised.]
You're happy? Why Noah?

Because God is with me.

[Color me shocked.]

Can a two-and-a-half year old really find comfort and even joy in the presence of an intangible but all-powerful and benevolent being?

And if a toddler can, why is it so hard for me?