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.

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.