Putting A Fine Point On It

Good Bye 2009.

This could well be my last entry of 2009, as the next eight days are filled with celebrating, visits by award-winning, fat (well actually not that fat) and increasingly celebrated bloggers plus children, my own child being out of school, possible hangovers (hangovers are not just alcohol induced, by the way, so don’t you judge me mister. I’m talking about action hangovers, activity hangovers and the like), and probably a lot of eating. What I’m saying is that given that this may be the last time I use my written voice this year, I’d like to say something important.

2009 can suck it.

Even with my excessive optimism and probably exhausting predilection for looking on the bright side, I’ve got to say that 2009 was the Worst. Year. Ever. And the weird thing is that I hear a lot of people saying that. Is it true for you?

Usually I don’t participate in looking backwards and ruminating on the negative, but I’m really astounded by the number of people I hear saying that this past year was hard, in the extreme. I’ve documented all my problems (eh…maybe too much?) here. There’s been death (much too much). There’s been loss (an unbearable amount). There’s been financial difficulties and workplace stress that’s worked itself into my home. There’s been broken bones, therapy, tears and white knuckles.

And here I will fight my urge to remind myself that everything is turning out ok, and look at what I DO have and that some people are much-much oh, ever so much-much so muchly much-much more unlucky than me (thanks, Dr. Seuss). This is my one post to ask you, my friends and readers, what in the name of Sam Hell happened in this past year that you’re ready to say good-bye to? Leave it here for me, let’s kick it out the door together, and when the New Year comes we’ll start over hopeful and happy.

Snow Man Boy

Every year of his life, so far, it has snowed on Roan’s birthday. It’s something he counts on, and he fully believes that the world just somehow knows to celebrate in this fashion. This year was possibly the best snowstorm yet. It began during his birthday party, which amped up the already super-hyper vibe of the day. It lasted all day, and left our fair town covered in a blanket, which was obviously begging to be rolled around in.

I don’t know if it’s because he was born in December or if he’s super human or just super weird, but my boy feels no cold. He can be found with an unzipped coat on the coldest of days, no hat, no gloves. I gave up the fight when he was old enough to express his needs verbally – I figured if he was cold, he’d tell me and that I could end the epic struggle to force him into warm clothing. So far? In his six years? He’s not asked for the warmth yet. And while it chilled me to shivers just watching him bury his body in the snow this weekend, the strange little child couldn’t have been happier.

If You Can Spell

I’ve got a pretty suave vocabulary and love to turn a phrase to suit my particular mood. I’ve also been known to decorate sentences with glittery swears to get a point across. However, I keep it pretty clean around my son, as I’m not particularly entertained by swearing children, and I just don’t want to be the one responsible for a litany of profanity spewing out of my child’s mouth (which would likely arch more eyebrows in my neighborhood than not separating my trash into three cans).

Roan has this spelling exercise in his homework packet every week, where the goal is to build on fundamentals. It will say, “If you can spell ____, then you can spell ____”. The idea is if you can spell, for instance, “ran”, then you could spell “pan” or “man” or “ban” or “can”. My wee young lad took a shine to this exercise and decided to expound upon it. He kept finding words with the same endings and building them. Because the universe apparently administers random testing to measure one’s parenting savvy, Roan arbitrarily chose the ending “uck”.

Oh geez, man I knew it was coming and prepared myself to have no reaction at all as he felt his way through the alphabet to find the next word. The letter “f” came and went with little incident. But then my son, whom I had considered a profanity innocent by his mother, that innocent kid suggested we spell words using “ass”. It was a showdown because I could see that he knew full well that he was saying a restricted word, but was clever enough to cloak it in education. He giggled and began, “gr-ASS”, followed it up with “br-ASS”, and continued with “p-ASS”. Emphasis on ASS, in a most deliberately mischievous way.

I absolutely lost the showdown and totally screwed myself because I couldn’t stop the 12-year-old child in me from cracking up, to the point where I was helping him. “m-ASS!” “b-ASS!” “cl-ASS!” The boy and I were on a bad behavior spelling binge and couldn’t have laughed any harder without passing out. I suppose I’ll pay for this in the future, and when Roan calls me from jail when he’s 14 we’ll be able to trace it back to this one event but you know – a good shared laugh to the point of tears? Probably worth it.

Old Pants, Chest Hair and Such

We’ve had so many things going on, some would say I’m maybe possibly probably lost in all the distraction and maybe possibly probably they’d be right but the truth? I feel really happy. It’s as if my body and mind had a little conference and decided that it was enough already, the nagging sadness and self-loathing then my mind told my body, “Hey try on your old pants” and my body was all, “Oooooh no way. Last time I did that it depressed me for days because my arse was so gigantor” and my mind is all, “Don’t’ be such a pussy” and my body was all, “Hmmmmm. You think they might fit?” And my mind is all, “Duh.” And then, the body tried on the pants and wouldn’t you know it? They fit. They fit just fine. And what does it all mean? Nothing really – but it was like a curtain lifting, getting something back – myself. It meant to me that I was connected again, all my pieces are back where they should be and it’s as if a “Go” sign lit up, giving me the permission to move forward. I’ve wanted to be capable of that, but have felt like I wasn’t ready. I am now, and it feels really amazing.

It is helpful that we have much too much going on, all manner of celebrations and parties. Any other year this could drive me to seek out black market Valium, but it seems therapeutic this year. Roan went to a birthday party last weekend hosted by Carmelo the Science Fellow and that guy is unbelievable. Roan got to handle a gerbil (which pooped in his hand), a snake and then two creatures that I’ve apparently blocked out. There was a blue tongue involved, that’s all I recall.

We also made the trek to Santaland, as promised. There was no waiting, no line at all which was a little anti-climactic. Snowball or Jinglebell (I always get the elves confused) led us to our Santa, the kids had the appropriate trepidation around him, Roan muttered something about Wii games, and we moved on to pick out an ornament from the store.

Of course it hasn’t been all fun and games. Roan still has to keep up with his studies, and here’s an example of the work he’s doing. The instructions read:

“Write a sentence using one of the –est family words”.

Once again, Roan has flexed his academic superiority. Now…I’m off to get a chest waxing kit for my six-year-old.

One Perfect Gift

There’s always a dilemma I struggle with during the holidays, and I’m pretty sure it’s a universal struggle.  Should I give my friends a gift this year?  I’m broke, they’re broke, we all are pretty much strapped so I know that a card would be fine, they’ll not think twice about it.  But there are those who I’d really like to give that little extra something to.  A candle?  A scarf?  Some smelly thing?  These are all things I’d enjoy receiving, but my people they are extraordinary and deserve something specialized and cool.  And I require that something to be under $15.  Totally impossible, you say?  “HA!” I say.  And then I raise my right eyebrow, lean in close, and whisper to you which makes you a little uncomfortable because let’s face it, we’re not really there in our relationship where I can go around whispering in your ear without it being a space boundary that I’ve crossed.  So, I will shout it from the rooftops (and from a respectable distance from your person).

Lori Nelson has designed my gift of choice this year.  It is a canvas tote, which everyone can use.  Need to carry groceries?  Need to carry books?  Need to carry a small animal?  Need to carry a virus? (ha ha just a test to see if you’re paying attention.)  No problem.  The designs are super cool and neither fish nor fowl (masculine nor feminine, if you’re not picking up what I’m laying down).  As far as I know, the awesome Brooklyn ‘tween girls are not included in the purchases.

Order these here, superquick.  They’re only $13.  All who receive them will love them.  If you live in Brooklyn, you can pick them up and avoid paying shipping at the Brooklyn Indie Mart (corner of Smith and Union) on Saturday the 12th, and at the Recession Art Market (Bergen btwn Smith and Court) on
Sunday the 13th.  Everyone else – use the internet.  It’s totally your friend.

The Sleep Over

Sachin / Summer 2008

A challenge has been issued. Not really in so many words, but when I got the feeling that Sachin, one of Roan’s very best friends on this here planet, when I got the feeling that this boy may agree to have his first ever sleep over away from home without his parents at MY house, I had to engage. In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I know he’s slept at his grandparent’s home in the past, without his parents. But I’m putting that knowledge in a box and burying it deep next to the memory of the weird Santa Clause when I was seven years old, and the memory of Anson with a mustache. By all accounts in my mind, this is his fist sleepover.

Captain of my Dreams / Nightmares

My goal is not even to coerce Sachin to stay the entire night, though that will be lovely if it happens. No, the choice to opt out at any time has been clearly detailed for him. I just want Sachin to want to come back, with the same verve that Roan exhibits for invitations to Sachin’s house. See, Sachin’s mom, Kara, is totally an alpha mom. She can cook like nobody’s business, never ever seems flustered, has endless adoration for all the children around her, and has a cool (very very cool) home built for childlike fun. If she wasn’t so awesome I probably wouldn’t let Roan be around her because really? She sets the bar a little too high. But she’s snared our family – every single one of us – through her food and sparkling personality. Damn food and damn sparkle.

SO. My plan goes like this: get the boys home and let them make popcorn cake. This is by far Roan’s favorite thing to make, though we’ve only made it once. It is truly awful. It involves popcorn, red hots and marshmallow fluff. I know that may sound ok but it isn’t. I’m confident it will be a hit. Then, I will take these guys to Bounce U, which is a place Roan has been dreaming of going to ever since we heard tales told about it. My understanding is that it’s a place full of bouncy things that the kids can flail around on for a few hours. Perfect after eating popcorn cake, no? That’s why I’m in charge here.

We will go back home, where I’ve promised the boys they can stay up as late as they want. My thinking was that if there were no official bedtime, there would be no official bedtime anxiety. So, a few inflatable mattresses and loads of pillows and blankets set up in front of the TV should do the trick. I’m hoping that my faith in the wild boys Sachin and Roan eventually falling asleep will not be tested. And I’m also not scheduling any activities for Saturday, just in case it is tested.

Food, sugar, no bedtime, a library of movies, bouncy things and some wine (for me) – am I forgetting anything? Anson is in charge of the morning after. HA! Sucker.

Cookies and Worldviews

My friend, Corbin, came to NYC a few days ago and made some time to walk around SoHo with me. We went to High School together back in the day, and thought we were some rowdy business back then. We were cataloging the people we knew, and telling each other what we knew of where they are now. It occurred to Corbin that everyone pretty much turned out just fine. As crazy as we drove our worried, hand wringing and white-knuckled parents, we all landed on our feet.

This observation rattled around my brain on the F Train ride home. Well, this observation and Dr. Zizmor. If you live in NYC you know what I mean with that guy. Anyway. With the variable and totally divergent parenting styles we were all brought up with, we all kind of ended up with similar worldviews, and none of us are in prison. Success! It makes me wonder how much of a role parenting actually plays in how a child turns out? With all the over-thinking, over-planning, over-reaching ways we hover around our kids, I wonder if we’re all just hardwired to be certain people?

And then I decided that the common act of making cookies could be the key to having a well-adjusted and happy adult develop out of a child, so I gathered up Roan and his friend Lane and did just that.

What do you think? Are we hard wired to have a certain personality, values and worldview regardless of how we’re brought up? And also….cookies: developmentally crucial for an eventual happy adulthood?

Roan, Passionate Stirring, and Lane

The Best Part

You Should Hear Her Say “Hush Puppy”

Roan, Emmie, Gma, and Boone at Carroll

I get to see my mom about twice per year, so really it’s a big party when we get together. But even during the best parties, the most joyous celebrations, there are things that make us all cringe a little, right? It’s not just me, is it?  With this in mind, my mother, being raised in the South and living in the Mid-West for her adult life, has some funny nuances in her pronunciation of certain words. Luckily she also has a gift for laughing at herself, and will begin to exaggerate her tendencies for the benefit of an audience.

Yesterday, after almost two days of me trying earnestly not to correct her, yesterday at some random Starbucks, I finally had to approach her pronunciation of “Cirque du Soleil” because we would be attending a Cirque du Soleil event; we would be and were talking about it, and probably would reference it a few times in the future. No longer could I listen to her say, “Sirk-ay-doo-sole”. So I told her slowly and syllabically, surk-doo-so-lay” With biiiiig mouth movements: Surk. Doo. So. Lay.

She laughed and practiced, with my compatriot, Lori asking, “Ok, Mom, so where are we going on Saturday?” Our poor tortured mother tried her best to not throw the “Ay” after the “Surk” and totally was defeated by the “Lay” at the end. She finally asked if we could just make fun of the way she says “guacamole” instead (Hint: her version rhymes with “tamale” as in, “gwahk-ah-MAH-lee). Conquered, we mocked that for a while, and then went to go buy some tickets for the Cirque show.

As Brooklyn does some times, it magically wrapped its linguistic arms around my mother and coddled her in its sweet embrace. My mom went to the ticket booth window and timidly said, “I need to buy two tickets to the….Cirque….Ay…Doo….uh….Cirque…” and the man in the booth, a Brooklynite who likely says “Youse guyse” and “Lemme axe youse sumthin’…” this guy finished her sentence, “The Sirk-ay-doo-sole?”

With my eyes pointed towards heaven so I wouldn’t have to glimpse the triumph on my mother’s face I went to my happy place and just let the English Language Massacre happen. I’m not sure whose side I’m on but I do know defeat when it faces me – luckily defeat will be spent with me loving each funny word that comes out of my mom’s mouth for the next little while. It is a party, after all. So fuggedaboutit.

Stupid = Good

(These images provided by Appaman, all clothing from their Spring Summer 2010 line)

This week, we have a grandmother/mother/mother-in-law coming to visit and spend a few nights at our house (we are required to share her with my sister as she holds the same multitude of titles with her family as well). We are going to see Wintuk, the Cirque de Soleil super-show at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, after which Roan and I will be whisked away in one of NYC’s finest Taxi’s (well I don’t actually know if it will be all that special but let’s roll with it, hmmm?) down to the Lower East Side, landing at the Appaman Studios for another photo shoot. The last photo shoot, pictured above, left such a hunger in my boy for more things of that fabulous nature, that he has really really really been asking me to schedule more photo shoots. He thinks I’ve been holding out on him as somehow my incessant pointing and shooting has not held the same intrigue. Vatevah. He’s being shot on Saturday and he is totally stoked.

And we have big giant awesome plans for Thanksgiving, as we’ll be heading back to Massachusetts, to a big beautiful house in the woods, the same one we hung out in last Thanksgiving. It’s so beautiful and relaxing and fun there, it is the place Roan begs to go to as he and his cousins Emmie and Boone take command of the basement with very little interference from the adults. After Thanksgiving, Roan’s birthday quickly approaches, and my friend Kara has agreed to host a Haunted House party for him at her house (Well, it’s his birthday, and he gets to choose the theme. I’m just thankful that we’ve moved on past Hannah Montana, High School Musical and all things Barbie onto all things Horror. Though he’s more into Horror Lite. Not scary, but with bragging rights. I’m not sure how to fulfill it exactly but that’s really what Kara is for.) Then there’s Christmas, New Year’s, and the Grande Finale, the trip to Disney World.

Seriously, there are more good times packed into the next two months than we probably deserve in one year’s time.

And this leads me to the BIG question, which is obviously: with so many good things happening, why am I consumed with the fact that my pre-pregnancy jeans are sitting in my closet smugly giving me the middle finger? I’m going to break down and go buy a damn pair of pants that fit me but I must say it is not without much mental consumption and pondering how long it will be until I fit back into those bad boys.

And then just when I am at the precipice of body-image despair, it occurs to me just how lovely it is to be worrying about stupid things again. With so many great things present and future, stupid things are the best things to have wrong in my life.

Slipping Me a Mickey (Mouse)

Mercy. Oh Mercy. Well should I have known something was up? These ladies were stealthy. They were totally covert. The surreptitious nature of what went down – it was downright underhanded and easily one of the very kindest things that has ever been executed on my behalf.

I maybe should have seen it coming but I’m like a 5-year-old and pretty freaking easy to distract. Looking back I can see places where they could have been busted but all it took was someone pointing my attention in another direction. Good thing a diabolical plan wasn’t placed into action because I’d have been the perfect victim. Don’t get any ideas any of you diabolically inclined readers. I think I’m getting my wits back about me so you’ve missed your diabolical window. Too bad for you, suckahs.

The perpetrators: Lori and Dan (my sister and her husband), Kara (who would be the Relief Society President, and the Bishop’s Wife were we in the Mormon world) Lola who used to let me punch her in the face under the guise of coaching her in Muay Thai Kickboxing, and Jen who has the appearance of an angel and the mouth of a trucker-sailor hybrid. These are my people.

Lori invited me over to her house for coffee yesterday morning. When I showed up I was surprised to see my other lady friends there because ever since High School where everyone loved my sister best I’ve been careful to keep my friends separated from Lori as to keep the lid on her outshining me. It’s an issue, what do you want? I’ll get to it in therapy later. But there they all were, at my sister’s home. And they presented me with a lunch box.

The lunch box was filled with money. The money had been collected from all my people at Roan’s school – parents who had watched me go through my latest battles with losing my baby boy, parents who have hugged, kissed, consoled and cooked for me, parents who had already done more than enough by lifting me up and propping one foot in front of the other again and again. My ladies had organized an effort to get my family some time together, something that would bring immediate and long-lasting smiles to all of our three faces. They had collected enough donations to get Anson, Roan and me a vacation to The Happiest Place on Earth: Disney World.

Roan has actually been collecting coins for this exact trip for around 3 years. Yup, half of his life. We’ve never been able to make it happen. But now it’s opened up to us, through the kindness of our neighborhood friends. And when I read the card and saw the names of all the people who gave this to us I cried and cried with no shame (ok, a little shame. It’s on my list of things to talk about in therapy, after my sister issues, later). I just couldn’t believe the generosity of all these people, some of whom I’ve said little more than “Hello” to over the past two months. I know that many of them don’t have a lot of extra money in the kitty. But they gave to us, and it’s just too much.

At dinner, I told Roan I had some really cool news. He immediately said, a little hopefully, “I know it is not that you’re pregnant again…?” with a more certain follow-up, “and it’s probably not that we can fix our baby”. I think that he immediately goes here is normal and good, and it only breaks my heart a little bit. It does tell me that my boy is still processing the permanence of our loss, and looking to make sense of it, just like I do every day. I told him that he was right on both accounts, I’m not pregnant, and our baby is gone still, though we really like to remember him. Then I explained to him that our family and our friends wanted to help us celebrate the family we do have, and that they all worked together to get us a vacation to Disney World. Roan’s eyes lit up and the million questions began: When? For how long? Will there be Room Service? Swimming Pools? Breakfast Buffets? Can we go to a Haunted Mansion? Am I for certain tall enough to ride the scariest roller coasters? Can we watch a movie in bed? Will there be an ice-machine?

Then Roan got the lunch box of cash, and loaded his own savings into it. He read the card over and over which listed the names of his friends that made this possible for him. He said that he really wants to say thanks. I’m hoping he’ll remember to do just that. Because I just don’t know how. I do not know how to properly thank all my friends who have locked their arms around me during this time. I know there are so many people who have been through so much worse, with no support. I feel more than fortunate – again, it’s just Lucky and Loved. I have never felt it so keenly.

And I am in need of advice now – I’ve never planned a family trip to Disney World. Anyone out there that has experience with what to see/do/where to stay/vacation packages…give it up. I now have the means to take this trip. I plan to do right by my conspiratorial friends and laugh with my family for days on end in the sun.