Saturday, September 28, 2013

What I am obsessed with now....

A friend recently asked me "So, what are you obsessed with these days?" It got me to thinking.... is there anything that I am actually "obsessed" with or even half way really excited about? After mulling it over I came up with a few things and thought that I would share with you, my lovely bloggy community!

1) Tegan & Sara. I heard them for the first time late summer at Red Rocks. They opened for FUN, and they were amazing. It's been a very long time since I heard a band live and immediately loved them. They are reminiscent of the 80's but in a very, very good way. Poppy, catchy, singable, keep you going on the treadmill fun. Check them out. You won't be sorry.

2) Thrift shopping. But not like Goodwill thrift shopping, more of the  higher-end consignment variety. There is nothing like finding a killer Marc Jacobs dress second hand for $50. If I didn't buy it at Gap, Banana, or Target, it's more than likely I found it while scouring the racks of a tiny consignment shop. It takes time, but I love it. Hey some people spend a lot more for therapy. Check out the funky lipstick shirt I picked up just today. Not for everyone, but I couldn't resist.

3) Dashe Zinfandel. A year ago my husband gave me a membership to the little vineyard for our 13th wedding anniversary. Every six months I get a shipment of there delicious wines. No I'm not going to go on and on about tannins, nose, legs, and chocolate undertones. I don't know a flipping thing about wine, except what I like and I like this wine. Hard to get in most places, but California friends, check them out.

4) De Steeg Brewing: It's a little microbrewer off of Tennyson. I am not a beer snob. Nope. I am rather fond of Coors Light,(I know, that says so much about me, right?)  but there were actually several beers I enjoyed there on a recent date night with my husband. I had some sort of pumpkin ale, and lord knows what else, but it was a blast. The place was packed and the people were super friendly... I can't wait to go back!

5) Porn. Okay not really. But close. The Miley Cyrus video. A couple reasons. I hate to admit it, the song is catchy, and it has become stuck in my head, on repeat in the middle of the night on more than one occasion. Also she is licking a hammer. A hammer. Who does that? It doesn't even make sense. And she is naked, on a wrecking ball, which also doesn't make any sense. At. All. Her poor parents.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Baby No More

Zack age 4, and me. On our way to California.
Zachary turns eight on Wednesday. Eight. Eight. Eight. I cannot seem to get it through my head. I have an eight year old boy. Not a baby, not a toddler, not a Kindergartner. A full-on KID. Most of the time his boyish face shows no traces of the infant I held in my arms on September 25, 2005. I rarely think of the chubby arms that reached for me from his crib. I can no longer remember all the songs we sang  at Music Together, and I cannot carry him easily in my arms....even if he wanted me to.

I won't lie, as much as my heart swells with pride at each of his accomplishments, his fast legs, his inquisitive mind, his creative artwork and his lust for learning, it also breaks a little each year he grows  further away from me. As parents we are tasked with helping our babies grow into capable, contributing, good adults. But as we help our children become more and more independent, they need us less and slowly, they begin to let go.

There is nothing quiet like carrying and giving birth to a baby. For nine months that little being is literally an extension of your body, sharing your breath and blood. After birth a mother may carry her newborn with her everywhere, in a sling, in her arms, on her back, nursing the infant and being his sole source of nutrition. But then there is the shift, never as noticeable as it is now that I have a son in grade school, capable of feeding, bathing and entertaining himself. While my husband and I are still the center of his universe, I see this slowly changing as well, soon his friends, teachers and girlfriends will be winning a good portion of his attention.

And it is good. It is as it should be.  I can already see that my son has the basic tools that will help him grow into a good man. He has confidence, heart, intelligence and compassion. Yet, if I am to be totally honest, there is a part of me that mourns the loss of my baby. The feel of him warm and pressed against my skin while I rocked in the glider,  the joy in his eyes as I held him in my arms spinning him across the floor dancing in circles. That love that pure love, I will never experience in quiet the same way.

So as I approach the big day, the celebration that will be marked with balloons, cake, presents and parties, I do so with a great deal of joy, and also a (good strong) twinge of sadness, knowing that my baby is a baby no more.....

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mama Bear

Wait, what was that? Did you seriously just tell my five year old to "mind his own business?" Could I have heard that right Mr. 30-Something, who clearly has no children of his own? By the way he may only be in Kindergarten but he was right, your ugly dog should be on a leash.

Now if I wasn't carrying a toddler covered in chocolate and preoccupied with trying to find my keys so I can open the front door for my kid who has to go I might just come after you and give you a piece of my mind.  I would, you know. I have been working out. I can curl 12 pounds. Sort of.

 Don't think I didn't see your condescending sneer Mr. Yuppy in that $45 J. Crew t-shirt. I know what I look like. These Target yoga pants actually look just fine sans sticky ice cream hand prints. I'll bet you take a forty-five minute shower every morning, you finely groomed child-hater. I look pretty damn good for the fact that I only have 12.3 minutes allotted for my daily beauty regimen. I wonder how good you would look  if you were trying to shave while a two year old was disassembling your entire bathroom.

I wonder where you are off to on your leisurely evening walk? Must be nice to walk through the neighborhood sneering at children without a care in the world. When I walk down the street I'm usually looking frantically in each direction to ensure that one of my three kids isn't hit by a maniac Jack-Ass driver (I'm guessing you might be one of them.)

So watch your step J.Crew and don't you ever talk to my kid that way again. Mama Bear is MAD.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Julian & The Doll

Okay. At least once a year I get on my soap box about society and body image. It isn't because I am an expert on how to achieve high self-esteem, no, it is quiet the opposite.  It is because for whatever reason as a young woman I was particularly susceptible to society's pressure to meet the "ideal" standards of femininity. I put a lot of stock into what popular culture dictated was acceptable and desirable. I fought my very hardest to achieve it, and suffered dire consequences. For 99% of the female population achieving the gold standard is impossible, simply just out of reach.

Why am I bringing this up today?  Because my two year old son asked me to buy him a princess doll at Target.

This morning Julian accompanied me to purchase birthday gifts for my 8 year old son. We shopped the toy aisles, neatly and clearly differentiated by sex. The rows of pink and purple, baby dolls and barbies, kitty cats and purses, those are the aisles I ignore. Having three boys leads me to the other section. The shelves stacked with blue, black and red, guns and dragons, muscled superheros and wrestlers, race cars and weapons. Sigh. I hate these toys. I searched through the plastic, trying to find something my son will love on his big day, that doesn't completely contradict my values. I opted for a couple Star Wars Lego sets, a football, a board game and some sort of dueling disk toy my son requested. I made my way to the wrapping paper and passed over the butterfly and cupcake wrap, selecting scary purple monster paper.  That should do it.

As I waited in line with my purchases Julian began to inspect the items available close to the register for impulse shoppers. He became mesmerized by a princess in a pink dress. He held up the tiny doll to me pointing to her gown and said "pwetty." My heart skipped a beat. I agreed with Julian that her dress was pretty. He held the doll close to him and demanded "mine." I did NOT let the opportunity pass me by. If Julian wanted a pretty princess doll, damn straight I was buying it for him even if it was a plastic piece of garbage that is probably made of harmful toxins. Julian held that doll all the way home, took her to his crib while he napped and then to the playground. I braced myself for the inevitable. As soon as Julian's princess was spotted by his older brothers, the mocking began.
"Why is Julian playing with a Barbie?" my five year old sneered. "That's a girl's toy" Zachary snickered. I hushed them as quickly as I could, telling him that they mustn't make fun of Julian and that it was perfectly fine for a boy to play with dolls.

Of course I realize if I had daughters I might be annoyed or even upset by the  dolls available on the shelves of our toy stores. The tiny waists, the flowing hair, high heels and cat eyes. The dresses which would likely prohibit anything more physical than knitting. These princesses send a message to impressionable minds loud and clear:  You must be pretty. To be pretty you must have impossible proportions and a painted face. So here I sit conflicted. My son likes a doll, this is fabulous! But the doll is a representation of an unrealistic standard that I believe is incredibly harmful. It sends a message to girls, but it also sends a message to boys. This is what your girlfriends should look like. My Spiderman toy is strong, her Barbie is pretty and stands on her tip-toes. I don't like it. I don't like it.

Yet as parents what are we suppose to do? We can stop buying the toys that our children ask for, but the message is everywhere. It's in the movies that our kids watch, it's on the covers of the magazines we pass by in the supermarket, the billboards on our freeways and the clothes that we buy. And it runs deep, so deep.

Today I got excited that my son wanted a princess doll. Tonight I am sad because, really I hate what that doll represents to all of us.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

This is fun....right?

At least someone was happy for part of the time.
There was a time, say nine or ten years ago when hiking meant packing a light bag with water and a couple of sandwiches. It meant getting an early start, and heading up to a trail head high in the mountains to escape the scalding summer sun. It meant climbing steep paths that lead to spectacular views, long conversations and periods of sweet silence. We hiked the whole day until our legs were shaking and our feet were sore.

Fast forward to September 2013 and hiking looks a bit.... different.

Armed with an arsenal of snacks, sandwiches, beverages, diapers and a backpack carrier for our toddler we get a start much later than planned. The delay was was due to an argument with a five year old about wearing socks, a twenty minute time out for an (almost) eight year old after he called his younger brother a "stupid poopy-head" and fifteen minute search for pair of matching shoes for the baby.

After we successfully pile into our minivan which just screams "rugged outdoor adventure",we head to a "family-friendly" hike in the foothills, one that promises little elevation gain, and a gentle stream perfect for skipping rocks. Forty-five minutes later we arrive at our destination to find the parking lot jam packed with other minivans and sportier cars with bike racks on top. Seems that the flat kid-friendly hikes are usually shared with the mountain bikers.

Often times just navigating our way to the trail head requires more effort than a five mile hike sans children. We grab hands that don't want to be held, in an attempt to keep our tiny offspring safe. We return to the car multiple times to retrieve forgotten water bottles and sunscreen. We (unsuccessfully) attempt to coax our toddler to ride in the backpack, eventually yielding to his violent protests and carrying him on our hips.

Ahhh. The trail head! But first a potty break. No we didn't remember the hand-sanitizer. *Sigh.* The older boys run ahead. All is good. Five minutes in and the husband and I are congratulating each other on a fantastic family outing. Isn't this lovely? It isn't even that hot yet. What? You want a snack already? Seriously? Can't we walk another 15 minutes before stopping? Okayokayokayokay.... we can have a snack! We stop and begin rummaging through the pack. Pretzels? No. PBJ? No. Granola Bar? No. We don't have gummy bears. Why would we have gummy bears? You aren't hungry? Fine. Backpack slung back on shoulder we return to our walk.

"BIKE!!!!" "BOYS! BIKES! MOVE TO THE SIDE. THE SIDE!" "No don't cry, I am not mad, I just want you to be safe. We need to watch for the bikers and make room for them okay? Stop crying. Let's keep walking. Yes you can have some water. I just need to get it out of the pack."

Back to walking and we make it something like .01 miles when shoes needs to be tied. He can do it himself! (Only he really can't, so what should take 10 seconds takes five minutes and another lesson about bunny ears.) We have been "walking" 15 minutes now and I can still see the bathrooms where we started.

I put on my best camp counselor voice and try to motivate my boys. "Hey guys! Let's see if we can find that stream! We have to keep moving so we can get there! Let's go" I chirp cheerfully.

"Streams are dumb" my five year old informs me. "Hiking is so boring. All it is, is just walking." Don't get frustrated I tell myself. Keep calm. Use a bribe.

We have trail mix!!! With M&M's! BINGO. All systems are a go. Fueled by a mouthful of sugar the boys forge ahead. Julian is getting heavy. Won't you please go in the backpack? Maybe if we just force him in he will grow to like it. Back arched, it's a two person operation. I'm kicked in the chin and David has had his hair pulled but finally we have maneuvered our two-year old power-house into the pack and we are on our way.

It isn't as easy as it looks.
Julian's wails die down after ten minutes and we start to enjoy our surroundings. The wild flowers, the blue sky the.... "Look it's a deer!" Dad points out a doe obscured in the distance by forest and brush, I barely make it out. "I see it!" Zack chimes in. I bite my lip. Here it comes. "Where? Where? I don't see it!" Evan is craning his head this way and that trying to find the animal, which I can no longer spot. "Where is it?" Evan's voice rises in panic. He might miss it. Zachary wastes no time in informing his younger brother that he did in fact miss a viewing of the most spectacular deer in the history of all hikes.  Tears erupt. "I never get to see ANYTHING, and Zack always does! It's not fair! We have to find another deer right NOW!" Oh boy.

We look for distractions, point out unusual bugs and flowers, but Evan isn't fooled he missed the damn deer. He pouts and complains that his feet are tired, that it's too hot and that he is bored.

I'm getting a headache. Where the hell is this flipping stream that promises hours of fun rock skipping? And what is that smell? Right. Diaper change. In the woods. Fun stuff.

No stream but we find a large flat rock perfect for a lunch break. We sit down and unpack the picnic, which appears to be the highlight of the whole hike. Ahhh peace. 15 minutes later we are packed up and ready to press on. The boys seem rejuvenated and full of energy. They begin running down the wooded path, how sweet. I should grab my camera. A wail.  Zachary blurts an angry "I hate you!" The boys start pushing and shoving and a young couple walk by with a confused look on their faces.

"What is going on?" I demand. Talking over each other, with tears running down their faces I am told about how each one wanted to be the leader and who shoved who, and blah, blah, blah.

Defeated we return to our van. Once buckled in, the boys are again happy and chattering as they settle in for an episode of SpongeBob.

It's then as I am closing my eyes and trying to catch a cat nap on the way home that a

Hiking with their cousins. Guess who isn't happy?
small voice from the back of the car asks "Can we hike again next weekend?"

Friday, September 6, 2013

Single Mama Drama

I am trying to write a blog post. So many ideas have come to mind over the past week, but honestly I am just too exhausted. The husband has been traveling with great frequency over the past few months, leaving me the single mom who doesn't really ever get much of a break. 
Not so happy after a 7 hour road trip

There are times that I truly enjoy being on my own with the kids. There is a sense of freedom when I don't have coordinate schedules and consult with anyone else on dinner, music or television options. To be honest I'm married to Super Dad, and when he is gone I don't have to compete for the boys attention. I feel like I do some of my best parenting when I'm flying solo. Yet, it does grow exhausting. From the moment I hang up on my last call of the day until the nanny arrives the next morning it's all me. It's all me for dinner, dishes, laundry, lunch packing, conflict resolution, bath time, middle of the night sheet changes, breakfast, more conflict resolution, diaper changing, dressing, negotiating, backpack finding and more conflict resolution. I'm beat. And when my husband finally does return from his business trip I find myself wanting to hide in my room rather than participate in anymore family time. 

It is also a rather lonely place to be. All those nights where there is nobody to commiserate with after dinner went uneaten and you were hit in the head with a Hot Wheel hurled by an angry five year old. Often when the phone call comes from Dallas, Oakland, Ohio or Watertown Wisconsin, I'm too tired and frustrated to share the news of the day with the husband calling from the Marriott after a happy hour, dinner or run around the lake. I know there are long meals, layovers and and boring meetings. It isn't a competition, I simply wish we could trade places every now and then.

So this week was a challenging one and it's Friday evening and instead of joining my family outside I am hiding in my basement writing this blog. The week before I was on my own for several days before venturing on a seven hour car trip wit the kids to meet their dad in Albuquerque for Labor Day weekend. Let's just say that trip, which had some nice moments, almost pushed me over the edge. It isn't
The trip started out promising. They sure look innocent
 all bad. We managed an exhausting (think holding a 2 year old for an hour long service while reprimanding a five year old who wouldn't sit still) but meaningful Rosh Hoshanah celebration, and a family game night. But I'm worn out, burnt out and ready for a weekend in bed, which as I am sure you can imagine, is simply not in the cards.... 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Getting My Jewish On. Happy New Year & Stuff.

It's that time of year again. That brief period of the High Holidays when I get my Jewish on.  The only time of year that I step inside a synagogue, and each year, inevitably  I vow that I will make more of an effort to attend at least occasional Shabbat services. The annual blowing of the shofar awakens my inner Jew and leads me to research temples and Sunday school programs for the boys.  There is something about hearing the familiar Hebrew prayers (which, admittedly might as well be said in Chinese, Arabic or Latin from what I understand of them), joining in the melodies, which vary only slightly from region to region, and sharing in the traditions passed down from generation to generation, that make me long to embrace "my people."

I was raised Jewish to a certain extent. I attended Sunday school, although I never took Hebrew lessons and I missed out on the whole Bat Mitzvah thing, I ate challah occasionally, went to a Passover sedar annually and suffered the injustice of Hanukkah in a Christmas community.  After my parents split I began to celebrate Christmas with my father, and eventually I married a non-practicing Lutheran who has no interest in organized religion.  My children attended a Jewish preschool in Berkeley, California which gave me access to a solid Jewish community, until we moved on and the boys started school in a predominately Asian  community. With no teachers singing "Shabbat Shalom" and educating them about "tzedakah" it became harder for me to expose my children to their Jewish heritage. I have made a few attempts here and there, taking the boys to a disastrous picnic-style sedar at the local JCC, and lighting the menorah at Hanukkah, but it has been half-hearted.

And yet here we are again, at the Jewish High Holidays. The time of apples and honey, reflection and remembrance. There is something so beautiful about these traditions, I am drawn back year after year, to mumble the prayers I don't fully understand with strangers whom I somehow belong to. Once again I sit here on the New Year, and tentatively embrace the rich traditions of my heritage, longing to know it
more fully, fantasizing about sharing it with my boys.

I did not realize until yesterday that Rosh Hashanah is this week. I have not made arrangements to miss work and attend services with the kids. My husband is traveling and to be honest, taking the boys on my own sounds less than appealing, yet I found myself frantically researching the options last night, trying to find some way to mark the important day. So tomorrow I will take my boys to a community I do not know. I will attend their family "sing-along" service and join them in their evening meal. It won't be easy. Julian won't sit still, Evan won't like the food, Zack will want to know where all his friends are. But we will be there together, just as we were last year, acknowledging that Sunday school or not, we come from something, we are a part of something. We are Jews.

L'Shanah Tovah!