It Can Be Both

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Being a Mom is hard.

Because of the whole, you know…

labor pains

sleepless nights

poop explosions

laundry

ear infections

meltdowns

“I do it myself!”

potty training

“NO!”

laundry

“She started it!”

3 am vomiting

“What’s for dinner?”

carpools

laundry

bullying

“Mooooom, I neeeeeeed you!”

Sharpees

“What does God look like?”

tags and seams

“Ewwww… I hate [whatever you made for dinner]!”

mean girls

“Where’s my uniform/library book/other shoe/snack?”

sleepless nights

ER visits

laundry

“I need it by tomorrow.”

pink eye

homework

“Can’t you just do it?”

LICE

“He took my toy/cookie/shirt/diary!”

driving lessons

“You’re the meanest Mom, EVER!”

The Talk

“Mom, I have to tell you something…”

laundry

peer pressure

“I didn’t make the team.”

curfews

just say NO

sleepless nights

“I need you.”

“I don’t need you.”

college tours

goodbyes

 

The list goes on and on… and of course it doesn’t end when they leave for college.

The kids change. The worries change with them.

Kids & worries are shape shifters.

Everything looks different over time but the basic concerns are ALWAYS some form of “Am I doing this right?” and/or “Will they be OK?”

It doesn’t seem like too much to ask for them to just be OK. But it’s huge. So we worry. And it’s exhausting.

Being a Mom is hard.

But then.

Then you have one of those moments – moments – when you’re just looking at your kid – maybe he is sleeping peacefully with his little butt in the air or maybe is stepping on a school bus for the first time or he’s helping his brother read or she is shining on a stage or she’s holding up a worm she “caught” or he’s flying around the bases in his first Little League game or she’s crying because her best friend doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore or he’s saying “I love ya, Ma,” or it could be that he is simply eating a bowl of cereal (for dinner. because, well, you know… cooking is also hard and exhausting) – and your breath catches because in that moment, WOW this kid is so beautiful and special!

How did it happen? How did I get so lucky?

And you realize that you have no idea if you’re doing it right, but so far, they’re OK so you must be doing SOMETHING right. Yay you!

So yeah, being a Mom is hard. And yeah, we’re so lucky to have the job.

It’s hard. And we’re lucky.

It’s both. It can be both.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the exhausted, lucky Moms out there. 

 

Here are some of my moments, some that made me feel exhausted and some that made me feel lucky…
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Mexican Adventure 2016

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Now that we’re home, I really loved this trip.

While we were there, it was kind of a different story.

It all started when my sister Lori decided, fairly last-minute, to bag her previously planned Spring Break trip to Iceland (don’t ask me) and we decided to take our combined five kids – ages 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12 – somewhere together.

We had a few requirements: a relatively short flight and the option to do more than just sit by the pool or beach. So after a lot of discussion, we decided on Mexico. It’s an easy flight to Cancun and there seemed to be many opportunities to explore the local sites as well as many kid-friendly resorts.

Well. Let me tell you something about kid-friendly resorts in Mexico during April. They’re all booked already.

But we persevered. And we Googled. We toggled between hotel websites, Expedia and every other one of those travel-related sites, checking ratings and availability until we finally found something that looked great fine ok like the kids might enjoy it.

The Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Go ahead, check it out. I’ll give you a minute.

Looks pretty nice, right? THAT’S WHAT WE THOUGHT.

We decided that we basically needed someplace for each kid to sleep (bed, cot, bathtub, whatever) AND some kind of common area in which Lori and I could drink after the kids went to sleep.

Perhaps when we called the resort and no one answered the phone, we should have given up, but we’re not that smart quitters. So we booked two rooms online and then, in the comments box, wrote something like:

PLEASE CALL US! NOBODY IS ANSWERING YOUR PHONES AND WE NEED TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE ABOUT MAKING THESE ROOMS ADJOINING AND WE’RE NERVOUS THAT MAYBE NOBODY REALLY WORKS HERE AND IS THIS EVEN A REAL PLACE?

THREE DAYS LATER, a hotel rep called Lori and recommended that we book one junior suite with an adjoining room to get us everything we needed. DONE AND DONE.

Confirmation number received, flights booked… kids, we’re going to Mexico!

Leading up to the trip, I must have told 20 people the same thing: we have very low expectations and I’m sure it will be fine.

My criteria were few:

  1. No bedbugs.
  2. Clean, adjoining rooms so we could hang out at night.
  3. A fun, kid-friendly pool.
  4. No bedbugs.

So Monday morning, we all piled into my minivan and I made Lori drive us to the airport because I have a phobia of driving to New York airports and shut up I think the Van Wyck is scary whatever.

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The Nib can barely contain his enthusiasm.

Lori dropped us off curbside with our luggage and left to park the car. After about 10 minutes, she texted me: Do you have the car key?

SHIT. I had the key in my bag (the minivan is one of those annoying cars that doesn’t actually require the key be in the ignition, the key just has to be around the car) and now I was envisioning the minivan just shutting down in the middle of that crazy JFK airport traffic, leaving her stranded so that me and the five kids and all of the luggage would have to find her and probably get mowed down by an Uber and…

Another text “It’s OK, I’m already parked… I just wanted to make sure I should lock it.”

PHEW. (Did it occur to us that the key thing was a bad omen? No. But maybe it should have.)

Travel was uneventful… Xanax and JetBlue TVs have changed flying for me forever. I intend to plan ALL of my vacations based on destinations to which JetBlue offers direct service and my Xanax refill schedule. Cleveland, here I come! And I might be high depending on how turbulent the flight was!

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The Nib’s a fan of JetBlue, too.

We landed in Mexico, retrieved our luggage and headed to Immigration. WOW, those lines were long. Long enough for the kids to play at least ten rounds of “20 Questions” and for me to sweat out all of the water I drank during the prior two weeks. Let the sweating begin!

We finally made it up to the counter only to find out that I screwed up our forms… we don’t have to go into too much detail here… bygones.

We found our driver fairly easily and got into his nice air-conditioned van. *Please note: this is the last time we will be cool until our return trip to the airport.

We drove to the resort and as we pulled in, I was relieved to see that it looked… fine! And BONUS, there were actual employees working there!

Lori and I went to check-in, informing the woman that we booked adjoining rooms because we’re traveling with soooo many children and we can’t NOT have space to put them at night and shut the door so we can unwind with margaritas and… well, just margaritas.

Then she said those fateful words: “Could you please wait just a moment? I have to talk to my manager.” When she returned, she told us that the manager would speak to us directly and would we mind stepping down to the end of the counter? We were not feeling so optimistic about adjoining rooms at this point, but we waited patiently and waited some more and then waited a little less patiently. Still sweating.

When the manager FINALLY made his way over to us, the conversation went something like this, although it was much longer, more confusing and infuriating than I can even begin to record here:

Him: Ladies, I have something very embarrassing to tell you. We do not have rooms for you today.
Lori: Adjoining rooms?
Him: No. Any rooms.
Lori: What? How can that be? We have a reservation… here’s the number. I spoke to someone on the phone…
Him: Yes, I know. It’s a mistake but we don’t have any rooms. BUT, we are prepared to offer you an upgrade…

Lori and I both thinking, “Oh, ok good, he’s going to upgrade us to an awesome suite or something… phew.” 

Him: … at our sister hotel downtown, about ten minutes away.

At this point, it’s about 5pm and we have been traveling since 7:00am. The kids are hot, tired and hungry. (Yet, shockingly, being SUCH TROOPERS.)

Me: <frantically trying to Google the sister hotel> We don’t want to go to the sister hotel. We booked THIS hotel because of all the kid-friendly options and the whole eco/nature stuff.
Lori: To clarify, you have OVERBOOKED your hotel and now you’re saying you have NO rooms available for us?
Him: Yes, ma’am, that’s what I’m saying.  But we can offer you an upgrade our sister hotel…
Me: STOP CALLING THAT AN UPGRADE! That’s a Jedi-mind trick and it’s not going to work! (I didn’t really.)
Him: OK, one minute please. He then leaves for about 15 minutes… has a long conversation on the phone in Spanish, returns and says, I’m sorry there’s nothing else I can do except get you two regular rooms, not adjoining, but they won’t be the ones you booked.
Lori: Wait, what? So there ARE rooms available?
Him: Well, they’re not the ones you booked.

More confusing conversation, more confusing conversation… deep breathing, deep breathing…

Me: Do you have two rooms for us at this hotel?
Him: Yes ma’am.
Lori: OK, we’ll take those.

So then we waited another 20+ minutes while he does God knows what and when he returns, he spends a realllllly long time explaining the rates we’re going to get for these rooms… {math, math, math, math, math, math, I zoned out}. Well, that was about all that Lori could take. She had remained very calm up until now but at this point…

Lori: ARE YOU HONESTLY TELLING ME THAT YOU’RE GOING TO CHARGE US FULL PRICE FOR THESE TWO ROOMS??
Him: Please don’t yell, ma’am.
Lori: OH, I’M PRETTY SURE I’VE EARNED THE RIGHT TO YELL.
Him: Fine, ma’am. Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

I’m going to fast forward but suffice to say it was the most frustrating customer service encounter EVER. We were obviously mad that they didn’t have our rooms, but it was SOOOO much more than that. This a-hole was so shifty and condescending and unapologetic and possible dishonest so we finally walked away from that counter with room keys in our hands and steam coming out of our ears.

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This is not either of us, but it’s EXACTLY what we looked like. Except I was sweating way more. 

We were loaded into a golf cart to take us to our rooms. *This golf cart ride was one of the highlights of my kids’ trip. Every time we walked anywhere – which was ALL THE TIME – they asked if we could take a golf cart. You can imagine how that didn’t get annoying at all. 

We arrived at rooms 5312 and 5313 (yup, rooms next to each other) and I’d LOVE to surprise you and say, “You guys… the rooms were AWESOME!” but that would be an enormous lie.

The truth is, the rooms were terrible. So, so depressing. Cold (but not literally), stark, empty boxes filled with nothing but the sadness of all the previous guests. Oh, and two double beds, the corners of which I immediately checked for bedbugs. (None! #blessed)

Lori and I did a lot of, “OK, well, this is fine! Look, our own water coolers! Oh yeah, by the way, nobody drink the tap water! NO, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT WHEN YOU’RE BRUSHING YOUR TEETH! Don’t worry about why, just don’t! And we’re right next door to each other, so that’s fun!

We changed into dry clothes (because.. SWEAT) and headed to the first restaurant we saw, a Mexican buffet. Lori and I immediately ordered Margaritas (not good… more later). The kids filled plates with foods in various shades of beige and orange – tortillas with cheese sauce, chips with cheese sauce, rolls with cheese sauce. We all laughed about what a long, CRAZY day it had been and assured ourselves that tomorrow would be great! Some of us were faking our optimism.

Tuesday started out pretty well. We ate more buffet food, explored the grounds, swam at various pools, etc. But then, heading back to the room in the afternoon, I started to feel not quite great. I left Lori at the excursion desk and took the kids back to the room with me. We only had to stop once for me to throw up in the bushes, so that wasn’t TOO bad! 😜

I’m going to fast forward through the next two hours because they were and continue to be very traumatic for Lori… I basically fell asleep after excessive vomiting and then the Nib slipped getting out of the shower and hit his head badly. I heard the scream, so I jumped out of bed to sit with him while Lori raced to call for ice.

Nib and I were sitting on the floor – I was vomiting into a garbage can and he was still screaming – when the ice showed up with a doctor who proceeded to press down on the egg-sized lump on the Nib’s head for several minutes and then told us that the Nib needed a head x-ray. We opted not to believe him and the Nib was totally fine 20 minutes later. I went back to vomiting and Lori took all five kids to another effing tasteless buffet. End of Tuesday.

Things improved after that. I’m not going to give you the minute-by-minute blow-by-blow for the whole trip, but after a very rocky start, things did get better. (Not the rooms though – they were completely joyless the entire time we were there.)

As I started writing this all down this morning, I realized that there are really two ways of looking at the majority of the trip: “Through the Facebook Lens” or “How It Was in Reality.”

So to give you some ideas…

Facebook Lens: The kids were AWESOME – well-behaved, patient, good-natured, agreeable and happy.

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Reality: Have you met my kids? No, I’m kidding. The kids were MOSTLY awesome. But HD constantly complained about the blister on his foot and refused to wear shoes. The Nib turned everything into a winning game and LO experienced her usual highs and lows.

LO is funny. And awesome. But funny. For example, her “highs”… we would see a bird – a fairly ordinary bird – on the way to breakfast and she’d jump up and down and be all, THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER! THIS IS MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD! THE BIRDS HERE ARE SO COOL! AND ALSO THE TREES AND THE OTHER NATURE! I LOVE IT SOOO MUCH! And then I’d tell her that we wouldn’t actually be able to fit in a two-day deep sea fishing excursion and her spirits would be dashed. And she’d be sad right up until we saw the next creature…

We’re all still laughing about the fact that on the SIXTH and FINAL day there, we were walking across this little bridge to go to breakfast… just like we did everyday. And LO stops to look at the river… just like she did everyday. And she yells, “LOOK! TURTLES!” just like she did EVERY. OTHER. DAY. And I’m all, “Seriously? You are STILL excited about seeing those same little f***ers that have been here every single morning?” And the answer is yes, yes she was. It’s all part of her exuberant charm.

But this is the same girl who made a serious enemy out of a life jacket on a river tour and simply could NOT enjoy the experience. So… that’d be a “low.”

My nieces are older, easier and delightful, but even they had one or two moments of their own. (For the record, that was way fewer “moments” than I had.)

*Side note: Our most important items in terms of packing went like this:

1. Passports
2. Band-Aids

Between blisters, cuts and many over-scratched mosquito bites, the kids went through more Band-Aids than they did chips and cheese sauce. And that’s saying something.

Facebook Lens: The Eco/Nature angle of this resort was amazing! The reusable cups, the nature trails, the exotic animals… awesome!

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Hiking to the pool

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Resting in the shade. Still hot.

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Wobbly bridge!

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Giant reptiles EVERYWHERE!

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TURTLES!!!!!

Reality: The grounds and trails and animals were indeed VERY cool and the resort’s eco-mission is admirable. BUT I was slightly concerned that the “reusable cups” weren’t really being cleaned, the exotic animals were places where actual FOOD was being served, we got lost more than once on all the trails and we saw a snake. Also, I missed straws.

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At dusk, these guys came out and were ALL OVER this place where people eat. I guess they are big fans of the chips and cheese sauce.

Facebook Lens: We went to this very cool place called Xcarat and explored cavernous underground rivers, relaxed in hammocks, swam in our seemingly-own private lagoon, climbed on Mayan ruins, saw a ton of cool wildlife and the older kids stayed for the nighttime “Mexican Spectacular” show.

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Reality: Xcarat WAS very cool but it took a LOT of work to figure out all of the logistics and the day was not particularly relaxing. (Imagine showing up at Six Flags one day with five kids of varying ages and interests without having any idea what was there or how to navigate the place… it was like that).

Luckily Lori is almost always calm, cool and collected in those situations when I’m more like, “AH!!!! I DON’T KNOW! DON’T ASK ME ANYMORE QUESTIONS! I DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING/WHAT WE’RE DOING NEXT/IF THERE ARE FISH IN THE RIVER/WHY THE LEMONADE TASTES WEIRD! IS THIS FUN FOR ANYBODY?? MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST GO HOME!?!”

We did explore cavernous underground rivers, which were awesome. Unfortunately, I had to focus as much on LO’s battle with her life vest as I did on our thousand-year old surroundings.

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This was taken right before her life jacket started to quietly plot her demise.

The lagoon thing really happened (Lori and I did actually relax for those seven minutes), as did the ruins and wildlife.

And the show? Well, I wasn’t there but I heard it was interesting. There was a lot of dancing depicting Mexican history but with very little explanation. Spectacular… ly confusing?

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Facebook Lens: We went to downtown Playa del Carmen one night and had dinner “off campus.” Strolled along the main pedestrian shopping street and had a great meal.

Reality: All true. Plus, the Nib got an extra bonus burger at dinner and I found a Starbucks, which made me happier than it should have. #uglyamerican

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“See ya later, Moms… we’re going to tour with the Dead!”

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*Oh and this crazy thing happened… we were sitting outside while the kids had ice cream when the Nib told me he had to pee. I sent him across the street, back to the restaurant we had just left to use their bathroom. After he disappeared, it occurred to me, WE’RE IN MEXICO. I barely let the kid pee by himself at the Little Barn and yet, I just sent him off to a strange bathroom in a foreign country. Isn’t that just crazy? #MotheroftheYear

Facebook Lens: All-inclusive means unlimited frozen beverages and delicious international food buffets!

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Reality: ALL of the drinks tasted like they were made with a heaping dose of saccharine or some other type of artificial sweetener and if you think it’s impossible to make absolutely flavorless tortilla chips and cheese sauce, you’re very wrong.

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She was a big fan of the Sweet-n-Low Daiquiri

Facebook Lens: The pools were very kid-friendly (think water balloon fights and hamster balls!), there was an “AquaPark” with water slides for kids of all ages, and the beaches were BEAUTIFUL.

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The Nib can find a “winning game” wherever we go.

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Reality: The pools were very kid-friendly (think COMPETITIVE water balloon fights in a PACKED pool with babies and old people) and the AquaPark was fine, but it did play a non-stop stream of the same five Disney show-tunes or oddly monotonous techno music. And there was potato salad out at the buffet ALL. DAY.

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Notice several people IN PAIN behind them after being pegged in the head with a four lb. water balloon. Good times!

The beach LOOKED beautiful but the turquoise water masked a sharp, rocky, underwater terrain making it virtually impossible to frolic in the waves. (The girls tried anyway… see above regarding Band-Aids.)

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Gorgeous! But what lies beneath… 

Facebook Lens: Tropical!
Reality: So effing hot.

Facebook Lens: It was awesome!
Reality: It was awesome. For the kids. And Lori and I survived it. And now we’re laughing. Sort of.


*For anyone who doesn’t know me that well and read this thinking, “Wow, she got to take her kids to a fun resort in Mexico and all she’s doing is complaining about a lot of stupid shit… what a spoiled effing biatch,” you should know this: I totally get that any kind of Mexican vacation is a luxury and I know how lucky we are to have been able to do this and I’m mostly joking. But I really am spoiled, so that’s why I’m not 100% joking.

Coming Down the Mountain

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Hello! It’s me… I’m just wondering if after all these years, you’d like to… read. A blog post.

How ARE you? It has been so long. Happy New Year, by the way. Nope, I didn’t make resolutions this year so THAT’S been one less thing at which to fail.

How were the holidays? And yes, I AM including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday in there, because we did something super fun for the long weekend this year. I mean, aside from an in-depth family discussion about civil rights and Dr. King’s historical contributions.

Me: Nib, do you know anything about Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Nib: Yeah, he was a guy who made people stop doing stuff separately and wanted people to do everything together.
Me: Um, OK, that’s a good start.

We also went skiing in Vermont.

And by “we,” I mean, “not me.”

I do not ski. Despite living in Colorado for a few years. Despite having four siblings who enjoy (to different degrees) sliding down mountains on slippery boards of various sizes. Despite being a very partial owner of a ski house in Vermont, I still don’t ski.

tried to ski. In my memory, the story goes like this:

It was FREEZING the day my sister, Lori, took my Dad and I skiing for the first time. I fell a million times and everything hurt. After minimal instruction, she brought us up a chair lift, which almost killed us, and then on a double black diamond trail. My Dad made a few surprisingly controlled turns before propelling down the mountain in a straight line, quickly gaining speed while heading for trees. The whole time, he was screaming, “I am out of control! I am out of control!” My sister chased after him leaving me stranded and alone on top of a scary mountain without the knowledge or skill required to get down. I MAY have taken my skis off and walked most of the way. Frostbite ensued.

In reality, the story goes like this:

It was beautiful, sunny the day my sister, Lori, took my Dad and I skiing the first time. We spent a good portion of the first day going up that little moving ramp with all the preschoolers and coming down the bunny hill veeeeerrrrrrrrrrrry slooooooooowly. I couldn’t possibly have fallen because I was barely moving. If I WAS on the ground it was because I had slowly lowered myself there to avoid acceleration of any type.

After many, many hours practicing, my sister (half-dead from boredom) decided we were ready for a real trail. She brought us up on a chair lift (which I think really did almost kill us but I’m pretty sure that’s a rite of passage for first timers) and to the designated trail.*

*Now, it’s worth noting that in reality, the degree of difficulty of the trail remains debated to this day. While I doubt it was truly a double black diamond, it was definitely above our skill level. Although to my sister’s defense, any real mountain trail was probably above our skill level. Surprisingly, Dad and I were not naturals. This came as quite the shock to us, given our God-granted athletic prowess.

I remember standing at the top of the trail looking down – and I really was by myself because the part about my Dad careening off and my sister chasing after him really is true – thinking how the hell am I going to get down this thing?

It looked something like this:

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And that’s all I remember. Probably because there was so much pain involved in the descent, I blocked it out. I obviously made it down eventually but I can guarantee it wasn’t easy or pretty. And nothing about it made me ever want to ski again.

(Oh and I also tried snowboarding once. Once. And that’s all we need to say about that.)

So, I don’t ski. But as previously mentioned, the majority of my family members do, so it didn’t come as a surprise when the Loud One, after hearing her cousins all talk about their various mountain adventures, wanted to give it a try.

We signed her up for ski school a few years back putting aside our doubts that she would even get the ski boots on her feet, never mind enjoy the sport. (Keep in mind, this was the girl who at the time, wouldn’t even put on basic clothing if it wasn’t super soft, seamless and stretched to the point that hardly any of it touched her body. Ski gear seemed impossible.) But she did it. And she loved it.

Lori and my brother-in-law, Scott, have generously brought her to Vermont a couple of times each winter since then. And now she’s a skier.

Last weekend, our whole family went up to Vermont for the first time in two years. We dropped all three kids at ski school for full day instruction and enthusiastically began our own busy day. Agenda: Leisurely breakfast and coffee, nap, read, more coffee, more leisure, more napping, more reading. I love skiing!

Lori and Scott brought the Loud One and the Nibbit back out after their instruction was over (for, as the Nib called it, “free ski”) and when they were done for the day, they showed me a video of my kids on the mountain.

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Well. I MAY have cried a little bit.

There was my Loud One, easily and dare I say, gracefully, making turns, gliding down what looked to me like a crazy steep hill! And the Nibbit picking up as much speed as he could get away with, stopping with his “pizza wedge,” waving at the camera, loving every minute.

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It felt strange watching that video… I saw that my kids were participating in a world that is so foreign to me. They were learning how to explore mountain tops, travel at high speeds and navigate obstacles. They were learning how to do something and more importantly, how to love something, that had absolutely nothing to do with us, their parents.

They’ll go on to do many things without us, of course… sports, travel, college (although can’t you totally see KJ as the old Dad playing beer pong in the fraternity basement?) but I will always remember watching the ski videos and thinking, “Woah! How the hell did they learn to do that??”

I credit Aunt Lori and Uncle Scott for introducing them to this world – both by convincing me that I should let them try it despite my protests that “… we’re just not a skiing family” and also by literally taking them to the mountain – and I’m so grateful.

When I picked them up from their lessons after the second day, they both reported in about their experience…

The Loud One said, “Mom, it is SO beautiful at the top of the mountain! You should see it… the snow, the trees… it’s so peaceful and amazing.”

And the Nib said, “I was the first in my group to make it down so I won.”

And that just about sums up my skiers perfectly.

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Gratitude Lite 2015

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OK, so let’s just get this out of the way. True, you haven’t heard from me since – wait, let me go check the date of my last post – woah, August 28th? That’s a crazy long time ago. And it was a Back-to-School post? Yikes.

So here are my excuses, in no particular order:

1. I’m lazy.

It’s true. I’m so lazy that I’ve stopped working out entirely despite the fact that workouts are the hot water cooler topics where I live. I bump into friends at the grocery store and I’m all, “Did you see Homeland?” and they’re all, “No, I was working out.” And I’m all, “But it’s on Sundays at 9:00pm?” and they’re all “Yeah… and?” And I’m all, “But you can watch it whenever On Demand!” and they’re all “Yeah, I’m ALWAYS working out.”

There’s spinning of course and CrossFit, but there’s like a whole language of workouts out there that I don’t speak: terms like, SUP and CST 50 and Barre and Corelates and Deep Water Running (WTF? Do people have gills now?)… the list goes on and on and on…

I actually have several close friends whose work clothes are ACTUALLY workout clothes. As in, fitness is their career. Do you know what it’s like to be friends with people who WORK OUT for a living? It sucks. Because they’re all like, “I taught four cardio classes today, but then I took it easy and only did Pilates in my spare time.” And I’m all, “I ate ALL of the Cadbury Eggs.”

Whatever.

Moving on.

2.

OK, so it turns out the laziness is really the only reason I haven’t posted since August. I would love to say that things have been SO crazy for the past few months and I simply haven’t had the time… but that would be a lie.

I could tell you that my kids are just really normal and boring now, so I don’t have any material but that whopper would get me immediately struck by lightning.

So lazy, it is.

But today is a new day! I’m motivated by the hints of holidays in the air and the crazy-ass long lines at the grocery store where EVERY single person was buying French’s fried onions.

I thought I would carry on a timeless (OK, three-year old) WNAN? tradition and fill you in on some of the things I’m thankful for this year. Aside from the obvious – family, friends, Starbucks – these are the things bringing me joy these days.

1. Acupuncture.

Wait. Can I count this as a workout? It’s good for my health, improves circulation AND I feel great when I walk out of the gym office. IT COUNTS!

2a. Books. And to be more specific, Barnes & Noble.

Look, I know it’s more PC to shop Mom & Pop and more environmentally- (and budget-) friendly to go to the library but I’m sorry, I love B&N. Here are all the things I like to do at B&N (sub-list alert!):

  • Touch all the covers and imagine what cover texture I would choose if I wrote a book… Glossy? Matte? Metallic?
  • Read the inside flaps
  • Look at all the journals and pens and mini book lights
  • Read all the magazines
  • Starbucks. Duh.
  • Take pictures of the books that I want to buy for my Kindle. (Shhh!)
  • Kids’ section (sub-sub-list alert):
    • Sit on the stage and perform The Day the Crayons Quit (except that we like to change the words and call it The Day the Crayons Bit. It’s just a little thing we do. People love it. Well, the Nib loves it.).
    • Pick out all the age-inappropriate books that I want to read under the guise of “they’re for my daughter.”
    • Skim some of the “Who Was [insert historical figure]?” Kate Boehm Jerome books to improve my knowledge of history.
  • Flip through all of the Adult Coloring books before reminding myself that I already have so many. #EmbarrassedNotEmbarrassed

And last, but not least…

  • BUY ALL OF THE BOOKS.

2b. Reading.

You’d think this would be the same as “Books,” but you’d be wrong. Because I don’t actually read all of the books. I read MOST of the books but some don’t look as good when I get home so they get stacked in the “To Be Read [but probably not really]” pile. Which is very different than the “To Be Read [soon!]” pile and the “To Be Read [but not urgently]” pile.

And it’s not just books… it’s magazines, parenting blogs, the odd news article, and of course, HuffPost Good News.

I love reading. Most of my procrastination happens so that I can read. Why would I write when so many other people have already written so much good stuff?

3. Whole Foods Breakfast Bars

These came into my life when I really needed them and have filled a previously enormous breakfast void. That’s all I’ll say about that.

4. All things Star Wars…

… specifically the Lego sets that keep HD busy for hours on end and these Star Wars light saber lollipops, which I put in my 5-year old’s birthday goody bag. TOTALLY appropriate.

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5. Jimmy Fallon, Bloodline and Adele’s new album

6. LO’s music teachers

… for tirelessly working with large groups of nine-year olds singing, playing their recorders and new this year, various stringed instruments. After listening to just one of these musicians practice and rehearse at home, I can’t possibly begin to imagine the JOY of listening to 40-75 of them at the same time. Bless you, Music Teachers.

7. Our troops and homeland security people.

Listen, the world is bat shit crazy right now and I’m often freaking out about it. I had the following text exchange with a trusted advisor the other day:

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I’m already a fairly anxious person who’s ALWAYS expecting bad news on the other end of the phone (which is why I don’t answer… just TEXT me, people) so the fact that we’re on the brink of World War III is terrifying.

But then I just remind myself that there are a LOT of people who are SOOOO much smarter and SOOOO much braver than I am doing a boatload of work to keep our country safe. I’m VERY grateful.

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I know it goes without saying, but I’m not really one to “go without saying” anything, so I’d like to add that I’m ALWAYS extremely grateful for my family and friends and the many, many blessings we’ve been given.

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And for anybody who’s missing a loved one this year, take a minute tomorrow morning to think of your best, funniest, happiest memories with him or her and smile. And then, do that everyday. It helps.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your holiday is warm and delicious and full of laughter and love and carbs. #StretchyPantsForever #ButNOTWorkoutPants

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PS. My friend, Smitty and I have decided to launch our new gym. Check out this week’s marketing promotion:

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Happy New [School] Year!

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So you know how people are sometimes like, “Oh, teachers are so lucky because they get the whole summer off?” and you’re thinking, “Yeah, weellllll, I’m pretty sure many teachers are actually NOT spending every day of their summer lounging at the beach.” (I mean, if they are, that’s AWESOME because the teachers I know definitely deserve it after dealing with my kids all year.) But a lot of the teachers I know work during the summer… tutoring, running summer camps, teaching classes and most importantly, they’re always planning. They’re thinking about the upcoming year – new lesson plans, new classroom ideas, new projects, etc. They’re always thinking of new ways to inspire our kids. God bless them.

Well, I’m actually a LOT like a teacher. I mean, except for the advanced degrees in teaching and dedication to educating our youth. And except for the tutoring, running summer camps and teaching classes, too. Mostly, I’m a lot like a teacher in that, while it may have LOOKED like I took the whole summer off from writing this blog, you should know that I was always THINKING about it. See? SAME.

To be honest, I’m not sure what happened with this blog this summer. One minute, it was June 18th and I was posting about the Nib graduating from Kindergarten and then school was over and camp began and I started packing backpacks again and emptying sand out of everything and washing 18 bathing suits and towels every damn day and then there was that trip to London and more camp and more bathing suits and towels and avoiding sharks in the Outer Banks and more sand and geez, where did all of our bathing suits go? and planning birthday celebrations and PHEW, now it’s back to school time.

For years, I would hear people talk about how summer “just flew by” and I would think, “Really? Because those July days feel just as long as the ones in October to me…” And then I realized, you know who’s NOT talking about the summer flying by? The moms of babies and toddlers.

When you have kids under three years old, aalllllllll of the days are just one big blur. It’s like one giant, gray, swirl of time where early, early mornings turn into loooong days which turn into sleepless nights and then you start over again and again and in the middle, there’s mushy food and a LOT of mess and so much “No!” But then months and years pass and all of a sudden, there is a LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.

It’s when you can start calculating your consecutive sleep time in hours instead of minutes.

It’s when you don’t have to schedule your days around nap times and stress about a kid falling asleep in the car for seven minutes, which will set bedtime back by four hours.

It’s when the Mommy & Me classes become DROP OFF. Amen, let the choir sing.

Well, this year, I saw the light and I found myself in the “summer just flew by!” group for the first time ever. And these are the reasons why:

1. SLEEP. When our kids were little and woke up between 5:30-6:00, KJ or I had to wake up between 5:30-6:00, as well. You know, to make sure they didn’t set the house or a sibling on fire. But once they learned to fend for themselves (read: turn on the iPad), we were able to sleep later. But this is true ONLY in the summer because APPARENTLY – as I learned YESTERDAY – even nine- and six-year olds cannot be expected to get ready for school and onto the bus by themselves. Huh.

2. SWIM. All of my kids can all swim. Girls say Hallelujah, WOO! No more boring baby pool! Now we can all swim in the big, fun pool or maybe some of us might swim in the big, fun pool while others of us might sit in the big, fun lounge chair and read a book and let those college kid lifeguards earn their beer money.*

*I’m KIDDING. I totally watch my kids when they’re swimming… from over the pages of my book.

3. CAMP. Camp hours are LONGER than school hours. The bus picks them up. They play, swim, run. Camp feeds them lunch. They play, swim, run some more. And then bus brings them home EXHAUSTED. Who invented camp? High five to that guy.

4. COOK, Don’t have to. No one expects you to make dinner in the summer. Hot dogs, hamburgers and fries from the snack bar four times a week is PERFECT. A few slices of cheese and an applesauce pouch is FINE and if they have ice cream after 4:30pm, that can count as the evening meal.

Please note: IF THE ABOVE IS, IN ANY WAY, NOT TRUE, I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. DO NOT TELL ME THAT HOMECOOKED MEAL PROVISION IS ACTUALLY A FOUR-SEASON REQUIREMENT.

5. HYGIENE. Pool = bathtub/shower. Obvs.

As far as I can tell, the only negatives to summer parenting can be summed up in two words: laundry and sunblock. And I’ll gladly take those in exchange for all of that other good stuff outlined above.

Anyway, the point is that summer is over, and since I’m JUST LIKE A TEACHER, I’m going to get back to work on this blog now.

Please free to bring me new school supplies; I especially like notebooks and pens. I don’t need tissues… save those for the real other teachers.

I hope everyone had a great summer!

Here are some highlights from ours…

Swimming

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ninja

(FYI, this is American Ninja Warrior training)

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Pirate

Pirate Treasure Hunt!

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A Letter to Another Graduate

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It’s amazing to me that it’s been three years since I wrote this original Letter to the Graduate to the Loud One. It started out as an assignment from her Kindergarten teacher (“Write a letter to your child’s future self, to be read when he/she graduates from high school) and it turned into one of this blog’s most popular posts.

It feels like I wrote it yesterday. It’s like sometimes the fast forward button of life gets pushed and things start whizzing by, making that funny Chipmunks noise. (That sound brings me right back to my childhood bedroom, taping songs off the radio, and then playing them on my pink boom box. I would fast forward to the chorus by holding down the FF button and it would make that noise. I know you did it, too… don’t try to pretend you’re THAT much younger than me.)

Anyway, in a couple of days, I’ll have another Kindergarten graduate.

THIS GUY.

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Although his teacher didn’t give us any assignments, I thought it only fair to keep up the tradition. Here goes…

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Dear Nibbit,

If you are, in fact, really graduating from high school, let me first say CONGRATULATIONS! Sitting where I am now, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Even at your current age of 6½, you are extremely focused and driven. I imagine you’ve worked hard and have achieved much during your high school years because of your determination. You’re also just a TINY BIT competitive. OK, a big bit. OK, you’re really, really competitive.

Can you see his face?

Can you see his face?

How do I know? Well, your favorite sentence is “I win.” You turn every trip upstairs into a race. You ALWAYS keep score, no matter what the game or who the players. And you’re constantly asking me who is the best helper in the family… or who is the easiest to put to bed… or who is the funniest… or who I love the most. And when I say, “I don’t know” or “I can’t answer that,” you always say, “I know… it’s me, right?”

You even feel a certain sense of pride in being called The Nibbit, which let’s not forget originates from the expression Nothing But Trouble (NBT). You don’t care. You think it’s cool that you got a nickname that was original and unique, just like you.

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This has been a big year for you, Nib. The reading, the writing, the math… you’re a natural student so that part hasn’t been too hard for you. You know which accomplishments make me feel even more proud?

  • The way you’re learning to look a grown-up in the eye when they’re speaking to you and to answer their question(s) politely.
  • The way you’re learning that it doesn’t matter if “all the other kids are doing it;” if it’s wrong or inappropriate, you don’t do it. Period.
  • The way you’re learning that just because the professionals use their elbows and slide tackle on the soccer field does NOT mean it’s OK for you to use those tactics. (This is a work in progress.)
  • The way you’ve learned how to read the score and pitch count yourself during Yankee games so you can FINALLY stop asking Daddy “What’s the score?” a million times.
  • The way you can identify good sportsmanship on the field and USUALLY recognize that it’s more important than winning.

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Here’s the thing Bud, you’re competitive spirit and strategic mind are going to serve you well in your lifetime. That combination will open up doors and create opportunities for you that will be extremely valuable.

BUT – now listen up, this is important – it will be your big heart that will bring you happiness.

You get that, right?

It’s your KINDNESS that will be the foundation for all the important relationships in your life and THAT is where the good stuff happens.

Right now I see it with your pursuit of “fairness” for your friends, your inclusion of your little brother when your friends are over, your concern for your sister (except during Wrestle Baby when all bets are off) and your affection for your family (Aunt Lori loves your hugs!). Hold on tight to those things.

I also know that kindness and compassion is not always the easiest path to take… sometimes it’s tempting to join in the laughs at someone’s expense or justify bad behavior. Don’t. It’s simple. Not EASY, but simple. And I know you can do the right thing.

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I have NO DOUBT that adventure will find you, baby boy. Work hard, dream big, be kind and always, always be YOU.

Love you to Outer Space and California and back,

Mom

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Dear Loud One,

You know how Sunday is Mother’s Day and I wrote “Be extra nice to Mom!” on the calendar? Well, did you ever really think about how YOU actually made me a mother? I wasn’t a Mom until I met you. Now I don’t turn on the sap machine all that often, but it is an inarguable fact that when you came into this world, you changed my life completely and forever.

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I didn’t love being pregnant. I hoped I would, but I did not. I felt swollen and sweaty and sick for about 108 months (give or take a few). The ONLY benefit of pregnancy – besides, you know, getting you – was that I could wear fitted t-shirts around my round belly and not feel bad about my round belly… you know, as opposed to the rest of my non-pregnant life. (Not that you should ever feel bad about a round belly, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I also really missed my Mom. I complained a lot to Daddy and Aunt Lori, but I remember thinking that I would have gotten some real, true sympathy from DiDi. Because that’s what Moms are for, you know?

Since you were born at the end of August, it was a looong, hot summer. Daddy referred to me as “the human furnace.” One day, he came home from work to find me sitting in front of a commercial-strength, air conditioning window unit I had bought online. It was designed to cool an entire giant office and, as you may someday find out, New York City apartments are not that big. I would plant a chair right in front of the unit and just sit there. He would layer sweatshirts and socks and sometimes even a wool hat… and shiver. But not me. I would just sit right in front of that monster AC and STILL complain about the heat.

I also threw up a lot. Gross, right? It’s not uncommon to feel sick and throw up when you’re pregnant.

Did you hear that LO, BEING PREGNANT IS MISERABLE. A truly terrible, awful experience. One you want to put-off for a very, very, very long time.

When I hit the 39-week mark (about one week before you were due to be born), my doctor recommended that I be induced because you were “measuring so big.” This means that the doctor was going to try to force you out. It sounds kind of wrong now, but I look back at that time and think, “Well, OF COURSE I agreed…” I was so miserable and the doctor whom I trusted very much was telling me that it was time to have my baby. I was just so excited to meet you! Turns out, you were NOT nearly as excited to meet me.

So I went to the hospital on the night of August 21st and took some drugs that were supposed to get things going. They didn’t. It was a long night of waiting and dozing and waiting and dozing… and nothing else. You were staying put.

Early the following morning, things started progressing veeerrrrrrry slowly.

Now LO, you won’t understand a lot of this medical stuff until you’re much older, but here’s how the story unfolded. I did start to feel a few labor pains and was given an epidural (medicine for the pain). It’s all a bit fuzzy in my mind, but maybe a few hours later, my doctor told me that they were going to give me a drug called Pitocin which was supposed to help get you ready to come out.

Well, you did NOT like that Pitocin. As soon as I received the injection, things started happening very quickly. Monitors started beeping, doctors and nurses started hustling and my doctor said, “Kris, your baby’s heart rate is dropping. We need to do an immediate C-section [a special surgery] to get the baby out as quickly as possible.”

I started to cry and she said something to the effect of, “It’s OK, don’t be upset; a c-section’s not so bad.”

I remember saying, “I’m not crying about the c-section… I’m crying because you said the baby’s heart rate is dropping!” I was so scared, LO. I just wanted you to be safe and healthy and when all the doctors started rushing around like crazy, I was afraid.

At that point, they rushed me into the operating room and gave me more anesthesia for the surgery. Daddy, who had been taken into another room to change into scrubs (doctor clothes), said that the doctor pushing my gurney literally cut right in front of a patient who was being wheeled in for a scheduled c-section! It was like a high-traffic intersection!

I wasn’t very coherent – that means awake and aware – while you were being born. In fact, when the doctor pulled you out and said, “Look at this beautiful baby!” my response was, “What kind is it?”

(I had already strongly suspected you were a girl, so it wasn’t really a surprise to me.)

They took you across the room to clean you up and wrap you in a blanket and Daddy went to see you and said, “Oh Kris, she’s AMAZING!” and we talked about what your name should be and we decided that The Loud One was just the perfect name for you. 🙂

We were so happy to finally meet you!

After it was all over, we were being wheeled into the recovery room and I could hear your soft cries. I groggily asked the doctor, “She’s crying… where is she?” and the doctor said, “She’s on your chest.” My arms were wrapped around your tiny body, but I couldn’t even feel them, or you!

I am swallowing ALL of my vanity by publishing this picture, LO. THAT'S how much I love you.

I am swallowing ALL of my vanity by publishing this picture, LO. THAT’S how much I love you.

Needless to say, this was not was the birthday I had imagined for you. While I was (surprisingly) not the type of person who had typed up a whole birth plan outlining every detail including an iPod playlist (people really do that!), I also hadn’t anticipated having an emergency c-section and being so out-of-it for your arrival.

But you know what, LO? I don’t care. Sure, if I had to do it again, I would probably wait another week before considering induction, because while you WERE a really big baby (8.2 lbs!), maybe you just weren’t quite ready to come out yet. I just didn’t know that then… and remember, I was so hot!

Right or wrong, I still don’t really care that I had a failed induction. Or that I had a c-section (followed up with two more). Or that I was groggy for your actual birth. I don’t care that I didn’t get to experience that natural, blissful birthing experience you will someday read about (by the way, I don’t really think this happens to ANYONE).

Because at the end of those brutal 108 months (slight exaggeration), I gave birth to a healthy, baby girl – I got YOU. And that’s all that’s ever really mattered, you know?

On August 22, 2006, you were born and you turned me into a mother. Magic!

I love you, LO… it doesn’t matter how you got here, only that you’ve been lighting up the world ever since.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

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PS. There’s one more story from that day that you should hear. A few hours after you were born, you and I were hanging out in the hospital room together and Uncle Tom had come to meet you for the first time. I was holding you when a very serious-looking doctor walked in. He introduced himself as one of the doctors on the pediatric team and when I introduced myself and Uncle Tom, he said, “OH, this is not the father? I have something to discuss with you… may I speak freely?”

Well, my heart dropped down to my still-a-little-bit-numb, still-very-round belly.

Because LO, you never want to hear a very serious-looking doctor say, “May I speak freely?”

But when he started talking, he said, “You may have noticed the small birthmark on your daughter’s nose…” and it became clear to Uncle Tom and me that he wasn’t there to deliver some horrible news about you. PHEW.

He explained the technical term for the birthmark on your nose (I forget what it was… you can Google it) but he told us that they often refer to them as “Angel Bites” because they appear right after birth and then eventually disappear. Did you hear that, LO?

YOU WERE BIT BY AN ANGEL ON YOUR WAY INTO THIS WORLD.

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Do you know how special that makes you? Of course, you know who I think the angel was, right? I remember thinking, “I hope her angel bite stays forever.”

Sadly, it’s mostly disappeared now, but sometimes, if you turn your head a certain way and the light is right, I can still see it. Magic!

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