Lunchbox Weighs In – Christmas Toy Review

We can’t let this whole toy review thing go without tiny Lunchbox getting a say, right? (And PS, Lunchbox isn’t tiny anymore… he’s six. I know, I can’t believe it either).

SO…drum roll please. The winning toy for a six year old boy? (At least THIS six-year old boy…) Was…

Not a toy at all. He is in LOVE with the Chomposaurus Dino Chair! Check this thing out… He literally carries it all over the house. He even tried to sleep in it on Xmas. The good thing is that it is lightweight, so having him haul it up and down the stairs has been, while not ideal, not a big problem, either. I’ll have to weigh in later on durability, but it’s been a big winner at our house! 🙂 chomp

Another big favorite was the Archiform building set. This thing can be reconstructed into a million configurations, and Lunchbox works on them while relaxing in his chompo-chair. We’ve put up and taken down several buildings since Xmas. My only complaint is that disassembly isn’t super easy, and the little tab in slot attachments have a tendency to snap if they are pulled too hard. That said, I think this will last us a while — good solid wood construction and big sturdy pieces for little hands. archiform

Another winner this year was the Bloco Toys Aqua and Pyro Dragon set. This was a construction project more than a toy, but it was exactly the right speed for Lunchbox. He needed some help, but he could put a lot of it together himself, which was great. bloco

I’m not gonna lie — both guys got a lot of stuff… but I’ll just talk about one more thing here. Lunchbox is a puzzling little character. And he likes puzzles. (so do I, so I’m always excited when there’s a new one to be done…) This year, he got the Janod Fireman Observation Puzzle. It was exactly the right speed for him, and it was extra cool because it was round. And, best of all, once it was assembled, it was a hidden picture puzzle! All the pictures appear around the edges of the puzzle and you have to find them in the middle once you’re done. Super fun! puzzle

I’ll add that I realize my boys are spoiled. The Major and I honestly don’t get them gifts… We usually will wrap up a couple things — never toys. This year we got them each a pair of winter shoes and a money bank… Not too exciting. We are blessed to have a big family that chooses to send gifts, and the little guys are learning to be grateful for what they have (though that is a hard lesson to teach… tips???)

I’ll leave off here… with a promise that I have rectified the over-green guestroom situation…  And a wish that all of your holidays were merry and bright!

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The Things that Wait…

When I have a free evening, I feel a lot of pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I also feel, well, free — but getting a couple consecutive hours with which I can do whatever I want starts to feel like a puzzle where I analyze all of the many things on my “want to do but don’t have time” list along with those on the “need to do but don’t have time” list and try to see which things fit into the space available. And then the feeling sets in that if I do all of that and choose a “thing” to do with my free time then it is no longer free. And so I don’t decide. And I usually choose to watch TV (on the Internet since the Major talked me out of subscribing to cable…) or episodes of something I care nothing about on Netflix. (There is a notable exception here – I recently watched seasons 1-4 of Mad Men on Netflix, and I really enjoyed the entire thing. But now that is over and since I don’t have cable, my Don Draper fantasies will have to be put on a back burner for at least two more years I guess, until Netflix gets season 5. By which time I won’t care. But that’s kind of a digression, huh?)

I want to write. Something real. I often think about how this wouldn’t be so hard. I have lots of ideas, and I know how to type. I’m not cocky enough to think that I would be successful if I ever chose to actually try to, like, really write something real… but I’m smart enough to know that I’ll never be successful at writing if I don’t, uh, write. (See, really SUPER smart, huh?)

I want to learn how to quilt. I know. I’m like ninety.

I want to finish the appliqued felt stocking I’m making for Lunchbox before Christmas, since I finished Turbo’s (in just under 1 year, thank you very much. Hoping for a bit quicker completion on this next one.)

I want to finish making curtains for my kitchen. (You had no idea I was so darned crafty, did you?)

I want to edit the book that I’ve been asked to edit. Since I will actually get paid for this, it seems like I’d be more motivated.

I want to finish unpacking the boxes that are STILL HERE…

But I don’t do these things. Or any of the many many other things I really do genuinely want to do.

Because when I have a couple hours unscheduled and uninterrupted, what I want most is to do nothing at all. Or at least to not HAVE to do anything at all. And so I accomplish little. I wonder if this will change when my kids are a little bigger and I’m able to accomplish more stuff during their waking hours, freeing me up to do more stuff when they’re asleep?

Turbo gets his kicks

Turbo started soccer Tuesday night. It happens all the time, for lots of families — kids start new sports. But this was a big f’ing deal. I have never been so proud of him.

I should let you know that we’ve tried Turbo in an organized sports class once before. We tried Tai Kwon Do when we lived in the desert. And it didn’t go well. He had the physical agility and coordination necessary, but the concept of listening to a teacher and doing what the other kids were doing was not something he was interested in six months ago.

This was different. I was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to follow directions, listen to the coach, or keep himself from beating the crap out of any other kid who happened to touch his fancy new red soccer ball. I was worried that I’d be taking home a sobbing mess who screamed “I don’t want to play soccer, I don’t want to play soccer,” over and over all the way home.

I was wrong… I have never been more proud of Turbo. He listened. He followed directions. He KICKED ASS. And I shot photos the whole time, and the kid had a huge grin on his face in most of them. I saw talent, coordination, willingness to learn and most importantly, FUN! He was so excited about it all night, and he kept that enthusiasm throughout the next day. I couldn’t stop telling him how proud he made me, and not because he is actually GOOD at soccer. Because he had fun. Because he participated.

I have a kid who is a lot like me. WAY too introspective, WAY too controlling, WAY too anal. And it makes for a hard life. So I’ve made it my personal crusade to keep this kid of mine from focusing on the negative all the time, to find the silver lining that I always struggled to see. Every day on the way to school we talk about why today is going to be a great day. And every day on the way home he tells me one thing that was awesome about his day. Sometimes he has to really think hard to find something, but he does it. And soccer has made all of that effort to lift him totally unnecessary for the past 24 hours (and maybe tomorrow too!). He was proud of himself. He was happy. He was confident.

It. Was. Awesome.

I vowed to never post my kids’ real names or their photos here in order to maintain some anonymity in a scary world… and I’m struggling with that because the only way to show you how amazing he was is to post a photo. So I am breaking a rule tonight. Here is Turbo. Being awesome.

Dancing my way home

This has been a good week so far… no specific reason, really… just a lot of little things. For one thing, I went back to ballet. I understand that the image of an almost-40-year-old woman in tights isn’t one that most readers might want to have in their minds, but there I was, Monday night, in tights once again. I should preface this post with some background.

I was a dancer growing up. My mother put me in the standard combo tap/ballet class when I was three years old, and except for a few fits and starts of a month here or there, I danced until I left for college. Things gradually became more serious for me as I got older. I guess I had a bit of ability, and moved up through levels at a normal or slightly accelerated pace, to the point where I was in a pretty serious class from about 6th grade on. I danced at a serious classical studio, one which turned out several professional dancers through the years, who went on to Joffrey, the Houston Ballet and other big companies. (I was not quite that talented!) It was the kind of studio where you stopped talking when ballet class began, and you didn’t speak until it was over. You kept your mind on your body and at times found a poky stick helping you put parts back where they belonged if you were out of alignment. The school (along with a few others) fed the Fresno Ballet Company, where I danced roles of increasing difficulty through my junior high and high school years. Between the hours of ballet class, rehearsal for Company and my tap and jazz classes, I didn’t have much of a social life… I sometimes regret not being a part of organized sports (since it turns out I’m kind of coordinated and might have done okay…), but ballet was a part of who I was, and I don’t regret that.

Sometimes I wonder about putting kids into serious pursuits so young… I was three when I began. I didn’t have a choice about it, and it became part of my identity before I was capable of deciding if I wanted that to happen. But maybe that is how these things go. Maybe I was lucky enough to find what I loved at a very young age. (It does seem a bit coincidental, considering my mom ended up owning the studio where I danced — a place where she grew up taking lessons herself and where we lived at one point… ) As a result, I think that ballet — like it or not — has been a part of me my whole life, even if I haven’t acknowledged it often.

Anyway, I have had ballet dreams on and off, since I stopped dancing. I cannot hear the music for Swan Lake, Coppelia, or The Nutcracker without finding my entire body tensed, my muscles rehearsing independently from the rest of my conscious being. I watched the movie “Black Swan,” and thought all the same things about all the shocking scenes that everyone else did… but I was also swept up in a wave of emotion that I couldn’t identify. I watched the scenes that took place backstage, and in the empty theatre on the stage, and my heart ached. There’s something about waiting in the wings to appear before an audience; something about preparing yourself in a dressing room under those cold harsh lights… something I miss.

So I went to a ballet class this week. A grownup ballet class. I had no illusions of returning to what I used to be. I only knew that something in me wanted to dance again. When I told my mom what I was doing, she said simply, “It was inevitable that you’d dance again someday. You are a dancer. Dancers dance.” And it hurt. And it was hard. And I have no balance anymore, and I got dizzy doing turns across the floor. And the “grownup” class is not serious and there was a lot of chatting between exercises at the barre. But my body knew what I was doing, and my heart swelled with the music, and my feet remembered. And I felt like I’d come home.

100 Years…

This is where I give you some good excuses for being totally silent for the past two weeks. Besides a hurricane and it’s long and drawn out aftermath, I have none. I’m a West coast girl, and I was not prepared for the likes of Irene — even if she wasn’t a “real” hurricane, as I’m told by all the veterans out this way. Nonetheless, she was a bitch and I’m glad to be finally done with her. Kids are back in school, the yard is starting to look normal again, and I may even be back in the office soon if they get that sorted out. But this is not a hurricane post.

I don’t know if its the rainy weather today, or the fact that I’ve had more than a week at home with my kiddos with their school shut down for repairs, but I’m feeling a little sentimental. The one thing that I work on a lot — in the personal realm — is trying to enjoy the moment, especially with my kids. I spend a lot of time moving around, cleaning up, organizing, and it eats up many of the precious moments when they’re busy being little boys. It eats into the time when I could be just sitting and hanging out with my husband, too. That guy who lives here. Sometimes I spend so much time doing these “important” things, that I feel like I am missing everything really important. Afterall, on my deathbed, will I recall that on September 5th I did a really thorough job of cleaning the kitchen sink — that it smelled clean and shone like new? No. Definitely not. But I might remember the fact that this was the day that Lunchbox said his first “sentence” — “I eat.” (Appropriate, no?) And I almost missed it. I’m lucky he said it in the kitchen while I was scrubbing the sink. What else am I missing while I’m off doing busywork and my kids are growing up?

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. My mother is her only child, and I’ve watched for the past five or six years while this has torn her apart. Grandma was doing okay for a while — she grew up in a world that dictated that women should always be polite and put on a good face in front of strangers, and her professional life dictated that she be always proper. That served her well in covering the fact that she didn’t remember meeting my husband before and wasn’t sure who my kids were. Sometimes she wasn’t sure who I was, but usually she knew me and just subtracted a few years from my age and had me back in college. But now she doesn’t know me. And she sometimes doesn’t know my mom, which I know is killing my mom. Mom says that she said goodbye to Grandma years ago, and that this woman is not her mother. Nonetheless, she feels obligated (is obligated, I guess) to visit her weekly, make sure she is safe and as happy as is possible. She takes her to lunch and doctor’s appointments, to get her hair done… and Grandma always went happily. Until recently. Lately she’s forgotten to be proper and polite, and she has been mean. So things have been tough for Mom.

And last week Grandma fell and broke her hip. She had surgery to relieve some of the pain, but odds seem good that a full recovery is not in the tea leaves. Mom believes that since she has basically stopped eating, won’t take her medicine and refuses physical therapy, that the end is in sight. And that will be a blessing and a great loss.

I look at what is happening to my grandmother and feel devastatingly guilty for not appreciating every single second that I’m living this life with these amazing little people to keep it interesting. I feel guilty for ever being in a bad mood or not being 100% present for my husband or my kids. What else is there? In the end, what are we but the sum of the relationships we’ve had and the memories we’ve created?

I heard that song by Five for Fighting on the radio this morning — 100 years. And I thought about the message — maybe I do have 100 years to live. My great-grandparents demonstrated some longevity. But I wonder how much of it I might be aware of, if Alzheimers really does run in families? I’m at 38. That’s less than half. I could turn it around and live in a way that I can be proud of every day for most of my life if I start right now. I’m going to try. I don’t think I’m quite old enough to join the Red Hat Society, but that’s what I’m angling for…

This Mommy needs a drink…

It turns out that unpacking thirty kazillion boxes while trying to manage the never-ending interests of a two and four year old is difficult. Maybe impossible. It turns out that apple juice and goldfish are going to trump unpacking just one tiny box during every spare second between getting home from work, making dinner and getting the TLAs into their beds. (TLA – tiny little assholes… no, they aren’t really assholes. But sometimes the Major and I need to feel like we’re getting a good curse out here and there without them knowing, so we call them TLAs. I know. God hates me, etc., move on.) ANYWAY, I suppose that during this time, I haven’t been quite the nicest mommy in the world. I have a lower than normal tolerance for having to ask ninety times for something to get done, for repetitive questioning, for pretty much everything that goes along with being a small person who ALSO just moved his entire life and is way more confused about the whole thing than I am. But a couple times since we’ve gotten all our boxes, Turbo has told me that he wants a “different mommy” because this mommy is mean. It’s funny… but it also hurts. Because I know I am not always a nice mommy. When I really question him about this new mommy, or give him my permission to go find a new one, he usually breaks down and says that he only wants THIS mommy. And THAT is always nice to hear. (But it ain’t helping get these boxes unpacked, either.)

We Are Here… but far from settled

We haven’t even gotten to this phase yet…

Howdy! Apologies for the long absence… this move has been a lengthy one.  Here’s how it’s gone down so far:

June 12 – movers arrived for our pack up.
June 13 – the boys and I got in the car (which I literally packed up like a huge suitcase) and drove 5 hours to my parents’ house.  We stayed with them until July 6th.  Yup, that’s almost a month with my parents.  Yes, I spent 18 years with them one time, but that was a long time ago.  This was both wonderful and difficult.  Any time you put adults together in tight quarters, there will be personality conflicts and differences.  Add in a dose of the usual family tension over all the same issues you’ve disagreed about since you were 10.  Now add two rambunctious toddlers.  Yeah.  It was a long month, but it was really great to get to spend so much time with my parents, especially since we are now on the opposite coast.
July 6-12 – Lunchbox, Turbo and I bid my parents farewell and drove another 4 hours to visit the Major’s mom.  We had a great visit there and since she has a slightly bigger house than my folks, I got my own room and en suite bathroom!  It felt like a hotel…
July 12 – In the car again, this time for 8 hours in the opposite direction to visit with the Major’s aunt and uncle, who are VERY kid friendly.  (They have a playhouse built into their backyard and more toys than I have at my house!)  The boys always have a great time there, and they are always wonderfully generous with us (as are the Major’s mom and my parents, too.)  Another great visit.
July 15 – We dropped our car off to be shipped and took up residence in a hotel near the airport.
July 16 – We flew across the country and met the Major on the other side.  A nice 13 hour day… fun stuff. We drove “home” to… the Navy Lodge, where we lived until this past Monday, when we moved into our new, empty house.

Now we are sleeping on the floor, cooking on camping pots and pans and generally squatting in our new house (which I LOVE — the house, I mean, not the camping part).  And maybe, one day soon, we might get our stuff.  And maybe our other car (though it is quite fun driving the Major to work and picking him up every day).  The boys start school next week and boy am I — I mean boy are THEY — ready.  I start work the week after that.  Maybe some of my work clothes will come first.

Regardless, I have a computer again and a place to call “home,” so I should be around a bit more often.  Thanks for waiting and hanging in there with me.  I can’t wait for life to feel “normal” once again!