When mornings are hard…

“Gimme my sandwich back, man!”

Life has been crazy… and I haven’t been here, because maybe some of you know I’m over HERE… and at work. And doing that kid thing… Like all of you, right? There is always so much going on, and sometimes I am not the best version of me as a result. (I actually think I’ve yet to be the best version of me. Though the version of me after two Manhattans is delightful, if you want the truth…)

ANYWAY.

I hate it when I’m mean to my kiddos, or short with them, or just not patient. When they’re driving me nuts I TRY to take a deep breath and imagine my house without them in it. No, not like that — I mean I try to imagine what life will be like in about ten short years. When it’s just me and my husband. When there are no Nerf guns being fired at my desk, when no one is singing the JT song “I’ve got this feeling…” and changing all the words to be about his balls… (or are those the real words? I honestly don’t know. I’m so hip.) But I think about how a day will come soon when I’ll miss them SO much, and the quiet won’t feel like a gift, and they’ll be big and they won’t want or need me constantly…

And those are the days like today when I’m too busy, but when Lunchbox comes into my office wearing a random paper crown, excited ‘cuz he has a field trip at school, and says “we should look at polar bear pictures on the internet,” I pretend I TOTALLY have time to do that, and call Turbo in. And then we spend five minutes looking at those polar bear pictures, and I narrate what those bears must have been thinking as each photo was taken, and the boys laugh, and so do I… and I try SO hard to hug them tight and NOT to think about how much I’ll miss them when they’re not here with me to drive me nuts every day. 🙂

Do you know what I mean?

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!

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.