Okay, well, not YOUR birthday – rather it was Levi’s.
It began in January, when after we more or less moved in, and after we attended a friend’s party that I thought – oh goodness, we haven’t talked about Levi’s party.
A few days later, I remembered to call the Bowling Alley. They had space, so I was able to reserve the room. I counted the kids, divided it in half then cut a few, adding a few from last year. I hoped it wasn’t that many, but I hate being surprised with cost.
I pulled the invitations from last year, redrafting and reformatting to fit four on a page. I printed, cut, and copied the graphic into an email to send off to the friends who weren’t in class. Two weeks before the secured date. My lack of planning is within what I’ve been told is standard etiquette. Victory!
The RSVPs rolled in, and didn’t, so a reminder was sent, upon which more RSVPs rolled in. Then some changed. We ended up with a manageable number, and because I forgot to update the RSVP with the bowling alley – we ended up with 5 tables and corresponding lanes! That meant the kids were able to spread out, comfortably. There was a year of maturity in which we had a calmer, quieter bunch.
The kiddos had a good time. Only one smashed finger (Levi’s), and I’m still not sure what happened. The adults were calmer too, likely picking up on the calmness emanated from the kids. And, for the first time – Levi even reported that he had a good time.
A word on the cake. I used the same chocolate cake recipe as for Elisa and David’s wedding. The 8″ cake also sported the yummy strawberry filling. The chocolate cupcakes had a cherry inserted, instead of strawberry filling. Now, this bit was done the morning of his party. This is not how I go about prepping for birthday parties. I did make a cake the night before. However, it’s been many months since I made an 8″ cake, and I forgot to measure the batter instead of just dumping the whole product in the pan. I ended up with an overfilling cake pan, burned oven, and singed actual cake. The next day, when we remade the cake, Levi was able to help. This tickled his funny bone to no end, which was likely the better option all around. I repeated the overfill pattern, though, with the cupcakes and we had at least four casualties. And, for the firs time ever – I made enough (not too much) frosting! Cream cheese, of course.
We’ve moved. After being a lifelong renter, I am now, with my husband, a homeowner. We purchased a house near our old home, only about a mile a way. It’s a little closer to our son’s school. It’s near a park. And, it’s near our favorite bus line.
We closed on the house on November 27th, the day before Thanksgiving. Since, we have experienced lessons in choosing paint, learning to decide on furniture, and cleaning together the old house. Despite our best attempts, the landlord was disappointed in our cleaning. But, I am hoping we are each walking our separate ways. I hope to write more on the last year as we begin this new year, now that I feel I can discuss the challenges we faced.
We are here, in 2014. This is the year that will mark my eleventh year in Portland. This is the year that will mark our son’s 7th birthday. This is the year that will mark my 36th birthday, and our 8th year of marriage. The food buying club has worked, together, now for 4 years. Levi is in his second year of school at Holy Cross, and he is, now, doing well, comparable to his first year of preschool.
Monday, we will go back to school. Monday will be the first time we will start our day, our complete day, from the new house.
In addition to living in a new house, in a new neighborhood, with new logistics. I will be starting the Executive Leadership Academy from Willamette Valley Development Officers. This is a 10-month program designed to propel people into the next stage in their career. Since graduating from college in 2008, I’ve been struggling to find the right fit for me, for the long-term. I have explored different schooling, volunteering, and job opportunities. And, I hope this one fits the bill. It covers a variety of topics that are quite logical, as well as being paired with a mentor.
So, new house, new routines, and new education. Here’s to life in the new year. Happy 2014!
Sometimes… sometimes it feels like it just comes down to a few moments. There are so many moments that make up a day. One moment, someone complements you… and you are feeling elated for being noticed. In another moment, someone unjustly yells at you, and you are feeling deflated for the accusation and unjusticeness of it all. But, they are all just moments.
Two night ago, I had, what felt like, a successful parenting moment.
There are so many books, so many ideas, so many ways to parent. And, in this place I call home, so many of them fly in our faces daily… so many things with which to pick and choose. As a parent, I want my child to be successful, in however he defines that success. I want him to be kind. I want him to be thoughtful, courageous, and brave. I want him to have a good understanding of a moral and ethical right and wrong. I want him to be a strong communicator in which he will have power over his ideas. So, much, we want for our children.
And, often, I sit there looking at him, and my brain cannot help but flash forward to the moments that are to come – graduating from the various grades (K (done), 8th grade, senior year in high school, perhaps college or beyond?), working his first job, enjoying his first relationships. And, I come back from that flash forward into this moment – into the here and now – and I know that these choices, these actions are shaping those outcomes, for better or worse.
Some time ago, I realized that we all come from dysfunctional families. No family is perfect. Some families yell too much. Some families don’t say enough. Some families widdle away their monies on exotic vacations while others are so spendthrift, they enjoy little outside their homes. Some families are so afraid of the outside world, they shut their children in under the guise of protection. Some families are so afraid of being shut in, they expose their children to things they are perhaps not ready for…
And, where does our family fall? I would hazard a guess that we are somewhere in the middle, having experienced various extremes in our own lives, my husband and I hope to carve out a better future for our son.
And, I hope I had a successful parenting moment in that carving because there are so many moments that, when in reflection, I know I could have made a better choice.
We are clearing out the old, getting ready for the new. Three adults buzzing along, trying to get work done, and the six-year-old just wants to play. He had just got done helping me clear out a space, when he changed tactics and forgot “helper boy” and recalled “silly boy”. I went back in the house, and he turned the back lights off – so those working out back could not see – and then he gaily ran through the house and hid himself in his (old) closet.
We’ve had an awful lot of rule bending lately, and the line has moved. I know I need to keep the line firm. But sometimes, you just need to kick up your tired feet. But, is this the way he’ll behave on a job someday? So, I track him down. I am not angry so much as imbued with my parental duty. I walk as my feet echo in the bare room on the bare floors. I hear him giggle. I walk towards the giggle. I walk in his old room. All is quiet. I am certain he is… yes, he is – behind the door. I fumble for his hand, I have yet to say a word, and I grab it. He knows something is wrong. He resists. I grab hold of his coat, careful not to grab harshly onto his arm, trying to grab the hand, which has turned into a fist, instead.
We were discouraged from using this tactic previously. Yet, I am firm in its use, and continue to walk him.
We walk through the bedroom, the hall, the living room, into the kitchen. At which point he starts shouting, “No, no, no, you haven’t even told me what’s wrong!” (I prefer to seat him, talk, set timer, review, apologize, move on.)
I set him on the stool, “You have to have a timeout for being rude.”
The timeout ticks by. I get a few more items cleaned up. I go back to the kitchen and it’s nearly done. He pops up after the timer hits zero. We sit. We review. I remind him, twice, of what he did. He says he doesn’t know how, and resolves that he was trying to be silly or mean. I explain that the mean behavior is the rude behavior, and he has a Eurka! moment. He thinks, calmly now, “Oh, I understand,” legitimately understood.
There was no yelling. There was no gnashing of teeth. There was an exchange, and it was perhaps one of the most pleasant timeouts w’ve ever had.
Cheers to understanding. Cheers to a new year. Cheers to new beginnings.
The thought occurred to me today that, now six days before Thanksgiving, I should theme the next few days of writing. Each day, I should consider something I am thankful for. Now, that I am home, considering writing, I thought since there are six days left, perhaps I could do a count down. What six things am I thankful for today, and tomorrow five, and so on.
So, today, the six things I am thankful for in no particular order:
A school for my son that is a community,
A boss who expresses gratitude each day,
A husband who surprises me with his silly sense of humor,
A possible change in neighborhood,
A considerate son who expresses his love and need for me daily, and
A commute that, into work, is less than twenty minutes.
I started drying my fork, and then I noticed part of my lunch was clinging, viciously, to the tines. In that moment, I was transported back to when I was a preteen, staying with my uncle and aunt for a month during the summer.
Here, in the present day, the work dishwasher is on the fritz. While we’re waiting for parts to arrive, we now have to wash and put away our own dishes lest the kitchen sanity spiral out of control. A colleague put a few signs up on Monday when they walked into a complete disaster of a kitchen – dishes piled everywhere. We all have important jobs to do, but no one wears the title of janitor or maid, so cleanup really has to happen per your own incidents. I’m reminded of the adage, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after your own mess.”
So, I’m scrubbing away at my semi-curry stained lunch (I made cheesy noodles last night for dinner, loaded with turmeric because the family can’t tell the difference, and I think it’s a fun way to sneak in an anti-inflammatory and whatever other great things turmeric does for you). And, I am transported to this warm summer where I was washing dishes with my aunt’s nephew. I suppose that’d make him my cousin once or twice removed (I’m not sure of the count).
My cousin didn’t clean a dish thoroughly. He left a spot. I was trained to return dirty dishes to the washer so they learned how to was dishes properly. And, as I did this, my aunt interjected. She said, “No, not in this house,” and with a flick of her finger, she knocked off the spot, rinsed the dish, and handed it to me for drying.
I think my aunt was trying to teach me about teamwork. Many hands make light work. We all make mistakes, but if we have the organizational goal in mind, we’ll get there. We’ll be kind, rather than right.
So, today is World Kindness Day. How have you contributed to our greater societal good? How were you kind today?
My husband was kind to me. He poured me a big glass of wine. I read Levi three books at bedtime, and he read me one. He read nearly every single word of 8 Silly Monkeys. I offered our back porch for a friend to store some things while she’s getting ready to move.
So, thank you flick of curry for reminding me that it is better to be kind, than to be right, on this World Kindness Day.
We are on tooth three. Levi has, now, lost three teeth. It seems like the first two teeth were over a year ago – but I think it was really just last spring.
I have a problem. That is, I forget to be the tooth fairy. I remember all the way up until bedtime, and then, somehow I forget.
So, we did a few things wrong this time. First, I forgot to be the tooth fairy. Second, I had previously instructed Levi to put the tooth in a bag. I was helping the Tooth Fairy – so she wouldn’t have to dig around under a pillow for the tiniest tooth you have ever seen. Rather, the Tooth Fairy simply has to fumble around for a bag, replace with the agreed upon trade ($1), and be on her merry way.
Levi was so excited about this tooth. In fact, he thought he lost it before he actually did because it was so wiggly, it wiggled to one side of his mouth over another that the gap left was enough for a tooth! It took another week for the tooth to actually leave his mouth, dangling by a thread the whole time. He even pulled it out this time. I did the last one – and that was awful, it made a noise. I think my son is more sensitive in the gums than I was.
Finally, the tooth leaves his mouth. It is a Sunday. he is thrilled to no end. The whole day goes by with references to what might be. He even sneaks it under his pillow before I could prep the whole bag scheme!
And, 9pm rolls around and I get into my nighttime routine. Then I go to bed. Then, I wake up, first with the husband leaving for work, and second with the small boy shrieking in terror, “The Tooth Fairy forgot to come! My tooth is still there!”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Parent fail. Danger, Will Robinson.
“Oh, no,” I reply. “I bet she got really busy. I bet if you put the tooth under your pillow one more night she’ll come back.”
“Okay,” replies my skeptical son.
That night, I forgot again, to instruct him to put the tooth in the bag. But, I had a reminder on my phone. I would not forget! Bedtime comes, and goes. An hour goes by. My alarm goes off. Must be tooth fairy.
I enter his room. The light is low, as we’ve been keeping it on for 6-year-old fears. He is sound asleep. I slowly put my hand under his pillows, there are three. He doesn’t move. He is very sound asleep – out to the world. I pat around under his pillow. I cannot feel the tooth. I pat more, reaching further, towards the wall. I cannot feel the tooth.
I cannot feel the tooth! And, I remember, I didn’t have him put it in a bag! Argh! Night two of this? Seriously?
He has scooted down, so I gently remove a pillow, and another, and another. Pillows strewn about his room, there is still no tooth on his bed! Now, I start to remove covers. I cannot believe he’s not waking up. I still can’t find the tooth!
There is something miraculous about this stage of boy – sound asleep to the world, thankfully not wetting the bed, but awake at 6am, every day. After about 5 minutes of pawing and patting in his room. I give up and devise backup plan. I gently put this pillows back. I gently put the boy back. I gently put the covers over his snuggled body. He stops shivering, and cuddles his rabbit further in the covers.
I tip toe out the room. I go to the back room, grab a sticky, go to the kitchen, nab a pen, grab a plastic bag.
I construct my note.
I know you lost your tooth. But I cannot find it. Here is 50 cents. Please leave your tooth in the bag tonight, and I will come back one more night.
The Tooth Fairy
I sneak back into his room, and I gently push the bag and note and acquired fifty cents under his pillow.
In the morning, the small boy looked under his pillow, but he didn’t understand what he had. I had to explain it to him a few times before he got it. Bottom line, kiddo, the tooth fairy couldn’t find your tooth, BUT, she knew you lost it so she is giving you half the value. Find your tooth, put it back under your pillow (hey, how about in this bag she left?), and then you’ll get a dollar.
I had told him that he needed to find the tooth after school, but how can you do that when that’s the only thing on your mind? So, he found the tooth before school. I still don’t remember where he said it was.
That night, I remind Levi about the instructions. After an entire day has gone by, he unfortunately forgot. So, I had him get the note, and I reread it to him, and I reexplained it to him. He got the gravity of the situation: NO TOOTH, NO CASH. So, together, we put the bag under his pillow, and this time, the retrieval is much easier. I go in his room, with a new note that reads:
Thank you for following my instructions. I am sorry I couldn’t come the first night. Here is your dollar for your tooth.
The Tooth Fairy
P.S. Keep this bag for the next tooth.
The next morning, he forgot to look under his pillow! So, I remind him, and then he’s not excited about the dollar.
Right, the kiddo still doesn’t get money. He still thinks it grows on trees, or at least mommy and daddy. And, we’re trying to incorporate a value of work by charging for odd and regularly needed jobs around the house. But, mommy and daddy aren’t consistent enough for the message to stick.
So, the dollar sits by my bed stand for over a week. Until tonight.
Today is Veteran’s Day, and Levi and I had the day off. So, we had the whole day, together, alone. A few times today, I had Levi demonstrate how wiggly his other front tooth is. I even had him twist it back and forth like a soda can top, loosening it just bit by bit, as much as he could stand.
Until. Until he asked for something more to eat and the brown bananas weren’t good enough. He asksd, then, for an apple. He asked for it to be cut up.
“No. Eat it the way it is,” I demanded.
“Okay,” he agreeably agreed.
So, he sat next to me on the couch. Chomp. Crunch. Chomp. Crunch. Suddenly, he is searching for something. I thought he dropped a piece of apple.
“Mommy! Look! It came out and I didn’t even feel it!”
We had to write two notes to the tooth fairy. It is now 9:00 pm. I am going to wait another 20 or 30 minutes before I go in there to deposit the next dollar. Hopefully it will be more appreciated than the first.
We were asked to bring in an old Halloween photo of ourselves, for our coworkers to guess, but I forgot. Putting away another book, tonight, I grabbed the album I meant to grab all week.
Two things are happening at once: 1) I am already reviewing old files, and 2) now I am reviewing old pictures. Suddenly, a theme of lack of confidence emerges.
Let’s begin with the pictures. What an interesting life for a little girl to lead – navigating domestic instability, loss, grief, horror, eye surgery, and eventually domestic stability. Amidst the domestic stability, this little girl struggled with finding her place. There are forced smiling photos, a photo where others are smiling, and she is crying (not unlike my 6-year-old might). There are photos of genuine happiness. There are photos of athleticism and surprised affectionate attention. A girl, growing up, not sure what to make of it all. Trying, quitting, trying again, two-step backs, one step forward.
One of those tries was tennis. Being a college bound girl, she heard, often, that one must not appear lazy to the admissions people. One must stay involved, and better to be involved with things you like. One must be well-rounded. So, school, before, after, in between were all thins one must try to do. (Ironically, this is one without assessing how much one can handle.) A sport was decided upon, after some training during the summer. This was an individual sport, it was readily understood, and it was one that required practice. That is, this girl found, there were fewer people “gifted” to this sport unlike basketball, volleyball, or softball. You had to try. It was as if the sport was found. The existing coach had a system where the players were graduated from the junior varsity team to the varsity team, not on merit, but on age. She was “pro-seniority” if you will. This methodology served the girl well because it would show improvement on those college admissions applications.
Unfortunately, after her 10th grade year in high school, the beloved tennis coach decided to retire. A new coach was hired with, naturally, different ideas of how to manage the team and the success of the team. This coach was pro-merits. That is, one had to test or compete to be on the varsity team. Well, this girl’s idea of tennis had reached its plateau. She wasn’t getting any better, and she was then relegated, by merit, to the JV team, and not even good enough for singles. Though, she and her partner succeeded well in first placement in doubles.
In this small town fish bowl, their place was near the bottom. During the year, it didn’t matter. They did well with what they had, and they won nearly every match played. They learned to communicate, and were great partners.
But, the girl was loathe to be a JV in her senior year. How embarrassing to be a junior varsity player when in 12th grade. So, she capped her tennis career and opted for stage production in drama, after school sales for newspaper, her church, and a few other things.
She got into college, but the same pattern revealed itself. The awkwardness of finding one’s way. The inability to find a group where she fit. The difficulty in assessing who to trust, what people wanted of her, what she wanted, and how to get what she wanted from others. In this awkwardness, she had to stop, and she took a two-year break from school. During that break, she took on a few jobs. Never being one to be satisfied with the rote role initially given, she used her ability to learn quickly to climb as high as the organization would allow: and eventually, she was assistant manager. But, she couldn’t deal, again, with the bickering, the awkwardness, the inability of herself and others to cope with change – so she quit, again, and returned to the safety of school with renewed appreciation for the academic rigor.
This time, she took an apartment by herself, lest other’s drama infect her need to focus. The learning continued, and continues.
Now, 15 years later, she finds herself admits a new coach, changing requirements and expectations, and she is unsure of how to navigate. Given the various influences, this girl is slow to trust and highly skeptical. She is unclear of the others intent and how they desire to measure success. And, while this other is clamoring to prove her own worth, this girl finds herself having to do the same thing.
“Don’t do that,” I scolded Levi as he tried to crash into me with one of his attack hugs.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because, I’m all topsy-turvy.”
“What do you mean, ‘topsy-turvy’?” he queried.
“I mean I can’t stand up straight. I can’t balance.”
He considered that for a bit and understood by replying, “Oh, you mean you’re tippy!”
Yes, I’m all topsy-turvy today. Last week, our first week of full day schedules, and I was so proud. We had our stuff together. We woke up early enough. We had enough time for breakfast. We had enough time to make lunches the night before. There is never enough play time, but we digress. And, it all sort of worked.
And, then, I woke up Friday morning. I had one of those sore throats that make me wonder if I am getting strep. It actually started the night before, Thursday night, which resulted in several throat examinations, where I stare in the mirror positioning my tongue just so I can shine a flashlight down the full length examining, past my tonsils into my throat for white spots that are likely not food. I can see some white spots where my throat is sore, so I continue to watch the right side of my throat.
The next morning, when I woke up with it even more sore, it wasn’t even red! Let alone a showing of any white spots. So, I started to chalk it up to allergies and did what I could to ease the pain. I did not go into the office lest I be tempted to torture my sandpapered throat. I got work done outside of the office on my new little white computer, instead. The head was clear, the brain was functioning. It was just a throat thing.
Until Saturday morning. At which point I woke up to a full-fledged cold. The aches. The pains. The runny nose. Oddly, the sore throat had disappeared.
This was our little hitch in the road. Because I was not feeling well all weekend, the grocery list didn’t get made. The menu didn’t get planned. And lunches didn’t get prepped (save Daddy’s) the night before. And, Monday still existed, and we still got to school on time, though not as early as I would have preferred. And, why? Because mommy was all topsy-turvy with a cold.
Well, I’m feeling better now, thankful for the leftovers re-imagined twice, equalling semi-quick and quick meals that keep on giving. And, hopeful for tomorrow and a cleaner start.
There was a time I would get really bored with the day-to-day, yearning for something else – travel, excitement, something more. There was a time that, when single and living alone, I would visit my sister every weekend. There was a time, when single, that I had enough discretionary funds that I could take a weekend trip wherever in the lower-48 and it wouldn’t break the bank.
But time has shifted, costs have shifted, and my family structure has shifted. There is an interesting thing that seems to happen when we become parents. How our focus switches to this small thing growing before our eyes, and it’s almost as if we don’t always recognize when we let our own needs aside. Suddenly, the desire for that excitement, for me, goes away. It’s more important to make sure the now six-year-old is rested before school. $250 round trip air fare is long since passed no matter that our wages and expenses haven’t really changed (that is we can afford less now than we could 8 years ago).
It struck me last night while talking to an old friend whom I hadn’t visited with in quite a long time. She was talking about saving up for her 10 year wedding anniversary. (I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years!) We were talking about commutes (she and her hubby have long and longer commutes). And suddenly I was talking about our daily pattern: husband wakes up, goes to work, Levi and I wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, go to school, go to work, husband gets home from work, husband picks up kiddo, mommy comes home, eat dinner, prep for next day, repeat. And, that’s just our routine, and that’s okay. But, every time I vocalize that routine, I realize how boring it sounds. The same thing, every day. And, that’s okay. It doesn’t feel boring as we’re living it.
There are so many nuances that make each day different and strange and crazy and enjoyable. But, really, that’s it. We occasionally go to the ocean, but I loathe booking up every weekend. The visit a weekend I didn’t mind in my early twenties is long since gone.
Now, I know more about what I need to function. I understand better how this introverted personality and blossoming from a shy person affects how many people I want to interact with at one time and when I don’t enjoy it (loud bars where you can’t hear anything aren’t my favorite unless I can zone out to the band’s music). I prefer smaller, more intimate settings where I can learn about something cool from a few people at a time. And, I need that refresh time to keep all the stories straight, lest I forget. I need to be able to revisit the details, without chiding myself over a something that may or may not have mattered.
There is a part of me that misses the whimsy of my twenties. A part of me that misses the ability to throw some clothes into a bag, buy a quick plane ticket and go… But, there is a larger part of me that takes solace in the routine of everyday. A larger part of me that more or less doesn’t mind it. Perhaps it’s because i have too many obligations right now and balancing the “must get done” is hard to do with the “what I said I’d do”.
So, yes, I’ll take my boring life as we continue to learn how to raise our son. I’ll take the monotony of the weeks as we establish and re-establish our routines. And, I’ll be curious what I think of this post in a year.
Day two of days is complete. The dishes are done. The lunches are prepped. The coffee is programmed. Some of the laundry is folded, the dishwasher is loaded.
I am loving day two.
One of the hardest things to do is come home from work – having anticipated needs, taken care of fires, and attempted to stay on task amidst distractions – is to come home from work and again have to clean up after everyone. I don’t know if it’s because we were at such opposite schedules that we couldn’t communicate our needs or desires. But, I am loving this day two of communicating, and helping, and doing the work together so we don’t all have to do it by ourselves.
And now, now, it’s almost 11pm, and the boys are in bed, and I’m having an appropriate quiet time before I venture off for some reading time.