Monday, February 20, 2012

Break Dancing and Dreaming of Summer

The first flowers have appeared in my yard, signalling to all the elements of the universe that the unstoppable march toward spring has officially begun. I am celebrating by hiding in my house, hooked to the internet, shopping for a beach house for a late summer family reunion. I am awash in fantasies of warm salt air, bumper cars, greasy boardwalk food, and sleeping with the windows open. There are a few good things to look forward to before that time arrives, but I always love the siren call to look toward the horizon of time and see something lovely.

My crocuses aren't the only thing blooming these days (excuse the cheesy segue). Austin went swimming at the YMCA today. My son, who used to avoid people with all his might, chose the lane next to the only other people in the pool. Not only that, but they were all first name chums by the time they left the locker room together. And making small talk is not the only skill he's working on acquiring. Saturday night at a church youth dance, I have it on good authority that he was breakdancing. Now, I love my son, but he's never been exceptionally coordinated. He does love music, though, and dances with unreserved enthusiasm. What I love is that he is so unafraid in his approach to life. I wish I could say the same about myself, but I am too shy and too afraid of looking foolish to just throw myself at new experiences the way he does. The best part is the way people accept and even embrace him. Just like the first harbingers of spring, these moments remind me that there are glorious things ahead.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Silver Lining

When I was a kid and got sick, my mom would make me corn pancakes and let me lie on the couch and watch tv. Now, I know that being sick was just as miserable then as now, but I actually have good memories of those sick days. Hopefully this isn't considered overly aberrant behavior--I'm going to tell myself that some of you feel the same way.

I asked my family what their best memories were from this past sickness. After they gave me a number of strange looks, I got some answers like: "The moment I felt better" and "When I finally stopped coughing." I had to push and prod (and endure being called a Pollyanna), but they finally came around. So here is what we loved about being sick:

1. Watching movies (lots of movies)
2. Sleeping in
3. Soup
4. Reading (lots of reading)
5. Playing Air Penguin past bedtime
6. Replacing school work with video games

My personal favorite was a night when my little one was suffering with a fever. We got some medicine in him, then he snuggled up in bed with me while we played Angry Birds until he fell asleep on my shoulder. Awesome.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Being Happy

"Hi, Mom! I'm happy!"

This is my two-year-old's current catch phrase. It is often accompanied by dancing (Snoopy-style) just to emphasize the point. He is full to the brim with joy and it is contagious (just like everything else in my house at the moment).

Why is he so happy? He was up coughing last night like the rest of us. He needs his nose wiped every few minutes like the rest of us, too. And yet, he is a living, breathing ray of sunshine. It makes me wonder what I'm missing.

There is the obvious: I'm the mom and so bear responsibility for the people in my home and I'm older with a less resilient body and less abundant energy. But I'm thinking that Oliver may be on to something that I could stand to incorporate a little more of into my life. He does not expand his moments of distress or suffering. He deals with anything negative in full measure when it arises and puts it completely behind him once it passes. He does not dwell on his bad night of sleep or worry that tonight will be equally bad. He is not concerned that he has not returned to full health yet. He feels good enough to do things that make him happy, so he pursues his happiness without reservation. What he has is a winning philosophy. Neither the weight of my adult responsibilities nor the fatigue of my aging self can justifiably stop me from following such a fine example. I will not worry about future suffering or unhappiness. There will be time enough to experience it when it catches up to me. Life is not perfect today, but it is good enough.

Yes, I'm happy!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spring Fever and Stomach Bugs

It all started 14 days ago with sore throats and slightly runny noses. Nothing dramatic or worrisome. It seemed fairly mild, actually, for the first few days. Then the coughing and fevers started. It was pretty miserable. Then, at the peak of that misery, Austin, who had been the only healthy one up to that point, came home with a stomach virus. He was totally down for the count for 24 hours while I ran around spraying Lysol on everything in the house. It did no good. Two days later, everyone except the baby was moaning and holding their stomachs. While coughing and feverish. (I still don't know how our youngest managed it, but he appears to have avoided the stomach thing entirely.) We are still trying to train our digestive systems to work normally again, Austin is just now coming down with the respiratory mess, I feel like the whole thing is starting over on me, and Carter and John sound like a lung is coming up any minute. So we are coming to the end of week 2 of illness, with week 3 looming ahead.

The funny thing is that in the middle of all this suffering came two glorious days that felt like spring. I am always such an easy target for spring fever. One little whiff of warm air and I'm ready to pack off to the local nursery and stick my hands in some potting soil. Instead, sick though we were, we managed a walk in air so intoxicating it gave even a dismal week some sparkle. I know the weather got cold again, the groundhog apparently saw his shadow, and my family's health outlook is not the rosiest, but that one little sneak preview of spring was so potent to my susceptible little brain that I actually feel a glimmer of optimism.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DO Carpe Diem

There's an article that's been circulating, called "Don't Carpe Diem". It's written by a mom who is concerned that parents put too much pressure on themselves to love everything about parenting and feel like failures when they don't. She makes some good points which I don't mean to undermine, but I am forced to confess I do not agree with her philosophy. Yes, parenting is hard and full of duties we'd probably rather not do if we viewed them in an emotionless vacuum. However, I would never categorize it, as the writer seems to, as a perpetual battle through each day with one or two golden moments if you're lucky. Maybe it's my age or maybe it's that I just interpret "carpe diem" a little differently. To me, seizing the day is about chasing down as many of those golden moments as possible and, when I can, transforming the harder ones into something more palatable. It means setting different expectations and priorities for this period of my life, realizing that chores can go undone in favor of playing with and enjoying my kids and that societal pressures will not make me feel guilty about it (most days, anyway).

If you look at the blogs I follow, you will see a number of women whose children have died or are dying. Closer to home, my cousin and my niece have both buried children. I do not presume to speak for any of them, but I feel safe in saying that they would all feel unfathomable joy to be given the chance to endure the toughest of hurdles or deepest of embarrassments that parenting has to offer if it meant having their precious babies back with them. The things that make the rest of us count the hours until bedtime would mean something much different to these mothers. So, when my perspective is not enough, I borrow theirs. I love the golden moments for my own sake and love the miserable ones for their sakes.

To borrow the writer's analogy, I'm not waiting until I reach the summit of Mt. Everest to enjoy the view. It's always possible I'll never make it that far. I'm going to love the climb and give thanks for all the ground I cover and every view along the way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


My parents invited us to dinner last week. When they said we were having grilled chicken I'm not sure I was expecting this:

Yes, that's a hard hat he's wearing. I think he said it was to hold his knit hat in place. Or maybe the knit hat was holding the hard hat on, though that wouldn't explain why he needed the hard hat to start with. I will say, it was a little warmer right in front of the grill, but not much.

That grilled chicken was truly delicious--mesquite smoked and all. He even grilled potatoes. Not bad fare for January.

Nature even supplied us with a flower to mark the occasion.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the summertime preview!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Take a Bath, Take a Bath . . .

Few things are more entertaining than toddler speak. I find myself stopping people from correcting Oliver's pronunciation because I love to hear him  say "Numi" instead of "Snoopy" or "hagog" instead of "hotdog". Soon enough his speech will be clear to all, but this is that magic time when only I can understand what he's talking about (most of the time). Our favorite right now is Jingle Bells which (being a winter song and not really a Christmas one) is still being sung ad naseum in our house. Oliver loves to sing this at top volume, accuracy of lyrics being of little consequence to him. His take comes out sounding very much like, "Take a bath, take a bath, take it right away!" If I were a good mommy blogger I would post a video of that for you. As it is, you'll just have to take my word on the high cuteness factor. I'm hoping summer brings a return of my favorite from Carter's toddler days: "baby soup" (bathing suit, obviously).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cabin Fever

What do you get when you close up five family members in one log cabin in the middle of nowhere for days on end? Pure happiness. My husband has been officially retired and on the home school staff for two weeks now and it has been awesome! Our daily life has a balance to it that just wasn't there before. We are still feeling our way along as far as nailing down the routine, but already the quality of schooling going on here has taken a huge step up. I wish every home schooling family could be as full time as we are right now. I think the best part is the loss of the sense of urgency that used to always be in the background as John tried to fit all of his home duties and family time into a time limit dictated by outside responsibilities. Now--though he admits he is busier than he ever was when he was going to work--he has enough time for everything and everything he's spending his time on is more meaningful to him. It's just a great time in our lives and makes for a fantastic atmosphere in our home. Let me wax briefly sentimental and say that I picked an amazing partner and truly couldn't be happier. Okay, gushing over.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Secret Past

I took Austin to see Rob Thomas at the Borgata in Atlantic City last night. This was his Christmas present from us this year. He is a huge fan and this was his first time going to a concert, so it was a pretty big deal for him. I wasn't sure whether he would be overwhelmed by everything, but he was just fine and loved it--singing along to every song and bouncing in his seat. We were really close to the stage, which afforded us the unexpected opportunity for Austin to meet his idol at the end of the show. Rob was so nice--he shook Austin's hand, looked right into his eyes, and thanked him for coming. It was a great moment and one of those times you live for as a mom of a special needs child, when you feel that deep down sense that you are succeeding in providing truly happy experiences for your child. Well, I'm sure every mom lives for those moments, but I think special needs moms are just a smidge more blown away by them because they are so hard-won.

As I said, we had really good seats, which put us in the midst of all the superfans. Ten years ago, I'm not sure I really knew or appreciated that these people even existed or just how organized and intense they can be. But then, through a funny little twist of odd circumstances, I found myself smack in the middle of that scene. I will admit to having a long history of obsessive adoration when it comes to my favorite musicians, but it was always primarily a solitary thing for me. And yet, there I was, part of a fully fleshed out subculture of fandom that is very hard to explain to anyone who's never been inside such a group. My life was full of cross-country concert trips, ticket buying/scalping/upgrading, secret concert videotaping, concert webcasting, backstage passes, meet-and-greets, rumor mills, behind-the-scenes catfights, and the relentless pursuit of every piece of minutiae that could be associated with one minor celebrity. But it was also full of friendship and adventure, which is what I miss, having discovered that I do not have the single-mindedness, time, or energy to keep pace with the pseudo-cult that is superfandom. Watching the women all around me last night brought back a lot of memories, though, seeing them all lined up with their zoom lens cameras and their cellphones, comparing notes with each other before and after the show. To those of you reading this who became my friends through message boards and middle-of-the-night hotel rendezvous, I just want to say thank you for the crazy madness and yes, I still have that wonderfully embarrassing quilt.