Friday, October 30, 2009

Because You Just Don't Know

There is a reason I sometimes announce to Aidan, "Let's have icecream before dinner!" as though I am a babysitter trying to get him to like me, instead of his mother. After work it is not uncommon for me to park by the autumnal splendor of Centennial Park, where the ground has been painted various shades of harvest, take my little boy's soft, young hand in mine and skip down the sidewalk. Sometimes my mom gets a copper tin filled with sunflowers and daises and a note that reads, "you're the best grandma ever" while at work. Aidan charms me by asking for an extra penny at Meijer, so he can find a new friend to gift with a horsey ride.

Reason being: We love life. There are no guarantees.

I am the kind of blunt, spontaneous, do-not-care-if-I-look-like-an-idiot person that does and says things with little to no regard for if I look or sound ridiculous. Like, high-fiving my date saying, "Duuuude! We totally avoided first date awkwardness!" Or dancing, in absurd fashion on my birthday, to amuse my friends. I am not bothered in the least by potentially being thought silly because of my overly exuberant demeanor. On one spontaneous, snowy day last year, I sent a card to a longtime Via customer who was getting divorced at the same time as me. The card sparked a beautiful, soulful friendship and we now see each other at least once a month. We went out for a bottle of wine and appetizers last night. Settling in to a much-needed chat session and the kind of laughter where I unconsciously slap my knee, throw my head back and squeeze my friend's arm in delight that we can share this, two things happened.

1.) Another restaurant patron picked up our entire tab on their way out. I won't go into the details, other than to say it was completely unexpected and we were both touched to the point of blinking back tears.

2.) We got chatty with a group of three women sitting kiddie corner from us. Being our typical goofy selves, we asked what they were drinking and engaged in playful banter about how female camaraderie is bliss. It is, to me, that light your soul on fire kind of getting flowers, listening to live music, getting a genuine bear hug and sipping on a glass of exquisite Cabernet while nibbling dark chocolate ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Over the course of the evening we shared a little more talk and then I announced, loudly, that they MUST get the chocolate lava cake with gelato and three spoons. A warm bite of chocolate gooeyness cut with silky smooth gelato is hard to beat as the most preferable manner in which to wrap up a meal.

Our server called me rather quickly after our departure.

Evidently one of the three ladies at the other table has cancer and, according to her doctors, does not have very long to live. They had "a wonderful, fun time chatting with the ladies at the table nearby."


There are no guarantees. My earlier bitching about raking leaves has been replaced with a gratefulness for the fact that I am completely able-bodied and can gather the blanket in the backyard into piles and drag it to the curb. When my kiddo wants to read that 68-page bedtime story I always try to avoid, I will say yes. I owe some stranger dinner, because, that. is. just. fun.

I believe. I believe in humanity, in extra hugs, in putting myself out there with the simple hope of making someone else's world a little more enjoyable. I believe in surprises, in grinning at people I don't know, in my-eyes-are-too-wide-and-my-nose-is-all-crinkled-up-smiling-too-big excitement when good things happen to my friends. I believe in laughter and contagious enthusiasm. When Aidan chases down his friends for a hug before we end a play date I'm all, "Yep! That's my kid!"

I KNOW that a kind word, an open heart and a warm embrace have the power to change...everything. And I know that I better make this day good, because I don't know how many more I've got.


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Stack

The backseat of my car is often littered with multiple papers that have been accumulated over a week or two at the hand of Aidan. He must bring home, at minimum, five worksheets/art projects/writing practice sheets a day. He only goes to school 2 1/2 days a week, but the amount of paper that comes home with him is staggering. I am pleased, of course, that he learns so much at school, that he is practicing the same things I'm teaching him at home, that his creativity is being encouraged.

I'm not the best. I definitely do not take a close look at what is coming home with him on a daily basis. I sat down over the weekend to ruffle through the stack; I typically hold on to an item or two for the fridge and discard the rest. (If anyone has a brilliant suggestion for how to avoid the guilt I feel when doing this, please share!)

Hot tears sprang to my eyes on the third sheet. It was an All About Me book. Aidan had written that he is most proud of, "how much I love my mommy."

I think I'll be making a point to look through these worksheets on a decidedly more regular basis.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicken Nuggets and Fries!

I did something I’ve never done before with my kid yesterday. My kid who will be five in February. The picky eater, former vegetarian who has recently decided he will eat chicken nuggets, turkey hot dogs, homemade bread and still likes the fruits and veggies that have been sustaining his existence up until now. I have lost WEEKS of my life trying to get that boy to eat. I simply cannot comprehend how someone could have THAT much energy when I know darn well that he had two carrot sticks, four grapes and a forced nibble of peanut better and jelly for lunch. I have coaxed, prodded, pleaded, bribed and lost my temper, all in the name of a few more bites.

The stars are beaming at me; he now consumes relatively balanced meals without a fuss. Although this child, who wouldn’t touch mac and cheese with a ten foot pole, has informed me that he *might* like pasta when he is five. Four-year-olds just aren’t ready yet. Same goes for salad.

Anyways, back to my point.

I took Aidan to McDonald’s. MCDONALD’S! For a Happy Meal! And you get a toy! And this was after I took him to see Where the Wild Things Are, and I was officially the coolest mom ever yesterday.

Aidan was practically giddy with excitement.

Mommy does not do McDonald’s. Case in point- at the Tulip Time parade last year a friend excitedly said, “Aidan! Look! It’s Ronald McDonald!”

My kid: “Who’s that?”

Mommy doesn’t really do fast food in general.

He was bouncing off the walls excited, or maybe it was the chocolate milk with 25 grams of sugar, but I was awarded a huge hug, and “Mommy. Best. Day. Ever.”

Maybe I will make this whole McDonald’s thing a yearly trip. You know, because I need Aidan to think I am cool at least once a year.

Who knows. Maybe he’ll get a cheeseburger next time!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Reason

I knew so much would change. My heart, my ability to love unconditionally, the feelings and emotions delicately woven into the mother and child relationship, my growing up, my purpose, my body, my soul. Though only 20 when I found out I was pregnant, I was miraculously not intimidated. I was thrilled at the prospect of bringing a beautiful human life into the world and wrote my son love letters in a little book that still adorns the top of my dresser.

No one ever told me that I could physically ache for another person the way I do for my son.

I saw Aidan for the first time last night since Friday (and I swear he’s grown at least an inch). I enjoyed a much-needed and thoroughly enjoyable vacation with Renee and her husband Craig in DC and was also able to meet up with Kelly and Buck over the course of the weekend. It was delightful to connect with my old friends. Though I returned on Monday evening, Aidan was with his dad for the night. By mid-day yesterday I felt nearly frantic. Aidan, of course, had been having a blast- getting spoiled by both grandmas and spending quality time with his dad. Although his dad did tell me that at bedtime Aidan said, “You know, I miss my mommy.”

I literally felt like a part of me was missing being away from him for four whole days. That is the longest, consecutive period of time we’ve been apart since his birth. I positively craved him. His laugh, his smart ass remarks, the way he still twirls my hair when he is sleepy, the feeling of his warm little body in my lap. The depth of these moments is indescribable. It is the purest of love and holds such carefree authenticity.

I was, if possible, drunk on us last night. I had picked up a hilarious new book of 14 short stories that I read in silly voices and we just giggled and giggled. “Do it again, Mom, again!” That is the sweetest sound my ears could’ve heard. How I had missed the simple, mundane things like having him next to me while brushing our teeth. A tickle war? Best. Thing. Ever.

When I tucked him in and kissed him goodnight way too many times I realized that I owe it all to him. My heart is open because of him. I have felt the most intense emotions because of him. I know how to love another human being because of him. Because of a boy that has not quite reached five years of age, I have learned what matters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just drive by. You'll see it.

I’ve already been thinking about crafting a sign to stake in my front yard that reads:

Dear Non-Creepers:

I will make you an unimpressive, but hot, dinner and send you home with beer if you will please help me rake all my leaves and drag them to the curb when they finish falling. There may even be chocolate chip cookies.



Not sure that I’d get a response but that should at least be indicative of my feelings towards raking. I dread it worse than getting a cavity filled. I look at beautiful orange and red leaves that have drifted down and all I can see are calluses on my hands. It is only with great thanks to Jessie that my yard was actually raked last fall, as opposed to me procrastinating right up until snow fall and having to deal with the soaking, heavy leaf disaster in the spring. This year is not looking full of promise.

If THAT looming project wasn’t enough I noticed a lovely present while taking my garbage out this morning. Perched, right in the middle of my roof, is the orange-bagged newspaper I never read. The one that is always carried from the middle of my sidewalk to my recycling. I can’t even say if it is the Flashes or something different, I pay that little attention to what is inside. No ignoring it now, it’s hanging out at a height that does not allow me to toss it to recycling and I don’t own a ladder.


I would be totally tempted to hop up on the roof and remove it, because it looks ridiculous. I can handle always being the last one on my block to take their garbage can in, and always having pretty flowers and horrible, uncared for grass, and unintentionally having a driveway that has been shoveled, (lovingly!), at an angle. But I feel like that newspaper is mocking me. I will not, however, attempt to get it sans ladder, because I did that once. While Aidan was napping last spring and I was working on the yard, I noticed a bunch of branches to be removed on the roof. I am fairly nimble and thought I’d have no problem hoisting myself onto the roof while precariously balancing on the edge of my deck. This sounds absurd, even as I type it. Needless to say, I was wrong. I got about half of my body up and was bent halfway over the edge of the roof with my dirt-streaked legs dangling. I probably could’ve swung my legs up but instead opted to drop back, effectively scraping my entire stomach and fortunately getting a toe back to the deck. Heart thudding at my own stupidity, the branches are still there.

But they are in the back.

I can already tell this newspaper is going to drive me crazy. And now the sign I want to make for the front yard goes something like this:

Dear Dude That Delivers This Paper I Don't Read:

Not nice. Might want to work on your aim, buddy.



Oh, what? You think I should buy a ladder? Yeah. Thanks :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Morning chatter

I delight in those precious moments that start our day where Aidan and I converse about whatever we please as I drive him to school. Sometimes the topic of conversation is the sunrise, or about how Aidan does not want to wear what he is wearing, at other moments a request to listen to The Late Greats, or what we are going to do when mommy gets off work. Today:

Aidan: Mom, what are you going to be for Halloween?

Me: I hadn't really thought about it. What do you think I should be?

Aidan: Hmm, how about a nice, pretty mama!

Silence; I adjust the rearview mirror to look at him.

Me: Um, honey, Halloween is for costumes.

Aidan: Yeah...

Me: So you don't usually think I'm a nice, pretty mom?

Aidan: Oh. Right. Well, how about a witch then?

And I swear, that kid with impeccable timing smirked at me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not Mother of the Year

I was taken out of the running from the beginning.

A normally competitive person, I do not believe that spirit is intended for motherhood, or parenting in general. We've all heard it. The boasting about a mother's offspring. How intelligent, what an advanced reader, so artistically inclined, what a fantastic arm, already working on a second language, was a perfect sleeper at six weeks, the best eater you'll ever meet. Must mean that the mother is borderline perfect!

And on and on and on.

I'm guilty. Like every mother, I like to believe that my son is just such a prodigy!

Let's be real, shall we? I'll start. Here's a slim list of my dirty laundry. If we had all day, I might bore you with the more comprehensive version.

I lose my temper.

I occasionally allow, on particularly tough and time constrained mornings, my child to wear the same t-shirt he wore to bed to school.

If getting dressed is really a disaster on any particular given day, it is possible that I will offer Aidan a jumbo sized marshmallow in exchange for him sporting the desired pair of jeans I have been attempting to wrestle him into for the better part of ten minutes. That's right- a bribe. Go ahead, judge away.

I partake in an alcoholic beverage after my child has fallen into a deep slumber post-bedtime routine.

Speaking of bedtime routines, I sometimes allow Aidan to fall asleep in my lap on the couch after a delightful line-up of bedtime stories. Not because he isn't perfectly capable of falling asleep by himself in his own bed, but because he likes it and I am all too aware that there will come a time when he is no longer able to lay his little head in my lap and let his chest rise and fall and his long eyelashes flutter as he happily drifts off.

My laundry is never, ever done.

If you come over to my house and my bed is made, it is because I knew you were coming over.

I am the mom at Captain Sundae who is trying to do something nice with her child and take him out for ice cream, only to have him yell, nay, SCREAM across the ship, "I don't love you, Mom!" because he is so furious that I got his Blue Moon and rainbow sprinkles in a cup instead of a cone. Instead of disciplining him and throwing his unappreciated ice cream cup away I let him sit a few yards away and stew while other Captain Sundae patrons glare at me and judge my style of mothering. But I know my kid. When he was done with his sticky blue treat, he walked over to me with tears in his eyes and said, unprompted, "I'm so sorry I said that, Mom."

I consider a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be perfectly acceptable for dinner. Sometimes for three nights in a row.

That woman putting her mascara on in her rearview mirror at a stoplight while her kid eats breakfast in the back seat? Yep, that's me.

I let Aidan pick out a couple of bedtime stories and then am a jerk and tell him one of them is too long. As though, in the big picture, anything in my life that evening could be more important than cuddling my child and reading the story of his choice to him.


But I'm real. How boring and unauthentic would it be if all moms put on this front of having it together. I never have it all together. But man do we love in my family.

When I look back at this challenging but unquestionably joy-filled time in my life, I highly doubt anyone will remember whether my child's clothes were from a secondhand store or from the Gap. No one will recall the gift Aidan presented their child with at a birthday party. Hopefully the state of my house and the furnishings in it will be a distant memory. What is most important for me to teach my son is this:

We are good to people. We love people. We live every day of our lives. When we greet people and we depart, we hug them and let them know how much their life means to ours. When we make mistakes, we own up to it and apologize. We forgive easily. We take this gift of life and we appreciate it. We keep it real.