Saturday, December 18, 2010

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

I hesitate to put this out in the universe, but I think a corner has been rounded in my household. Mathilda is indeed sleeping in her crib for the fourth night in a row. She has fallen asleep on her own these four nights, with very few tears involved. I read to her and Lucy (Mathilda stays safely across the room from me as I read), put on a movie for them (I know, I know ~ terrible habit! but it works so I'm sticking with it), put Mathilda in the crib while carefully avoiding eye contact (because if she looks me in the eye, it'll be all over, I just know it!), and turn off the light. Then as I'm heading down the stairs she calls out "buh-bye" and that's that. The trauma has been incredibly minimal.

I've been waiting for this momentous occasion. Yet...I'm kind of sad about it. My baby is growing up. She suddenly doesn't need me as much as she did last week. There's no going back. A little part of me just wants to crawl in bed and cry because, well, I've done this before and I know in the blink of an eye this baby of mine is going to be coming home from school and telling me she has a boyfriend (in 4th grade?! WTH?!) and I'm going to look at her and suddenly get a glimpse of what she'll look like when she's 18. She'll make her own sandwiches, tie her own shoes, and modestly close her bedroom door when she's changing her clothes. 

I have four beautiful, healthy children and really, I'm good with that. Truthfully I always wanted to have four kids. And I think I'm teetering on a fine line between slightly lingering sanity and utter chaotic mayhem. But...every stage Mathilda passes is sort of heartbreaking. I miss the baby days. And soon I'll be missing the toddler days. And knowing I'm never going to go through it again (because I'm not) is hard.

(wait, let me dry my tears)

On the other setting their own alarms, waking up on their own, and fixing their own cereal in the morning is nice. So is kids getting in the van on their own and buckling their own seat belts, not to mention answering the phone, feeding the dog, taking their own showers, and changing the channel on the t.v. As my kids gain independence one step at a time, my life gets a little easier. I enjoy and appreciate that. But I also cherish each stage and yearn for the Wonder Twin power to freeze time every now and again.

Many years ago, back in 7th or 8th grade, one of my friends wrote a story that I've never forgotten.  I can't remember the name of it (there's a good chance the class compilation it was published in is still in my mom's basement...) but it was about bottling up memories, special times in our lives, and being able to open the bottles and re-live those moments any time we choose. Like bathing in the essence of your wedding day, smelling and hearing and seeing and feeling everything you experienced at that moment. Can you imagine? In my mind, that is what heaven is like. I have no idea how my friend knew the poignancy of what she wrote at that age, when life seemed to span on for an eternity and stalling time was the last thing I would have wanted to do because I was forever anticipating the next thing, whatever that was. I don't know if you're reading this, Jen Beckmann, but if you are, thank you for that story (among many other things).

All my babies are growing up, and it is bittersweet. I miss who they were, enjoy who they've become, and joyfully look forward to what's to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Days and Other Stuff

So far this week my kids have enjoyed two snow days, and it's only Tuesday! I have loved having them home, but they really do need to go back to school so I can finish my Christmas shopping. Well, the small portion of my Christmas shopping that is not done via at least. I think I might be done with Amazon actually(maybe one more order...) since it's getting close to the Christmas delivery cut-off with the free shipping. I love Amazon. I tell everyone they should do their Christmas shopping on this glorious one stop shopping conglomerate website. They have, like, everything. Free shipping, no tax, heaven.

Today we spent hours working on making Christmas gifts for teachers and friends and building one of those Star Wars Lego things that have about seven thousand pages of instructions. I meant to get some baking done too, but that didn't happen. But I could get started on that now, since all the kids are up in bed. Yes, that's right, all the kids. Mathilda went to bed with the other kids and is at this moment sleeping in her crib! But by now I am smart and experienced enough to know that she will wake up pathetically wailing just as soon as I get involved with a project. In fact, she probably just received a subliminal message from the internet or something informing her that it's time to make a liar of her mom.

"I'm not sleeping! BAAAAA! How could you think that? I was just lying here waiting for you to get busy with something so I could start screaming and not let you accomplish anything! It's what I do!"

Yes, that is what she does. But that's not all! She also likes to take all the diapers out of the box several times a day, take as much food out of the pantry as she can reach, dump out my purse, draw in books (a fun new hobby!), pull ornaments off the Christmas tree, roll around on the floor in clean clothes before I vacuum (we have a black shedding dog people!), and so much more. Like refusing to nap. Then she ends up falling asleep in the high chair at dinner time, or today she fell asleep while standing up and looking at her current favorite book, Old McDonald. She also doesn't actually like me to read to her, but she loves, loves, loves books. She brings them to me all the time like she wants me to read to her, but then as soon as I take the book from her and start reading, she starts screaming, grabs the book and runs off with it. I can't wait until this child can talk so she can finally let me know what all the fuss was about.

Anyway, snow days are nice, but there is that knowledge in the back of my mind regarding what actually caused the snow days. As in snow. And in this case, also frigid cold temperatures and icy roads. Yuck. I am really not looking forward to leaving the house tomorrow morning. But at least I have a remote start for my van, so I can get it all toasty before we get in it. Of course, I probably forgot to leave the heat on last time I drove since I just cannot seem to remember to do that.


I think I need to make one of those paper chain countdown things, counting down the days until Spring. I need a visual reminder that there will not be snow and slush and ice and freezing cold blechy weather forever and ever, because that is kind of what it feels like right now.

For now I will make an effort to focus on things I'm looking forward to. Like meeting a friend for hot chocolate on Thursday morning, and seeing Lucy's preschool Christmas program on Friday morning. And snuggling on the couch with my new, super soft and awesomely cozy blanket I recently received as a gift from a relative I've never met via a family Christmas gift exchange (yep, definitely ridiculously blessed). Which is what I think I'm going to go do right now, while I'm waiting for Mathilda to wake up and remind me that, duh, she doesn't sleep in her crib.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

They Make It Look So Easy On TV

So, we spent Thanksgiving in Florida, visiting my brother-in-law. By the end of our trip, I was feeling well enough to eat almost normally. The dentist said my one tooth just got pushed up into my gums when I fell on my face, and it may never come back down. He took x-rays and reassured me that my teeth are not in danger of falling out, although there is no way of knowing whether or not they will darken in color at some time in the future, and nothing to do to prevent it. Now they are almost back to normal, although a bit more crooked and uneven than they used to be and there is still a bit of numbness in my nose. I can't yet bite into an apple, but my teeth haven't fallen out, which was my greatest fear. Maybe someday getting braces for myself will become a priority and I can have straight, dreamy teeth.

But anyway, yeah we went to Florida. It was a pretty short trip, since I've developed a bit of a complex about getting those threatening letters from school about truancy court blah blah blah and I only let the kids miss one full day and one half day of school. Gosh those letters are so annoying. But we packed a lot into our five days. We saw the movie "Tangled" (loved it!), spent a stupendous 13 hours at the Magic Kingdom (so much fun), cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner, wandered around downtown Orlando for an afternoon, and drove to Cocoa Beach for a day so the kids could swim in the ocean, even though it was freezing (around 72 degrees) and even raining a little. Lucy was the first to get out, as she told me a "giant wave was approaching" and she got lots of water in her face. 

We totally lucked out with airport security, both ways, and nobody groped us or tried to force us to radiate our bodies while they laughed at our underwear choices in private. Mathilda mostly (maybe I should say somewhat) liked the plane ride, and was even yelling WHEE! during take off. But throughout the trip she started getting sick and coughing a lot. By the time we were flying home, she was coughing a whole lot and feeling pretty lousy (I'm guessing, she didn't actually express to us in words). She also was putting her feet on the seat in front of her. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about that, she was sitting in her car seat and her feet just kind of went there. An 18-month old doesn't tend to listen very well when you tell her repeatedly to stop kicking the seat. And she cried a little bit. There was a family of three sitting in front of us. At first the mom was sitting in front of Mathilda, but then she wised up and made her kid switch seats with her. The father was sitting in the aisle seat, in front of Bethany, and every time Mathilda had a coughing fit or cried at all, he would whip his head around and glare at me. It was very apparent, Chris noticed it from across the aisle. Sorry dude, not sure what you wanted me to do. It was a short flight, man up. Glad your kid (who was about 10) is perfect, someone should really give you a medal for that. He's probably never been sick, either. And just for the record, my other three children were model passengers. I was a wee bit irritated by the time we landed back in Detroit.  But I'm over it now, really.

The thing is, on the morning of the day we left Florida, something really tragic happened that I just can't shake. My brother-in-law's neighbor and good friend died. But he didn't just die, which would have been sad and depressing enough. I don't think I want to get into details here, but it was a very violent and horrible situation, which he was 100% responsible for. What I can't quite get past is that this guy went to the movies with us and sat next to my daughter. He came over the day we had Thanksgiving dinner and had dessert with us. We saw him several times. He talked to my kids. And then he did this terrible thing. I can't believe we let him around our kids. But we didn't know, and he seemed so normal. Yet we're parents, shouldn't we know when someone is going to completely crack and is perhaps not someone who should be around kids? Honestly it's a little freaky to know someone can look and talk and act normal, even while on the inside they're plotting some horrific event. On television or in movies, people do crazy violent things all the time. They seem to have no qualms about it. It looks so easy and ordinary. But in real life, these senseless acts ruin lives. Real lives.

There's just no making sense of some things, no matter how hard you try.

Christmas is creeping up right around the corner, but I haven't found my holiday spirit quite just yet. It's in there somewhere, I know it is. I really just want to go spend the holidays in Hawaii or something, which I've been saying for years. Santa is global after all. Speaking of which, living a lie is mentally draining and inconvenient. Especially as related to shopping. Oh the things we do for our kids.

One thing I am into this holiday season is eggnog milk shakes. Yum-my! The kids are hooked too. They may not be low-fat/low-cal, but I'm not going there. Calcium is good for you! And protein! Therefore it follows that this frozen deliciousness must be good for you too.

Mathilda is my constant companion and she loves to talk to everyone, everywhere. What she mostly says is "hi" and "bye", while executing the perfect princess wave. And she smiles so big with her sweet dimples, so everyone mostly has to stop and talk to her too. I never know if I should answer for her when strangers ask her questions that she is clearly not capable of answering. So sometimes I do, and sometimes I just smile and move on.