Family · Motherhood · Parenting

Happy Double 1s, Little Man

This week is my son’s birthday.

From the very beginning, I knew he was going to be a handful. He refused to vacate his comfy home for his due date, deciding instead to roll around in my belly like the Tasmanian Devil partying in a hot tub.

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Today, my son is the sweetest, kindest, most adorable-est boy in the universe.  He’s still got a bit of the Taz in him, but that’s okay.  He’s the light of my life.

So it only seems fitting that I show the world my sweet Baby Boo in all his glory (and in the process, call him by as many nauseatingly cutesy nicknames as I possibly can.)

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Of course, I would never ever think of posting some of his extra-adorable/horribly embarrassing photos.

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Because that would just be plain wrong.

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But I’m a mom and if exposing my son’s unbearable cuteness is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

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And it definitely would be wrong of me to post a video of him at the age of five doing a lovely spaztastic dance number.

Dear CJ — my Chub-Bub, my BaBoo, my Lil’ Buddy — I love you more than the moon and stars (even more than trucks and cars).

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Happy 11th Birthday! I’m so happy to be your mom!

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Humor · Motherhood

Dear Daughter

As your sixth birthday approaches, I see the telltale signs. I know my sweet chubby-faced baby girl is melting away before my eyes.

Sometimes when we hug, I catch a faint glimpse of her still–your warm soft cheek pressed up against mine, silky eyelashes fluttering shut as you gently sigh–innocence refusing to budge. Nestling into my heart.

I breathe it in with the hope I will always remember.

And that you will, too.

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But for now, let’s get down to business.

Dude. Living life is just like….soooo exhausting.

This is Your Life

Listen up. I need to let you know a few things about the rest of your life.
Things my own mother never told me. Things I hope you understand one day.
Hopefully, sooner than I did.

  • Laugh. All the time. Giggle like a maniac. Chortle. Snort. Guffaw. Don’t be shy. Let the giddy tears flow. Make a fool of yourself. There is nothing else like it.
    I’m surprisingly very good at it.
  • Cry if you want to cry. Never let anyone tell you it’s ‘weak’.
    It can be very lucrative. I can cry at a drop of a hat. It’s gotten me pretty far in life.
  • When a bully pushes you down on the playground, stand right back up and get up in his/her grill. Don’t be afraid.  If the tears flow, it’s all right. Get mad. Get sad. But stand back up to them. Understand that maybe they don’t know what they’re doing.  You need to let them know it’s not right. Then tell a teacher.
    Maybe hire your older brother to be your bodyguard, pay him in Twinkies.
    Worked for me.
  • No one will ever remember the day in second grade when you puked all over the lunch table because Jimmy Libby shoved mac-n-cheese up his nose.
    Except maybe Jimmy Libby.
  • When your older brother tells you it’s a good idea to jump off the garage roof into the swimming pool,
    it isn’t.
  • When your older brother wants to play ‘target practice’ using  a slingshot, some marbles and your head,
    run away.
  • Thanks to your dad and your older brother, you will never go on a single date until you’re 21. They mean well, they just know it will take a special person to earn your heart.
    And a strong man who can disarm a dad with a 20 gauge shotgun.
  • You will hurt others one day. Tell them you’re sorry while you still have the chance.
    We all make mistakes, all the time.
    Like the time I held my curling iron in my best friend’s hair until I smelled burnt flesh. Note: hairspray only helps fuel the flames.
  • We are always learning. No one has all the answers.
    Except your mother.
  • If you feel anger, feel it. It’s okay to be mad sometimes. Don’t wish it away or bury it deep down. Face it. Never feel guilty about how you’re feeling. Accept it, transform it. It’s there to teach you.
    Then after you’ve had enough– make sure you release it and move on.
    I also find screaming into a pillow, and consuming a gallon of chocolate ice cream while watching a Nora Ephron movie marathon helps calm me as well.
  • Make new friends, but keep the old.
    One is silver and more likely to lend you money.
  • The only thing anyone ever wants is for someone to understand them, to accept them for exactly who they are deep down inside.
    The stuff we see on the outside? Doesn’t matter even the tiniest bit.
    Remember this when your mother is wearing her bra on the outside of her clothes.
  • Genius is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration,
    and 1% Extra Strength jasmine-scented deodorant.
  • Dance like no one is watching.
    Fart like no one is around.
    No, really. Make sure no one is around when you fart. Men don’t think women fart, it’s a huge top secret conspiracy and I’d like to keep it that way.
  • Learn how to deal with spiders on your own. Be brave. Scoop them up carefully with a newspaper and shoo them out the door because they have families too.
    Or squash them into bug juice while hyperventilating and screaming–your choice.
  • Unclog your own sinks/toilets, hook-up your own stereo/DVR, change your car’s oil–by yourself.  Don’t rely on a man to do it for you.
    Rely on a man to be there when you need to bitch about doing everything around the house.
  • Stay away from any boy who starts his sentences with, “Duuuuude….”
  • Learn how to cook.
    Hot Pockets don’t count.
    Lean Pockets do.
  • Don’t bother separating whites from colors, just wash everything in cold, make sure you fold right away or things will get all wrinkly, and never, ever under any circumstances,
    bring home your laundry on the weekends.
  • Get a job.
    I’m kidding. You’re only six.
    No, seriously, get a job. Sell some Girl Scout Cookies, something.
  • Nature is free and it’s better than HDTV.
    Now get out of the house.
  • All things must pass.
    Don’t worry, all this lame advice I’m giving you right now is almost over. But I’m gonna leave you with a little more, so pay close attention to the next three, okay?
    (Try very hard not to roll your eyes.)
  • Trust that your sorrow–all those tears, the heavy ache you might feel in your heart–will dissolve someday. The darkness isn’t forever. The sheer light of hope and love will crush it to dust. It will. Grab onto that little ray of light and never let go of it no matter how much you want to. If you can’t find it, come to me and I’ll shine it on you.
  • Smile. It feels pretty dang good, doesn’t it?
  • I love you.

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Happy birthday, my sweet pea,  Little Miss J

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Bad Poetry in 100 Words or Less · Family

Ode to My Old Man

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways

 I love your shaggy hair,
the gentle glimmer in your eyes

I love that your mom tried to dress you
just like Prince, only pint-size.


I love how your dimpled cheeks
frame the innocence of your smile,

I love that you once thought Boss Hogg
was actually considered in style.

I love how your sense of what’s ‘cool’ evolved,
My, look at how much you’ve grown!

I love that you went to your junior prom
thinking you were Al Capone.

 I love how you wore your jean jacket–
with the collar flipped up–so very hip

I love that you thought mere peach fuzz
could pass for a ‘stache on your upper lip.

And most of all, I love you for being you–my sweet, crazy, dorky partner for life.

♥Happy birthday!♥

PS For one full month I am still 41 and you aren’t anymore.

PPS:

Humor

On My 28th Birthday…

Big news this week: Mark Zuckerberg is getting one whopper of a birthday present.  His Facebook IPO could make him worth about 100 billion buckaroos. Not bad for a gift. Psbbt. [shrug] I guess.

But it pales in comparison to all the gifts I got when I turned 28 years old. It was a long long time ago and my memories are a bit foggy, but for your sake, I’ll dig deep and bring them into sharper focus so you can all revel in my good fortune and swim in a cesspool of jealousy.

On my 28th birthday…

I still lived alone and had two tabby cats. They were both indoor cats  (due to a rather misfortunate run-in with a could-be-rabid-but-probably-just-drunk-as-a-skunk skunk).  I woke up that morning and had to clean up their litter box. And boy, howdy! They left me quite the present. I think between the two of them, they joined forces and managed to use up every last speck of litter with what they left behind for me: the world’s largest clump. Took me two shovels and a rake to get that sucker disposed of properly. Happy birthday to me! My special day was starting off with a bang!

Oh, hey there!…woman who brings me my food. I left you a present. Happy birthday. Or whatever. Like I care.

After the kitty cleanup, I had to go to work early. When I was 28, I was working three jobs–each one was exhausting in its own way. One was as a special ed educational technician, one as a developmental therapist for autistic children and the third job to help me barely make ends meet (…hell, sometimes the ends still wouldn’t meet but go in opposite directions) was at a candle store, which shall remain nameless but it rhymes with Hankee Candle Company. I don’t know about Mark Z., but when I turned 28 years old, I had to do actual work on my birthday. Overtime. Loading candles off a truck. Sweating like a pig. A pig that was dipped in french vanilla scented candle wax.  I had worked there for years so I was oblivious to the smell but it was basically oozing out of my pores. At one point you probably could have lit a match under my nose and I would’ve burned for 12 to 18 hours straight.  After a long 12 hour day, I got off my shift, stopped at the local Shop N Save, still wearing my work clothes. People in line started wheezing, coughing, gasping for air. One guy yelled out, “Holy crap! What is that stench? Make it stop, for the love of God, make it stop!” So I grabbed my six pack of Ballantine beer, Extra-Super-Clumpy cat litter, brand new shovel and economy-sized bag of cheese doodles, gave them all a dirty look and cried, “It’s my birthday! Why must you be so cruel?” Then I ran off and left them behind, choking in a pungent cloud of Gardenia mixed with Spiced Pumpkin.

Hey, yeah, boss? Can I take five? I think the candle wax smell has finally seeped into my brain.

After that sad display, I came home and realized a few things. It was my birthday. I was 28. I had two cats. I lived alone. I had exactly 12 dollars and 58 cents in my bank account, my fridge was stocked with nothing but YooHoos and frozen burritos, and I drove a 1992 Ford Festiva that was powered by a lightbulb. I still slept on a futon and my stereo sat on a milk crate. So I began reexamining my life. Finally, I said, what the hell, and went out on a blind double date with a strange guy with a goatee who I met at the candle store. Which leads me to my best 28th birthday present ever.

I bet this is more comfortable than a futon.

My husband (not the guy in the above picture)  who not only moved in with me, but took over the litter box cleaning, threw out my futon, built me a real nightstand, married me and then got me pregnant so I eventually quit all three of my jobs.

So happy birthday, Mark Z. Kudos to you on the IPO thingy dealio.  I hope your 28th birthday was as good as mine.  I hear 100 billion can buy you a lot of cat litter.

Humor · Motherhood

Let’s pretend we’re pretending

This past week has been hectic. The kids were home for school vacation. We had a great time doing things like: visiting the library, looking longingly out the window while sighing we were bored, and going sledding on the sheet of ice on our little hill in our yard. And I didn’t end up in traction, so all in all, it was fabulous spending time with them  even while suffering with a severe case of cabin fever.

What a long winter does to a kid

My daughter was so bored last week, she was forced to use her imagination. “What’s that?” she asked me. “It’s when you use only your mind to do something fun,” I said. “It’s like this magical world where you can create things, a game, a story or a song or a dance and then you have fun doing it.”  She was convinced. (Her brother looked up from his Nintendo 3DS for three seconds and smirked.)

Right away she decided that she wants to pretend to celebrate a birthday. Every day.
(I have a feeling she thought cupcakes would be involved.) So every morning last week she’d jump up and down and yell, “Mommy! Let’s make birthday hats out of paper and I’ll color them with crayons! Please! Please! Let’s say it’s my birthday today and we can pretend to eat cake and ice cream! We can dress up in heels and put makeup on! Then we can run around the house and sing Adele songs!”

Well, who could resist that idea. So we did a little birthday/tea/dance party every day. After fake singing “Happy birthday” to her for the 10th time in my best Adele voice, I asked her why it was always her birthday we were celebrating and not mine. She frowned and said, “It’s never fun on your birthday. Sorry, Mommy, but you really shouldn’t celebrate birthdays. You’re too old.” Truer words were never spoken.

But now that I let her pretend it was her birthday party, she’s decided to take this pretending thing to a whole new level. This is the calendar we have posted in her bedroom.

Looks like I’ve got some serious shopping to do.

Motherhood · reflections

Always Remember This Thing Called Love

The night before my son’s recent ninth birthday, he sat down on the couch next to me, heaved a sigh and said, “Tomorrow, I become a man.” I wiped away a tear, giving him a brief hug before he squirmed away in horror and ran off. He was right–he was becoming a young man right before my very eyes.  A bittersweet pang filled my heart.

A few minutes later, I heard a commotion in his room. When I walked in, he was jumping on his bed. Grinning at me, he yelled, “Hey, Mom! Check this out! I can jump so high, I can kick my own butt!”  I was never so proud than at that very moment. Seems this manhood phase might not be so near on the horizon. All was right again with my world. He will always be my baby boo.

The day our firstborn came into our lives, I had just endured 24 plus hours of excrutiating back labor. My son was sunny-side up. (I hardly think such a painful predicament should be compared to how one prefers their eggs for breakfast, so I like to say my son was ass-backward.) This produced depths of pain I had never knew existed. Most of the labor was a blur of me screaming expletives, my husband running frantically around with a cold washcloth, and my desperate attempt to concentrate on a focal point to get through the waves of spine-splitting contractions. My focal point was a cluster of a few bright red leaves on a tall maple tree outside the hospital window. Every year, when fall comes and the leaves start to turn, I am transported right back to the day my entire world changed. My son came into my life.

When the nurse placed him into my arms, it was as if a tiny warm piece of heaven had been gently placed inside my soul. The light inside me grew–radiating into every fiber and pore of my being as I gazed down at my baby boy. How did I ever not know my son? It seemed my entire life, he was always here, just out of reach. Now he was gurgling and cooing in my embrace in a hospital room.  We were finally together.

At first, my husband and I struggled with the typical newborn issues: sleep deprivation, breastfeeding difficulties, reflux. But soon we both realized something was very wrong.  At four weeks old, he was pale, not gaining weight and sleeping no more than an hour at a time before his heart-wrenching screams began again.  The pediatrician assured us that this was normal with colicky babies.  I was sent home with a dreadful weight of anxiety crushing down onto my shoulders. We rarely slept. And when I did manage to dream, they were filled with my son’s cries and me reaching out for him, unable to soothe his pain.

By six weeks old, my husband demanded they give our son an ultrasound. This wasn’t just normal colic or reflux that was tormenting our sweet baby boy.  Our doctor consented just to appease us, still attributing our worries to being first-time parents. I fed him a bottle, then an abdominal ultrasound was performed with my son in my lap. He writhed and cried with such agony, my heart felt like it might shatter. I looked into my husband’s eyes, hollowed from lack of sleep and constant worry. Then our son vomited, like he had been doing for weeks on end.   Suddenly, the technician’s eyes grew wide and a doctor was called in. “You need to pack your bags and head straight to Maine Med,” he said.  “He needs emergency surgery, right away.”

In a rush of panic, we arrived at the hospital and a surgeon met us in a little waiting room. Our son had pyloric stenosis, a congenital condition seen in newborns. According to the surgeon, the opening that leads from the stomach to the intestine was completely blocked by his pylorus muscle. It had grows to about two and a half times normal size.  He would need immediate abdominal surgery and a tiny incision would be made to allow the milk to pass through again.  All this time, the milk (having no place to go) was going back up his throat, effectively burning it with the stomach acids. Thankfully, it was a relatively easy procedure and he was almost guaranteed a full and healthy recovery. The tears started to flow with the tremendous relief that we finally knew how to help our baby boy and  ease his torment.

The next night was spent hovering over my baby, an NG tube slowing draining his stomach contents. I was almost delirious with no sleep and constant worry. I softly sang, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as he continued to choke and sputter while the tube did its job.  In my haze, I pressed the nurse’s button almost every hour. A nurse would appear, assuring me that he was not choking and he would be okay. But nothing could untie the knot of worry deep in my gut.

The next morning, my husband and I stood in a long dark hallway and held hands as we prepared to watch our son being wheeled away to the OR in a cold steel crib. The nurse had offered to put a small teddy bear inside the crib for us and I cried as she placed it right next to his tiny body. I reached down to kiss his cheek and he was gone.

The surgery was a complete success and our son was soon back in our arms. He would recover quickly. I could already see a faint light in his eyes as the nurse helped me feed him from a bottle. My sweet bubbly baby was slowing coming back to us. Yet he would need to stay at the hospital for two more days.

A nurse we hadn’t seen before helped us get settled into a private room. We prepared ourselves for another noisy sleepless night, sitting upright in a hard chair. We only wanted to make sure our son was okay and refused to leave him. The nurse shut the door and gently suggested we leave him there and go to a hotel so we could finally catch up on our sleep. My husband wearily looked at me and raised his brow. The idea of any sleep was tempting, but we both felt tremendous guilt at the idea of leaving our son, even for a few hours.

The nurse put her hand on my shoulder, her voice dropping into a faint but stern whisper. “Listen. You two married each other because of one thing: Love. And that love has helped to create a beautiful child. You need to remember why you had your son in the first place. Go to the hotel. Be together.” Her smile radiated such warmth and comfort, I knew she was right and that my son would be fine, even if we left.  She cradled our son in her arms. “I’ll help you get a hotel room and I will call you to make sure you checked in okay.” My husband and I simply nodded, our minds still a muddled mess. “My name is Michelle, by the way,” she added, smiling again.

Later at the hotel, the bliss of uninterrupted sleep quickly washed over us. Six hours later, I awoke to a dark room and checked my cell phone. There was a message from our nurse, Michelle. “Hello again, it’s Michelle,” her soothing voice filled the room. “I want to make sure you are both okay and settled into the hotel. Don’t worry about anything. Your son will be just fine. Take care of each other and don’t forget what I told you. Always remember.”

After a few days, our son was being released from the hospital. Our worries were lifted as he began to thrive and eat like a normal baby. His chubby cheeks had color again and my heart felt at peace. I wanted to thank the amazing nurses at Maine Medical Center before we left.  I approaced the nurse’s station and asked if Michelle was on duty that day. I wanted to thank her personally for what she did for us. The nurse gave me a confused look.

“Michelle? There is no nurse here by that name.”

My husband and I looked down at our son, wiggling in his car seat.

“Are you sure?” I asked with a nervous laugh.

“I’ve been here for years and know of no Michelle, sorry,” the nurse insisted.

As the weeks went by, we both would bring up Michelle and attempt to attach some explanation to it. But we know in our hearts, her words were true. And we will never forget them.

To my son:

We helped to bring you into this world with our love.
And we will always be here to hold you up with our love.
Always remember
We love you so very much.

Happy birthday, baby boo.

Humor

Another year older and…uh…something…I forget

Usually we determine our age by the obvious signs: wrinkles, gray hairs, our tendency to find America’s Funniest Videos funny
(those shots to the crotch are a hoot!) But nothing indicates you’re getting on in years than when you open the cupboard searching for a tupperware container and find last Saturday night’s spaghetti and meatballs inside one of them. Great. I’m senile and out leftovers.

I’m only in my early 40s, so this doesn’t bode well for my 60s (or mid-40s for that matter). Thank god my husband is the same age as me. We can combine our individual feeble minds together to form one super powerhouse of a feeble mind. Between the two of us, we might be okay.

“Honey? Have you seen my socks?”
“Did ya check your sock drawer?”
“Um…okay. Nope, no socks! But I found your hairbrush, the car keys and a half-eaten doughnut.”
“Oh, cool! Bonus. I’ve been looking for those!”
“But where are my–what was I looking for again?”
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house eating my doughnut?”

See? We’ve got it covered.

This growing old thing is so relentless. My birthday is coming up. Again. It seems no matter what I do, how much I denial I steep myself in or how many times I beg Superman to fly around the Earth backward, it continues to show up, year after year. Okay! I get it! I was born. Yes, I think we can all agree that I did in fact happen to come into existence  in this dimension on that very day some 40-something years ago. But it’s the reminder that I am also one year closer to death that tends to bring the party down.

I try to devert attention every year. I pray that my birthday will be lost in the shuffle of all the other hundreds of birthdays in the same month. People insist on bringing it up nonetheless.

Husband: Good morning, honey! Happy birthday!
Me: Huh? What? Oh, no. That’s not until next week. Yeah.
Husband: I could’ve sworn today was Monday (checks calendar) Yup, it’s Monday! Happy birth-
Me: No, it’s Raquel Welch’s birthday. And Bob Newhart’s! Remember that killer ending in Newhart when he was in bed with his old  TV show’s wife? Hoo-boy! That was hysterical! And-
Husband: Happy birthday!
Me: (runs off in tears)

I can hear you, dear older-than-me reader, now. But you’re still so young! Why, I’m 135 and I’d love to be your age again! Besides, you’re only as old as you feel! Age is just a number! You’re really 41 years young!

Ask anyone over 35 and they will tell you they don’t “feel” their actual age. My mom is 77 and she still feels like she’s the same 35 year old woman. Most days I feel like I’m 19. Granted I’m not still living in my parent’s basement with a futon and a milk crate for a nightstand, but I can convince myself that I still have that inner youthful glow (mostly inner).  I suppose the number doesn’t matter. Which leads me to my earlier point, why celebrate my birthday? Nothing’s changed. I’m still me on the inside. The only difference worth noting is the older I get, the more senile I am and the less I give a crap about anything or what anyone else thinks. Best birthday present ever.

My daughter, bless her little heart, still thinks birthdays are a great thing.  She’s been telling me my birthday is coming up for about four months now. She informed me that we should celebrate it at Chuck E. Cheese. “C’mon, Mommy! Ya wanna? Please, let’s have your party at Chuck E. Cheeeese! Pleeeease! Ya wanna?” I just pat her on the head and whisper, “Why, no, sweetie. Mommy pretty much wants the exact opposite of Chuck E. Cheese, but thanks for the suggestion.” Gone are the days when balloons, bad pizza and a mutant mouse did it for me.

What would be my ideal birthday? Sitting on the couch alone, curled up in a blanket, sipping wine and watching a Mad Men marathon. And no one ever mentions I’m another year older. But if you must, just yell out, “Happy You’re Still Alive Day!” That is worth celebrating.