Gettin’ High

photo

It’s been over a year and a half since we relocated; I’ve conquered San Diego by sea and by land…. so why not also by air? Sometime during our first months we had ventured to the spectacular Glider Port by Torrey Pines. I proclaimed to my (incredulous) husband that I’d love to go paragliding. He promptly laughed it off.

Months later, on Mother’s Day, my charming husband told me to put my butt where my mouth is (in a matter of speaking, of course) as he handed me a gift certificate for a paraglide tour. There was one parameter: he and the kiddos wanted to watch. The reason? He was sure I would soil myself, and he did not want to miss that.

Weeks passed. Months passed. Not because I was nervous, but because it was logistically challenging: it was hard to find an afternoon that we had good air and no obligations, and we had to be free at a moment’s notice. I don’t do a lot of things with just a moment’s notice.

A day in March proved to be it. The adventure was spectacular.

Flying, floating, soaring.

Alas, no soiling.

The gorgeous ocean view on the right was trumped only by the incredible estates on the left (yes, the same La Jolla neighborhood where, ironically, the POTUS is lunching as I type). From seals and surfers, to golfers and nudists… there was activity all around that I could see from a completely unique perspective.

This adventure was something I will always remember, with the most profound moment occurring on ground prior to flight.

My 9-year-old, witty, snarky and dryly blunt, hugged me and sent me off with these poignant words:

Mommy, if you die, know you were loved.

Ummm….should I be profoundly touched or deeply offended?

I’ll opt for the former.

As another Mother’s Day is upon us, I wish you all give or receive accordingly the love, gratitude and appreciation that you feel…however it may be demonstrated.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Unconventional Date Night

photo(118)

Last weekend I volunteered my husband for a group camping excursion with my daughter. She was thrilled. He was less so. Off they went, leaving me on a mini-vacation. As anyone with children knows, the next best thing to unloading all of your kids is enjoying time with just one of them.

My son had big plans for us. We began with some holiday shopping–he has excellent taste and an appreciation for style that I lack. Barbie came with us of course. We read stories to one another–with his reading skills I have a new-found appreciation for Pinkalicious. We ate by candlelight–he insisted on a “fancy dinner” of ravioli, thereby foiling my plans of not cooking. A small price to pay for such a chivalrous gesture.Truly a homebody, he opted for two pieces of his Halloween loot in lieu of a trip to the ice cream store.

I think deep down my son cherishes tranquility as much as I do. He even noted at “fancy dinner” how nice the quiet was with just the two of us. After dinner we cuddled by the TV for a program, read some more and then he fell asleep as I snuggled with him in his bed, vying for space amid the dolls and animals.

It was, however unconventional, the best date night I’ve had in a while.

Riding Waves

photo(108)

By 6:43 this morning I wanted to divorce my children. In any given moment all they need to do is look at one another and the squabbling begins. Refereeing is my least favorite part of parenting without doubt.  It sours my whole day, which is unfortunate when it starts before the day begins.

This morning conflict set in before the second was one even awake. No innocent bystander, she had not-so-passive-aggressively reclaimed a stuffed puppy from him as he snored and sweated in deep slumber. When he couldn’t find said dog upon waking all hell broke loose. She then dared to chastise him for waking her with his emotional outburst! He, in turn, took it out me when I sequestered the pup. Being the bad guy is a crappy job. Why again did I choose this?

Over the weekend I took my daughter to visit a beloved teacher’s newly adopted baby. She had many questions, and I would expect no less. The best by far:

When you adopt a baby does it come with a list of things the baby needs?

I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course there is no list; in this case the baby was handed over with four diapers, a half-can of formula and no name. The situation is no different for birth parents: no user’s manual provided. Each day we wing it, and with each day come the waves of emotions as intense, continuous and unpredictable as day one.

I’m not going to pretend that the emotional highs outnumber the emotional lows. But I will say that the peaks–however few and far between–are what make this parenting thing worthwhile. Last Wednesday was case in point.

From the moment I retrieved the clowns from school they were happy, kind, patient and darling. Off to the beach we went so that my daughter could surf and my son could, as per usual, avoid the sand and water–a challenging task given the circumstance.

Then something completely unforeseen happened: he ran headlong into the water, no parent attached. He let the waves crash over him, enveloping his whole being. With unbridled joy he played in that ocean as if this, in Rapunzel’s words, was the best day ever! This beach boy persona was a side to him that I had never, never seen and now absolutely adore. All those cursed hours of freezing cold mom-and-tot swim lessons and even colder (and much heavier) koala-carries in the ocean were forgiven.

Blood, sweat, tears yield this golden moment. And to top it off, he begged to go to the beach over the weekend so that he could try surfing. Who better to teach him than his surfer sister, who on that magical day caught her first wave from the outside and rode it all the way in? Fast forward to Saturday. With an unprecedented collaboration and fellowship of trust, she gave him some pointers, placed him on that board, turned him to catch his first wave. Up he popped.

No matter that the magical Wednesday was capped off with a ginormous night-time pee accident.

Riding waves indeed.

photo(110)

A Tiger’s Funeral

photo(102)

Have you ever been to a funeral for a tiger? Nor have I. Apparently one took place just the other day right here in this house, but I was banned. I would have brought purple flowers to express my condolences.

The tiger had been a victim of drowning. For that my son holds me accountable. But I wasn’t the one who peed in my bed, resulting in having to wash all items from the bed–tigers included. Yet he doesn’t take responsibility for the tragic accident, maintaining:

Someone peed in my bed….and it wasn’t me!

Regardless of the culprit (and I have my suspicions), everything went straight into the wash in several shifts. I have a finely tuned system, as a veteran should. This time I enlightened my son, involving him in the process from carrying the pee-sheets to re-making the bed so that he might begin to appreciate the answer to the commonly asked question:

What do you do when we are   ______________? (Fill in the blank with any of the following)

  • at school
  • at camp
  • sleeping
  • playing
  • completely unaware of what it takes to keep the household going

Indeed the tiger may have drowned. But he smells a lot better now. Perhaps the tale of the tiger’s funeral will come in handy when I need to remind my kids that even when I inadvertently cause heartache, I’m looking out not only for their olfactory senses, but for their entire moral fiber.

YouTube is Evil

photo(78)

Can you hear Don Henley right about now? Never did I think as a young teen at summer camp that his slightly cheesy yet ever relevant classic bidding farewell to fairy tales would best summarize this particular juncture of my life. Still, somehow here we are:
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence…

It’s what happens when you have a curious, precocious child who absconds with your mobile device to explore the supposedly taboo. I had no idea what was happening upstairs until 1) I realized my phone was missing and 2) hours later I went to look up something on the internet… and up popped breasts so large they could have busted the glass on my phone. Mine eyes! Mine eyes!

I scrolled through the history of what had been viewed and let’s just say that Edith Wharton was way, way ahead of her time with Ethan Frome’s appetite for pickles and donuts. The difference being, of course, is that 100 years ago we were left to conjure up our own images, not the twisted documentations of disturbing minds posted on YouTube and similar sites. And those gems could not be brought to life by the touch of an innocent child’s finger.

Indeed the sun has set on our innocence.

My best defense needless to say is to take away the privilege of iPads, iPods, iPhones and iEverything. But that is a temporary solution. And anyone who knows us, our usage–very much G rated–is pretty minimal for starters.

The real issue to address is the curiosity, and do so appropriately. Our kids already know a lot. A LOT.  For example, the mystery of life had been inadvertently revealed in the opening scene of Black Beauty a while back. By the way, I highly recommend it to any parent as a template for that conversation.

Who doesn’t remember poring over What’s Happening to My Body? In our house I had the “for Girls” version and my brother had the “for Boys”, and we were forbidden to look at one another’s. Just last week on the plane my husband noticed a tween sitting in the row ahead of him sheepishly reading the American Girl version: The Care and Keeping of You– the Body Book for Girls. Ironically, the plane ride before that he sat next to a woman less covertly drooling over Fifty Shades of Grey. What would Edith Wharton think?!

On the evening of the discovery at hand, when my blood pressure returned to normal and after we had a lengthy talk with our darling child, I revised my to-do list for the week. It now reads:

1) Smack the hell out of a few hundred tennis balls                                                              2) Cash in on my gift certificate for a massage                                                                     3) Visit Barnes and Noble for some appropriate body-book reading material

Only, if only I liked wine…

 

 

Mangled Hearts

photo(74)

Eight years and a couple of weeks ago I had a baby. She was perfect– except for the critically imperfect heart. Whisked away to the main Duke Medical Center, she underwent an emergency procedure on her walnut-sized damaged organ. We followed her there as soon as I could discharge myself, and we met the team who would save this tiny life. As the strikingly young and handsome doctor briefed us before the surgery, he began with the harshest of words: Your baby might die.

There I was– bleeding, swelling, sweating– with head spinning. Would you believe that over the course of the next hours I actually tried to convince myself that it was OK if she didn’t make it, because I never had the chance to know her anyhow? I’d like to chalk this up to postpartum delirium and circumstantial trauma, as opposed to terrible parenting and awful moral character.

Handsome Doctor emerged to update us that the procedure went as well as expected (weeks later we learned that this was his youngest patient yet– that normally this procedure isn’t done on babies only hours old). He had been cautious, and projected he would need to go in for a second attempt within a couple of weeks or several months. For now they’d watch and wait.

Later in the evening we went to visit our daughter– of whom we couldn’t see very much behind the tubes and wires. Clad in a tiny diaper and a purple cap with two pink hearts, she was sedated, intubated and medicated. But that little heart was beating. We couldn’t hold her, but we touched her and marveled at her– just as any new parents would. Days later, when she was at last no longer sedated, she broke free from the swaddle and ripped at her tubes. At that moment we knew we had a fighter.

Despite some additional complications, which included a giant blood clot, we brought her home eight years ago tomorrow. We’d have to inject her twice daily with blood thinners (yes, right there on the kitchen counter) and we’d be in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices for months. But there she was, and here she is, a fighter still.

Each year around Christmas I send off two holiday cards– one to the doctor from North Carolina and another to the New York cardiologist who performed the second repair. I know not whether they actually receive the notes, or even if they care to. Nevertheless, I include a photo and a brief update to document their masterful achievements. Not only did this child survive, she has thrived. From swimming to skiing to snowboarding to horse back riding to playing tennis to bike riding to skate boarding to competing in triathlons, this kid has no limits. Imagine what she would do with an undamaged heart?!

Also each year on her birthday I bake a cake, as does any parent. But mine is always in the shape of a heart. I have a compulsion, I suppose, to make whole what I originally created as flawed. This year, the cake didn’t quite slide out of the pan, and we were left with yet another mangled heart. There were some tears involved, until we reminded the guest of honor that her own heart doesn’t look so pretty but it gets the job done. She’s old enough to know that she has a special heart, one that goes lub-dub-squish, and that we love this about her.

Our little girl has a heart of infinite capacity. It’s imperfectly perfect.

Lessons from an Unlikable Suspect

photo(69)

My mom’s done it. My mother-in-law is still doing it. And Pukey Pukerson’s mom showed us how the real pros do it. What is it exactly? That would be resourceful outsourcing, all in the name of a successful vacation. This year after an epiphany on the slopes I joined the ranks.

I entered parenthood thinking that I was going to be the cool mom. Among the many activities I enjoy, I’d swim, bike, ski, play tennis, horseback ride– you name it– with my kids. I’d even teach them myself. Bring on the bonding opportunities!  (And of course they would appreciate them all.) The strategy seemed to work with my daughter, whose athleticism and risk-seeking tendencies favor such endeavors. At seven, with only a handful of “real” ski lessons under her belt, she not only keeps up but often leads the way down the hill. We’ll be chasing her in a season or two.

Then we put skis on my son. He’s a whole other animal– cautious, reserved and a little bit less than agile. My moment of defeat came on the first run. Half-way down the bunny hill I extricated him from between my knees and encouraged him to slide down just a few yards to where I would catch him. With that, he slumped to the snow– melting like the Wicked Witch when doused with water. Having duck-walked back up to him, I struggled to bring him upright. From that angle I just couldn’t lift 52 pounds of wet noodle. That’s when I knew: I would have to outsource to ski school.

Heartbroken (yes, both of us) we made our way to ski school the next day. That’s where we met Pukey Pukerson. This poor kid was waiting for his mom to purchase his ticket when his semi-digested breakfast reappeared all over the floor, his jacket and chin. His mom, completely unfazed, took some tissue from the counter, swabbed his coat, dabbed his face, then made a light attempt to remove the evidence. The result was a sizable and stinky stain on the carpet where the barf residue mixed with tissue filaments had seeped in. With that Pukey Pukerson was off to ski school.

There I was– the horrified and now nauseated witness– left to wonder doesn’t she know the universal rule that requires children be fever and vomit free for 24 hours before returning to school, camp, day care and so forth? Not 24 seconds, lady.

I mean really, what kind of mother sends her barfing child off to ski school for the day? The really hardcore, resourceful outsourcing kind. Nothing, especially not a little puke, was going to keep her from big plans for herself that day. Suddenly I didn’t feel like the worst parent ever, sending my own son through the rainbow arches of the ski school entrance with quivering lower lip. Now I just hoped for the sake of his very sensitive nose that he wouldn’t be in Pukey Pukerson’s group.

This incident was life altering for me. Not because of the trauma I suffered watching the kid vomit nor the aftermath. Rather, from Pukey Pukerson’s mom I gained invaluable perspective. It’s OK to take care of the self sometimes, even if it seems that in the moment it’s not in the best interest of the child. It just might be what he needs for long-term success. As a parent I do need to outsource from time to time. (Fortunately finances prevent us from doing it all the time because I can see how it could be completely addictive.)

I now see how outsourcing the family during vacation actually promotes successful family time. At long last it makes sense why my own ski-adverse mother agreed on and even looked forward to a family ski week. What fun was that for her, sitting around waiting for us all to return from the slopes? Therein lies the answer. She had time for her– and sitting by the fire alone, reading the paper alone, sipping coffee alone, enjoying a book alone, was vacation in and of itself.  She is the unsung genius of successful family vacations.

To that end, my mother-in-law is no slouch either. She still outsources– her retired, stay-at-home husband that is. Many a winter day she is asked to drive not just my father-in-law but also his cronies both to and from the slopes for an afternoon of skiing, burger-eating and beer-drinking. What?! Why on earth would she, a self-respecting woman, agree to this?! I silently pitied her for years, questioning doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time? Again, therein lies the answer. This alone time is the precious commodity, and being master of the car pool is the no-brainer trade-off.

We should all thank Pukey Pukerson’s mom. Not only has she schooled us in the art of effective and relentless outsourcing, but she has also made us look pretty darn good as parents!

photo(70)