Love and Loss at the Fair

I don’t like fish as pets.  I don’t really like fish as food for that matter.

Despite my lack of fish fondness, I couldn’t help but be excited the other night when I watched our dented Ping-Pong balls bounce into the tiny fish-bowls of colored water at the fair.  I had purchased a plastic hat of balls for 2yo because he loves nothing more than to throw things at other things.  I figured, even if he doesn’t win a fish, he still gets to throw things and keep the hat, so it’s a win-win situation. fishgame

Halfway through his 20-something batch of balls, he loudly declared, “I not wanna pay dis game anymore!”  Smart parents would have handed over the remaining balls and walked away.  Not us, of course. After all, we spent $5 on that hat of balls and they were going to get thrown.  Jim’s first ball sailed through the air and bounced squarely into a bowl of red water – because of course it did.  We went through the rest of the balls until there was one left.  I offered it to 2yo who insisted that I throw it, so I nonchalantly tossed it at the table.  It plopped into another bowl and we were now two fish richer and $5 poorer than we had been just 15 minutes earlier.

At that point, 8yo returned from her sky ride excursion with her grandfather and wanted to play as well.  Already burdened with fish, we gave her $2 for a small bowl.  She’s usually terrible at this game, but three balls into her turn she also won a fish.  It was a shiny gold color (not the typical orange) and she named it Bubbles.  2yo named my fish after himself and Jim refused to name his.  So, with our stroller cup holders full of fish, we moved on.

For the remainder of the evening, I reminded both kids (especially 8yo) that carnival-game fish generally don’t survive very long and it’s possible that some or all of them could be dead by morning.

“I know” she said. “Besides, I already have a fish.” This is true, because she has a beta fish in her bedroom that absolutely refuses to die.  I’m sending it to college with her.fishcups

By morning, one fish (Jim’s unnamed one that 8yo had lovingly monikered “no-name”) had already kicked the bucket, but Bubbles and 2yo’s namesake were still kicking.  We ran some errands and returned home a short while later.  8yo was first in the house and ran back outside with tears in the corners of her eyes.

“Bubbles is dead!”

Ironically, we had just picked up a cheap fishbowl starter kit at the store for our remaining fish.  Since 2yo’s fish was still kicking, I scooped out the two dead fish from the jar they had been in overnight and prepped the bowl for our survivor.  Once the still-living fish was settled in his new home, we took the two dead fish in a cup to the bathroom for a quick funeral.

The entire time, 8yo had remained stoic despite her disappointment.  She knew the deal – fish die all the time.  Unfortunately, the funeral ended up being more drawn out than anticipated when we got to the bathroom and realized the last person in there had forgotten to flush.  I didn’t want to insult the dead fish by flushing them in someone’s pee, so I flushed the toilet before dropping them in.  What I hadn’t expected was how long it would take for the bowl to refill before being able to flush it again.  Those two dead fish swirled around in the slowly-filling bowl while 2yo jumped around yelling “tan I fush dem now?!” I watched as 8yo stared at the dead fish and I saw a clear understanding of mortality wash over her face.  Tears began falling and, just as 2yo pulled the lever and the fish slipped away, the sobs came.

It was immediately apparent that this was about more than dead fish – it was about life and that moment in childhood we’ve all had when one realizes how finite it is.  It brought back memories of lying in my darkened bedroom as a child sobbing over that fact that everyone I knew was going to die someday.  “Oh honey…” I said as she ran out of the room.

I found her like this on the living room floor:crying

Sometimes, it just hurts.  Most of the time we can protect ourselves from thinking about how small we are and how short our time is, but every now and then it surfaces.  8yo has been fortunate in her short life to not have lost anyone close, but she knows it’s coming one day.  We snuggled on the couch and she cried it out.  She recovered eventually and the rest of her day was fine.

We returned to that fair that night, but stayed far away from the fish game.  As of this moment, 2yo’s new fishy friend is still alive and swimming high on a shelf in his bedroom: fishsurvivor

Seeing things in a different light

I’m feeling pretty crappy about my day.  Nothing extreme happened, but it was just one of those days. I had a disheartening day at work, my Dentist discovered three cavities that I have to have filled, and our two-year-old was poorly behaved at dinner.  I’ve been in a sour mood for hours, even though I know I truly have very little to be unhappy about.  I don’t enjoy feeling this way, so I’m going to attempt to look at the day from a different perspective.

HollyJima1sep

This morning, I woke up in my large bed in my bedroom that is bigger than some houses in other parts of the world.  I used warm running water and electricity as I showered and dressed myself for the day in one of the many lightly-used maternity outfits I was fortunate enough to have received from other generous moms.  Once I was ready, I got to spend 30 minutes with my children as I readied them for school.  Our pantry and refrigerator were full of breakfast options – so many that we’ll probably end up throwing some out before we get a chance to eat them.  My coffee, brewed instantly in our single-cup brewer, was hot and comforting. When we were all dressed and fed the kids grabbed their Lands End backpacks, I grabbed my iPhone, and we piled into the large SUV we purchased brand new last year.

I hugged my children as I dropped them off at a school full of people who will care for them, encourage them and educate them.  A few minutes later, I arrived at my own workplace where I am employed full-time and well compensated.  I spent the day singing, playing guitar, and interacting with children and adults.  I spent 30 minutes enjoying lunch with some of my favorite ladies.  When I did experience conflict today, I was able to express myself without fear of reprimand or retaliation with like-minded adults who, like me, just want the best for everyone.  Before leaving, a friend helped me load into my car a lightly-used crib mattress that was given to me by another work friend who no longer needs it, eliminating another cost associated with bringing a new person into the world.

After picking my children up from school, we stopped at home for a short while before leaving again to pick up my husband at his steady job and head to the dentist.  Fortunately, my insurance covered most of the visit, and it will also cover the filling of the three small cavities the Dentist was skilled enough to find before they became more serious.  While I reclined in the dentist’s chair and had someone else clean my otherwise very healthy teeth, I could feel the kicking and rolling of our third child who, despite not yet being born, has also benefitted from some of the best healthcare available.

Following our appointment, we headed to a local restaurant where we ordered from the menu without having to consider the price, enjoyed a nice meal, and paid for everything by handing over a card to an account that we know has enough money to cover everything.  When our two-year-old wouldn’t stop wiggling and kicking, I would reprimand him and he would respond with hugs and an “I’m sorry, Mommy” and sit still for a good 30 seconds before starting up again.  He never got up from his seat and he didn’t bother any of the other diners or staff.  We even had enough food to bring some home to eat at another time.

Once home, we again used amenities that we take for granted to make sure everyone was washed and dressed in one of their many sets of pajamas.  Homework was completed, books were read, and goodnight kisses and hugs were plenty.  Tired, but healthy, financially stable, and blessed with countless loved ones, we crawled into bed, soon to fall asleep with little worry.

Wow! That’s much better.  I had a really great day today after all! 

Phone-free Weekend

This past weekend, we went camping at a state park less than two hours from our home.  I love camping.  It’s a chance to get away from the hectic pace of life, it’s an opportunity to spend time with family, and it’s a way to build lasting memories with my husband and children.Campfire

On Friday, within 10 miles of the campground, the smartphone I had been using to occupy my mind on the drive (instead of talking to my family) lost service.  “Ok, no service this weekend.  That’s fine,” I figured.  As it turns out, this small adjustment to our weekend ended up being a huge eye-opener for me.

With cell phone service seemingly everywhere, we are usually able to use our phones when camping.  I fully admit I have a mild cell phone addiction, although I was under the impression that I was not letting it affect my interactions with my family.  I now suspect I was wrong.  The harsher realization I came to, however, was just how much I was damaging my relationship with myself.

Within the first few hours, after unpacking and setting up, I found my mind instinctively turning to my phone over and over.  I had left it in the truck, determined to spend the weekend electronics free.  Several times, during conversation, a topic would come up and I would want to immediately look it up online.  Jim would mention a small object that would have come in handy if we had one and I would instinctively think “let me see how much it is on Amazon.”  I was shocked at how many times I felt vulnerable during times of waiting: waiting for 7yo to finish using the restroom, waiting for dinner to be ready, waiting for Jim and the kids to return from a walk.  Usually at times like these, had I access to my phone, I would have instinctively grabbed it to fill those moments.

What I discovered, after an initial period of adjustment, was how much clearer my mind became without my phone.  I had figured a “phone detox” would be good for me, but I hadn’t realized just how distracted I had become by my constant phone use. I was shocked at how in-the-moment I felt during everything we did as compared to before.  I was surprised at how our conversations became deeper and more thoughtful. I never would have guessed my phone was having such an effect on my mind and I’m saddened to think of how long I’ve been living with such a distraction.

As we returned to service, I immediately checked both our phones for texts and emails.  Within a few hours of being home, I was acutely aware of how cluttered my mind was becoming again.  As I got ready for bed that evening, instead of plugging my phone in at my nightstand so that it was immediately available if I couldn’t sleep, I plugged it in across the room and switched it to “airplane mode.”  When I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t immediately fall back to sleep, it took everything I had to not get up and grab it to keep my mind occupied.  Instead, I remained in bed with just my thoughts and was reminded why I had begun turning to my phone in the first place.  Worries, anxieties, and concerns all began to overwhelm my undistracted mind.  After what seemed like hours, I finally calmed my mind enough to fall asleep. As I was drifting off, I realized how much I had been using my phone to hide from myself and I was determined to no longer run from my thoughts by burying my face in a screen.

I imagine learning to curb my cell phone use will be a daily challenge, at which I will fail regularly.  What this weekend taught me is that, while I had not been so engrossed in my phone to miss out on the big things in life, it was the small every-day moments I had been missing – a look, a feeling, a stray thought, a breath of fresh air.  I am now determined to live those moments with my head up.

Surprise!

Since almost anyone who reads this knows me personally, I probably do not have to announce that THIS post was a bit premature.

When I first began acknowledging the possibility that I might be pregnant, I decided I was probably overreacting.  I’m getting older and my body isn’t going to work like clockwork anymore.  As the days passed, it became harder to deny.  When I finally took the test and was faced with the reality that we were bringing another child into the world, I realized just how much I’d been in denial. Baby

Once the initial shock and panic wore off, there were many things to consider.  Where will this new child sleep? Will our family fit in our car? How will we pay for two in day-care?

Surprisingly, I also felt irresponsible.  I am a highly-educated woman with a full understanding of how reproduction works.  How could this have happened? I mean, I know how it happened, but still…..  I’m such a control freak about everything – how could I have let this happen?

Once we reached the point when we were ready to tell people, I was shocked at how many of my friends – very intelligent, well-spoken women – confided in me that they too had been surprised by their third child.  There is a whole community of unexpected third babies out there I never knew about.

Jim expressed concerns about our third child one day knowing she (yes, it’s a girl) was not planned.  I completely understand why he feels this way.  No one wants to be an “oops” or considered a mistake, but I don’t see it that way.  She is not a mistake, she’s a surprise.  I suspect, although we had never envisioned our lives with her, once she’s here I imagine we will not be able to imagine our lives without her.

Talkin’ Toddler

ToddlerToddler-speak is one of my favorite things to observe.  Listening to them explore language is so fascinating. 2-yo is right in the thick of this developmental stage and he is not afraid to try new phases and words.  Some of my favorites include:

“What da Heck?!”

He learned this one from his grandfather.  We scold him every time he uses it, but he seems to enjoy the reaction it gets.  I guess it could be far worse.

“Udder-buddies”

He uses this word in place of “everybody” but I think he’s really saying “other buddies,” as in, “there’s me, then there are the other buddies.”

“What’s your name, dude?”

No idea where this came from.  He just started using it.

 “Pup-take” and “Pan-take”

Sounds that come from the back of the tongue are particularly difficult for 2yo and he’s only mastered saying them at the ends of words, so this is how he pronounces “cupcake” and “pancake.”

 “Ightning A-teen”

I suspect this is also how John Travolta would introduce “Lightning McQueen” at the Oscars.

 “______ening”

Recently, 2yo has started adding “en” before the “ing” in most words.  So, “working” becomes “workening” and “pooping” becomes “poopening.”  As in, “(grunt) no I not poopening in my diaper! (grunt)”

 “Butt”

Our poor friend, Brett.

 

 

Past Bedtime

I’m showered and in my pajamas, reading a book in bed.  The kids have been tucked in for two hours at this point.  Suddenly, I hear a door open.  I’m not sure which child is up until our door is opened without a knock.  In toddles the cutest person in our house, all smiles and giggles.  He rushes to my side of the bed with a big smile and a “hi mommy!”monster

This is a parenting test.  I know what I’m supposed to do.  I’m supposed to get up and walk him back to his room, explaining that it’s bed time and he needs to stay in bed until it’s light outside.  He needs to learn that night time is for sleeping, not for playing.  He needs boundaries.

My mind flashes to the future.  I see the cutest person as a teenage boy.  Perhaps he’s moody and sullen.  Maybe he’s a polite, well-spoken young man.  If he follows in the footsteps of his father (who followed in the footsteps of his own father), he’ll be a smart-ass with a beautiful heart who will do anything for anyone in need.  No matter who he becomes, he’s not going to want to snuggle in bed at night and, quite frankly, neither will his mother.  This moment is a fleeting opportunity.

So I grab my smiling, giggling little boy and lift him into the bed.  He immediately snuggles up to me and I feel the softness of his fleece footie pajamas – the ones covered in “ah-panes!” I kiss his head and we tickle and giggle together.  He sucks his thumb and tucks his head under my chin.  As I hold him close, I’m reminded of how children seem to be shaped to fit the contours of our bodies.  In a few years, he’ll feel boney and angular like his sister, but for now he still feels like a baby with his squishy legs and round belly.

After a few minutes, I pick him up and carry him to bed.  I tuck him in and kiss him, telling him he needs to stay in bed until morning.

And he does.

Test passed.

Not surprisingly……

So, the government shut down this morning.  Luckily for my family, my day was completely different in absolutely no ways at all.  Still, the whole thing is so frustrating – no matter which side of the aisle you lean.  Even more depressing is this clip from last night’s Jimmy Kimmel show:

Jimmy Kimmel – Six of One

Whether you’re for or against Obamacare (and I think many people are for AND against Obamacare), you should at least know what you’re talking about if you’re going to answer a reporter with a camera.

I did, however, enjoy some of the comments below the video:

“Most of America is Lenny and the rest of us are George, just trying to keep them calm and stop them from destroying something.”

“If we had the government we deserve, we’d be living in Thunderdome.”

“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.”

 

 

Birthday Lesson Learned

Recently, 6yo became 7yo.

Because weekdays are bad for everybody, her birthday party was held on a Sunday.  It was a small affair with family and a few close friends.  No theme, just some cute $.97 disposable table cloths, a few balloons, and cake that 7yo specifically designed herself. We barbequed some chicken and ate fresh-picked sweet corn.  Nothing big, nothing expensive. hopebday

Last year, when she turned 6, the birthday production was much bigger.  The Saturday before her birthday, there were two parties.  The first was a kid’s pirate themed party, complete with crafts, a scavenger hunt, a pirate-ship cake, and a giant pile of presents. I had ordered every pirate decoration offered from Oriental Trading.  Kids left with eye-patches, telescopes, plastic gold doubloons, head scarves, candy, and a treasure chest they designed themselves. Once the under-10 crowd dispersed, we were joined by family and a few close friends for a second, more low-key party (and a second cake).  On the actual day of her birthday, Jim and I took her downtown to celebrate with dinner at the restaurant of her choosing and stops in all of her favorite local shops followed by desert in her favorite ice cream parlor.

At the end of 2012, when I was working to organize our photos for the year, it became apparent to me that we may have gone overboard.  So, this year, we decided to scale it down a bit.  As I was putting the tablecloths on the folding tables in our yard, I second-guessed myself for a moment – would it be enough?  Will she be upset that this year’s festivities don’t compare to last year’s?

Of course she wasn’t.

Not once did she say “aren’t more kids coming?” or “why aren’t there games and prizes?”  She thought her birthday party was perfect.

Lesson learned.

 

 

Remembering Shirley

This morning, I’m thinking of a dear friend.  I’m reminded of her because we’re nearing the second week of August.

For years, while I was in high school and college, I would spend the second week of August on vacation at Treasure Lake.  Treasure Lake is a golf community with two highly-rated golf courses that also offers boating, swimming, and many other fun summer activities.

I originally began going as a helper to my Aunt (my father’s sister) and Uncle.  They had young children and I spent several of my summers babysitting them.  At the end of each summer my Aunt and Uncle would generously bring me along on vacation so that they could both enjoy some rounds of golf together.  I would take the kids for bike rides, to the beach, and to the pool while the adults played their 18 holes.  My relatives covered all of my expenses and the kids were a dream to babysit.  I was basically being paid to go on vacation.

We were joined every year by another couple, Shirley and Wayne.  Technically, Shirley was my uncle’s aunt, but they were so close in age she seemed more like a cousin.  Still, all the kids (including me) referred to her as “Aunt Shirley.”  She was kind, generous, and a great deal of fun.

After a few years, I stopped babysitting, but I was still invited to come along simply as a family member.  I was often invited to join them for their daily rounds of golf.  My Aunt, Shirley, and I would golf together while the guys (who took their scores very seriously) went on ahead.  Our team motto was “Hit it toward the cart path!”  Shirley was actually a very skilled, avid golfer.  She taught me everything I know about golfing (which, admittedly isn’t much).  I always golfed better when I was with her.  Her most important advice was repeated to me year after year in a sort-of mantra she had learned from a golf instructor once-upon-a-time:

“Keep your head down.

Keep your head down.

Keep your God-damned head down!”

Outside of our vacations, I didn’t see Shirley and Wayne that often.  I would attend picnics at their house and run into them at some family functions. They both danced at my wedding.  Still, there’s a familiarity that develops when you spend a week with people year-after-year – a bond akin to those one develops at summer camp. I considered Shirley and Wayne to be good friends and was extremely fond of them.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

My Aunt, Shirley (center), and myself during a round of golf.

A few years ago, Shirley succumbed to cancer at an unfairly young age.  She left a gaping hole behind in the community and in the hearts of her loved ones.  Her funeral was beautiful, yet terribly painful.  She was a nurturer, a leader, and a doer.  She is fondly remembered by all who knew her and her memory continues to live on in her friends and family.

Often, not just in golfing but also in everyday life, I can still hear her voice telling me to “Keep your head down!” and simply trust that, if I do what I’m supposed to, things will go the way they should.

We miss you, Shirley.