Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The unbelievable Disney magic

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The whole Happiest Place on Earth thing? I believe it now. I was skeptical before, but now, well, it’s a different story. I have seen it with my own eyes.

You see, the girls went to Disney World for the first time, and they didn’t just survive the 12-hour ordeal, they friggin’ rocked it. In fact, I can’t even call it an ordeal when neither of them cried, fussed, or gave us much trouble other than the occasional, “no, that’s my wand!” from 10:30 in the morning to about that time after sundown, after the spectacular fireworks, after the trek out of the park with what felt like a ga-ba-zillion others.

These are kids who go to bed at seven on a usual night, so you can imagine my utter amazement at their ability to power through an additional 3.5 hours after an already full day of overstimulation - Princesses! Rides! Treats! Disney merchandise! Everywhere!

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Little Miss Starstruck

Little Miss got to meet two of her favorite princesses - Ariel and Belle - but the latter involved a cute reenactment of the day Belle met the Beast from us, the patrons who stood in line to see the princess. Pickle played the part of the enchanted pepper shaker (and she played it well, as she skillfully shook her little booty), Little Miss played the French feather duster, and their Papa, a sentry. I was impressed at the interactivity, where the girls didn’t just stand in line to be hugged by Belle. They became a part of the magic!

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As someone who had never been particularly interested in amusement parks, Disney was pretty low on my must-see list, but as a mom of girls, I knew this trip was inevitable. Due to the generosity of their grandparents who live in Florida, this visit happened sooner than I thought.

But the girls certainly proved that it wasn’t too soon as they impressed us with their willingness to try everything, and especially with their patience in lines, which, at 30 minutes, I was informed was pretty mild for Disney. Pickle, who was starting to show signs of fatigue took a short nap in her stroller and after a full meal at the “Be Our Guest” Restaurant, she was back in fine form, exploring, giggling.

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"Me did it!" said my proud little Pickle. 

The girls rode on their first roller coaster together - the Barn Stormer - and met me with smiles at the end of the ride. Four-year-old Little Miss was tall enough to ride the others, so she went on the rest, culminating in the formidable Space Mountain!

I knew she’d kick my ass in the thrill-seeking department, what with her penchant for gigantic water slides and amusement park rides, but I didn’t realize she’d do it at age four. That part of her blood did *not* come from me, that’s fo sho. I prefer less oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die ones like “Dumbo” and “It’s a Small World”. Hey, at least I have the cojones to admit that.

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Part woman warrior, part chicken shit - that’s me.

Not these girls though. They’re mostly fierce and surprisingly resilient. On a day where we expected about seven meltdowns, we were met with none.

On our way back, which in itself was an Olympic feat, trying to navigate around a million other overtired, overstimulated, somewhat stinky people to take two different modes of transits just to get back to our car, we encountered a hollering baby who was probably at the end of his tether on the monorail. I looked at him writhing on his poor, helpless mama, and I looked at Pickle, who slept quietly on her grandpa’s shoulders, finally but peacefully surrendering to her exhaustion, and I just couldn’t believe our luck when I realized we didn’t have to deal with any of the unpleasantries of what a long day does to kids.

But luck and resilience can’t take all the credit.  With a 5:1 ratio of adults to kids, we had more than all hands on deck. The girls always had someone to hold them, watch them, and satisfy their insatiable “look at me! look at me!” demands. The best part of the trip for them (well, other than the princess and the ice cream for lunch and dinner thing) was certainly having their grandparents by their side, doing what they do best: dote.


And that they did. Remarkably. So much so that I was rendered chopped liver the moment the girls arrived at their grandparents’ beautiful home in St. Augustine, complete with a pool and two pets that kept the girls entertained for hours.

Our trip to Disney would’ve probably been a different story were it not for the gentle, loving hands of a family - grandparents
and an uncle - who created a comfortable, magical place for my girls that extended far beyond that of Magic Kingdom. A place where they know in their hearts, they could call home, no matter where they are - fantasy or otherwise.

And my broken butt and I are completely and utterly grateful.

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Ignore the scowling faces - they were truly happy, I swear...


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pain in My Butt


I’ve never been more envious of a man’s ability to pee standing up than now, at this moment, when the worst part of my day is the trip to the restroom. You see, as my friend, Kitch, eloquently said about her own experience, I broke my butt.

It was an ordinary day (don’t these things often happen on the most unexpected, unexceptional days?) and I was on my way downstairs with Pickle to put her down for a nap when I slid and landed my tailbone on the corner of the step just as we neared the bottom.

Carpeted or not, it hurt like a mother, and I yowled like an animal. Thankfully, Pickle didn’t fall with me, and My Guy, who’s often at his client’s office but chose to be home on this rare day, heard my distress and came running to my aid.

I couldn’t move. I could hardly breathe, the pain was so intense. I wanted to hold it together for my concerned two-year-old, but realized I’m just not made that way, and cried onto her lap instead as she sat next to my crumpled body by the stairs.

She wiped my tears, asking, “why you crying mommy?” and My Guy explained to her. And since then, she would intermittently ask me throughout the day, “is yours [sic] butt feeling better mommy? I want to kiss it.”

Oh, how I wish she could. The slightest touch would send me howling, so the order of the day (and probably the days following) was to “stay away from mommy,” which, of course, broke my heart.

However, it’s probably wise, especially considering that my dear, affectionate Pickle’s a ferocious hugger - I would probably pass out from her good intentions. Little Miss, who was at school when the accident occurred, was slightly more conscious and careful but still needed the occasional reminder: I’m sorry, but no, I can’t do your hair, I’m sorry, I can’t sit next to you at the table; I’m sorry I can’t tuck you in tonight; I’m sorry we can’t snuggle…

Yes, I have uttered many sorries. My Guy would not hear of it, but I told him to suck it up, because saying I’m sorry was about all I could manage and it made me feel 1.2% better. So he sucked it up.

But he was also Super Guy as he kept it together for all of us and made sure I had an ice pack on my bottom (my daughters’ Little Mermaid ice pack, nonetheless - bet Ariel wasn’t expecting to be that up close and personal with me), and fed us, and got the girls to bed and school by himself and [insert all domestic chores here].

On top of that, he also has to do all of the packing for our trip to Florida himself.

Oh yes. Is this what they call insult to injury? Going to the “happiest place on earth” with a broken butt is like going to an ice cream social with your mouth sewed shut.

I should be looking forward to this trip with my girls as it will be our first time at Disney World, except I’m thinking about my flight to Florida and our subsequent car ride to Orlando from St. Augustine (where their grandparents live) with sheer terror.

How the hell am I going to sit on an airplane? Or climb in and out of an SUV, let alone ride in it?

“We can do this. We’ll manage,” says My Guy. Easy for him to say, his butt is fine. (In every sense of the word. Ahem.) The only thing I managed was to cry. Again.

In fact, I did a lot of that. I cried when it hurt for me to change sides in bed. I cried when I couldn’t be near my babies. I cried when I felt bad that My Guy had to shoulder so much. I cried when I realized I couldn’t go for the run that I had planned for myself that day. Or this week. Or probably in the next month, which means goodbye October half marathon.

Having run for a year now, I can finally say that Fall running is my favorite, except now, I've probably ruined that for myself too. Yes, I’m feeling a little - a lot - sorry for myself, but the injury is still fresh, so I think I have a 48-hour window for all this sorry business. And I intend to use it up. Every last second, dammit!

But then something happened. I read this article, 21 Habits of Supremely Happy People, that serendipitously showed up on my Facebook feed today, thanks to a happy friend, and it inspired me to change my own habits. No, I’m not aiming for “supremely happy” because that's just setting myself up for failure. Instead, I’m setting my sights lower and going for “trying not to be depressed”. I think that’s more my speed right now.

It involves being optimistic about my recovery, which I am, or at least I can fake it with the help of My Guy, who’s the eternal optimist. And an opportunist, who suggested I got a wheelchair for Disney so we could move to the front of the line!

I’m also learning that being strong isn’t about not crying from the pain (because, good lord, if that were the case, I may be the world’s biggest wimp); it’s about asking for and accepting help, and knowing when and what to let go. Kind of like the Serenity Prayer, minus the God part.

As for running, well, at least I’m mobile, which means I can still get some fresh air and relish the changing leaves I so enjoy about Fall running. After reading that article, I promptly shut my laptop and went down to the park by the beach and walked - no, ambled - ever so slowly that even a hunched, silver-haired man passed me like I was standing still. But the breeze and sun felt nice, and the sight of Lake Michigan calmed me.

The walk also gave me perspective; I know this is all temporary. The helplessness, the disability, the snail pace - it’s all part of the healing. Better to miss one race to heal completely than to rush my recovery and risk not being able to run for the rest of my life.

To quote a dear friend, who announced over Facebook today, “My stress is down a little, sleeping a little better, eating a little better, starting to workout again - a little. Change can be difficult, if inevitable. The power of a strong family, regardless of it's size, is a beautiful thing.”

It is indeed. I do so believe in the strength of my family. Because of them, I will get through this.

And one of the most important things I learned from the article is the positive effect of a constant, unwavering practice of gratitude regardless of our own circumstances, and I, myself, am a believer in its power, so here I am, being grateful that I can walk even when I can’t run, that My Guy possesses the kind of strength and humor that will see us all through this, that I’m still able to get outside to enjoy this unbelievable weather, that My Guy’s brother will be flying with us to Florida so he can help with the wrangling of active kids, and that his parents will be there as a welcome extra set of hands and distraction for my girls, making this injury both inconvenient and strangely convenient at the same time.

Oh, and I’m grateful for a mama friend who newly delivered a baby and offered her super-strength but nursing-friendly painkillers to me, which I will definitely need for my travels as it would be a miracle if I don’t accidentally get bumped by at least two dozen different things and people - namely my own little people - while in transit.

And I’m grateful that being forced to rest allows me to finish one book, the refreshing and sweet children’s book, "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo, thanks to my best friend who brought them for my girls, and start another, “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz, recommended by dear Cecilia, whose taste in books I absolutely, unequivocally trust.

See? I’m already feeling better. Gratitude. It's a wonderful thing. As is the love and patience of an amazing partner.

I’m extraordinarily grateful to him for being there for me and the girls, but how do I tell him that I still need the kitchen spotless, the floors swept, the toys put away, the bed made, the cats fed, the litter cleaned, the trash out, and the living/dining room tidied before our early-morning flight tomorrow? Because that’s usually what I do before we leave for vacation?

I’m realizing that in my attempt to lose the pain in my butt, I will probably end up being the pain in his. But wait - this is where the practice of letting go comes in doesn’t it? Messy house be damned. There’s healing to do and a vacation to be had!

Hey, I’m learning! Baby steps. Which is good, because I can ill afford any steps larger than that now.

At this moment, My Guy is on his way to get me a donut, to which my two-year-old rubbed her belly and responded, “mmm...donut…” and we had to disappoint her with, “no, it’s not the kind for eating; it’s for sitting.” And while he's gone, the two-year-old is napping, Little Miss is still in school, and I'm vomiting my tirade onto this blog post because writing helps too.

Thank you for listening to, or rather, reading about my woes, my friends. This has been wonderfully cathartic for me, but wait, I'm not the only one who benefits, because according to the article, being a good listener is also a habit of supremely happy people.

There. Don’t you feel better too? You're welcome.


image source: stairs by Denis Jacquere.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Winter is coming


"El Scorcho" by Weezer echoed throughout our house, and I sang along, trying to catch the attention of my girls who were concentrating on their masterpieces, "I'm a lot like you, so please, hello, I'm here, I'm waiting…I think I'd be good for you, and you'd be good for me…"

Then I explained to them, "You know, I first heard this song from the mixed "tape" (it was actually a CD) that your daddy gave me when we first got together many years ago."

No response. Colors and brush strokes trumped romantic history. Who cares? We have pink and purple. 

On Sunday, it rained all morning, all afternoon, and all evening. Our ambition to go outside often dissolves with water, so we stayed in our jammies inside the house all day. 


In the 13 hours that the girls were up, we rolled around in bed, ate all three meals and two snacks at home, they read their first comic book together, painted several masterpieces (and ignored my story - hrmph!), had a dance party with their daddy, and watched two PBS shows in the morning and one movie (Chicken Run) in the evening. While Pickle napped, four-year-old Little Miss played games on her iPad and read some books.

Weaving in and out of activities with the girls, the rainy Fall weather inspired me to sort and organize the girls' clothes - it's time for jackets, knits, and tights - , and since I was already productive, I did some laundry, hand washed(!!!) two pairs of fabric shoes that have seen better days, reorganized our wet bar downstairs so we can shorten the time between craving a Manhattan and drinking one (yes, priorities!), tidied the girls dresser drawers, packed the girls' outfits for our trip to Florida this week, and even had time for a four-mile run, albeit in the pouring rain. (I called it all-condition training for my upcoming half marathon, but really, I just needed to get outside for a bit.)

My Guy did his fair share and hung up some pictures that had been gathering cat hair for weeks, cleaned the kitchen after he made us all breakfast and lunch, removed the trash, supervised all of the girls'  rainy day fun, and replaced faulty bulbs around the house. 

I marveled at how much we accomplished as a family on a rainy Sunday. 

But I also realized just how much work it took for us to keep the kids at home and entertained, and shuddered at the thought of the months ahead. At the height of summer, we left the house at least once a day so the kids had somewhere to go with all that energy, and the thought of being snowed in for several days at a time short-circuited my brain a little. What would we do? 

I guess we will do what we have always done in all the snow days before this. Except with seasonal amnesia, it's just hard to recall how we ever survived each season's challenges. Yet, summer is over, and we didn't kill each other from having to stay in on too-hot-to-be-outside days, I survived applying sunscreen on two squirmy kids every time we went out even with a two-year-old that always prematurely and firmly announced, "Me done! Me done!", and we managed to cope with the abundance of sand in our house (and in our hair).

And those were the things I dreaded as spring buds found their way to barren branches earlier this year. We will somehow survive winter.

Meanwhile, there is some Fall to be had, and with it, all its joys and pleasures, as I eagerly look forward to inhaling the comforting scent of mulling spice, nourishing our soul with soup, picking apples and then pumpkins, baking to keep warm, running in cool, crisp weather at any time of the day (which means, sayonara alarm clock!), replacing sandals with boots, abandoning pedicures (and the guilt from neglecting my toes), and dressing these little girls in layers.



I think I'm finally ready to say goodbye to summer and embrace all that is lovely and amazing about Fall.

But you, Winter, you can wait.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What's a few hundred miles?

We bond over French sea salt and pork belly, Nigella and sushi. We have cooked together, taken a cooking class together, gone on an eating binge on a weekend getaway in NYC together. But in the 13 years we've known each other, I never thought we would be running together. 

We can't go an entire conversation without some kind of mention of food. Yet, 13 years into our friendship and we're talking pacing, injury prevention, and even a possible half-marathon in our future. Together. The big question of the week when my bestie came to stay with us was, Who are we?

As strange as the running part felt, it was also a natural evolution of a friendship that has seen so much over the years. We're the same people we were when we met 13 years ago - eaters, readers, and introverts, both. Only we're with different partners, on a disparate career track, and I have two kids.

In all these years, she had spent half of it in the same city as me and the other half in a town about eight hours away by car. When apart, we speak maybe once every three to six months, but yet when we do, it's like no time had passed. And I'm okay with that.

Socializing takes a lot out me. I'm the kind of introvert who is a home body. Who prefers a book over a night out. Who would rather clean my kitchen than actively seek companionship just to have a conversation. Who would rather clean the litter box than check my voicemail. And she is just like that. 

So when we're together, neither of us feels the pressure to talk (although that often comes easily and naturally, except while we're running, when we both prefer to run silently albeit side by side at the same pace - gosh, can we be any more compatible?).

We don't have to entertain one another and we certainly don't try to impress each other. She has seen me at my worst, for heaven's sake.  I am as myself as I could ever be around her, which - if you think about it - is pretty liberating.

And the best part? My girls adore, adore, adore their Auntie. When she's around, it's Auntie this, Auntie that. No one wanted me to read them a story, hold their hand, put them to bed, watch them twirl (or run, or jump, or skip, or count - and I should probably apologize to her for these dizzying requests). It was always their Auntie. 

Despite being childless (by choice) herself, she is amazing with kids, and my girls are terribly smitten. She is the family we chose for our girls, and I feel like we had hit the jackpot with her. Even my two-year-old knows that, as she looked up at her one evening and simply offered, "I yuv you Auntie…" out of the blue. 

My bestie, who is a reader herself, just like me, walked in with a box full of books for my girls when she was here last week. Only a woman after my own heart would do that.

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It also took me back to all those times when we stood in lines that snaked the aisles at Borders (a bookstore, remember those?) so we could be one of the first people to get our Harry Potter fix, along with the other geeks at midnight.

When I saw my girls flank her sides, I'm reminded of the life before this. I remembered how she was one of the very, very few who stood by my side when everyone else ostracized me for leaving the life I could no longer live. For placing passion above obligation.

She didn't judge. She didn't persuade me otherwise. She listened. She understood. She let me live.

So here we are today -  eating, running, living. 13 years later, like no time had passed. Yet so much has happened.

And it always feels like she's right by my side. Even when she's a few hundred miles away.

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My dear friend, thank you for all that you are to me, and my family.