Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seen and Heard.

I have read and watched a couple of articles and interviews lately that I really enjoyed and wanted to write about.

1. "Mel Brooks and Our Mothers Were Right" by Ruth Marcus: Times Union, 5/8/11

"My mother used to annoy me by constantly brushing the hair out of my eyes. From my viewpoint, she was invading my personal space. It wasn't until I became a mother that I finally understood: That concept does not apply between parents and children. They are and always will be part of you."

This reminds me of the wonderful- and quite accurate- description of becoming a mother: when you become a mom, you grow another heart, but one outside your body, that is not protected and is open to hurt and pain. Even I, who have fairly rigid personal boundaries and have given birth to two girls who have the strongest, most iron-clad personal boundaries I have ever seen in human children (Alec seems to be a bit more flexible in this area), am amazed at how the lines of personal space and intimacy and love and trust and drippiness so easily blur when I am with them. And they want me right with them, all the time. Of course, they are only 6 and 9. I fully expect to be cut off in the next four to six years.

2. On the same day, in the same paper was an article about a father in Lowell, MA, whose 15 year old son Johnny had been killed 41 years ago, and whose murder had never been solved. The article describes how the father, William, doggedly and religiously contacted the Lowell police to ask if anything new had come in, and "reminding them about his son, reminding them not to let his son be forgotten."

William, now 83 years old, kept a notebook for all those years, in which he wrote down every memory he had of his son's short 15 years of life, and then every clue or shred of information that might possibly lead to the answers he so desperately sought about his son's killer. I can only imagine the fear one has of forgetting: forgetting moments you shared, places you went, things you did together, how your baby felt when you held them, smelled when you hugged them, and sounded when they laughed. So you write it down, every bit you can remember, so that it doesn't slip away from you as the months became years and the years become decades since you saw and touched them last.

And then last month, a miracle: three men were arrested for Johnny's murder. They had been teenagers with Johnny and Johnny had flirted with one of the boys' girlfriend at the time. They wanted to "teach him a lesson" and killed him.

Stories like this are amazing to me, and speak to the love and determination and resolve parents have in dealing with their children.
I love it because it so profoundly illustrates my core belief that a parent's basic function in life is to be the Last Great Defense between the child and the world. The Protector. The Advocate. The Cherisher. The Rememberer.

3. On one of her last shows, Oprah Winfrey had a lovely interview with Ralph Lauren, including time with his wife Ricky and his three grown children. Ralph and Ricky have been married for over 40 years, and when asked about their life together, she replied that while he had his business, her job in the family was to raise the children and take care of the house, and that both of them working together helped make their lives successful. When asked what his favorite family memory was about growing up, their oldest son David answered that he couldn't really pick a favorite, but that one thing that was most meaningful to him is the photo albums that his mom put together for him. "She takes all the pictures and writes the stories that are in the albums," he said. And what do you know, I thought: Mrs. Lauren is a SCRAPBOOKER.

The family was incredibly down to earth, family-focused, comfortable with each other, and all seemed to genuinely like each other. The children said that they always felt cherished by their parents, who never took off to go to events or vacations without them. They were home for dinner together, spent time on weekends together, and generally had a happy, stable, satisfying upbringing.

Kudos to the Laurens for putting in the time and energy necessary to have a functional family. They are reaping what they have sown.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Television Saga, Concluded.

Late last fall, we decided that it was time to start looking at buying a new television set, since the one we were watching was 11 years old and a housewarming gift from when we moved into our first house. We started asking questions to friends of ours who had flat screens, fretted over plasma vs. LED/LCD, and debated brands. It fun to look and talk about. For a few months. Then I was kinda over it.
So this spring we narrowed down some options and started debating where we would put it. I wanted it above the fireplace but we weren't sure about where to put the components. And component storage, my friends, is a Very Big Deal. We looked for cabinets to put on either side of the fireplace but had a hard time finding what we wanted. Dan really wanted a chrome and glass monstrosity (my word, not his) but I nixed that. I wanted built in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace that would be lower than the mantle, but Dan had a hard time imagining those. In the end we compromised and bought a plain black cabinet. (But have no fear: I WILL get those built ins.)

Here is what we started with:

Last Wednesday, as we were getting ready for Jenna's family birthday party on Sunday, the contractors came to do the wiring. All went well. This is what it looked like on Wednesday afternoon:

They finished up on Friday morning with the last coat of mud, sanded it and overall did a great job. All we had to do was prime and paint it, and mount the TV. No prob.

That was when our adventure with custom matched paint started. Three cans of "matched paint" later (including one that was the wrong sheen and one that had the wrong base color) and by Saturday at 1pm we had four different colors of paint on our family room wall and none matched. And I had 28 people coming to my house for a party in 25 hours. I was sick to my stomach, and I don't generally get too flustered by stuff like this; I have an optimistic attitude about just about anything but this was just too much. I felt like we had ruined our beautiful house and that we were clearly going to have to paint the whole family room and kitchen before this saga was over.

But alas, we were rescued by a fourth can of matched paint and we put it on the wall. Success!! I had some serious issues with the customer service provided by the store we bought the paint from, which I will address on my own this week, but they did finally come through with a match. Dan and my dad quickly put it all together, mounted the TV, Dan connected all the components and speakers, and by Saturday night, viola! New TV!!

Now I just have to learn how to use all the new remotes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mother's Day, Part II.

This is a picture of what my mother and I came home to after shopping by ourselves on Mother's Day afternoon.
Let's all pause for a moment after reading that sentence and reflect on how wonderful it is.

I had a lovely Mother's Day. We went to church in the morning, and met our aunt and uncle at Panera Bread to celebrate Mother's Day (which was also a lovely, delicious treat) and then headed home. I had the afternoon off and went shopping with just my mom. We went to Kirklands and Pottery Barn and Michael's, lingering over things we loved to look at and not having to maneuver a stroller through any of them. Heaven. My mom bought us a new rug for our entryway, one I had my eye on for a while, and now every time I see it as I walk down the stairs I think of our fun afternoon out.

Dan and my dad had asked us if we had any requests, and we replied that anything would be great and that the dinner in no way had to be fancy or complicated: grilled hamburgers would have suited us just fine. But Dan and my dad are actually pretty creative and competent cooks and pulled out a new recipe for us.

And when they sat us down and placed this bowl of heaven in front of us- marinated chicken, asparagus, and zucchini in a beautiful lemon/garlic/oil sauce- we squealed with delight and dug in. And it was soooo good.

The girls made sweet cards and I also received a gift card to Sephora.

I felt loved and appreciated and thankful for this gift of family that has been bestowed upon me.

And best of all, no one puked on me THE WHOLE DAY. (And I have had that happen on previous Mother's Days, so this one was a real treat.)

You Know You Are the Third Born Child When...

... your mom lets eat some cake from your sister's birthday party the next morning for breakfast. Never ever would have happened with the girls; with him, I shrug my shoulders and know it won't really hurt him. (He'll finish the rest of his regular breakfast.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day, Part I

This was told to Dan, who was grocery shopping for Mother's Day dinner with the three kids and my dad:
"I like going grocery shopping with you, Daddy... you say 'yes' to a lot more things than Mom does."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Things I Want to Remember About Easter 2011.

1. We had a wonderful morning during the vacation coloring Easter eggs, which is one of my mom's all time favorite activities of the year. Alec was remarkably compliant about the whole thing and the girls had a blast. We realized that we need to make more than 18 eggs now to personalize each egg with family members' names. We've had lots of new babies in the last few years.

2. We ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast. This is a lovely tradition that we have really embraced over the last few years: we have cinnamon rolls only on special occasions, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and maybe one other stray holiday thrown in there to mix it up. The kids love it, and now when I smell them cooking in the oven, I automatically feel a spike in my own sense of anticipation about the day.

3. The Easter baskets were a hit. Some faithful readers may remember that Michaela quite disgustedly announced last year that the Easter Bunny must have come to our house last on his route because he didn't bring very good candy, and the candy he brought she didn't even like. So you can imagine the pressure the Easter Bunny felt this year: he really wanted to redeem himself after last year's debacle. I tried helping him out by asking the girls a few times what kinds of candy they'd like in their basket, but Michaela began to look suspiciously at me and finally asked, "Are you asking because of the Easter Bunny, or do you put the baskets together?" And I replied that I was only trying to help.

4. The baskets were recognized. After all the hoopla died down about the Much Better Than Last Year's baskets, Michaela looked carefully at her basket and said, "Hmmm... this is the same basket I had last year." "How does the Easter Bunny get the baskets back?" asks Jenna. "Oh, it's Mommy Magic. Mommies take care of that," I answer. "But HOW?" asks Jenna. "We have a secret way of sending them back,"I breezily answer.

5. The Easter Bunny got dissed. I was leaving the house one day in mid April to go shopping. "Wait!" Michaela says. "I want you to look for the pillow pet things we saw at the store... find out what the name of it is and tell me so I can write it down for the Easter Bunny."

"That's not how it works," I tell her. "The Easter Bunny is not Santa."

"Well, the Easter Bunny sucks," I hear someone whom I gave birth to nine years ago say under her breath.

"MICHAELA!" I say. "That's not nice and not a good way to get a good basket on Easter."

"Sorry," she mumbles. She explains to me later that she really, really wanted the Alvin and the Chipmunks sqeaquel last year and did get it from the Easter Bunny, so surely she could ask for something and get it this year as well.

6. We had a small Easter egg hunt at our house in the morning. I have always said that Dan and I grew up in such similar households, our biggest cultural divide when we got married was that my family hid baskets and his family hid eggs on Easter morning. This year I finally was able to put a little egg hunt together, including an especially difficult to find Golden egg, which had a few bucks in it. The girls really loved it and it is a great addition to our Easter mornings. (I realized at the end of the day that Easter is so exhausting because it's like Christmas but all condensed into one day: presents, candy, fancy outfits, church, family and big dinner and cleanup all in a 12 hour time period. Whew.)

7. We listened to church hymns at home while we were going through our baskets, eating breakfast and getting ready. Hearing the Hallelujah Chorus and Jesus Christ is Risen Today brought tears to my eyes. To me, there is nothing like the sense of joy and triumph and gratitude on Easter morning. Nothing. Nothing even comes close.

8. Michaela attended Good Friday services with us for the first time. She was ready and eager to experience the tenebrae service our church has every Good Friday. I think she got quite a bit out of it, and I told her it will only heighten her sense of joy on Easter morning. "The Pastors looked so sad," she said. "I really thought they were going to cry." My mom has been babysitting our kids on that night for years, and it was really moving to introduce Michaela to the service and coach her through it. I also realized that if we wait until Alec is nine to bring him, we will have exactly one Good Friday service that we attend as a family of five, and then Michaela will be away at college. Hopefully she'll come home for Easter.

9. Easter at church was as beautiful as ever. Nothing like looking at that sunshine stream in on Easter morning.

10. Moms will use any means neccessary to keep 19 month olds entertained in church. And sometimes the only trick up her sleeve is a pair of fake 3D glasses that someone left behind in her purse.

11. I was thrilled with the outfits for Easter. The freakish looks I get in January when I start nosing around store clerks and asking when their Easter lines are coming out are all worth it when I feel like my kids look good. And coordinated. I had a moment of panic on Maundy Thursday, when I realized that M, J, A and D were all set outfit wise but C had nothing to wear. So I hustled out on Saturday afternoon and found a nice navy dress that meshed perfectly in the navy/ white/ gray theme. Crisis averted. The girls looked so sweet in their dresses and navy headbands, and Alec looked like a big boy in his shirt and vest. Thank you very much, Gymboree. You did great.

12. It's our 15th Easter together. We're a little older, and not quite as fresh looking as we were in 1996 (three kids in eight years will do that to ya), but just as happy.

13. Moms who blog sometimes have to put a gratuitous picture up of their third born child because it is adorable. And because they can. But seriously... look at that face.

14. Jenna was in charge of leading The Hot and Cold Game: Easter Basket Search and Rescue, and loved every minute of it. She had helped my mom hide the baskets at my parents' house the day before and giggled the entire time we looked for our baskets, screaming, HOT! SOOO HOT! BURNING, EVEN!! when we got close to our loot. We all laughed just watching her lead.

15. We had Easter dinner at our house. It was a lovely dinner, in our dining room (fancy!), with ham and mashed potatoes and peas and rolls and cucumber salad and asparagus. For dessert we had Carvel ice cream cake and brownies (because what is a party without brownies?) and sugar cookies that the kids got to decorate with vanilla frosting and Easter/Spring themed sprinkles. We even used the Good Lenox China (MORE fancy!). Holidays at the new house are still exciting, and I hope that feeling doesn't go away for a long, long time.

16. It was a beautiful, blessed Easter. Amen.