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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Axel, Unplugged

When Axel was 2, we tried to ditch the pacifier. We ceremoniously collected all his "mimis" in a blue IKEA bowl, waved bye-bye and semi-successfully diverted all his pleas for the rest of the afternoon by offering boatloads of gummies, lollipops and other treats typically reserved for Saturdays. By bed time, we knew it was too early to "high five" on another milestone, but we were definitely optimistic.

At about 2am, we quickly realized that unless we were prepared for endless days followed by sleepless nights, reconsidering returning the beloved Mam would make our lives not only pleasant and lovely, but populated yet again by a happy little guy.

So we acquiesced.

Many moons and a birthday later, we tried again. This time, we recruited the help of Aunt Filippa who immediately FedExed a copy of a perfectly illustrated book, where the main character spends agonizing moments deliberating over which toy to relinquish for her paci. And while Axel never fully understood why anyone would opt for a yellow stuffed duck over a suckable mimi, he seemed to really relate.

On the designated day, we once again collected all the pacifiers (this time in a yellow bowl, just for kicks) and explained to the little guy that, as a reward, he could head to his local Wal-Mart and pick out anything in the whole store!

It still kills me that he returned with a yo-yo. 

But anyway ... not only have we not heard peep about his beloved mimi since this momentous day three weeks ago, we've also been introduced to a brand-new Axel. To call him "chatty Cathy" is an understatement. From the moment his eyes pop open to the very last second before delirious dreams, he talks. He explains. He ponders. He wonders. And mostly he wants to know why he can't have a hot air balloon.

And as if leaving the mouth free to babble was somehow related to his legs, he's suddenly become super fast. Daring. More adventurous. And -- shocking to everyone -- almost as wild and crazy as his big brother.

Love this newly discovered little dude. Shenanigans included.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And So It Begins

Curtis and a few of his cronies started golf lessons last week. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, four 5-year-olds invade our local private club's driving range, putting green, bunker and -- as of last week -- hole number four. Under the guidance of a "professional" they supposedly learn tricks and tips and, obviously, have boatloads of fun.

Last week, I nonchalantly inquired what he'd learned.

"Nothing!" he defiantly muttered, which normally wouldn't be cause for concern since the new status quo in our household involves a few similar sentiments which all pretty much translate to: parents are totally clueless!

Anyway. I prodded and pried, and finally, figured it out.

Ever since the lessons started, Curtis feels his swing has deteriorated. His grip is currently "messed up." His backswing is "like a lame L" and, as so oftentimes happens in this lovely game, his confidence is buried somewhere in the depths of a fairway bunker.

Not one to take matters involving golf lightly, we grabbed his sand wedge last weekend and hit the backyard. Axel, of course, in tow with his hand-me-down 7-iron.

Three minutes later everything was crystal clear: Curtis's swing, was indeed, "messed up."

Luckily for our big guy, his mamma is a seasoned albeit nonchalant player, and within a few minutes, we had it all mostly corrected. This was all accomplished between assuring Axel, who clearly also needed some tips, that "yes, your arms are straight!"

Here's the tricky bit. We still have three more lessons left. And both Curtis and I now have less than a sliver of confidence in this "professional" who will most likely continue to try to use kid-unfriendly tips for the remaining days. 

So when Curtis expressed his legitimate frustration over the confusion bound to occur on the range over the next few days, I paused only momentarily before I offered the following advice:

"Just pretend, buddy."

"What do you mean, Mamma?"

"I mean that when he tells you something that doesn't make sense, just ignore it and keep doing what I've been teaching you."

Evidently, this was the funniest thing I've ever said, because Curtis hasn't stopped laughing since.

I, on the other hand, suddenly realized that I just encouraged dissing a teacher. Which will probably backfire one day. But for now at least, Curtis is back to driving that ball straight and far.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Imperfect

Within all the mommy blogs and parenting ilists I devour, there's this common debate around things that are difficult. And, since competition is evidently just as inherent in adults as our littles, it's tricky not to read it all and avoid taking sides. Some days, according to those in the weeds, being a stay-at-home mom is mentally draining, exhausting and ceaselessly challenging. Other mornings it's the working crew that has the toughest beat: juggling making lunches, planning dinners and handling the emotions of drop-offs and pick-ups nestled between conference calls and quarterly performance reviews.

I wear both hats.

And honestly, I think both sides are equally true.

But that's not the point. Ultimately, regardless of what defines you -- as a parent -- the same tricky situations, melt-downs, and lovely snippets will punctuate your day. What's becoming more and more clear, as my kids grow and tempt and explore, is that our attitude is what cements everyone's experience.

Thing is, while theoretically a flooded bathroom is pretty easily cleaned up and leaving five minutes later than planned really has zero impact on the rest of the morning, when you're in the moment, it's easier to see that one, little measly tree than the beautiful forest. And just like playing dominos on a perfectly waxed hardwood floor, when one black-dotted, white rectangle begins to tremble and ultimately crash, the rest will definitely follow.

So the lesson?

Back to basics: spilled milk shouldn't result in tears and handed-down lemons have amazing culinary properties.

Focus on now. This minute. Today. And don't worry so much about messes, piles of laundry or mud-streaked tiles. There's always time to clean.

But playing in the sun is way more fun.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Vehicular

It's completely dirty. Covered in pollen from our flowering pine trees, streaked dust on the passenger side door, 'Curtis' outlined in old grime, his first official graffiti -- which as an aside, I clearly let slide since he so aptly spelled his own name, even the tricky 'r' perfectly legible.

But that's just the outside.

Inside is a bizarre yet somehow kid-comforting conglomeration of discarded Cheerios and gummies, playground woodchips and beach sand, and -- for some unknown reason -- mis-matched long-forgotten shoes. If you peek between the front seats, you'll probably see the remnants of an old cheese stick, bubblegum wrappers and scraps of paper with doodles and scribbles which, to a 3-year-old, clearly depict monkeys and rocket space ships.

The front dash has Easter's slightly lopsided art project and one of three 'driving to school' CDs currently in rotation.

And the cupholders, their original function long since forgotten, contain all kinds of edible remnants, cool stick fragments and special rocks that for obvious reasons can never be tossed and must always remain -- just in case we need them one day.

Meet my car. My lovely, messy, and usually a bit stinky child-preferred mode of transportation.

It's been cleaned. And detailed. And expertly vacuumed -- once, the car seat covers were actually removed and -- gasp! -- laundered and dried.

But mere hours later, or so it seems, we are back to status quo. And honestly, we -- the kids and I -- like it that way. We like knowing we're never too dirty after an afternoon at the park to worry about creating new Nissan messes. We find coziness and comfort in the slight old-sock smell that is forever perpetuated by two pairs of feet that can never seem to keep shoes, or socks, on after a long day at preschool. And we plainly adore that no matter where we are headed, we can usually find some hidden treasure within its grimy depths to entertain us.

Pappa's car on the other hand, is spotless. And while not nearly as charming as my tried and true shuttle, it definitely has its own appeal.

Especially on date night.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Inside

When you come crashing down the hillside on your scooter, reeling at the turn, skidding to a stop right before the curb, I appear calm.

When the swing is mere millimeters from flipping upside down, your laugh echoing through the trees, I am the epitome of serenity.

When you "drop in" with the 20-year-olds at the skate park, I blink momentarily, waiting for the cry, the scream of terror -- which never materializes -- and I exude peace.

When you run, run, run out the back door, jumping over rocks and stones, climbing a much-too-skinny tree, yelling out 'look at me', I applaud, beaming outwardly.

But on the inside. Oh my. On the inside I cringe, I squirm and I hold my breath.

And then I remember:

This. This is life as a mother to boys. Who yell and shout and lunge and revel in anything remotely dangerous.

And so I prescribe myself a daily dose of "they're fine" and "don't react" -- and continue to watch and marvel at the stunts which so effortlessly punctuate our afternoons. And mornings. And evenings.

Love you guys. Even if you do make my heart skip a couple of beats.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Best Fish Tacos. Ever.

A few months ago, we took a fantabulous two-family five-day trip to Palm Springs. Four adults, and four boys, six and under. We played. We swam. We jacuzzi-ed. In the evenings we took turns cooking: chicken nuggets, pasta, tuna salad with crackers and sliced cheese for the minions.

For us: expertly-prepared and divinely seasoned steak, fresh fruits and salads, and fish tacos the most deliciously moist, cilantro-fied and lime-kissed halibut tacos I have ever eaten. 

Normally, I don't write down recipes. At best, I half-guess cups and tablespoons and simply throw in dashes of herbs and pinches of flour, tasting as I go, ultimately ending up with a delicious result, but never exactly the same as a previous iteration. But these were so so good. 

Hence, for posterity's sake, le recipe, courtesy of my lovely friend, Flour Girl Wedding Cakes.

halibut
salt & pepper
1 bunch cilantro
2 or 3 limes
3 or 4 cloves garlic
olive oil

Cut halibut into bite-sized pieces and throw in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Zest one lime and squeeze the juice of the others over the fish. Chop the cilantro, and add to the bowl. Mince or press the garlic, toss it with the fish and other goodies then generously drizzle with olive oil. Marinate for 2-5 hours in fridge. When ready to devour, throw in sizzling skillet until nice and yummy! Serve in tortillas (obviously) with guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, more squeezed limes and hot sauce.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Reminders

"We're not helping raise children -- we are helping raise adults."

Teacher Beth delivered that, as well as a few other eye-opening lines -- during preschool graduation last week. Her point wasn't that kids can't be kids. On the contrary, with 30 years of guiding little ones under her belt, she truly understands the crazy fun and delirious wildness inherent in being under the age of six.

The focus, which despite the crying babies and mumbled "be quiets" from the parents actually trying to listen, was rather on being consequent. True. And consistent. On delivering clear guidelines and sound principles and exemplifying that manners and kindness and an attitude of respect-your-elders still very much applies today. 

All parents know, this is no easy feat. We have fantastic days when time-outs are applied fairly and calmness exudes, even during the most trying moments. And then there are those other little blips. The ones that keep you, as a parent, awake late into the evening and the ones that result in unappealing "what ifs" and "shoulds" and perfectly crystalline hindsight.

Despite knowing that nobody is perfect, least of all those of us trying to herd little guys onto a positive and productive path, it's still so important to remember that being a responsible adult doesn't mean you're perfect. 

It does mean that you should have an open mind. A willingness to listen. And the honesty to admit that while love can certainly conquer a lot -- it takes more than that to teach your kids how to live, laugh and grow.