Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal-Schmoyal Wedded Myth? Or Happily-Ever-After?

I get asked a lot of questions every day.  Mostly, need-based questions, like, "Can I have some milk, mommy?"  Or "Will you read me Cinderella one more time before bed?"  Or my favorite from a little potty-training-princess, "Momma, will you wipe me?" 

But I've never been asked a question more times than this one:  "Are you getting up to watch the royal wedding?"

Don't get me wrong.  No one loves a royal wedding more than I love a royal wedding.  Afterall, the dresses, the ring, crowns and tiaras, the horse and buggy, the ever-so-majestic Westminster Abbey, a young prince and his soon-to-be princess, a queen and her peeps... It's the stuff of fairy tales.  The stuff every little girl dreams of.  It's where the expression "and they lived happily ever after" comes from.

Which is why I will be watching tomorrow morning.  Of course, I want to see her dress!  But I also want to know what kind of majestic fairy tale my precious little girl will grow up trying to create for herself.

I hear moms often struggling over whether to let their daughters play with princess dolls:  Cinderella, Snow White, Aerial, and Belle.  I hear some saying they have sworn off fairy-tale books because they fear their daughters will grow up with this idea that a prince will come along and rescue them from whatever travails their life brings.  Other mothers I know are full-throttle with the Disney princesses, the happy endings, and the perfect love stories.

To be honest, I don't know that I believe in happily ever after.  I've seen too much hurt, too many broken hearts over the years.  I'm not sure I've ever thought someone could rescue me, nor have I ever personally met a prince.  Every man I know and love has flaws, perfect with all their imperfections.  I don't personally know any princesses either, although a couple girlfriends I have are certainly worthy of a tiara. 

Tomorrow we will see a real live princess marry a real live prince.  And the world will be watching on real live TV.  Maybe that's what all the hoo-ha is, over this glorious affair.  There are still princesses and crowns and happily-ever-afters in the world.

But I'm a skeptic.  I'd really like to believe.  I'd like my daughter to grow up thinking there are happy endings and rainbows and that she is a princess worthy of a crown.  But I know that life will break her heart one day, and I pray I am there to help her pick up the pieces and move on.. and keep believing.

Maybe that is the happy ending.  To keep believing no matter what life gives.

So tomorrow, while I'll be watching and goo-gah'ing over the dresses, I'll also be asking, is this wedding just feeding a vicious myth in our little-girl hearts and minds?  Or is it the real thing, a happily-ever-after that keeps us believing?  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In mourning...

Tonight, I'm going to a wake.   Defined, a wake is a watch kept over a person or persons who died, usually occurring the night preceding a funeral or burial.

I'll be there in support of a dear friend.  His sister-in-law and nephew were crushed by a fallen tree in the middle of a dark and terrible night,  when storms again brought horror to our state.

What happened is heartbreaking.  This little boy was afraid of the thunder, and his sweet mom went to lay in bed with him and calm his fears.  It's what any mom would do.  She was holding him in her arms, loving him, telling him everything was going to be okay.

In the end, it wasn't okay.  At least not for those of us left here on earth to pick up the pieces, to make sense of tragedies like this.  Especially not okay for her little 2-year old left behind.  Yes, while she and her son were killed, her 2-year old baby girl slept in the next room, alive and physically untouched by the tornado that destroyed her family.

I can't think of a whole lot worse than this.  I have been in tears most of my days since these kind people died.

Saturday, my friend asked if I would watch his children so he and his wife could get to the funeral home to plan services.  These are boys, ages 7 and 1, who had just lost their favorite auntie and cousin.  The first thing the 7-year old did was come sit really, really close to me.  I held him so tight, and he looked up at me with crocodile tears and said, "I miss my Auntie and my cousin."  And we sat there, and we cried.

As children do, he bounced back quickly and played, then out of nowhere, he cried again.  And again.  And again.   And again.  When my friend came to pick up his kids, I asked what else I could do for him. He looked at me tearfully and said, "hug Jackson and Keene more than you normally might."

And so, after he and his children left, I did as he asked.  I spent the rest of the day outside with my children, holding them more, laughing a little louder, playing a little harder, turning my head every few minutes to let the tears fall away, knowing that this day, me and mine were spared.  I have no idea why.  None of us do, but as mother nature often does, she reminded me that day that any one of us could go, at any minute, any time.

My son asked that night, "Mommy, why didn't the tree hit our house?"  And for once, I could not answer his question.

"I don't know, Jackson," I replied.

That wasn't sufficient.  He was bothered and worried.  "But mommy, why?"

I simply said, "That's just not what the storm decided to do, sweetie."

Then, I quietly gave him a soft kiss, turned off the lights, and laid there holding him, calming his fears, just like another mother had done a few nights before.

I dedicate this blog post to her, her son, and her surviving 2-year old girl.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Tears

I cried twice today.

Before I type on, it must be noted that, with two toddlers, there are a lot of teardrops in my house (including my own).  Today, the watery eyes belonged to me.

Not because of the poop in my bed at 7:15 a.m.  Yes, smeared poo.  Yes, my bed.  And not because of the ridiculous amount of cash I spent at the mall, although I will admit that both events (the poo and the money dropped) did make me want to scream.  Or punch someone.  Or both.

But I didn't.  Instead, I cried.  Twice. And for once, the tears were happy.

You should first know that 7:15 a.m. is sleeping in at my house.  I don't set an alarm, because two small angels-disguised-as-children typically wake me up.  I should've taken the late wake-up call as sign Number One that something was terribly wrong.

Instead, when the sideways pillow view of my 2-year old's sweet face was the first thing I saw this morning, I melted.

"Momma.  Hi..." she said.  It was so lovely.  "I wanna cuddle," she said.

"Well, climb in," I said in a near-whisper, barely awake.

I pulled her up.  She had all her stuff.  Her pink-and-green silky blanket, commonly known as "pink."  Her soft kitty.  Her "baby." And a few small items in each palm.

Suddenly, it was just mommy, her giant pile of goods, and baby girl, all curled in.  I knew at this moment, we'd be late for preschool.  4-year old darling boy wasn't even awake yet.  And I was in no hurry, cuddling with a precious toddler, who smelled so sweet.  Her hair so soft.  Her voice so adorable.  Her little "mmmm's" touching my soul every time I squeezed her so tight.

It was a perfect moment.  And moms know that these perfect moments come.  And they go.  Just like the wind.  Or just like the precise moment baby girl turned and said, "momma, there's poop on my 'pink' and on my finger."

Still half-asleep, I didn't believe it to be poop.  Afterall, I couldn't smell poop in her pull-up.  But then, we were underneath piles of covers and in-between piles of "stuff."

"Honey, it's probably just dirt," I reassured.

"No, momma.  It's po-IH-op (poop in 3 syllable toddler-speak, with a high-pitched spike in the 2nd syllable)," she said so quietly.

I smelled.  Sure enough........

I ripped the covers back.  Discovered a smear of it on my (white) sheets.  A mess of brown all over her bottom.  No pull-up.  No pajama bottoms.  What?

I know you're thinking this is when I cried.  But it's not.

I'm assuming at this point she went in her pull-up and ripped it off in her downstairs room.  Then, she came upstairs and crawled in bed, just one big poopy mess.

We cleaned it all up, woke big brother, and told him the story because he LOVES stories.  He laughed.  I laughed.  Sweet girl even laughed.  Then he got up to go potty, and when he did, he suddenly screamed, "Mmmooommmmm, you're a LLLLIIIIAAAARRRR!"


We ran to the bathroom, and he pointed to the toddler potty.  The three of us stood over it, and we stared quietly with full concentration, full attention, eyes so wide... at the turd and toilet paper left in the bowl by baby girl.

"You lied because you said she went in her pull-up, and she did NOT poop in her pull-up," he so firmly stated.  "She went in the potty!!!!!!!!!  All by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!"

He was right.  I was wrong.  And right then, we celebrated!  We danced.  We jumped up and down.  We screamed, "yayyyyyy!!"  We ate Oreos for breakfast.

And I cried.  Happy tears.  Because after all these months, all this torture, all this beating into her head that she has to "put it in the potty," she did just that.  All alone.  On a Wednesday morning in April.  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but it was one of the most satisfying moments I've had yet as a mother.

A short time later, I wanted to cry at how late we were for preschool.  But I was too excited.

It wasn't until later that morning, at the mall of all places, the tears came pouring out for a second time this day.  I'm certain the ladies at the Gap must've thought I was mental.  Truly, they kept staring.  Even from the corner, I caught them eyeing me, and when I spotted them watching, they would quickly look away.  I could tell by their faces, they thought I was the nut-case customer.  And frankly, I was beginning to feel like the crazy lady in the crazy corner.  But I honestly couldn't stop the blubbering.

Here's why.  4-year old weighed-in at his recent doctor's check-up at nearly fifty pounds, his height in the 90-something-th percentile.  Nothing fits him anymore, and that's why I was at the mall.  So I strolled into BabyGap, just like I always have.  But after browsing the darling choices, I realized that none of them would fit my son anymore.  None.  No more toddler clothes.  No more "BabyGappers," as he called the shorts and jammies from his favorite store.  Suddenly, he was a big kid.  As in, GapKids.  As in, a size extra-small or 5 from the big-kid store.  The store next to BabyGap.  Size 5T just doesn't fit anymore.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  That he was getting bigger, and it was happening right before my eyes, yet I didn't even realize it and had barely stopped to notice.

And I couldn't stop crying.

I finally got my nutty act together, and I told the lady that, gosh, it was just so upsetting to me that my first-born, precious baby doesn't fit into BabyGap clothes anymore!  She smiled, but she did so cautiously, as I'm confident she was ready to call the proper authorities at any moment to come carry me off.

She never had to do that.  Instead, she took my credit card and rang up the pile of big-boy clothes I'd chosen, as I wiped away my tears.

Happy tears.  That we'd reached another turning point, another milestone.  Kinda like baby girl's poop in the potty.  But this moment, it was a stream of tears, along with a slight grin, that my baby boy, my first child, was doing exactly what he was supposed to do:  he was growing up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Lost Crown, a Vicious Bite, & Hollywood

The title of this blog pretty much desribes my day.

It all started around 6:15 a.m., when I woke up to get ready to pass off my crown.  Yes, my crown.  My one-year reign as winner of the 103.7 FM 2010 "Babe Bracket" was coming to an end.  And I had the good fortune of handing-over the title to another local TV news anchor, whom I have come to adore.

My friends at the radio station told me to be there early.  I wasn't exactly giving her my crown.  That's mine to keep.  She was supposed to get a crown of her own, and it was my job to place it atop her pretty head and bless her with a little fairy dust or something like that.

So I pull up, almost late as I always am, and I get the text:  "The crowns aren't here yet.  UPS is delivering them at 8am, so we don't need you yet."  I waited a bit, then went on their radio show with the new winner, no crown in sight.  We waited.  And burned up air-time.  And waited.  Then talked about how we are both so proud that we are "older" women and beat out the young beauties.  Then we waited some more.  Still, no crown.  The crown was a no-show.  So we talked some more.  About how I was retiring from the contest because I'm staring 40 in the face this year, and how frankly, I just don't wanna win every contest every single year (sarcasm).  Then, the phone rang.  The crowns were....................   still not here.  So I talked about the new winner and told her how I've always admired her beauty and sweet presence.  And she talked about how she loved my smile.  Then another call.  The crowns!  Not gonna make it... UPS apparently delivered them to Missouri? 

Oh well.  I congratulated the new "babe."  Gave my hugs.  Snapped a few pics.  Then, raced home to relieve the adorable sitter who agreed to come so early to allow me my last moments as a "babe." 

I walked in, and the first thing I smelled was the bombed pull-up awaiting me.  Kids ran to hug me.  Such angels!  Dealt with pull-up issue.  Then the two sweet ones promptly went back to fighting.  "Stop," I screamed.  "Take turns!" "If you keep fighting, you're gonna lose your toys!"  To no avail.  Calm did finally come for a couple of minutes, and I took the chance to run to the bathroom.  I was about to burst.  I'd had to pee for nearly an hour.  It was precisely then,  my sweet-angelic-precious-darling-creampuff of a 2-year old apparently turned into a dog with a vicious bite fiercer than I've ever seen.  4-year old screams.  And, pee in mid-stream, I go running.   "She bit me on my buuuuuutttttttttttttttt.   Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!  Owwwwwwwwwwww!!!!" 

Indeed she had bitten him.  It was ugly.  He quickly slapped her as I was running to the rescue and straight into the chaos.  At which point, she started screaming. 

Where was my freaking crown now, I'm thinking??????? 

OK.  Deep breath.  Separate the philistines.  Get everybody calm.  Take each one in my arms.  Get baby girl to apologize.  Check bite wound.  Several minutes pass.  Kids finally hug.


Fast-forward to the afternoon.  At the TV station, everyone is abuzz.  I walk into the studio and the lights are on, and all the newsies have their cameras ready. 

What is going on?

"Judge Reinhold is on his way to the studios!  You know, Detective Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop!"

OHMYGOSH!!!!  Hollywood mania!  The newsroom was starstruck.

Turns out, Judge was so pleasant and down-to-earth, and his wife, Amy, was just a peach.  We didn't realize it, but Amy and I went to high school together.  We all had our picture made, and we visited for a bit.  Wonderful people.

After they left, I logged on to a popular social media website and saw that the new 2011 "babe" never got her crown, so her TV station general manager went out and bought one for her.  As she wrote, "what's the title without the crown?"

Later, I peeked at the picture of me and Judge.  All the while thinking, my "babe" friend thought I had a pretty smile?  Look at those yellow teeth!  And there are wrinkles around my chin!  Eeek!   

That was about the time I got a text from home saying sweet-boy's bite mark still looked pretty bad.

And I realized at that moment, it wasn't the lost crown that mattered or handing over the title of "babe" or the wrinkles I see as I approach 40 or the Hollywood star I had the pleasure of meeting.  It was the two savage toddlers who --in the middle of my day-- brought me back to reality.  Just as they always do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mommy's Having A Tantrum...

Let me preface this blog post by saying, I didn't grow up "normal."  Whatever that means.

For me, it means this:  I have no brothers & sisters.  I grew up mostly alone, just me & my mom.  The girls.  "You and me, always, baby" is what we used to say with a big, huge smile.  My father was never around, for reasons that would require my writing a book.

But before you go crying me a river, I want to make it clear:  I LOVED the way I was raised.  Loved how I was the center of my mother's universe.  Loved how my grandparents spoiled me rotten, much to the chagrin of their own children, because they worried that I wasn't growing up in a "normal" household.  Loved how I spent summers with uncles and cousins at the California beaches, because my mom wanted me to experience the joys of some sort of "normal family."  Loved that I was treated like an adult, even at a young age.  I remember I always had a reserved seat at the adult's table instead of the kid's table (this always made me feel special).  And I recall talking with my grandmother about life's meaning as early as age 7.

There was a time in my life when this all seemed a tragedy to me.  During my sometimes-awkward high school years and my soul-searching days in college, I often lamented that I was "different" and somehow missed out on something everyone else had.

But I know better now that I have children of my own.  Another beautiful lesson these angels are teaching me.

Case in point:  2-year old girl who is... well, she's 2.  As in terribly 2.  As in "I wanted the blue fork, NOT the pink fork," (as I duck quickly while fork goes flying over my head & across the kitchen counter, thinking to myself, "she is NOT my daughter!").  As in "I don't want you to put me in my car seat!" (stiffens up, arches back, and kicks when I try to buckle her in).  There's no rhyme or reason.  The wind could blow a different direction, and it could spark a fit.  Last night, I put my pajamas on, and she laid on the floor kicking and screaming and pulling on my jammie-pants, yelling "take 'em offffffff!!!  I don't want you to have your jammies on!!!"  This morning, she wanted the entire bag of gummy bears, instead of the 2 offered her for going tee-tee in the potty.  She didn't get it.  Guess what followed? 

I could go on and on.  Like when we were at the dollar store, and on our way out she demanded that we go back and get her a plastic bag of her own to carry her $1 toy.  Didn't happen.  So she laid on the dirty floor in front of the entrance, screaming and kicking, while other customers smiled and said, "hey, you're the news lady from channel 11!"  Then went on to point and tell their friends, "y'all, that's the news lady and her kids!"

Are you kidding me?  This has got to be a joke, I'm thinking.

I felt like saying, "Yes, I am! Now, excuse me while I run to the restroom and have a tantrum of my own.  Topped off with vodka martinis and stuffed green olives."

It's usually about that time, I go there.  That place and space of self-doubt.  The place where all moms go sometimes.  The trip I lay on myself about why this is happening to me, why my daughter is acting this way, what did I do wrong to create this?  This can't be normal, can't be right.  Afterall, I've never seen anything like this.   

Then, as always happens, I snap out of it as quickly as a tantrum ends, or when darling 2-year old preschool teacher calmly tells me,  "oh the way she's acting is completely normal for her age, and in fact, she's one of the easy ones."

Which makes me feel all happy, tingly, and good inside, but only for a couple minutes, because, you see, there's that word again. "Normal."  I didn't grow up that way, remember?  I didn't have brothers and sisters to fight.  I didn't watch anyone in my house throw tantrums.  I don't really know what normal is.  And you know what, I'm not sure I really care.

Baby has fits because she's 2.  Her big brother has fits because he's 4.  Their daddy has fits because he's daddy.  I have fits because I'm mommy.

In fact, I'll probably be the next one throwing my fit upstairs, and when the kids ask what happened to me, daddy can just say, "mommy's having a tantrum..."

And they'll ignore me
And love me (hopefully).
Just as I will them, knowing that before I can blink, they'll be the ones in college thinking back on their "normal" or "not-so-normal" growing up.