Monday, October 30, 2006

The Punkin Patch- Where kids go to be a punk?

As a kid, every Halloween included a trip to the pumpkin patch. We would head out to a local farm, take a hayride, and pick the most perfect pumpkin from the field where it had grown. I've long looked forward to bringing my kids there, and building the same type of wonderful memories I have of that tradition.

Sunday was the day. After an early morning call from my Father in Law asking when we were going to come pick up our early risers, we headed out. Hayden had been talking all morning about going to the Punkin Patch. We went to breakfast first, then headed out to the boonies. Being that we live in a very urban area, we really don't spend much, time on farmland. Well, it wasn't quite as I remembered.

It seems that visiting families have become big business for Underwood Family Farm. There were signs directing us to a back lot where there were literally hundreds of cars parked. We were concerned that it would be complete chaos, but there was so much there to do that we never waited long for anything or felt overwhelmed by people. Logan had fallen asleep so Fillip and my FIL stayed in the car while I took Hayden to see what there was to see. The first thing my City Boy said as we got out of the car was "Mommy, is this dirt?"

We started with looking at different animals, then moved on to the wooden truck and train. After a short time Logan woke and my MIL arrived. While Hayden and Fillip purchased tickets, Logan and I admired the chickens. He really seemed to like them, which was cute. Once we regrouped, we headed to the choo-choo train ride. Little did I know how much fun that would be! Hayden was just delighted the whole time. He kept waving and yelling "Bye bye Daddy! I'm going on the choo choo! All aboard!" Logan seemed surprisingly blase about the whole thing. He slumped down a bit, slung his arm over the back and sat there looking like a seasoned rail commuter, ready to whip out his iPod and morning paper any second. Because I was concerned about Logan staying put, I got on the train too. It turns out I didn't need to, but it was cute to watch them anyway.

Next up was a pony ride. Now, I'm big on "firsts" so was very excited about Logan's First Pony Ride. He was apparently less entusiastic. When the first guy tried to put him on the pony he started to fuss and I called out that if he didn't want to ride, he didn't have to. However, another girl working there took him, showed him the pony's face, let him pet the animal and play with its mane, then put him in the saddle. I was so impressed that she took those extra couple minutes to make him comfortable. Once the few kids were in the saddles, the ponies plod around in a circle a few times. Hayden was excited again and obviously enjoying himself. Logan decided to be a stunt rider- "Look Ma no hands!" He kept his arms out by his sides the entire ride, as if he thought he wasn't really supposed to touch anything. Funny, because that never stops him from touching everything at home!

After the pony rides we headed over for what I thought would be a hayride out to the pumpkin field. This was what I was waiting for and had already framed the pictures in my mind. Well, it was a tractor pulling a very large wagon on a track around various small fields. It was about 10 minutes, with the final destination being right across from where we started, in an area where pumpkins were set out for sale, arranged by size. Hmm. I guess you really can't go home. No worries. We were having fun anyway. After a brief toddler meltdown, we headed over to pick out pumpkins. I have two very decisive boys. The both walked over, each picked up a little pumpkin and declared those to be The Ones. No looking over different ones, trying to find bigger ones, making sure they didn't overlook anything. Once they had chosen, they couldn't be swayed, which was fine. Total time spent fantasizing about taking my kids to the pumpkin patch- all my adult years. Total time spent in the pumpkin "patch" spent choosing said pumpkins- under 2 minutes. Since they were clearly tired at that point, we headed out.

Although the Pumpkin Patch wasn't quite how I remembered it, it was so much fun. The kids had an absolute blast, and we will surely go back next year. The memories my boys will have of the Punkin Patch may be different than my own, but no less valuable to them.

Halloween Bash

Saturday night the husband and I ditched the kids with the grandparents and headed out on the town. It was actually a very last minute operation. I think Fillip realized we were pitiful for not accepting invitations to two different parties the Saturday before Halloween. Getting out just the two of us is an extremely rare event. Having the kids spend the night is maybe an annual treat! Well, maybe trick not treat, as the little traitors woke at 5:30am and 6am, making it unlikely Grandma and Grandpa will volunteer again any time soon. So much for Daylight Savings and an extra hour of sleep.

The Knife Thrower and His Lovely Assistant
We must have hit half a dozen costume shops, some more than once as we scrambled to find the clever, cool, couple's costume. I had seen The Big Bad Wolf, but couldn't find Little Red Riding Hood. I thought it was hilarious to have Fillip in a nightgown, bonnet and wolf mask and gloves. He found those costumes, but not a hooded cape. Really, it would have just looked like the Big Bad Wolf had dressed up in drag, and scored himself a Beer Wench. We weren't feelin' that.

Well, we came across a winner. The (not so talented) blindfolded knife thrower, and his unfortunate assistant, aptly named Tina the Target. We were so jazzed about our costumes, found around 8:30pm on Saturday night. We ran home so I could throw on appropriate undergarments, got directions and hit the road. Since we were planning on going for fine dining at the Carl's Jr. drive-thru on the way (after all, it had become Date Night. Only the best...), I didn't want to eat in my white costume. Fillip was cracking up to see me in a long-line strapless bra, fishnet stockings, red pumps, and plaid Dodger boxer shorts. Whoo-ey! I think the guys in the drive-thru didn't know what to make of that.

We dressed in the street when we arrived at the party, and finally met our friends around 10pm. Despite all my doubts, it was well worth the effort. The party was great! The hosts are in the movie business and had gone all out on the decorating. They had bought discount coffins at a failing mortuary to make a funeral parlor (a gruesome one) in the front of their house. Upstairs was a haunted nursery. Outside was a fully working electric chair! One of their neighbors owns a hearse, so that was appropriately decked out as well. Following the haunted maze to the backyard, we found the band and a pumpkin full of jungle punch. The costumes were all great, ranging from gruesome to whimsical, to downright sexy. The weather was cool, but not freezing and we were having a great time.

Oh Jen, you Devil!
On the way there, Fillip had joked that with our luck, the cops would break up the one party a year we had gone to. Well, around 11:30pm, that is exactly what happened. I told him he jinxed it. There had been complaints about the noise. First they made the band stop, then about 30 minutes later made everyone go home. We were disappointed for sure. I especially felt bad for our hosts who had put so much effort into the evening. Nonetheless, we had a great time.

I am so glad Jen included us. She and her boyfriend looked spectacular as a red devil and Dracula. We had a blast with them, and hope we can spend Halloween with them next year as well!

Monday, October 23, 2006

TTP- You should try it.

It seems that our weekends are often filled with so much busy-ness, that we are too busy to enjoy our time together, nevermind actually get a decent amount of rest. We take turns running errands all day long. Tag Team Productivity (TTP). If both kids are napping (we can only wish!) then one of us stays home while the other gets cat food, light bulbs, and sweetens the other up with a latte. If only one boy is napping, one of us takes the other boy to the grocery store and the pharmacy. We take turns sleeping in. This is kind of a joke as far as I'm concerned.

My day to sleep in would be better described as an extra nap. Theoretically, I should be able to go to bed in the evening then not really wake up, definitely not get up until 9am or 10am the next day. Theoretically. However, usually, around 6:30am Hayden gets up to go to the bathroom, precocious guy that he is. It's not uncommon for the pitter patter of little feet and the sudden repercussion of porcelain to wake me from my sweet dreams of being able to sleep longer. If I lose the potty lottery, I will then hear the pitter patter approaching with a suspicious scuffle, followed by "Mommy, I need you to wipe my butt." There will stand a tousled Hayden, with his pants around his ankles. Amazingly, Fillip doesn't even stir.

Once Hayden is finished and washed up, I will give him a hug and kiss and ask him to play quietly in his room for awhile. Translated- "Please don't bother me until your brother wakes and I have no option but to get up." He usually complies really well, delighted that he wasn't told to stay in bed longer. If I close his door, keep Logan's monitor on loud enough to hear the classical music in there, keep my fan on and try really hard, I almost don't hear him banging things and rearranging the furniture. Still, Fillip doesn't stir. I climb back into bed for awhile, until Logan wakes and needs attention around 7:30am. Sometimes, I get Logan changed and back to sleep in his swing. If it doesn't take, then I nudge Fillip. Usually, by 7:45am Fillip is up and presumably I can go back to sleep. Unless he decides to take a shower. Or the boys are misbehaving. Or they decide to go for a walk so he comes to tell me that they are leaving. Or the baby is sleeping and they go for a walk, but wakes while they are gone. (This especially sucks since Fillip gets crappy coffee from 7-Eleven, but I'm not keen on their drinks. I get woken, and Fillip comes back with a tasty treat. Then we rush to breakfast, no time for my caramel frap, but I digress...) Since theoretically, I don't finally get out of bed until 9am, it was my day to sleep in. This means that the next day, I get up early with the kids without going back to bed. Fillip doesn't stir.

Well, Saturday I "slept in." At 9am, I was woken for the day and our weekend morning drill began. We like to go out for breakfast as a family, but are often playing Beat the Clock because we have other obligations. Within 15 minutes we were in the car, kids still in jammies, racing to our favorite coffee shop where we hardly have to order because they know what we want. The day consisted of the usual TTP, friends over for dinner, then me attending an engagement party alone, while Fillip stayed home with the kids. Surprisingly, I stayed at the party until nearly 2am chatting with people I don't see often enough. I fully expected to be dragging my ass all the next day, considering that morning, I had been granted an extra 35 minutes of sleep, thereby requiring me to be bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. Got all that?

My little munchkins surprised me. They slept in! Well, actually Hayden was up at 6am (bathroom), 7am (had somehow gotten the control stick off the mini blinds and gave it to me), 7:30am (wanted a snack, bathroom), 8am (just checking in) and 8:45am (Logan was crying.) He was good about playing in his room until I got up with Logan. Since Logan is the benchmark by which I decide to finally get up, his sleeping until nearly 9 o'clock was a big boon! At that point I was able to cheerfully get them changed, give them a snack and play until Fillip got up at 10am. We were all in a good mood and having fun together. I even got a wasabi and watercress potato salad made for a bbq later in the day.

Now, if only I could figure out how to get them to do that every weekend, I would be a new woman!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Unveiling of emotions

On Sunday, we held an unveiling ceremony for my Grandmother. Traditionally, the unveiling ceremony is given an uplifting tone. Mourners can be expected to reflect on their loved one with fondness, cherishing happy memories, and feeling like the grief has faded. As we gathered at Grandma's grave, I felt anything but uplifted. The pages in the booklet we read felt meaningless and irrelevant to me. I'm not ok with this. I'm not ok with losing her. As we wrapped up, I found myself too choked up to even express all the thoughts that were running through my head. Nearly a year later, I was unable to convey the depth of my grief.

I miss her more now than I did several months ago. Each day I think of something I would like to tell her or share with her. Each day I feel like we are all missing out on having her here with us. Her last couple years were sad and feeble. She was in a state of steady decline and it was frustrating and disheartening to watch her lose one ability after another, physical and mental. When she did pass away, it was almost a relief to know that she no longer existed in a state of limbo, living, yet not participating in life. I am still so glad I took 5 week old Logan to meet her(against medical advice due to her infection), to see the smile on her face and recognition in her eyes. She clearly knew that she was holding her newest great-grandson. As I put him in her arms, she tenderly kissed his soft little head, savoring this new life that was part of her. By that point, she hardly spoke at all. As I left I told her I love her and she said it right back, clear as day. Those were the last words she spoke to me, if anyone. Over the next few weeks she became gravely ill, fighting a battle against an unseen organism that ultimately won. Maybe she didn't fight. Maybe that was just us fighting on her behalf. I can still feel her soft skin under my fingers that last night as I held her hand and rubbed her arm, putting on lotion as Marlena had suggested to make sure she was as comfortable as she could be. It was hard to walk away that night and not a surprise to get the call during the night.

Now, although I do clearly remember all of this and the emotions that went with her enfeeblement, more often I think of her more upbeat qualities. I can vividly picture her dancing in the living room in her moomoo and dearfoams, rocking out to Donna Summers, Hot Stuff. I can hear her gleeful laugh as I bumped her marble in Aggravation as she taught me strategy, good sportsmanship, and the value of time spent together. Grandma and Grandpa's house was a haven for me. I loved being there. In high school, frequently made the 2 hour trip to their "new" place in the desert. Aged 3 or aged 20, there were donuts aplenty, and marathon Aggravation tournaments. I think of Grandma and Grandpa as a unit. As I said Sunday by her grave, she always stood quietly in his shadow and when he died, she was a shadow of her former self. After 60 years of marriage, her light had gone out. Those four years without him were sad for her, even has she took pleasure in her family.

Although she didn't have quite the same glow about her without Grandpa, her pleasure in my pregnancies was endless. She had tons of questions and I had the opportunity to get to know her now as a mother. She shared stories of her pregnancies and asked endless questions about our choice for names, how I was feeling and eventually, every detail of Hayden's daily routine and changes. He loved to sit on her lap, usually grabbing her glasses, and no amount of squirming and tugging on his part was too uncomfortable for her. Now that both boys are getting older, I wish she could see their daily schtick. She always took such joy in being with children, and I would love to see her get that joy from my own sons. She would kvell to see Hayden recite the Kiddush, and be a little mensch in temple, wanting to know when they would open the "cabinet," or ark to see the Torahs in there. She would have had so much fun as I clapped Logan's hands to Shabbat Shalom and made him giggle with joy at the festive song. She fostered our traditions and the love of family that is ingrained in me today. I am not ok with losing her.

I believe that the reason I miss her so much more now, is that I am able to focus on the good memories, rather than worrying about her decline. There is no longer any guilt for not visiting enough, for not doing enough, for not being able to make it better. There is only fondness and a deep love that she planted within me. As we pass on our religious traditions, she is there. As I take delight in teaching Hayden the Candy Land game, she is there. The value we place on family is influenced by her. Everything I do is in part shaped by her influence on me. Maybe the fact that I still grieve so deeply for her is her legacy at work.

I am ok with that.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who say's men never ask for directions?

Hayden just cracks me up. He is very friendly and social. These days, whenever he has to go potty, he holds himself. Either his crotch or his butt, depending on the situation.

In the grocery store last week, he stopped a man to ask where the bathroom is. The man just chuckled and moved on. I took him to the bathroom.

In synagogue, just as Mayor Villaraigosa got up to speak (which I thought was really cool!), Hayden told me he had to go pee pee. Of course, we hindered the mayor's progress to the podium as we got up, and headed toward the bathroom. We sit near the front and it is a long way to the back. Hayden made his way with his hand firmly grabbing his pants, stopping to put his hand on other people's arms and loudly, urgently say "I have to go pee pee! Do YOU know where the bathroom is?" I kept assuring him that I in fact do know where it is. Then he stopped asking, but solemnly informed each row we passed, as if they needed an explanation for his departure, that "I have to go pee pee." It was so funny to see people cheering this little boy on, giving him knuckles and high fives to get there on time.

I missed the mayor's speech, but it couldn't have been nearly as entertaining.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stop your blubbering already!

I have reached a new level of sappiness. Anyone who really knows me, knows that I will cry at the drop of a hat. Not because I stubbed my toe or got stuck in traffic; because when a little boy says "I love you back" or paints me a picture, there is so much emotion that it has to come out somehow. When I bought a "bake sale" cookbook, I told Fillip that I would probably be all choked up the first time I brought blondie brownies to Hayden's First Bake Sale. He responded "you're all teared up now, just thinking about it, aren't you?" Yes, I was. I think though, that I have to get a handle on this. It's just plain silly at this point.

We went out for dinner the other night to a local sushi place. The food is good and the sushi half price. Hayden loves the little koi pond and the fact that the bathroom is way in back, giving him a glimpse of the kitchen and storeroom on our way there. The other thing I love about this place is the music. They play some satellite station that seems to have tapped into my childhood memories of tunes that could be belted out anywhere, at anytime. When I recently went there with my niece, the two of us quietly (well, not so quietly) serenaded each other and the sushi chefs with golden hits like Through the Years (Kenny Rogers) and some classic Neil Diamond song, that you would all know also. Admit it, you would. Fillip and I did the same thing, and through the happy haze of part of a long island iced tea (half a drink knocks me on my ass!), I found that I distinctly recall every lyric and nuance to Look Away, from the Chicago 19 album, the second album sans Peter Cetera. Yes, I knew that off the top of my head.

Fillip had gone to the bathroom, fortunately, when Mariah Carey's I'll Be There came on. First off, I'm generally not a Mariah Carey fan, but absolutely love this song. Always have. Well, as we sat there I couldn't help but sing to my sweet little boys sitting there with me. By the end of the song, I was practically in tears for the poignancy as it would apply to mother and sons. Fillip would have laughed so hard to see me all choked up singing this to them. Thank goodness I've got years to get this under control before my teenage sons roll their eyes and say "Mooooommm, stop!" Even then, I probably won't. Hopefully, one day they will get over their embarrassment of their emotional mom and realize that those tears are the extra love for them that I simply can't contain.

I'll Be There
-Mariah Carey
You and I must make a pact

We must bring salvation back
Where there is love I'll be there

I'll reach out my hand to you
I'll have faith in all you do
Just call my name And I'll be there

I'll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I'm so glad that I found you
I'll be there with a love that's strong
I'll be your strength
I'll keep holding on

Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter
Togetherness is all I'm after
Whenever you need me I'll be there

I'll be there to protect you
With an unselfish love I'll respect you
Just call my name And I'll be there

I'll be there to comfort you
Build my world of dreams around you
I'm so glad that I found you
I'll be there with a love that's strong
I'll be your strength
I'll keep holding on

If you should ever find someone new
I know she'd better be good to you
'Cause if she doesn't I'll be there

I'll be there
I'll be there
Just call my name I'll be there
I'll be there I'll be there
Whenever you need me I'll be there