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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stay Young, Superman

Mothers of boys let's unite. We need each other on this journey of surviving raising men.

It is absolutely true. Boys are a different breed.
Strong. Beautiful. Wild. Endearing. Unique habit to run instead of walk. Lovers of reptiles and mud. Drawn to engines. And playing basketball in the hallway.

To describe them as energetic is an understatement.

I have two boys that bring fire and balance to our house. One constructs. One deconstructs. Both imaginations run supreme. Give them a pirate sword and a bin of legos and they will be effortlessly entertained. All day.

They are the jumpers of furniture, stealth ninjas on missions, secret spies, snowboarders, builders, mechanics, karate experts, the hiders and the seekers. And they are constant. There isn't much of a breather. I'm pretty sure that video games were first created by a mother with a desperation for her boys to sit down for a second for goodness sake already. Life is a whirlwind of hot wheels, monster trucks, fireman hats and mud laden cleats. On a carpet that might have been white in a former life.

Favorite past time: peeing naked off the deck.

Favorite hiding spot: the dryer.

Favorite subject: art.

Favorite summer activity: naked ATV riding.  Future occupation: rockstar.

I swear that they do own pants. And that they do have a mother.
The only advantage I have over them is height.

But their spark is none other.

I am exhausted and in awe of it all at the same time.

My wish for them is to stay young a little longer. To wear superhero capes to the grocery store. To play outside indefinitely. To roll down hills that feel like mountains. To earn those grass stains. To tell knock knock jokes. To just keep building. To create big amazing things that don't yet exist. But should. To color outside the lines. To know when to listen. And when to speak up. To say please, thank you, I'm sorry and excuse me. To hold the door open. And hug their Momma. To never stop imagining. Ever.

Boys will be men soon enough. Super boys are the only things we can use to create super men. So let's embrace it.

And it doesn't hurt to make sure we have working smoke alarms.

Let's hear it for the boys...

And happy birthday to my rockstar, Niko who is seven years old today. The world got a whole lot happier when you came into it.
Just so lucky.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eyes Wide Open- A Love & Peace Corps Story

I was twenty-one and I knew everything.  I knew how to pull an all-nighter and how to make amazing macaroni and cheese from a box. I knew I wanted to marry later in life, do a lot of dancing and wanted nothing more than to save the world.  I was leaving for the Peace Corps a month after my college graduation with a brick red backpack and hazel eyes wide open.  I was ready to make a difference; to embrace and challenge Africa.  I was going to make a change for the better.

Almost a year before I left I had met a boy.  Our mothers set us up on a blind date and we saw fireworks on the fourth of July.  He told me that night that he could picture what our children would look like, which would have normally sent me screaming but I figured I owed it to my mom to stay.  After a few more hours of that first date, I knew I didn’t want to have anymore first dates.  Over the next several months we were nothing short of intoxicated with one another.  America is a brilliant land of instant gratification; an effortless place to let love grow.  We had a long distance romance with all of the beautiful modern conveniences of late night phone calls, passionate weekends in small towns and many sunflower deliveries.  I could feel him in every part of my physical being but I had too many internal guards up in my quest for my own freedom to fully soak him in.  And then my Peace Corps assignment came.  I had to l look on a map of the world to find Cameroon.  This relationship would never last.  No boy no matter how tall, Greek or handsome was going to stand in the way of my future.  Over two bottles of Pinot Grigio, I decided to let him go.

We kept in touch through scattered phone calls and broken e-mails, dancing with our tangled emotions between lingering over what could have been to setting each other free.  I boarded a plane in New York breathing in the air of hope of the days to come and choking on the weight of the exhale of saying goodbye.

And then came Africa.  I set foot on the brightest, boldest colors on a canvas filled with gorgeous potential and great despair.  My emotions couldn’t decipher all that my mind was taking in.  It was a feast for the senses.  The smell of sweet corn being grilled on open flames on the side of the road.  The sound of a shrieking chicken being killed on our patio (the freshest chicken I have ever had).  The feel of young fingers braiding my chestnut brown hair.  And perhaps the most vivid was the sight of people paralyzed from the waist down, supporting their weight on their mud encrusted hands, dragging their legs behind them.  Paralyzed by a lack of funds and lack of medical availability for a wheelchair to exist, to take them anywhere at all.  I remember thinking that this is what it truly feels like to see.

When the weekly mail was distributed there were almost always letters from the boy I left behind.  Not just letters- love letters.  The kind that everyone should receive in their lifetime.  I could almost taste him from thousands of miles away.  Pen on paper of the words I was too blind before to even read.  I drank those letters in- every drop of ink smelled like a future I wasn’t sure could ever be mine again.

As the days dredged on, I ached for the people on the street, I ached for their poverty, for the children of dilapidated schools, the ache of their diseases and the ache of their resistance in wanting to change all that they have ever known.  I couldn’t blame them.  I wouldn’t want a 21-year old stranger who thinks she knows everything to come to my home to convince me that my ways were incorrect, that there is a better way, a healthier way, a more hopeful way.  What if I don’t want to be changed; what if I am happy in my home and in my life.  It was challenging to find a common ground and the language barrier (the family I lived with only spoke French and I could barely say bonjour) felt like a great divide.

Health and safety concerns also grew in the family that I stayed with.  I was afraid. I was no longer safe in the confines of my mosquito net. The Peace Corps told me that I had to decide in a night whether or not to be transferred to a different family or to choose to return home.  I instantly pictured that boy, though I now didn’t see him that way.  He was a man and he was the only man I wanted to share a life with.  I decided to flip a coin.  Heads I would stay in Africa, tails I would head home.  It was heads.  My immediate reaction was to do two out of three.

My mom picked up a bonier yet stronger version of myself from the airport.  After a long embrace and a tear-filled pause she said, “You have aged.”  That day I called him and I could hear his jaw collapse when he heard my shaken voice say hello.  We met over pints, not able to pick up where we had left off because too much had changed and grown.  Not able to start again because we already had known so much about how to make the other one laugh.  So we decided on a beautiful in-between.  We let each other in.

We were engaged within a year and our best man gave a stunning speech recounting our love story, explaining that a natural love conquers all.  The last line he spoke before our favorite people in the world toasted us was that “mothers always, always know best.”

One day I will go back to Africa.  I will never give up on trying to make a difference in this world.  I’m just not sure that I will be alone.  With four children and my bon amour I will take it all in with open eyes and a gloriously more open soul.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What She Really Wants this Valentine's Day

Dear those who want to make someone happy this Valentine's Day,

I know, I know. It is a Hallmark holiday. Another commercial holiday to sell cards, roses and overpriced chocolates. The good news? She doesn't want that anyway. One surefire way to piss her off? Do nothing. Yes the holiday is ridiculous but that doesn't mean that the premise is. Love reigns baby. You show some love and you will be thanked. Tremendously.

By talking about love I don't mean romance though sometimes they can't help but to intertwine. I don't want to come across as cynical, but I find romance to be slightly nauseating. Unless you are Pablo Neruda, your poem might leave something to be desired. Leave the poems and red roses for The Bachelor.

These two lasted 28 hours.

There's a reason those relationships typically don't last longer than 3 months weeks. Romance can't touch the depth of being in love. Love trumps romance. Every. Time. I believe in a redefined love- a stronger, more genuine form of romance. So how do you make that love so steamy, sexy and smoking hot? Want to know what she truly desires this holiday (and every day that follows)? Stick with me and read the guide below. Good things will cum come to you love.

Here is how we can bring sexy back:

  • Vacuuming is foreplay. Truly. Do it for her. Have fun doing it. Throw a little dance in there. You will get some.

You are so much hotter than you have ever been right now.

  • Learning how to make rainbow looms is unbelievably attractive. When you take time to spend time with whatever your kids are interested in it is a beautiful thing to witness. That will make the one you love ridiculously happy. Happiness brings reconnection. Reconnection brings nudity after your rainbow loomers are tucked in bed. 

Hey girl... look what Junior and I whipped up
while you were taking your much deserved bubble bath. 

  • Not cooking and cleaning is the greatest. Ever. I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't melt at the magic words, "Do you want to go out to dinner tonight?" I love to cook but after making 18 meals a day, everyday for a decade, there are no sexier words that could be voiced. Everyone wants, desires and deserves a break sometimes. Think of what you could do with all of that bonus times not spent in the kitchen.

Dinners out greatly up the chances of growing old together.

  • Eff chocolate, give wine. No woman has ever felt sexy after housing an entire box of Russell Stovers. Keep filling her glass of Merlot, on the other hand, and her inner goddess will not be able to contain her gratitude.

Now this is an orgasm in a box.

  • Texts, cards and post it notes. It doesn't matter as much which one you choose, so long as you choose one. Remind her in your own words how amazing she is, how hot she is and how grateful you are that she chose you. Never underestimate the value of gratitude and compliments. I am going to let you in on something huge: women need to feel valued. What you give her emotionally, will pay off for you physically. Words are free but all too often underused. There was something about her that made you want to have a second date- tell her why. She will feel grateful, loved and lucky. You will feel grateful, loved and get lucky. Simple equation baby. 

You don't have to be Ryan Gosling to get your message across.
I mean, it helps.
But after your dinner out you can put post its up around the house telling her how much she rocks with a full vat of wine and The Notebook on in the background while you vacuum.
It will be a good night for you my friend.

So there you go. Women are not such hard creatures to understand after all.
You are welcome. Feel free to share away dear friends.

Wishing you so much love this Valentines Day and every great day to follow...


Monday, February 3, 2014

In Our Hands

I have been thinking a lot about children and bullying and school and the world and all that it is in our hands and all that is not. I have been thinking of the whirlwind of the mornings of the making of sandwiches and the hair brushing and the do this and don't do that of it all that needs to happen to get out of the door with a hope of being on time. The things that we can control and the things that we can't. The people we love that fill our days and the people that drain our energies. How we react and how we let go. How there is not enough recess and far too much testing. Teachers who can't wait to retire and those that you hope never will.

Maybe we just need to kick this old school. Maybe we need to get back to the basics. Talk less, listen more. Less excuses, more showing up. Less getting bogged down in reality, more room for dreaming. Maybe it all starts younger than we think, the being there and the having fun. No rushing to be older even when it is so so hard. 

I am not perfect. I think it is exhausting to even try to be. I mess up an endless number of times in a day. I am incapable of being punctual. I love wine. I check my phone more than any one person ever should. I wish we spent less time in the car and more time having dance parties. I wish I laughed more and nagged less. I long for more time with my kids and when I have more time, I sometimes feel overwhelmingly consumed by it all. In short, I am human. An honest one, but a bit of a hot mess all the while.

But on Friday I volunteered at my twins preschool and I remembered how beautiful it is to feel alive in a moment. A moment of play and imagination and joy and playdough and block building. How simple it truly can be and how much we can overcomplicate it. When I am there, present and awake with giggling four year olds, I can't help but to feel that no matter how many wrongs I have done, at least I've got  this right. 
Play. Build. Hold hands. Sing. Read. Paint. Listen. Laugh. And eat blueberries together. Repeat.

Children naturally absorb learning and acceptance. They may be young but they are old enough to love out loud. Until we teach them different, loving out loud is all that they know. They are the headlines of tomorrow. What the headline reads is all in our hands.

So maybe we just all need more of this:

And this:

With a side of this:

And instead of a future that looks like this:

Maybe it could even look like this:

I believe in this future. 
Let's put our hands together on this one...



p.s. Thank you to the South County Preschool Co-op, a priceless school experience. Thank you for always getting it right.