Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not-so-goody bags

I recently read an article about the god-forsaken trend of giving out goody bags at birthday parties. Yes, we, as a consumer-focused society, have decided it is not enough to have a birthday party. Nope, we have to give gifts to the guests. That's right. We get to host the party, provide games, entertainment, food and cake. Then we have to thank the kids who came to celebrate by giving them a gift. They get a gift for coming to a birthday party! Try explaining this bizarre ritual to someone of your parents' generation. My dad asked me about it once. In my ever-so-diplomatic way, I explained that you buy a bunch of little junk and candy and put it in a bag. He was stumped and horrified. Now, I have seen some good goody bags - a puzzle or a book. But, typically, it is an assortment of junky little trinkets and candy. Most moms hijack the bag and toss most of the stuff. I would like to find the sadist who invented this custom and relegate them to purgatory. They will be forced to spend eternity trying to sort millions of mismatched socks. I also don't understand throwing a mini-wedding or bat/bar mitzvah for a small child. For the first 5 years of Sara's deprived upbringing, she was deluded into thinking a birthday party was when your family came over, you got a couple gifts and some cake. We even splurged and got some balloons to add to the festivities. I guess all the money we saved will be spent on her future therapy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The King's Speech

Christian has finished his speech therapy. He chats up a storm about anything and everything with anybody and everybody. He is almost as proud of himself as we are. We had a wonderful experience with First Steps, Indiana's child services department. Our therapist (a.k.a "MY Mike, according to Christian) was amazing. Every week he showed up full of enthusiasm and energy. His approach was straight forward and simple. His philosophy was that he will grow at his pace and we shouldn't force him or put undue pressure on him. First phrase to leave our vocabulary was "can you say ....". No, he couldn't, as Mike said. Why frustrate him? Make therapy fun and easy. Let Christian set the tone and pace. We started with imitation of sounds. Christian got a big kick out of this. As a result, food is now "num nums" and my Dad is now called "Boppy". My dad may think this is an improvement over his other name - Grumpy. Luckily, he answers to both. It is such a relief to be able to understand my son. I felt like a failure because I couldn't understand what my son was trying to tell me. It was a vicious cycle. He got frustrated and upset which made him even harder to understand. I got frustrated and upset, too. Now, when I pick him up from school, he can tell me what he did there. The first thing he tells me is "Mommy, I no hit Nick. I nice". Sara enjoys playing with him more, too (except when he tells on her). I think she views his improved speech as a mixed blessing. I view his completion of speech therapy as a mixed blessing. He made real improvements. But, we will miss our weekly sessions with Mike. He is an amazing therapist and man. He spends all day helping other families and their kids. Then he goes home to his 7 kids, feeds them, bathes them, plays with them and coaches their sports teams. We were blessed to have him and we are thankful for all he did for our son. We will miss him.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The woman at the well

Yesterday's gospel according to Saint John was about the woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus. In the bible, when someone is nameless, he or she represents all mankind. This is done so we can see ourselves in these stories. She had spent her life looking for happiness outside herself through others (husbands). Jesus gently guides her to her truth at her own pace. She takes this journey reluctantly but wholeheartedly. She learns to look within herself for her happiness and that there is no one perfect "man" for her. Why is the truth about ourselves so hard to see? Maybe if we come to realize our 'truths' gently, it will be easier for us to see ourselves.

Paul and I typically rotate going to Mass with Sara. At 2 1/2, Christian is not the best audience for a sermon. I realized long ago that for us bringing a toddler to Mass is fruitless and frustrating. The child gets nothing out of the experience and the parent spends the entire time distracting and muffling the child while hoping and praying that no one around gets frustrated and annoyed.

I do spend a fair bit of time keeping an eye on Sara in the choir box, making sure she is behaving - not chatting or fidgeting. I guess this is karma for all those Sundays my Mom sat in the choir box shooting death rays at us children getting us to behave. It usually worked. If Mom came out of the box at the sign of peace, you knew you were in beg trouble. My brother Bob had the right idea- he took a nap on the pile of coats because he claimed it was the only way he could behave and sit still. Think Fr. Bill would notice if I curled up and took a cat nap next Sunday?

Friday, March 25, 2011

"I need you, mommy"

This is Christian's new phrase. I love this for 2 reasons. First, his speech has so improved that he says it perfectly. Second, not so long ago, he was in the throes of a big "daddy" phase and only wanted daddy for everything. Now, when I scoop him up to go to bed, he doesn't fuss and beg for daddy. He plans what books we are going to read and he rubs my back. He says this when he wants to do his puzzles. He doesn't need help. He just wants me to sit there and observe. The boy loves an audience. His other new phrase is "I love you so much". This also warms my heart but I have also overheard him saying this to his favorite babysitter, Katie. What can I say? Boys are fickle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Running for your life

I am a runner. I'm not a very good runner. I'm not a very fast runner. But I am a runner. I love to run. I started running during college. On one of my first attempts, I tripped over my own two feet and sprained my ankle. I was sort of proud of my "running injury". I bought a treadmill and ran in the privacy of my apartment until I felt I was "good enough" to run outside. When I ventured outside, I was relieved to discover no one was watching me run. And they weren't laughing at me. Other "runners" even gave me the runner's wave. I was part of the "club". My attempts at running in Charlottesville, Virginia were mixed. Some genius told me to "dive right in" and run during the mid-day heat and my body will adjust. I ended up on the side of the road light-headed and vomiting. When my sciatica flared up and I was sidelined, I missed running. So, I laced up my shoes and gave it a shot. Turns out, it helped alleviate the symptoms. I ran when I was pregnant until I got too big and clumsy. Now I look forward to my workouts. Not just for weight loss but because when I run I don't have to worry about anything else or focus on anything. I can hop on the treadmill and zone out. I'm not a wife or a mother. I am just a runner. I don't have to do anything or be anything. That time is just for me and about me. And when I am done, I have a real sense of accomplishment. I set a goal and 9 times out of 10, I accomplish it. It may be to run a little faster or further. And if I don't meet my goal, I can always try again. Running is my not-so-guilty pleasure/escape.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yes, Men really are that simple (and it's a good thing)

Today, Paul participated in our MOPs male-panel discussion. It was an interesting and diverse group of men willing to be grilled and interrogated about their lives, thoughts and beliefs about fatherhood and marriage. The panel consisted of an academic (Paul), a pediatrician, a construction worker, a banker, and a chemist. Here are the revealing things we learned:

  • Men and women think differently (shocking, huh?). Women multi-task. Men are more linear by nature (one thing at a time).
  • Men and women view parenthood differently. Men view fatherhood as a part of their identity.
  • Women, especially STAH moms, tend to define themselves solely as a mother.
  • Men do not over-think and over-worry about every little thing relating to the kids. "If they are alive at the end of the day, it has been a good day".
  • Men actually enjoy their jobs and careers. THAT is why they work so hard. It is not an evil plot to avoid us, kids, and chores.
  • Men do not experience "daddy" guilt. They cannot understand why we do. When they tell us to take "me time", they mean it. It isn't some passive-aggressive mind game. Men do NOT play mind games. Their minds don't work that way.
  • They do not spend hours thinking up ploys to avoid housework. They don't notice it unless it is pointed out to them. They suffer from "male pattern blindness"
  • They do not think we sit around eating bon-bons and watching Oprah.
  • If left to their own devices, they would sit around in their underwear eating cold soup from the can.
  • They mean what they say and they say what they mean.
  • They appreciate everything they do but don't always remember to say it (or know how)
It was an interesting discussion. Thanks to all the men who participated. You were very brave.