Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And, I Quote...

Sometimes, it's nice to sit back and observe what everyone else is saying. Which is what I've been doing a lot of lately.

Here are just a handful of comments - those that I'm allowed to write, that is - to catch you up on our what's happening in our lives:

Oh yeah, and it's 4am. Anybody else anxious about anything???

Last month we had a get together at my dad's house. I can't divulge everything from that day but I could write an essay about the politics that flew back and forth during dinner (Meg vs Jerry), (my dad vs. NPR), etc. But the best comment was from my mother when I jokingly tucked my hair into a Raquel Welch-style wig:

"Wow, that hairstyle really brings out your nose!" My nose? Perfect. That's exactly the part of my face that I want people to notice as I march on up to 40. At least she didn't mention my wrinkles.

Because my dad did. "That wig takes 10 years off your face. Have you thought about Botox? It's supposed to help with migraines."

Ouch. Isn't 40 supposed to be the new 30?

Well, maybe so. Because just last month at the O.A.R. concert, I met a fun guy who danced and sang with me for most of the concert. Then the lights came on. And he was young. Like, dangerously young. *After* I gave him my card, (he was cute and a huge fan, after all), I asked his age. "I'm (insert absurdly young age here)." I was horrified. And flattered.

Back to the concert for a sec. I saw O.A.R. twice on this tour and I'd give almost anything to see them a third time. During both sets, they sang about God during the refrain of the chorus of the best concert song of all time -"Crazy Game of Poker:"

"May God be with me. May He watch over me." Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Which enforces my belief that if music is indeed spiritual, God should be mentioned once in a while. In a reverent way. In a compelling way. Thank you for nailing it, O.A.R. I'll marry any of you. Tomorrow.

We had a parent-teacher-child conference last month. The teacher pulled up a chair for Ben. Academically, Ben is doing great, however there were a couple of behavioral issues that she wanted to discuss. She engaged Ben in the discussion and had him sign the progress report. She then looked him square in the eye and said, "I'm only doing this because I love you, Ben." Straight and to the point. It's our second year with her and I'm eternally grateful for the compassion that shines through her no-nonsense ways. We are damn lucky. A teacher who brings the hammer down and shows some heart all at the same time? We'll take her through high school.

On a lighter note, my dog might win the prize for most lethargic Lab of all time. A client said it best: "My fish has more energy than Molly." Her fish probably sheds a whole lot less too.

While at a client's home on Halloween night, her hyper and heavy black Lab - Hank - jumped into my lap. "You have a calming effect on him," she said. I refrained from saying, "I'm truly not a dog person and I only keep Molly for Ben and Hank must sense that I am really mellow from that bottle of wine that we just consumed."

"Oh, were you waiting for this (insert exercise equipment name here)?" My ever constant experience at the gym, waiting on the 88-year-olds to finish their leg presses, their hammer curls and their hamstring extensions, while they read their magazines, their novels and their newspapers. I need that 24 Hour Club membership. Soon.

"That's depressing." My comment to no one after finally yanking out every last false eyelash and seeing the final result. So much for va-va-voom eyes.

"That's really depressing." Same comment, much more emphatic, earlier in the day at my doctor's office, during the weigh in. Wasn't I just wearing Victoria Sercret bikinis a couple of months ago?

"Welcome to 40,
" the nurse replied.

"eharmony died." My update to my mother as to the status of my online dating. The service may as well have died; I haven't had a good match in weeks.

And even more shocking: "I don't really care."

With apologies to all our little friends and the moms, Ben's favorite line from his Halloween book is, "My mom's gonna whup your butt." Yep, that's "whup" and not "whip." He can't stop saying it.

But in all fairness, any child who frequents the McDonalds on Watt Avenue is bound to say something equivalent or even worse so I'm taking myself off the hook here. Besides, it's the cutest book. Really.

Now the You Tube video that we accidentally stumbled on, while looking for dancing skeletons, I take full responsibility for. Achmed the Skeleton Terrorist is definitely not appropriate for the first grade crowd. I promise that Ben didn't watch much.

As we waited last Saturday for the soccer game status (it was raining), Ben tells me, "I don't like soccer. I don't like baseball either. Don't tell Daddy. When can I do golf?" Greeeaaatttttt. Then, a 45 minute drive across town so that we could trek through the mud. Ben ran half-heartedly towards the ball with his stellar team that's been moved up in their division. He repeatedly kicked the ball the wrong way and only showed any excitement when the half-time snacks came out. With apologies to my friends who love team sport participation at this age, I'm so over it.

Since I didn't have Ben for Halloween this year, I took him to an art gallery for Dio De Los Muertes. We went after school - to a gallery downtown - then had yogurt and stopped at the play structure at McKinley Park. When we returned home, I started to put away the decorations from Halloween. Bad idea. "DON'T TAKE THE SKELETONS AWAY! I LOVE THE SKELETONS! I WANT THEM TO STAY OUT ALL YEAR LONG!"

The skeleton obsession has continued with refusal to wear anything to bed or to play that does not have a bone on it. We are talking t-shirts, pajamas, hats, gloves, you name it. While clad in the skeleton gear, one of Ben's favorite expressions has become, "My bones are clattering!" He does a little shimmy and shake and it's really, really funny.

At our play group this week, Ben interacted more with an electronic dancing skeleton than any of the children. The skeleton had bright red eyes, grinding hips and sang one Ricky Martin song. "Do you think anyone would notice if we snuck him into our car?" Ben asked.

God help me. And I thought that the Dio De Los Muertes exhibit was a good idea. Is it just me or is seven a really weird age?

I've saved some of the best for last.

My own personal favorite quote from the ex: "I fell into the greatest, sweetest deal. I couldn't pass it up. I'm taking Ben to one, no wait, I mean two Giants championship games. He only has to miss three days of school. It's such an amazing deal, I just can't pass it up."

Followed by Ben's summary of the experience, upon returning home: "Don't tell Daddy but I think that baseball is boring. When can we go to Fairy Tale town again?"

The ex struck again, a few days later: "I just bought a new SUV. No, I didn't sell the new Mini Cooper. Or the dead Corvette. But I got the greatest deal on the SUV..."

I just came off a 9 day stint with Ben because the ex was away. Ben's behavior tends to get a bit, shall we say, challenging, during these times. I don't think I've ever heard as many loud sighs or watched the eyes roll back in exasperation as I did in the last week. But the best - or worst - was Ben's response to my third request to "get your shoes on and get in the car before we're late for school." He looked me square in the eye (how often does that happen with a 7-year-old boy?) and said:

I can't tell you what happened next because CPS is probably lurking nearby. Rest assured, Ben's punishment was swift and severe and he will not be "blah blah blah-ing" me, or anyone else, for that matter anytime soon. He was also late for school because recovery from said punishment was not quick. Or easy. For either of us.

But I do think that at seven, it's still sweet that he calls me "Mommy."

And I'm also becoming concerned with the frequency of the "Don't tell Daddy but..." statements. I guess that means Ben trusts me. But I need him to trust his dad too.

Finally, I am pulling a little rank around here as the tides seem to be turning, with regards to Ben's affection. "I love you more than I love Molly," he announced last week. After two years of practically giving his heart to that damn dog, Ben has seen the light when in fact, I am the one who buys the Cheetos, organizes the play dates, gives in to the Lego purchases and allows for "just one more" book before bed. He quickly clarified by saying, "But I only love her a little bit more and I only love her more on some days."

And there you have it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Free Range At Fairy Tale Town

I'm not supposed to be blogging. But I did something really cool with Ben yesterday and I wanted to share the experience.

Last year, a controversial book called "Free Range Kids" came out and boy, did it stir up a media frenzy. Basically, the gist of the book is that we are hovering way too much over our children, and denying them the independence and autonomy that they need to grow into self-reliant adults. I believe the term "wimpy" was used, in regards to how kids today are turning out.


But what really got the media's attention was this:

The author put her 9-year-old child on the NYC subway. Alone.

But she did it carefully and strategically and with a good, solid plan. A lot of parents called her out as being negligent. "The Worst Mom of All Time" was her identity among some camps. She appeared on all the major news networks. Time Magazine picked up the story as its cover feature. I should know, my own dad bought me a copy and told my mother to make sure that I read it.

I did read it, and I agree very much with the author's position. In fact, if we had a reliable public transportation system, I'd probably empower Ben - in a few years - to ride downtown. Alone. But we don't, and that's a whole other issue.

So yesterday, another mom friend and I took our kids to Fairy Tale Town, which is a lovely and delightful park here in Sacramento. It is entirely gated and geared toward small children. In fact, adults who try to enter the park without a child are denied entry. I should know - Ben rode with the other mom and I met them inside the park. But not before I could prove that I indeed had a child who was waiting on the other side of the gate.

My friend, who has also followed the Free Range parenting concept, suggested that we let the boys (who are the same age) "do their own thing." With a couple of rules: don't go out the turn styles and check in with us periodically.

I had no idea how this was going to go because Ben has been dealing with some pretty significant issues around separation and just last week, had a minor panic attack when he discovered that I had left the house (I was pulling the trash cans to the curb). Nevertheless, I have encouraged Ben for a long time to explore the world on his own, even during those moments when he so clearly needed me to be in clear and constant site.

Contrary to what my dad might believe, I am not a helicopter parent. Nor do I want to be. Ben gets enough hover time from the adults in his life. More than enough.

Fairy Tale Town isn't Disneyland but it's not your average park, either. Most of the time, the boys were in places where we couldn't see them. Doing God knows what. But having a great time, nonetheless.

The "experiment" went beautifully. The two times that I checked in, they were obviously loving their new-found independence. At one point the other boy told me, "Ben got a little nervous a couple of times but I calmed him down."

I loved that.

Because, beyond the freedom that they experienced during our time at the park, the boys were also able to communicate with each other about their own perceptions of the experience.

Not once did Ben cry.

This victory from the child who, just days ago, freaked out in the Trader Joe's aisle, while getting his own sample, because, "I need to see you all the time, Mommy!"

I know a lot of moms - and I do mean a lot - who would not be on board with the "cut the kids loose" idea. Not even at our innocent little slice of paradise called Fairy Tale Town.

But it worked for me and it worked for my child. And I'll do it again, hopefully soon.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is just one more sign that my young child is getting older and gaining more confidence and will eventually not need me at all when he goes off to play.
I'm fine with that. I'm more than fine with that; I'm happy about that.

But this is also one more sign that Ben is on his way to being a self-assured boy who can navigate his own way through a very scary world. And I'm very, very happy about that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Great Big Blog Break-Up. And The Little Birthday List.

I so love to be dramatic.

No, I am not breaking up with my blog but I am stepping away from it for awhile to focus on "other projects." The blog and I are going by way of Ross and Rachel: "We were on a break!"

To be clear, "other projects" does not including dating (here or in Florida), changing my hair color (although I'm tempted), getting a tattoo (not tempted at all) or promoting the release of my long awaited book: "How To Not Screw Up a 7-Year-Old While Having Some Semblance of a Swanky, Yet Sleep Deprived Life."

Actually, the reality is that I DO have too many projects to focus on and not enough time. Starting with continuing education, which hasn't been so continuous lately. And the broken garage door. And the leaking roof. And keeping my house despite multiple failed attempts to convince B of A that I'm an ideal candidate for a loan modification. And creating a web site (because everyone says I need one). And spending some time in my son's classroom. And keeping up with all those Facebook posts, pictures and messages.

But before I sign off for awhile, there are a few things that you should know:

First, Ben turned 7 last week.

I cried. A lot. I say this all the time: his childhood is going too fast. It was a quiet birthday; we had nacho cheese sauce, eaten on the couch, in front of a Mario DVD. We both were coming down with colds. After I put him to bed, I noticed a giant arrangement of skeleton cupcakes on the front porch. My friends do the kindest things. Ben was elated to wake up to such a grand display of "skull treats." The proper birthday celebration was on Sunday with all his friends. Eventually, I'll re-visit my space here to post some pictures of his party.

Second, I saw O.A.R. again and I think I might be officially obsessed.

My friend, Cab and I went on Saturday night. The show was at the beautiful Fox Theater in Oakland, which as the lead singer of the band said, "is hands-down the best and most proper venue for a concert." Got that direct from Twitter - via the band's web site - on Sunday morning. Yes, I am obsessed. And no, I do not and will not Twitter.

Nevertheless, the Fox Theater rocks and O.A.R. rocked it again. I am physically sore from dancing so much and am already in full panic mode over news on the fan sites that the band is taking some much needed time off (years!) to have babies and other nonsense. That being said, I think I need to go to their last hometown show on Dec 17th in Maryland. It's perfect timing for my birthday, don't you think? And I've never been to Maryland...

Speaking of birthday list is growing by the minute.

Do you have a pen? Never mind, you can just print this post.

I've decided that a Prius would be a great- and very appropriate - gift, given that I drive nearly across the county several times on select days for school and for soccer. It's not that I mind the rising cost of gas so much; it's more about the major hassle of always having to fuel up. It's also about my identity: in my 30s, an all wheel drive vehicle seemed like such a good idea. But how many times have we actually used the all-wheel feature? That would be zero. I am not a camping, skiing, snow-sledding mama and I don't think that's going to change any time soon. Urban mom needs a Prius.

On a more realistic note, I've got UGG lust. I have one secondhand pair from last year and I need more. More styles. More colors. More UGGs. Size 9. Love. The. UGGs.

I want to have my best friends and my clients and my students over. Sometime in the winter. I'm a little scared by the prospect of the daunting task of feeding dozens of people but I have lots of wine so maybe we'll all just drink a lot and have Papa Murphys. Would that be tacky? It's good wine, at least.

Ben needs a new dresser for his room and of course that wasn't on his birthday list. So I'll put it on mine. If there is any chance of him learning the F word from me, it will be over the dresser. The drawers stick so badly that he can't remove any of the contents without major tears. Having me retrieve all the clothes isn't doing much for his independence either. I don't want to put a new bed on this list, so when you see him, reinforce the idea that the car bed is REALLY COOL and that he should keep it until he is at least 18. Or when he goes off (and I mean off as in 'gets his ass out of Sacramento') to college.

Athleta. Athleta has been so very thoughtful to keep me on their mailing lists and to send me lovely catalogs with items that I covet and deeply desire. It's horrific to admit but I find myself often perusing their catalog and web site, fixating on an item and repeating the following mantra, "I would be a much better person if I owned this (insert dress, pants, top, pair of boots). Anything Athleta. Anytime. Size Medium. The prices are appalling; the styles are not.

The barrista at the Starbucks near Ben's school knows me. By name. He also makes fun of me when my Starbucks card is declined because, despite re-loading the damn thing all the time - it seems to always have a zero balance. And it's not like I'm a fancy coffee drinker, but my little iced coffee habit is getting kinda pricey. Starbucks calls it a ritual, I call it an expensive addiction. I need an infinite Starbucks card. Or more sleep.

I am thisclose to buying the 24 Hour Club membership from Costco. I love the gym that employs me but I do not love sharing equipment and space with the members there. I do not love to fight over the one leg extension machine or the lone pair of 25 lb free weights with the 85-year-old crowd because they are a super slow and chatty bunch. I do like the new 24 Hour Club location near my house. I like that it takes up practically an entire city block. I like that there is certainly not a soul in that club who knows me. I also like that it is next door to Luna Lounge, my favorite (and only) neighborhood haunt.

On the subject of Luna, I need to be there more often. Let's go, girls. Fun, swanky, interesting people, good food. Why aren't we there once a week?

I need the Droid. Soon. The Blackberry now refuses to take pictures and won't upload anything to Facebook. Tragic, I know. I'm up for an upgrade on January 1oth. Not that I'm counting the days, or anything, but if the guy in Verizon tells me to update my phone software one more time, I'm going to clock him with the Berry.

Lastly, I want to celebrate my 40th with my family in Palm Springs, and I do not want to have to take out my ex for "forgetting" that this was my week after a year of reminders. I want to have a drink at the Marriott with my Dad, the same place I ordered my first "official" drink on my 21st birthday. I want to go shopping with my stepmom and buy some new lipsticks. I want my helpful family to watch Ben while I go to yoga classes. I want to go out to dinner on my actual birthday. I want anyone who feels inclined, to jump on a plane and join us. I want the weather to be good.

Speaking of planes, I do not want to jump out of one for my birthday. I also don't want to be tattooed. Nor do I want to pull a single mom celebrity act and pluck a child from a third-world country and attempt to raise it with Ben. I certainly don't want to arrive to a friend's house and have 50 people jump out of dark corners in what is known as the worst birthday celebration ever: the ambush, surprise party. And on the subject of surprises, I don't want to see any "surprise" people from my past. Florida, are you reading? If you do want to indulge me with a lavish getaway, know that Rancho La Puerta is my top pick and any city in Florida is not. In fact, anything east of Texas is pretty much off my radar right now expect for Maryland. Bethesda. December 17th. Alisa? Please?

I'll certainly update here periodically with photos and any earth-shattering news but for now I'm going off-line to enjoy my last days of the 30s decade.

As for the birthday list, that about does it.

Oh, and if someone could please send an oxygen mask to my father; I'm sure he's needing it right now after realizing what a self-indulgent 39-year-old he has raised.

And he'll most definitely need it when the full impact of having a 40-year-old offspring hits.