Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Trip (part 1)

Well, we had a great vacation. It was SO much better than we expected, even with the stress of being with A's parents.

We flew non-stop to LA and stayed there for a couple of days to visit with friends. We rented a beautiful 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment ( is the best!) that was basically brand-new, gave us enough space, and that was half the price of most of the LA hotels we were looking at. We stayed near Museum Row, which was about halfway between two of A's close friends' places. It was a pretty neighborhood, and there was a Trader Joe's within walking distance, so we took advantage of having a kitchen to make breakfast in the mornings.

The first night in LA, we had dinner with A's brother at the Grove, which I wish we had had more time to explore. All the little shops and eateries looked so interesting! It was a beautiful night, and we enjoyed chasing R through the marketplace. (After being stuck on the plane and in the car for about 7 hours, he needed to MOVE.) Back at the apartment, we tried to use the rooftop pool, but it was a bit too chilly.

On Saturday, we met up with our good friend Ben at his place in Santa Monica. He took us to the Santa Monica pier and the beach. I think that was the favorite part of our trip for all of us! The weather was gorgeous, R got to splash in the Pacific Ocean, and we all went on the roller coaster and ferris wheel. This was R's first roller coaster experience, and he LOVED IT. He and A went for a second ride on the coaster, but Ben and I had had enough. (I think Ben lost his hearing from having to sit next to me and my screaming on the ride.) After the pier, we walked to find some lunch nearby.

Santa Monica made me finally understand why people choose to live in Southern California. Los Angeles doesn't interest me and involves too much driving for my taste. And, the desert where my in-laws live makes me crazy because everything is so perfectly manicured, with gated communities, and every house looks exactly the same. Plus, the shameless wasting of water out there makes me want to throw up. Santa Monica was beautiful but not in a Disneyesque perfect way. It was walkable and funky, and the people were friendly and laidback. We definitely want to go back there and explore more someday!

Later that day, we went to another friend's house for a bbq with a bunch of A's friends who have moved to LA from Boston. R got a little bored, so we didn't stay long, but it was really nice to catch up with everyone.

On Sunday morning, we fixed breakfast, packed up, almost headed to Edwards Air Force Base to catch the Space Shuttle's landing (but decided against it), and then went to the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum. I was surprised by how beautiful the park around the pits was and how much we learned at the museum. (Did you know that there used to be lions in America?) The tar pits definitely smelled like tar, and we saw many places where the tar was actively bubbling up through the ground and grass. The full woolly mammoth skeleton was amazing. And, in the center of the museum was a little habitat with fish, birds, and lots of turtles.

After lunch, we drove out to the desert to A's parents' house. After stretching our legs a bit and catching up, we changed into swimsuits and drove over to one of the pools (the only one that allows children) in their community. It was about 100 degrees every day we were in the desert, so the pool was quite refreshing - and the cast of characters was fun to observe. Plus, A and I had some good laughs over the level of security trying to get in and out of the pool area and at the ridiculous rules. (After being buzzed out of the pool area, we saw an ice machine with a huge sign on it indicating that the ice was for RESIDENTS ONLY. Even though if you're not a resident or guest, you can't get anywhere near the silly ice machine, so I don't know who the sign was for...)

R's swimming lessons have really paid off - he had a blast and kept heading to the deeper end of the pool to challenge himself. That night, we had a family dinner at A's parent's house with A's sister and her fiance. A's sister and fiance are wonderful, and they brought over a very cool Hot Wheels motorcycle set for R, which was a godsend since there weren't really any age-appropriate toys for R at A's parents' house. (They seem to think he's a quiet, sedentary, 2-year-old girl instead of a very active, physical, 5-year-old boy.)

One thing that was so interesting to A and me on this trip was R's completely lack of shyness. Usually, he's pretty shy at first with people he doesn't know and in situations he hasn't experienced before. But, he was completely at ease the entire time. He happily said hello to everyone and conversed at a very mature level. I stood back and just proudly watched him because it was such a change. I was a little worried because the entire trip was basically a huge ego trip for him - being surrounded by adults who were overly praising him, constantly saying how cute and how smart he is. I don't think he had any contact with other kids the whole time, except for A's sister's fiance's teenage son, who was great with R, too. He started getting a bit sassy with us towards the end of the trip, and his listening skills definitely deteriorated. But he's been a gem since we got home, and the experience seems to have boosted his self-confidence and social skills. Tonight, at our local park, he comfortably talked to all the other kids and encouraged them to join him in play. So, in that way, this trip had an unexpected benefit!

[To be continued - that's all I can type for tonight!]

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We're back - the prayers worked!

I'm heading to bed now because it's nearly 2 am(!), but I just wanted to write a quick post to thank you for your prayers. We ended up having a great vacation in California. And, I was able to get through the visit with my in-laws without going insane. Yay!

I'll write more about our trip tomorrow night, but for now here's one of my favorite pictures from Santa Monica:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wish me luck!

Very soon, I will be spending several days with my in-laws. If you know me in "real life," then you've undoubtedly been subjected to my litany of stories about my mother-in-law, in particular, and how she drives me absolutely nuts.

The last time I saw my mother-in-law (which was two years ago), I couldn't contain my frustration with her antics, and she ended up cornering me in the bathroom and crying while I tried unsuccessfully to get her to leave so that I could USE THE FACILITIES.

So, I'm a bit nervous about our visit coming up, especially because my mother-in-law's issues have gotten much worse, and I am due to be at a particularly moody phase when I am with her. I have prayed endlessly about my relationship with this woman and have asked for patience or at least civility so that I can get through my time with her.

For this visit, I'm seriously thinking about starting a Twitter account so that I can have some way to vent the stress. Or maybe I should use it as a way to document the bright side of things at any given tense moment. One of my friends suggested that I tweet about all the ways I can find to hide alcoholic drinks (because my in-laws don't allow drinking, which is SO unfortunate because a nice glass of wine would really help take the edge off my desire to scream at and throttle them) - LOL. If I do any of these, I'll post the link. :-)

The thing is, my in-laws are very nice. They are kind, good people. But they are also infuriating and manipulative and completely oblivious to reality. What makes me so frustrated - with myself - is that I can be nice to pretty much anyone. I can smile and bear things that are much worse. But, with my in-laws, I turn into a grumpy, annoyed, sarcastic jerk. I hate myself when I'm with them! I've noticed that this personality transformation also happens to my normally kind, patient, easy-going husband when he's with them. So I'm definitely not the only one who's bothered by them. In fact, we've co-lamented about A's parents at length with A's siblings. But it doesn't make it easier.

I guess I'm just asking for your best wishes and prayers. I want this visit to be nice, especially for R since he never sees these grandparents. And, this may be the last time we get to see A's parents before their health deteriorates further. Plus, after months of stress and late nights at work, A and I could both use a relaxing vacation.

So, pray for the best!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Mother's Day

My Mother's Day was fabulous. It started off a little shaky, with R waking up at 6am (which meant I had to wake up at 6am, too) and discovering a pile of cat blurf in the living room (which I then had to clean up). But then A made us a lovely breakfast of pancakes and sausages, and I got to do some of my favorite things.

After breakfast, we packed up some snacks and water and headed to Concord to rent a canoe. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool - although a bit on the windy side. We canoed on the Concord River down to the historic Old North Bridge. The river was so peaceful, and we listened to the newly formed leaves rustling, the birds calling, and the old trees creaking. The mansions along the river are amazing. It's fun to daydream about winning the lottery and buying one. :-) At the bridge, we turned around to head back and quickly realized it was more than a bit windy. A few times, the wind nearly blew us out of the water. A and I struggled to make it back to the docks, but eventually we did it. My shoulders and arms were SO sore! But we had a great time.

After canoeing, we stopped for a quick lunch and then headed further west to our favorite flea market. The flea market was like a ghost town. That seemed strange in this economy! R found a stall that had Hot Wheels 2 for $1, so he spent his remaining allowance on two new cool cars. I found a 1960s Richard Scarry book in great condition for $1, so I picked that up for my friend' s twins. A successful and inexpensive trip!

After our drive home, during which I failed in my duty to keep R awake (I paid for that later at bedtime), A made a delicious dinner of penne with vodka sauce and pork & asiago cheese sausages, and a gorgeous salad. R even ate it! (Well, the pasta anyway.)

Stuffed to the gills, we took a family walk to the playground to burn some energy. R wanted to play chase, so I got good exercise running away from him. That boy runs fast! He kept catching me, even when I was really trying. :-)

All in all, a lovely day. It was just what I needed to gear me up for this week, which is going to be super busy with lots of late nights because of work. By Sunday night, though, our big project will be complete. Then, we get to go on vacation - woohoo!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's the latest craze... our house.

R and I have invented something that is going to take the nation by storm. It's a great solution for preschoolers' nighttime craziness - i.e., if you have a five-year-old who gets wild and spazzy 10 minutes before bedtime, this will occupy and exhaust said five-year-old. You can do it almost anywhere. It's good exercise and oodles of fun. Best of all, it's free.

We call it "Roll Your Mother Across the Floor."

Here's how you play:
1. Ask your mother to curl up into a ball on the floor, preferably carpeted (for her sake).
2. Push your mother - with your arms, legs, just throw your whole body into it - until she begins to roll. This will take quite a bit of effort.
3. When your mother stops rolling, which will happen almost immediately, push again. And again.
4. Repeat until your mother reaches the other side of the room or crashes into a piece of furniture.
5. Start again from the opposite side. Be sure to step on your mother's hair at least twice. It may sound like she's crying out in pain, but it's actually sheer enjoyment.

(You'll have to just picture this in your head because there is NO WAY I am posting a video.)


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Five is nice

Although I miss R's baby days, I'm starting to realize that having a five-year-old is pretty darn good. It's incredible how much has changed, even in just the last few weeks.

Take today, for example. It was supposed to be rainy and cool, so we were planning our usual grocery shopping and other errands. But it turned out to be warm and sunny, so we changed plans and headed outside to work on the yard. For hours, A and I mowed, raked, pruned, swept, and watered. Meanwhile, R ran around, played in the yard by himself, and helped us with raking and by watering our seedlings. This is lightyears from where we were even last year. A and I have never been able to spend time working in the yard for more than 20 minutes without having to split up so that one of us could keep an eye on/entertain R. Later, I took a nap(!!) while R played in the house and A tooled around on the computer. R being able to entertain himself safely for longer periods of time than ever before is such an amazing, freeing thing.

In that same vein of freedom, R now takes showers (all I have to do is squeeze shampoo into his hands) and attends to his own bathroom activities. Bathtime hasn't been a fun time for us in quite a while, so removing that stress has been wonderful. And, I can't remember the last time I had to wipe a teeny butt! ('Cause mine sure ain't teeny. LOL.)

R is so helpful and considerate. He seems to actually enjoy helping me around the house now and is very proud of himself when he does. He says incredibly sweet and sensitive things. In the morning, he asks me, "Did you sleep well, Mommy?"

Going anywhere just isn't as complicated as it used to be. We don't have to remember to pack snacks, water, a change of clothes, toys, etc. when leaving the house. We can hop in the car without too much thought. R even puts his own shoes on (most of the time). And, he'll check the weather outside and decide for himself if he needs a jacket or other warm clothes.

I think some of my favorite things about this age, though, are R's interests and curiosity. I love finding him sitting on his bedroom floor, poring over a Donald Duck or Calvin & Hobbes comic book. Or, doing experiments. The other day he pulled out our two kitchen thermometers and went around taking the temperature of different things. I helped him pour a glass of water from the pitcher in the fridge, and when he read the temp. on the water, he asked me to put in some ice cubes so he could see what happened. Then, he experimented with adding more water and pouring water out. He keeps making off with our tape measure to measure everything he sees - the counters, his toys, the walls, the tv remote, my butt (I swear this post will not mention my butt in every paragraph).

He's fascinated with nature and physics and how everything works, and he has tons of questions. Last night, we had a special family tv night where we ate dinner in the living room and watched the two-hour National Geographic special, "Waking the Baby Mammoth." We figured R would tire of it after a little while. Ha! He was glued to the tv the entire time; meanwhile, A and I both fell asleep (because we were tired, not because it was boring). :-) R has been talking about the baby mammoth - and the scientists who studied her - non-stop since last night. He wants to watch it again - AND the "Disappearance of the Megabeasts" special that was advertised during the special. He insists that he's going to be a scientist when he grows up. (Just like his Aunt Ericka!)

At R's annual doctor's visit this week, we didn't even need to be there. He answered all of the doctor's questions himself and he was so brave during his four shots. A and I just sat there feeling useless - and proud.

I think I'm finally starting to come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be mom to another infant or toddler. But life is so nice right now, and R is so much fun to be with, and it's so amazing to watch him grow and learn, that that's okay.

This year with R is going to be full of new things and new adventures. And, I can't wait!

Now, I must put me and my ever-expanding butt to bed. These new adventures usually require a lot of energy. :-)