Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What I Learned While Not Having The Best Summer Ever

Well it definitely was NOT the best summer ever. It wasn't even close. I'm trying to think of a few days, or even parts of days that were really really good and am having a hard time coming up with more than just two or three. If someone had told me a few months ago what the summer held in store, I would have laughed (nervously) at the idea of so many things being piled on all at once. But, as Forrest Gump said, "You never know what you're gonna get," and while I didn't know what I was gonna get, I did manage to pick up a few lessons from the summer vacation that officially ends tonight:

  • Knees are delicate objects and do not enjoy being pulled apart in strange directions. They heal slowly and can manage to screw up all kinds of other body parts while they do.
  • What may seem to be the most well constructed hose under a relatively new sink can burst suddenly with no provocation or warning and create the most unbelievable chaos in its wake.
  • Not all friendly contractors are your friend.
  • Celebrating your birthday at a restaurant with your three children, no matter how much you love them, does not make for a relaxing evening and
  • One table with three children can make significantly more noise than another with four, five, or more. Who the hell can count with that screeching in my ear?
  • My favorite relaxation DVD is immensely more effective if I turn on the DVD player and actually go through the routines.
  • No matter what, it's always a good day at the beach.
  • It doesn't matter how old you get, you still need your mom and dad.
  • Even the most stubborn four year old can be taught to swim.
  • Scrapbooking really is therapy. My therapist told me.
  • Not all home inspectors inspect for asbestos. It is a good idea to verify this before signing closing papers.
  • Going out to eat gets really old, really fast.
  • Certain four year old boys think nothing of dropping their pants and showing off their tushie at the public library, say, or at a nice-ish restaurant because their mother hasn't been humiliated enough yet.
  • Of all the cute things babies do, talking is the cutest.
  • I need to spend more time in my unconscious, whatever that means.
  • Soccer camp is fun! Especially when there are cute coaches with cute British accents! It's fun for the kids too.
  • Depression and anxiety are very real things with emotional and physical symptoms that can leave you reeling. Luckily, there is all sorts of help and relief out there when you start looking for it.
  • I am blessed to be surrounded by a network of friends, family and others who I've learned I can depend on for so much. While learning to accept others' help is difficult, it's a wonderful feeling to know that I have my own, strong, personal parachute that keeps me aloft and prevents me from falling too far.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's A Wiggles World

It all started when Julia was a toddler and the Disney channel would play short clips of 4 Australian guys singing cheery songs in between shows. Little did we know that the Wiggles were on the cusp of world domination.

We bought her a Wiggles CD and joyously all sang along and laughed as she mispronounced all the words. Eventually, the CD got stolen out of my car, she outgrew the music and we became a full-fledged Thomas family. That's right, by this time Ethan had joined our family and as much as he liked an occasional Elmo or Blue's Clues, he was, and still remains, a Thomas fan through and through. That is, until a couple of months before his 4th birthday (the one he almost didn't get to have because boys who still wear diapers have to stay 3) when he suddenly fell in love with Greg, Murray, Anthony and Jeff and declared that he wanted a Wiggles birthday party. The stars aligned, I found a bunch of Wiggles party stuff on clearance and the party was a success.

Of course by now Mr. Bunch had also joined our family and little did we know it but his little ears had been listening to all that Wiggles music all along. So much so that when he started saying Giggo Giggo and we all thought it was so cute, my MIL correctly deciphered it as actually his attempt to say Wiggles. All of a sudden our Tivo went into Wiggles overdrive. This kid whose attention span is shorter than a Lindsey Lohan stint in rehab (i.e. don't blink) will actually sit through a 25 minute episode of the Wiggles.

This was a really really good thing until we went from having three working televisions to one. As anyone knows, the youngest member of any family runs the household. So here we sit in our overheated master bedroom, watching episode after episode of Giggo Giggo. Though we have several episodes recorded, it's not uncommon to find us watching the same episode more than once a day. The little guy will not still sit for Sesame Street or, much to his older siblings' dismay, Wow Wow Wubzy or Spongebob Squarepants or anything else. Giggo it must be. And in the car, we get to watch and listen to Wiggles DVDs. This is what I mean by world domination.

Thankfully, I've always liked the Wiggles. Their songs are cheerful and catchy and they don't get on my nerves like they do several of my mommy friends'. I'd much rather listen to an endless loop of Hot Potato than one performance of insipid Barney, for example, singing I Love You, You Love Me. So our little Wiggles obsession could be much worse to tolerate than it is.

The funniest part of all this is that now Julia is a born-again Wiggles fan. She loves the shows, she likes the songs and she jumps out of her seat to dance along. She's even got the choreography down. She probably would prefer that her friends think she spends her days watching Hannah Montana, but the truth is much sweeter.

You might be tempted to post a comment about the perils of too much television for children. Don't bother. I have no floors; basically, no downstairs. If Giggo is going to get my kid to sit still while I feed him and save me from having macaroni and cheese smeared into my bedroom carpet, then bring it on. If three kids will sit down and be quiet and not ask me for one more thing for 25 minutes so I can figure out which fire to put out next, then thank the Lord. And if these Wiggles will distract my babies from the fact that their house is a disaster, their mom has lost her mind and their dad is a little broken, then it's a miracle indeed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Beach Day

As far as I'm concerned, it's not summer until I've been to the beach. From the time I was little, I remember family beach trips where my dad would bury me in the sand up to my neck. As a teenager, there were many spur-of-the-moment beach trips with my friend Susie. Just one phone call and we'd be on our way to pick up our favorite deli sandwiches (which we had to guard from the seagulls), put the top down on her convertible VW Bug and head down to Zuma. From Hawaii to the Virgin Islands, I've spent a lot of happy moments at the beach and love going back whenever I can.

Now, with a family of 5 and a husband who doesn't share my love affair with sunshine (to put it mildly), we don't go very often but still manage one or two trips every summer. Usually our favorite spot is Paradise Cove which is a little more secluded and has parking right there, a restaurant and a pier to explore. When we showed up yesterday, however, it felt like the rest of L.A. had gotten there first. Not only was the weather hot hot hot but the beach was crowded and the restaurant was a madhouse. As we sat there sweating and waiting endlessly for our lunch I started questioning the wisdom of leaving my quiet, sand-free backyard pool for the heat, sand and chaos of the beach. We must have looked like some pissed-off Orthodox family, sitting there with our clothes on, huddled in the shade of our umbrella.

After we ate, Julia wanted me to help her get some water for her sandcastle and that's when everything turned around. It was a case of "just add water" and all of a sudden the fun started and the day was perfect. The breeze at the edge of the water was cool and refreshing and it was so hot that the normally icy Pacific water felt positively pleasant. My kids, who until yesterday, steered clear of the cold water eventually made their way closer (after a couple of cold and traumatic waves hit them and hysteria had to be abated) and couldn't get enough. Poor Brady was a little confused for a while. There were a lot of new sensations for him to take in. But by the end of the day even he was having fun playing in the sand with his brother and sister.

I was finding it hard to imagine that a day at the beach could actually turn out bad and I was happy that my predictions were unfounded. My happy beach memories remain intact and we added a few new ones. It doesn't look like we'll be making it back this year. It's just too hard to coordinate with the little one and all our junk and needing an extra body there to help keep an eye on everyone. But I look forward to spending much more time at the beach as the kids get older. The ocean is such a wonderful part of living in California and I'm thrilled that my kids have taken to it and love it as much as I always have.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's My Mommy's Birthday

I can't count how many times I've posted about being in a tough spot and having my mom totally save me. Today, on her birthday, I'll do it again. It's impossible to imagine getting through the last few months without her. Even before our little water episode, she was here practically every day just to take the kids off my hands so I could sleep, rest, go to the doctor and figure out my messed up brain. She took the kids out, did my grocery shopping, fed everyone (which is her specialty), and was here whenever we asked. She's my go-to babysitter and almost never says no, even if it means dragging my 3 crazy kids along to one of her many social engagements.

So today, on her birthday, what will she be doing? She'll be cooking, of course. And then she'll be helping my sister get ready for her big charity bake sale this weekend. Those are some things that can never be far from my mom. She's an amazing cook, to a fault. Sometimes, it's OK to close the kitchen! And she's been donating and raising money for various charities for as long as I can remember. She gives blood regularly (the thought of which makes me a little squeamish) and is constantly hitting up friend and stranger alike for one of her current causes. That is to be admired.

Of course, I feel guilty that between my delicate emotional state and my disaster at home, I haven't been able to properly prepare for her birthday. Nevertheless, we'll be getting together for a family gathering this weekend and we'll have our celebration then. When the kids wake up this morning, there will be a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" and we'll go from there.

Happy Birthday Goobie. We love you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Noah's Ark at the Skirball

This week is Ray's long-planned vacation. We didn't think it was wise to spend the money to go out of town somewhere, so we had planned on staying home, eating out a lot, going to local attractions, spending time in the pool and going to the beach. We had not planned on having our floors ripped out and our furniture piled in a corner underneath drop cloths. Nevertheless, the flood gives us additional motivation to get out of the house so yesterday we took the kids to the new Noah's Ark exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The exhibit is comprised of a practically life-size ark and all the animals you could imagine. What makes it phenomenal for kids, however, is that the entire exhibit is interactive. There are buttons they can push to create the storm and the ensuing flood. They can load the animals on the ark, two by two, of course. There are puzzles, lights, stories and all kinds of things for them to play with and discover. The animals have been created out of everyday objects, like our friend the hedgehog, above. There is a zebra with a piano mane, tire crocodiles, and a polar bear whose body is an overflowing bathtub. And much, much more.

Everything has been designed with kids' exploration in mind and you never have to say "Don't touch!" On the contrary, they are encouraged to touch, and peek, and poke, and play, and climb. That's right, climb! There is a climbing room where kids (and parents....and grandparents) can go up rope ladders to explore the ark and make the elephant move his trunk and trumpet. While it took Ethan 3 tries to finally muster up the courage to go all the way up the ladder (having come back down after climbing halfway up the first two times) there were other kids who were able to get up but then were scared to come down. Luckily, the gallery security guard is a good sport and climbed up to get each of the little ones who would otherwise have been stuck up there indefinitely. When the kids have had their fill of climbing and searching, there is a rainbow room where they can relax and color their own set of animal cards. The down time is great after the excitement of the ark.

Reservations are recommended, but we got in without one after a long wait, which we spent having lunch. If you go, you might consider bringing your own snacks because the snack bar pickings are a little slim (decent salads and sandwiches but nothing other than PB&J for the kids) and the snack bar doesn't take credit cards.

My older kids both expressed their delight at the exhibit and have already asked to go back. Brady was just excited to be out of his stroller with so many new things to explore. I was thrilled to find out that this exhibition is now permanent. We will definitely return with our kids and I look forward to showing out of town guests one of the newest things L.A. has to offer.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pity Party

Despite my best efforts to find silver linings and bright sides to my current predicament, there are some things that I'm having a hard time overlooking:

  • The sound of chisels, hammers, and even a jackhammer coming from downstairs, pretty much all day for the last two days. And we got an extra early start today.
  • Having spent more money than we ever imagined we could on a nice big home, only to be holed up in one hot hot hot sweaty bedroom...half the time in the dark.
  • The fact that all these fans and equipment running in the house are putting such a strain on our home's overloaded electrical equipment that I can hardly turn on a light, or a fan, or try to make toast for my kids without tripping a circuit. Taking a shower in pitch black is not a fun adventure.
  • Our plumber telling us that in 13-14 years of work, he'd seen a "spontaneous burst" like ours (i.e. total fluke, no reason for it) only 4 times.
  • Hearing my kids tell me that they no longer like their new house.
  • That my poor little toddler has nowhere to toddle.
  • The collective B.O. of 7 workers wafting up my stairwell.
  • Being back at square one with so many aspects of moving, organizing, decorating.
  • Not knowing when this will all be over. And just what the next catastrophe will be.
There, I feel a little better.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

When It Rains, It Floods

Suffice it to say that this summer hasn't quite turned out exactly the way I was expecting.

It started back in June when my poor husband who was content to stay at his desk and work while his cohorts attended a golf tournament was pretty much ordered by his boss to go along. A misstep off the wet grass resulted in a dislocated knee and a long recovery which still isn't over. The knee problems led to very painful back problems which led to a hypersensitive nerve that causes even something like the sensation of his shirt on his skin to be uncomfortable.

This happened as I was congratulating myself for weaning my little guy and therefore, I thought, hastening the end to the months of hormonal flux that was causing me more than a little emotional discomfort of my own. It turns out my relief was short-lived and definitely premature. Last week when the waves of anxiety came back and brought back with them terrible fatigue, nausea, and other emotional and physical symptoms, I realized that this isn't anything I can try to handle on my own anymore and talked to my doctor again. My current theory is that this is post-partum depression that has been there all along, unacknowledged and untreated, waiting for a break in childcare, moving, etc. to show up and demand attention. So it's getting attention and I've been feeling hopeful that these days will pass and I'll be back to my old self again soon and feel better able to handle life and all its ups and downs.

I didn't realize that I'd get the opportunity to test myself so quickly. This morning, when Ray got up to take some medicine around 5, he head the sound of running water. When he went downstairs to investigate, he stepped off the bottom step into two inches of water.

A pipe had burst under our kitchen sink, and you can imagine the rest. Water everywhere. Everywhere. We spent the day in clean-up mode. Mold is a real threat. So our beautiful walls that we had painted before we moved in 4 months ago have had the baseboards ripped off and a foot of drywall cut out to prevent water from seeping up into them. Our gorgeous wood floors are now ripped up and our furniture is all over the place. The kids were out of sorts this morning as they tried to figure out why they couldn't watch TV or play with their toys. Julia has announced that she no longer likes our house. Hopefully she'll feel differently when this is all over. Who knows when that will be?

Of course there's a bright side to every calamity and ours is no different. This could've been much, much worse. Offers of support have come in from friends and family. My parents were here practically as soon as I called, taking care of my boys and me and everything all at once. Never mind that my mom has been nothing short of an angel for the past week, here practically every day, with the singular focus of helping me get better (and feeding me). We don't call her Saint Violet for nothing.

Throughout this crazy day, I only had one moment of sheer despair. That was when I realized that years worth of pictures, probably close to a thousand, meticulously organized and sitting in a giant canvas basket on the floor of my scrap room, had been subject to the water. Along with my awesome dad and husband, we were able to save just about every single photo, although I did lose some lovely memorabilia. I got very, very lucky. My pictures will never again be stored in anything that's not water-proof. Of all the things I ever thought would attack my photos and my home, a flood wasn't ever on the list. Now I know better. But it'll be OK and we'll get through this intact. I can't promise the same for my sanity.