Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To the parents at my son's party

Dear Parents,

Thanks for attending my son's party held just four weeks before we relocate from Virginia to Washington. Did it seem thrown together? That's because it was! My to-do list is revised every evening and it's overwhelming every morning. I credit my husband for having the wisdom to insist that we not have Kiefer's birthday party at home. That would have done me in for sure. I would have pulled it out and exhausted myself, but that energy needs to be spent elsewhere.

Thanks for not judging me when I wasn't even at my son's party! I was hit upside the head (figuratively, thankfully...though that blow might have hurt less) with a cocktail of bad cold and horrible allergies. I had such a bad headache that I could barely stand up straight. I'm not used to this sort of headache. Please feel free to laugh a little at and with me at the fact that I didn't realize until 2 PM--right smack in the middle of my son's party--that I hadn't had any coffee. So a big chunk of that head ache was preventable and self-induced. Like much in life, I guess. The good news is that after I had a strong cup of joe, most of that headache went away.

Thanks for throwing compliments to my husband when he stood up and stood in for me. He's an introvert and doesn't normally do these things, so I'm glad my absence gave him a chance to shine. And I'm proud of my kids who didn't freak out that their ubiquitous mom wasn't there.

Thanks, also, parents, for cutting me some slack on the cake. The birthday boy wanted chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, and I don't know how to manage that without the vanilla frosting having sprinkles of chocolate cake in it. I apologize for the fact that I only made one two-layer, 9-inch cake--only enough for the kids. But let's face it: Only one of you would have eaten the slice of cake had there been enough to pass around to adults. We party-throwers feel obligated to have enough for the grown-ups, but because moms are the ones who bring their kids to these events, few ever eat the pizza and cake designated for adults.

And I'm sorry for not having a gluten-free or peanut-free option, although I know at least two kids were in this category. I adore your sons but am still trying to figure out if it's my responsibility to provide allergy-free options for your sons. I wanted to go to the fancy cupcake place and get some, but...it didn't happen.

And I am really sorry about the goody bags. I wish we could collectively agree to strip this stupid habit (it's too new to be called I tradition) because none of us wants the candy or junk that is usually in them. I meant to bake cookie medals and tie ribbons around them so the party-goers could wear their medal out and munch on it on the way home (and get even more sugared up!). But then reality hit me: I would have to actually make them. So the birthday boy and his brother and I went to the Party Store and had a fine time finding some fun junk to throw into some goody bags. I know it'll end up in the trash. That's okay. That's where your son's goody bag ended up, too.

Thanks for all the stuff you got my son. You all are so generous! He's going to be doing Legos until he's 25. He'll be putting them together in college. I've stashed a few things away for our upcoming road trip, because I believe that moms should be skilled toy-hiders so that kids don't get overwhelmed by all the new stuff. Already each surface area in my home is covered with an unfinished Lego creation. But he's happy and I'm glad we have the rule of every-other-year parties because I'd go nuts if this happened every year.

Lastly, thanks for being parents I can breathe normally around and admit all of this to... I sure hope that I'm able to find a group of parents out in Washington State that will appreciate my over-achieving baking skills, my sense of humor, my interest in my son's classroom and school while still maintaining a healthy sense of non-mom self... I am going to miss you all.

I'm glad your kid had a good-time at my son's party. I'm glad that it didn't get rained out, like all of our kids' activities in the past few weeks with this crazy rain (that yes, I realize I'm moving to--please forgive me if I don't laugh too much at that!). I wish I had had a cup of coffee earlier in the day so I could have gone, too!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Positive Body Image: Let's Work on THAT Skill

Among the many hats I wear each day--including mother, wife, volunteer, writer--I am also a Crossfitter. For those of you who don't know, Crossfit is a high-intensity workout involving Olympic weightlifting (lifting really heavy barbells off the floor), gymnastics movements (think: pull ups and ring dips), and cardio (running, rowing, jump roping). I've been a Crossfitter for nearly five years and I love it. I throw myself into each workout, leaving my mom- and wife-worries and to-dos at the door as I warm up for the challenging workout ahead.

Crossfit is known for having stripped-down, bare-bones facilities, and ours is no different: Crossfit Reston is an empty warehouse with ropes hanging from the ceiling and pull-up racks lining the walls. The only mirrors are those in the bathrooms. There's not even one in the changing room. And while there should be a shower, there isn't. Summers are fairly stinky around this place.

I work out with an amazing group of women and men. But let me focus on the women for a minute. These women are so strong--they can back squat nearly 200 pounds and lift their body weight over their head. Each workout consists of a few different skills; I'm constantly being humbled because there is constantly something to work out. My jump roping skill might be wanting, my form on a front squat could be improved. My trainer tells me to use my hips more, and I watch with a little envy at a hard-working pal who is able to swing her way into a muscle up.

This is a place for tough chicks, and I'm proud to be one.

Therefore, I was a little thrown off by the conversation the women at the 9:30 class collapsed onto the floor yesterday after a long, intense workout. One woman, whose first son just turned one and who has lost 20 pounds more than just her "baby weight" in the 12 months since his birth, started the conversation about body image. She and a few other women agreed it was so frustrating to see themselves in workout gear or while workout because of the extra jiggle, the extra bounce, the extra roll. That's what their eyes first saw whenever they looked in the mirror. They pinched extra skin around their armpits and waist, saying "I wish I didn't have this."


I wanted to throw my hands up in despair! Why is it that we cannot focus on how our bodies function, and the amazing things our bodies can do for us (such as create babies and lift heavy stuff) rather than what they simply look like? Why can't we work on THAT skill as much as work on the others, ladies? Let's focus on health and well-being, rather than the simple aesthetic of what our bodies look like.

Beauty is more than skin deep. We all know that, but maybe we could remember it a little more often.

Or could we at least wait a few more minutes to trash talk the body that just performed all the crazy skills we asked it to do pretty damn well?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Losing Lulu

We lost our dog Lulu last week. She was officially a "blue" weimaraner, which meant that her coloring was deep gray with brown flecks. Her muzzle has always had lots of gray hairs, giving her an older and wiser and calmer appearance.

And she was wise and calm. She was as good a dog as you could hope for--she had a deep, loud bark to her very last day that was perfect for our house-in-the-woods. But that bark was the meanest thing her sweet body could muster. From that bark on, she was a wiggle-tail greeter, a crumb-finder and affectionate pal who would lie next to me as I wrote in the early morning hour before my children made the house crazy.

I've never lost a dog before. My childhood dog, a golden retriever named Darby, died years after I left the house, while I was working in India. I was too busy seeing the world and experiencing a new culture to feel anything besides a bit of sadness and nostalgia for the days Darby and I spent together a lifetime ago.

So I didn't expect the gut-wrenching blow when I sat with Lulu's sweet head in my lap when the vet put her down. I didn't expect to cry all day long, and even harder when I walked in the door to an empty, dogless house for the first few times. I didn't expect to miss her so much. How one animal filled a house so perfectly never occurred to me until she no longer filled it.

It's been hard living without Lulu, but it's even more difficult watching my children meet Grief for the first time. They've known a few sad times, but nothing more devastating than a tough punishment or saying see-you-later to cousins who are moving.

"Grief," I explained to my nearly 9 year old daughter, "is like Sadness's cousin. It comes when you lose something you love. I don't know what it feels like for you, but for me it feels like my heart is being squeezed, then pulled apart. It hurts."

"How do you make it go away?" she asked through big, sad tears.

"You can't make it go away. That's the bad news," I said, holding her as she cried. "But time helps, and crying helps, and sometimes talking about why you're sad helps. It's part of life. I wish I could protect you from this sort of pain, but I can't. But I can sit with you and hold you and stop lecturing you about Grief."

My sad daughter smiled a little through her tears, and we sat crying together.