Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dynamic Uno

At the age of two, going on three, Mary loves making matches. Finding the pair to each of her favorite animals when we play the game of Memory. Picking out the right color bow to accent her party dress. And assigning a sidekick to the characters she plays on a daily basis. We all have a role.

Eva is Woody to her Buzz.  Daddy is Captain Hook to her Smee; Hans to her Anna; and Peter Pan to her Tinkerbell. I'm Mommy Lion to her Lion Cub; Flounder to her Ariel; and the Scarecrow to her Dorothy.

Bobby is the baby version of them all; Baby Prince Hans, Baby Peter Pan, Baby Sebastian, and the Baby Lion. He's also the baby dinosaur that wrecks castles, towers and dollhouses. And occasionally he plays the troll.  
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But lately, I can tell that Bobby is graduating out his babyish character. He's holding his own; not letting go of the toy that Mary wants, not falling over when he gets pushed out the way, roaring just as loud as the lioness, and making up characters all his own.

It could be his size. Now just a couple pounds shy of Mary's weight, he's a little harder to push aside. It could be the few words he now says and the many more that he understands. Or maybe it's the big milestone he passed this weekend.

On Saturday, Bobby turned one, and we celebrated all weekend long. It was largely a family affair. And an extended, grand one at that. Sushi dinner on Friday night, smoked salmon brunch on Saturday morning, Grandma's saucy spaghetti and meatballs with Chianti Classico that night, and an expedition downtown that started with prayers at Old St. Pat's and ended in the photo booth at City Winery on Sunday. Cake, party hats, balloons, presents, tots and toasts. Crumbs, blue icing, tissue paper, and little white sprinkles scattered throughout every corner of my house. Good people, good food, good photos, great memories. Really tired Mommy.
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Regardless of his age, weight or developmental milestones, I think he's simply had enough of being the baby brother, the baby everything. He's ready to be a more substantial playmate - the actionable uno to complete Mary's Dynamic Duo.

God speed, little one. But a little advice. If she tries to put you in Time Out (so sorry, Cora!), run, RUN, and then get Mommy.

Lo.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One About You

For 25 years it was mostly about me.

For five years after that, it was largely about him.

Then it was all about her.

A year ago, we ran out of time for it just to be about him, her or me. It became the story of us. Finding a way to get through a day, a week, a month together. Dinner times, bath times, and story times together. Parties, vacations, and Masses together. Runs, bike rides, pools, oceans, and every adventure in between together.

Tomorrow though and in my thoughts tonight, Bobby, I want to make to make it all about you. And rightly so.

Bobby,

You came into this world as #4. (Which is a great number.) It just means there were others before you, who (given your cool temperament) tend to cry a little louder, demanding a little more attention.

I feel bad in a way that I can never just hold you, be with you without a distraction getting in between us. The cry of 'Mommy!' Or the rings and dings and upward swings of work call me away too quickly too often. Even when we arrived home from the hospital a year ago, when all you needed was the warmth, nourishment, and tender love of your mommy, I was called in different directions. But no matter what, there always seems to be another set of welcoming arms ready to embrace you. And you love every hug you can get.

On the eve of your first birthday, I want my reflections to be all about you. I want you to know a bit more about the sweet little boy you've become.

First, you are adorable. Like everyone that sees you, wants to eat you up adorable. And your happy personality makes you even more edible.

You've got the most squeezable thighs and cheeks (the ones on your face), and the cutest little feet that are just about ready to prop up your body as you gain confidence in your stance and stride.

You light up when you see your Mommy and Daddy and big sister in the morning. You jump up and down in your crib ready to start the day; ready to be reunited with the people you love most.

You say Mama and Dada now. You pick up anything that could resemble a phone and say, 'hello.' You clink cheers and practically say it. You wave hello and goodbye. And you love any opportunity to clap.

You love milk. The milk I produced for you for a year, your brief stint with formula and now the Red Milk (as Mary calls it.) You love your bottle and the promise it holds.

You also love anything I put on your plate to eat. Food. Bring it on.

You love to pound on things; you love cooking with my pots and pans and cooking in your play kitchen in the basement; you love to match all my lids with the right pots and then pound them firmly on top. You love giving your Mommy a headache.

You love the bathtub. You love splashing. And you love trying to drink your baby wash. You hate getting dressed, but you love the bottle and stories that follow this tortuous time of the night. 

You love your crib. And the stuffed owl that lives in it. You don't have a name for him yet, but you love picking him up by his stubby little wings and attacking him with your hugs and slobbery kisses.

You still wake up in the middle of the night, but I figure it's personal. You still want that time with me and while sleepy, I don't mind a bit.

I can tell you love life. You love the people, places, and adventures it holds. I can tell you've loved your first year. And know how much I've loved it too. I just can't believe you are already one - already a little boy. But know you will always be my baby.
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Lo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Remotely

On Sunday afternoon, as I was driving to the airport, I mentally reassured myself that everything was going to be okay. The laundry was done, the house was clean, dinner was made for Sunday and Monday nights, the kids were about ready to nap, and most importantly Daddy seemed ready for the week's challenge ahead. I convinced myself that the plane there wouldn't crash, the plane back wouldn't blow up, and that by Wednesday night, we would all be safe, sound and reunited in one piece.

Work took me to Seattle and Little Rock this week. I had been dreading the back to back flights and nights away for awhile. But with my Mom's frequent reminder that 'this too shall pass' in the back of my mind, I boarded and flew west.

My two day visit in Seattle enhanced my (very) limited experience of this coastal terrarium. While previously, I was in and out of a little town called Snoqualmie, I actually got to inhabit metro Seattle this time around, and noted several things.

It's rainy. A permacloud seemed to rain down on its citizens every hour of the day. And because of this routine weather prediction, people seem to have stopped caring about getting wet. No one carries an umbrella. Everyone wears a hat / hood. Or they have really bad hair.

It's casual. I guess people figure if I'm going to be wet all day, I might as well be comfortable. It is also heavily tattooed, pierced, and bearded. And AWESOME per a t-shirt I saw on a bearded tattooed man on Tuesday morning.

It's got a significant population of homeless people. And those homeless people can get feisty; two specific sightings included one man assaulting another and one man trying to light a tree on fire with his Zippo lighter. 'Not cool,' said the wet liberal collegiate passing him.

Finally, there are a lot of people like that verbal student. The city is young, liberal, and progressive, down to their McDonald's restaurants. And one of my favorite people fits the profile perfectly.
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I met up with, Matt, a former Eleven co-host and steak for two sharer, for dinner on Monday night. We went to a sushi restaurant called Momiji in the Capitol Hill area of the city. While we noshed on melt in your mouth hamachi, sipped Shochu, and caught up on two lives that went in two different directions, I somehow achieved a greater sense of peace and confidence in the world again. Good people with good hearts have that affect on me. Pure magic. Or per Matt, pure Zen.
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Twenty four hours later, I was in Little Rock, Arkansas listening to hints of gun rights and eerie whispers from the days of segregation. It was a commuter trip; in and out; but with a couple of hours to spare between a successful presentation and a flight home, I took my sister's advice and paid a visit to Little Rock Central High School, site of the 1957 integration crisis for the Little Rock Nine.
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A couple blocks away, I visited the Capitol, where I could only hope that the legislators were working toward achieving equal rights, access to education, and a future that won't destroy the progress we have made as a nation. 
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With that I was back to the airport, waiting to board again, ready to click my heels and be home.

It's no secret that I hate being away from my family. And for that matter can dread traveling for work. But what I realized over the past few days is that I need to nurture relationships outside of my house and outside of my office to keep myself nourished. And while the past 36 hours were certainly challenging on everyone waiting at home, I've got to say I enjoyed them. The people I met, the places I saw, and the lessons I learned.

I just got home, new book for Mary in hand. After a big hug, I read her The Sneetches. And we're going to bed safe, sound and reunited.
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*The portrait of the kids above was taken by Park City photographer, Carla Boecklin. Check out her site at CarlaBoecklin.com

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hello

While Bobby's been communicating with me since the day he was born, he has really started to verbalize his thoughts and needs over the past few weeks.

Something drops and he says, 'uh oh.' He likes something and claps his hands (which simultaneously means 'yeah!' and you better do that again.) He clinks his cup to say 'cheers!' He sticks out his tongue and makes an angry face for comedy. He whines and says 'nom nom' when he's hungry and says 'ahhh' when he wants my water. And his wave is now accompanied by a little greeting.
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The greeting started as 'haaaa' but with two new toy phones we received as Christmas gifts, and all the iPhones that circulate around him on a daily basis, he has started to say 'hawo'
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The enthusiastic salutation came at a perfect time too. Last week we ventured out West to meet up with my side of the family to celebrate the holidays and my Mom and Dad's 40th wedding anniversary.
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Although he didn't say it specifically, I'm thinking his ever present wave in Park City, meant something like hello mountains, hello snow.
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Hello Mom and Dad. Nana and Opa.
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Hello aunts, uncles and cousins.
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Hello skiers. And snowboarders. 
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Hello apres ski. And apres dinner.
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Hello vacation. Hello fun. 
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While on holiday we also celebrated my parents saying 'hello' to a lifetime spent together. 40 years ago on January 3, in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, my Mom and Dad said hello to marriage. They said hello to shared hopes and a shared faith. They said hello to a shared living space, car, bills, and responsibilities. They said hello to kids, school uniforms, ballet recitals, ball games, and ski lessons. They said hello to dad jokes and punch lines centered on mom. They said hello to kids first and them second. They said hello to significant others, grand kids, and more chairs around the family dinner table. They said hello to Nana and Opa's day care and extending the sleeping arrangements in a rental house to the laundry room. They said hello to love and the potential it created.

As I iced my Grandma's New Years Pretzel on the 2nd, I wondered if 40 years ago they envisioned the extent of their hello; how many people would have been touched by it and how many memories it would have created. I wondered if they imagined getting to this milestone, slicing off a piece of the massive pretzel to celebrate, a photographer documenting the smiling leaves on their ever growing family tree, and a vacation house filled with as much noise as love.
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My parents have obviously taught us well. We are really good at hellos, despite the awkwardness of our hugs at times. What we're not good at is goodbyes. 'Bye bye' is not part of Bobby's vocabulary yet. Hey, we just got Mary to say night night. One step at a time.
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Goodbyes always come with some emotion in my family. One teary eye affects the next. Text messages with a ;miss you already' follow. And it's usually my little extension of the family that has the saddest parting as we live so far away from the roots of it. So instead we focus on the next hello. The next celebratory come together on the calendar.
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Until then, as Bobby says hello to our routine again, I'll say thank you to my parents for saying hello to each other. And in it, saying hello to my life and all the love and joy in it. Including yet another wonderful vacation. 

Lo.