Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I've Done On My Summer Vacation...

Last year, I bid farewell to my summer job. While it was a great gig--teaching acting and improv at my beloved Summer Stage--I ended each summer exhausted and frantic that I hadn't really gotten to take advantage of SUMMER. I felt guilty that I wasn't spending QT with my munchkins. And while it is still August (and I am holding on to every last blessed second), I wanted to pause and reflect on what has been a truly blissful summer with my fam.

JUNE -Pretty much the second my final faculty meeting ended, NR and I jumped on a plane to attend his 20th high school reunion. We dove into the world of, found a lovely little condo in Mar Vista, and spent 5 glorious (guiltily kid-free) days catching up with friends and family on the Left Coast. The actual reunion was fantastic--he attended Loyola High School of Los Angeles, a truly excellent boys' school (and Jesuit to boot). I felt very proud of the boy he was and the man he has become, and grateful that our children get to attend private schools as well.

-Once we returned, the kids attended a few camps (basketball, gymnastics, and nature camps). We had a few free mornings where we got to go the gym together, have a leisurely breakfast, hang out at the adult pool (which has loomed like an illustrious oasis for years), and I even got NR to try hot yoga! It was such a luxury to start our summer by hard to do when we're all caught up in the hamster wheel of the school year.

-NR had a conference in Boston, so the kids and I tagged along and made a vacation out of it. But a few nights before our trip, I started having anxiety nightmares. I've never been alone with them--in a strange city--for any amount of time, much less three days. While I've navigated cities on my own before, it's one thing to get lost by yourself (as I often do). I had visions of TJ wandering off at a museum, or Kelly rushing out into traffic. And of course on our first day of adventure, it was pouring rain. Undeterred, I bundled the kids up in their raingear, filled them up on Au Bon Pain, and let my good friend Suri take us where we needed to go. We explored the Boston Public Library, the New England Aquarium, and rode both the swan boat and the Ducks. But the unplanned, in-between times were probably the most when we happened upon a children's concert in a random map room of the library, or the kids being equally entertained/grossed out when I had to eat salad with my fingers (when the Wendy's cashier forgot to give me utensils), or when they played leapfrog on the "Make Way For Ducklings" statues at the Boston Public Gardens with their cousin Kate. It was a bit of a turning point for me as a mom--having the courage and confidence to be a tourist with my kids, sans partner. It would have been so much easier and less stressful to hole up in the hotel and watch TV all day...but thank God I fought the fear and forged ahead.

-From Boston we traveled up to Maine, where we've spent several summers at Aunt Meg's lake cabin. Not a whole lot to do but fish, hang out, and attend the Annual Egg Festival (yup, that's a real thing). TJ is definitely a nature-lover, so it's beautiful to see him in his element. And not to sound patronizing, but I get a huge kick out of rural small-town life. I mean...Egg Festival.

-Camping! I have finally, officially "been camping" at age 37. (Not counting the time my very young, very poor, and very dumb parents decided to take their teething 6-month-old camping.) French Creek State Park is the perfect place for a camping novice: electricity if you need it, bathrooms and showers within walking distance, and lots to do (pool, boat rentals, fishing, etc.) I turned off my phone for 24 hours and just tuned in to nature and my family...and wow, was it glorious. I might even go for 2 days next time. ;D

-I made a promise that my next theatrical endeavor would be one my kids could see. So I auditioned for "The Jungle Book" and was cast as Bagheera the Panther. And now, for the love of my children, I will prance around in a leotard, tail, fuzzy ears and full face paint for 6 nights in a row, starting next Tuesday. The things we do for our craft...and our kids.

And now I'm off to enjoy the sunset of summer...celebrating my sister's engagement to a wonderful guy (yay!), meeting up with my best friend from college (wahoo!)...seeing Tina Fey as she comes back to host a fundraiser at Summer Stage (sweet!)...jury duty (blergh)...and pretending to plan curriculum (slides down wall in dramatic waif-like fashion).

But damn...if I ever have a summer half as gratifying and lovely as this one...I'll be a lucky, lucky gal.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Pink Chair

When my sister was a toddler, she was a bit...rambunctious. Ironically, the doctors originally thought she had a speech or hearing problem, since she didn't verbalize much as a baby. But oh man, once she started yapping...she never stopped.

Needless to say, my parents often had to discipline her. And as any parent of more than one child quickly discovers, what works with your first will undoubtedly NOT work with your second. So while a stern word of warning was usually enough to send me into submission, my darling baby sister would laugh or run away or keep right on doing what she wasn't supposed to.

One tactic that did work, however, was the pink chair. We had two pink rocking chairs, and Miss Thing was usually exiled to one of them for "quiet time." She would rock violently in the chair, toppling the lamp on the adjoining end table, until finally she settled down. On one afternoon, my mom forgot about her (since she usually whipped the chair around to face the window) until a tiny little voice piped up, hours later, "Am I done?"

Well, I have now inherited one of The Pink Chairs. But I don't use it for discipline. It took the place of TJ's glider when baby #2 came along. I insisted on still having some sort of rocking chair in his room, since rocking has always been our thing. We spent countless hours rocking in our old apartment in Jersey City, as I sang every showtune I could think of to soothe his ceaseless cries. During his toddler years, in the thick of particularly terrible tantrums, we would often retreat to rocking as his tears streamed onto my shoulder, and I'd sing the theme song to "Thomas the Tank Engine" to calm him down. Once the tantrums trailed off, he would still request some rocking at bedtime, after our prayers and stories.

The Pink Chair hasn't been utilized as a rocker for some time now. It's normally a catch-all for clothes or Lego works-in-progress, or where I read the latest "Harry Potter" at bedtime.

So last night--TJ's final night as a 6-year-old--I cleared off The Pink Chair. After reading about Professor Umbridge and her reign of terror, I asked, "Hey Teege...want to rock?"

He looked up at me, puzzled. "Okay," he agreed after a minute.

I hoisted his lanky big-boy frame up onto my lap. His feet dangled past my knees. I adjusted him so his head could rest on my shoulder, but gosh...when did he get so darn tall?

We rocked for a while. I reminded him how we used to rock a lot when he was younger. And I couldn't help but quote from a book we haven't read for a while now...

I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be

He laughed. "Oh yeah, I remember that book."

I squeezed him tight, and let him climb into bed.

Going downstairs, I realized, sadly, that this was probably the last rocking. He's so big. He doesn't need it.

At 5:30 this morning, however, a little voice woke me up. "Mom, I'm scared. Will you snuggle with me?"

Yes. Always.