Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Do!

As a married woman, I think the world's best date night is attending someone else's wedding. There is romance, you're surrounded by good mutual friends of the bride or groom, you get fed, and you can dance the night away.  You don't have to stress about the color of the table linens or worry about the seating chart.  All you have to do is show up.

I'm not saying that being a bride wasn't fun.  Because it was.  But it was also a load of stress.  The ridiculous details that cause you to lose sleep while planning a wedding can be overwhelming.  Being a wedding guest is like re-living your own wedding day and leaving the planning to someone else.  So maybe it's actually like being a groom.  Because when you're a groom, the wedding plans itself.  HA!

Hubby and I attended a wedding of an old Army friend this weekend.  The bride served 14 months in Iraq with my husband and their Military Police unit.  Whenever this squad gets together, it's always a good time and this wedding was no exception.  The venue was lovely, the bride was beautiful, the guests were fun and enthusiastic about their love for the happy couple.  There was an adorable flower girl, a precious ring bearer, and wedding colors to match the couple's favorite MLB team, the Oakland A's.  There were tears and laughter and sappy speeches and hours of dancing and sake bombs.  All the makings of a good wedding. 

As we get older, our wedding date-nights have become more infrequent.  Most of our friends are married off now, so we don't often have the opportunity to spend the evening basking in the glow of a couple's new beginning.  So each wedding we attend feels a little more special.  A little bit sacred.  A small moment for us to pause and reflect on the happy union of our friends and our own marriage. 

I savored the quiet moment when the bride and groom exchanged their vows, taking the opportunity to remind myself that we too were once that couple.  We too stood in front of family and friends and boldly pledged to make this union work.  We put on our best clothes, threw a big party and celebrated all that was good in our life together. Sometimes it's easy to forget that. 

As we watched the bride and groom share their first dance together, there was a notable pause in the room.  The conversations quieted.  People stopped to watch.  Couples took a deep breath and leaned in closer to their significant other. I wanted to bottle the magic in that room and take it home with me so I could open it up and breathe it in on the hard days.

Much like you can't fully explain childbirth to someone who has never experienced it, it's difficult to describe marriage to someone who hasn't lived it. To understand something in your head is so different from knowing it through your own experiences.  How do you describe the process of molding two lives together into one family?  It's such an awesome, unexpected, frustrating, joyful, exhausting experience that there is no way to know it without living it. 

When we attend a wedding now I feel a greater appreciation for my own marriage and the road we have traveled.  I am reminded that married life is not all piles of laundry and bickering over the thermostat. There is always a little bit of fairy tale magic in each happily ever after. 

Congratulations, Josh and Shannon!  And thanks for throwing a great party. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On the (Park) Bench

Life is a juggling act.  I realize this is true for many of us, but at this point in my life I truly understand this concept of juggling.  And feeling like a circus clown.  I've got two part-time jobs, three kids at three different schools, a husband, a little blog, and some volunteer commitments.  I'm not sure were the tipping point is between balanced life and crazy life but I fear I may have gone over the edge.

I think some of it is temporary. Only 8.5 more months of shuttling our high school senior to and from school.  After a few more months, I should have a better handle on my new PT gig, all its moving parts and how they operate.  After careful consideration I'm giving up a big volunteer commitment at the end of this year.  It will get better.  I'll master this routine in time.  But for now it really is a circus. 

In the midst of this madness, I realized I have reached a pretty awesome milestone as a mom, and I almost didn't even notice. 

For years, one of my favorite things to do with the kids has been going to the park.  I love being outside.  They love running and exploring new places.  We all enjoy the change of scenery, new friends we might meet and snacks on the picnic benches.  Sometimes we meet up with other friends and the moms/dads chat, cuddle little babies or run after errant toddlers while the older kids go off to conquer the big slide.  Truth be told, these play dates were anything but relaxing for me.  I always seemed to arrive at the park with high hopes of carrying on an adult conversation with another mom, only to be disappointed because I had to run off mid-sentence to catch my young one before he fell off the monkey bars.  I never got to be the mom relaxing at the park.  I was always on high-alert as the spotter/referee. I enjoyed it, but it was action-packed fun as opposed to sitting-on-the-sidelines kind of fun.

Last weekend I hit the park with the kids and found a shady bench to sit and watch them play.  As I sat on the bench, I realized I WAS SITTING!!  AT THE PARK!!  There are benches there specifically for that purpose!  I had never spent more than a few fleeting moments on those benches because I was always spotting little ones as they climbed the ladders, or catching someone on the slide, or kissing boo-boos, or changing diapers, or reminding the kids not to throw rocks or poke each other with sticks. 

And now.  I have arrived.

I blinked and suddenly my kids can conquer every part of the park without my assistance. They are old enough to know their limits, wait for their turn on the slide, and navigate a game of chase without getting kicked in the head near the swing set.  I can take them to the park and simply enjoy being a spectator.  At ages three and six, these kids are creative and adventurous together. The big one likes to make plans and create elaborate story lines or games.  The little one likes to follow along and stretch the limits on where he can go or what he can do to be like his big sister.  They take turns doing silly stunts screaming, "Look at me!" while the other one pauses to be an appreciative audience.  They laugh.  They "cook" elaborate meals out of wood chips and leaves.  They race down the slide and run back to the top to do it again.  Over and over and over. 

Vista Ridge Park.  Redding, CA

They tend to get along with each other better at the park than anywhere else on the planet.  I think they could probably stay there all day long and be perfectly content. 

Which would be just fine by me, actually.  I'll be right over there....enjoying the bench.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Open Letter to Helpful Strangers

Dear Stranger,

I know you see my son in the midst of a melt-down and your heart bleeds for him.  You see his sweet, red face, his big, crocodile tears and you hear his blood-curdling screams.   You scan the crowd frantically for me, his mother, and without words you ask me to "fix" it. 

As I turn around and realize that it is my child creating this scene, I help my son pick up the pieces of his damaged little craft project and try to keep him moving in the direction of our car so we can escape.  He is three.  He is tired.  And he just broke his precious little foam bumble bee.  What this kid needs is some lunch and a nap.  What this mom needs is a sympathetic audience that understands kids sometimes scream.  Occasionally their outbursts seem out of proportion to whatever "wrong" they are experiencing.  That's what being three is all about. 

What this mom doesn't need is a stranger kindly suggesting that I just take him back to the craft area so he can make another one.  Bringing my kid (mid-meltdown) back to the craft area would extend our time in the hot sun, further frustrate mom and child alike, and postpone nap time at least another 20 minutes.  Bad news all around. Luckily my son didn't hear your suggestion, because then I would have had to tell him, "No, sorry honey.  We are going home."  And then you would have seen what a REAL tantrum looks like. 

I know you mean well, kind strangers of the world. But please don't assume the scene of a melt-down is the perfect opportunity to dole out some friendly advice.  When the melt-down starts, kid and mom are in survival mode.  Unless you're shaking a martini for the mom, or quickly twisting an animal balloon for the kid, your intervention is probably not helpful. 

He's going to be fine.  We've got glue at home. 

Moms Everywhere