Thursday, May 28, 2009

Party Planning

My youngest son turned 3 yesterday and as requested by him, I threw him a "tractor" party. He picked the theme and I planned the party. Yesterday's party was a tractor driven hayride on a strawberry farm followed by a picnic. There was a farm scene cake, fresh strawberries from the farm, and parting gifts of treat filled individual toy barns. And I should mention that the birthday boy was in full John Deere uniform with a green John Deere baseball hat and t-shirt. Over the top? No, just keeping up with the other parties on his social calendar. The preschool birthday party has become so much more than a back yard gathering with ice cream and cake.

Throwing a preschool aged birthday party can be quite involved if you let it. And, I do. Its a creative outlet for me. Sure, many kids could be happy with any simple party as long as it involved cake. But, that's just not me. And apparently, its not my kids either. They have latched onto the idea of themed parties and there's no stopping them now. My kids might not look anything like me, but when I see them spend hours paging through their Oriental Trading Company and Party Express catalogs dreaming up their next party, I know they are mine. When its time to actually plan their next birthday, they throw an idea out there and my work begins.

The planning of a kid's birthday party is serious stuff and can take up some time if you are planning multiple parties a year. You have to scout locations in advance and coordinate them with different theme options. Yes, you can have a great party at your home and I have done this several times. But, I would now gladly pay someone else to host the wild bunch and clean up. Then there is the question of entertainment if the venue does not provide some activity. The cake has to be ordered, or if you are talented enough, designed and made. And lastly, but definitely not the least important piece, is the all anticipated goody bag. The goody bag is gold. The party is a bust if the goody bag is not awesome. It is the rock star SWAG of the preschooler's world.

Yes, there was a day when I threw real parties with such fervor. I focused my energy on the perfect cocktail and appetizer. I had themes that didn't involve the latest Disney/Pixar movie and my husband and I packed an apartment or a house with a lively mix of people with good music and conversation. There were no goody bags, but our parties were still popular. I might even say some of the more wild ones were legendary. Do I miss those parties? Oddly, no. We still have a few gatherings every year, but I now find it so much more enjoyable to plan a kid's party. For as much work that goes into the details of a kid's party, there is so much less stress about the actual party. The guest list is easy: neighborhood gang or preschool class. Food choices are easy: pizza and juice. There's no calculating which group of friends to invite, what food to serve, and what music to play. With a Fall and a Spring birthday to plan a party for, I honestly have no desire to plan many other types of parties.

I may put a lot of effort into these giant events for pint sized people, but there are great rewards. Nothing beats the smiles on my kids' faces when they are enjoying their party. My heart melted yesterday when we were driving out to the farm and my birthday boy said to me with a little voice filled with anticipation, "Mom, I am so excited for my party". How many more years will I really have to do this for my kids? Those tween and teen years will be here soon enough and the hugs and kisses for the "best tractor party ever" will be gone. I realized again yesterday that I will do anything to see pure happiness on my kids' faces. Pure happiness for them is also bliss for me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

School of Rock

It seems there are two schools of thought on what music you listen to with your kids. There are those who drive around all day with Raffi blaring for the sake of their children and there are those, myself included, that cannot bare to listen to kid's music. It actually makes me cringe to get into a car with sing-a-long music playing. I won't do it. And I think my children are better off for it.

Sure, my kids have all of those annoying CDs. We own Raffi, Laurie Berkner, and The Cat's Pajamas. And they do listen to them in their rooms, often at night when they are falling asleep. And, I will admit that on occasion, you will find the "Cars" or "High School Musical" movie soundtracks in my car. Yes, I will admit to listening to those on occasion and I am not ashamed to say that I may even know the words. But, they are music with actual content. They are not songs about baby whales or belly buttons. On most days though, if you were to hitch a ride with us, you would be listening to honest to goodness real music.

I've realized that the first song my 5 year old ever learned the words to was not a kid's song. Once when he was 2 we were in the grocery store and he started singing along with the Muzak, belting out the refrain "Catch My Disease". It didn't even occur to me that him singing was weird until an older woman passing us in the aisle started looking at him funny. It was too hard to explain that he was just singing along with the Ben Lee song that was playing overhead. I just let it go, but I was kind of proud of him that he knew the words, even if they were strange to hear out of context. My kids have been subjected to my taste in music their whole lives and I would have to say they are more comfortable with the music on the radio than any CD they may have in their room.

I love that my kids can name all four Beatles and can recognize a Fleetwood Mac song from the sound of Stevie Nick's voice. I love that my 2 year old will ask for Jack Johnson by name, even if his favorite songs are off the "Curious George" movie soundtrack. And, I'm also loving that they are discovering their own taste in music. Sure, this will evolve over time, but its cool to see my 2 year old grooving to the Beastie Boys and my 5 year old singing "Pour Some Sugar on Me". I've sparked an interest. They now ask me who the performer is with every song that comes on the radio, a test for my knowledge at times. And I quiz them on what instruments we can hear, which they are getting pretty good at identifying.

Should I be embarrassed that the first song my 2 year old knows the words to is "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys? Or, that they both go around town quoting the local radio station's tag line "The Rock You Grew Up With" in the deepest voice they can muster up? I'm not. It is my music that we listen to, some of it current, some of it old, but I use it to teach them some popular culture. Last week we listened to Don McLean's "American Pie" in entirety. They came home that evening giving my husband a history lesson about Buddy Holly and his plane crash. This is how we pass the time in the car.

I would agree that if you were actually paying attention to the verse lyrics on some of their favorites, they may not be appropriate. But, they pick up the refrain and never hear or question the rest. So, I do take some pride in the fact that my 2 year old goes around the house singing "Hey Ho, Let's Go", quoting the Ramone's. And, I don't mind that my 5 year old likes to sing that he will "Rock You Like a Hurricane", quoting the Scorpions. I'm responsible for that. Music is something that my kids and I can share. Maybe as a mom, you really enjoy Raffi's greatest hits, but if not, expose your kids to something great. Let them see a part of you that existed before you made room in your life for G-rated things. In honor of the late Joey Ramone's birthday this week, put on some really great music and share it with your kids - whatever the genre may be. You can thank me later when your kids are humming your favorite song, instead of you cursing that you can't get Baby Beluga out of your head.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Great Expectations

Is it wrong to want to celebrate Mother's Day alone? Every year since I became a mother it is always the same celebration: me spending the day with my husband and children. Brunch is usually involved and every year as we sit down to our meal, I realize again that truthfully, I would have a much better time if I was alone. Yes, I know we should be celebrating with our children because without them we wouldn't have this title, but for some reason every year I have this expectation that this day should be different than the other 364 days. I guess I expect to relax and enjoy my meal out. I agree to the celebratory brunches to avoid cooking and drag my children to places they probably don't belong, only setting myself up for disappointment.

One year we arrived at the restaurant for a special Mother's Day Brunch only to find that although with our reservation my husband had specifically requested a high chair, the restaurant had run out of them. They ran out of high chairs on Mother's Day, probably the biggest day for small children to be dining in restaurants. I had to sit through my meal with a squirmy 1 year old on my lap. And, the restaurant had been so considerate to seat us right next to the open wine racks, that I had no choice but to keep him on my lap. I foolishly had expected to actually eat my meal at the brunch in my honor.

I guess I think of Mother's Day as a holiday for Moms. And I find myself expecting to have the day off in a sense. But I'm now thinking that is just not a realistic expectation if I'm going to spend the day anywhere near my children. My husband told me this year that he thinks of Mother's Day as more of a "celebration of mothers", and maybe I should actually do more mothering on this day. Despite my husband's "hilarious" comment, he generally does try to make Mother's Day special. He always plans the brunch and usually starts off the day giving me a break and handling the kids. He'll change a few extra diapers throughout the day, but as the day drags on, I think he gets burnt out. By 5pm this year, he was asleep on the couch leaving the kids to fend for themselves and me to intervene.

I don't know if its wrong to want to be alone on Mother's Day. I certainly wouldn't judge a mother who decided to. For myself, I do enjoy the excitement my children have helping me celebrate. I've found its just wrong to have certain expectations for this day. If I want to relax and be pampered, then yes, maybe I should spend the day alone at a spa somewhere. But then, I think my children would be disappointed. Another mother was recapping her Mother's Day to me and she and her family basically stayed home for the day. Also, not what I expect out of Mother's Day, but maybe not a bad idea. She certainly didn't seem stressed by her day. It was just another Sunday.

This year I did find myself at a Mother's Day Brunch again. The Country Club this time, but the same scenario as always with my kids falling out of their seats, and me controlling the chaos. I sat down to brunch though this year with a different expectation. Its just another Sunday brunch. My friend with three kids at the table next to us beat us through brunch and commented that she was "so done", while her husband commented that we looked like we were actually having fun. I'm still not sure it was fun. But, I was pleasantly surprised that although my meal was interrupted a few times, I did finish eating. And although my boys were whining that they were finished before I even started eating, I did have time to appreciate that they are the reason that I am a mom. But, I also set the bar low. And, I wasn't disappointed when my 2 year old spilled his Shirley Temple; I expected it. It was just another Sunday brunch.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Super Moms

A kid threw up next to me at Starbucks the other day. I posted a question on Facebook soon after: "What are the odds that I will get sick?" One of my friends, also a nurse and mom commented, "A nurse and mom? You are immune to bodily fluids". I hoped she was right. Do moms possess special immunity, a superhuman immunity? By most definitions, possessing a superhuman quality would deem one a superhero. Do we have special powers giving us superhero status?

The reason I was at Starbucks was to meet with a woman taking over a committee project I had organized. She, also a mom and multi-tasker, had to bring along her daughter in a stroller. About a minute into me explaining the details of the project, her daughter leaned over the tray of her stroller and puked. This was followed by a second eruption down the front of her shirt. The mom swooped in with napkins catching what she could, and with a second swoop she had the tray and most of the little girl's shirt cleaned off. There almost wasn't enough time for me to gag before it was gone - almost. This struck me as an example of the lightning quick speed that moms may share with superheroes. She was wearing an "S" somewhere under her sweater that day.

Of course, not all moms need to be nurses to handle bodily fluids with ease. We've all found bathrooms or receptacles that would make do for our child who is crying, or should I say screaming "I have to pee!" after only giving us 30 seconds notice. And, we have all had the encounter with the diaper explosion. Diaper disasters not only require quick reaction time, but also quick thinking. I once had to dress my 5 month old in just a diaper and my husband's fleece jacket for a 2 hour plane ride home because his clothes were destroyed by a malfunctioning diaper. Similar to superheroes in a jam, we figure it out and fast. We are problem solvers. There's no time to whine about the problem or lack of solutions. We make the best available solution work.

And, not unlike superheroes, moms also sacrifice themselves for the greater good. My friend from Manhattan brought her 2 year old son to visit us for the day last summer. After driving 2 hours alone with her little boy, he got out of the car, walked into my house and threw up on the floor. And this wasn't just car-sickness. My friend sprung into action. She scooped him up and got him to the bathroom and then proceeded to clean up the entire mess before I was even back from containing our dog in another room. After mopping my floor for a second time, she cleaned up her son, loaded him back into the car, and drove him another 2 hours back home. This was not the trip she had planned. We always put our children first, even if that means doing something we don't really want to. Although my Manhattan friend probably wished she had brought her super speedy invisible jet, she definitely brought her cape with her that day.

So, yes, maybe there is some truth to my Facebook friend's comment. I didn't end up getting sick, although snot seems to be more of my Kryptonite. Perhaps, I do have a special immunity and furthermore, special powers. I think moms are the forgotten superhero. We should be honorary members of the Justice League. We may not actually have flashy uniforms or gimmicks, but we do possess amazing powers, get the job done, and often save the day. Happy Mothers Day!