Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gratitude #15: Having a Social Network

Glugh. That sounds so... Facebooky. But that's not what I mean by social network. I mean an actual, honest-to-God real-life group of friends and relatives. Sometimes the day-to-day of family life can feel a little... Isolating. There are lots of things that we can't spontaneously do because we have to worry about weather or not naps have been had, if baths will need to be given, if there is space (and time) to just run around when some chubby little legs get restless. It is, I imagine, what owning an electric car would be like. You can do things, but there will be some planning, insistence that the event is within a reasonable radius of your home, and confirmation that you can get what you need at your destination, should you run out of packed supplies.

Did I just compare managing children to owning a Leaf? Guess so.

ANYWAY, the whole point of this, is that we received four different invitations in the past couple of weeks. ALL FOR THE SAME DAY. Baby shower, wedding, and two graduation parties. The graduates will get short-changed because we are already obligated to go to the baby shower (my college roommate) and the wedding (Super Ninja's in the wedding party). But it's nice to feel wanted. (OK, fine, I'm willing to admit that my 18-year-old second cousins are just in it for the graduation gift, but still....)

(from Saturday)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gratitude #14: The Return of Super Ninja

That is not a reference to some kind of J.R.R. Tolkien-meets-Mr. Miyagi mash-up flick. Once upon a time my husband asked that I refer to him as Super Ninja on this blog. Why? I have no idea. He doesn't know karate, though he is super.

Anyway, he was out of town for work for most of this week*. He left Monday morning, and got back at nearly midnight last night. Know what that means? I solo-parented for three mornings and four nights. Three kids. A six-year-old, a four-year-old, and an one-year-old who is absolutely determined to brain himself.

I am tired. And humbled. I must give all single parents way, way more slack. Not that I"m the obnoxious woman who shakes her head and makes rude commments about how that kid should not be making that much noise. Not a bit. Actually, when I travel alone and there's an open seating situation on an airplane, I deliberately sit near a baby because squalls and screeches won't actually irritate me. Why? Because it's not MY kid.

Yeah, so, it is so incredibly exhausting to look after three children and run a house on your own. And remember to take out the trash. And lock the doors. And do the laundry so that the only two pairs of shorts your six-year-old thinks are comfortable are clean. And feed all three of them at reasonable times. And take them to do things so that they go to bed at a reasonable hour. And get them to places on time. And make sure they do their homework, and that they spelled everything properly. And shower. And make sure they bathe, brush their teeth, and don't wear the same underwear every day.

I have loved Super Ninja pretty much from the minute we met. Never been any doubt about that. So while he was away, I obviously missed him, our conversation, laughing with him. But now I know how much I need him. Not in that namby-pamby "you complete me" nonsense kind of way. But in a "I couldn't do this without you" kind of way. I depend on him. And I am OK with that. For a long time, I've felt like admitting dependence was akin to admitting a flaw. Or that if I acknowledged I need help, the perhaps I was not handling my bidness properly. Maybe I'm maturing, but I don't have ANY kind of problem with that now.

So, I am grateful for a devoted (and HELPFUL) husband and father to my kids.

*My Facebook friends may be all, "Wha? Why didn't you post that as a status?" Here's the deal: even though I run a pretty tight security ship on my FB account, I think it's a good idea not to share with the world that a 5'2" woman and her three small children are home alone. YES, we have an alarm system, and YES, I live in a safe neighborhood. But I don't get it when people are all, "Wheee! I'm going to be home alone this weekend!" Or, "Can't wait 'til me and the fam head to the beach for a solid week!" I know, I have a suspicious mind.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gratitude #13: Calm Weather

Maryland is (generally) free of all of the End-of-Times nature shenanigans that get lobbed at other regions of the nation. There's the occasional blizzard that will dump multiple feet of snow, but I will take that over tornadoes and hurricanes and wild fires ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. One involves curling up with some hot chocolate and stoking a fire. The other involves curling up in a basement over your children to try and keep the wind from pulling them from your grip.

Yeah, so, very grateful that things are merely hazy, hot, and humid in my neck of the woods. And those suffering through the aftermath of the Midwestern catastrophes, my thoughts are with you.

Gratitude #12: Proactive Kids

MY SIX-YEAR-OLD DID HIS HOMEWORK BEFORE ANYONE ASKED HIM TO. I don't think I need to explain why that would make me grateful.

Gratitude #11: Awesome Playgrounds

Ten years ago, playgrounds would have hovered somewhere around 99 out of my top 100 favorite things. And most of that would have been because of fond memories of illicit and/or trespassy situations during my teenage years. But now? Holy jeez, a playground with shade and stations designed for multiple age groups is a godsend. And I have access to several of those, visits to which are rotated throughout the week.

Now, if I could just keep the little guy from eating sand...

(from Tuesday)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gratitude Interlude: Fellas, Let Me Explain Something about Offering Solutions to your Girlfriend/Wife/Mother/Sister/Other Woman in Your Life

This topic has come up in many different areas of my life lately, and is causing consternation among my man friends. I am omnibenevolent, so lemme explain a really basic fact about women and problem-solving.

If you want to get a pen and a notepad, I'll wait.

Ready? Great. Here we go.

If a woman in your life complains about something, vents, or otherwise orates about a difficulty, she is not actually asking you for help in solving it. I know, I know, seems crazy right? WHY would she spend all of this time -- all of YOUR time -- talking about this thing if she could figure it out on her own? Wouldn't she just sit quietly and think it through, perhaps will fixing a carburetor?


That's how (many) men operate. You ponder. You brood. You excogitate. And in only the direst of circumstances will you actually approach a buddy and lay it all out there.

But women?

Most women (not ALL, so Dear (Female) Reader, don't get huffy) need to unravel their problems out loud to decide on the best course of action. So if she's talking to you about it, she is actually in the process of problem-solving. When you start to offer solutions, it is perceived as follows:

1) You don't think she's capable of finding the solution;
2) You think she's an idiot, because OBVIOUSLY she's already thought of the first three things you said;
3) You are trying to hurry her up so you can get back to whatever dumb thing you want to do, like fix that carburator.

This may seem nutty. You may say, "Well, jeez, THAT's not what I meant at all! Why would she think that way? I'm just trying to be helpful."

So, lemme help you out: when a woman wants you to provide a solution to a problem, SHE WILL TELL YOU. She will turn to you and say, "Darling dear, I just don't know what I should do here. What do you think?"

If you do not get that very clear verbal direction, STEER CLEAR OF PROVIDING SOLUTIONS. Offer clucks of support, a tsk, a shake of the head while she describes her latest burden. But do not ask her if she has done X, Y, or Z, or when exactly she thinks she will resolve the issue at hand.

Hard to understand? Well, I won't argue that. Chacun à son goût. But I'm not asking for your comprehension. I'm just sayin' that if you don't want a conversation about your ladyfriend's problem to devolve into an argument about how you don't clean the bathroom properly*, then just take my advice. The first few times you try it, you may have to ask her, "Honey, do you want my help with this? Or do you want me just to listen?"

That kind of ham-handedeness is actually okay (at first). She may still be annoyed that you don't know already, but it helps establish the pattern.

Good luck!

*Actually happened to a friend of mine. Who is now separated from his wife. SEE? Do you see how this goes?

Gratitude #10: Flexible Work Environment

My office is incredibly family-friendly, something that I don't think gets enough praise. My schedule had to shift a little bit this week, and nobody has said boo about it. That's more the norm than not when you have kids. Someone gets sick, someone has a field trip, someone needs a dance leotard and you have to run out in the middle of the day to get one... I could go on, but that's not very interesting, now is it? Anyway, I appreciate not being made to feel like an outrageous burden because I have to work two hours of my day at home this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gratitude #9: Sunday Dinners with Family

Sunday evening is reserved for hosting (or being hosted by) family. For those of you who do not live near to your dear ones, this arrangement may either horrify you or make you wistful. Me? I'm a fan. Much of my fandom is based on my family's attitudes toward these get-togethers. See, we don't do any fancy-schmancy candlelit, formally attired events. Nah, it's all shorts and flip-flops and french fries and beer. How could that be anything but a good time?

Mostly, for me, it's about making memories. Like how my toddler danced vigorously to my Dad's big band music. Definitely something I'll remember long past his babyhood.

Gratittude #8: Sleeping In

My husband and I have a sleep-in arrangement on the weekend. Saturday's my day to sleep in, Sunday is his. Having his free and full permission to stay abed 'til my internal clock wakes me, and not, say, a squalling child or a screechy alarm is one of the kindest acts bestowed upon me. And it recurs weekly. I often don't stay tucked under my covers past 9 a.m., but the thing about it being my CHOICE to get up rather than what life demands of me is immeasurably satisfying.

(Delayed from Saturday)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gratitude #7: Blow-outs

Got my hair trimmed up today (I was starting to look a bit like Cousin It). I don't think the stylist finished asking me if I wanted a blowout before I said, "Yes, please!" I accept this offer EVERY TIME. Why, you ask? Why is it such a treat? Because I can't do it myself. Seriously, at one point, there were FOUR brushes in my hair. Four. And the stylist only has two hands, one of which is holding the hair dryer. I don't know if she consumed some kind of Peter Parker cocktail to tackle the feat that is my hair, but I came out of there looking shiny and bouncy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gratitude #6: New (Work) Laptop

I love it when the office upgrades electronics because I get to bask in the techie glow of a new gadget without having to shell out a thousand smackers.

Gratitude #5: Potluck-ish Dinners

I have a friend whom has been my best for twenty-five years. Holy moly, that's shocking. Most of the time I feel like I have the maturity level of a fifteen-year-old, so it's nutty that I have a decades-long relationship outside of family bonds.

Anyway, she comes over for dinner once a week. Often, we will shoot each other e-mails ahead of time, listing out whatever ingredients we have that are right on the edge of expiration, and make a dinner plan based on that. Last night's accomplishment? Chana masala and chicken tandoori. That's right. We went all ethnic AND it was delicious.

Best part? She cooked it for me. In my own house, 'cause she got there first. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gratitude #4: One-Cup Coffee Makers

For someone who loves caffeine-induced spikes of energy AND does not have a spouse who drinks coffee, one-cup coffee makers are the BEST. A fresh, awesome cup of coffee, and no mess. Okay, sure, it's easier for me to tally up the number of cups of coffee I've had at the end of a day, and be slightly frightened by that number. But the convenience supersedes all else.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gratitude #3: Commuting

I am grateful for visiting family members who are willing to wait with my six-year-old at the bus stop so that I can get a twenty-minute jump on my morning commute, which translates to a twenty-minute jump on my punch-out time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gratitude #2: Babies

My sixteen-month-old reliably -- and easily -- naps. Sure, he might talk to himself for about ten minutes, but he eventually climbs into the arms of Morpheus* without histrionics. Who wouldn't be grateful for that?

*Not The Matrix character depicted by Laurence Fishburne, you goon. The god of dreams from Greek mythology. I'd be thoroughly creeped out if my toddler scurried into the lap of a futuristic man in a leather duster. And definitely not grateful for it. I mean, how would I explain that to the in-laws?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Months of Gratitude

I've gone four months between posts. FOUR MONTHS. Perhaps it is my fallow period? Anyway, in the wake of all the grief and worry that's overwhelmed me this past year, I'm going to try to go the other way and express gratitude. Hopefully in a way that doesn't make you gag.

Here's why: lately, loads of my pals on social networks have, almost exclusively, been venting about all things wrong with their lives, in ways big and small. 'That exam SUCKED,' or 'My kids are driving me up a wall!,' or, 'Hey, telemarketer, you're not scamming ME.' I'm not saying that these things shouldn't be expressed, because if I didn't have chance to decompress, I would probably explode. Because, seriously, that guy who cut me off on 695? TOTALLY in the wrong.

But the truth is, sustained venting actually makes you feel worse. Sure, you feel better if you turn to your spouse and say, "Christ alive, if my co-worker sends ONE more e-mail of cute and fuzzy animal pictures, I am going to lose it at the office." It's a mini-problem, you get some sympathy, and you move on.

It's the the stuff you complain about ad nauseum that makes you feel worse. Here's why: ultimately, you understand you're devoting a ton of talky time to a problem because you can't actually DO anything about the problem. Sadness follows because powerlessness sucks a nut.

SO! I have noticed the complainy trend in my own conversation topics of late, and to combat that, I have resolved to post my gratitude each day 'til my 36th birthday. This, I think, will help balance some of the wah-wah that's out there in the universe. I mean, I FEEL the gratitude, so why not share that instead of the annoying stuff?

Here's the framework: these are not going to be big picture things, like "I am grateful that I can breathe clean air," "I am grateful that I am employed," or "I am grateful that my husband loves me and is devoted to our children." All true, but doesn't that just make you want to vomit? The tide of bitterness that I'd like to combat is more about the little picture stuff. People should still seek comfort from others about the big stuff. It is 100% okay in my book for someone to express sadness that she has to put her deceased parent's estate up for auction, because. God damn, that person deserves to reap some sympathy.

Here we go:

#1: Fresh-baked rolls from the grocery store + thin sliced roast beef + horseradish sauce, AND fresh Utz potato chips. This is heaven on a lunch plate. It is astounding how a good sandwich can brighten my day.

There, see? Gratitude. And I will be serving up more tomorrow. (I was going to write, 'Unless I get hit by a car.' But then I realize that would put a damper on the gratitude. Did I tell you it is cripplingly difficult for me to express a true emotion without making a joke out of it? Yeah, I'm working on that.)