In the aftermath of a 5 year old's birthday party....

Although Tuesday, March 22nd was Elasia's actual birthday, we had invited all of her "little kid friends" to a Dinosaur/Heart themed  Birthday Extravaganza. (Yes dinos and hearts - so. very. Elasia). (side note: Elasia has lots of "grown-up friends" that she adores and wanted to party with too, even though they don't have children of their own. So we had them over for dinner on Tuesday night.)

The kid party was a huge success. We had some private space at a chain restaurant and the kids got to: make their own pizzas (chefs' hats and everything!), eat an inordinate amount of sugar in various forms and narrowly avoid death by piƱata stick. (more
pics to come! That is, once I can whittle down the album to a sane number to share online and figure out how to get it all on a slide show in a post rather than in the sidebar)

We surfed our way through the chaos fun times of Saturday, pushed through a full-scheduled Sunday and now I find myself in ....The Post Child's Birthday Party Zone ::cue creepy music::.

There are newly opened toys scattered throughout our apartment, with all their wrappings and plastic and cardboard and twisty-ties littering our floor like confetti. There are slightly deflating heart-shaped helium balloons - floating like suspended animation art- in our bedroom. There are leftover dinosaur favor bags hidden through our place like Easter eggs. And I'm not actually sure where that last cupcake went....hmmm. Maybe we'll find it petrified under our couch next week sometime.

And there is a happy 5 year old, soundly asleep in her bed and a tired but satisfied mommy, deliriously blogging on the couch in the living room.

I used to judge, misunderstand, or just plain ignore moms who throw "themed" parties. I used to see it as an unhealthy extravagance in the light of world poverty...yadda yadda yadda. I was just ridiculously ignorant like that. But now ... I understand. I know what it's like to love a child so deeply you would give your right arm to make every birthday wish come true. I know what it's like to look at the limited resources you have available and figure out a way to make something spectacular within your means - to stay up late making the decorations by hand (because it's cheaper AND because even in New York City it's tough to come by heart-shaped dinosaur decorations).

I still value minimalism in my kids expectations. I still stress that they should be grateful for anything they get in the birthday category. (Seriously - anything.)  So far it's going well. But I also know from first-hand experience what it feels like to overhear your daughter telling her friend, "I really like hearts AND I like dinosaurs. Did you know that a brachiosaurus was a herbivore and that the T-Rex was...." and then feeling like my goal for the next month was to somehow fill her world with hearts of every color and dinosaurs. I look at her smile and I feel it. I'd move mountains for that little girl. Just 'cause.

But yeah, I'm wiped.  And I probably over-committed/over-extended/over-spent myself this weekend.  But to the nagging little judging voice in my head - I say - she's only 5 once. And I'm smiling as I put my feet up and watching Iron Chef tonight.

It was totally worth it.

Motherhood Mondays: Tomorrow's the day!!

You know - people say "Enjoy those early flies by so quickly..." but I kinda disagree.  The first few years of this adventure called Motherhood seemed to drag on and on and on. I feel like I aged 10 years for every week my baby grew. On a micro-level, I adore my children. On a macro-level, I'm STILL trying to figure out what "mothering" entails.

Tomorrow is a HUGE day. Tomorrow morning our living room will be filled with pink balloons and streamers will be hanging from the ceiling. We'll have a cupcake for breakfast and spend most of the day celebrating our fabulous birthday girl.

Elasia Hope will be 5!!!! 

I remember that first year, feeling swallowed alive by this new role in life - 5 years old seemed so far away! And here it is. Here she is. Such a work of art. Such a gift from God. A reminder daily, in our crazy lives, that - as her name means - God is the God of Hope

I'm so excited.......

from this:

to this:

We made it, my precious Bee-Do!! We made it to 5yrs old!!!

love you muchly,
your momma

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of my husband, whose entire last name and....ancestrally speaking...whose WHOLE pinky finger is Irish ;-)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

much love from Hamilton Heights!

Art Appreciation!!

Art Appreciation?  Yep - like that class I had to take in high school. (truth: It was the class where, although the teacher was wonderfully "artsy" and kind, I learned nothing really and spent most of that time passing notes, making plans for the weekend and ...well...getting into trouble.)

I have this alter-ego inside of me and it's asleep most days. It's an artist. The anti-artsy side of me is usually the more practical one that gets me through most days of mothering, being a wife of a very busy man, etc etc. But then the other me wakes up, usually when I don't expect it...snorts and grunts a little and I see "beauty" that I've overlooked in everyday life. I see potential in raw materials. I feel stories bubble up from my belly that just NEED to be told. I hear music that makes me want to shout and cry at the same time.  I couldn't live like that all the time. I feel things too strongly and I'm sure I would spontaneously combust.  But I like how that version of "me" pokes its head out every once in a while to make sure things aren't boring.

So that's why this post - and maybe future ones along this line will be called "Art Appreciation". Partly in penance for my delinquency in that poor sweet teacher's art class (See! I did "open my mind"!! I promise!) and partly to share when I find cool things that the "arsty me" can't just overlook. :-)

Today I can't get enough of Mumford and Sons song "The Cave".  Yep, it's popular. Yep, it's even trendy. But looking at it from an artistic point of view - it's AWESOME!  Music, lyrics....everything.
The video is below - but you gotta read the words first. :-)

It's empty in the valley of your heart

The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Courage and my 4 year old

(Mandatory yet unrelated update: we think I have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Boo Hiss. Might be more on that in a future post. Maybe not though. We'll see.;-) )

Every summer and family vacation...well, any chance we can get...our family gets in the water. We also feel that "real" swimming is a valuable gift to give to our children, not to mention a HUGE safety issue. Elasia is old enough (turning 5 in a few weeks) and we found a class that was 8 sessions long with an opening down on 14th street at a very nice YMCA and took the jump financially.

And that's how Elasia began swim classes.

This was her first time taking "real" classes. She qualified for the class where I don't have to get in the pool with her (which was wonderful, because what would I have done with my little monkey a.k.a. Zaqarah? I'm sure the YMCA staff would've had to call 911 within the first 10 minutes of class because she had managed to slip away and gotten herself stuck on the roof. I'm sure of it.) Elasia is very cautious by nature, and has never been in a pool with out us. I was pretty apprehensive leaving my little scrawny green bean alone with a handful of kids and 1 instructor.

I watched from the nearby giant window.  The whole class lined up by the side of the pool. It was then I realized that the odds were stacked against Elasia being able to get through this class with out a royal "freak out".

1. Everyone was older than her.
2. Everyone had taken swim classes together last season at this same YMCA and knew each other. Elasia didn't know any of them and this was the first time she stepped foot in this building.
2. She was the only girl.
3. The kind lady she thought was the instructor went into the office. A man she didn't know jumped in the pool and motioned for the children to get into the pool one at a time.

I saw her legs tremble.  I saw her wring her hands. She looked up, bottom lip trembling, to where she knew I was watching, looking for some kind of reassurance from me. I waved, gave her a thumbs up and a smile. (Truth: it took EVERYTHING in me to not crash through that glass, run across the pool deck and scoop my little girl in my arms and tell her we'll wait 'til next year.)  I had to steel myself and see what she would choose.

And then it happened.  She took a deep breath, knees still knocking, wrinkled her little nose with determination and willed her body to sit at the edge of the pool.  Every other kid slid right into the pool, as if they had the process memorized. They held on to the side of the pool and started kicking. 

I watched her wipe a tear that had snuck out of her eyes and down her cheek. Her nose still wrinkled in resolve, she looked up again and smiled at me. (smiled?! I still can't believe it.)

She tentatively slid into the pool and held on to the side and....... began her kicking.

With the other moms and their "been there, done that" expressions, I knew I couldn't really just scream with joy right there. But I really could've flown to the moon and back!!  I had just watched one of the most courageous people I've ever known make a really brave choice!!!  I know my little girl. I know what situations are difficult for her, and those same situations might not even be an issue for her little sister - or even anyone else.

Because of things we couldn't have known or foreseen, this swim class was set up to be one of the single most difficult things for Elasia specifically.  And she was brave. She chose to look her fear, her discomfort, her insecurity...all of it in the face...and she chose to go through with it. 

Now, would it have been okay if she had a melt down at the side of the pool, crumpled up in sobs and I had to sit with her in the lounge until she calmed down. Yes. (because she IS only 4, people.) I would've been set back a large chunk of change, as the classes are non-refundable, but I wouldn't set my daughter up for unnecessary torture. And of course, I wouldn't have shamed her. I would have been disappointed, but I'd have understood. I know life is going to present so many more of these same moments. I honestly would have been okay with "no way, Mommy" on this one.

But she chose to be brave. And her little determined, tear-streaked face is etched in my memory as a permanent book mark...a reminder.... for me to make similar choices.

When I'm tired and frustrated and it is easier to scream, yell and demean my children - I must choose to be brave, and be their hero. To lay down my own emotions to help them through the tricky paths of childhood.

When I'm intimidated by potential for failure, I've got to choose to be brave and take risks.

When I'm afraid of the consequences that my choices may have on the relationships I hold so dear, I need to be brave, to choose honesty and transparency - to live with integrity, as this is the only way to true intimacy.
I learn so much from my precious Elasia Hope.  From her sensitivity to others feelings, her care for the overlooked, her quick wit and list could be a mile long. (And she's only turning 5!)  But what I needed and what I've learned from her these past few weeks going to swim class is:

It's possible to choose courage, even if you don't "feel" it. (and if you cry when your scared, it's okay.)