There was a time when it seemed like everyone that I knew was dying. Probably 15 to 20 years ago, I would panic and cringe every time I heard my home phone ring. I would know well or at least recognize at least one guy every time I looked at the obituaries. The face of AIDS was nearly always the same: the smiling handsome face of a thirty or forty something who leaves behind his mother and his father, his sisters and his brothers, with no mention of wife or kids, let alone partner or lover or significant other. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to anything BUT an AIDS organization. Writers of these cryptic obituaries had no clue that they were making the cause of death so damn obvious.
To this day I still glance through the obituaries whenever I happen to read the printed version of a local newspaper, searching for a friend or foe. Thankfully, those sightings are few and far between, and I am so very grateful for that. Someone as young as I was back then should never have had to endure over and over again the sadness and the pain of the death of a friend. It has left me with wounds that have only slowly healed over time.
Flash forward to present time, 2014, and now I’m a 52-year old man with three young kids and a husband who is (thankfully) 10 ½ years younger than I am. We have four ageing parents between us, all of who are rushing toward their 80th birthdays, and all of who have their own list of ailments and disabilities. The inevitability of the situation is horrifying, to say the least. It seems like only yesterday when we each suffered through the death of our respective grandparents, and not a day (or two) goes by when I don’t at least think of them, if not long for them. I’m in no hurry to go through that loss again, especially with my parents.
It’s a morbid thought, but death has started to rear its ugly head all around me. I’m stuck in a battlefield now that I’m over 50, and some grenades are landing and exploding in the distance, some are close to me, and without a doubt someday one will land directly on top of me. The distant ones are just constant reminders of the danger. Like when you get the Breaking News email about this actress dying or that singer dying. It announces their age and the cause of death, and you immediately figure out the difference in years between the deceased (them) and the living (you). Unfortunately, that difference in years is getting smaller and smaller.
In the distance are also family members (mostly parents, uncles, etc.) of peers. At my age it seems like many friends are either traveling to a funeral or returning from one. I try to be supportive, partly because I know that I’m going to need their support when the grenade hits closer to home, and partly because I’m afraid and sorry.
Other reminders of the doom are just the near-death experiences as well as the signs of the fragility of health. At this precise moment between the two of us, one of us has a parent in the hospital. One has a cousin in the hospital whose water broke too early in her pregnancy. One of us has a brother with newly diagnosed cancer. One of us has sleep apnea (not really life-threatening but it makes me snore really loud.) The point is that it’s a constant barrage of bad health news that only seems to be intensifying, and I don’t like it. I want it all to stop, but it can’t.
Inescapably, my mind turns finally to my young children. I’d take the grenade for any one of them. In fact, I’d hold it in my mouth if it meant keeping them out of harm’s way. I remember the serious fever my firstborn son had in the first month of his tiny life, and how I begged, I prayed, I wished that no matter what, I would leave this earth before he would. Do not make me suffer through the loss of my children or my husband. I’m sure they’ll all be just fine once I kick the bucket, but if any of them go first, I can’t imagine that I’d ever be the same person.
My sons have started asking me how old I will be when they are my age, because they want to go swimming together and be able to race me across the pool. I matter-of-factly and with a straight face give them the answer (98), but I add that beating me in a race will be the least of their worries. But for now, my sons, just enjoy learning to read and learning to swim. Leave the worrying to Daddy.
It looks like my partying days are over. This weekend my neighbors, who also have a son in my oldest son’s first grade class, celebrated a 40th birthday. We’ve gotten close to them since we carpool to the school with them, they are both runners, and they are just fun awesome people.
We quickly accepted the invite to the surprise party, which was planned as more of an event than a party. A stretch limo would pick us up at our house at 7pm. Five pairs of strangers (to us) would meet at our house just before 7, and I would get some help stocking the limo with the neighbor’s booze that I had stashed in my refrigerator for safe keeping the night before. Beer, vodka, champagne – you name it. I laughed to myself as I thought about the three margaritas I have consumed in the last year, and how I am such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, and my husband only slightly less of a lightweight.
Our neighbor was indeed surprised as we picked her and her husband up at what she thought was just going to be early dinner at a beachfront hotel. Most of us had already begun the celebration with champagne. Surely I can handle a glass of champagne. Immediately I felt the sensation of alcohol coursing through my veins, and almost immediately I saw my husband with a crooked smile across his face. I sensed trouble brewing.
The thirty-minute ride to downtown was half screaming and half getting to know each other, with the requisite disco music blasting in the background. The other partygoers ended up being really really nice people. Almost all the couples had children right around the ages of our three sons, and a number of iPhones were whipped out throughout the night with pictures and videos to share.
The night was somewhat of an A-list club crawl, as the limousine dropped us off and picked us back up from three different hip clubs. The first was Perch, an “elevated resting place” on the 15th floor of a downtown skyscraper. It’s website calls it “a French inspired rooftop bistro that offers unobstructed views of Downtown Los Angeles that makes it feel as though you are floating at the skyline.” Checking IDs at the door, I could swear that I saw the bouncer chuckling to himself as he saw the year of my birth. I put some swagger in my walk as I moved through the door, and everyone headed directly for the bar. Since this place was pretty much a bar on a roof, I chose to gaze at the views as Alen got me something I might like (it was sweet, so I did).
Next we hit Ebanos Crossing, a “revelry of sexiness and culture” where, according to the website, “within our walls you will enjoy an award winning artisanal cocktail program coupled with delectable, vibrant cuisine, where the cultures of the journey are reflected all around you.” It was loud, it was dark, it was crowded, and worst of all it was closed. Yes, closed, but somehow someone in the party had connections and we were let in to a Black Eyed Peas party. Many drinks were ordered, and I knew by this time that I needed to cut myself off at two drinks, and I needed to gently cut my husband off as well. I just needed to find my husband, who at some point simply disappeared from our group of tables. I hit the restroom, and then searched far and wide for him, Will I. Am, or Fergie. I finally found Alen dancing a nondescript dance in the middle of the dance floor with two of Will I. Am’s most voluptuous groupies. I returned to our tables to give him time to work off the alcohol and minimize the hangover that I was sure was going to crush him the next day.
We made a quick swing through The Standard, a boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown LA with a rooftop pool and plenty of eye candy. In my younger days I would sunbathe poolside with friends. Now I was just praying for something to eat, but it was not meant to be, as the limo clock was ticking and we had to be home by 1am.
We arrived in front of my house fifteen minutes early, so we sat in front of my house blasting the music in the limo and having our last celebratory shots. I was imagining my head on my pillow just a few feet away from the limo, where I was being forced to fill and refill my glass. Luckily nobody was noticing me as I dumped my drinks out over and over again, raising my empty glass in the air and singing happy birthday just one more time.
It’s fun to meet new people, especially other parents who have great stories about their family and are very supportive of mine. It’s fun to take a limo around Los Angeles, to places you’d never pick on your own to go. I don’t need the alcohol to have a good time, but I do need better hearing to converse with loud music and more energy to make it past 1am. Oh, and a handful of Advil for my husband.
This week is my middle son’s 6th birthday. For the next four months I will have two 6-year olds in the house until my oldest turns 7 in May, which means the time of year has arrived when I will be explaining to strangers why I have two 6-year olds but they are not twins. I actually start by telling the stranger that they are indeed twins, even though my oldest is African-American and my middle son is the blonde surfer type. Perplexed looks follow.
I have just started to notice a distinct change in my soon-to-be 6-year old boy. He is starting to control his emotions, thankfully. Oh, he still has his occasional meltdowns, but even with those he is able to bring himself out of it faster. He is starting to try new foods, although in his life he has yet to try a slice of bread.
He is in love with Lego, which may not raise an eyebrow in your home but in ours is definitely noteworthy. Let’s just say that Dylan’s taste of toys has evolved. It started with matchbox cars, trucks and soccer until he turned about 2 years old. Then for these last 4 years it’s been anything pink and purple that is girlish in nature. It’s been dressing up like a princess at home, with tiara and high heels and tutu. It wasn’t every day, but it could have been. We supported him with as much of the accouterments as possible, searching Ross and Marshall’s sales rack for dresses and oversized shirts, yet cringing when he’d suggest wearing the outfit outside of the house. He has outright refused gifts that are too boyish, and will not partake in roughhousing with other boys in his class. He has a full collection of My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, and every Disney Princess. He was very attached to his baby Tweet-Tweet (he chose that name), a life-sized baby that he can dress up and keep in the bassinette we put next to his bed for her. He also loves his Smurfs collection, which is a bit puzzling, but then again blue IS the warmest color.
All this has given my husband worry lines. He is 100% sure that Dylan is gay. I on the other hand am 100% sure that he is not. Either way, of course, we love our son. It’s just that life is a little (or a lot) tougher being gay (first hand experience here!). Some of the world hates you and your family – even wants you dead – without ever having met you. You have to struggle just to be treated equally in your own country. We want to give our son every advantage in life, but being gay is not always an advantage. I’m sure that however things turn out, he will be a confident, happy individual that is able to protect himself (luckily he is the biggest kindergartener in his school.)
But as I’ve said his tastes are evolving. He hasn’t touched Tweet-Tweet in months. He no longer dresses up, but he still likes it if his clothes or shoes have a decent percentage of pink on them. He is focusing on his Lego skills, although for right now it must be from the Lego Friends collection (generally for girls.) He absolutely knows that all of this pinkness is frowned upon by many of his male schoolmates, and my husband insists that his “evolving” is actually him suppressing his real desires and tendencies in order to conform with his normal male counterparts now that he is in big boy school.
I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Dylan is a beautiful, caring boy with a heart of gold, but I know he wishes it were pink. And that’s okay with me. Happy Birthday, my son!
Do you do anything else besides stay at home with the kids? That question was posed to me recently, and my quick reply “Oh, if you only knew” didn’t do justice to the facts. I am Dad to three boys and proud of it. I just wonder if the world (especially the people of the world who are not stay-at-home-parents) has any idea what goes on in my life on a daily basis. I play so many different roles in a single day that it would be difficult for me to devise a job description. I think that’s why it was so much easier in the pre-children days, when I arrived at work at 8 am, worked my eight hours as a physical therapist, and left at 4 pm. Then from 4 pm all the way until 8am the next morning, for a grand total of 16 hours, I did not even have to think about my job. That sounds almost ludicrous now that I’m 6 ½ years into my present 24/7 stint as stay-at-home Dad. And to focus on one job for the entire 8 hour workday sounds so cush compared to the many hats I have to wear in a typical day. Here are some that come to mind.
Chauffer – Commuting to school, and transporting the boys to their many activities & play dates, all while fielding questions, breaking up fights, feeding snacks, and avoiding oncoming traffic, all without the pleasure of screaming and cursing at the awful Los Angeles drivers.
Cook – It’s important to keep an ongoing dialogue going in your head about what the next meal is going to consist of, unless you want your kids to eat pizza or pasta again. Preparing the food takes some thought too, like how each child likes his nuggets or how chocolaty he likes his milk.
Dishwasher – I have the benefit of the actual appliance, but it’s pure drudgery to wake up each morning to a full dishwasher that needs to be emptied, with a keen eye on the dishes and utensils that don’t make the cut and need to be washed by hand because the oatmeal had hardened and became one with the bowl.
Launderer – Thankfully we live in modern times and passing laundry from the hamper to the washing machine and then the dryer is not the worst thing. But I’m begging the innovators of tomorrow to come up with a third machine to fold the laundry.
Housekeeper – Who knew that floors get dirty so quickly? Do my boys purposely fill their pockets and hems with sand in order to dump them onto my sofa and their beds? Walls need wiping down where hands lean for support, and with young boys with bad aims, the toilet and everything within a 12 inch radius of it needs a good cleaning. Plus the seat. Plus the lid. Plus the trash can next to the toilet.
Shopper – I keep a running list on my iPhone of food needs, but without fail I’m always low on milk. Forget getting a dog, kids, we’re getting a cow as our next pet. There’s also household supplies, school supplies, clothes, plus presents for each and every birthday party.
Event Planner – Going places, whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, requires forethought and planning, and that’s on me too. I need to secure plane tickets, accommodations, do the packing, and then the dreaded unpacking upon returning. Local activities involve scanning the newspapers, checking the internet (Red Tricycle), or relying on the network of friendly parents for suggestions.
Teacher – Whether it’s quizzing the kids, helping them with their homework, or reading to them in the library or bedtime, everything becomes a teachable moment.
Disciplinarian – Boys will be boys, but they do get out of hand and need to be disciplined. Currently, the threat of taking away something that they fancy seems to be doing the trick. Previously, yelling seemed to be the discipline du jour, but that just did not feel right to Daddy, so he put that in his back pocket for extreme situations. Believe me, that pocket gets open a lot.
Doctor – I hurt here. I itch there. I can’t poop. My bones hurt. My teeth hurt. I swallowed a tooth. I’m not hungry. I’m so hungry. I’m so tired. I can’t sleep. I’m sad. I’m nervous.
Fashion Designer – You want your child looking presentable. I try to make sure things match, midriffs are not exposed, and that there are no holes in their clothes. Beyond that I don’t particularly worry about impressing anyone with my child’s attire. They’ll be plenty of time for that in high school.
Accountant – Paying the bills, the gardener, and the taxman is a full time job in itself, but I’m left to try to fit it all in my free time.
Husband – Oh yeah, I am someone’s partner. Someone who requires attention, sex, and most of the other things on this list. Thankfully mine helps me with some of the other things on this list too, so it kind of evens out.
Coach – Being an athlete myself, I’m inclined to get involved in their physical fitness and athletic endeavors such as karate, swimming, running, gymnastics and basketball. They need instruction (above and beyond what their team coach gives) but most of all they need encouragement.
And there’s more. Entertainer, mediator, handyman, IT guy, fact finder, and magician … the list goes on and on. I’m proud to be wearing all these hats, but I’m most proud just being called Dad.
What a strange twist of fate that I am so ill as we head into a new year! It’s only my third cold of 2013, or my first one of 2014, depending on which year you want to give credit to. What a pity that most of my resolutions revolve around the very thing that is suffering: my health. What a bummer that I wasn’t able to start clean on January 1st!
Yes, it’s only a head cold, or maybe a mild case of influenza, and that’s good. This is despite the fact that I marched our three sons and myself to the flu clinic for an annual vaccine right when it hit October, but so be it. They say my symptoms would be much worse now, but who knows. Our five and six year olds get the flu mist (the spray in the nose), so it’s no big deal. They happen to be enjoying nearly perfect health as we speak (except some growing pains in the legs and some bothersome loose teeth in the mouth –upwards of 8 teeth in my five year old!) However, our 13-month old baby and I are deep in the depression of the illness, with sleepless nights and constantly running noses the norm, despite the fact that we both barely tolerated the injectable type of vaccine (old guys over 50 and babies and cannot get the flu mist.) With both of us sick and me the stay-at-home dad, I think we are playing a never-ending game of ping pong, with the ball being a slimy gooey colorful mess that we sneeze back and forth to each other as I hold and comfort him.
I can’t keep anything down and that’s also good, because one resolution involves reducing my weight by 16 pounds (I’m 166 now.) I still have in my mind that 150 pounds is my perfect race weight for running and triathlons, even though it’s been a few years (or eight) since I’ve enjoyed that weight, and it’s been a few years since I’ve done a real triathlon (can’t remember exactly, but I’m guessing 10 years.) Come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s even reasonable or honest to call myself a triathlete anymore (good friends will say at this point: “Well, you do have a trio of boys.”) Readers of this blog will remember that last year’s list of resolutions also included a weight reduction (of 16 pounds) to 150 pounds, but I really feel like I can get there if I really want it. And more than ever, what with our third and final son out of his boot camp (i.e. over twelve months of age), I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that I need to get my physical fitness (and six-pack) back to what I once enjoyed.
So it’s been just under a week without Diet Coke, without peanut butter chocolate ice cream, and without popcorn, and I feel resolute in my resolutions. Although I have the appetite suppression of my illness in my favor, I think I can do it this year. And it’s not just for me. It’s for my husband, who deserves to sleep every night with that hot body he met ten years ago. And it’s for my trio of boys, my triathletes, who need and I think want their Daddy’s company for as long as they possibly can have it.
P.S. Yes, I have other resolutions but if I don’t have my health what good are they?
P.S.S. My husband and I enjoy at least 50 movies per year, and during each of those movies we enjoy(ed) one or two large Diet Cokes and a large refillable popcorn. It turns out that one can indeed overeat popcorn.
Happy Holidays Family and Friends,
You’re probably as shocked as we are that yet another year has come to an end and we welcome 2014. I had always looked ahead to this particular year as a marker … 20 years ago (1994) I bought this Santa Monica house that we live in to this day, and we continue to try to transform it into the chic modern house we know it can be. The other date is 30 years ago (1984), when I took that now infamous solo bicycle ride from New York to San Diego, which literally changed my life and brought me to the happy place I’m in today with my incredible family of one husband and three sons. I’m a full-fledged stay at home Dad now, and have never been more content, more tired, more in love, or more fat. And other than one 10K running race to raise money for the school (in which the baby and I won the stroller division), I can’t list much in the achievement column except for adding twelve months of activities, experiences, knowledge, and love to our three sons’ lives. For that I am grateful and proud.
Speaking of proud, Alen has continued to wow the family with his career achievements. His knowledge of end-of-life care and palliative medicine has received accolades from around the nation, and I am not exaggerating. His continued work with HIV patients has inspired other physicians to follow suit. Our family-owned wellness clinic continues to grow exponentially, thanks to Alen’s medical direction. And if he was not busy enough, Alen was accepted into the Kelley Business of Medicine MBA Program at prestigious Indiana University. He just received straight A’s in his first semester (the dude is smart.) The boys and I miss him when he travels monthly for a three-day stint (the rest is online), but the homecoming is always sweet. He manages to work on everything and yet still has plenty of time for his family. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our oldest son Devin is now a certified 6-½ year old teenager in first grade. How did he become so cool with his school chums, so agile on his feet, and so comfortable in his skin? Devin loves reading his chapter books and writing some too. He loves being quizzed in Math and challenged with puzzles. He continues to take Spanish Immersion after school twice per week, plays on the basketball team and takes swim lessons at the Y, a little gymnastics, and rounds it all off with a weekly Crossfit workout class with his brother and other classmates. Devin is kind, caring, with a great big heart. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our middle son Dylan wavers between wanting to be more independent like his older brother and wanting to be cradled like his younger one, so we give him both, which seems to suit him just fine. Flourishing in his kindergarten class (where I am the room parent this year), Dylan loves math and art, and is just beginning to read signs as we drive around town. He has enjoyed after school Spanish class, gemology, Top Chef class, Lego, and Pop Star classes. He likes his weekly gymnastics class and has tolerated his jazz dance class, although he has expressed interest in giving tap-dancing a try. Like his brother, he also works out at Crossfit weekly and at the pool twice per week. He still has yet to eat a slice of bread in his life, but he has managed to add at least a couple of new foods to his extremely limited diet. It hasn’t affected his growth, however. As he has since he was one year old, he ranks in the 128th percentile for height and weight. He towers over everyone in his class, and wears bigger clothes than my 10-year old nephew Jackson. He aspires to be a veterinarian some day, which I can envision because he is nurturing and sensitive. For that I am grateful and proud.
Our baby Dustin, now 13 months, has transformed into a toddler right in front of our eyes. With over half of his baby teeth present, he is enjoying, and willing to try, many different foods, although fat-free milk is still his favorite. All signs point to another big boy: at his doctor’s appointment his weight and height ranked at the 95th percentile. He is doing everything except walking, but we are not rushing him into anything. He loves his weekly music class at the park across the street from our house (both Devin & Dylan went to this same class.), and will start a gym & swim class at the YMCA in January. At the moment he cannot get enough of Alen (can’t blame him for that), but he is such a happy-go-lucky boy who waves and yells Hi! to everyone he sees. He loves his older brothers, and they are already showing him “the ropes” and lots and lots of love, and Dustin does likewise. For that I am grateful and proud.
This summer we tried bungee jumping for the first time. Alen loved it, I’m still nauseous from it, and the boys were traumatized by watching it. We also continued our tradition of vacationing right after school let out for the summer. Last year was Costa Rica and this year was Puerto Rico. All three boys seem to really love the tradition, so we will keep it up each year, making memories to last a lifetime. Speaking of traditions, California finally came to its senses and allowed all of our friends to marry, just as we did in 2008. Seventeen states in the US now have legal same-sex marriage, and we hope by our next letter that even more states will realize that our family deserves the right to express our love and commitment just like anybody else. We are all about love and commitment. For that I am grateful and proud.
Love and wishes for a great New Year,
John, Alen, Devin, Dylan, & Dustin
I’m ramping up my involvement in our elementary school, which is arguably one of if not the best public school on the west side, in our beautiful city of Santa Monica. With two boys in and one more on deck, I will be inextricably intertwined with this kinder through fifth grade school for a total of 11 years. Just as my middle son leaves for middle school, my youngest son will begin his kindergarten class. So this is an investment in the truest sense of the word. I need to step it up.
I am already “Room Parent” for my kindergartener, which is basically a mix of glorified secretary (you send out emails to the class) and underpaid cheerleader (you get people to volunteer, donate, and help out.) I try and add some levity to my email blasts, with mixed results (some parents do reply with an LOL), and I try and add a personal touch since I have just experienced this exact classroom and teacher last year with my oldest son. I stick out like a sore thumb as I stroll up to class for drop off or pick up with my cute as a button one-year old son and my I’m here/ I’m queer attitude. As a side note to this, as of this writing neither my husband nor myself has ever seen another same-sex couple on the campus, although there is rumor of one other couple with a child in the upper grades. Woo hoo!
I truly like being Room Parent, because it keeps you in the loop and more involved (sometimes not by choice) with your child’s class. Our kindergartener is our middle child with a heart of gold (and pink and purple), so we welcome the inside scoop on his well-being. He’s doing really well. I also get to know the parents faster than most others, partly because I’m in charge of the class roster, and partly because I’m somewhat (my husband would say extremely) gregarious in an Italian lover kind of way. I do love meeting all the parents.
But I need to do more. As a public school, funding is always an issue. Our particular school, in part due to its location smack dab in the middle of the most affluent part of our city, has not struggled with money as much as the eight or so other schools in the district. Deep pockets have paid for premium staff such as art teachers, music teachers, computer techies, and the like, but starting next year the district has decided to even the playing field. No longer will a school be able to pay towards staffing itself. Any money donated for that use would be collected in a general fund and then dispersed evenly. The district is hoping that the amount of money donated will equal $4,000,000. If that money is not raised in the next ten weeks, our stand out school will be suffering just like all the rest. As of now we are at $2,591,193.
So I’m asking parents to contribute. I’m attending PTA meetings (there might be one or two other fathers among a sea of mothers.) I’ve gone to the district office to speak with the foundation that is in charge of raising funds. I’ve given some ideas. We’ve contributed amounts above our comfort level. Then we contributed some more. I feel like I’m just getting my feet wet, but I need to dive in and start some serious swimming. My sons are depending on it.
I’m thankful for Alen, who over the last ten years has been referred to first as my boyfriend, then lover, partner, domestic partner, better half, and now, thanks to the judicial system, my spouse. Soul mate, man, mate, and partner-in-crime also come to mind, although we have never broken any laws together (well maybe if we were in a state in the deep South.) Alen has the patience of a saint, the brain of an Einstein, and the body of a supermodel, but best of all he is incredibly loving and kind to me. I can’t imagine Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) without him.
I’m thankful for my three sons, and not the television show, but the reality that is my life. Now ages 6, 5 and 1 (yes, my life is a math equation), Devin, Dylan & Dustin amaze us in every way possible, every hour of every day. Watching them grow up in front of our eyes to become awesome individuals has been and will continue to be one of the greatest joys of my life. I wish that I can see them and be with them for their entire long lives; alas, the math just doesn’t work out in my favor. That’s why I will live each day to the fullest and enjoy every moment.
I’m thankful for my health and fitness. Yes, at nearly 52 years of age, things don’t work as well as they used to. But I do have my memories. I can remember catching the winning touchdown in Pop Warner. I can remember winning my first triathlon and my first 10K, and any that came after that. I can dream about my solo bicycle ride across the US (5500 miles), my swim race around the island of Key West (12 ½ miles), and my first Hawaii Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I’m not in that kind of shape right now, be it because of lack of desire, lack of time, or lack of sleep, but I’m so thankful that I had the chance to compete at that level and enjoy every bit of that lifestyle. I’m hoping to get back into it some day, but if not, I’m still happy to say remember when.
The rest are miscellaneous thanks that end up allowing me to live a truly blessed life. I’m thankful for my friends, who make me laugh or give me a supportive pat on the back. I’m thankful for manicures, massages, and movies. I’m thankful for the roof over my head and the American soil beneath my feet. I’m thankful that my boys want to cuddle with me and that my parents want to speak to me. I’m thankful for the drivers that let me on the road during traffic, and for the baristas that truly want me to have a great day. And I’m thankful to those that read this blog weekly or when they can, and to those who take a second to send me a comment or note.
Thanks to all. And Happy Thanksgiving!
Over the last five years, my husband and I have gone to almost 250 movies. Every week, thanks to our good – I mean great – friend and surrogate to our two youngest sons, we have enjoyed a date night. We’ve stuck with Saturday night for almost all of them, although in the last two months or so we have been giving Friday night a trial run with moderate to good success.
Some might say we are stuck in a rut, but we don’t see it that way. We still enjoy our standing date, which starts with a meal of some kind. Lots of time we go to a street in Los Angeles that has a wonderful cluster of Asian delights, and we chow down on sushi or Pho food. Or we hit a local Thai place. And occasionally we will do the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that’s located in the same mall as our usual movie pick. The buffet is quantity over quality, so we have to be extra hungry to hit that one.
Next we get a massage. Once a month we will make our Burke Williams appointment (we are members) for the royal treatment. Sad to say, but this is most often our least favorite massage. We just never really found this place worth the expense. Our favorite is a place directly across the street from the movie theater. It’s an open room with a dozen massage tables and about two dozen massage “therapists” who are roaming the vicinity, ready to work at the sound of the voice of a nice woman who is always at the front desk. She seems like the Queen Bee of the place, and they listen to and obey her every word, or at least we think they do. No one in the joint speaks any English.
The massage starts in the sitting position, with your feet soaking in some seriously searing water. They pay special attention to your upper back, neck, and shoulders. Next you switch to the face-up position while they dry off your feet and rub them thoroughly, including all the spaces between all your toes. They work their way up your legs (as best they can since you are completely dressed in date night clothes), and then proceed to stretch your hips and back. Finally you’re face down, at which point they’ll start at the top and work down to your feet, pushing and probing and squeezing as they go. It always ends with some drumming and slapping on your person. Not exactly a happy ending.
Every “therapist” does the same routine, as if the same master has taught him or her. There’s no privacy, the soft music is mediocre at best, and it’s difficult to communicate with these people, but somehow it works for us. We have, over time, found the “therapists” we like the best and we ask for them by name. We are able to call ahead and reserve a time (they have no reservation system to speak of – we noticed our massage times written on a napkin by the phone at the front desk once when we arrived) and everyone is very friendly, although I wish they would eat less garlic and smoke fewer cigarettes between massages. When it’s over we are happy to hand over our $25 each for an hour of a happy relaxing time, plus tip.
After being fed and feeling calm, it’s time for the movie. We always get a large popcorn and large Diet Coke to share. We always sprinkle on some Nacho Cheese seasoning that’s available, and we always use the bathroom just before heading in to the reserved stadium seating. We will always use the bathroom on the way out of the theater (due to the large Diet Coke), at which time I will stand in a stall and always check in to Facebook and give my one sentence review of that week’s movie. My man will always be waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish posting, and upon my departure from the bathroom will always ask, “So what did you think”? Always. We will always buy some ice cream on the way home, and we will always always enjoy the rest of the night.
This is our time to reconnect, get romantic, and be alone, without our beautiful boys. I love returning home late at night and peeking in on the boys, marveling at just how beautiful they look as they lay there sleeping. I’ll usually cover them in their blankets (do all kids toss off their blankets at night?), kiss them good night, and thank my lucky stars that I have date night every week. With a special guy, that is.
As happy an occasion as it is, the first birthday of your last baby is also filled with lots of sorrow and nostalgia. Of course I’m glad that we’ve made it through the first 365 days relatively unscathed, although his forehead has had more than his fair share of bruises now that he is cruising around the floor at a respectable pace.
I mean, I want him to develop normally, hitting all the milestones right on time with all the hoopla that comes along with them.
But as cliché as it sounds, it all goes so darn fast, and even faster when it’s your last time through the racecourse. As an example, I cannot believe my son is already in size 4 diapers. He went from N to 4 in the blink of an eye. At least I learned, and this took me three children to learn, to move up faster in diaper size than you think you need to, because before you know it the bodily waste is squirting out the sides and up the back at the worst possible time, like when you are in a rush or when you are far from home and forgot any change of clothes. I also now know that, except for maybe your first purchase of a larger diaper size, stick to small amounts (i.e. don’t buy the huge warehouse-size boxes) so you don’t get caught half way through your supply of diapers that are now too small but you use anyway because these rectangular absorbent things are expensive.
I’m also crying in my pillow about the loss of the use of formula. It says right on it “0 – 12 months” which couldn’t be much clearer. Stop using it! However, I’m stretching out my last couple of cans under the guise of “the transition”, which is the period of time where I feed him formula with increasing amounts of fat-free cow’s milk mixed in. I refuse to throw out even one scoop of this “gold powder”, which costs twice as much as anything I personally eat. And besides the money, I’m really going to miss the convenience of the powder. I just need water, which I always carry, and the powder, and he is fed. In just a few days it’s going to take a LOT more planning. And I know he is going to be a big eater. He has been watching his two older brothers devour food for a whole year, and the little food we have already fed him (a little bite here, a little nibble there) has been no problem for him.
The cute clothes are another thing. Even though I tried to weed out his brothers’ hand-me-downs, there were still some clothes that I never got to even try on him! The hand-me-downs I did get to use allowed me to relive the first years of my older sons – I could picture them in the Gap shirt and the cute overalls as if it were yesterday. Now I have a friend who is pregnant with her third son, so like a conveyor belt the clothes are going from my washer/dryer directly to her storage room, with little more than a tear or two from me.
Have you ever watched a parade, and then at the end of the parade the sanitation workers and the street sweepers are right on its tail, cleaning up to erase any sign that a parade (and the thousands of spectators) had just come by? Our house is starting to feel this way, and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Then again, just the other day my spouse made this statement as we watched our one-year old giggle and clap to music: “The three beautiful boys we have made it easy to imagine having a fourth one.”
Anyone have any newborn hand-me-downs?