Friday, October 29, 2010

New, unexpected, but equally delightful treats

Days of watching growing boys laugh,

Witnessing their kindness, their infinite uniqueness.

Quietly slipping my hand into John's.

Wishing these days would never end.

What do you consider a treat these days?
Join Six Word Fridays! Find out more at Making Things Up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'd never known love like this before...

Ten years ago, I gave birth to my oldest son. Even though I knew that my life would be turned around, I never could have imagined in how many ways my life would be changed for the better. Those four words, "You have a son" made me a mother, and the last ten years have seen an incredible amount of growth and a love that knows no boundaries or limits.

My son. Words that I longed to hear for so long. Words that made me a mother for the first time. The last ten years have brought many first's. The last ten years have seen an infant come into the world, hold up his head, turn over, smile real smiles, sit up, crawl, eat real food, say words that meant something, say I love you, walk, run, and do all kinds of amazing things.

The most amazing? His ability to be compassionate. His love for his brothers and his family. How when he spoke to his Grandma (who just had her second round of chemo yesterday) this afternoon, the first words out of his mouth were "How are you REALLY feeling, Grandma?" The way he carefully read the incredible card his seven year old brother made for him and the way he didn't tell his brother the presents were all his.

Even today, ten years after he came into my world, scrunched up face, crying his newborn mewling cry, I stand in awe. I am in awe that I am a mother. I am in awe that regardless of the crappiest day I may have encountered, or how tired I am, or how much they suck the last dregs of energy within me, there is no other place I would rather be, or anybody I would rather be with.

I am in awe of how much I have changed as I brought home that beautiful newborn baby boy. I am stronger than I ever thought I was, weaker than I would like to admit, and know that there is so much that is out of my hands. Motherhood has made me challenge myself in ways I never thought possible, change aspects of myself I thought were engrained genetically, and constantly makes me want to be the person my kids already believe I am.

On the early morning my son was born, as I gazed into the eyes of this tiny creature whose survival depended solely on me, I knew I was in trouble. I knew that I was about to experience a love I had always heard about, but could only imagine. I knew. I knew that there would never be an enemy too great, a fear too insurmountable. I knew that I would do whatever I needed to do to make sure that this child (and the others that would soon join him) would never know fear, hunger, anxiety. In those brief moments, as the doctor showed my husband and I one of the greatest gifts ever bestowed on us from the other side of the surgical sheet, I knew I was a mother.

My dearest Matthew, you have taught me to believe in what I know exists but cannot prove. You have taught me that there is NOTHING that isn't possible when you seek it with a pure heart and pursue it with love. You have shown me that I am capable of being the person you know is there, the person I always knew I could be.

My darling boy, you have been a joy from the moment we knew of your existence. You have been an endless source of pride and joy, a source of happiness and amazement for your father and I. We are blessed to have you as our son, our firstborn. Rest tonight, knowing in your heart that your father and I love you as much as any person can love another; hopelessly, fully, truly, deeply. We love you to the moon and back. Happy tenth birthday, my love.

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 miles of me, my thoughts...and my legs running

As many of you who follow this blog know, I am training for a half marathon in late January.

For many of you who know me personally, you must know that Armageddon must be coming upon us rather quickly.

Because I am not an athletic person.

And because up until August of this year, only bodily fluids exploding out of my children's beings (or blood curdling screams), got my ass up and running in record speed.

But my neighbor, who is always full of ideas, decided that this would be a great challenge for us to undertake.

Fortunately, we are not training without serious help. We are raising money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and their affiliate Team In Training, which take a slug like me and makes them marathon ready.

How ready, you ask?

Ten miles in a little over two hours this past Saturday ready.

Yes. Ten miles. 135 minutes. This Saturday. And I am still upright.

At first, I thought my biggest challenge would be raising the $1700 for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. But, as of last month, not only had I reached my goal, I surpassed it.

Then came the REALLY early in the morning runs. We're talking 4:30 am people. And yet, I found that not only can I get up at that time, but I can actually run, if given the appropriate soundtrack, AND feel good for the rest of the day.

And even more surprising? When I don't get up at un-Godly hours to run a ridiculous distance, I feel TERRIBLE. I feel guilty for sleeping until the "late" 6:45 a.m. time.

But what I am enjoying the most on the mornings I run (O.K., besides bragging rights to my thoroughly impressed third graders) is the time to think, by myself, for a good hour.

Because even though a huge range of musical genres are blaring through my wireless headphones, my mind is still. I don't have a thousand jumbled messages getting crossed in transmission. Thoughts are not getting pushed aside by the day's impeding agenda.

It is impossible not to clear your mind when you run. Granted, I didn't run straight through for ten miles on Saturday. I did intervals of two minute, fast paced walks and one and a half minute runs. But when you are exerting that kind of force, you must focus on breathing, on moving one leg in front of the other, rapidly.

And with each breath, each foot in front of the other, I pushed myself to do something I never thought I could do. As I neared the final intersection before reaching our ending point, the smile on my face was huge. I knew I could do anything.

In January, I will run the ING Miami Half Marathon. I will have raised the most money I have ever raised; by myself. I will run for two and a half hours; I will cross that finish line. I will have time to think about the magnitude of what I am doing, and who I am doing it for. I will have done something solely for the good of others.

In February, I will run the Disney Princess Half Marathon. This will be just for me. I will run for two and a half hours; I will cross that finish line. I will have time to think about the magnitude of what I am doing, and who I am doing it for.

I will know that I am strong in body, not just spirit.

And I will have done something solely good for me.

This will be JUST for ME.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bed Hopping

After a weekend of physical challenges and a myriad of tasks to be completed, my body was aching for rest this afternoon. After the merry-go-round of the day's afternoon activities and fueling of children, my older boys completed homework and showered and while they did their thing, I ran to get a shower myself, relieving my aching body of the day's stresses and junk.

I put on my oldest most favorite pair of way-too-big, but oh-so-comfy pajamas. I have had these pj's for over 10 years. I bought them on clearance and wore them through each of my three pregnancies. I dug them out Saturday night, after running 9 miles that morning, running all kinds of errands with the three boys, attending Mass, and braving the Saturday night dinner crowd.

I was beat.

I needed an old friend.

This evening, it seemed as though the day had gotten the better of me. I was drained after a long day at work. I had practice for our school's Hispanic Heritage Show, in which the teachers will be performing a semi-traditional Flamenco dance routine. I ran to get Joshua, get milk, get the older boys to their tennis pizza party and awards ceremony.

The comfort of the scalding shower and comfy pj's beckoned me to do something I had not done in a long time. I laid in Joshua's twin bed with him. My littlest boy wrapped his arms around me, his still small hand on the back of my neck, as if to soothe me, his fingers tangled in my long, dark hair. He stroked my hair and I felt his breathing relax, his eyes starting to get heavy with sleep.

My heart ached to know that he is my youngest. That there will be no more sons borne of this woman. No more babes to feed with my body, to nestle and soothe when they are fitful. No new babies to run with arms outstretched, smile as welcoming as those arms, to make me forget about the troubles of my day, to fill my heart with joy. As I rubbed his wavy haired head, I shut my eyes, trying to engrave this moment in my heart and mind, so that I may bring it back when this boy no longer fits in this bed, when he no longer depends on me as much as he does now.

I glanced over to Andrew, laying in his bed, feeling left out, as I imagined he might be. I quietly crept from Joshua's bed and awkwardly folded myself into my middle son's bed. As I held him in my arms, he lay quietly, his big brown eyes searching mine. My boy, who sleeps haphazardly, who fails to catch slumber for an entire night, who has inherited the bitter enemy of insomnia that haunts his mother. I looked at my son, trying to memorize his face.  To recall what his face looked like four years ago, seven years ago, when he was a tiny, hungry babe at my breast; same large brown eyes searching mine, understanding me, knowing me. As I stroked his smooth cheek, I admired that beautiful olive skin. A face unobstructed from creases and lines: evidence of worry and sorrow. I wondered, as sleep overtook him, if he will remember this night, when his tired mother crawled into bed with him, invited sleep into bed with us, and let him have his fill of rest. I wondered what he will remember most of these busy days, often filled with mundane chores and uneventful tasks.

And now, I wait for my oldest. As he showers and prepares for bed, he is the one slipping away from childhood so quickly.

Next week, he will be ten.

Last night, I found a picture of him, when he was six months old. My eyes filled with tears, remembering that chubby miracle. His round face, his bright cheeks and smile. The dimple on his cheek that always reminds me of bright sunny days. As I hold him in his bed, his arms and legs are too large, too lanky for me to envelope like his youngest brother. It reminds me of how quickly time is passing through our lives now, how little time I have to hold on to him in this way. My heart is full to know that he still smiles and enjoys these moments, but, I wonder, for how much longer.

It is hard to be a mother. We give birth to our own hearts, tend to their care and growth as we would a precious garden. We weed, we nurture, we water, we hope. And then, we must harvest. We must part. We pray that all we have done will be good enough.

I am not ready yet. I know that they are growing. I know that it is difficult. There are days when I could walk out and not look back. There are many more days when the ache of this mother's heart is too much. When I know that the work being done is good, regardless of the weeds that threaten.

I want to hold on to these moments forever. Freeze them into photographs in my heart. Keep them, just as they are now.

Faces smooth from worry and sadness.

Under my roof.

Warm and safe in their beds.

A hop away from my own bed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

S.O.B. and Ho*e: Intentional Happiness for the week of October 15, 2010

Saturday was our city's Making Strides for Breast Cancer 5K Walk. We had a huge group from work, along with family and friends join us in support for this incredible cause. Our team leader, who happens to be Matthew's former Kindergarten teacher, designed logos for shirts and sent them out to everyone on the team.

The logo?

S.O.B.: Save Our Boobs.

Great for women, not so much for preadolescent boys.

So, on the weekend that Grandma came down to visit, before we went wig shopping, we went to the local crafts store to buy plain white t-shirts for the boys and Daddy, iron transfers and a pink t-shirt for me. I decided against wearing the S.O.B. logo and wanted to stand out among my guys. I found a really cute iron on transfer for my shirt. I would really stand out among my Team Grandma group.

Of course, fast forward several weeks and the bag with all the t-shirt supplies was STILL sitting on my dining room table, untouched. Until the night before. And then I wonder from whom my son inherited procrastination from? Just sayin'...

Well, let's just say that after two, rather full, glasses of wine, creating an iron on transfer becomes a little challenging. Especially when you can't figure out how to flip the words so that they appear correctly when transferred with said iron.

After an hour and a slew of profanities, I had four iron on transfers for the guys shirts.

Onward to the iron, soldiers.

Three boys shirts with Team Grandma? Check.

One men's shirt with Team Grandma? Check.

On to Mommy's super cute standout t-shirt.

Attention getting?

You bet.

Feast your eyes on this beauty!

Apparently, even if you follow the ironing directions CAREFULLY, when you have partaken of libations on the eve of the occasion and have procrastinated until you can't any longer, you lose the P and become a ho*e.

Needless to say, there was no fixing it with Elmer's Glue. Or a pink ribbon. Because it would still read ho*e, with a pink ribbon in the middle.

So, I decided that S.O.B. was a better alternative than ho*e. And I decided this rather quickly the morning of the walk.

Regardless, it was a lovely day. The weather was perfect. My sister and nieces were there for support.

And my boys and I walked for a very important lady in our lives.

SOB and Hope.

I may have lost the P in ironing.

But I doubt that I will ever lose the P for perspective.

And you ALWAYS need that in order to have HOPE.

What makes you !!! ? Need to catch up? Visit Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments to get your fill on a little thing we like to call Intentional Happiness!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gleeful squeals, bright eyes- Intentional Happiness for the week of October 8, 2010

It has been a busy week, but one of surprises of the very best kind. At work and at home, !!! has been hard at work, trying to catch my attention.

My students, in spite of a extremely difficult math textbook, no longer act like they are being tortured to death. One student, who has had an exceptionally hard time, actually participated during class today, and was able to explain the steps in regrouping for subtraction. YIPEE!

This week, aided by technology provided by two greats, I RAN!! Four miles, 60 minutes, 2.5 minute walks, 1.5 minute runs! I DID IT!!

Found one heck of a deal in traditional Cuban guayaberas. Made from linen, these shirts and dresses are considered formalwear. What a deal!!!

I went to an informational meeting regarding renewing my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. I was relieved to know that it was not going to be as involved as the initial certification was, but I will still be pretty busy.

The weather this week has been delightful. Lower humidity, lower temperatures and glorious breezes have made my week of parent car line dismissal a joy.

When I stopped by my sister's house earlier this evening, my nieces' reactions to my presence was exactly what I needed. Their high pitched squeals of delight and bright eyes as they jabbered like monkeys made my heart swell with love for these two precious babies.

My mother in law continues to be on the mend. After a week or so of recovery due to the setback, she is scheduled to begin chemo on Monday. I am so grateful she will be able to take the first major step to kicking cancer's ass.

This Saturday, all my guys and I will join countless others in The American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Annual Walk. My boys will be sporting Team Grandma shirts, and my sister and nieces will be there as well, lending their love and support.

With all that !!!, it is impossible not to feel renewed in hope and gratitude for all the beauty that surrounds me every day.

What makes you !!! ? Need to catch up? Visit Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments to get your fill on a little thing we like to call Intentional Happiness!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcoming Fall with open arms...

Over the last couple of mornings, there has been a slight chill to the air as I hustle with my sons to get to work on time, or when my neighbor and I meet to go for our four mile runs at 4 am. Please don't misunderstand. Fall in South Florida does not really qualify as Fall anywhere else. For Floridians, any drop in humidity automatically signals Fall.

Last year, my husband took me to Boston in September. I had never been to Boston, and immediately fell in love with the city and the scenery. The leaves, the hustle and bustle, the buildings, the history. I could have stayed there forever.

This morning, as I walked out to the car, the sky was the crispest blue I had seen in a while. The lines of the trees stood in contrast; so sharp against that perfect sky. It reminded me of ten years ago, as I waited for the birth of my first born. As those beautifully sky-ed days became more frequent, they never lost their magic. Every fall, I think back to those days of endless anticipation and beautiful skies, and my heart is full.

Fall has forever been one of my most favorite seasons. Although we don't get much of a change in seasons down here, that lack of humidity and ensuing "chill" signal a time of harvest. A time of thanksgiving. Of gathering close to the ones you love, creating new memories; reliving old ones.

On the mornings that I run, I love looking out at the twilight sky as we get home. The beautiful colors of fall on the giant canvas of the sky. Everything is right in the world when you look at that beauty first thing in the morning, lungs full of fresh air, heart pumping new life within you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lettuce wraps and entitlement

Over the weekend, my husband and I took the kids out for dinner after Mass. It had been an incredibly busy day, and frankly, I am getting kind of bored with making dinner every night. Seriously bored.

We choose a semi-fast Asian fusion restaurant, where we can order our children's Honey Garlic chicken without the honey or garlic. Any guesses as to what's left when you remove those two key ingredients? Chicken nuggets. With steamed white rice. I know.

We placed our order, and went to find a place to sit with our family horde. And there, we were met with the self serving, entitled older folks. Giving us the evil eye.

And I swear that my children were being good. No one was fighting, no one was whining about the chopstick clips, no one was upset about being hungry.

So I gave the evil eye back. They kept glancing our way, with tight frowns on wrinkled, sour faces. They got their bowl of wonton soup before us, even though we got our order in first.

Eventually, we got our soup. And our fabulous lettuce wraps. And that's when one of the entitled retirees snapped at the waiter, and me, as I sat gap-mouthed, astounded by her rudeness.

"You didn't order lettuce wraps, did you?" she asked accusingly.

"We most certainly did. Sorry." I answered smiling sweetly as I seethed.


She must have taken the hint. She mumbled something, half-apologetically, about us having ordered first. My husband and I exchanged puzzled looks.

How do people think that being that rude entitles them to any kind of special treatment? Why do these people feel that anything and everything that they want, they are entitled to?

Our mean neighbor and her entourage got their order messed up. The restaurant was so busy that the waiters failed to catch they incessant bickering over the order being wrong.

And us?

We enjoyed the rare instance in which we dined out and our children actually enjoyed their meal and each other's company. Hubby and I had a deep philosophical conversation about the Bill of Rights and separation of Church and State.

And you know what? I felt sorry for that group of people who sat a mere four feet away from our table. Because everyone is entitled to some happiness. And it was clear that these four people were not happy. Not because their food was wrong or because they were sitting next to young children.

Because they were failing to see that happiness is something that they could grasp for themselves. It was not the lettuce wraps that they ordered and did not come as quickly as they wanted.

It is in our grasp to live in the moment.

To relish and savor the tender morsels of everyday joy, instead of cultivating anger and anxiety.

On the way home, I thought of what these people must have endured in their lives. But, we all experience disappointments, sadness, anger, rejection, sickness... What makes people hold on to that yuck? So much so that it taints everything around them? How do we avoid becoming that person?

We experience it, but we don't have to hold on to it. We learn from it. We release it. We move on.

And when all else fails, we dig into those lettuce wraps, and perhaps, gloat just a wee bit...

Hey, I never said I was perfect!

P.S. A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY goes out to the best dad in law anywhere, Granddaddy! So sorry the kids were sick this week and we missed out on celebrating with you! We love you and will see you soon!