Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Girls Weekend – Summer ‘11 - The Final Day

On Sunday, our last full day in Colorado, it was unanimous that we would head to a water park.  Water slides, inner tubes, the works.  It was going to be a super hot day, so it was going to be the perfect thing to do. And it was. 

The minute we arrived I knew it was going to be great for Emma.  She loves the water.  It was crowded, but it wasn’t NYC crowded, so we were able to find a nice spot with a couple of lounge chairs as our base. For some reason I was starving, and so was Emma, so as we were spraying on our sunscreen, we were also inhaling some left over pizza. As soon as Lola was sunscreened, she was off like a shot.  Emma took off after her.  I grabbed my sunglasses and followed them with my eyes for a while, until it seemed as if they were fine together.  Then Leslie and I looked at eachother and we followed them to the slides.
They were having a blast.  The slides reminded me of The Giant Slide in Mayfield Heights, Ohio where we used to go as kids.  Except this one was in water.  Sebastian would have loved this.
Emma spotted me and we went on another bigger, curvy slide together.  It was really fun, and we went on with our day trying out the different slides and running into Lola, Leslie, Jones and Michael along the way.  Everyone seemed content to do his or her own thing, and that was fine by me.  We took some food and slushy breaks, but mostly we were all in the water, except for Christina and Michael’s friend Shawn, who didn’t have kids to look after and could actually sit and bake in the sun like adults. 

During one of our breaks, my phone rang and it was Sebastian.  “Hi Honey!” I answered. No response.  The reception was really bad, so I had to walk to a spot to get a better signal.  He called me again and after a few tries I heard “Hi Mama.” The reception was still pretty bad, but at least I could hear him.  I love the sound of his voice. And that he still calls me Mama at thirteen. 
“How is your weekend with Daddy?” I asked.
“Good.” he is a man of few words.
“Well, we are at a water park today, as you can probably hear.”
“Yeah. I can hear.”
“I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”
“Me too.”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”

About an hour later, we decided to go and eat at the famous Cherry Cricket, which is known to have the best burgers in Denver. It was a beautiful drive into the city and soon we got to this dive bar playing 80’s and early 90’s hits.  Ah, The Cherry Cricket Bar.  Another perfect choice.  The three kids headed straight to the pin ball games, and we got settled in with the menus.  We were all pretty hungry now and ready for some food.  And beer.  Leslie recommended my beer, “Mama’s Little Yellow Pils.” Excellent.  We had these jalepeno poppers with homemade jelly, which were curiously good, and my burger was amazing.  And that was not just the pils talking…

I looked over at Emma, and she had devoured her burger and was asking for some of mine.  Another win.   
After dinner we went outside and took some pictures of the kids as the boys went to get the cars.  All three kids were in perfect synch and there were lots of giggles.  Back at home our plan was to watch a movie and get the kids down early.  The movie of choice was “Never say Never” The Justin Bieber Movie.  I will admit, I was almost as anxious as Emma was to see it.  Leslie, Christina and I watched the entire movie with the kids, while Michael and Shawn found a nice quiet spot in the bedroom to watch the baseball game. 

That night I was hoping to get Emma to sleep right after the movie along with Lola and Jones, and head back into the living room for some grown up time before we left the next morning.  

As I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, in comes Emma.  “Why aren’t you in bed?” I said with slight irritation.
“I’m scared.”
“Well, you need to give me some privacy, please. I’ll be right out to tuck you in.”
She didn’t budge. 
I finished brushing my teeth, washed my face and even flossed just to make my point, and then I got her back into bed.  I read her a chapter of Emily’s Runaway Imagination, scratched her back and said “Ok, I will just be a little while and then I will come right back.”
“No! I’m going with you!” she said.
“No you are not.  This is grown up time now.”
She started to get out of bed and follow me, so back down I went. 
I scratched her back some more and put my arm around her to wait until she fell asleep. 

The next thing I knew the sun was shining and I realized it was our day to leave.

I was sad to leave, but I was OK to head back to Brooklyn, too.  I missed Sebastian and Dave and quite honestly, I was ready for Emma to have some Daddy time.  Leslie drove us to the airport and I teared up saying goodbye.  I have known her forever, after all.  Emma was sad to leave, too.  She even gave Leslie a hug and mumbled a thank you. 

It was a great girls weekend. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Girls Weekend – Summer ‘11 - Day 3

On Saturday, I had my first Colorado Hiking experience. We left the kids with Leslie’s friend Amy for a playdate with her kids, and Christina, Leslie and I hit the trails of Chautauqua Mountain.   

By the time we got to the mountain, it was noon and at least 100 degrees out.  Thank God we were armed with water bottles and cute hiking skirts. 

As we started up the hill, I started to breathe funny.  “I can’t breathe very well,” I panted.  “I am really out of shape!”

“No you’re not, it’s just the altitude, you old lady” Leslie said.
I started laughing, which of course made it worse.  “And I’m sweating like a pig.”
“Me too” said Les.  “We can take a break in the shade up there.”
The “shade” couldn’t come fast enough. 
Christina seemed fine, but she was sweating too, so I didn’t feel like such a dork.
“My heart is beating so fast,” I said as I guzzled out of one of the water bottles. 
“I think I am addicted to water.”  Leslie said.  “I may have a problem.”
Naturally we all started cracking jokes about being in a group for recovering water addicts. 
I finally caught my breath and could take in the scenery.  It was amazing.  Huge mountains and trees and blue skies - a true post card moment. 
“I feel very small here in Colorado.” I said.
We managed to keep going for about another 30 minutes or so, taking frequent breaks and talking to “the locals” whenever there was a shady spot and then Leslie’s phone rang. 
I had a sinking feeling that it was about Emma.
It was. 
Apparently she wasn’t playing with the kids outside on the slip-n-slide, and Leslie’s friend Amy was worried that she wasn’t having a good time. “No need to rush.” Amy said.  
Time to go back.  

“It’s the bees.” I said.  “She doesn’t like to go outside when there are bees.”

Thankfully, going down the hill was much easier than going up, except for the fact that I felt like I was going to fall on my butt at any given moment.  There were a couple of close calls, but no falls.
We made it Amy’s house in record time and Emma was fine.  I thanked Amy for watching her, and asked my daughter why she didn’t want to play with the other kids, and she told me there were wasps out there. 
Amy said that she actually went to the store and bought wasp spray and then she sprayed the wasps in front of Emma so that she could see that they were all gone, but that didn’t really help.  She said Emma wouldn’t talk much, either.
“Thank you so much Amy.  It’s nothing personal.” I said with my tail between my legs.   
As my “verge of having another not so great Mom moment” started to percolate, it was time to go.  
I took a breath, told Emma to thank Amy and her kids for letting her “play” at their house.  She managed to mumble a "thankyou," and we headed straight for Left Hand Brewery. 

Christina and I were in on the secret that Leslie’s husband Michael was planning a surprise party for her, so this was part of a stall.  The brewery was the perfect place.  It was packed with kids and adults, and I commented on how funny that was.  “We start them early here in Boulder,” Leslie joked.   

We grabbed some seats and a beer and the kids had some fizzy drinks and pretzels.   As luck would have it, as soon as Leslie went to the bathroom, we got the call from Michael saying it was OK to come back home.

As we pulled into her development, Leslie noticed that there were some people in the lawn by their apartment, and lots of kids running through the sprinklers.  Jones and Lola started giggling as they were also in on the surprise, and Leslie started to realize what was going on. 
There was a big sign saying Happy 40th!, so that was a bit of a giveaway. 

 We parked the car and the kids ran out and we all joined in for what was a really fun evening of friends, food, and homemade birthday cake.  Michael told Leslie that she and her friends were not to lift a finger, so we all just sat back and enjoyed ourselves.  Leslie seemed really happy, and it was so great that Emma and I could be there to share this special day with her.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Girls Weekend – Summer ‘11 - Day 2

On Friday, Leslie’s sister in law surprised her and came for the weekend bright and early at 8am.  Leslie was definitely surprised and very happy to see Christina.  After we all had a cup of coffee, we tried to figure out what to do for the day.   

As per Jones’ suggestion, we decided to go to this cool place called "Gateway," where we could all ride go karts and play some games.  I knew Emma would love the games (she is a sucker for winning prizes), and I really thought she would love the go karts.   
I was wrong on the go karts.   
Fortunately, they were big, with two seats each so that the kids could each ride with a grown-up.

Leslie and Jones on their go kart
Me and Emma on our go karts - all smiles at firs
I was pretty excited, and I think Emma was at first, too, as she started off with a smile.  The seats were super hot, so that was strike one.  And they were loud.  Strike two.  We had the entire track to ourselves, so as soon as we hit the pavement, I put the pedal to the metal and took off!  

Emma looked completely horrified.  I tried to calm her down by pointing out the beautiful mountains in the distance as we tore around the first corner.  Strike three was when all of these “things” kept flying into the cart.  I saw that they were little grasshoppers, and told her so thinking she would think that they were cute.  
 “I want to get out! I want to get out!”   
So, after only one lap, we pulled into the drop off area.  I asked her if I could still keep going and she said, “Ok,” so I went around a couple more times, waving to her each time around.  She seemed relieved to be away from the grasshoppers and gave me a sort of half wave.

When we went inside to play the games, it was a different story.  Emma couldn’t get enough.  Leslie bought some tokens for the three of them to share, and Emma went to town.  We found a few games that gave out a lot of tickets and it looked like Emma was in the lead...until we heard these bells ringing and cries of joy at a nearby game.  Lola had hit the jackpot and ended up winning 1000 tickets.  Emma was in disbelief.  The tickets kept streaming out.  They wouldn’t stop.  Soon our measley 110 tickets seemed like a drop in the bucket.  After a little back and forth, Lola unselfishly decided to pool all of the tickets together and divide them three ways so that everyone could get more stuff.  Emma was again relieved, and the smiles returned.  In the bathroom, I asked Emma if she would have done the same thing, and she didn’t answer me.  They all three picked out pretty similar toys and candy and we decided that it was time to get some lunch.  
Hazed and Infused - Boulder Beer

We drove into Boulder and ended up eating at California Pizza Kitchen where I had my first Colorado beer – Hazed and infused.  Yum.  Lunch was a total success as the kids devoured their mac-n-cheese and Leslie and I enjoyed our salad and afternoon treat.  We then optimistically decided that would just pop into Nordstrom Rack, or “The Rack” and see if we could get something to wear out that night.  We seemed to forget that we had the three kids in tow.  We walked in saying very clearly that it was not a buying day for the kids, but for the Mom’s.  What? After losing a small battle in the dressing room, I ended up buying Emma a party dress, Leslie got Lola some jeggings and Jones a new T-shirt, and both she and I ended up with some boring cotton underwear. 
Ah well… At least the beer was pretty great.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Girls Weekend – Summer ‘11 - Day 1

Today Emma and I are heading to Colorado to visit my childhood friend, Leslie for her 40th b-day, and her family.  It’s our Girls’ Weekend, and we have been planning this for a while now.  A trip to spend some quality time together.  Not that Emma and I don’t spend enough time together…
“You need to stop following me around, please.” I said yesterday in a weak/not one of my better parenting moments. 
But, this morning started off without a hitch.  I woke up at the crack of dawn, replied to my emails, FB posts, and tweets, like usual, and gently reminded my husband to “deal with Emma.” He is much better with her in the morning. 
Emma was awake when I got out of the shower, and I went up to her with a hug and big smile and said “Girls Weekend!”
“Yay!” she said back in her sleepy voice.  I love it when Emma first wakes up.  She moves much slower than normal, and is simply irresistible with her faint morning breath and messy hair.  She wasn’t hungry, and neither was I, so we skipped breakfast thinking that we would have plenty of time to eat in the airport.  I pulled off her nighty and pulled on her dress in one swift motion, told her to brush her hair and teeth, and she was ready. Emma loves to travel. 

After calling the car service and asking my husband if he was planning on seeing us off in his underwear, we were ready to go out on the stoop and wait the usual 5 to 7 minutes.  At about 20 minutes later, I was already hitting a mild panic.  I love to travel too, but ONLY if everything goes according to my plan.  I had left just enough time for us to get to the airport, and to have a few minutes to eat before getting to our gate.  These extra 20 minutes were not in the plan. 
Finally, the car arrived, and my now fully clothed husband loaded our suitcase into the trunk and we were off.  Our driver asked me what time our flight was, and when I told him, he said “Oh, that’s cutting it close, huh?”

Traffic was pretty heavy in Brooklyn, but I just kept breathing.  I took a mental stock on what food I had with us in case we had to run to the gate.  We had a kids Cliff bar, gum, and Trek Mix. Oh, and a bottle of warm tap water that would have to be thrown away at the check point.  Thank God the traffic wasn’t bad into Manhattan nor at the Holland Tunnel.  Our driver kept reminding me just how lucky I was, and thanks to God that he knows the quickest ways around the city. We got to Newark Airport in record time, with 40 minutes to spare.  As we walked to our gate, I let out a sigh of relief, and we were on the hunt for some food for the trip.  It’s a four-hour trip, after all.  We found a McDonalds’ and even though I never eat there, I usually make an exception on trips, and an egg and cheese biscuit with hashbrowns sounded pretty great to me.  Not to Emma.  She chose a chocolate glazed donut at Dunkin Donuts.  And a banana.  I made her get the banana. As we went to our gate to sit down, Emma with her hand already in the donut bag, I reached in to get the banana.  No banana. As much as I wanted to just forget about it, I looked at the receipt and it was .99.  I also imagined Emma having a sugar crash and possible meltdown halfway through the flight.  So after Emma inhaled her donut, we went back to get the damn banana.
On our way back to the gate, we picked up Vitamin Water and some pretzels for good measure. 
A little while after we returned, it was time to board. Thank God. 

I am excited to see my friend.  She and I have known eachother since we were Emma’s age.  We lived two houses away and went back and forth to our homes so many times a week that there is probably still a worn out path to this day in our neighbor’s yard between us.  I revel at the freedom that we had as kids.  In the summer, we were basically allowed to just be outside all day.  Leslie’s Mom had a bell that she would ring at exactly 5:00 pm telling her it was time to come home for dinner.  We usually ate much later, so most times, Leslie would go home, eat, and then come back out, until it was our turn to eat. I am excited to see her, to see her kids, and to see how our kids get along.  They have only met twice before, and they were so young that Emma doesn’t even really remember.  Leslie has a daughter one year older than Emma, and a son one year younger.  Perfect.  

We arrived 45 minutes early in Denver and Leslie was waiting at the pick up point wearing a huge smile.  I was so excited to see her.  Our drive to her apartment was beautiful.  There was this amazing blue sky and picturesque mountains with snowcaps in the distance.  The air seemed much cleaner, too.   

“I want to sit next to Emma” squealed Leslie’s kids when they came home from camp.
Emma was beaming, and so was I.  The three of them got along beautifully at first.  Then of course, came the obvious problem of having three: two girls and one boy.  Leslie’s daughter Lola and Emma quickly declared a “no boys” zone and the tears started.  Both Leslie and her husband tried to solve the problem diplomatically, and we basically told the girls that they needed to include everyone, and eventually, they worked it out.  There were many times when Emma shared a nice cuddly moment with Leslie’s son Jones, too.  I loved seeing them interact, and to see how alike they were as well as different. They look very different for one thing.  Leslie’s kids are fair and blonde, and Emma is exactly the opposite, dark and tan.  Exactly like Leslie and I were as kids.  Sleeping arrangements were made and Emma and I happily passed out at 10pm, ready to see what the rest of the weekend would bring...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Three Little Birds – How Nature Brings Us Back to Life

This past week my kids and I spent a glorious stress free vacation in sunny North Carolina visiting my sister and her family.  It was stress free, but it wasn’t by any means electronic free.  I really tried to unplug us, but given the options (macbook, tv, iphone, itouch, ipad2, wii), it wasn’t easy.  Both of my kids as well as my sister’s kids are growing up with electronics in their every day life.  We have time restrictions, but it’s a struggle for me to enforce them, especially in the summer.   In some ways it amazes me how advanced and adept in anything electronic they are.   My sister’s kids are younger than mine, but at two and four years old, they are still both able to navigate their Daddy’s iphone with no problems whatsoever. 
“Sebastian, how come I can’t get my phone to stop flipping the screen around when I turn it sideways?” In two seconds he comes over and taps the screen a few times and it’s fixed.  “There you go, Mama.” He says with a twinge of annoyance.  He's 13.  

In some ways, I am saddened by the fact that they have so much time with electronic stuff and so little time with nature.  When we were kids, my sister and I had each other to play with, our friends on the street, and the backyard.  We were free to roam and explore.  We would open up the backdoor on a summer’s day, and only come in when we were hungry.  My sister especially was one with nature.  She was constantly fostering animals and could build things with her bare hands from any materials that she found lying around in Dad’s garage.  We were also pretty amazing tree climbers, and would hang out in the branches for hours.  We were pretty content with this, and didn’t have much choice about it either.  Our kids today have so many choices and distractions away from this lifestyle, that to call it sensory overload would be an understatement.  

One day, while sitting on the back porch of my sister’s house, we noticed her dog Jada going crazy jumping up and down by this tree next to us.  After many attempts to get her to stop, we realized that she was barking at a nest of 3 blue robin eggs.  We called all four of the kids over to come and have a look, and from that minute on, we were hooked.  Every morning we checked on the nest.  We watched the eggs hatch into birds and watched the little birds grow every day.  My sister and I saw both the female and the male bird feeding the babies.  (We had no idea they both did this?) One night there was a huge storm and as Emma and I lay in our bed listening to it, she asked me about the baby birds.  Were they going to be ok? I told her that the Mama bird was used to these storms and would sit on her babies and protect them until the storm was over.  The next day (much to my relief), the baby birds were still there safe and sound.  They had grown so much in just a day that they were almost bursting out of their nest.   

On our last day I went out to check on the birds early in the morning and took a photo to send to Dave back in NY.  I think it was so that I could also remember how amazing it was. 
On our flight home I showed the picture to the kids (on my iphone) and they were both so happy.  I found myself reveling in the fact that all of us were so connected to these little birds, and that our kids were fascinated with them.  It made me feel more alive.  Possibly this is how the kids felt, too?  Emma kept saying how she just wanted to hold them and feel how fluffy they were.  
I think maybe we will have to check out more hands on things this summer, and maybe she could even hold some baby chicks somewhere? You can’t really get that same feeling from an app on the ipad. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Does Music Really Make A Difference? A short story...

I have been teaching music and movement classes in Emma's school on fridays for over a month now.  It has by far become my most favorite day of the week.  It's not that it's easy, in fact, it's quite challenging. There are about 100-150 kids in each group, and they are all so excited that sometimes controlling the chaos is well...let's just say, it can get quite loud and energetic.  But they all come around eventually, and do what I ask them to and it seems to be going quite well.  Part of the joy that I get out of it is that satisfaction of being able to handle such an enthusiastic crowd of 5-7 year olds, and to have them walk away singing new songs.

In this school, there are 2 classrooms of special needs children.  My schedule allows me to spend a little extra time with them in their rooms after the large groups.  I am fortunate to have this time with them, and they seem to really like being able to touch the guitar and have their questions answered.  However, their needs are so varied that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to accommodate them as a group.  After my first one on one class with them,  I left feeling a bit confused.  I know that they enjoyed my class, but am I really going to be able to make a difference, or is it just entertainment?

Two weeks ago, I was in the middle of teaching my second group class of the day - my pre-k and k classes.  These classes are really more like interactive mini-concerts, and are held in the multi-purpose room.  I saw one of my students who has special needs walk by the door in the hallway.  Well, he didn't really walk by, he actually stopped still in the doorway, turned to the group and began actively listening to the music. I noticed that his Physical Therapist (PT) was there and assumed that they were on their way to a session.  This little boy (we'll call him Johnny) stayed in the doorway for quite some time and I waved to him.  He smiled and waved back.  A few seconds later, I saw his PT speak to him, and then Johnny came in and joined the group.  He sat right down in the middle of another class (children that he did not know), and began to participate.  All of the teachers made him feel welcome, and he stayed for the rest of the class.   
After wards, the children left and I immediately became busy talking with some of the teachers and  taking down my sound equipment.  I didn't see Johnny again that day.
The PT came up to me a few minutes later and said "That was quite amazing what happened with Johnny." 
"I know." I said.  "I am sorry if I took him away from your session. Thank you for letting him participate."
"Well, I didn't have a choice." he told me.  "Johnny stood there in the doorway and would not follow me, and then informed me that he was going to your class instead." he said with a smile.
"Really?" I asked.  
"Yes. And did you see what happened after your performance?"
"No" I answered.
"You see, normally after our sessions, Johnny doesn't walk up the stairs.  He can walk down, no problem, but he doesn't ever go up.  He complains and drags his feet and most times I have to help him, or even carry him back up to his classroom."
"Oh, I didn't know that." I said.  I wasn't really sure where this story was going...
"So, after your performance,  he turned to me and said "Good show!" and walked up to his classroom. 

I looked at him.  He had a glowing look on his face as he looked directly at me.  
I realized that I had tears in my eyes. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Suzi Shelton Band performs LIVE at Southpaw with Little Miss Ann

We are so excited to kick off our spring with Chicago's own Little Miss Ann and her band at one of our favorite hotspots - Southpaw! This concert will benefit a local preschool that is near and dear to my heart, Brooklyn Free Space, and will be held on Saturday, March 5th at 12:30pm.