So Much Cuteness: Halloween Edition

Despite his love for Mickey Mouse, Jude was so uninterested in trying on his costume for Halloween this year that I was sure he would refuse to wear it at his school’s parade. I waited by the fence with all the other parents, wondering if they would convince him to wear the body suit.

He’ll be a deconstructed Mickey, I told myself.

So when he walked out fully dressed as his favorite mouse, smiling, waving, and holding his teacher’s hand, my heart melted.

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It was so much cuteness, I could barely stand it.

Later, after dinner, we visited a few neighbors on our block to collect candy. It was precious, watching him make his way to each front door, not-quite-getting the whole trick-or-treat thing but still eager to drop the candy into his bag and to point out all the jack-o-lanterns along the way.

“Let’s go to that house,” he would say before we were off the porch of the last one, just like he was born ready.

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I loved it so much that I wished I could hold onto it just a little while longer, and then some more after that.

At bedtime, I asked Jude what he liked best about today, and he said, clutching his Mickey Mouse stuffed animal:

“Mickey.”

I could not agree more.

What did you like best about Halloween this year?

Hope it was happy!

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All Together Now

Today, when I dropped Jude off at school, the teachers and the other kids were enjoying circle time on the carpet. The lead teacher had just finished reading a book, and the little ones were requesting songs. Jude dutifully took his place amongst his friends while I hung up his coat.

One little boy asked if they could sing the “truck song”. When the teacher seemed confused, indicating that she didn’t have such a song in her repertoire, I laughed and told her she could just do what Jude likes, which is to insert whichever object he wants to sing about inside Old MacDonald. For example, “Old MacDonald had a truck, e-i-e-i-o”.

“You could go on like that for hours,” I said.

She smiled, but I’m thinking that was the last thing she felt like doing. With your own kids? Sure. Old MacDonald all the Old MacDay. But with a group of rambunctious toddlers? Probably not.

As this was going on, one of Jude’s classmates–we’ll call him Tom–stood up and started walking towards me. He has scoliosis and wears a pretty large brace, so things like this require him to use a bit of effort. Wordlessly, he held out his hand for mine, and then he lead me back over to the circle, sitting on the carpet in front of me, looking for me to do the same.

“Tom, do you want Jude’s mommy to join the group?” The other teacher said.

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There was no way I could refuse, and thus, I sat through the “Bumblebee Song” and “Twinkle Twinkle” before I made my quiet exit, kissing Jude on the top of the head on my way out the door.

I was so touched by Tom’s willingness to include me that I forgot to drop off Jude’s lunch in the fridge and had to turn around and bring it back to the school half-way into my drive home. But, it got me to thinking. Isn’t that all we need as human beings? Someone to take our hand and to invite us into the circle? It was such a small gesture, but it was also a dear one, and once again, I was reminded that sometimes (most times) kids get it better than any adult ever could.

Happy Friday!

What made your Friday awesome? 

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Your Fantasies are Ruining Your Child’s Life

That magical time of year is upon us. Forget the hayrides, pumpkin picking, tall boots, and fire pits. I’m talking big-time here. I’m talking the kind of stuff that can send a mom into a temporary state of delusion.

I’m talking fall minis.

For those of you who are not in the know, fall minis are short sessions offered by your favorite photographer during the fall season with the aim of capturing best-photos-in-the-history-of-mankind-ever that you will turn around and use for your holiday cards. If you’re a mom, or if you are friends with any moms of young children, or if you’re friends with anyone who is friends with a mom , you’ve no doubt come across these shots on FB. They often feature an exquisitely dressed child in front of some architecturally-cool building or running around some gorgeous landscape. The lighting is as perfect as the hair and face and smile. If it’s a family shot, everyone is color-coordinated and sharp. If it’s a close-up of just the child, her eyes are shining and her cheeks feature just enough pink to qualify as glowing. They are often magnificent, so much so that it is hard not to want one of your precious little darling (aka the most beautiful child ever born).

Once the appointment is booked and the payment is submitted though, this is when the real self-deception begins. Despite all past experiences, you will actually believe that this year’s session is going to be nothing short of amazing, and you will keep up that illusion until you walk back to your car after it’s all over, clutching your squirming child in one arm and his shoes, your purse, cardigan, and all of your dignity in the other.

And yet, it’s the steadfast belief in the darn fantasy that ultimately ruins the whole experience. It’s like a silly extension of the even more preposterous notion that women must be “supermoms” or that they need to “have it all.”

“How so”, you say? Let’s illustrate, shall we?

The Fantasy:

You arrive fifteen minutes early for your fall mini with your adorably dressed child. This gives you plenty of time to get him acclimated to the environment. The weather is perfect, and you’re looking and feeling pretty great, too. Life is good. When the fifteen minute session begins, your child snaps into cooperation mode. He sits where he’s told and delivers the most natural, genuine smiles. He has fun. He dances to the music you brought, just like you practiced. What a ham! You can’t believe how quickly it’s over, and you have no idea how you’re going to choose one shot out of all the perfection the photographer seemed to capture. It might be time for one of those collage-holiday cards this year!

The Reality:

You arrive five minutes before your appointment because you’ve never been to this park and have no idea how to navigate the parking situation and, oh yeah, you are never on time for anything in your life. Your child is adorable, but he’s already complaining about his new boots, which are somehow grass-stained within thirty seconds of leaving the car. You thought you looked pretty cute until you realized that the t-shirt you’re wearing doesn’t match your cardigan because you got dressed in dim lighting. (That is what you get for not listening when your mother tells you to buy more lamps.)

When the session begins, your child immediately starts up with this weird, scrunchy “cheeeeeese” face that bears an almost exact resemblance to the one you made when you were his age. So, instead of telling him to smile, you have to keep saying things like, “No cheese face, baby,” in between takes. When it becomes clear that you won’t get a single, nice photo together, you move to another location.

Here, you bust out the secret weapon: the playlist with all his favorite songs. But unlike your living room, or the car, or the mall, these songs fail miserably. Your child keeps running over to you to hug your legs or turning his back to the camera to ask if he can ride the slide, or making that darn “cheeeeeese” face (GAH)! You move to another location, but it’s more of the same until finally, the photographer says, “Let’s try to get more of the two of you.” At this point, you toss your heavy toddler into the air, positive that all this is going to yield is several unflattering shots of your double chin and more “cheeeeese” face.

Just when fifteen minutes feels like it might be ten hours, your time is up. You ask your photographer if she got any shots, and she tries to be positive and says, “Well, we got a lot of the scrunchy face.” Sweaty and defeated, you peel off your cardigan, thank her profusely, and head off in the direction of the slide (because you promised), all the while wondering if you can send out “artful” photo cards this year, maybe with just a close up of a squinting eye?

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Here I am, full “cheeeeese”.

No matter how messy the bubble when it bursts, it is the hope wrapped up inside the fantasy that keeps putting you back on the fall mini train over and over and over again.

You just can’t help yourself.

But when the planets align and you get THE photo of your dreams? Yeah, it’s all kind of worth it. Heck, even that scrunchy “cheeeeeese” face will be funny (and cute) later.

Perhaps the secret is to go into it fully embracing the reality, realizing that the most “imperfect” shots are the ones that capture your child or your family just being themselves in the moment–or reacting to the sort of unnatural act of carefully posing in a strange place with someone pointing a lens in their direction. Wouldn’t you rather have your energetic, wild, joyful child ten thousand times over than some fake, glossy version of him?

And can someone remind me about all of this next year?

———

Disclaimer: Let me just state that I love my photographer. She is not only super talented and ridiculously nice AND extra-patient, she is also a former student of mine, and I simply adore her.

I have a two-year-old, people.

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Next!

novelpicA few weeks ago, I made the brave but necessary choice to hand the draft of my novel over to two readers in the hopes of receiving honest, helpful feedback. I’d given it to my mom first, and she read it in seven hours (because that’s just how crazy supportive she is), but I know that I need a less biased set of eyes. So, I asked two friends whom I respect a great deal and who have experience with this sort of thing, and they graciously agreed to help me.

I could not be more grateful.

Though it is never easy to receive criticism–even when it is well-intended and useful–if I want to be a published writer (I do) then having others read it and provide their critiques is a crucial step to getting there.

The problem is that ever since I finished writing the thing, I have kind of missed it. I miss the characters and the story and the act of sitting in front of my laptop, letting my hands pound the keys faster than my mind can come up with the words. I miss the process. I miss the employees at Panera asking me: “So, how’s the novel going?” questions (yes, really!).

I miss the adrenaline.

So, last week, I decided to outline a new idea that I’ve been working on in my mind for a while. It hasn’t been easy starting the new piece, probably because I know I’m not all the way done with the last one in terms of editing and revision. On Monday, I sat on page one for an hour, typing and then erasing and then re-typing the words, trying to just–start. I know that if I can get past the first chapter, I will be fine, but it has been tough getting there. To help myself, I made the same kind of goals I made last year, and I set deadlines in my calendar.

Now, I need to keep telling myself I can do it again, and we’ll be good.

If nothing else, it feels good to have another project and another goal.

What do you do to keep busy between projects (writing or otherwise)? How do you stay motivated?

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Rocking the Commute

No matter what kind of morning/day I’m having, no matter how tired I am or how behind schedule I am or how overwhelmed/stressed I feel, there are certain moments of the day when none of that matters. One of those times is Jude’s bedtime ritual where I read him stories before we sing and cuddle (read: bliss).

The other is the commute to and from school.

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No pictures were taken while driving.

After I ask Jude for his song/band of choice, I turn the music up and we do “our dance,” which is kind of like a fist pump, except we jab our pointer fingers in the air in semi-rythm with the beat. Sometimes, we sing, and other times, Jude mimics the drums while I nod along with my head.

There are never any shortage of laughs or smiles, and I often find that these fifteen-odd minutes together (each way) will help get me through whatever else happens during rest of the day. I don’t know if he will remember them–I assume one day he’ll be mortified at the thought of dancing and singing with me anywhere–but I will never forget our car jams, and I will always, always love them.

Long live the pointing fist pump.

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A (Grate)Full Belly

Two nights ago at bed time, I attempted to introduce Jude to the concept of gratitude. It’s a good habit for him to form from an early age, and it is something that I want to incorporate into my own life, so why not combine the two by folding it into our nighttime ritual?

gratefulI have been quite blue lately, which is part of the reason I have not been saying a lot here. I know, sharing might make me feel better, but often, I find myself opening my laptop and staring at the empty “Add New Post” box, waiting for inspiration that never arrives. So, being grateful for all the positives in my life is something I am hoping will help pick me up out of the blah.

After we read two books, shut out the light, and sang, I tried to talked to Jude about feeling appreciative of all the awesome things we have around us. I started listing some items before asking my little love for his picks. Without hesitation, he said:

“Chips, chicken nuggs, and Dunkin Donuts.”

And then he followed up with an:

“Mmmmmmm.”

I’m not even sure he understood what we were talking about, but I like the way he thinks. Instead of worrying about things that haven’t happened, feeling sad about things that didn’t happen the way I would have liked, or wishing for things to hurry up and happen already, maybe I just need to think in simpler terms. Being grateful for a good song on the radio or nothing but green lights on the way to work, or–yes–a hot tea and a pumpkin muffin from Dunkin Donuts is all I need.

Mmmmmm. Pumpkin Muffins. I think I feel better already.

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Taking the Fall

I am having a hard time transitioning to fall.

I love pumpkin flavored things, boots with jeans, and crisp weather as much as the next girl, but I am just not in it this year. Part of the problem is that summer was just perfect. Jude and I spent lots of quality time at the beach, but we also had lots of adventures, like riding Thomas the Train and the visiting Dutch Wonderland and the Choo Choo Barn. We ate copious amounts of ice cream and stayed up way too late and went to the pool and just spent our days and nights loving life.

Two days a week, Jude went to school for a few hours so I could get writing and/or errands done, which was just the right amount alone time. During the summer, the students are treated to a summer camp, which included pony rides, splash days, a moon bounce, a visit from a mini-helicopter, and lots of other things that are way cooler than anything we’d be doing around the house. Plus, I figured it would be less of a shock to Jude’s system come September if we kept up with some kind of routine. So, in all, it was a good balance of together time and independent time, and I didn’t find myself missing him as much as I do when I am back at work.

In terms of personal goals, I ran my first 5K (what?!) and finished the first draft of my novel (WHAT?!) this summer, and both were awesome/exhilarating/beyond exciting.

Thus, it was a summer of relaxing and of adventure and of triumph. I suppose it would be expected that fall would be a little anticlimactic, yet I am still struggling.

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Recently, I wrote about Jude’s reluctance to wear “pants”. He likes to be free, man, and how could I blame him? But if getting him into shorts was hard, wrestling him into jeans and sneakers has been almost impossible.

“What happened to my legs?” He said in horror on the first brisk day of the season. The last time he’d worn jeans was May, and apparently, he’d forgotten all about them. “Take it off. I do not like it.”

“I know, buddy. I don’t like it when summer ends, either,” I said, trying to validate his feelings. It made me sad to see how heartbroken he felt about the resurgence of sweaters, jackets, and long pants.

Last weekend, I had this romantic notion that we’d go to the beach one more time. Jude asks me almost every morning if we could “Go beach? See ocean?” So I thought “Why the heck not?”

By the way, here’s why:

It’s not warm on the beach in mid-September. At least, not at the Jersey Shore. Maybe in an off year, there’ll be one unusually warm day, but in general, it is not warm enough to don a suit and jump the waves post-Labor Day.

We went to Point Pleasant Beach for the day so Jude could go on kiddie rides, and as much as he enjoyed the monster trucks and the crocodiles and the merry-go-round, he kept asking to “Go to the beach,” after each one. Though we didn’t have our blanket or his  pail and shovel, he did love running across the sand one last time, cackling as he chased my mom around in circles.

Even though it was good to be there, my heart sunk even further knowing that we would not be back under our umbrellas until next year. I am dreading the dark-at-five-o’clock nights and the piles of grading and the layers upon layers of clothing for some reason more this year than ever before, and I need something stronger than the pumpkin muffin Jude and I shared the other afternoon if I’m going to make it through to spring.

I am sure that once the semester is further along, and I am well into my cardigan rotation, I will have accepted the change of season, but for now, I am clinging to the green leaves and the memories of the perfection that was summer 2013.

Are you having a hard time letting go of summer, or do you welcome the fall with open arms?

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