Friday, March 26, 2010
To make up for our lack of gift giving and scheduled celebrations, we party and gift-give for no reason at all, any time we feel like it. The thought of a unique gift my husband picks up for me in a Yoga Studio in Japan during his travels has real meaning and becomes that more special.
It wasn't until our first child became old enough to understand and experience Christmas that we actually had to spend time advance-planning gift purchases and making an elaborate display of putting up a tree. That first year didn't go so well. I remember stressing over what to get for him and our tree was a naked, hot mess. My brother, mother, and father-in-law had to come to town to help us hippy, rogue parents get our #%*! together. We've come a long way since then, but only with the children.
We started planning vacations 2x a year for places and activities the kids would love. Skiing with their god-brothers in the mountains of Virginia, flying in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, swimming in the ocean waves of St. Kitts & Nevis with their cousins, throwing slime on each other at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando. They've seen and experienced more in 11 and 7 years than most adults do their whole lives. And my husband and I love creating the adventure.
But there comes a time when Mom and Dad need to get away... alone... with each other. We've had plenty of opportunities over the years. When we drop the kids off in Miami to stay with my mom for a few weeks in the summer, we could fly down to the Caribbean for a few days of R&R, but we never do. When my father-in-law comes to visit for a week during the winter, we could drive a couple of hours away to a bed-and-breakfast in the mountains, but we never do. In fact, I started thinking about all the times my husband and I have enjoyed a trip alone since our first son was born in 1998. I came up with 3x - Montego Bay in 1999, Negril in 2003, and San Diego in 2004.
FACT: My husband and I are work-a-holics. We know this. Others know this about us.
My husband's job requires him to fly to far-reaching destinations like Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Tai Pei on a regular, weekly basis. I own and run a Yoga & Fitness studio and manage my fitness outsourcing company keeping me on my toes about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. In between our hectic work schedules, we are the parents you see on the soccer field every weekend and volunteering in the classroom once a week. Additionally, we both hold leadership positions with organizations unrelated to work and our kids.
We need a vacation at least once a year.
Two weeks ago, I decided I needed to get away and shut it all down. The meetings, the classes, the presentations, the clients, the laundry, the homework (that's getting harder and harder for me to remember), the fights to break up between the kids, the grocery shopping... I had to get away. My husband has been in three different time zones in the last 10 days. He's been presenting, meeting, and networking with 3 different cultures for more than 4 weeks straight. He needs to take a break. His last conference for the month was scheduled to be in Las Vegas ending on Thursday 3/25, and we decided on whim that I would come and hang out on Thursday and we'd vacation with each other until Monday.
Las Vegas. The last time we'd been there as a couple was in 1995 when we played hooky from our respective jobs and he drove in from LA and I flew in from Baltimore. We finagled our way into a suite at the MGM Grand, scored free tickets (which we sold on the street) to the Jackson Family Reunion concert, and my husband was interviewed by MTV on the strip. (It aired that night, his co-workers saw him, he got in trouble... but it was fun).
15 years later, I'm sitting in the picture window of a suite on the 28th floor of The Palazzo Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Yesterday, I slept about 10 hours straight, ordered room service, then slept another 2 hours. Today I am scheduled for 3 hours of spa treatments at the Canyon Ranch spa located in our hotel, and my husband is going to enjoy a couple of the treatments with me.
We've dined at fabulous restaurants without fighting with a child about eating his vegetables and reminding the other to chew with his mouth closed. We've partied until 4:00 am without stressing over a babysitter. We've shopped in stores that don't have video games and toys. We've slept until 10:00 am without being awakened by Spongebob Squarepants on the television and a wrestling match in the bed next to ours. We're actually vacationing like two grown adults without a care in the world.
While I do feel completely relaxed and stress-free, I have to admit that I miss my babies. Everything I see makes me think of them, and a little part of me wishes they could be here, too. But, for once, I'm practicing what I preach to my clients and workshop participants all the time: Take a little time for yourself so you can be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend to those around you.
I'm doing me (and my husband, too;).
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
There are two kinds of moms in the world. Moms that were born to mother daughters and those that were meant to mother sons. I’ve always known I was the latter. I don’t mind dirt and bugs and wrestling in the house – I’d prefer those things weren’t in my house, but it doesn’t bother me when they appear. In fact, I enjoy kicking off my shoes and engaging in an impromptu foot race through the dirt or rolling down a hill into a pile of leaves. I prefer wearing sneakers to heels, and I refuse to wear hose.
One Saturday in March, I enjoyed a proud-mother-of-a-son moment at the GSA soccer field. As my older son fervently ran up and down the field, my 7-year old struggled to climb over the chain-link fence separating one field from another. Other boys climbed up and hopped over, but my little one kept falling back in frustration. After a few failed attempts, my husband said, “When you get to the top, grab the bar and push yourself up with straight arms. Then step on the bar with one foot and you can swing over to the other side.”
Miraculously, my son climbed to the top, pushed himself onto straight arms, stepped on the bar and jumped over onto the ground below. My heart swelled with pride as I shouted, “Good job, Man!” and turned back to the game.
The following Sunday, I drove my older son and his teammate to a game about an hour away. It was a cold and rainy day, so I sat in the car on the edge of the field and tooted my horn whenever they made a good play. At the end of the game, my son and his friend raced to the car, got in and we headed home. The next morning, he came to me and asked, “Have you seen my cleats, Mom?” Red flag alert. Warning, warning.
For any other child, this wouldn’t be a major problem. Cleats missing? Just buy new ones and keep it moving. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for us. My son has to special order his cleats because his feet are extra wide and flat. Additionally, he has special orthotic inserts that were made for him by a therapist in Maryland.
Like any good mother, I asked the coach, emailed the other kids’ parents, and even the called the other team’s coach to see if anyone had picked them up. No luck. Unfortunately, no one had a telephone number to the soccer field either. So, I got in my car during a 2-hour break between appointments that Monday morning and drove 45 minutes to the field. When I got there, the field was closed and locked… by a 6-foot chain link fence. I parked my car, got out and stared at the fence. Could I squeeze through the small opening between the two fences that were chained together? I tried and the immediate answer was... no.
Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the fence with both hands and poked the toe of my left sneaker into one of the links. I talked to myself all the way up the fence… “come on, you can do this. Pretend like you’re on the Amazing Race.” You know, stuff like that. When I got to the top bar, my husband’s voice came into my head like Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. “When you get to the top, grab the bar and push yourself up with straight arms.” My arms were shaking from the climb, but I DID IT! I stepped on the top bar like he said, but there was NO WAY I was gonna jump down 6 feet – I’m not the Bionic Woman or the Six Million Dollar Man. So I gingerly stepped over onto a metal support bar and jumped 4 feet down instead.
It would have been great if the adventure ended there, but you know it didn’t. The field was more than a quarter mile away and my time was running out. I jogged across the parking lot and gingerly picked my way over the muddy field to the bench where the team had sat the day before. No cleats. Nothing. I sighed and turned around to go back, when it hit me. I would have to scale that fence again to get back to my car, and there was no support rail on the other side. I’m a praying woman, so prayer seemed appropriate at that moment.
Amazingly, as I jogged back, a truck came lumbering down the drive and parked behind my car. At first, I thought someone had seen me and reported me to the police and they were coming to drag me away for trespassing. But no, it was the Port-a-Potty clean-up man. He unlocked the chain and opened the fence, and I thought I heard angels singing and playing harps at that very moment. Not only did he let me out, but he also had a telephone number that went directly to the field director.
Some people might say this story is nothing more than luck, but I know a few things:
- I have never scaled a fence in my life and I have never received instructions on how to do it. One week after I hear instructions on how to scale a fence, I had to do it.
- I would have broken something I need to walk if I had jumped off that fence to the other side. The cleaning company came and unlocked the fence just as I prayed for assistance.
- No one had a telephone number for the park and none was posted at the fields. The clean up man had a direct number to the Director of the field, and the Director was able to check the lost-and-found.
Call it what you want, but I didn’t miss the power of multiple coincidences. And, as always, I’m thankful for small blessings.