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Valentine's Day, Usher style

We welcomed Valentine's Day by huddling together in the bathroom and later, on the beanbag under the loft bed that E was too sick and weak and tired to climb into after hours and hours of throwing up in the middle of the night. He was upset he'd miss the holiday at school. And for a moment, I wondered if he'd be OK to make it, at least long enough to pass out his cards and collect CandyGrams and pretend like he hadn't spent the night heaving into a trash can or toilet. But, of course, he wouldn't be. Even if he was miraculously healed up by 8 a.m., he'd be exhausted. There was no way. There was just no way.


I felt his pain, both in being so violently and suddenly sick and in the loss of missing out on the day with his friends. Skipping Valentine's Day at school was a small thing, of course, but is one of the few holidays celebrated in his class and really the only exception his teacher allows to a wonderful, necessary healthy-child initiative enacted in the school. Plus, I really get why the boy hates to miss a party. I hate to miss a party. Even when I'm ill.

Hours before the boy started puking, I laid out a Valentine celebration of our own with obligatory Hershey Kisses scattered across the counter and for E, a basket of red undies and socks, a stuffed Minecraft animal thingy I won't pretend to understand, a Lego guy pen and cards that play silly music that we will press over and over and over again until Fourth of July. For the Not Boyfriend, a Vanity Fair, fancy salted dark chocolate he'd have to share with me, and of course, his own singing card. 

I did Valentine's Day the way my mom did, down to the red celebratory chonies. And E loved all the little gifts and, feeling better, danced around along with the open-wide cards.

But a moment flashed over him.

"Oh no," he said, concerned. "I didn't get you and the NB anything."

"You got cards!" I replied cheerfully. What was he worried he should get?

"But little gifts! I didn't get any for you." This is my boy, observant, concerned.

"It's not your job," I explained, kissing his sweaty forehead. "It's my pleasure. It's what I do as a mama. You got your great cards and you can share the chocolate and give out hugs!"

He seemed satisfied, but that conversation preceded the puking and was long forgotten by the time his Valentine celebration happened at the kitchen counter rather than the classroom. 

What was waiting for me was a card E left out with the others. It was one he picked out when we were together, so it wasn't a big surprise. Still, it made me laugh and (yes, clearly) dance in my chair in between sips of coffee and stolen Kisses. He knew the card I chose for him, too, so we were even and still equally pretend-surprised to tear open the big red, stuffed-full envelopes.

And here is what was on mine (peek at the picture above): THE BRRST MOM EVVR! with a picture of me in the center of a curly-q'd MOM. 

Well, yes. You will read that BRRST MOM as "breast mom" because it's strange and silly in the way only a nine-year old can delight in being. But this one time, it actually has nothing to do with my bosom and everything to do with Usher.

Uh-hmm. Usher. Or URRSHRRR, as E calls him after admiring/imitating him for a whole season and then some (lots of some) of The Voice.

Urrshrr has made such an impact on my kid that the R-insertion has become a part of his daily (perhaps hourly) third-grrde lexicon. As evidenced by the envelope. Which I can assure you is a compliment of the highest kid-level, well beyond saying I am the best half of this parenting of all time. I mean, evvr.

Oh, and I can't possibly forget the posing. Urrshrr has melded my son into such a seat-poser that my iPhone camera roll is packed full of him sitting just as he might in the big red judge's seat on The Voice. That pose is an obligatory three- to four-photo journey before any other candid or smiling snapshot. I krrd you not.

See what I mean?

Usher is here.  E, on an alligator swamp tour boat, is here.


Urrshrr is the best, if not at singing/producing/making ladies swoon, then at brrnd development aimed at the next-gen audience of consumers/kids consumed with cool. My kid buys it all, if not just in jest then also in practice for awkwrrd teen yrrs.

For now, I am the lucky, loved recipient of the Urrshrr kind of heartbeat from my boy. And the laugh I got in seeing that envelope, the wrrting and the big, red mama lips poised for a totally embarrasing Valentine smooch, filled me up. 

In the night, he'd clung to me like the baby boy tucked away in years-old blog posts and a half-finished baby book. Right there, in the kitchen, he handed me the man he is slow-stepping toward, one silly, impersonating, caricature, cool-ish pose at a time. For now, for this Valentine's Day, I'll take the kid in the middle, please. The one who is a big kid with both baby and grown-man tendencies, the one who loves a funny little gift and worries that he's giving enough, the one who thinks for this moment in time, I am the brrst mom evvr. 





Sorry, Charlie. It's just a Valentine

Image courtesy the brilliant Asha Dornfest at Parenthacks. Click to read her full, smarty-pants post.We believe in store-bought Valentine cards around here, particularly to give to the class and mostly because I spent hours and hours crafting them during the preschool years only to be asked by my son if we could just get the floppy superhero kind the next year. And so it has been every February since I waved fabric-glued fingers as a yes to his sweet, glitter-felt ungrateful question.

Plus, Valentine's Day cards are $2.50 a box. And that's a good deal of time and hand-eye coordination saved. I will be honest, I kind of loved the crafty projects and I have four pink and red felt fortune cookies with kiddie Valentine sentiments and Hershey kisses tucked inside, all stashed away as a rememberance of how much more love I am capable of putting into class cards than the Despicable Me minions with a temporary tattoo can convey. 

Oh, and felt fortune cookies also aren't cool. I'm so not allowed to forget how important that part is, especially to a 9-year old with floppy hair and a teen-ready eyeroll. So Despicable Me minions it was. And sticky frog things that don't exactly stick to anything but definitely can't be scrubbed clean of lint, hair, food crumbs and staphylococcus bacteria. In a moment of mom guilt, I considered getting a pack of Rainbow Loom-ish glow-in-the-dark bands out of the Target value bins for every kid, but luckily didn't allow myself to completely forget that part, either -- that every Valentine is likely to sit in the bag it was sent home in until a mom sneakily tosses it seven months later. So, yes. Still with the minions, frogs and tattoos.

All of that short-cutting in no way means we didn't make the little baggie of cheap delights SPECIAL for each kid. I wrote their names in bubble letters and E decorated each card with a tiny doodle -- even the girls' cards. 

There were happy faces with tongues wagging, aliens, cars, ninjas. Oh, and then there was this one.



"What's that thing?" I asked as innocently as I could muster before I snapped 47 pictures of it and texted them to my mom friends, brother and the Not Boyfriend in the next room.

"Hm." He said that convincingly, although all of us - you and I and certainly my mother, a 30+ year teaching veteran who is wise to all kid antics before they even are dreamed up by the kid - know that he knows exactly what it is and is even more sure of what it turned out to look like despite any original intention. "A rocket."

He seemed pleased with the answer. Dare I say, it even sounded logical in the matter-of-fact way he said it. I left it at that. Because more than I wanted him to say, "Oh, yeah, I guess it does have a phallic quality, doesn't it?," I wanted that kid's mom to see that Valentine doodle and get a big old LOL out of it. Oh, kids. Kids and how they show their love.

But Charlie's mom will never see that rocket weiner and the subject will never be (umm) raised again and the hopeful LOLz will be a faint echo only in my own memory of the furiously busy night before Valentine's Day. Because that (and again) floppy card and its accompanying tattoo and sticky frog are still sitting in a bag with Charlie's name on it, in the front hallway of Charlie's family home. Untouched, unappreciated and unquestioned. At least until Fourth of July.



Moving in together: The sobbing, the sexy, the not-so-pretty true stuff

I am resisting the urge to call attention to all that has been unsaid here in the last month because so much has unfolded in my life offline. There should be no explanations or apologies or worries about when I last checked in. I am mother to one and he knows exactly (or mostly-exactly) what I have been up to, even when the activities are not archived here. So enough of that. No guilt. 

I am not sure what I expected when I moved in to this place, both the home and the new arrangement with the Not Boyfriend. I was thrilled and exhausted and a little scared. But the swell of love and all that this new home represented pushed me past the long hours cleaning out the damn basement and packing box after box after box. 

I think I knew it would be hard and different. Change always is. But I wasn't aware that the transition would take this long and feel like so much work.

I say that carefully because relationships are sensitive and there are other people living in this place with me. But really, this is not about them. It is about me and my own challenges in settling into a new bedroom, my own office, a fresh identity.

A week or so and many tears into living here, a friend reminded me that I am not just under the stress of moving, but that I am also grieving the loss of what I left. That struck a chord, a loud and pitchy chord. 

I was the captain of my last ship. Even when it was lonely or frustrating or the bookshelf was massively heavy for one person to push around alone, I was the person in charge of figuring it out. And I did. I may have called in supports or cried then, too. I might have just left the bookshelf in the middle of the room for a few days (/weeks). But I chose the course. I led us through it. 

In this new place, every decision is group decision, a battle of wills and power and I-know-bests. Or at least that is how it felt, especially at first. The Not Boyfriend and I had both always been the alphas in relationships and we'd both lived on our own for a long time. And while I love his strength and independence and decisiveness and fierceness, and while I think he loves all those bits of me, these shared characteristics are both our greatest power and our biggest fights. 

What comforter set to buy, where to hang that picture, whether or not to use dryer sheets when doing laundry, where every effing thing in the kitchen should be placed -- the decisions and opinions and little arguments grew swelled, if not in actual conflict then inside our heads. The details of making a home quickly felt arduous. I wanted it to be fun. 

I see, even a few weeks later, that some of this back and forth is necessary. Maybe we have to do this to find a comfortable middle ground. As we tried desperately to mend one argument, I burst into tears.

"Please," I begged. "Just let me pick out the fucking comforter. I will do a good job. I promise. But I cannot spend another four hours hunting through websites to find one we agree on. Just let me make this call."

He smiled, pulled me close, agreed.

I haven't purchased the comforter yet. But that moment keeps coming to mind as I push back the urge to rage because the brand new towels in the guest bathroom have blue spots on them after one washing (and drying - yes, with fabric softener sheets) or to totally reorganize the pantry or to just leave the Christmas decorations spread out on the floor to be packed into plastic bins and hauled off to storage. 

Being a captain now, rather than the captain, means releasing the wheel, if only sometimes, if only for a while. I was happy to turn over control for cooking dinner and scheduling cleaning ladies and cleaning the car. But that is not enough. Not nearly enough.

This is a joyous, big thing we are doing here. And it means so much is changing, so much beyond tough stuff. 

Change is hard, I used to tell a sad or teary E when the divorce was brand new. But it is also good. Let's find a way to move through the hard part and focus on the good.

And so, while we work out the dynamic between us, while we deep breathe through putting 400 family photos on pristine walls, while we stand in line at Target to buy another round of guest towels, I am turning my energy toward the good.

My son is so happy. He loves being here. He loves that our neighborhood is packed full of his friends and classmates. He absolutely adores the room he designed. He's so happy the Not Boyfriend is right here, too.

We have had lots of laughs and alone moments. There is some wondrousness to not having the pressure of visitation hours, not having to cram in dinners out and quality time and romps in the bedroom to the hours when my son is not at home. Having most evenings together means we've spent hours laughing at the whiners on seasons-old Project Runway and sipping coffee in between conference calls and meeting in the middle of the massive bed we now share. No clocks ticking, no sad goodbyes until next weekend. 

We are two blocks from school. Walking E each morning and picking him up every evening without a 15- to 45-minute commute each way has significantly boosted our quality of life. 

A heated garage. It doesn't even take a polar vortexed -15-degree snap to make me relief-sigh every time I slide on to a normal-temperature driver's seat.

I have headquarters. My office space used to be a desk tucked into a nook off the dining room. This was fine. But now. Now, I have a whole room where I woman my business. And there is a pink rug just to prove it is all mine. Once the boxes are all unpacked, it will be fabulous. 

There is someone to help. When I ask for it. No more leaving bookshelves in centers of rooms. 

Our lease is long, our love is strong. This man I have been battling is a wonderful, hilarious, whipsmart, loving man. We will get through this hard part of the change in part because we have plenty of time to get there. We also have a really big apartment, which is helpful until then. 

Practice partnering. I suppose I've never really partnered in a relationship, something I didn't realize until the Not Boyfriend first asked me to move in and I had to say "maybe later." The reason I held off was to deal with some of the remaining junk from those past relationships so I could come to this new place with my new love ready and fresh and free to partner with him on this big adventure. While I get better at sharing - the power, the bathroom, the bed, the decisions, the wheel of the whole giant ship - it helps to remember that it is all practice, all moving forward. This - living together - is like 12-15 hours of full-immersion practice. 

For now, I have a comforter set to buy. One thing at a time, I guess. One little compromise, one shift, one release, one more moment with my hands off the wheel.