Sunday, December 23, 2012

For My Family

I'm really glad we aren't traveling this Christmas, for a few good reasons:  1)  Owen has been sick and I would have been really stressed out, worrying about traveling with a puking 2 year old  2)  I love that Santa finds our kids at their own house now.  Although I've always loved sharing Christmas with family, part of me always felt like I was robbing my kids of a part of the magic by always being in a different place for the actual day  3)  Nathan and I always feel really sentimental about the smaller, quieter traditions that our little family shares and we've started a couple over the last few years here with just the 4 of us  4)  I HATE packing.

That being said though, I realized this morning (or I finally admitted it fully) that I REALLY miss my family.  Actually that's an understatement.   I not only REALLY miss my family the way they all are now (with husbands and wives and many many beautiful, hilarious, constantly entertaining and charming children), but I also miss being a kid in my family in the most painfully nostalgic way sometimes, most specifically during this time of year.

I miss "The Big Room" and the way we all used to cram on the floor in there to sleep on Christmas Eve...taking forever to fall asleep because each one of us had at least 3 or 4 favorite lines from "It's a Wonderful Life" that we wanted say out that one year we DEFINITELY heard Santa moving around downstairs but realized in the face of that long awaited moment, that not one of us actually had the guts to go take a peek at him...the year I was sleeping next to Ben and I pretended to sleep as I watched him "wake up" with a loud start, look around to see if he had woken anyone else up and, upon realizing he hadn't been successful, lay back down and try again after a few moments (and again and again)...

I miss our big family holiday dinners....too much hay under the table cloth, resulting in a sea of tipping plates and spilling drinks....learning how to make that cool sound on the rim of a wine glass...leaving a chair empty every year in case a lone traveler happened to need a hot meal and then having that actually happen one year (kind of)....trying to come up with the perfect name for our new puppy....sharing the kids' table with Ben....

I miss the neighborhood gatherings at our house...pretending I couldn't care less about the "Grabowski Bowl" but watching out the window and trying to be close by during breaks in the game, hoping one of my older brother's cool friends might finally, after all those years, notice me....New Year's Eve parties....going to the Loy's party every year...

I miss the marathon morning of present opening, as each one of us patiently (sometimes) waited our turn....getting that first glimpse of the mountain of presents that had magically appeared overnight...trying to pace our stocking opening just right so we didn't have to wait TOO long for everyone else to get up and dig into the mountain...quietly working on a huge puzzle in the corner by the piano...getting stomach aches from laughing so hard at whatever the game of the year happened to be....nerf wars....

So yeah, I really do miss those days more than I like to admit.  I don't like to admit it because I'm always afraid that might mean I'm not grateful for what I have now.  I worry that it might sound like our new little families' traditions aren't good enough for me or that I spend my holidays trying to live up to the past.  I feel so thankful that I am lucky enough to have those memories and to share them with so many people that I still completely adore, but there is sadness weaved into that thankfulness.  Maybe that's the way it is for everyone who was lucky enough to have a solid, fun, secure childhood...maybe that's just part of growing up...maybe I'm still working on doing that....and maybe that's okay....

The other week, I was working through some of this in my head and suddenly realized that I feel so lucky and excited to have the opportunity to help form some of these memories for my own kids.  I realized that those memories I hold so closely to my heart are only just starting to happen for Zoe and Owen and that someday they will be feeling nostalgic for what's happening right now before my very eyes.  Every year, we take our decorations out of the closet and it becomes more and more clear that Nathan and I are building something really special together.  We create new memories without even trying to and I find myself becoming nostalgic for some of those too.

Love you guys. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


On Friday morning, I logged onto Facebook and immediately saw that almost every status update mentioned something terrible happening in Connecticut and I was afraid to look at the news.  Wanting to stay "in the know", I logged onto Yahoo and read the lead story.  I got the basic facts and closed the window, not wanting any more details.  I spent the weekend with Nathan's parents and our little family, not letting my mind rest on the images in my imagination for more than 10 seconds at a time.  I was afraid that if I thought about it or pictured those precious children, their amazing teachers or the forever haunted families for more than that then I would completely lose it and not be able to pull it together.  I went from feeling guilty for feeling like I had any right at all to feel grief to feeling guilty for not doing the victims and survivors justice by becoming enraged.  I'm still not sure where I want to/should be on this spectrum because I'm still honestly dipping my toe into it once in a while.  What I do know is that I hope we can all find a way to contribute to the effort towards making this horrible, worsening pattern slow down it's gathering speed and intensity.  I also hope we can all find a way to continue to live in confidence and happiness even knowing that we can't completely prevent terrible, horrendous things from happening.  I hope we can all find a way to honor these families and victims in an appropriate way and I hope that my gut is right in thinking that one of the best ways to do that is to roll up our sleeves and find ways to contribute to our communities in positive, tangible ways.

I don't know what role I have to play in all of this yet. I don't exactly know how I feel about gun control, other than believing we need to really investigate some sort of change.  I don't know how I can personally help the effort in improving research on metal illness, although you can be sure I'll be on the lookout.  I have this volunteer group with the kids but I don't  see how we can include our young children in the effort without telling them what happened and I'm certainly NOT going to do that.  So, I'm still figuring out how I can help in the big picture but am trying to continue to contribute to my little world here.

After I read the news on Friday, I logged off the computer and took stock of the day ahead.  I was supposed to get some cleaning done to get ready for Nathan's parents' visit, write out a grocery list, etc....then I noticed that the keyboard Zoe and I had talked about dismantling was still sitting next to me, completely intact.  A couple of weeks earlier, she had noticed one of the keys making an interesting sound and was asking why it was acting that way.   I told her we could take it apart to investigate (it's an extra) and she was really excited to, but we just weren't getting to it.  In that moment, as I tried not to imagine the horror in the faces of the victims, I realized that taking that keyboard apart with Zoe and ditching the cleaning was exactly what I had to do.

So, we got started....and we worked at it here and there over the course of a few days....she must have said "Mommy, this is SO fun!" and "Mommy, I love doing this so much!" 20+ times....we not only took the thing apart, keys and all, but we managed to put it all together again too....minus a few pieces, but it's reassembled and the keys are clicking away again.  I know there's a metaphor in there but I'm afraid I'll ruin it if I try to spell it out.  Maybe you can do it for me...or for yourselves... 

Getting started

Discovering what all of those little dots do...

Trying to dig even deeper

Taking off the keys--the toughest part

This was as far as we could go without some heavy duty not-for-children-or-inexperienced mothers tools

Finding a system for putting the keys back in the right places

Methodically working

Last key!  We put the cover back on and everything.  We were both equally proud, happy and satisfied.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raising Little Heroes: Share-A-Gift 2012

This evening the kids and I went to help sort toys for Share-A-Gift 2012 and it was a great experience for us.  There were other RLH families there but aside from my friend Maria, I had no idea who else was from our group because I've never met most of our new members!  Going into it, I pictured a smaller, more intimate room but as soon as we got there I had an "of COURSE" moment, realizing that it would have to be as big and busy as it was in order for them to successfully serve the great number of area families that they provide gifts for each year.  They have a couple of days of sorting/donating and then one big "toy distribution" day (December 15th this year) when families can come in and "shop" (for free) for gifts for their kids.

The following excerpts are from the Share-A-Gift website:

"Share-A-Gift is an all-volunteer annual holiday project that has provided toys, bikes, and books for children of low income families in the area of the Boulder Valley School District since 1972.  For the past few years, over 600 families representing between 1500 and 2000 girls and boys, birth to age 14, have received these community donations.  Any donated gifts that have not found a home with a family by the end of our toy distribution are given to other non-profit organizations that help families-in-need."

"Besides donating, Share-A-Gift provides families, individuals, businesses, schools, and organizations the opportunity to share and participate in our community by volunteering.  In particular, our Toy Shop Set-Up days are a great time for families to volunteer together.  Perhaps most meaningfully, this is an opportunity for children to participate in gift-giving by sharing their own gently-used toys and books with families who will appreciate getting them."

Although the room was pretty chaotic, it was a really great project for me and my kids.  We had brought with us a couple of bags of toys from our house to donate and jumped right in with those first.  Owen mostly played and checked out the toys but did manage to put a few in the right spots.  He even showed me where the stuffed animals were supposed to go when he saw me carrying an armload.  I was impressed when, after finding a nice big Spiderman (the gift he's officially asked Santa to bring him) in with the donations, he was able to just snuggle it a bit and put it back in it's spot without too much fuss.  Zoe was totally in her element, though.  She really shines at stuff like this because she likes to feel helpful and independent.  Once she understood how everything was being organized she took her work very seriously and got down to business.  If they hadn't run out of toys to sort by the end of our shift, she would have gladly stayed much longer.  I felt really proud, watching her take charge and work hard at it.  Once in a while she would come over to me and very seriously ask if I wanted her to take Owen for a bit.  Love her.

If you haven't signed up for a shift yet,  there is still time!  Tomorrow is another toy sorting day and they can still use volunteers between the hours of 4-7pm. You can sign up for anywhere between 1-3 hours (we did 1 hour).  Just let me know if you are interested and I'll get you a flier with a map of the location.  If you go to their website and see that all the shifts are full you can ignore it--when they heard about our group they made more room!  You can also volunteer to help during the toy distribution and clean up days, but they can't take small kids for those days (15 and older).  If you are interested in one of those days, you can email the volunteer coordinator directly.

After we finished our shift, we blasted Christmas music in the car and talked about how glad were were to have been able to help out.  I thought it only fitting to then treat the kids to dinner at Turley's.  Perfect!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Raising Little Heroes: Gift Wrapping Party

This morning, 7 Raising Little Heroes families took part in a gift wrapping party at Parenting Place here in Boulder.  Parenting Place is a place for local families to meet people, get help, learn, share and have fun together.  They welcome all families with children pre-natal to five years old.  With their programs, they support families in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, and Longmont--regardless of economic circumstances. Parenting Place provides support and playgroups, educational resources, Spanish language programs, parenting workshops and classes, and assistance accessing community resources. They also have a donation closet and food pantry. This annual book drive benefits various families in their programs and the staff told us that after word got out of our wrapping party with them, they received more book donations than they normally would have.

Did our children tear the place apart?  Yes.  Was it noisy and hectic?  Yes.  Were there chocolate cake crumbs all over the floor?  Yes.  Did most of the kids end up only wrapping 3-5 gifts (at most)?  Yes.  Did our kids wrap for 45 minutes and then move on to the playroom downstairs, leaving the grown ups to do the bulk of the wrapping?  Uh-huh....however, did we help Parenting Place wrap donated books going to families in need?  YES.  Did our kids come, sit down for 45 minutes and carefully wrap gifts and color cards to go with them?  YES.  Were we able to tell the kids why this was important?  YES.  So, I think it's safe to say it was a success.  Sure, we learned some things about how to make an event like this go a little more smoothly but for the most part, we did what we went there to do, chatted with old friends and new and showed our kids that sometimes it's great to take time out on a weekend to do something for someone else...not because you SHOULD or you HAVE TO but because it's helpful and fun...and worth it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Folks, I'm a mess.  A ball of nervous energy/stress and I'm not sure how to handle it.  Part of me sort of loves it because I haven't felt this way since I stage managed, a profession I both cherished and despised at the same exact time.  I've come to admit that I know I'm capable of tackling huge challenges and I know that I really shine when I decide to go barreling straight through intimidating obstacles but that determination and fearlessness is paired with terrible coping skills when it comes to disappointment and failure.  The thought of something I care about or, at least am working really hard at, not working out the way I really, really want it to causes my jaw to tense up so much that I'm surprised I still have teeth and my brain to get stuck in fast forward mode.  I take care of "to do" lists (project/work wise, NOT household/family life wise, unfortunately) so quickly that I don't even have time to set up any sort of calendar or organizational tool.  If I manage to get anything written down, it's scribbled with a Sharpie (or whatever is within arms reach at a given moment) on a junk mail envelope.  I'm not worried about forgetting anything because like I said it's only because I'm getting stuff done so quickly that I don't even have time to write myself a reminder.  I do wonder if finding a way to organize all of this would help me feel a little more chill about it.  I don't know...I don't know where I'd begin so for now I'm just plugging away as is and assuming that even if I did find a way to organize it would not, in fact, help me relax.

It's pretty clear to me that the stuff I'm actively working on every day is stuff that really excites me and makes me happy and proud.  I'm certain that what has me feeling nervous and stressed is the fact that despite all of the wonderful promise, Raising Little Heroes is showing some signs that it may in fact fail after all...or not be "successful" on the level it appears it could be at this time.  I've managed to make meaningful connections with a great list of organizations that will definitely all be sources of some amazing projects for our group in the near future and beyond.  People are excited...people working for established organizations that I admire are asking to meet with me in person to talk about how we can partner up...these are the organizations I've not only contacted but have had concrete "can't wait to work with you!" or "I'm making a list of project ideas for you!" conversations/exchanges with:

The Humane Society
The Red Cross
Parenting Place (a local nonprofit supporting families)
Parks and Recreation (we're adopting a big, beautiful city park!)
Special Olympics of Colorado
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence
United Way (Volunteer Connection)
Community Food Share
Denver Children's Hospital

...and there are many more avenues to explore....the possibilities are endless and the potential is really great.  The trouble is, no matter how fearlessly I go about the stuff that I can somewhat control, it will only succeed if people actually sign up for and participate in the projects.  This is no easy task no matter how much enthusiasm there is for the group in theory.  The reality of busy lives, holidays and the general exhaustion that accompanies the life of any parent seems to unfortunately stand in the way a lot of the time.  It's difficult because I can relate to why people aren't flocking to sign up for stuff...and I understand completely that I am totally obsessed with this right now and no one else is (or should be) so it's totally reasonable to think that those sign up sheets will just slowly fill up and I'll have Nathan saying "I told you so" by this time next month...but, I can't help but let that naysayer in me convince my whole self that it's silly to think it's going to work out the way I dream it will.

That said, the reality is that it's definitely not that NO ONE is responding.  I do have a handful (at least) of families I hadn't met before this who are really digging it and telling me they are, even if they can't make it to every project/event.  If nothing else, we have a handful of families here who are all excited about finding ways to give back together as a group and that is awesome...and underlines one of my main beliefs through all of this..that honestly EVERY little bit makes a difference.  So what if our Project Linus month only attracted 4 families.  That's 4 blankets made and donated to 4 babies or kids who got a little love from a stranger, right?  Through this stage I'm in now where I'm trying to get a bigger thing off the ground, I need to keep reminding myself of that...maybe you can help me with that yes?

Here are a few things that have sent calming vibes through my psyche these last few days:

1) Nathan is an amazing partner.  He's not here much right now because he's working on a show but he is so supportive and that means so much to me.  He has a way of reminding me of my strengths and helping me make light of my obsessiveness (something I need help with all of the time) the same time though, he knows that part of what makes me good at what I do (when I choose to be) is that need to obsess so he doesn't belittle it either.

2)  My kids are so funny and sweet and here are a few reasons why:
-Lately Owen says things like "Weed me some books or sumpin'",  "I'm doh-in uptairs...izdatokaaay??" and "Wassa big i-deeeah?"

-The other day I was putting Owen down for a nap and he gently put his hands on my cheeks and quietly said "I wuv yohs face"

-Today while we were at the grocery store, I noticed Zoe was whispering something to me.  It took me three repeats to hear that she was saying "I have a butt-hole" and then it took me a few more seconds to realize she meant she had a hole in the butt of her pants

-Zoe is getting to be so grown up.  More and more often, she is a huge help around the house and with Owen, especially when it's just me and the kids.  Tonight, as I was cleaning up from dinner she was upstairs helping Owen try and use the potty.  She at one point called down to me to ask if it was alright if she just let him run around naked and I told her to go right ahead.  A few seconds later she called down in her "grown up" voice:  "Mommy, I hate to ask but...can I get naked?"

-After bath and teeth brushing tonight, I settled into the reading chair and opened my arms to welcome Zoe into my lap for a book.  I looked at her and noticed that the buttons on her pj top weren't buttoned and that it was being held closed by a bunch of Scotch Tape.  I asked her what happened and she, again in that "grown up" voice, said "Oh, yeah I couldn't get them buttoned so I just taped it."