Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas-time Birthday Boy

Christmas time is also birthday time at our house. Our Young Son has a Christmas-time birthday. December 23 to be exact. Those 17 years ago, we made an error in calculations, or were overcome with baby-need on one fine spring evening - take your pick - and ended up with a baby due on 12/19. Since my babies hide out inside until forcibly ejected, he would have waited for a January birthday. Per the doctor, baby boy had to come by 12/26. Per my need to be in charge, I ordered him out on 12/23.

In those days I was overly organized, overly rigid, overly predictable and overly in control. My overly- planned world would not accommodate a birth on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; I couldn't risk that Baby Son would spontaneously arrive to mess up my Christmas plans. In my well planned and organized world, which was critical to proper child-rearing, I had rules, and to accommodate those rules, everyone knew I had to be there for Christmas morning, or else Christmas morning wouldn't happen. Or at least they wouldn't be dressed right for Christmas morning. If nothing else, I could dress them for the season, back in the day.

So on December 23rd we picked up our babysitter, Danette, and told the other 3 that we had some "Christmas business" to attend to. It didn't cross their minds that it might be baby-day. Don't underestimate children's Narcissism. The day with no interference from me was a huge Christmas gift. They thought we were off to buy fabulous toys and video games, while in fact we were going off to have a baby. With Danette there all day, they could eat whatever they wanted and watch TV shows during the daytime, of any kind, all of which were not part of my lockdown rules to produce perfect children.

As they go, our Young Son's birth story is pretty much a reflection of him - easy. I needed him to be born on December 23, so he was. I needed it to be fast, and uncomplicated, since I had Christmas to deal with the next day or so. So, he did just that.

The most interesting thing about the whole labor was that BigB and the Sophisticate kept calling us to report on what was happening at home.

Little KidB: Dad, I need to talk to Mom

BigD: Mom's busy now.

Me: Don't tell him where we are.

BigD: You just threw up? Here, talk to Mom.

Me: (to LittleKidB) You threw up in our bed? Did Danette clean it up? Ask her to change the sheets. (I was already calculating my return home, babe in tow, 24 hours hence)

LittleKidB: Danette doesn't want to get sick for Christmas. (Seriously?)

It was established that LittleKidB should stay away from the other children, get OUT of our bed, and take a pillow to the couch so he could watch TV in his illness. Either he or the Sophisticate called to report in every time he threw up. It lined up in some kind of mysterious celestial rhythm with the contractions I was having. Every time they called, BigD just told them we were "doing Christmas stuff...and if you don't stop calling, we'll never get finished." That would have been fine with them, because Danette was totally cool with the TV, and I would have had them doing chores or an act of good will for poor children or something equally indicative of my super-mothering.

Our Young Son was born in four hours. I just missed lunch by an hour. I spent a good bit of time sitting on the side of the bed while various people tried to get an epidural in. BigD came pretty close to passing out during that 7 "you'll feel a BIG stick" process, a solid 45 minutes to get the ineffective epidural in. Our FOURTH time in the room to have a baby - and he gets light-headed.

That 45 minutes was precisely long enough. I told them Baby Son was coming, and they told me he was NOT coming, it was too quick, and then he was born, while the doctor was trying to describe his recent ski trip. I rather aggressively told the doctor to deliver the baby and THEN chat, since the delivery would take about two minutes. It did.

The next morning, Christmas Eve, they bundled Baby Son into a little Christmas stocking type bunting (yes, there should be a picture, somewhere) and we were home before the others finished breakfast. The Sophisticate asked if they could have a babysitter that day too, because they wanted to watch TV all day, but I said no, we'll make do with the new baby. That entertained them for about 15 minutes. And we went on about our merry Christmas - Eve way, minus television.Three children, four children, five children. Keep moving. Clearly PPP had the Christmas-wear concept under control. Way back there in the corner, it's possible to see a little baby-head. That's him, at 2 days old. As we always do, we had baked apples and cheese grits for breakfast on Christmas morning, (well, the baby had his own serving of mama-nectar, but it was all yummy) and life went on. In retrospect, I'm not sure how it went so smoothly, but it did.

This year he had a surprise party with friends, courtesy of La Petite Jockette, the second separate and distinct birthday party he has ever had. We often eat birthday cake as on Christmas Day. In contrast to my early days of being overly in-control, I am now overly blase and unconcerned. This year, I have spent a good bit of time looking for the pictures of the baby and his little bunting-stocking. I can't find any. Fourth child+Christmas=no pictures. So, I've spent roughly WAY TOO MUCH TIME trying to make this birthday/Christmas post PERFECT. Some rigidity remains.

This week, I was called a "Christmas tree Nazi" by BigB, because I have strictly enforced an "angels only ornament" policy, to insure holiness. Feeling pretty bad about the potential damage done by my early-years control freak nature, I did have a redeeming moment when the children self enforced the Angel-ornaments-only policy themselves this year. They also took WAY more delight in what they GAVE than in what they GOT. That's been a long time coming, but it made me feel hopeful about the damage done by my crazed need to create "a PERFECT Christmas" to my specifications. Amazingly enough, they continue to find joy in places I didn't plan for. Blase is beating rigid these days.

One would think that the Christmas we added 'giving birth' to the to-do list would have been the most hectic ever - but my memories are of a calm and peaceful holiday. We all were delighted with our Christmas baby and everything was done ahead of time. So, as far as good times to have a baby - I heartily recommend Christmas. As far as good times to have huge birthday celebrations for the rest of your life - I recommend NOT Christmas. As far as easy-going, cooperative, helpful children, who roll with whatever comes along - our Young Son rocks. It might be our best Christmas ever. That one. No maybe this one. Both. All. Let it be.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The thing about the Christmas Outfit

The many precious babes dressed in shepherd garb or snowflake costumes almost make me wish for the good old days of Christmas with small children. I loved those days. I planned the cute little outfits, and matching Christmas socks, and the hairbows with jingle bells and the sweatshirts with blinking lights for a reindeer nose. Yes. I did all that, with my mother, who was my partner in preciousness. And it was glorious. Except when it wasn't.

As the parents of a stellar first child in his first Christmas performance we felt like . . .

A. everyone was looking at our child, because he was/is the most adorable and

B. our child is/was the most adorable, thus everyone was looking only at him.

BigB, back in the LittleKidB days, took steps to insure that everyone DID keep their eyes on him in his first appearance on the main altar at BIG CHURCH. Big SOLEMN holy church. There cute children.... were just cute for about 2 minutes, and then gone again to their hiding place.

It was a Cherub Choir performance, in Big Church. One song. I don't remember the song, but it had to do with Mary and a baby and that whole line of thinking. It took longer to get the cherubs all robed up, (baby blue robes with white collars), and lined up on the altar, than it did to sing the song.

Because he was on the young side, and because of his need to interact with the choir director intensely, LittleKidB was on the front row, in the center. As they came in and walked up onto the altar, my first thought was -"Wait a minute, no one can see the cute little Christmas handmade outfit that he is wearing underneath that blue robe." Silly mommy! Christmas is not about french handsewing, but about all this other religious stuff.
Like the white shoes that I was polishing at 11:30 the night before, or perhaps the brand new white knee socks he was wearing with his short pants. That stuff increased the adorableness and holiness of Christmas. Not just the outfit. It's about giving and loving and about the spirit. And ALL about the children. Only a little bit about the outfit.

BigD and I were not sitting, because we didn't (and still don't) go to 11 am BIG CHURCH, we are a little less structured (holy) than that. So, we were standing in the side aisle, about 3 rows back, along with a few several many more parents and their video cameras. Video cameras were really bulky and it was a bit scandalous that we even had it visible in Big Church. The side benefit was that everyone got to see our new video camera that the Grands in New Jersey had sent so they could also get a glimpse of said Christmas performance.

So....we were standing as the Cherubs were walking in. BigD had the video camera on his shoulder (I told you - bulky!) and I had Baby Sophisticate on my hip. We were ready and glowing with pride at Mr. Adorable, who was perfectly dressed, perfectly rehearsed and perfectly shod.
Also, great vantage point for all interested parties to see that Baby Sophisticate was appropriately garbed in cute hand-sewn Christmas wear, right down to the little Christmas panties over her diaper. Because no little girl of mine would be seen with her bare diaper showing. Also, the polished shoes. There were people keeping score on the baby style points. I promise.

Then I noticed the microphones. LittleKidB noticed them at the exact same moment. In that single moment of time, I could see the future. LittleKidB could see the future. The future involved the microphones, and we both knew it.

The Sophisticate began to shriek when she realized it was her brother up there. So, LittleKidB, being the charmer that he is, kept cutting his eyes between the microphones lined up in front of the cherub choir and the sister who was screaming her single word - his name - at him from a few rows back. I have to believe that she somehow encouraged him. They worked like that, even then.

As the Cherubs settled, a hush came over the congregation, better to hear those little angelic voices. Baby Sophisticate kicked her chatter up a notch, so I slipped outside into the hall, so as not to disturb the holiness of anyone with my misbehaving child. I could peek through the window and see just fine. That move to the hall - that was pretty much my best decision of my day, because no one in the congregation of several hundred adults in the austere yet holy worship setting got to see my face.
The song began. Little sweet voices sang some unintelligible and semi-tuneless carol. Lots of restrained cooing amongst the congregation. Through the cross-shaped window in the door, I had my eyes on LittleKidB, and I was sure that the entire church did as well. Since he was the most adorable, and wearing the most adorable outfit, even though it was covered up.

LittleKidB was not convinced that they were being heard, nor was he convinced that he was the star in every congregant's eye. So he simply leaned forward, across the cherub beside him, until his mouth was about half an inch from the microphone, reached up to steady it with his hand, and simply sang the line. Loud. Right into the microphone. With soul.

"Maaaa-ehhhh- ehhhhh- reeeee had a bay-ay-ay-ay-bee."
The church sound system was working perfectly that day, and I heard that line with crystalline clarity as I stood in the hall. I eased away from the door. There was a muttering among the hall dwellers - the kind of muttering that says "Whose kid is that?" I leaned and touched my forehead to the wall. Baby Sophisticate saw no need for that kind of humble prayerful attitude, and kicked the wall and me with those hard yet polished shoes. Add percussion to the whole performance.

Since Little Cherub Boy sang directly into the microphone, it was amplified into all the nooks and crannies of the church. The ladies still working on lipstick repair between Sunday School coffee and church heard it too, clearly, in the Ladies' Room. As did the people waiting in the Narthex to be seated. As did anyone who was hoping to hear her own little cherub, whose voice was blending into a baby-angelic non-song.

A big laugh swept the congregation. There was absolutely nothing we could do. The choir mothers were moving in unison to get the microphone out of his reach. But he heard himself sing, and he heard everyone laugh. What's a self-respecting 3 years and 4 month old to do? He sang it again, only this time holding the microphone. Like he had the solo.

The choir mothers mobilized, and things settled back to order pretty quickly. I peeled myself off the wall, passed off Baby Sophisticate to BigD, and met our boy downstairs to get him out of the robes and to the proper location - which for us was the car headed home. I did no bodily harm in transit.

The other mothers I met in the hall all looked at me with eyes that were half apologetic and half "So glad it was yours and not mine."

We got all bundled up in nothing - because it was 60 degrees, and we didn't need anything but a little cotton outfit and some knee socks - and headed to the car. Once everyone was settled into carseats, and I was ready to not yell at him for embarrassing me in front of our WHOLE CHURCH, I ventured into the land of "what a pretty song, do you want to sing it for us now?....blah, blah, blah ...good parent chat." I asked about the microphone. "Were you surprised to hear yourself so loud?" Diplomatic if I must say so myself.

"We're little, and we don't sing so loud. I want Jesus to hear us. Do you think he did?"

Thanks, sweet boy,for untangling me from all the hand made outfits and polished shoes, the jingle bell bows and the Christmas panties. Thanks BigB for taking me out of my self-imposed precious-prison,and delivering me to the manger.

Yes, I think Jesus heard you. I only hope I heard you too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Testosterone Chaser

We are the champions. We are the champions of the world. That would be the UNDEFEATED SEASON champions of the world At least that's what it felt like. Actually, that's what it feels like still a little bit. Champions of our little corner of the world anyway.
It seems like we started this a long time ago. That's because we DID start a long time ago. We started in the summer. It was all so much warmer.And relaxed. We sort of lounged around in those warm days of late summer, talking and laughing, watching our boys play in the grass.Oops, mostly the turf, and also our girls, but whatever. We've watched them in red
In white
in blue.From the raising of the helmets to the line-up-and-shake-hands thing they do.
We took their pictures, straight on through. LOTS of pictures.
But this adrenaline-fueled night, championship night was different. There was plenty of tension on the sidelines. PLENTY of adrenaline, plenty of testosterone, all its power waiting to be unleashed.

Let's remember, our Young Son, along with many of his team mates, has done his part of the work. The sidelines guys and the on-field guys are part of one team, one massive bunch of excited and amped up young men.
I think maybe our Young Son was relieved not to see himself on the Jumbo-Tron. Maybe he'll grow into that. They've been practicing forever. FOREVER. In practice, our boy pretended like he was one of the bad guys all week, that's called 'scout team.' or "pretend like you're the other team and get hit over and over again by the starters." Our opponents aren't BAD guys, they are probably guys just like our guys. Only we are so much more awesome. WAY more awesome. Just ask us.We were pretty excited too. PPP's drinking straight adrenaline. It sure wasn't hot chocolate, for $3/cup.We came all intense and excited. We were ready for some nail biting, last-minute pull-it-out win. The kind that leaves a sore throat. We were ready for angst.
By half-time, with a 21 point lead, we were murmuring among ourselves "Is it really going to be this easy? CAN it be this easy? Did I actually waste all this adrenaline?" Murmuring, I say. We hesitated to say it out loud. Half-time was smile time. Smile, and laugh time. Talk about what's for Thanksgiving dinner time.
Relaxing, actually, only cold not warm.There was a little bit of a scare at the beginning of the first half. They scored. That was a change. We stopped that pretty quick.
Soon, we were back to watching the boys play their game. Also watching the clock. It was getting colder and colder...and colder.
Though not as cold as lacrosse, which is fast upon us, as my lax friends reminded me. There is no cold like early season lax cold.
I was a reluctant to buy the bumper sticker before the game was actually over, but I did. I haven't found it since we got home, but I did buy it...and before the game was over.
Our students were vocal, waving their keys and singing a heartfelt good-bye to our opponent. I won't imbed that song in your head, by starting with "Nah, nah, nah..."Alumni, with their own state championship glitz, made an appearance.Impressive. Ya think they're still wearing those jackets at Vandy?But with the win, at last the win, came the full force of the building testosterone storm.They had a bunch of security guards on hand, from the beginning....
. . .to the end. I'm not sure what they thought we were going to do. They clearly hadn't seen us before, an orderly crowd, well mannered and chatty. The announcer kept warning us not to go onto the field, to stay in the stands. They didn't know what we know. Our boys, after they have won the game, raised their hands and their helmets . . .. . . rushed the field and danced their dance (I believe it was the Electric Slide, coach led.)
Our boys always come back to us, their adrenaline-filled admirers. If it was a teen romance, the football hero would rush over and finally kiss the girl in the stands. Mostly, these guys just yell to their school friends and their parents. Also girls. no kissing.

Our boys bring us our testosterone chaser right to the edge of the stands. Every time. No security guards needed.

We waited again, on the other side of the locker room. They came forth, championship hats, and pure delight.
This faux-fierceness. Whatever that's about. Faux-fierce boys who couldn't keep the smiles hidden, even for the camera.

Adrenaline cocktail, testosterone chaser.
We know what it looks like when our team wins. It's glorious. But when the joy is on your son's face? That's a whole 'nother dimension.