Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Wanna Go, To, the Kalahari ...

After this WINTERNITY, we're all so grateful for the sunshine and snowmelt. It was 70 today. It hasn't been this warm since October. I saw women wearing sandals! I saw people without coats! I saw pasty white bare skin all over the place and it was LOVELY. I think back to a year ago and the snowstorm that hit April 10 (I remember the date because it was Josh and April's birthday and I was out on the Luxury Home Tour roadtrip, trying to navigate around the city while giant snowflakes made the roads a wet, slippery nightmare) and how everyone was SO FED UP with winter and how we couldn't handle ONE MORE SECOND of snow. And when I think about the way I felt last winter, it doesn't seem even a fraction of how I feel after THIS winter, when it seemed like Mother Nature was punishing Minnesota with ridiculous temps and snow, snow, and more snow. (And yes, I said "after" this winter, because for my sanity I have to believe that last week's ridiculous snowstorm has got to be the last of winter weather for another season.) We just want to be WARM again. Is that so wrong?

At the beginning of the month, we went to the Kalahari with our good friends from Green Bay for a much-anticipated vacation. We made the mistake of going over the waterpark's spring break timeframe rather than off-peak, when we have traditionally gone. (Their spring break is actually a six-week timeframe when you count all the people traveling from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois and the different spring breaks from state to state.) Going during spring break doubled the rates and the lines for the waterslides, but we still had a blast, mainly because of our travel companions. We just get along SO WELL with Holly and Kevin, and our kids get along so well with their four kids, and Kevin and Aaron have the same interests, and Holly and I have the same interests ... including bargain shopping, drinking margaritas and/or Spotted Cow, sleeping in (Aaron and Kevin got up at 6 a.m. to work out. Um, no thank you) and trying to learn to love—or at least tolerate—running. I can sit and talk to her about anything and I know we'll be on the same page (minus some political stuff, but I think we'd even agree on a lot of those points). We have the same sense of humor, the same parenting 'style,' the same outlook on life. When we're on vacation with them, everything is just so easy. No drama. No petty complaints. No uncomfortable silences or awkward moments.

When I was sitting poolside with Holly, it dawned on me that this was the first year I was able to thoroughly relax, enjoy a cocktail, and have a non-distracted adult conversation while the kids splashed and slid and swam (and later rode rides and climbed walls and played mini golf and chased one another in the massive playland structure) all the live-long day. There is such freedom in having your kids at (mostly) self-sufficient ages. We made both boys wear life jackets, they're older and understand the rules better, and we know how responsible the older girls are, all factors in giving us peace of mind. Two years ago, I was constantly shadowing Ben in the waterpark so that he wouldn't drown or hurt himself or wander away or get abducted. [Is this an irrational fear of all parents when your child isn't within your line of vision?] I still have to keep my eye on him, just not quite as closely now that he's older and more independent. He always knew to come back to where we were sitting. He never tried to wander away. And Adam basically shadowed one of the older kids the entire time we were there, so I never really worried about him. It was nice, too, that Ben is tall enough now to ride certain rides with us, so no one was left out (still not old or tall enough for laser tag. Hopefully next year.)

This is such a fun tradition because the boys are so happy, kind of how I imagine kids are at Disneyworld. Ben was like a little wind-up toy, going, going, going, and smiling, smiling, smiling all the time. He couldn't get enough of the kiddie area in the waterpark and must have gone down the kid-sized waterslides 500 times. Adam's favorite waterpark feature was the hot tub (like his mama ... although I did go down a few waterslides, too). His favorite amusement park feature was an interactive game we played on our last day there, where we wore 3D glasses and shot skeletons. (It was my favorite game, too.) Adam cried hard when it was time to leave. He was heartbroken to be saying goodbye to our friends (we won't see them again until the Fourth of July). He moped the whole ride back, and just looked so depressed and dejected whenever I turned around that I almost felt like crying, too. "I know that it's hard when our friends live far away," I said. "I feel sad every time I say goodbye to Tonya." But—I told him—the good part about having friends who live far away is that you make the most of the time you have together, you don't take that time for granted. You cherish it. "And there will always be a next time," I said. "Looking forward to the next time will help you feel better about saying goodbye."
I may get a big fat parenting F in a lot of subjects, but I like to think I know a thing or two about keeping in touch with friends.

There's one goofball in every family.
His first ride of many.
Super proud of Adam for overcoming his fear of heights on this ropes course!
No border battle here (yet).
Ben on the mini ropes course. He loved it.
Trio of beauties.
Check out the 6 and 7 year-olds on the end, stylin' in those 3D glasses. (I took this photo of the screen outside the theater.)
500 ticket winner!!!
Last day, still all smiles.
Waiting in line for the go-karts. Hooray for vacation!
School is going well for Adam, he has a lot of friends (boys and girls), he's still obsessed with sports, and he still loves playing games on his Kindle and on my Facebook page (Candy Crush! Pet Rescue! Farm Heroes!), but the same challenges continue to be challenges. I'm relieved that he seems to be doing better with eating his lunch, but his anxiety is still pretty high. Maybe it's just wired in him to worry about every little thing ("MOM! They said on the news that a POLICE OFFICER GOT SHOT! No one told me that POLICE OFFICERS CAN GET SHOT!!"), but I have to think there's a way to help him cope with deviations from his regular routine (to avoid the dreaded meltdown), and ways to help him process information so it doesn't send him in a tizzy. I finally contacted the school psychologist after my parents went to have lunch with him and he cried uncontrollably for 45 minutes after they left (prompting a call from his teacher, who said he immediately calmed down when she told him he needed to join his class again for math — when I asked him why he was so sad, he said "I thought they were going to stay all day, like you and Dad did on Valentine's Day"), and the psychologist and I had a nice chat about helping Adam feel more in control of situations.
The poor kid throws up anywhere from two to four times a month, never has a fever, never feels sick ... it seems to happen most regularly on Mondays after the weekend, which makes me think it's anxiety-related, but who knows. (Anxious about what, though? Going to school? Eating lunch?) Since the start of the school year, Aaron or I have had to pick up Adam four times now from school because he threw up. He goes to school feeling perfectly fine and WHAM! suddenly he's lying in the nurse's office and I'm getting a call on my cell phone from "school nurse." Once the call came after he hit his head in gym class—a "bump" that was so inconsequential that the gym teacher didn't even send him to the nurse—but he freaked everyone out about the possibility of a concussion when he threw up in class a few hours later. I kind of assumed it was Adam's regular throw-up routine, but the nurse was so concerned about a minor brain injury that she basically insisted I bring him to urgent care, so I did ... (even though he was chatting away just fine in the backseat, wanted McDonald's for dinner, blah-blah-blah) and the urgent care doc did a full lineup of neurology tests and then proceeded to tell me that he "passed with flying colors." I'm glad I brought him in—better to be safe than sorry—but am NOT glad about the $200 bill. That's just the thing with Adam throwing up so regularly, I don't know if it's ever something more than what it has been. I don't want to assume everything is anxiety-related when he could be dealing with something more serious. I  made a doctor's appointment for him next week to have some bloodwork done (and have his allergies re-tested). I wouldn't be surprised if some of his old allergies, the ones we thought he outgrew, were making him sick again. (Eggs? Cow's milk protein?) I just want him to feel better. It's such a helpless feeling to not be able to help your child (your small, frail, sensitive and sweet child who would give you the moon if he could).

Ben's main complaint about school is that he doesn't have any friends. He usually says this in the morning, and usually he says it through tears. (He cries about a lot of things in the morning. One time he told Aaron he didn't even know why he was crying, he just was.) I asked his teacher because it's such a heartbreaking statement—not to have any friends—and she reassured me that he's friends with a lot of kids. It's that age, she said, when two kids will be friends one day and one kid will be left out, then two different kids will be friends the next day. (Can't they all just be friends?!) Lately he's been talking about his little Spanish buddy Isael (Ees-eye-ell), who looks "just like Diego." They even hugged one another a few days ago. Ben has made room in his heart for not only Isael, but also the Ninja Turtles. He still believes, though, that Batman is real and wants to be Bruce Wayne someday. He also calls the remote the "gremote," claims Katy Perry is his girlfriend, and tells me every day that I'm pretty, even if I'm a hot mess. (which is more often than not) He sleeps on our floor just about every night. He loves wrestling with Adam, playing hockey or basketball, making maps, and watching TV. 

This will be the first summer that the boys aren't in daycare, and part of me is really sad about that. Summer should be a break in your regular routine, thus the term "summer BREAK." It should be all about the ice cream truck and lazy afternoons and swimming at the beach and running around barefoot and PLAYING. It's more structured at preschool than it was at daycare. Plus I know Ben misses Mary and his friends, and I think he'd fit in effortlessly if we asked her to take us back (who knows if she even would, though?) ... and I know Adam would fall right back into place with Sam and Zander ... but I also like that they have this new preschool routine, and I don't receive negative progress reports at the end of a long work day, and the hours are much more flexible. Mainly, though, I would hate to disrupt Adam's "groove" because I know how he struggles with change. Thankfully my mom has agreed to watch the kids once a week, whenever it works best, and has even vowed to take them to beach on a regular basis. I'm happy about that.

I'm looking forward to birthday fiestas this month (the twins turn 30! my dear friend Karla hits the last of her 30s! Pete is 40-something! Broder is four!), Aaron and I celebrating our nine-year anniversary with dinner at Salut, then it's Easter with both sides of the family, and the last two weeks consist of overdue dinners with old friends. (Old as in I've-known-them-a-long-time, not old as in elderly.)