Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dinner with Friends (Make room for the Sippy Cup)

When I was about 8 months pregnant, Brian and I had dinner with his sister, brother-in-law and their twins. We picked a "kid-friendly" place and not having any kids yet, I'd never been to this particular establishment. Honestly, I could have made it my entire life without stepping foot in Happy Joe's.  While it was SO nice to spend time with my in-laws, there was just ALOT going on. Lots of kids -running and yelling and drooling and I'm pretty sure some were bleeding. They were dirty and loud and messy.  I was appalled and began to freak out.  Is this where I'd have dinner for the next 18 years anytime me and Brian wanted to get out of the house? As parents, were we obliged to pick a restaurant that was wildly entertaining for ages 3-13?  I started to freak out. Would my meals out include taco pizza (which in hindsight, I should have enjoyed while I had the chance) or come with a toy? Needless to say, I did not move from our booth until it was time to leave (admittedly, part of this was due to the fact that I was enormous and couldn't get up without help). Brian and I vowed to take Cameron to all the places we currently enjoyed in hopes that he would easily learn how to act around other people and behave in public. I suppose these were more my hopes than his, but he went along with my plans.
I have no idea what the hell kind of kool-aid we were drinking. Clearly, we'd never raised a child before.

Our carefully plotted plan worked for awhile:

Cameron celebrates Cinco de Mayo

 Cameron enjoys dining al fresco

 Mama enjoys a veggie burger with a side of Cam!

Pre-verbal, pre-mobile Cam enjoyed many meals out with mom and dad - but, now - oh how things have changed.

Earlier this month, all three of us were invited to a dinner party at my friend's home.  They prepared a lovely weekday meal of roasted veggies, salad, and cornish hens. They even allowed us to come over an hour before dinner was ready to let Cam explore and unwind. He cruised along their future, pillaging everything in his path.  Coasters, remote controls and utensils were fair game. iPhones were taken hostage.  Their dogs made a feast of the banana, bread, and apple sauce that Cam threw on the floor.  Our dinner conversation was punctuated with people taking turns fetching him from the edge of the basement steps, trying to cram bits of our dinner in his mouth and finally, blocking his escape route with a storage bin.  It did not matter that we brough a rubbermaid bin of toys or enough food to survive nuclear winter - nothing entertains a toddler for long. When Cam discovered the accessible rack of wine glasses, it was time to head home. Thankfully, my childless friends got their baby fix and happily sent us on our way.

Last week, we met two of our friends out for dinner.  We tried to initiate the same strategy - bring toys, come early, be hungry.  Stationed at a table on the patio, we enjoyed our happy hour cocktails while Cameron played with his books and munched happily on pita with hummus. 

Our friends arrived..... a bit of madness ensued.  It didn't help that the patio wasn't swept (really, is that too much to ask for?!) and Cameron managed to find and attempt to shove in his mouth EVERY single cigarette butt missed by the broom. I am becoming a pro at one-handed-eating-while-chasing-my-child.  Cameron flirted shamelessly with the women at the next table.  My friend corraled Cameron onto her lap while I gulped down my wine but the evening was brought to a premature end when somebody filled his diaper.

A few lessons to be learned:
  • Do not be intimidated by newborns - they are the easiest to transport.  Take them EVERYWHERE.
  • Have good friends who love your child - 4 laps are better than 2.
  • Let people come to you. If your kid breaks something, at least it's yours.
  • It is GOOD for your toddler to explore... if he's not being crazily disruptive, try to let him do so. Unless he's trying to stick cigarette butts in his mouth.
  • It's okay to leave your kid at home.  The arm previously reserved for him can now pour more wine in your glass.
And, enjoy the meals you have at home. Especially when you have such a great helper!
"Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky, stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant, sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside - children have their own agendas and timescales.  As they find out more about their world and their place in it, they work hard not to let adults hurry them." ~Cathy Nutbrown


Thursday, May 17, 2012

We are family (Baby brothers and SCAD sisters)

I am the oldest of three and have two younger brothers.  I was too little when Matt was born to hope for a sister but when my mom was pregnant with Josh, I desperately hoped (sorry Josh) that he would be a baby sister.  My parents did not want to find out what they were having until the baby arrived, so I just decided in my head that Josh was a girl....

Sidebar: Whose name, unbeknowst to me, would be Rebecca Edwina. Joshua Edwin, be glad you were a boy and don't have "Edwina" as a middle name. Mom, really?!

.....When my mom went into labor, I spent the night at our daycare provider's house, which was close to the hospital.  I woke up the next day to her voice on the phone with someone telling her that my mom had given birth to a healthy baby BOY. The six year old version of me burrowed under the pillows and decided I'd heard incorrectly.  Then the babysitter came in to share the good news.  She dug me out of my pillow fort and gave me a squeeze as she asked if I was happy to have another little brother.  I was not(sorry again, Josh). But of course, I got used to being the lone sister and these days, I just love watching my brother's spoil Cameron  as two doting uncles. I can't imagine my life without my brothers!

My brothers are truly best friends and perhaps I've always been a bit envious that I wasn't closer (in age or relationship) to them and maybe even a bit wistful that I don't have a sister.  My mom and aunts share very special relationships with each other and my friends with sisters seem to have a pretty unique bond (even if they argue like cats and dogs!) Lucky for me, I married a man with two wonderful, kind and generous sisters who are the best sisters-in-law a girl could ask for!

Earlier this month, my family tree grew about 25 more branches when I had the chance to meet my "heart sisters".  On May 5th, 2012, over 20 SCAD survivors and their loved ones gathered in Naperville, IL for the first annual 5k run/walk to support SCAD research (http://www.scadresearch.org/). For the last year, my only contact with these women was online through inspire.com and Facebook (yes, SCAD has a page!). But to meet them.... meet and see and hug people who've been through this messy, scary process... needless to say, the experience was priceless.

I chatted with 6 other women who had post-partum SCAD... some had more than one.  Some were medically managed, some have stents like me, some had open heart surgery.  Our hearts are all damaged in some way - some better, some worse. We all brag about how cute our "SCAD babies" are. One survivor suffered her SCAD 10 years ago at the age of 27 after the birth of her third child.  Some women had other risk factors and some appear to have none at all - yet, we all are still here. I seek out these stories of hope regularly, but to be in the company of people who have been down this road absolutely redefined what "inspiration" means to me.

We are mommies, grandmas, sisters, spouses and friends.  If you've never thought about it - This is what women with heart disease looks like. And this beautiful, amazing group of ladies are my sisters for life! How happy am I to be stuck with them :)

Ok- now I've starting crying and am prone to blathering on about how lovely this experience was and how happy I am that Brian and Cameron could share it with me. Let it suffice that I have the best siblings, sisters-in-law, and now, an amazing group of heart sisters. Already looking forward to next year!

"To the outside world we all grow old.  But not to brothers and sisters.  We know each other as we always were.  We know each other's hearts.  We share private family jokes.  We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  We live outside the touch of time."  ~Clara Ortega

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bird Legs

Cameron, at 13 months, appears to be sporting the infamous D'Souza figure - a happily rotund belly and skinny chicken legs. Even during my pregnancy, when I weighed more than any other time in my life, my own legs were still pretty shapely (though, imagine toothpicks stuck in to russet potatoes - my feet were a teensy bit swollen). My calves look great in wedges, and really, heels of any height - and I attribute this to my mom.  My brothers and I all have her thin, muscular legs and it's clear that my grandpa can be thanked for passing these genes along.  All this being said, my mom was teased mercilessly about her skinny legs while growing up and if I remember correctly, I didn't see her in a pair of shorts until I was in high school & she was in her 40s.

We didn't particularly get along very well then - that was mostly my fault.  I wanted to be an average American teenager doing all the "normal things" - wearing inappropriate clothing, dating boys, being mischievous in general.  My mom came to the U.S. when she was in high school and with her own two brothers, settled in to her new life in Richmond Heights.  Soon after, my aunts Lisa and Lynn came along and being the oldest, she did what I think she does best - took care of everyone else.  When I was little, my parents took in my mom's brother who struggled with bipolar disorder.  In middle school, my dad's brother immigrated to the U.S. from India with his wife and two children - they stayed with us until they were settled.  My highschool friends and I still joke around about how my mom essentially operated a bed and breakfast for us during our Nerinx years - always offering showers, beds and meals no matter what time of day or night.  A nurse by day, my mom also helped out when neighbors were sick - there really isn't anyone she wouldn't support.

Our relationship improved when I was in college and even more so when I moved back to St. Louis. But it wasn't until the holiday season of 2006 that I feel like everything changed. On Christmas Eve, I was struggling.  I was working long hours on my feet in retail, balancing a Masters' program and stumbling through a half-hearted engagement that felt soooo disjointed. She was the last person I wanted to put my problems on and the only person I could talk to.  After our holiday dinner, everything came flooding out (clearly, there must have been wine!).  I was drowning and her assurances saved me.  I had been putting so much pressure on myself and had been soooo overwhelmingly worried about what everybody would think (especially my family) - and ever-so-calmly, she said "If things change, we'll figure them out." And we did - a week later, I ended that engagement and my mom took me shopping for new bedding and dishes I'd use in my new place. 

My parents met Brian for the first time on Thanksgiving Day in 2007 - it had been years since I'd brought someone home to meet them. We arrived early so my parents could get a chance to chat with Brian before the rest of our relatives came together.  As it turned out, my assistance was needed in the kitchen (which, looking back, is hilarious because at that point, I didn't know the difference between apple cider and cider vinegar) and Brian was left on the couch at the mercy of my dad.  As my mom and I whispered and giggled in the kitchen, Brian and my dad could be overheard discussing everything from hockey to the Lonesome Dove mini-series they'd both watched on PBS to the indian food that was a big part of our holiday meal.  Clearly, Brian was "in". 

In typical fashion, my mom gently hinted here and there about grandbabies once me and Brian were married.  She had her "fix" in the fact that my Aunt Lisa kept the babies coming and Auntie Gene was beloved by all three.  When Cameron arrived, every bit of energy my mom may have reserved for helping others was temporarily poured into loving her new grandson.  Never have I seen anyone look at or love Cameron the way she does.  She adores everything the kid does and perhaps, gets to spend the time with him that she didn't get to spend with me when I was growing up.  Whatever the reason, I feel very lucky that Cameron has so much love in his life.  And that I have so much love in mine.

So, as I approach my second Mother's Day (and my mom approaches her 29th!), all I can hope is that I'm half as good of a mom and caregiver and supporter as she is.  Luckily, I have her bird legs, so I hope I got all of her other wonderful parts too!

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."  ~Washington Irving