Sunday, January 20, 2008

I keep moving from place to place in the house, hoping to find a few moments of peace and quiet on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but my kids keep finding me. I can run, but I can't hide. Meanwhile, Matt is happily ignoring the activity while sitting in the middle of it and is alone with a Sports Illustrated magazine in his "man cave." There could be a nuclear explosion and he wouldn't notice at this point.

The kids are both chewing some rock-hard Turkish gum in a way that makes them sound like a cow chewing its cud and suddenly I know what my mom was talking about all those years ago when she used to chastise us for chewing gym with our mouths open. They are actively debating the rules of "jinx" and "personal jinx" that you call out when two people say the same thing at the same time.

And they both have the same ladybug toy from the goody bag at a recent party, but their interaction with them are totally different. Lucas brings his bag over to me and when I say, "Babe, I'm trying to find some quiet time," he replies "OK we'll be quiet." Hmmmm, let's just say I don't believe him. While Darcy has been painstakingly applying the spots to the back of the plastic ladybug in an intricate geometric pattern, Lucas slaps his on and then engages the ladybug in a winner-take-all deathmatch with a plastic soldier. He begins with the "truck sound" that all boys learn to make at about 8 months old. The soldier is fighting valiantly against the giant light blue ladybug but I'm afraid he doesn't stand a chance. And, can you believe it, it's not actually as quiet as he promised. Darcy rolls her eyes in a "i'm nearly 9, now, you know, and this is SO childish" and suddenly the ladybug is losing to the soldier who is now a Ninja. "Mom, can you believe it! He was a Ninja all along! He was hiding his powers!" Who knew...

I joined a new gym that opened just before Christmas and got in on their pre-opening discount. I told my friend I would join on the condition that my gym buddies were not rock solid 20-year-olds with matching yoga pants and bra tops who looked liked they didn't really need to be at the gym. Luckily, the other gym rats who were there when we went to check it out were average looking, 40-ish like the rest of us. We had to schedule an assessment the first day we went in so the trainers could provide us with a customized workout program. What's there to assess, I thought - you need to get your butt on that treadmill.

My two completely perfect Turkish-speaking friends and I went together and got ourselves assessed. I tried to pay attention when Fatih, my new hardbody trainer, was working his way through the regime but my mind kept wandering. What am I going to make for dinner? Do the kids have clubs after school? Where did I put that new blue shirt I bought? etc. etc. I would slip in on the conversation from time to time, pick up a phrase or two, then get lost and wander again. Until he turned to me and held up the little slip of paper that was spit out by the magic machine that not only weighed us but measured our body mass and fat ratio, all by way of two innocent handles that you held out to your sides. In halting English he says to me, "You're quite fat, but strong, almost like a man." I started cracking up. One of my friends elaborated, saying "he said you have dense muscles. you obviously worked out before." I just kept laughing. Yeah, that's my problem - I've just let my training regime slip a bit. Nothing a few thousand sit ups can't change. I guess it could've been worse - he could have said strong - like an ox, or strong - like a mule.

I will take my man-like strength, invoke my own secret Ninja powers and once again go roam the house in search of a quiet corner of peace.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hitting the Road

We just returned from a few days in Vienna and Budapest, or, as we dubbed it "The Hot Chocolate Tour of the Habsburg Dynasty." Why so many warm beverages, you ask? Well, the most defining aspect of the trip was that we were cold. Not in a sissy, it's so warm in Turkey way, but in a, holy moly the temperature is -7C cold. Celsius or Fahrenheit, choose your favorite scale, that's cold. Lucas spent the first few hours with his mittens and hat stuffed in his pocket, complaining about how cold he was and Matt and I assuring him he wouldn't be so uncomfortable if he would just DRESS APPROPRIATELY and after finally acquiescing and bundling up, remarked "Gosh, it's not too cold if you wear a hat, is it Mama? Ugh!

I had a moment in the airport in Vienna where I was pulling up the rear of our little family tour group and I saw my kids each wearing their own carry-on backpack and pulling their small rolling suitcase behind them. Matt and I only had to carry our own luggage! I could scarcely believe it. For just a second I was so proud of my little ducklings and was so happy that the days of strollers and bottles, diapers and portable cribs were long gone. "This will be a great trip" I thought. They are so much more self-sufficient, now we can REALLY enjoy ourselves.

...why oh why do I allow myself these thoughts? Haven't I learned my lesson? Within minutes, Lucas began winding up some really textbook examples of cranky 5-year-old behavior. It's as if he knew Matt and I had let our guard down just momentarily and decided to go for the jugular. After a strained check-in at the hotel, a painful late lunch in a nearby restaurant and some amazing boundary-pushing and limit-testing, we remembered the first rule of traveling with children: flexibility. I sent Matt, who had completely run out of patience and Darcy, the human sponge and willing observer, out to explore and found some secret untapped reserves of patience. I took Lucas back to the hotel room, sat him through an excruciating time out, and never raised my voice. It was as if some super-human Wonder Mommy took over my body. It was a true test of wills, and I won. This battle, at least. I'm sure there's a rematch scheduled soon.

A trip to the indoor swimming pool and the hot tub to burn off some energy and everyone resumed their happy countenances and we continued on our merry, yet freezing, way.

The last morning of the trip we treated ourselves to the buffet breakfast at the hotel in Vienna. We were in Austria, so there was sausage and bacon to be consumed. I love breakfast and love to watch how different people approach buffets. All the usuals were in attendance: the couple in their late 50s/early 60s who will only eat a bowl of Corn Flakes and a banana (for God sakes people! One meal. C'mon!) The family that divides and conquers, each attacking a portion of the buffet and loading up plates to be carried back to their table, creating their own little mini-buffet, as if they haven't eaten for days (we were staying at a nice hotel in the middle of the tourist district so I felt fairly certain they had had a little something in the last 24 hours). As an aside, they left at least 6 pieces of bread and a huge platter of fruit untouched on their table when they left. I thought of my mom: "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach!" Then there was the family of three, with two parents bringing plate after plate of food to their daughter, who wrinkled up her nose at everything they offered and finally deigned to pick at one pallid- looking bagel. I'm hoping she wasn't feeling well and wasn't being the amazingly spoiled child she appeared to be. None of them spoke English, yet they all looked so familiar to me. Haven't I seen you at a buffet table someplace before?

Despite the temperature, we had great fun, with a train trip to Budapest to see friends, some fantastic sledding on New Year's Day, and loads of snow to play in.

All in all, the kids did so well, maybe it's time to start planning for a summer 2008 Eurorail adventure. Family hostels anyone?