Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Year in Review - 2008

Often it seems like I'm living my own version of "Groundhog Day." It's a great movie. It's simple - Bill Murray relives the same day of his life over again until he gets it just right. But that simplicity belies the larger truth of his quotidian experiences.

When will these kids grow up, I ask myself? When will they dress themselves, fix their own breakfasts, sit down at the table for a civilized meal? Each day, each day's set of challenges, each moment when it seems like the day will never be over - somehow, we've made it though 2008.

Now, when I summarize what the year has been like for us, I look back on these pictures at a glance and see how far we have all come.

I look away, they keep growing. I look back - they are my babies again.

In January, we ushered in Jordan's 3rd birthday. We gathered with a few friends at home and celebrated. He was deep into his love of outer space, and the party reflected his love of planets, rocket ships, and of course - cupcakes.

Being a year older didn't change much, at first. After school, I would bring Jordan home and he would relish a few minutes outdoors. Even in the cold February weather, he made the best of the situation. The sunlight shined on him, and I watched as he played in the snow.

Meanwhile, others in our family were celebrating too.

My brother Riz, and his wife Tahera, were eagerly looking forward to their own new arrival. In the meantime, we celebrated at Tahera's babyshower in Februrary.

Miss Mina was too busy harrassing the cat at the party to pay too much attention to anything else.

Jordan however made up for it by learning how to walk Oscar around the block. The unseasonably warm February day made it a perfect morning adventure. Oscar was less than thrilled. This was one of my favorite moments of the year. As simple as it seemed at the time, it highlighted how perfectly blessed we have been. Jordan looked like just another kid, happy, laughing, and walking his dog. Who knew we'd ever be here, I thought, as I took this picture? Who knew I'd be standing on the sidewalk one day laughing at the grin on my son's face - the same face that was once blue and ventilated with air tubes?

In March, I celebrated my 30 - something - ish birthday. Jeff surprised me with wonderful birthday presents, and friends and family were also incredibly thoughtful. It was such a perfect day. Even though it meant getting a year older.

In April, we began full-scale potty training. It was an unmitigated disaster. It didn't take till November. And we're still working out the kinks. If I've learned anything from this experience it is that I know absolutely nothing about raising kids, and that no amount of reading about the subject will do any good when you are faced with a stubborn child.

No one tells you how maddening kids can be. When you're pregnant and all excited about how much fun life will be now, no one tells you the nitty-gritty details or shit chucking exercises you will be performing down the line. That is what potty training has been like for us.

There are no perfect answers to your particular solution. No one has written all the answers down in a parenting book tailored to your kid. It sucks. It sucks physically, emotionally, and in all other ways known to man. It tests every ounce of patience you possess.

All you can do is learn to exercise your kinder and gentler side. With every accident, every bout of willful refusal, every time he laughed at me as I changed his diaper - I reminded myself that I was the grown up here, and I had to act like it. Be gentle, I told myself.

Slowly, he has come around.

Happier times were spent with our Bay Ridge friends in April. I was taking the picture, so you can't see how happy I am - but the menu came out perfectly too. I made tandoori style lamb chops - a new recipe, some sides, and an awesome strawberry-rhubarb pie.

In April, I had a chance to attend a wedding in Savannah, Georgia. I went solo, and made the most of my mini vacation. The wedding was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with dear friends.

I also got to indulge my inner chef, as I snuck in a three hour cooking lesson one morning. That was fun!

In May, I finally got to meet my nephew, Arman. He came by for a visit, nestled carefully in his parents' arms. He was so little! I've pretty much sworn off having any more kids. I'm done, I tell Jeff. But, holding someone else's little one made my heart skip just a little bit. I'll just have to spoil him that much more.

We celebrated the occasion with a backyard barbeque. Mina celebrated with corn.

In June, we had another fun visit.

With the Perkins! We had a few great days with the gang - it was our prelude to the annual beach trip in September.

Do I sound jealous, if I say these two make it look so easy?

June is a good month to hit the water sprinklers in Central Park.

It was also a good time to finally redo the playroom.

As the months passed, I started to notice something. My two monkeys were playing together these days. Many people confuse them for twins, but actually, they are 18 months apart. Close - but not that close. As they both got older, they started to play with each other instead of separately. I can't always say the results were pretty. But I watched from a safe distance.

Jordan completed his first year of school, and we have the picture to prove it.

Mina and her BFF, Julia, share their love of carbohydates at the local pool. Jordan couldn't be bothered to attend that evening, since he decided he no longer likes the pool. Sigh. Oh well, Mina and I had a good time.

Oddly enough, here he is having a great time in the backyard pool in July. Such is the mind of a preschooler. One minute, he loves something, and the next....

In July, we celebrated Mina's 2nd birthday party. She chose the dress herself. I should have realized this forshadowed what the rest of the year would look like. It went from a love of pink - to her current love of all things "princess-y." Never mind that she doesn't even know what a real princess is. She's never even seen any of the Disney princess movies - never seen Cinderella, or Snow White, or Jasmine, or Aurora, or whoever else they are marketing as a princess this year. She just understands the concept of dressing up in pretty clothes and twirling around in sparkly things.

And she applies it in a gender neutral manner. As an example, I'll relate the following story. On the week Riz and Tahera visited us in October, they spent one evening attending an Indian wedding in New Jersey. For those of you who've been to one of these things, you'll know the level of decked out bling that shows up. Tahera came downstairs after getting dressed and stood next the table where Mina was eating dinner.

Mina stared at her, with a look of wonder I have never seen since. Her eyes soaked in the sight of her aunt. She greedily absorbed the sparkling clothes, the jewelry, the glitter adorning her aunt, and she said:

"You so pretty! You look like a princess!"

And then she looked at Riz, who cleaned up nicely in a suit and tie.

"And you look pretty too." She said.

July was a big month for amusement parks. We hit the one at the Wollman Rink, in Central Park several times over the summer. The kids loved it.

And you couldn't beat the view from the airplane.

In August, we visited my parents in upstate New York. It was a great trip, and taking the kids to some of my old kiddie stomping grounds was a real treat. At the park, we got a halfway decent family shot. The kids climbed the same slides I once did. They ate at the same pizza joint I used to. They had a big day out at the amusement park we used to go to. They cuddled with me in my old bed. That made me feel old and amused all at the same time.

Parks are where we hang in the summer months. This one was also taken in August. I call this the Sandbox Park - for obvious reasons. This shot is one of my favorites. Jordan's wistful, sometimes-dreamy nature is right here. Maybe he's trying to figure out the way this wheel turns, or what it connects too, or what adventure he'll undertake next. I don't know. But I love to imagine the possibilities.

How quickly the summer flew by. In September, I took another solo trip to see the gang in Pittsburgh. I was thrilled to see my brother Osman, who flew out from Colorado for the occasion. Here, he's juggling unclehood on his knee.

And here's my mother, advertising her political beliefs for all to see. Go Mom!

The big family trip was in September. This was our third trip to the Outer Banks. And it was bliss.

Then came October - which is when it hit me. Fall had arrived.

Family came to visit.

And Mina continued her love of being a girl. In music class, she dominated each dressing up session by being the first one in line, demanding exactly the items she wanted, and shocking me with her outspokenness, vivacity, and love of dancing. Music class was a great thrill for her - except on the day when she did not get to have one of the "pink cowboy horses."

Translated, that means, she did not get to have the white horse, on a riding stick, that the toddlers pretend to ride around on. She did not get a white one, with the pink stirrups or saddle, and I had to physically remove her from the classroom because she threw herself onto the floor in protest.

We had a moment of repose in the hallway, where we discussed the consequences for bad behavior. She agreed to behave herself and accept a lesser subsitute - the brown or the tan horse. She then re-entered the room, saw the other girls riding white horses, and once again, promptly threw herself on the floor.

Her teacher, one of the greatest human beings on the planet, solved the problem by giving Mina a tiara, a wand, and a tutu. She was then crowned princess of the cowboys, and led them in her own march around the room. I kept quiet, and decided that wisdom is knowing which battles to pick.

Later in October, Jeff celebrated a mini college reunion or sorts with his housemates from Cleaveland Ave. Lookin' good, guys

Every month, Jordan's school hosts a craft day. I almost always go, and I always bring Mina with me. This time, they worked together so nicely. It's always a trip bringing Mina to school every morning, when I drop Jordan off. She loves that place and cries every time I make her leave. Luckily, she will be starting school for herself next week. It's only part time, but I have a feeling she will take to it with no hesitation.

Turkey day in November!

Thanksgiving dinner. Look at Jeff.

In November, I had a mini reunion of my own, with some friends from law school.

You know when you get a room full of lawyers together, things are going to get crazy.

December has been non-stop. We celebrated Jordan's Star of the Week at preschool. We brought in fun treats, read a story together, and watched at Jordan counted out numbers on the bulletin board. It's been a real pleasure for me to see how far he's come in school. When he began preschool last year, we had our doubts. There were long discussions with his teachers, thoughtful moments as we wondered whether he was ready, and a whole lot of sick days when one bug or another kept him home.

This year, he's been doing so well.

I can see how much he enjoys being at school, and I'm thrilled every time his teacher takes the time to tell me something interesting or unusual that he's done. His memory is something they all comment on. Apart from knowing the basics like his letters, numbers, shapes, etc., he can recite the schedules for each child in the class, commenting on what days they come to school, what days they don't. He knows what they like to eat! His class has almost 30 students, so that surprised me a little. He takes Spanish at school, and his teacher noted his ability to remember words, his curiosity about the language, and his willingness to answer questions. Since he tends to be shy in groups, I was so happy to hear this.

December celebrations filled several weeks. We've had dinners, treats, presents ... lots of calories to ponder.

Mina eats Grandma H's homemade chocolate pretzels - diets be damned!

And our last picture of 2008 - New Year's Eve. My two crazy devils. They've kept us both busy. Some days have been wonderful. Some days have been anything but. It's been a challenging year for me, personally. I've had my ups and downs.

But, it surprises me how many wonderful memories I've accumulated this year. There have been moments when I've had to look twice, to really see how amazing the moment is.

Every normal day, there's been an opportunity for something special. Sometimes, I'm paying attention long enough to notice.
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