a little goes a long way

i have known my best friend for more than thirty years. her name is shannon. i am six months older but she is more mature. way. together we are gorgeous, neurotic and hilarious. we share common interests; including entertainment, clothing, accessories and sweet tooths. especially the sweet tooths. we have been through the thick and the thin, the better and the worse and we still love each other. she is my sister, my mentor and my therapist. i love her dearly. when our relationship started, we were little girls. we have survived childhood, adolescence and have grown into women. we have weathered the storms of other friends, boyfriends, the birth of each others firsts and the death of loved ones. we are part of each others families and we wouldn’t want it any other way. while we have been many places together and share many memories, we have always had the best time doing absolutely nothing… besides being together.

we grew up across the street from one another. i would go to her house for days on end. she had a swimming pool, snack drawer, little brother and a gramma much like my own. her mom introduced herself to my gramma in the grocery store. the rest is a lifetime worth of memories and good times. we have walked, biked and roller skated through the city of grand terrace a hundred times over. i have probably spent years of my life at her mom’s house. we used to hunt for ladybugs, ride anything with wheels and spend hours a day in the backyard. we would sit up at night in the kitchen; snack on everything and giggle about anything. as we got older we continued with these same activities, even after we moved away from our parents and grandparents.  we have always snuck out of the house to see each other when we were sick and not supposed to go anywhere. we also used to call each other and say:

“i’m bored.”

“me too.”

“well come over here and be bored with me.”

isn’t that hilarious? and we would do exactly that. just be in the same place. bored and usually eating. we simply enjoyed the company. we don’t get together as often as we used to because.. well…. because we’re adults, we have families, jobs and other obligations. the days turn into weeks and months before you know it. it took me a long time to realize that it didn’t matter if we had elaborate plans, simple plans or if we actually did anything at all. just being together and sharing is all the good time we needed.

shannon has two children and they are both my sweethearts. callie is my original sweetheart. she is shannon’s first. she is my first as well. i experienced that pregnancy with shannon, including nausea, weight gain and sobriety. the three of us (shannon, alfonso and i) were connected at the hip during that time. we went to shannon’s appointments together, we painted the house together and we even went to lamaze class as a happy family; just the three of us. i was enamored with this little girl and she had yet to take a breath. she had a place in my heart, my home and my new car. she happened to be born on my saturday. at that time i had three consecutive days off. i took two extra days off just to be close. i was so excited to see and meet her. when shannon returned to work three months later. i kept callie for one of those three days off. i had my own supplies including car seat, bathtub, towels, clothing and eating supplies. she always made me happy. when i felt bad, i went to see callie. when i felt depressed, i went to see callie. whenever i needed a pick-me-up, i sought callie. she loved me too. one day she sat on my head and when her mama inquired as to what she was doing, she responded:

“i love herrrrrrrrrr.”

years later, when i was pregnant with my son, i saw her almost everyday. they lived in between my work and home. every night i would stop by and give her a bath. we had fuuuuuun. this carried on until my prego belly was too big to accommodate. i was unable to find a comfortable way to bathe her and still be able to breathe. not to mention, my son had his hard joints pressed into every rib. yes, bathing my darlin’ became a chore and i had to resign. she was N. O. T. happy. not at all. she cried the first night. she refused to allow shannon to bathe her. she wanted “neeeeesshaaa to doooo itttt”. she didn’t even stay in the bathtub, she got up, stomped down the hallway to the master bedroom and sat sulking on the floor of the shower.

my son, kenneth, was born a few months later. shannon was present and pacing in the delivery room. moments after he was born, i dismissed my cheerleader and fan club to get some much-needed rest. the next morning i received a phone call from her asking:

“can you have four-year-old visitors? can you please ask? she’s dying to see you. she’s been crying about it.”

my poor sweetheart was tortured knowing that kenneth had made it into the world and that she hadn’t seen him yet. she came to the hospital laden with gifts, goodies and curiosity. she even wore a new outfit! she climbed up in the bed beside me and looked at him with awe. she inspected his fingers and toes. his not yet formed belly button. she commented on how hairy he was. she was so excited she could hardly contain herself. a week later, we all (alfonso, shannon, callie, mike, kenneth and i) went to big bear for a couple of nights. it was during that time that callie found out that newborns were not as much fun as she had hoped. they don’t play, they don’t cooperate and they usually have something going in or coming out of them. that did not hinder her interest in him at all. she was attendant at every diaper change and she asked every question under the sun. she loved kenneth. she kept tabs on him and she made the idea of nursing him utterly hilarious.

“why he cry, neesha?”

“he’s hungry sweetheart.”

“what him wants, neesha?”

“he drinks milk.”

“oh, want mama get it ?”

“no sweetheart, i have milk for him.”

“where?”

“well. hold on, lemme ask mama something.”

“shaaaaaaannon!”

“what?”

“callie wants to know where his milk comes from.”

“tell her.”

“ok. well, sweetheart, his milk is in my boobies.”

“oh” she said with a very curious look on her face. we all know it was a concept too complex for her to understand, but she attempted to. every time he cried after that she said:

“i think him hungry. i think him wants you boobie.”

priceless! she is still just as curious and candid today. i love her very much. she is absolutely beautiful inside and out. she is very considerate and helpful. she got to be big sister for kenneth and that turned out to be excellent training when the MadMad showed up almost two years later. i was not as close in proximity when shannon was pregnant with AJ. she gave birth to him quietly and without me as a screaming cheerleader. we did not start out with the same relationship that i had with callie. however, we have since made up for it and he is my friend. he comes to me when he’s happy, hungry or hurt. he sometimes calls me “neesa”. and sometimes he calls me “mama”. i’ll take it either way. he’s a lot of fun and i adore him just as much as i adore his sister. i have given birth once, but i have three children. they rock my world.

now, with ALL of that said, we are two women, two friends, and we share our three children. we are close in ways that cannot be explained. hopefully the friendships of our children will stand the test of time and they can blog about each other in the future. we had a sleepover recently. simple, yet astounding. shannon and her little man, my friend “the MadMan AJ” came to pick us up. apparently, AJ had inquired as to our whereabouts first thing in the morning for two days in a row. he’d asked for us and we were available. the boys are always excited to see and play with each other.  they pulled up into the driveway and as shannon opened her door, i could hear AJ chanting:

“kenneth. kenneth. kenneth?”

his voice makes me smile. he’s a happy little man. he has the most expressive eyes and boy, does he know how to use them. i peeked inside the car and when he saw me those eyes opened wide and he squealed:

“neeeessa! kenneth? kenneth? kenneth?”

“he’s coming sweetheart, hold on.”

“kenneth?”

we made a few stops and when we got to the house, the boys busted out of the car faster than you could imagine. they ran straight inside murmuring about choo choo trains and went into AJ’s room. he came out shortly with a puzzled look on his face:

“neeesa. help. choo choo train.”

i pulled all of the train related items from our overnight gear. they just wanted to hold a train each and watch the thomas the train dvd. two peas in a pod those boys are.  they rip and run until they are worn out. they get testy with one another and have been known to hit. but if you separate them, you’ll be sorry. they have to have eyes on each other at all times. my son asks for AJ constantly. you would think they were separated at birth. good memories and a great friendship are being formed. it warms my heart.

so we watched some movies, snacked (of course),  and then it was bedtime… until “g’morning!”. we were going to make breakfast. WERE. we had pulled the waffle iron out and all sorts of things, only to realize that the dishwasher was going to be installed and the magic man that would do it was already on his way. plan change: to zorba’s i went. with breakfast retrieved and the boys seated, we served them and fed ourselves standing, the way most moms do.

we didn’t have any plans, just to be together. we often take the kids for walks. to help expend some energy, to get them out of the house, to enjoy the world and all of the critters it has to offer. so, we walked to the park. they had so much fun. all three kids were on the swings at the same time. i was being ordered around:

“mama, push me.” from my own.

“neesa. fwing. help.” from the MadMan, and

“neesha, can you push me higher?” from the little miss.

they were ecstatic. it was amazing. they were laughing hysterically and for just a second and it made me laugh too. they were so happy and it didn’t cost a dime to take them to the park. they were swinging with each other, laughing at one another and enjoying life. callie and i agreed that swinging barefoot is the bees knees. if you’ve never done it, i suggest you do it. i took so many pictures. i just wanted to stay there and watch them. freeze time. they grow up so fast and time breezes by.

this friendship, between shannon and i, this life long friendship was based around these same types of outings. going for walks, bike rides and swinging at the park. when we were kids, shannon almost always took me with her, wherever she went. we have been everywhere together. her family has always included me and treated me as a family member. back then, we didn’t have money or cars, we just had each other. someone to talk to and laugh with. we were blessed that our families came to pass one another. and our children are also blessed because of it. they are able to visit, interact and love one another as often as we can get them together. granted, groceries, water for fun and baths, along with something damaged and/or broken are not free. they are a luxury, but the time together is free, and the small cost is worth it. our friendship and theirs are effortless and rewarding. just us. just them. it’s essentially us all over again, but this time with an audience.

i have come to appreciate this friendship on a whole new level now that we have children and they are able to interact. i have some very dear friends from my childhood and from my different places of employ, but my thirty year friendship with shannon is one to be recognized. we have been through a lot, and even when separated by distance, we have always been there for each other. i hope that our children are able to foster the same type of relationships with each other. we have laid the ground work and provided an example. we talk to each other, laugh with and at each other, and we love each other. we share, we care and we make room for each other and our kids. we don’t always make plans or have a place to go. we just need to make room and be prepared. yup, a little goes a long way.

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“the name is kenny. kenny… two hands”

i have a son.  his name is kenneth michael.  he is named after his grandfathers.  i was huge when i was pregnant with him and while he wasn’t the biggest baby ever, he is a very large preschooler.  he is currently forty-six inches tall and a whopping forty-four pounds.  he wears big boy clothes in a size five-six, and a size thirteen shoe.  he will be four years old this coming wednesday.  and while he is black, i have recently discovered that he is living the secret life of an italian gangster. yes. an italian gangster (and, i mean “italian gangster” in the nicest way possible).

as with all children, their desire to exert their independence outweighs their actual ability to handle the responsibility.  for instance, my son tried to pour himself a glass of orange juice the other day.  good thing those eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head were open and my ninja-like mommy reflexes were on point.  as the mommy, i always feel the need to try and avoid a spill or a “situation” before it actually happens.  when i get him something to eat, drink or snack on, he wants to carry it himself.  i am usually able to convince him to let me carry the spillables while he is in charge of the non-spillables.  most of the time, this works in my favor as he is mostly interested in consuming the food/drink items.  more so than he is interested in cleaning them up.  (we’ve been down that road too many times).  when he is permitted to carry an item, i always reinforce his duty with “two hands, kenneth, two hands.”

let me explain one thing real quick.  my son’s name is kenneth.  most people in our lives call him kenny or even ken.  except me.  i almost always call him “bubba”.  or bubs, bubbalicious, or bubbe.  when i use his name, i, more often than not, refer to him as kenneth.  i associate “kenny” with my father.  that’s what everyone used to referred to him as, so i make a point to use kenneth when talking about my son.  he refers to himself as kenny.  as a matter of fact, we had a little spat over it earlier today.

me: what’s your name?

him: i kenny.

me: what’s my name?

him: you mommy.

me: what’s mommy’s name?

him: neesha.

me: what’s kenny’s name?

him: i KENNY!

me: kenny’s name is Kenneth.

him: NO! i kenny!  mooommmmmy, i kenny.

me: ok. you can be kenny if you want to, but your name is kenneth.

him: hmph. (that’s him kinda blowin’ me off.  if it was me, i would have been saying “my ass!” if it was me (just sayin’)).

all-in-all, it was pretty dern funny.  he was very adamant (and it makes the rest of the story a little sweeter).

back to my story.  whenever he walks away, i try to remind him to use “two hands”.  it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth time that i told him “use two hands”, that i realized that he didn’t actually grasp the concept of “two” hands, he just knew that he needed to hold it.  so one afternoon, we get into this same little conversation around snack time.  it went like this:

me: mama’s gonna carry it.

him: no. kenny two hands.

me: no, let mama carry it.

him: no. kenny TWO HANDS!

me: no, bubs, let mama do it.

just then, he turned his head and cut his eyes at me (i know, right?) and with all the certainty of The Godfather himself, he says in a firm tone:

“no. kenny… two hands.”

even with that explanation i cannot tell you how these four words came across to me.  the pause between “kenny” and “two hands” was so purposeful. he had certainty in his voice.  it made me giggle a little because (in my head) i instantly heard the gangster voice, the one that says “fuggeddaboutit” or maybe even “luca brasi sleeps with the fishes.” i also pictured a classic expression, like that of my favorite gangsters: robert deniro and al pacino (in just about anything), when they are nodding their head, yes, repeatedly, but you already know that the answer is NOT yes,  and you are going to be told that the answer is NO in a very firm and undeniable manner.  a manner that, if you survive, you will never, ever, EVER forget.

or perhaps you’ll be made an offer?  one you can’t refuse?

this time, the voice said “kenny… two hands” making me picture two hands coming together as if they were… i dunno, say, around a neck?  kinda like:

“you ain’t neva heard the story of kenny? ‘kenny… two hands’??  that’s one guy i wouldn’t mess with.  word is … you don’t wanna make him use those ‘two hands’.  ’cause if he hasta use um, well… let’s just say, you’ll be breathless”

the story telling is over, but the hands remain in the silent, yet intimidating “immachokethe$h!touttasomebody” pose.  (like this, but without bart. ha!)

with that said, we went to the local walmart and i noticed some hats sitting up top the folded pant section.  there were many hats, but one caught my eye:

as soon as i put that hat on him, i just about fell out laughing.  too funny, and it brought that voice back in my head.  “kenny.  kenny… two hands.” i had recently discovered picnik.com and i decided to have some fun:

doesn’t it look like a WANTED poster?  one of my favorites.  i can see my son rockin’ a designer three-piece tone-on-tone suit with some equally impressive and expensive shiny shoes. i laugh at the thought of him securing the neighborhood in exchange for jell-o or french fries.  keeping the cats out of the planters and the dogs off the lawns.  ensuring the senior citizen gardeners that they won’t have any trouble from the neighborhood strays “as long as [he’s] on the block.”  bahah!

anyway, let’s update the secret gangster activity with this most recent little doozy.  in the last month or so, my son has become increasingly affectionate.  he is now asking me for hugs and kisses and cannot, absolutely cannot, give me a kiss without saying “i lub yew too.” (i ❤ it).  but this new activity?  i dunno, you tell me.  he’ll give me a hug, then a kiss on the lips. he leaves his right hand on my shoulder and with his left hand, he grabs my lower jaw and turns my head (for me) to my left.  he then kisses my right cheek, turns my head to my right and kisses my left cheek.  he says “i lub yew too” as he walks away.

ya get that?  the boy is kissing me on both cheeks.  the way full blooded gangster men kiss other full blooded gangster men at family functions, gangster meetings and obviously, funerals.  ya feel me?  funny.

what does my son do when i’m not looking?  perhaps my ninja-mommy skills are not what i need for this particular preschooler.  perhaps i need to be a mommy-CIA agent: tappin’ [his] cell, and the phone in the basement.”  my little gangster will be four years old this coming week.  “they grow up so fast” doesn’t even begin to cover how much happens in these first few years.  from growing inside to living outside.  from crawling to walking, followed immediately but running.  from toothless to talking.  and even when you think you know them, you learn something new.

perhaps instead of cupcakes and thomas the train birthday gifts, i should get him a nice prosciutto, some “al dente” pasta and a couple cannolis?  i wouldn’t want him to hafta use those “two hands”… ’cause “fuggeddaboutit”, i don’t wanna hafta use my belt.  (that’s right, i said it).