Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten…Almost

Is there anything more exciting than the first day of Kindergarten? Is there anything more important than getting your child ready, organized, and prepared for their first day of school? What is more exciting than packing up their new lunch box, combing their hair, and then watching them walk into their new school for the first time, with their whole lives ahead of them? In terms of parenting moments, the first day of Kindergarten is up there at the top.

This is not a day you want to screw up …

Yesterday, my precious little boy was starting Kindergarten. I had marked it down on the family calendar with lots of smiley faces, stars, and big hearts. We talked about who his teacher would be and what kids he knew in his class. We packed a special lunch and picked out a new T-shirt at Target. When he woke up that morning, he had run into my bathroom with messy hair and sleepy grin and said, “Mommy, today I am starting Kindergarten!”

It was a lovely morning…no rushing and no stress. We had breakfast together, nobody fought, and we even left the house ten minutes early. When we got outside, I got a little teary eyed. I took hundreds of pictures of him to remember the day. He was all dressed up, his hair was combed perfectly and he even remembered to brush his teeth. After I finished, I texted the best pictures to my family and friends with the following caption, “Today is a big day. My sweet Jack starts Kindergarten!”

I had taken the morning off from work…I didn’t want anything to get in the way of this momentous occasion. Because it was a special day, I decided we would walk to school as a family. At one point, while crossing the street holding hands, my kids began to sing “Wheels on the Bus.” That just might be one of my top ten parenting moments, and at the time, I could barely contain my joy. I looked at them both, squeezed their little hands, and said, “Kids, it’s going to be a great year!” As we walked to school, my son looked so old, so proud and so excited.

While we were walking, a friend of ours pulled up beside us and said, “Hey, what are you all doing?” I smiled and put my arm around Jack and said, “We are heading to Kindergarten! Today is Jack’s first day!” We both beamed proudly. Our friend looked at us with concern. “I think school starts tomorrow,” he said slowly. I looked at him with compassion and said, ‘No, it starts today…Sorry you got confused”. At that moment, the word ‘Wednesday’ did jump in my head, but I ignored it and moved on. I had marked this day, Tuesday the 6th, on my calendar and so far, my dry erase board had never let me down. As we walked away, my son looked at me and said with a grin, “Can you believe it? That dad doesn’t even know when school starts!” We laughed together (poor dad), held hands again, and skipped the rest of the way to school.

When we arrived, it was quite calm for the first day. I couldn’t believe all the kids were already in their classroom. As we got a little closer, I saw a friend of mine coming out of the office. She looked at us strangely and said under her breath, “What are you doing here?” I didn’t understand why people kept asking me this question. Wasn’t it obvious, we were going to school? As I began to answer, she slowly started to move her head side to side and quietly mouthed the word “tomorrow”. At that moment, my son looked down at the ground and began to shake his head. When his little face looked up, he had tiny tears in his eyes. He reached for my hand and said softly, “Mom, you have got to be kidding me…”

I couldn’t believe this could happen. I was so close to receiving the “Mom of the Year” award, and now, in one second, it was quickly swiped from my grasp. We went from the perfect day to the ultimate let down and I couldn't have felt worse.

I wanted to blame someone for this mistake, the principal, my dry erase board, or possibly my husband. But in the end, I knew it was my fault. I apologized to my son a hundred times and tried to tell him how great it was that we had a ‘dry run’. Eventually he started to calm down as I continued to berate myself. I kept whispering under my breath "How did this happen? I am an organized person. I am a good mom. How do you screw this up???" Eventually my son stopped me and put his little arm around me. He turned and grabbed my face and said, “Mom, it’s okay. We all make mistakes sometimes. We’ll just try again tomorrow”. I couldn’t have loved that little boy more.

Today Wednesday the 7th, we tried again. Unfortunately, this time, our morning didn’t go as smoothly. There was a lot more rushing, yelling, and arguing than yesterday. My work phone kept ringing and my daughter didn’t want to put on any clothes. The lunch we packed wasn’t special and the shirt he wore had stains on it. I was late for a meeting and couldn't find my computer. As we got in the car (because we didn’t have time to walk) my son looked at me and said, “This isn’t a dry run is it?” I told him it wasn’t and that today school started for real. As he buckled up his seat belt and sat down in his chair, he smiled at me. "Mom, I am really glad we didn't have to walk today. Today felt much more normal than yesterday. I think this is going to be a great year!"

Starting Kindergarten really is a big deal…

(Many people have asked me if this really happened. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Everything I write about on this blog is true...because honestly, you can't make this stuff up.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Korean Spa

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through my underwear drawer and found a gift certificate from my mother-in-law for the Korean Spa in downtown L.A. It was perfect timing because I needed to get away, do something different, and take a little time for myself. I asked her if she would watch the kids and called to set up an appointment for the "Pure Bliss" experience. Little did I know then, but the Korean spa would end up changing my life.

In the past, the spas I have visited smelled like tea tree oil, lavender and mint. They were filled with women in white robes silently being ushered into dark massage rooms where ocean sounds play through small IPod docks. I knew the Korean spa would be a little different…mostly because my mother and mother-in-law (who are both unique individuals and avid fans) kept telling me, “Now remember Kelsey, everyone is NAKED, completely NAKED. It is so WONDERFUL that women can be so NAKED. Our generation was NEVER comfortable with our bodies. It is SO liberating. Stay the WHOLE day, you will LOVE IT!”

It had been a rough week and I was determined to relax; not talk to anyone and enjoy my time there. Both the relaxing and not talking (are 4,000 cell phone minutes each month a lot?) are very uncomfortable for me. The relaxing required me not to worry about the following important items that kept running through my head “What if my daughter gets sunscreen in her eyes? Should I have sprayed for roaches so close to the kitchen cabinet? Why does my downstairs couch smell like a dog, even though we don’t have one? Does my minivan make me look fat?” All of these questions, along with hundreds of others, bombarded my brain as I checked in at the front desk.

At this point, it is important to note that I grew up in locker rooms. Most of my life was spent alternating between being in a pool and a locker room...I am used to women changing, showering, and walking around naked. Therefore, I didn’t think twice about the ‘naked’ requirement of the Korean spa...I was sure it wouldn’t affect me. I checked in with this nice Korean woman whose English was as good as my Korean. She did her best to give me a tour, but unfortunately, I got sidetracked. When we first walked in I looked over at the famous jade floor and froze. There, in the center of the floor, was a large, naked 300lb elderly Korean woman lying on her back. She was asleep, peacefully snoring, covered with only the invisible air around her. My tour guide noticed my distraction and grabbed my arm. She turned and said in a loud whisper, “Pay ttention! Follo Me!” Never had a spa trip been filled with so much pressure.

Inside, the spa was filled with pools…hot, cold, freezing, tea filled, and normal. There are also saunas, showers, oxygen and steam rooms. In the middle of the room is what appears to be a trough or little "creek" of water. The creek is important because this is where women of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities and age, sit NAKED on stools and hand wash themselves while rinsing with big buckets that sit next to the ‘creek’. I kept staring and couldn’t look away. It was as if I had been transported to Africa or the countryside of Asia…without the wild animals or change in climate. I did my best to look unaffected and concentrated on acting like this was no big deal.

Because I hadn’t been listening to my tour guide, I wasn’t really clear on how to best utilize the facility. Because I have always been an overachiever, I was determined to get the most out of my cultural experience. I began to go from hot pool, to normal pool, to freezing pool as fast as I could. Who needs to relax when there is so much water to explore? At one point, I thought I was having a panic attack because my heart was racing so fast. As I got out of the freezing cold pool I began to feel lightheaded and needed to lean against a wall. Suddenly one of the spa people came up to me and said in a whisper, “Be CAFUL, you get dizzy, feel no good, heart beat too fast, relax!”

After an hour of using every pool, room and shower, I knew there was no way I going to be able to keep this up until my appointment, which was still an hour away. I decided I should just lie down on the jade floor, next to the naked woman and try to rest. By the looks of it, I really didn’t think there was anything special about this floor. I had been warned about its Ambien drug inducing powers... but I wasn’t buying it. I got a blanket and laid down on my back while my current ‘to do’ list ran through my head and then... good night sweetheart! The next thing I remember was hearing a woman yelling “Numbr Theerty, Number Theerty!” It was similar to being at a deli and having your number called to pick up your sliced meat. I jumped up and headed into the treatment room.

To call it a treatment room is pushing it. There were no walls or doors and everyone could see what was happening inside. I laid down on one of the four massage tables that were lined up in a row. No need to take off my clothes because I was already completely naked…how convenient! Three other naked ladies were already being plucked, scrubbed and massaged by old Korean women in black bras and panties…I was the last one to join the party. Each table was covered in a plastic fabric that looked like a picnic tablecloth. It was waterproof, which worked out well because the first ten minutes consisted of my lady tossing buckets of water over my entire body while yelling commands like “Head down! Turn! Side! Eyes closed!” For the next hour and 45 minutes I was plucked, scrubbed, rubbed, massaged, kneaded and rinsed like a chicken on a farm.

And then, at some point during this experience, I realized a miracle had happened…I was relaxed!

Not only was I relaxed, but something had happened to me. I was a different person. As I dipped in and out of pools and washed myself by the creek, I was moving as if underwater. I had no where to go and nothing to accomplish. I suddenly began to fantazise that I lived inside this little building, with all these naked women, and the magical jade floor. I sat alone and realized in this place, no one wanted me to get them another chicken nugget. No one needed me to wipe their bottoms, tie their shoes, or shave their backs. I reveled in the fact that it was silent…no football games or Yo Gabba Gabba played in the background. I almost cried I loved it so much.

Every now and then I would remember that eventually I would have to leave. At some point they would turn off the pools and the saunas and ask all of my naked friends to go home. It was scary because I wasn’t ready. Did they know it had taken me almost 8 hours of silence and a small home cooked Korean meal to feel normal again? How could they send me back out into the real world…with all those demands, chores, and people wearing clothes? What if I wanted to be surrounded by naked old ladies for the rest of my life? I kept asking the lady what time it closed and after a while she kindly said, “Don wory, you stay long as need.”

Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t sleep by the creek. There was no way around it…I had to go home. As I sat in my minivan on the 405, happily stuck in traffic, I realized I didn’t need much to make me happy. I realized one day alone in complete silence without any kids, husband, boss, or blackberry was much needed for my soul.

And most importantly, I realized that no matter what people think, not everyone in Los Angeles believes in Brazilian bikini waxes…