Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too much of a good thing...

Look, I have no issue with the long-standing tradition of presents under the tree.  Gift opening and seeing the joy on your children's faces, not to mention the magic involved in the gifts spontaneously appearing on Christmas morning should be cherished.

However. HowEVER.

No child needs 30 Christmas presents from Santa.  No child needs 30 presents at all. But I'm afraid that estimate is on the low end of what most children in our area will be receiving for Christmas.

I sat down and did the baffling assessment this year of how much my children stand to gain from the Christmas holiday.  Three sets of grandparents.  Two great grandmas. Three sets of aunts and uncles.  Two very generous first cousins, once removed.  If each of these entities only get our children one gift (which, by the way, they probably won't) my children will have 11 gifts right there. Counting the fact that my husband and I want to give the children each a gift (a batgirl costume and a minecraft lego, respectively) that brings their  my kids' gift total up to 12.

We've been begging and pleaded with our relatives to get our children NOTHING or give the gift of an outing. The grandma who grew up in poverty gave me a puzzled look and then went off and probably bought them a car. One sporting grandma agreed to give a coupon to take the kids to lunch and a movie which filled my heart with joy but I later found out she bought the kids a bounce house. But it's going to stay at her house, she reasoned, so it really doesn't count.

So, clearly, the grandparents cannot be contained.  The aunts and uncles gently asked me/guilted me to not suck the joy out of their hearts by denying them the privilege of picking out toys for the kids while they are still young.

So maybe I can't control the people in my family, but my husband and I can certainly control ourselves.

I had to say something to the kids. I had to do something to stop them from coming to expect piles of presents from Santa under the tree. I don't want my children surrounded by piles of THINGS when so many go without and nor do I want to raise entitled little brats.   I don't have a bigger house than I need. Half the furniture in our house is second-hand (repurposed is the trendy word). We are not wasteful people. And I didn't want to throw all that to the wind because a fictional fat guy in velvet suit was going to squeeze through my chimney bearing gifts.

So I sat down with them and we talked about the two families we had helped to "adopt" to assist them with buying Christmas through the Salvation Army Angels program and one from my WINGS group.  And I lectured them about waste and giving back to others and how things will never love you back and I reminded them of the meltdown Mommy had last year when she realized the giant mound of plastic and paper that all the toy packaging had generated. And how it would all never decompose and be stuffed into poor Mother Earth indefinitely.

"Santa's NOT COMING?!" my son immediately went to DefCon 5, as is his way.

"I was GOOD!  Ask that elf!" Little D insisted.

"No, no," I hurriedly assured them. "You were very good.  Santa is definitely coming.  But he's not going to bring you a ton of gifts this year. Just a couple."

"Why?" Big A wanted to know.

"I think because you're very lucky and you have so much family around you to give you gifts.  And some kids have less family and less money to spend on gifts." That was my response.

"So if we get less, other kids can get more?"  Big A questioned.

"Yes," I said, even though that probably wasn't true.

"Do you know what communism is? I believe mommy is trying to illustrate it. " my husband interjected.   I shushed him.

"It's not that," I tired to explain to the kids what I was feeling myself. "It's just that...for Santa to bring you piles of gifts...when you have so much already...and you're getting even more gifts from your extended family...well, it all seems like a bit much, right?"

Big A looked at me thoughtfully while Little D climbed onto my husband's head, as she often does.

"I think...that would be greedy." Big A came up with.


"Exactly!" I was relieved he was getting it.

"But..will Santa still bring me a Mario Microworld?" he asked hopefully.

"And my basketball shirt?" Little D piped up.

"Probably, if you're good." I exhaled...glad that they didn't seem phased by getting less gifts from Santa this year.

"So, I still get a few gifts from Santa but just not a pile up to the ceiling or near the ceiling?" Big A clarified.

"Yes." I responded.

"Like how many?" he prodded.

"I don't know," I said. "But remember how many gifts you're getting from all your aunts and uncles and grandparents?  You guys are incredibly lucky to have such loving relatives"

They both seemed okay about it.  And my husband and I agreed that Santa would bring them each three gifts  (A Ghostbusters lego set, the Mario World and an Emmett alarm clock for our son and a soccer ball, basketball shirt and mechanical butterfly for our daughter).  I was glad I managed their expectations and I felt lighter just knowing we'd be generating less waste and consuming less things.

Even though I often feel unsuccessful, I'm not just trying to raise kids here. I'm trying to raise decent adults. And the sooner we can teach them that our society's warped obsession with accumulating things is NOT the path to satisfaction, peace or happiness the better off we will be.

When I think back to my happiest Christmas memories from childhood, very few of them involve gifts.  I remember my mom putting on Frank Sinatra's Christmas record as we decorated the house. I remember my Dad screaming "Pivot! Pi-VAHT!" as my sisters and I dissolved in laughter as we tried to help him bring in the tree.  Hiding the baby Jesus.  Snuggling with my sisters drinking hot chocolate and watching Rudolph. My mom's amazing German cold cut breakfasts.  Seeing my grandparents admire our Christmas dresses.  Sitting with my mom on the living room couch when she (finally) stopped serving people and sat down for a few moments of peace as we listened to opera with the lights dimmed, the Christmas tree twinkling away.  The house filled with the laughter, eating, music and conversation of our family.

I want to create that for my kids. And, believe it or not, I want to watch their faces light up when Santa brings them just what they were hoping for.  But toning it down to something reasonable and less excessive has brought me a lot of peace this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All Good Gifts

With no sarcasm whatsoever, I can freely admit that I adore the Christmas season!  In addition to fact that we celebrate the birth of someone who died so that we may all have eternal life, there's the added benefit that overconsumption of both wine and cookies is not only accepted as the norm, but it's encouraged as well! It's like...if you're not drinking a bottle of Pinot Noir each day and scarfing down a plate of unwitting gingerbread men, people look at you like there's something wrong with you. 

I love listening to Christmas carols, particularly the traditional religious ones like George Michael's  "Last Christmas" and that one by The Waitresses where they both forgot "cranberry" and end up falling in love at the all-night grocery.   And in all seriousness Bing Crosby's "Christmas Waltz" always makes me feel sentimental, giving me an almost irresistible urge grab someone both homely and lonely and mercy smooching them under the mistletoe.

And then there's the task of moving our creepy elf who is plotting to kill us.

There's nothing I like about this part of Christmas. 

But one thing I do love is remembering the meaning of Christmas, which is Christ's sacrifice for us, and whether you're a Christian or not, whether you believe in the guy in the sky or the pie in the sky, there is no human being that doesn't believe in gratitude.  So moreso than Thanksgiving, (when I spend my time avoiding the dry, tasteless meat that is turkey)  the Christmas season makes me remember all the things for which I am thankful.  So here's my list.

 In no particular order, I am grateful for:

1. The 2015 Ford Explorer.  (And no, they are not paying me to plug their brand).  It kept my twin sister safe when she was in a terrible car crash just hours before she delivered her twin infants by emergency C-section. 

2. My brand new niece and nephew.  They are healthy and strong and I very pleased to report that, unlike most newborns, they do not resemble plucked chickens.  I am also grateful that every time Little T makes a face it looks just like the bald guy from The Princess Bride and we all yell "INCONCEIVEABLE!"  I am also grateful for my not-so-new but equally fabulous older niece and nephew who I love like my own kids with the addition of getting to spoil them rotten and having never to discipline them.

3. My children.  When they're not trying to slowly and skillfully make me lose my mind, they are treasure troves of wonderfulness, but specifically I love how Big A is such a gentle soul and a loving, loyal friend.  Every time I see some little shit bullying a smaller child, I'm grateful that although God made Big A physically huge, my little man has come equipped with sweet nature and a conscious.  I am grateful that my daughter is so tough but also has a voice like one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz and is BFFs with her grandmother. I also love that she is the nosiest person in the universe and DOESN'T MISS A TRICK.  At three years old, she's already questioning Santa's toy manufacturing practices.

4.  My sisters.  They are simply the best and I can't write more in a public blog without making everyone uncomfortable.  I would be a (bigger) mess without their love and support. There are two of my greatest blessings.  All I'll say is we could quote the entire movie of Teen Witch.  Well, two of us can.

5. My mom and dad, whose love knows no boundaries. And nor does their every day interactive skills. But one day I will miss them dropping by the house for no reason, gassing up my car when I didn't ask them to, buying me stuff from Cost-co and coming over to tape all the tablecloths down to the tables before I throw an outdoor party. In all honestly, they are the best parents anyone could ask for and the lucky bastard that won the parent jackpot happened to be me.   And you are the gold standard of grandparents!  Your love for my little critters knows no bounds. (Mom, I know Dad will never read this so can you please paraphrase and leave out the cuss words?)  Thanks for putting up with me.

6.  My friends. I adore the love and laughter you funnel into my life.  Whether we met in high school, connected at WINGS or were forced together because of our kids (realizing with some delight that we actually liked each other and play dates were about to become much less tedious) I am very lucky to know such warm, loving women and men.   And one amazing person whose gender I am still not sure about but still, we make it work.

7.  My husband.  I am grateful that he never comes home, flops on the couch and pops open a beer. I love that he has a passion for life and is so down-to-earth and authentic. I love that he has never actually used the word "authentic". I love that he is so tender with the kids. I love that he  tells me he loves me and I am beautiful even when I'm drinking an entire bottle of wine and a eating a platter of cookies, often at the same time.  I love that we laugh together and occasionally, have cried together.

So, of my list of the 7 things I am grateful for this holiday season, one was an automobile and the other 6 were people.

Cheers to that! Pass the eggnog.  And the cookies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweet Lies

There's a sweet mom that always comes to my daughter's gymnastics class exceedingly late.

Even for a mom, she always seems disheveled.  (And that is coming from me, someone who is never in a cute pair of J. Crew green skinny pants and doesn't wear lipstick because simply, I often have no idea where my make-up bag is.)  This mom has three kids under the age of 3 and she always wears a brown parka that does nothing for her sandy hair and light complexion. 

 The class begins at 10.  This past week, she was so late that she showed up at 10:32.   I want to describe the withering looks she got from the waiting room.  It was cold man, and I'm not talking about the wind chill factor. 

I want to be the first person to say I try very hard to get my children and myself to places on time.  Sometimes though, I fail. I do believe that if you're habitually late your life is out of control so I try not to be habitually late. I also find it annoying when someone I'm meeting is always late.  They know this. I tell them. I tell them that this must mean that their lives are out of control. Then they start coming on time.  It's like magic.

But that being said, Late Mom rushed in, hair flying willy nilly, kids covered in crumbs and juice stains and, of course, still wearing the unflattering brown parka. 

She said to the room "You know it's bad when your 2 year old tells you that you need to manage your time better!"

And there was silence.  And it hung there.  And it felt like judgment.   And I think we were all feeling rather smug because we had gotten our children to class on time. Certainly, we were all doing better than that mom least.  And then I saw that Late Mom looked really bummed out. And then I felt kind of ashamed because we were all silently patting ourselves on the back for getting our little kids to a class on time. Big fricking whoop.

There was a mom there who was basically putting out a bid for connection and we were all shaming her?  No one was throwing her a bone and the rather bitchy receptionist was even giving her a superior sort of look.

So I my book of Maeve Binchy essays aside, (which is a huge sacrifice since that hour in the waiting room without any kids is very precious to me) and, all in the name of being less of an asshole than I was being, I did what I do best.  I white lied.  I'm a great white liar, (it's sad but true) and lately I've started owning it. I learned this skill post-college, when white jeans were in and people were asking if they made their respective butts look big.

"I know, RIGHT?"  I yelled back at her.

She looked relieved that anyone was talking to her late, pariah self.  A smile flooded her cute, albeit caked-with-something face.

"It's like we were already so daughter wanted a juice box, so I had to run back inside the house and get it....and then she wanted apple juice instead of grape I had to run back inside to switch it," she says.


I squelched to urge to give her advice like "How about next time tell her either "no!" or "it's grape juice or the highway" and I remembered a time (perhaps many times) when I too, indulged my kids because I was just plain too tired for a fight.

" I hear ya, sister!"  I sang out. (My whole demeanor changes when I'm white lying. I sound like someone testifying in a gospel choir, I don't know why.)

"I'm embarrassed I'm so late, I am" She sort of fake-laughed nervously.

"Oh, come on! You're not late for your daughter's inauguration.  It's a tumbling class." I encouraged.

Cue very bitchy look zinging my way from receptionist.

"I know!" she said. "It's the same with the's like why do I need to get there on time?"

ohdearohdearohdear.  Because your arrival disrupts the entire movie? Because you miss all the previews which is the best part?

"I hear ya!" I say again.  Because that's what this was about.  She wanted to be heard 

This nice mom and I clearly didn't agree on our respective timetables, that was obvious. It was also certain she wasn't looking for advice on how to organize her life. (Not that I'm qualified to give any) But she was having a tough morning and reaching out for some reassurance. And if I couldn't extend my hand for 1 minute with a few kind words than really, what's the point?

It took me back to a time when I burst into tears outside my son's swim class, so horrible was my week.  The kids had been acting up, my husband was away and one of my book reviews had been criticized by a reader for being anti-feminist (as IF!)  One my friends told me her kids could be gargoyles also, her husband left a sopping wet towel on their down comforter that morning and people were crazy.  I was comforted.

Another mom we don't know that well piped in, "my kids have actually been behaving really well this week.  And my husband made me breakfast in bed today!" 

We don't sit with her anymore.

The point is if you have a choice between being a giant beeotch who thinks she's got it all together or a an empathic human being willing to connect, please go with the latter, especially if someone seems to be in need. 

Be kind, even if it means telling someone their white jeans don't make them look like a cannoli.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Have Mercy

From Vegas to church on Sunday in just in a matter of days.

Spending so much time indulging in the city of sin last week perversely caused me to want to go to church this past Sunday even though I hadn't been there in a while.   I gifted my husband with 3 hours of blessed solitude to go for a bike ride and I packed up the children to go to our church.  That sounds much easier than it is since my 3 year old Little D and I got into a huge argument because I wouldn't let her wear her Mets shirt and Big A insisted on bringing a tiny Minecraft figure that would surely somehow end up in the collection plate.

But we made it, (with time to spare!) and collapsed into the pew along my parents.  My mom immediately began doling out tictacs which annoyed me because she should really wait until the sermon for that kind of thing when the kids get really antsy. Daphne opened her mouth wide to smugly show me the dissolving contraband Grandma had given her and promptly dropped a hymnal on the floor.

We got through the prayer of the day without incident but during a quiet moment of reflection during the Gospel Big A stage whispered "IS THIS ALMOST OVER YET?"  It wasn't.  And then Little D dropped a hymnal again.   During the sermon, where the pastor made a reference to Great Expectations I enjoyed immensely, I began to feel peace in my heart.  Then Little D dropped a hymnal again. I noticed Big A's finger kept scratching his nose in such a way that he was itching to pick it and I rooted around in my bag for a Kleenex.  Then during another moment of quiet reflection Little D dropped a hymnal again.

I took away the hymnal.

We sang the Hymn of the Day, but I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing since my 6 year old was belting it out and even trilling his Rs, a la the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. I have no inkling why he was singing that way but I was distracted because Little D had now bamboozled Grandma into giving her more orange tictacs. Big A stage whispered during the prayers "WHEN IS COFFEE HOUR?  DO YOU THINK THEY'LL HAVE BROWNIES?" instead of "Help us, oh Lord!" and I could have sworn he mumbled "Help us to have brownies at coffee hour today, oh Lord" but I can't prove it.  When the choir sang, quite beautifully, Little D showed her distaste by covering her ears with her hands.  "Where is all this music coming from?"  Big A wondered and I tried to silently point towards the pipe organ. 

The kids started slumping down in the pew, emulating a posture I remember well from my own childhood and when communion came I was glad that they'd get to stretch their legs a bit. But imagine my surprise when the pastor offered my son communion wine. 

"No!"  I objected.

"Yes, please!" he insisted.

To my relief she didn't give him the blood of Christ but imagine my surprise when Big A grabbed my near-empty plastic cup I was about to throw away and chugged the rest down.  My cheeks flaming I dragged them back to my seats, wondering why I put myself through this.

From what I've noticed, kids get really bored in church.  That's why I lobbied successfully to have Sunday happen during the majority of the service.   But this particular day there was no Sunday School and thus, no real way to make the Parable of the Bridesmaids and Their Lamps relatable to kids.

When we finally got down to coffee hour and the kids plates were heaped with bagels, fruit and the coveted brownies, I tried to explain the gospel to them in a way they could understand.

"Are you glad you came with me to church today?" I asked Big A.

"Definitely!" he said.

"Really?" I said, somewhat touched that this all wasn't lost on him.

"Oh, yeah," he said "If I hadn't come with you to church today, I wouldn't be here munching on this delicious brownie."

True story.

But I will not give up despite what can be an incredibly embarrassing and seemingly futile endeavor.  I will continue taking the kids to church, because I want to expose them to a place where I've found a lot of joy and peace throughout my life.  I'm sorry it's boring at times, (and truthfully my mind wanders off occasionally also) but I ultimately think proving a church life and a church family for my children is incredibly important.

Even if it inadvertently starts them drinking wine at an early age.     

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Childless in Vegas

I don't miss the kids.

My hub and I head to Vegas for our yearly jaunt where he works for 3 days and I generally have no responsibility whatsoever.  The drive to airport was like a vacation in itself...there were no children in the backseat asking me for juice and requesting I tell an umpteenth story.

On the plane, my hub and I grew playful with each other in the way we usually reserve for the kids  We ordered two cocktails and my husband began a conversation between his empty gin bottle and my empty rum bottle. The woman next to us looked disgusted. We played hangman, using all our inside jokes.  The woman next us changed her expression from disgusted to revolted. Then we cheesily listened to Bob Marley and Neil Diamond songs, sharing one set of headphones, one ear bud in each of our ears.  The woman next to us vomited into her air bag. 

I read two books and laughed out loud, People I Want to Punch in the Throat and Spoiled Brats.  I didn't have to take any children to the bathroom or share the peanut M&Ms I had stowed away in my bag and when my sister, sitting two rows behind, handed me a People Magazine I didn't have to explain to my children why, as Big A says of the skin-baring fashions "all the ladies look like they're naked"

Then we checked into our hotel, the Palazzo, and while all the other adults seemed to be numb to it's beauty I was amazed by the fountain, the sculpture, the giant floating leaves and giant pears dangling from the ceiling. Clusters of empty green wine bottles were hung from each tree in clumps and the fountain tinkled away, nearly begging for me to throw in a penny.

I really missed the kids.  They would be in awe of this lobby. They would be amazed and inspired by fruit bigger than a couch and twirling, sparkling leaves seemingly suspended in mid air. They would freak out to see wine bottles growing on trees.  I began to sniffle. 

"I wish that Big A and Little D were--"

"Don't even say it!" Big G interrupted.  It's 11 o'clock their time. Vegas is not the place for them."

My husband left to meet with some clients right after we got settled in the room and  I ordered room service, including a daring bowl of new England clam chowder. I was wondering if maybe I had gotten over my shellfish allergy. What happens in Vegas...

As it turns out I am still allergic to shellfish. 

I was so glad the kids weren't there with me to see the rushing tidal waves of clams and cream, along with a tomato mozzarella salad exit my body the exact way it came in.  Vegas, baby.  Go big or go home.

The next morning I do something I never do at home. I wake up and go to the gym with my big sister,. How different than sneaking out to go for a run before my littlest one wakes up and wants to snuggle the desire to exercise right out of me.   We work out, my sister cracking up at me as I sing too loudly along with the music, drop her iPod off the treadmill, not once but twice, and try to mimic her weight lifting moves.

Now I have the whole day to myself.  It will be 10 hours before I talk to anyone I know again at a cocktail party my husband's company throws for his clients.  While I love the community of close friends in my life, I actually also enjoy being alone. I mean, I'm always hearing "That Natty...she's great company!" and I am usually the one saying it. 

So I book some spa treatments and I'm happy, once again, that the kids aren't here to run screaming through my relaxation time or whine the zen right out of me.  But then I visit the Bellagio gardens and the fountains and I wish the kids could be with me to enjoy them.  I visit the Leonardo DiVinci exhibit and think that my 6 year old would have loved it.  I go gamble and I'm happy, once again, I'm not looking after a wayward 3 year old in a dark smoky casino in the city of sin.  We go out to a club and I drink my face off.    Now I'm hungover for the first time in years and I am so ridiculously glad the children aren't here to make any noise that could exacerbate the jackhammer noises my brain is making all on it's own.

So I miss the kid and I don't miss the kids. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and.  I'm happy to escape for a couple of days once a year, content and at peace that my children are happily being spoiled by their grandparents.  But I miss having them around since they are generally my constant companions, and let's face it, they may be sticky but I actually like those little buggers.

I call them.  They are having a ball with Grandma probably doing taboo yet Grandparent-sanctioned activities like eating Skittles or playing on an iPad for three hours or slogging through the indoor playground at Burger King or probably all three at the same time.

They come on the line.  I hear there gorgeous voices and I miss them so much I want to climb through the phone and squeeze them. My children, in return, talk to me for a fraction of a second, saying what sounds to me like a very phoned-in "I miss you, Mommy!" before dashing off with laughter, presumably to get back to their Pixie Sticks.   

The kids clearly do not miss me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Girl I Got

Dear Little D:

You are turning 3 this weekend.  How did that happen?  I remember when you were born and we barely made in to the hospital in time.  My main memory is in the parking garage of the hospital, biting your father's shoulder through his green padded vest because the pain was so bad.  You shot out, literally with on time for no epidural or even an IV, soaking Dr. M's brand new Nikes because there was no time for shoe covers.  I actually called Grandma and when she asked "Did you get a room sweetie?" I was like "It's done.  She's here." You came into this world at lightning speed and you haven't stopped since.

I was so happy to have a daughter, especially one as charming as you.  You were a great sleeper and then you weren't.  You had a smile that took over your whole perfect face.  You were constantly stroking my hand, really anyone's hand, and you loved to snuggle.  You crawled at 6 months and walked at nearly ten and I forgave you for all that and the fact that you can scale counters, dressers and closets like a little spider with suction cups for hands.

I dreamed of all the things were would do together.  You would love to dress up like a princess and we'd play Barbie and I'd get to put bows in your hair.  If only I had discussed my expectations with you before deciding on this, I would be much less surprised right now. You, even at age three, insist on wearing your Mets shirt and old mesh shorts belonging to your brother.  You ask to wear this ensemble every day.  You fight me every time I suggest your wear a dress. You gave away your Barbies because, as you say, "she stinks" and you refuse to let me put bows in your hair. I can't believe it.  Your one concession to anything in your hair is headbands like that terrible glow-in-the-dark one that Aunt Vicky got you from Justice.

You are not the girl I thought I'd be getting when I learned I was having a girl.  When people say you are beautiful you frown and say "No!" as if it's an insult.  I've stopped calling things pretty and started calling them "awesome" because there's a higher chance you might like them.   You love things that are "cool" and "rock and roll".  You took the play ironing board I got you, ripped off the legs and took it into the shower with you so you could surf, like Daddy.

No, Little are not what I expected in a daughter and yet you are so much more.  You are as tough as you are compassionate. When it thunders you worry "Will Big A get home from school safely?  Is Daddy inside at work?"  You notice everything. You can already do the monkey bars and learned to pump your own swing when you turned 2.   You are definitely cool, cooler than I could ever be since I love to wear dresses (the more ruffles the better) and I collect teapots.  I've never seen a more fiercely loyal sister to your big brother and you are always talking about "our family" and how much it means to you.  You have only 4 friends you really like and you speak constantly about your love for them.  You're not a sweet little girl who plays with baby dolls and loves adorable dresses but you are a force to be reckoned with and it will serve you well one day.

I'm sorry I tried for so long to put a bow in your hair against your will.  It really doesn't matter if you wear a bow or not, I see that now. I'm sorry for the times I tried to convince you that the pale pink smocked pinafore was "rock and roll" when we both know it isn't.  I'm sorry for all the times I tried to get you to watch Dora even though you kept insisting "This is terrible."  You were right, it is.  I'm sorry for how excited I am that purple is your favorite color.  It's the only truly traditionally "girly" thing about you.

But -- thank you so much for being so different than a typical girly girl.  Thanks for being here to remind me to accept and support people as they are, not as I'd like them (or society expects them) to be.  I'm working hard to encourage you to be you, like in Little Miss Sunshine when Toni Colette  encouraged everyone to "Let Olive be Olive." I want you to know that while it was jarring at first to discover I have a tomboy for a daughter I accept you fully.

So Happy Birthday to you, my dynamo of a girl.  I got you the Etch-a-Sketch and the new Mets shirt you asked for and not the Strawberry Shortcake collection I so desperately wanted to buy you.  Or the Elsa doll, in which you have no interest.  Or My Little Ponies.  Seriously, it's cool. 

Thanks for being the living embodiment of everything that matters.  Thanks for making me realize how anti-feminist I was being by expecting you to like all the toys geared towards girls.  You should play with and wear whatever you please.   

And if your first three years are any indication you're on your way to being a strong, determined,  loving happy person and a hell of an athlete.  And I love you, just as you are.  Now let's clink our tea cups together and cheers to that!  Oh, you're running away to inspect your worm collection.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Facebook faux pas

I like Facebook for a number of reasons (one of which being it's a great way to pepper my friends with my weekly musings on this blog). 

But because don't live in a house made of lollypops at the end of a rainbow, I'm also aware that many people use Facebook to brag about their lives.  But we all know that just because it's on Facebook doesn't make something true. (Case in point, my husband's new friend's wife looks amazingly skinny in all of her Facebook photos.  I girded my loins to meet this perfect specimen of womanhood only to behold that she has the biggest ass of anyone I've ever met. How did this not translate on Facebook? I was both shocked and delighted that she was actually human.)

But back to the bragging versus sharing when it comes to personal details.  If you've shared something, i.e.; "Check out my...pregnant twin sister....giant martini the size my head........muffin I baked that looks just like Obama" should make people smile.  When you brag something "Isn't my daughter just the cutest girl in the world, eveh?...Look, my son got another A+....future president!..I have the best hubby in the whole world, much better than yours!" people generally want to punch you in the throat. However, they are more likely to roll their eyes and knock you out of their newsfeed.

But one thing I never thought about, but now I think about is that some people post photos on Facebook with the added bonus of leaving people out.  I didn't realize this until a friend pointed it out to me, but now I do.  She shared how sad she feels when parents post pictures of kids' birthday parties on Facebook and her child isn't invited.



I have been guilty of doing this in the past but you can bet my husband's friend's wife's ass I won't be doing it again.   When I posted pictures of my kids' birthday parties, it was more in the spirit of "look how awesome this cake is!" or "look how big my little boy is getting!" or even "look at all his adorable friends...surely he won't be up on the bell tower one day!"  I certainly didn't mean to make anyone feel left out, and yet in hindsight I'm sure that some people did.  Seriously, why didn't I just make it a private group?  Who wanted to see all those kids besides their own parents?  And probably Grandma, who could easily be added to a private photo album.

As our kids get older and both their (and our) social circles grow, the reality is that you can't always invite everyone.  It doesn't mean you're not friends or not friendly but seriously, do we need to rub it in each other's faces?  I tell my 6 year old son not to discuss any birthday parties he is attending on the bus or with other kids in his class because not everyone is always invited.  If we can impart such wisdom to our children, we can certainly reign in our out-of-control egos enough to restrain ourselves from putting certain things publicly on FB.  Just use a private album to share all the awesome pictures of the party with the only people who care, anyway -- the parents of the children who attended. 

So I've come up with a few rules of thumb that work for me. They may not work for you, but I've come up with them so I am never the cause of some little girl looking over her mom's shoulder on Facebook and exclaiming an anguished "Why wasn't I invited to Little D's birthday party!?" (Truthfully, because she only wants to invite her brother, her cousin and the plastic dog she calls Coco)

Family events such as pumpkin picking, cookie decorating or birthday parties are all fair game for public posting.  Kids' birthday parties where you didn't invite the whole class should perhaps be put in a private album. 

Church, sports or scouting events where everyone is welcome?  Post to the world! (You may even get more participants!)

Pictures of you in your boxers?  Please don't.

Pictures of Ryan Gosling in his boxers?  Early and often please.

The point is, I'm trying to carefully consider what I'm posting these days, before I post it.  If it's an attempt to make my life seem "oh so glamorous" (like I need to prove this...I have two small children and I'm a bookworm -- how much more rock n' roll can things get?!) or, more importantly, I think it will perhaps hurt someone's feelings, I probably will not be sharing it with the FB world.

Our FB posts, just like our actions, have consequences.  I will carefully consider my motivations in posting status updates and photos, especially when it could potentially leave someone feeling left out.  As left out as my husband's friend's wife's ass was in all of her FB photos. (But we all know she doesn't exist anyway and was just a construct invented for today's blog.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mature mamas, why hast thou forsaken me?

We are outside a bagel place, a Fellow Mommy and me. Our boys are playing on the sidewalk.  Our girls are prancing about.  Fellow Mommy is holding her sleeping 11 month old.  We are stealing some snippets of adult conversation.  It's glorious. 

A women in her mid-50s drives up and scowls at us.   I smile back.  That's my default with scowling. It's usually random and annoying enough that the person scowling skulks away.  But she holds her glare, stomps out of the car, gives us a disgusted look and busted out with:

"Maybe you should watch your kids."


"Excuse me?" I said.

"I coulda hit 'em with my car" she muttered as she lumbered towards the doorway.

"I guess if you were driving on the sidewalk!" Fellow Mom bristled.

"You should look after these kids.  That's what I had to do." the grouchy woman continued as she went in, presumably to gobble down an everything bagel with extra cream cheese. 

I felt my face got hot.  Was I not watching Big A and Little D, so enthralled was I with the adult conversation I was stealing in the middle of the day.  Did I let them run around the parking lot?  No, this was not the case, as the air karate chopping of the boys and the pirouettes the girls were doing were happening firmly on the sidewalk. 

So my next thought was that the Grouchy woman was drunk. Maybe SHE should be the one watching herself.

Or maybe she was having a bad day.

Or maybe...just maybe...could it be...did she forget how hard it is to have small children?  It seems that a number of older moms have forgotten how hard it can be to parent a young child.

They are the ones that turn around at church and glare at me when my kids drop a hymnal on the floor. 

 "I'm here!" I want to yell. "I could be sleeping in or going out for pancakes with my family that I didn't make.  At least I'm trying to give them a life based in faith!"  But I don't say that. I shush my kids and threaten to take away Wii privileges if they don't pipe down.

They are the ones that roll their eyes when my kids spill a lemonade at the WindMill.  "It's the WindMill!" I want to explain. "It's geared towards kids!  I could understand your reaction if we were at The Molly Pitcher but c'mon!"

They are the ones at Target that huff and puff if my child bumps their purse as my traveling circus is stampeding past them to get to the toy aisle.  "I'm sorry!" I say.  I apologize for myself and my children constantly.  I'm sorry for their very existence because it might inconvenience someone else.

Why am I doing this?


a.  I'm not the jerk that takes my children uninvited to parties and weddings. I never take them to a fancy restaurant, let alone after 8 pm and have them meltdown, thus ruining the nights of couples that actually did get a sitter.   I don't assume that my children's company is a precious gift to be inflicted upon everyone.

b.  Children can be loud, clumsy and spill things.  Okay?  They're kids, they're not perfect robots. I wouldn't want them to be.  They're learning and I'm trying to teach them.

c.  Most of you judging me are parents of older children.  I see them with you.  Did you forget?  Did you forget what it's like to have small children?

Because I think you forgot.

I think you forgot how tired I am because sometimes my children are up in the night with accidents, illness or nightmares.  I think you forgot that that my children are still so attached to me that sitting down to pay bills without a child wrapped around my bicep is a luxury.  I think you forgot all that and now you judge me when you used to stagger around my Nikes.

Just because your kids are preparing for college and you can go out to eat without hiring a babysitter doesn't mean that you should forget that young(ish) moms like me still struggle with the rearing of small children. 

Please don't judge me because you have amnesia regarding how hard those times were for you.  Please share with me your wisdom, because you've gone through it, and tell me it's all going to work out okay.  The next time my child melts down in the middle of Kohl's because I won't buy her a Hello Kitty sprinkler tell me you've been there and I'm doing a great job.  I need to hear that.

You don't know how much I need to hear that from a woman who has gone before me and lived to tell the tale.

And please watch where you're driving next time when there are small children running about.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Steve Jobs I Am Not

Unlike Vanilla Ice, I try not to do anything to the extreme.  Technology is no exception. I don't swear off Facebook (obviously) but nor do I track my every move and meal.  For a combined 45 minutes a day FB is amusing, fun and occasionally informative.

There's an article flying around (I saw it on Facebook, actually) that not only did Steve Jobs' kids never use an iPad while he was alive but that other tech professionals severely limit their kids' screen time. I had to tear myself away from FB and do some thinking. Is technology really as addictive as heroin as the article states?  The piece went onto say that if you remove all screen time "your kids will hate you for it right now but thank you for it someday."  Oookay.

I set limits, I do.

My kids, aged 6 and almost 3 are banned from using their hand-me-down Wii on weekdays.  Not that this affects the 3 year old since she usually dumps her controller in the back of her toy fire truck and drives it out of the room each time her brother plays.

Weekends we try and limit video games to about 45 minutes per day. I feel pretty good about all this, but during the week I've been known to let my son watch a video or two on my laptop (Either Mario or Minecraft) and my daughter definitely watches tv...usually while I'm sitting with her trying (unsuccessfully) to get work done.  The Jobs' anti-technology stance when it pertained to their kids spooked me so I decided to try taking away ALL screen time yesterday and watching the fun.

I picked the wrong week to give up drinking.

I blurted out the bad news when I picked up Big A from the bus stop.

"Can I watch a Minecraft video after I do my homework?" he asked as was his custom as we meandered home.

"No," I said.  "No screen time today."

"WHAT?!" he said as he launched into his whiny voice.  "BUT I've had a hard da-ay!  I was doing my best at scho-ool."  Any whiner who can turn a one syllable word into a two syllable word is good, very good.

"I no watch t.v.?" Little D repeated.  "No.  I say no!"

They both became as grumpy and irate as I am when I'm on a juice cleanse.

"We're going to the park!" I announced over the din.

I loaded their protesting little selves into the car as they moaned and groaned. 

"You may hate me for this now," I quoted from the article, "but you will thank me for it one day!"  That actually shut them up.  They were intrigued by the concept of "hating me" and talked it over in the back seat.

We had a lovely two hours at the park.  We ran into 3 families we know. Yay and everything.

But I didn't get any reading or writing done, I didn't fold laundry and get to vacuum the floor as I was basking on a park bench.  It wasn't very productive.

And then it occurred to me.  Did Steve Jobs' wife even work?  Didn't they have a nanny?  A full-time housekeeper and possibly a cook?  And a myriad of resources? My kids' dinner wasn't going to cook itself.

After a long day of school and 2 hours of fresh air, exercise and imaginative play the kids were beat.  I came home and put on Teen Titans Go for 45 minutes (which is actually my current favorite cartoon) with zippo guilt as I prepared dinner and did a whirlwind tidy up of my home. I even sat with them on a couch and dashed off a book review as they giggled along with the show.  It was "Meatball Party" by the way, in case any other nerds are reading this.

And then we had dinner, did bath time, read books and I put them to bed.  I'm sorry I didn't set up a playdough station or finger painting experience instead of letting them watch tv, but

a. I had already done that earlier in the day for my 3 year old and

b. I was just plain tired. 

I get a little crazy when it comes to going to the extreme. It's just not for me.  I'm not removing screen time from my children's lives.  And I don't think other parents should feel bad about occasionally occupying their kids with screen time to make their own lives easier...especially when it's something their kids clearly enjoy.  The key word here is occasionally. Don't feel guilty if you sometimes use it to your advantage.  Isn't that what technology is there for?  To make our lives easier?

We all know the kids who are permitted endless hours upon hours of tv, video games and iPad access.  They're obvious. They're impatient, irritable little beings who are often struggling at school. They have no interest in connecting with others.  Most parents care for their kids too deeply to allow them 4 hours straight of Call of Duty daily.  But I hope parents don't get scared to use small amounts of technology in their children's lives. Like the occasional donut, it's fun! Technology will be a part of their lives in the future unless your kid decides to grow up to be a dairy farmer in a remote area with no Wi-Fi. 

Do what works for you, not what worked for the Jobs' family.  Their budget for household support staff was probably slightly larger than yours.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You have it all.

I'm not sure if it was because I ate an enormous piece of chocolate babka at 9 o'clock or because I was going to be late with another book review but as I staggered off to sleep last night I was feeling pretty down on myself. I was angry that I scarfed dessert so late instead of drinking water with lemon. I felt like a big loser for not getting the exercise I had planned. And I felt a failure for not filing my review on time. I skulked off to bed in a cloud of self-loathing.

"Will you check on the kids?" I called to my husband who had already bounded up the stairs to the bedroom.  I caught a reflection of my scowling self in (of all things) the microwave and it hit me, in that moment, how lucky I was to have to sleeping children in this home and to have a loving partner willing to check on them and in fact to have a warm home at all. 

A strange thought popped into my head.

It occurred to me that I have it all.

And I felt like a real wanker for being so ungracious in exerting my thoughts and energy on being so unkind to myself instead of appreciating the fucking Eden that was continuously blooming up all around me. What the hell is wrong with me. I'm down on myself about A PIECE OF CAKE?

Attention Mommies (and the few daddies who read this blog):

Amidst your crazy days of work and parenting where you have crammed so much into your day for the betterment of others and while you've been a source of love and support for everyone around you and you are bone tired....

I'd like you to remember something vitally important.

You have it all.

Do you realize that you have it all? I bet you don't. I bet you totally forget for long periods of time. Chunks of time, days that you fritter away, thinking about all that you don't have.  I do that too.


I want to kick myself.  Mommies are coming over tomorrow and I still never got window treatments in the living room. What are we, savages? I'm mortified.  And yet...I found 6 fellow moms in my town who with whom I genuinely connect (and who have sweet children my kids adore.) Hence, I have it all.


I didn't get up and run today. I haven't run in a week.  I berate myself. I'm lazy, I'm unmotivated.  But I have two healthy legs for running and two healthy lungs to breathe.  I can run tomorrow. I can slap this laptop shut and run right now. I can leap around my house if I want to give me neighbors something (else) to talk about. Thus, I have it all.


My daughter has decided that she hates hair bows, barrettes, and ponytails of any kind. She runs away screaming when I try to brush her hair. But I usually catch her and try to brush as she flails.  Her sparse spikey hair now resembles a cross between Albert Einstein and a cartoon hedgehog.  I'm sure all other moms are judging me for what looks like my indifference to my daughter's unkempt-looking hair. But my daughter has hair.  She's not suffering from an auto-immune disease or another sickness.  Think of how many mothers with suffering children going to through treatment would kill to have their child healthy enough to grow wild, messy hair. Therefore, I have it all.

There are so many things that we all judge ourselves for, and so harshly.  We are not where we are in our careers. Maybe we don't have our dream house.  Some of us, particularly after a cheese binge, can't fit into our skinny jeans, not by a long shot.  But we are gainfully employed, we have roofs over our heads and enough to eat.

We are so critical that we forget gratitude.  We forget that no one can be a more perfect you  And you have everything you need right now.  So just for today, instead of focusing on your lack focus on your abundance.  You have so much of it, do you even realize that?  I usually don't, I'm ashamed to admit.

Focus on the truth, rather than our warped perceptions of our perceived imperfections.

You are wonderful.  You are extraordinary. And you have it all.

You have healthy child?  Check. ( Or maybe you don't. Maybe you have a sick child and you're the best possible parent to care for and advocate for this child. But you have a child and you get to experience the parent-child bond -- a kind of love that's unrelenting. Then, check.)

You are happy?  Check. (Or maybe you're not.  Maybe your job stinks.  How exciting for you to see where you life will take you as you eventually find your way to a career about which you are passionate.  So check.)

You are safe? Check. (Or maybe you don't feel safe because you go to bed alone every night.  Maybe  you want to share your life and home with someone.  How blessed you are that falling in love with that special person is something you have to look forward to.)

Check, check, check!

You lucky duck..

You have it all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's Go Crazy

This past weekend I found myself smoking a cigarette that had, only seconds previously, been smoked by someone else's left nostril.

And I don't smoke.

But maybe I should back-up a few days.

Generally, I am a homebody.  I love being home with my family.  I love cooking, wine and conversation. And I love reading books and watching indy movies. I watch a lot of old Batman episodes with my kids. That's pretty much it.  If I can do all of these things at the same time, I really have no need to leave my house or do anything else. 

I'm not a party animal.  I don't hang out at bars. It's rare I go to a concert.  I love date night with my hubby or going out with my friends but we enjoy meandering dinners or brunches out, not wild nights of boozing. (Unless it's someone's birthday)

Becoming a mother has changed me. Mostly into someone so boring and sleep-deprived I want to be home even more than I usually do. I'm totally okay with this.

But this weekend something unusual happened.  My sister offered to take the kids for a sleepover and my husband and I went out for sushi with another couple, Curt and Kris.  At these sushi nights it's all very dignified. We generally eat a ton of sushi, have some laughs and go home to relieve the babysitter.

But there was no babysitter that night. 

There was nothing but a long empty space in front of us that we could fill with the illusion of being young and free again.  After the last of the sake was slurped down, we went to a local lounge where:

I accidentally spilled my entire drink into Curt's loafer.

My husband convinced 3 women visiting from Tennessee that he was a circus performer.  (He gets shot of of the cannon, apparently.)

We ran into a third couple with whom we're friends and poured ourselves over to The Wonder Bar where at Kris' urging, I staggered up on the stage with the band only to bust out some really bad dance moves.  I pray there is no videotape of this occurrence because let's just say it wasn't pretty.

My husband and I went home about 4 hours past our usual bedtime satisfied that, if necessary, we could still party with the best of 'em.  We crashed into the house giggling, unworried about trying to look passably sober for a babysitter or waking the kids. 

But that wasn't all.

The next night (along with my sister and bro-in-law) were offered tickets to the Rutgers-Penn State game and invited to tailgate.  Rumor had it that the tailgate would include a tent, wings, unlimited margaritas and A TEN FOOT SUB!  TEN!  So after a day of being parents again, what with going to our son's soccer game, having some of his friends over and baking cookies for all we packed the kids off to Grandma's house.  They were thrilled to be having ANOTHER SLEEPOVER and off we went to the Rutger's game.

It was pouring rain and we were with some of the craziest yet most fun loving fans I'd ever seen.  At one point I was pouring Tequila into people's mouths, making sure not to neglect my own.  There was dancing and chili and twinkle lights and a man in a Penn State spandex suit.  The cigarette situation occurred. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Someone would yell "POLAR BEAR!" and the guys in our group would rip their shirts off and shotgun a beer.

When it was time to actually go into the game, two young drunk guys (age 25, TOPS!) were in two of our seats.  One of them was so insanely intoxicated  it must have taken ten years off my age and he started hitting on me.   We will call him Drunk Youngin'.

"PLEASE TELL ME NEITHER OF THESE GUYS IS YOUR BOYFRIEND!" he said as my brother-in-law began encouraging them to get out of our other two seats. My husband was seated on the other side of me.

"I CAN TELL YOU WITH ALL HONESTY, NEITHER ONE OF THEM IS!" I yelled over the din as I tried to wrench my hand away.

"GET OUT!" my brother-in-law yelled at Drunk Youngin'.  But Drunk Youngin' didn't budge.

My hand was still being clenched by Drunk Youngin and I was trying to pull it away before my hub saw what was going on.

"YOU DIDN'T PAY FOR THESE SEATS!" my bro-in-law continues as he gestures for Drunk Youngins to vacate our seats.

Well, to be fair, neither did we, but this was the principle of the thing. I tried in vain to yank my hand out of this drunk kid's sweaty mitt.

"HOWEVER!" I yelled "THAT GUY IS MY--"

Before I could say "husband" the man I am married to slowly got up.  The gentle giant drew himself up to his full 6 ft. 5 feet and glared at Drunk Youngin'  His eyes traveled slowly downward to Drunk Youngin's hand wrapped around my own.  I was actually scared for the well-being of Drunk Youngin'.  You know the phrase, "Drop it like it's hot?"  Luckily Drunk Youngin' had the sense to do just that.

Here was my brother-in-law glaring at him and my husband icily staring him down from 2 feet above his head.

""  my hubby said quietly.

"Get outta here." my bro-in-law added menacingly.

My sister looked impressed.

As the Drunk Youngins gingerly but quickly scampered out of our row my sister and I looked at each other.  Our husbands had just thrown two ruffians out.  We are just so used to these tender dads tucking in kids and cheerfully coaching sports teams that it was a change to see them acting   I thought we might swoon.

Granted Sunday morning was painful and it was an absolute pleasure to spend the day snuggling with my kids, reading books, playing the Wii and hanging out at the park with them.  But to have some adventures, get a little out of control and feel like something of a party peep felt surprisingly liberating.

There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being a parent.  We don't want out kids to ever see us indulging in too much booze, dancing badly on a stage or pseudo-threatening a silly drunk.  Especially not smoking the once a year cigarette or cigar.  And I don't want to make a practice of this either. 

But once in a while letting loose a bit makes you appreciate the comforts of home, boring though they may be, all the more.    

Alright, I'm out.  Many of you may be finding my mothering skills lacking at this point, but, je ne regrette rein!

That means I regret nothing.  See, I also speak French. Maybe I'm not so boring after all.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1st kid versus 2nd kid

Today I experienced a strange sense of déjà vu when I dropped my daughter off at her first day of nursery school at the same school where my son went 3 years earlier.   She posed in front of the same sign as I snapped the pre-requisite "backpack shot" and popped it on Facebook.

But everything else was different.

Let us compare and contrast the first day of nursery school for my first child three years ago and my second one today.

Backpack Preparation

1st Kid: Though he would only be there for 2 hours I packed a water, an apple and some goldfish crackers, JUST IN CASE. I packed extra pants, socks and underwear should he have an accident. I included an extra page with my cell phone number, my mom's cell phone number and our pediatrician's office information.

2nd Kid:  Her backpack (comprised of the Hello Kitty sack that usually holds her sleeping bag) was completely empty. A mere prop for photos.  I'll send in her extra clothes by the end of the week.  If I remember.

Walking Into School

1st Kid:  My husband took off work so we could walk our son in together. I made an effort to suck up to the teachers and engage the other mothers standing around.  I waited in a conference room down the hall for the first hour in case my son needed me, nibbling cookies and trying to make charming conversation with other parents. After all, these would be the parents of my son's lifelong friends. 

2nd Kid:  I skipped the refreshment room altogether just in case some accidental friendly eye contact would lead to a birthday party invitation that we couldn't possibly fit into our calendar.  I sped off in my car as soon as possible, preferring to go home and fold laundry without it being dumped on my head by my two year old while I had the chance.

 Drop Off

1st Kid:  I sob in the car all the way home, get home and sit with my son's trains and listlessly run them back and forth on the track as I miss him and wonder how my baby got to be three years old.

2nd Kid:  I cry a few tears in the car, then begin singing Boyz2Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" and then start cracking up at how my voice sounds. I think this might be a good song to belt out on my sister's work voicemail, especially if she is picking up her messages on speaker. I do so.

Pick Up

1st Kid:  I arrive back at school 15 minutes early, nearly knocking over another mother as I careen breathlessly back into the school, panting.  As soon as I see the teacher's aide I shriek "How was he?  Was he okay?  Can I see him?" like a complete maniac.  She looks at me strangely and grimaces at the fact that I seem to have zero awareness of just how ridiculous I am.  My son runs to me and I burst into tears once again, picking him up and squeezing him to my ample bosom, so grateful am I to be reunited with my child after the eternity of 2 hours has passed.  "I missed you!" I cry dramatically, acting as though he has just returned from 3 years in the Civil War

2nd Kid:  I rush home to frantically do as many dishes and as much laundry as I can, cursing the shortness of her nursery school day.  "Damn," I think when I realize its time to leave.  I didn't even think of my daughter once or wonder what she was doing, so thrilled was I to have an hour alone to do housework. I arrive 5 minutes late.  Her teacher exclaims "She did great!" I look at her strangely thinking "Like I care" but instead I mumble "Of course she did."

Post-First Day

1st Kid:  I take my son out to lunch and pelt the poor kid with questions all about his first day. Who did he play with?  Was the teacher nice?  What did he learn?  When we arrive home I've surprised him with homemade cupcakes in the shape of little apples with green stems made from an organic pureed fruit rollup. I field calls from every aunt and grandmother who ask me about his first day. I save his paper apple nametag and tape it on the fridge.  I claw at the papers in his backpack (with such an interest that one might think they hold the secrets to the universe) and pour over his upcoming schedule memorizing when he has Show and Tell and what time to arrive for the class tip to the beach in a month.

2nd Kid: I throw some chips, baby carrots and a tub of hummus at my daughter and put away the laundry. No one  in the family calls to ask me how it went because I don't remember even mentioning she was going today.  I think one of the grandmas saw it on Facebook and called me, a bit put out I kept this vital information from her. I think Little D's backpack was left in the backseat. I throw away her red apple nametag. I still haven't asked her how her day went.  I'm sure it went well. She seems fine.

I don't think I'm being neglectful here, it's just that with my second child I tend to be way more laid back.  I think it's good for her that I'm not hovering about her, freaking out about her every move. I tend to let her be and  Little D is extremely well-adjusted and happy....a far cry from the bundle of nerves and emotions her brother was at this age. (He was really just a mini version of me). I think he was feeding off my anxiety.  It took a while for me to reign myself in and become a more relaxed parent (and to dial Big A back along with me.)   If I could I have been more chill with my first child, it only would have been to his benefit. 

But c'est la vie.  Live and learn.  A least he got the specially made apple cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Step Right Up

I'm not an animal rights activist.  I've never even owned a dog or a cat. While I love vegan food I do not identify as such and I have, in the past, owned a leather belt.

But when it comes animals performing in a circus. I just can't.  I can't. I know the idea of a circus brings up visions of acrobats, snow cones and clowns pouring out of a tiny car but it's not for me.  I know a lot of other people who took their children to see the Cole Brothers Circus when it came to my town last week. But I simply couldn't bring my children to something that I couldn't stomach myself. Something that seems so wrong I can't believe it's still in existence in 2014.

Cole Brothers has been condemned with a slew of animal mistreatment violations over the past decade, many of which resulted in thousands of dollars of fines and at least 4 years of probation.  They are too heartbreaking to detail here (any google search will pull up their proud track record of animal abuse) but they include failing to meet the minimal standards of care and they were cited repeatedly for having dangerously underweight elephants.  Oh and for beating up baby elephant.  Come and bring your families!

According to the AARF:

Violent, physical abuse remains a common method of training and controlling elephants and other animals in the circus. In 2013, the Cole Bros. Circus was traveling with several elephants under the control of trainer Tim Frisco. Mr. Frisco is infamous for undercover video footage that captured him beating elephants with bullhooks and shocking them with electric prods. In the video, Frisco is heard instructing other elephant trainers to, “Hurt ‘em! Make ‘em scream! … Sink that hook into ‘em … When you hear that screaming, then you know you got their attention!” The disturbing video is widely available online.

You will not see that video here.

Elephants are not big dumb lumps.  They are one of the most magnificent, compassionate and fascinating species walking out planet. I didn't want my children's first exposure to these amazing animals to be at a circus. This is the same reason I don't take my children to zoos. I just feel so bad for all of the animals trapped in them.

I don't think Orcas should be locked in a tiny pen for 44 years like Lolita in Miami, her skin blistering with sunburn because she's given no opportunity for shade.  It kills me to see a depressed lion laying around his tiny enclosure at Great Adventure's Safari.  I don't understand why it's important to have elephants stand on their hind legs so we can ooh and clap when they would never do that in the wild.

Maybe animals aren't here to amuse us. Maybe animals shouldn't be beaten or shocked in order to get them to lift their leg for our entertainment.  I don't think bears should be made to ride unicycles and nor do I get why human's enjoyment of a baby elephant should trump the baby's need to be with it's mother. Elephant calves stay with their mothers for close to 13 years.  It's a fascinating bond.  Elephants are thinking, feeling creatures.  They grieve when a member of their herd is lost.  Go to  to learn how riveting these animals are.  Tennessee has an elephant sanctuary dedicated to letting long-captive elephants live out the remainder of their lives in peace.  Because it's a sanctuary, it's not open to the public. Nor should it be.  These animals have gone through enough.

And more than anything, I don't see why this cruelty to animals is both sanctioned and supported by so many loving families I know, many of whom have rescued dogs from horrible conditions and literally made them part of their families.  I wonder how they would feel if their pet were ripped away from them, denied food and zapped repeatedly with a cattle prod until they could balance a ball on their nose.   If they only knew the conditions for animals at Cole Brothers Circus I doubt they would want to give these individuals their money or expose their children to such depravity.

 "Why aren't we going to the circus?" my son asked me when he realized a few of his friends were. 

We had to pass the circus several times over that week. There was no way to avoid it since it was set up literally blocks from our house.  As they spotted the striped big top both my children (plus my niece and nephew) pointed excitedly and yelled out "Circus!" 

I pulled the car over in front of the circus.  It was very quiet since it was only 11 o'clock in the morning.  By some miracle, we had a vantage point that lent us a view of what should have been a majestic animal. It was a bony elephant with eyes downcast slumped in the corner of it's cage.  My 2 year old's visceral reaction was to be troubled. 

"Why him in jail?" she asked.  Even she knew, on some primal level, it was wrong.

I explained to them that this circus was "naughty". I explained to my children, in terms they could understand, that this circus had been found guilty, several times, of beating animals as well as not providing them doctors when the animals were sick, letting them go hungry and leaving them out in the rain all night to sleep without a tent.

I said I thought that capturing animals and forcing them to live in cages and perform tricks was wrong and I didn't want to be any part of it. I said that if everyone decided that circuses were archaic, cruel and downright animal abuse (and would stop buying tickets) then circuses wouldn't make any money and eventually people would stop capturing, breeding and torturing animals for humans' enjoyment.

They all were quiet as they gazed out at the circus taking all of this in.

Little D was the first to speak "That Circus NAUGHTY!" she declared.  

Big A shook his head "Mommy, I DO NOT want to go to that circus". 

Where I was expecting whining and protest for missing out on such a fun event their friends were attending, what I got was disgust at the animals' plight and complete understanding. Kids are different than adults.  They haven't yet learned to convince themselves to accept things that are clearly wrong just because everyone else is doing it.

For the week the big top was up and we drove past, my children would point and out the window and yell "Naughty Circus!" I grinned each time, proud.  And scratch the Bronx Zoo (or any other zoo, for that matter) off my list because my kids won't be going there either.  Sea World?  Nope.   There are so many marvelous things for children to do in this world that don't involve the subjugation,  exploitation and suffering of animals.

I know I can't change the world.  I am only one person.  But I am one person.  My family makes 4. 

And we ain't going to the circus.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Running on Empty

I'm a well and everyone wants a dip.

I know this many sound like I'm the gal in my high school who my Grandmother said was "looking for adventures" but that's not what I mean.

I went to a women's conference last week called BoldHer. One of the amazing speakers talked about how most women/mothers are wells that are depleted over the course of the day. ( I'm not exempting men from this because most of you work so hard, still mow the lawn and coach your kids' sports teams). 

But think of the "woman as well" analogy.

Your husband needs his shirt ironed for a 9 a.m. meeting. It's 8:47.  Dip.

Your best friend is in tears because her man won't commit and she needs to talk out her feelings via Skype. Dip.

You're asked to bring a veggie platter for your moms' group?  More dipping.

Even your house dips you because it needs to be cleaned and the church you love volunteering at takes a dip because now they need you to write an article about Sunday School for the newsletter.

Your kids need lunches made/homework help/for you to find the marble they lost two weeks ago.  Dip. Dip. Dip.

Now all of this  is just life but it all has one thing in common.  Not one of the tasks you performed above was for you.  You do so much for others that by the end of the day, the well is depleted.

I think that this is why, more than anything, I want to be left alone at the end of the day after I tuck my little ones into bed. I don't want to talk on the phone.  I don't really want to talk to anyone. I want to read, write or revel in my aloneness.  I often find myself resentful of anyone wanting to corner me into a conversation or event, expecting me to be charming or understanding.  Don't they get it?  I've BEEN ON ALL DAY!

I've been patient. I've been hard working. I kept it together when the kids took all the couch cushions off, not once but THREE TIMES.   I cooked three meals, assembled nutritious snacks and did all dishes. I did laundry for four people.  I paid all the bills, made all the beds, shopped for groceries and arranged play dates for my kids where I may have been trapped in an uber-boring conversation about window treatments. My "luxury" if you can call it that is that I snuck out for a 25 minute run at 6 a.m. as to not be missing when any of my family members are awake.  I am tired.  I accepted that I didn't get to write today, which is my lifeblood, because everyone else's needs came first.   And I know that most moms did as much as/ if not more than I did on this particular day and THAT WE DON'T MIND DOING IT.  It's right there, under the job description of mom. It's cool with us, right, doing and giving as we do? 


But. At the end of the day, the well has run dry, and I am resentful of anyone's demands on me.

And this is a problem.  Bringing it back to the  speaker at the conference, this is a problem.  If I had more in my well, perhaps it wouldn't run so dry at the end of the day.   The speaker suggested that each of us fill up on "love fuel" each day by doing something for 20 minutes each day that is just for us.

I was flummoxed.  Do I do anything each day that is just for me?  I racked my brain.  I take a karate class with a collection of lovably awesome weirdos each Saturday.  But that's not a daily thing. I love spending time with my girlfriends and laughing our heads off but that's usually a couple of times a month, if that.  Of course I love taking my kids to the beach and on picnics and generally spending time with them but the conference speaker said you have to do something just for yourself every day.

Oh and you're not supposed to feel guilty about it.

It could be meditation.  It could be watching General Hospital. It could be exercising or relaxing with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.  It could be anything that it JUST FOR YOU.  Just 20 minutes so you can add a little extra energy into your tank and you won't feel so empty at the end of the day.

I'm not sure what mine is yet.  I think it's writing but it's been hard enough to write this weekly entry. The entire time I've been writing, my 2 year old has been wound around my neck like a feather boa, asking me, repeatedly, why coconut yogurt tastes so yucky and begging me to take her on a ferris wheel.  Yet I know I need to make the time do it, even if it's 20 minutes a day, because I'll be happier.

And then you were supposed to look in the mirror and tell yourself 5 things about yourself that you love.  Physical, spiritual, mental.

Holy Cannoli.

I have never done this before in my entire life.  It was really hard and it didn't help that I was cracking up in the middle of it.

But here's what I came up with.

--Physically I love my eyes and my legs.
--Mentally I love my knack of expressing myself through the written word and my wicked sense of humor.
--Spiritually I love that I'm oversensitive because it actually makes me more sensitive and compassionate towards others.

If there are any others reading this, will you try this exercise?  Share what your "love fuel" is...something that you do for yourself every day and...if you are truly brave...please share five things you love about yourself.  Can you do it?  I can probably name five things I love about anyone reading this blog and yet we all seem to have such trouble doing it for ourselves.

And let's get our wells up to overflowing so when the dipping begins we have plenty for everyone and even some extra (not leftover) for ourselves.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Where I live, sports are king.  KING.  Some parents hold their boys back from kindergarten so they'll be better at them. It's not unusual for an 11 year old child to be in rec soccer, travel soccer and travel baseball all at the same time.  A dad I know just hired a private lacrosse coach for his 6 year old and many kids toil away at camps in the dog days of summer, running suicides to buff up their endurance. 

Although I'm not a huge sports fan (I'm not sure I could name 5 active professional football players...I love throwing football parties...not watching the game) I also think sports are very important.  Our generation's children's addiction to iPads and Xbox (coupled with their love for fast food and soda) seems to be creating an army of squinting, marshmallow-like children who have no idea how to sit still in a restaurant without a phone in hand, let alone carry on a conversation. 

So, while I would never force my child to do a sport, I also don't feel comfortable letting him skip any and all athletic activity, allowing him to sit home and play Minecraft to the extent that his head actually turns into a square block.

Sports are awesome because they teach teamwork, they inspire friendships and more important than that they provide physical fitness and exercise. It's great for self-esteem and the pizza party at the end of the season is oodles of enjoyment. Sports create a safe haven where you can be competitive and they offer the thrill of victory while also serving up the hard-to-swallow but mandatory pill of defeat.  Sometimes an amazing coach can impact a child in ways that perhaps parents and teachers cannot just by the sheer fact of being willing to volunteer their precious time and energy with a group of children who are not their own.  And here's the critical advantage of doing sports -- it's fun.

Some children are born with a natural aptitude for my 2 year old daughter, who zoomed into the world, crawled at 6 months, walked at 10 and has been climbing everything in sight since then.  She loves baseball, soccer and basketball and has been pouting for the past week because she's not allowed to partake in her brother's soccer practices. 

Speaking of my son, he is not the most athletic kid I've ever seen.  At this point in time, if I had to choose a team where he'd fit in the best, it would be the Bad News Bears. Big A has the desire to play but lacks both the aptitude and, as of yet, the skills.  He reminds me so much of myself as a child it's sometimes creepy.  But because I had the desire to play, and I had a dad that loved baseball and volunteered as a coach, I was able to learn what didn't come naturally.  I played first base for a number of years and had a decent batting average. I also played field hockey, another sport that did not come naturally to me, but with hard work came an eventual hat trick.  My parents and coaches marveled as the transformation I made from being truly hopeless to a contributing member of the team.  That's the beauty of sports.  If you practice, you can see measurable improvement.

So Big A had his first real soccer practice last night and it was as disturbingly comical as I thought it would be. At just 6 he is one of the youngest members of the team and he's had no training to prepare him.  He asked his father to teach him this past summer and surfer/basketball player looked terrifyingly baffled.  He eventually took him out to the backboard and began teaching him how to shoot 3 point shots with the soccer ball. Nothing but net.   

Big A doesn't really know how to kick the ball. Nor does he run very fast.  Nor does he know how to dribble the soccer ball in any manner that doesn't make him seem like a malfunctioning robot.   At one point I swore I saw him kicking the ball towards the wrong goal.  And what's more, he missed. He didn't just miss the goal, he missed the ball. Altogether.  The other boys, in their high florescent socks seemed bigger, faster and a thousand times better.  Before practice started I urged him to watch the older boys on his team, and learn from them.  But I had no idea that the learning curve would be so steep.

When Big A ran off the field after practice, I'm not what I was expecting. But it wasn't a sweaty, exhilarated child gulping water and smiling.  "That's was great!" he exclaimed.  He seemed really proud of himself despite his non-prowess on the field.  "I think I'm getting better," he said thoughtfully as we walked to the car.  "And I might need to get some of those bright-colored socks.  Why do we wear such high socks in soccer?"  I had no idea. 

I released the breath I was holding.  Since sports are so emphasized where we live, I guess I was worried that my son's (non-existent) skills would be holding him back.  I totally forgot the real reason why Big A has decided to use his free time to play soccer -- because of the fun, fitness and friendships.  To learn as he goes and enjoy it.  If anything about rec soccer is stressful at age 6, then something has gone terribly wrong.

As I tucked Big A in, he chatted to me about his first soccer practice. 

"Coach asked what the first rule of soccer is.  Guess."  he said

"Don't touch the ball with your hands." I replied.

"No, that was what I guessed. But that's the second rule.  Guess again,"  he said.

"Don't dump Gatorade on your coach's head?" I ventured.

"MOM! No that is not the first rule of soccer,"  he admonished me.

"Well, what was it?" I asked.

"Coach said the first rule of soccer is HAVE FUN," my exhausted child murmured as he rolled over and went to sleep,

Such an important thing to remember yet it was so easy for me to forget. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Working Girl

Last Saturday evening, I found myself at my sister's kitchen table throwing back strong margaritas and scooping up a to-die-for corn dip whilst my bro-in-law grilled and kept whipping up ever more margaritas.  He delighted my kids by setting off a number of illegal fireworks as my sister smiled on from the kitchen (translation:  threatened to call the cops if he didn't stop, LIKE NOW!)  Hot fudge brownie sundaes (that I couldn't possibly fit, so full was I, but at which I enjoyed gazing) topped off a night where my sister was having me over to say thank you.

She was thanking me for watching her children (my niece and nephew) one day every week because she works full time.  My sister acts like I am doing her a big favor to watch two tweens who are extremely sweet, delightful and well-behaved.  My young children adore their cousins and it is an absolute pleasure to spend time with my sister's kids, knowing that soon, as they inch towards adolescence,  I won't be "the cool aunt" anymore but rather an embarrassing adult whose hugs they will want to avoid in public.  These four kids together make me laugh (they all hold hands, four across, in parking lots) and sometimes make me cry (because they still all hold hands, four across, in parking lots.) 

I am in awe of my sister, (and all working moms, actually) because they are making the amazing yet difficult sacrifice of taking time away from their kids in order to either contribute financially to their household by necessity or they are continuing a career for which they studied and worked hard.  I am always inspired when a mother works full-time in that their children see that they are equal partners to their husbands (or sometimes the main breadwinner) and it sets a good example for their children.

 The job of "stay-at-home mom" has its own difficulties, its own frustrations and its own insanity...and worst still, you're not even getting paid and there's no dental! But to think our sisters in the workforce have it easy is about as realistic an assessment as the notion that stay-at-home moms spend their days watching soaps and popping bonbons. Working moms do get "a break" from their children, I guess, and I admit they can go to the bathroom without an uninvited two year old insisting on accompanying them.  But generally, they still have to do everything stay-at-home moms do like helping with homework, making lunches, dishes, laundry and rushing to attend their children's sports/violin/archery events. 

There's an image (unfair I think) of a woman who is so consumed by her career that she happily shakes off the shackles of her children, relieved to get away from those pests, and struts off to work where she can sneak off at lunch and get a pedicure.  This is laughable.  And yet there's still a perception that working mother can't possibly be as nurturing as a stay-at-home mom.  I find this untrue if not bordering on ridiculous. (Is an unemployed father better than an employed one?  He's certainly more present)

When I had Big A, I owned a marketing company. I worked until the day before I gave birth.  I was a machine.  And then, with the birth of my son, everything changed. I changed.  Post-baby, I hated going into the office to be away from him (and I didn't much like marketing anymore). A job that used to make me feel happy, satisfied and proud was becoming a huge source of resentment. For a year, I waffled and grappled...I was unhappy being away from my child, but the company I built was doing so well. 

Ultimately  I decided I was willing to sacrifice financially because I wanted to be home with my 1 year old son. I had the luxury of quitting even though it meant we'd have to push back moving to a new house and I'd still be driving my PT Cruiser for a while longer (I did love that car even though it was like driving a go cart). Many women either don't have this choice or have come so far in their careers that they are truly committed to staying in a job they love and that's fulfilling.  Why should that even be questioned?  No one expects a man to quit a job when he becomes a parent. He's supposed to work more...make more money...but that's a blog for a different day.

So this image of a working mom as cold and ambitious is laughable.  Every mother is pained to be away from her children all day.  Do I even need to say that?  It seems so obvious.  (Except when said children are fighting over who gets to hold your car keys and incomprehensively slapping each other and shrieking like howler monkeys.)

I was a at soccer game with a fellow mom who works full-time and we overheard a mom we didn't know complaining about her children.  Her beef was that although they were begging not to be enrolled in camp all summer, she was "forcing them" to go because she needed her alone time. Sigh. As a closet introvert and voracious book worm I totally understand the need for "alone time" especially as a way to recharge.  But since her (6 and over) kids are in school all day ten months out of the year I was just wondering how much "alone time" did this woman actually need?  The mom I was sitting with began to tear up.  I know what she was thinking...that she would be grateful for even one afternoon a week to not be at the office and take her kids to the beach.

I think a lot of other mothers who work full-time feel exactly the same way.  The working mom genuinely desperately misses her children all week. I think it crushes her that she can't spend more time with them...but especially during the summer when they're not in school all day.

So this is my plea to the stay-at-home moms who are exhausted and harried.  I'm the jerk adding yet another item to your (well...our) to do list. Give your working mom sisters a hand. Next time the working mom you know can't meet you at the spray grounds on a Thursday afternoon with your collective kids, maybe you can suggest a Sunday afternoon get together at the park.  Maybe if her child has to miss yet another birthday party because he's staying with Meemaw that day and Meemaw has no idea how to get to iPlay America, maybe you could offer to chauffer and supervise her child. 

But please don't think a working mom's love isn't as deep, her caring any less powerful or commitment less certain just because she's away all day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


The tunnel cave is a little creepy. 

In this Alice In Wonderland-esque creation it's very dark, everything is black-lit and it opens up into a maze of giant playing cards that even I find a little confusing.

Naturally, my children love this bizarre attraction, one of many at adorable amusement park Storybookland where we visited yesterday.

Another little girl around 3, however, did not share their opinion.  She was terrified by the tea party scenes, dark lighting and scary cave.  She was screaming for her mommy and terrified, shaking as she trembled in the mouth of the cave.  She was pitching a fit and sobbing.

Big A, my 6 year old, began yelling "Where's this girl's Mommy?" as my 2 year old, Little D, looked around worriedly. 

I'm the only adult in the cave so I hold out my hand and say "Should we go find your mommy?"  She nods in relief, takes my hand and we exit out the mouth of the cave where we all came in.

I stand out there with a few moms but no one seems to recognize the girl.  I point to her and yell out, (sort of like an idiot)  "IS THIS ANYONE'S CHILD?"  Nothing. "Really?" I ask, apparently to no one in particular. I ask the child what her name is.  It's Brianna.  She doesn't know her mother's name.

"What does she look like?" I ask Brianna.

"She has hair" is the response this little cutie gives me.  I am still holding her hand.

A few of the moms begin looking around but there's no sign of Brianna's mom.

"Okay," I say to her. "Your mom is here somewhere.  We're going to find her right away."  I figured we should walk around to where the cave spits you out into the maze of cards and perhaps her mom was waiting for her there. I was scanning the park for a park worker, hoping they would know the protocol for a lost kid.

Brianna, simply happy to be out of the cave,  walked along with me, hand-in-hand.  It was a little scary how much she trusted me.  She would have gone with me anywhere.  It makes me realize how trusting and vulnerable most children are. It scared me a little.  A fleeting thought hit me that if I didn't find a park worker soon, maybe the mom would think I was trying to steal her daughter.  So we kept walking towards the cave exit as Big A asked every passing woman "Is this your kid? Is this your lost kid?"

"Don't worry," I told Big A.  "We'll know who her mommy is the second we see her."

"How?" he asked.

"Because she'll be sprinting," I said.

5 minutes had passed.

5 minutes.

5 minutes can seem like 5 years when you've lost a 3 year old child. You imagine far-fetched scenarios of horror.  It brought me back to when Big A was around that age and we granted him the privilege of walking back to the pool from the beach by himself for the first time.  Clearly drunk on his newfound freedom, he chose to instead "wander around the beach looking for kids with cool toys." (That's what he told us later on.) 

Those five minutes of racing around the beach, trying to find a small child that couldn't yet swim, as the bright sun mocked me, were (besides his emergency hernia surgery last year) the worst moments of my entire life.  I was praying the whole time that he was okay.  When I finally caught sight of him, I was filled with relief and strangely, anger, in equal parts. I hugged him so hard I may have bruised a rib.

I knew Brianna was fine because she was with me. The person I was really feeling for was her mother. By now she would have realized that Brianna was missing and she was probably in her own personal hell.  At that moment I spotted a frantic-looking blond woman in a blue tank top. 

"Can I pick you up?" I asked Brianna.  She nodded happily.

I yelled across the park as I held up her child "Looking for this?"

Brianna's mom's face flooded in relief as she began running towards us.  She leapt over two chained off areas and through the Beanstalk Bounce as she raced over to us, grabbing her daughter and holding her tight as she fought back tears.

"I couldn't find you anywhere!  Where did you go?!"  she demanded in an anger I understood completely.

"Are you okay?" I asked her "I know that just took ten years off you life."

"20 years!  But I'm fine now," she said, squeezing her daughter.  "I'm sorry!  I took a phone call...a work call...just for a minute..when I turned around...she was gone.  I can't believe this happened." 

I explained where I found Brianna and that she was upset but that she calmed down as soon as I said that I'd take her to find mom.  The mom thanked me profusely and apologized again.  She was as terrified and embarrassed as I felt when I lost Big A 3 years ago.  I said "you're welcome" pretty quickly and walked away with my kids as not to prolong this mother's humiliation.

I totally got it. It's the worst feeling in the world. 

I hope that Brianna's mom enjoy the rest of the day and eventually forgave herself for simply being human.  Over-extended parents get distracted. Small children sometimes wander off.  It doesn't make her negligent or uncaring. 

As with everything I'm not sure I would have understood this if I hadn't already been though it. 

And as for Storybookland the kids went on the roller coaster 6 times and I maintain this cute little family-owned theme park still has the best funnel cakes I've ever tasted.