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.