Friday, December 25, 2009

I Believe

This might be the last Christmas that Abby believes in Santa. This saddens me because I vividly remember my own heart break when this cold realization fogged my brain. In a valiant effort to prolong the magical wonder for my daughter, I've employed the efforts of Santa's elves. I, too, have been Santa's helper. Surprise candy canes adorned the trees and whimsical elves mysteriously moved 'round the house, playfully relocating from room to room. After we got a beautiful nine inches of snow, Santa himself delivered an early Christmas present of sleds. Abby explained that Santa must've used the Christmas winds to send the sleds down to us. I breathed a sigh of blissful relief.

In December of 1979, I deduced that my parents had been parading as Santa. (That same Christmas Eve, I spent several hours in the ER getting stitches in my chin. I secretly wished they could sew my faith and belief in the magic of Christmas back in at the same time.) When I rebounded, I started to craft the same veil of wonder and joy for my much younger brother.

I now get to do the same with Abby and Henry. I've got time with Henry. But Abby's current inquisitive line of questioning indicates that her logic is getting ready to trump her beliefs. She might be ready for this but, alas, I am not. I hope that if her tangible belief in Santa begins to fade, she will fuel the magic and spirit of Christmas for herself and others. I still get goosebumps when Christmas magic occurs. When the kids are hypnotized by twinkly lights, when they act selflessly, when strangers think of others before themselves...all these form a Christmas knot in my throat. Tears filled my eyes when Santa wished me a Merry Christmas this year. I was transported to 1978, once again a little girl, filling my heart and mind with the wonderment of the season. I hope Abby keeps that center of her heart open so she continues to give and receive the gifts of the season. So she will always say, with conviction, I Believe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

As A Mother

I am my children's compass. My thoughts, actions, talents, responses, quirks, beliefs and flaws all act as a compass guiding Abby and Henry. I provide nudges this way and that. I teach through the filter of my personal beliefs. I accept the truth of this foundation but must admit that it terrifies me. I want Abby and Henry to derive their beliefs from their own personal truths--not mine. I strive for them to fold my tutelage into their own personal mix of them and us, and encourage them to always edit for their authenticity.

As a child, I initially lit my light by the thoughts and energy of my parents. Later I fueled my fire with ideas from others, including both the bad ("you're awkward and ugly") and the good ("you're a breath of fresh air"). I've realized that I still tightly grasped some of the mistruths others crafted for me along my path--and found it much easier to glom onto the negatives than the positives. Fortunately, I now fully embrace my fabulousness. It took me 37 years and counting to learn this--how do I instill my children with the self-confidence to do the same? Right now?

How do young children, so pure and absorbent, mitigate the intricacies of not only their parents' lives but also their own? Take, for instance, the recent media coverage of the tragic bullying cases--the insidiousness of other's cruelties shake me to my core. How do I teach my children to not just persevere but flourish?

In what ways do I misguide my children? (Although I don't yet know exactly how I've fumbled as a parent, I know that when Henry and Abby are in their 20's and 30's, they'll fill me in.) I hope that through the truthful sharing and celebration of my life, I will ground them. Ground them with the understanding that mistakes and missteps are all part of emerging into a strong, competent, positive young adult.
They must be dutiful editors, only embracing their personal truth. Yes, they can spark their light by my belief in them but I'm just the fire starter. They must develop their own light and pilot their path with their own, truthful, wobbly compasses.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In a Small Hand

The last few days, Abby has been a bit, shall we say, sassy. She's sassafrassed her way through her time with hubby, Henry and me. Scratch that. She's admirably attempted to be the reigning queen of sass but we've thwarted her efforts.

Last night after hubby bathed both children (love you, hubby), Abby ran down the hall squealing with glee. After I finished putting Henry to bed, I joined Abby in her room.

(After four days of her sass, and five days of solo-parenting while hubby traveled on business, I was a bit, shall we say, done. But I
took my deep breath and decided to attempt to enjoy our last minutes together.)

I bent down to help her with her footie jammies and Sassy Sue (a.k.a Abby) said,

"Why (sigh) didn't you turn the lights on (quivering lip) in my room?" (a nice, full-bodied whine accompanied this question.)

I replied, "Please tell me you are not getting sassy and upset about a simple light. You got to your room first--you should've turned on the light." (Pride trumped my frustration because I didn't once utter the four-letter words that begged to be released from my lips.)

"But moooooommmmmmmm, I didn't KNOW the lights were out in my room. It was daaaaaark." She expertly employed the furrowed-brow-big-bottom-lip-and-foot-stomp trio.


"Abby, the darkness in your room should've given you a clue that it was indeed dark in your room. Now knock it off and go brush your teeth." (Calm? What calm. Frustration now reigned.)

Abby stomped off to the bathroom and slammed things** and thumped stuff. Henry slept on the other side of the bathroom.

"STOP IT.", I venomously spat.

She responded by bawling.

I left, gained composure and waited for her in her bed to read books. I didn't say another word. I (tried) to emulate peace and love. We read. We hugged. As I left her bed, Abby said,

"Mommy, I want to touch you one more time." I took her hand. Then I heard Abby quietly say, through the night-light lit darkness,

"I'm sorry Mommy. I'm sorry I was so sassy about just a light."

In her hand and from the depths of her sass-rejecting soul, Abby found the right way. Tears welled. Pride returned and our evening ended with the two of us, hand in hand.

**Gene pool alert: In Abby's defense, she comes from a long line of slammers. Her great grandmother slammed, her grandmother slams, her mother slams. So slam she will.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November's Eve

The darkened branches starkly etch the crisp November sky--they seem to reach for the possibility of snow, heralding its pending arrival. All the leaves have since swirled, cavorted and lay spent on the soon-to-freeze ground.

The warmth of home beckons us in--steam rising from hearty soups, candle's flames dancing on darkened edges. Pink noses and cherry cheeks thaw in the hearth's flickering fire. Bodies cuddle, feet are warmed. Fuzzy, footed pajamas cocoon the children for a warm slumber. Flannel and fleece keep us toasty through the long, black nights. We sleep. Warm and assured by the comfort of each other, four protective walls, down comforters and the promise of the pending winter. Dreams lingering from past nights reemerge in our sleepy minds, giving way to winter reverie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yesterday morning, Henry and I agreed to walk Abby into school, per her request. We'd made it from the minivan to the sidewalk when we stopped briefly to appreciate Henry's 217th fabulous piece of firewood. When I looked up to talk to Abby, she was gone. She'd walked herself into school. I found her in her hallway.

"Abby!", I called.
"What?", she replied.

("Heeeeellllllllllllllllllloooooooooooooooo?!?!?!?!?!?!?", I thought, "Why are we walking you into school, and why did I drag your brother out of his car seat, when you're walking yourself into school?")

But instead I said, "You asked us to walk you into school. Would you please walk with us?" She agreed. As we neared her classroom, with Henry and I trailing, I saw a group of her male classmates sitting in the hall awaiting entry to their room.

"Hey Abby!", one of them yelled.
"Watch this Abby, it's so silly!", another smiled.

Abby beamed and sat down to join the early morning festivities. "Goodbye, Abby..." I said. I got a distracted, "Bye Mom." and I started to depart.

Henry and I walked through the hallway to the exit. I was so glad she was happy and enjoying her friends. I was surprised, however, by the realization that hit next:

Abby is her own person.

An obvious epiphany but a poignant one
. She forges her own way, all day, through learnings both educational and transformative. What to say, what to wear, how to interact, how to translate the intricacies of elementary school life. Her acquisitions occur publicly but are private to her. I do not partake. We talk after school--I ask questions, she shares, we recap. But I am not physically present.

I watched the hoards of young kids filing through that school. My naive realization resonated within--young children, on their paths, defining their futures with each step. Each choice. Independent and autonomous.
With no parents in sight.

Abby is her own person.

Abby inherently understands this. Why don't I? Where have I been? Was a memo issued? "Abby does stuff by herself all the time now! She goes to school and makes decisions on her own!" My daughter is no longer merely an extension of me, of Hubby or our family. She, like all the other students I saw, is an individual, forging her own way each day.

I am simultaneously proud, dumbfounded and humbled.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sharing a Few of My Favorite Things

A random list of little things that make me happy.

1. Tervis Tumblers. I use the 24 oz BigT in the car instead of water bottles. They keep your drink cold and they don't sweat AND they have a lifetime guarantee.
2. Max Factor 2000 Calorie mascara. I love this stuff. But come 2010, they won't sell it in the US anymore. So I'll be desperately searching for an equally cheap and fabulous replacement.
3. Origins Underwear for lashes. I'm totally addicted. You put this white stuff on like mascara before you apply mascara. Makes lashes long, thick and fabulous.
4. McDonald's Diet Coke. And a side of fries.
5. Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Gloss in Dreamy. Smooth, not sticky. Looks great over all my lipsticks or solo.
6. Aunt Sadie's Tree in a Can candle. Capri Blue's Number 9 Volcano candle. Tyler Candle Company's Limelight candle. They all make my house smell warm and cozy and gooooood.
8. Medicated ChapStick. I've tried so many chapsticks from the cheapest to the priciest and this is my favorite.
7. Salt and Vinegar potato chips. The more sour the better.
8. Ben Heggy's (Canton, OH) buttercreams in dark chocolate. Like a spoonful of cookie dough.

(File the following under the "Irish-girl-with-pasty-skin-needs-help-not-blending-into-the-walls" category)
9. Jemma Kidd Mannequinn Skin Complexion Enhancer. I feel like I look dewy and well-rested when I use this stuff. Light must reflect off this magic stuff and makes me feel pretty.
10. Trish McEvoy Face Shine Malibu. It's a creamy bronzer you apply with your fingers...but yikes! I can't find it!
11. Jane Blushtix in Shimmering Brown. Same idea as above. I look healthy and not peaked with this stuff.

Now come on and tell me yours...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Onnlaye Six

Sometimes, the biggest wallops of love come from the smallest moments. Today I was working and I asked the kids to draw some pictures to keep them entertained. (Amazingly, this worked and I worked quietly while they drew quietly!) When I was mid-thought, I peripherally saw Abby approach with a smile and a piece of paper.

She quietly handed it to me. Thankfully, I stopped writing and accepted her gift.

My six-year-old love wants to marry me. (I'm the one in blue plaid flannel pajama bottoms and green t-shirt; Abby is in the pink one-piece body suit.)

Time stopped. All noise subsided. The poignancy of her message grew lumps in my throat and formed tears in my eyes. Abby stood patiently while I read and reread her note, languishing in her and the depths of her love. I looked up at her, smiled and swallowed her in a hug.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Ah, the life of a mother of a three-year-old. 'Tis bittersweet. My days and emotions are intrinsically linked with his. Lucky me. He swings from docile and kind to violent and screaming on a proverbial dime.

I am frustrated, exhausted and without answers. I am trying to find the lesson in this madness. I realize that as much as I consider myself a patient person, I am currently without. I feel as if I have no control, no recourse. Henry's first episode of each day leaves me feeling flat and hopeless. Today I let him watch two hours of Mickey Mouse Club House to stave off some certain lowering of some looming boom. I let him eat as many Goldfish as desired, just to keep the peace.

This afternoon, after a delightful romp outside, I delivered the unfortunate news that it was time to go inside. The devil himself embodied Henry. He shrieked, thrashed, spit fire. He threw his shoes, his helmet and kicked his scooter. After I closed the garage door, he defiantly ran back out, under the door. The fear of him being smooshed by the door threw me into a tither. I was simultanteously grateful he was ok and ready to pummel him. My lungs hurt I was so angry. I truly don't recognize him at these times. How can this be my sweet-cheeked boy who tells me he "wuvs me"?

So I sit, spent. I must reach down into the depths of my waning patience and sit with the fact that I do not currently have the answers, and rest my tired laurels on the hope that some day soon, they will come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Permanent Marker

Lately I've found myself trying to remember. I intently try to memorize certain aspects of my children's personalities, actions and words. As Abby and Henry are doing/saying/growing/learning, I pause and watch. Hoping, if I sit long enough and concentrate hard enough, that I will etch, with permanent force, the essence of that moment.

How can I capture Abby's budding sense of humor? Can I pull out my Sharpie and indelibly commit to memory the round chub of Henry's cheek which gives way to the innocent curve of his pink lips? How will I conjure the sunlight illuminating the white-blond hair that frames Abby's face and gives way to her cascading golden curls? The belly laughs? The bone-crushing, soul-lifting bear hugs that fill my heart with warmth and light?

I have already experienced, in six short years, memory loss. I cannot elicit certain funny phrases or the sweet smell of my baby's breath which is one of my all-time favorite scents. (I recall burying my nose into their mouths, inhaling the tender scent of their breath, promising myself I would be able to somehow recreate that smell in my mind. I also remember Hubby walking into the room whilst my nose was jammed into either Abby or Henry's mouth--Hubby thought I'd lost my marbles.)

I can't remember how it feels to rub the silky arms that yielded to chunky wrists. I can no longer summon the sound of coos and gurgles.

The passing of these perishable moments breaks my heart; I continue, nonetheless, to cherish them all. And even though I cannot remember each in all of its light and dimension, I remain hopeful. Still pausing, still waiting, still manically memorizing--with Sharpie in hand. Sketching the moments so I can pull them out, however faded, and use them like a salve for my yesterday-missing soul. I strive to simultaneously revel in the past, live in the now and prepare for the yet-unknown, Sharpie-worthy moments of the future.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SNL, Meet Henry

Henry loves caulk. If it's caulk-related, it's cool with Henry. He loves hubby's work shirt with caulk smudges all over it. He thinks a fun afternoon includes carrying around a tube of caulk. He adores the painters who prepared our house for painting because they got to apply lots of ... caulk.

He enjoys it when hubby gets all caulky (couldn't resist) when doing house repairs.

The caulk conversations and random caulk thoughts Henry shares range from humorous to slap-your-thigh-with-tears-running-down-your-face hysterical. Following are some of my favorites. If they aren't that funny when you read them, try saying them out loud. I dare you not to laugh.

1. "Daddy has a caulk on his head." (Hubby worked all day in the basement and had a little pile of dirt and caulk sitting on the top of his hair.)

2. Henry grabbed hubby's face just after waking up one morning. "Daddy? Do you like to eat caulk?" Somehow, hubby was able to answer this repeated question with a straight face.

3. Henry and I shopped at the grocery store. When I turned my head to concentrate on the bread ingredient lists, I peripherally heard Henry announce, "Yeah, we've got some sweaty caulks in here. Yup, some sweaty caulks."


The shock and crazy laughter I experienced doubled me over. I grabbed my phone to text hubby and friends. I could hardly see the letters on my phone through the tears. It was as if he was channeling two different Saturday Night Live skits--Alec Baldwin's "Schweaty Balls" and the more recent "DIY Caulk" skit with Jason Lee. (I love and highly recommend both; however, if you don't enjoy word puns about the male anatomy, I'd skip them.)

4. I took Henry upstairs for bedtime. He had been dutifully carrying his caulk tube around. When he realized he'd forgotten it downstairs he yelled, "Momma! I want to sleep with my caulk!"

I sarcastically thought, "No problem." I did retrieve his caulk for him while laughing myself silly. Freud would have a ball with this. Maybe two.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Conversations with a Three-Year-Old (Alternate Title: Momma Needs to Be Quicker on her Feet)

Conversation One:
Henry and I lie in his bed, enjoying one last hug before he slept.


"Yes, Henry."

"Do you have a baby in your tummy?" (This is Henry's question du jour these days. I'm hoping it's because we've recently spent time with two very pregnant women and not because I eat fast food and doughnuts everyday.)

"No, baby, I don't." I really hope the conversation ends here. It doesn't.

"Why not?", he queries.

My brilliant answer: "I just don't. Goodnight."

Conversation Two:
Henry sat in my lap, facing me. He stared at my chest.


"Yes, Henry?"

"How do you play with boobies?" (Yup--boobies. Ta Tas. Breasts. Melons.)

My words were gone. I offered no response to his query. So I just stared at him like he stared at my chest.

(When I relayed the conversation to Hubby, he did a mental high five with his boy. I just know he did.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Conversation with a Six-Year-Old

Tonight, I put Abby to bed. We enjoyed our typical nice long snuggle in the dark room with a cozy bed. I hugged her goodbye and started to pad out of the sleepy room. As I neared the end of her bed, I heard, "Mama, how old do I have to be to have a boyfriend?"

I stopped in my padded tracks.

"Well," I said, "probably 16 or so. Why?"

"I just want one. I want to be married."

Again, I asked, "Why? Why do you want to be married? "

Abby answered, "I just do."

"Well (I said again), marriage is great. But you shouldn't rush to marry. Be young, get an education and travel to fabulous places first."

The conversation paused in the darkness. Then Abby asked, "How many hours a day will I be in first grade?"

"About eight", I told her.

"Mama?", she asked.

"Yes babe."

"Will it snow here in New Jersey at Christmas?"

"Yes, it sure could", I answered.

"YES!!", she shouted into the dark. I heard the air swoosh as she lifted her exubulant fist into the air. Then, "Goodnight, Mama."


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Highway and New Way

We're on a massive road trip--the family and I have been traveling for a month. All our belongings are packed and we're moving to a new state, a new city, a new adventure. We left the home we know and are en route to one we don't yet know. We drive from spot to spot, reconnecting with dear friends and family as we carve our new way home.

As I watch the white dashed lines of the highway tick by, I realize the irony of simultaneously getting further from home while also getting closer. Then an obvious thought, but an epiphany just the same: home is us, right here, on four wheels. The white lines are merely markers, paving the path we've chosen to take.

Comfort, friends and the-way-life-used-to-be get smaller in the rear view mirror; question marks and uncertainty try to loom ahead, but excitement and a smiling fresh start prevail.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lumpy Monday

Some days aren't nearly as good as others. Today, for instance, was kinda crappy. Lumpy. From the minute my feet hit the floor this morning, everyone seemed agitated. The agitation displayed itself in various forms of whining, crying and sassy tones. Defiance even entered the day's equation.

Abby, Henry and I have spent many days together and I think we all might be bugging the shit out of each other.

The day held blips of loveliness (listening, sunshine, manners, exploration and laughter) but many more lumps. That's just how some days roll. I guess it's how I know how to gauge a good day. When the sun set on this not-so-lovely day, I counted the fact that my children were slumbering among one of my blessings. But guess what. Henry wasn't really asleep. This is a kid that usually goes to sleep and doesn't wake up until the morn. But tonight's pinnacle boasted a ferocious tantrum that I'm quite sure all my mother's neighbors heard. Screaming, kicking and choking all because I left his room after he was asleep. Three times.

When I finally left Henry's room, a.k.a. Henry's House of Restlessness and Fatigue, he whispered to me, his scratchy voice still hoarse from screaming, "Momma, will you peease check on me?"

With one simple phrase, my son leveled the lumps of the day. Frustration washed away. Somehow, with one small question, Henry made my day.

I just finished checking on two beautiful, sleeping children. Long eyelashes resting on cheeks, bodies curled up and cozy under covers. Lumpy Monday is over. Much-Less-Crappy Tuesday is just around the corner.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, America

Hubby, the kids and I are vacationing at my in-laws lake house. We're here with my mother- and father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their three children. We're experiencing pure summer bliss. On the Fourth of July, we journeyed on the boat to the most spectacular fireworks display I've ever seen.

The kids climbed into still-wet life jackets and we all piled into Poppy's boat. The clouds and the rain, which had hovered for the last 48 hours, parted. A hot pink and royal blue sunset emerged. Captain Poppy allowed each of the grandkids a turn at the helm as we traveled through the night to the perfect firework watching perch.

We anchored the boat and the waves kindly lapped the sides. The fireworks began, exploding overhead in a spectacular national birthday celebration. A perfectly orchestrated show ensued, brilliant reds, vibrant blues and gorgeous golds. After Abby patriotically whooped it up with her cousins in the front of the boat, she came to sit with me. We had a primo spot on the boat where we practically reclined. She rested her freshly bathed head next to mine. Her body was still. At times we discussed our favorite fireworks but mostly we lay hypnotized by the fireworks and the rhythmic lull of the boat dancing on the lake. To date, it is one of my favorite moments with my daughter.

The show ended. Abby vacated my lap and reolocated to Hubby's lap, drifting to sleep with his strong arms wrapped around her. Henry took advantage of the vacancy at my lap and dove into my arms. He curled up and promptly went to sleep. As we navigated the nautical traffic back to the lake house, I was once again lulled by the scent of a sweet child's head and the heavy weight of a small, solid body. I whispered my love to Abby and Henry in their dreams. The lake whispered, too, and wished everyone a good night's slumber.

Good night, lake.

Good night, America.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just Call Me Scarlett

I am odd. Either that, or eternally normal. But I've digressed already and I've just begun this post. I'll back up...

I've been out of town with Abby for a week. (A truly delightful trip but more on that another time.) When the sun sets this Thursday, the contents of my family's and my life will be packed into a moving van or our minivan. We will be without a homestead for one and a half months--we will vagabond across the country, heading to our new city. A fairly obvious statement follows:

I have a shit load to do.

And the three things that I've added to my to do list, the things that have to be done immediately?

1. Clip Henry's finger nails
2. Cut Abby's hair
3. Plan last minute birthday party for Abby

I'm simultaneously proud that I'm putting my children's needs on the top of my list and embarrassed that I'm so blinded and paralyzed by the looming, ugly moving agenda that I'm hiding behind these simple grooming (and celebratory) tasks. True, Henry can't claw his way cross-country, and Abby's slimy, green hair is taking on a life of its own, but maybe I should be orchestrating the intricate, pressing details of our next six weeks...

Gotta dash. Balloons, snaggly nails and scraggly hair have won. Fiddle-dee-dee.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cool Pool

Today the kids and I went to the pool. The three of us love our days of swimming, splashing and sun. The pool provides refuge from the scorching, summer south, allowing us to actually leave our air conditioned caves.

After the fairly frustrating, daunting process of migrating from the car (with squealing kids, bulging pool bag), through the parking lot and into the pool, we apply sunscreen. No one likes this process. The kids seemed to meld into the ground as I try to preempt the sun’s time stamp on their perfect, plump skin. Once I declare them safe, they escape to the cool confines of the blue.

Time at the pool is somehow surreal to me—simultaneously quick and languid. It’s like something from a dream sequence, the bright light of the sun, the brilliant blue of the sky and the little children splashing in the water, their laughter bouncing back to the sunlit sky. Parents abound, some in the pool, some in their graduate status of lounge chair perch.


It’s of this life and of my past life, when my role was that of the girl with chlorinated hair and tanned, limber limbs. Now, in the sunhatted-SPFed-tankini mommy role, I watch Abby full-heartedly take over my long discarded role, perfecting her dive, freestyle, hand-stands and underwater flips. As I play with Henry, I’m again taken back to my childhood pool days, now in the shallow end, playing with my baby brother. I was 10, he was two. I’d put him underwater and quickly pull him up and he’d gleefully squeal. His hair would always end up in wet, drippy point on his forehead (a la Squiggy of Laverne and Shirley fame). His round cheeks looked as if they might burst from the force of his smile. And we’d repeat and repeat and repeat. I now repeatedly replicate this ritual with Henry. Thanks to a curiously strong gene pool, his hair and cheeks look exactly the same as his Uncle’s.

When the kids and I head home, our energy is zapped, our bodies are chlorinated and our hearts buoyant. Here’s to pool days, past and present, heralding us back for more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Tonight, Abby’s strong, slighter but still slightly pudgy hand grasped my own, age-spotty, bony one, which boldly shows my 37 years of living. As she traced the blue veined topography of my hand, I was transported back to admiring my own mother’s veined timepiece, feeling her knuckles (and even the spot where there isn’t a knuckle because of long-ago dog bite). When I was young, I coveted her hands and wished that my own, flawless yet immature hands could look like hers. “Be careful what you wish for…”, my mom said. I did not heed her advice and now I have the same, time-tested hands. As I remembered these long-ago moments with my mom, I felt my past intertwine with Abby’s; I felt as if Abby was me and I was my mom, 30 years ago. We were suspended somewhere between past and present. I bounced back to the now, with my fingers intertwined with my daughter’s, when she announced that she wants her hands to look like mine.

Henry’s dimpled, pudgy hands still hold the silky texture of fresh, new skin. I adore holding his hand, rubbing its silkiness like a talisman. Tonight, I lay on his bed as we whispered goodnight sweet nothings. His hypnotic hands rhythmically stroked my hair and almost put me to sleep. Later, I went to check on him. And I stared as his hands, calmly resting, regaining energy for tomorrow’s expidentures. The dim, soft nightlight cast shadows in his dimples. I felt still and the moment paused to imprint itself to my memory.

I see my children’s hands, any hand, and see life illustrated. Hands can bring past moments alive by seemingly suspending time. I hope I can oblige in years and moments to come, by recanting hundreds of snippets and synapsed recollections of our lives. Soft hands, dirty hands, hands with finger-nails needing trims, sticky hands, angry hands, forgiveness-seeking hands, feverish hands, holding hands, story-telling hands, independent hands, loving hands. Promise-filled hands, hopefully still periodically reaching for, and holding onto mine.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Perfect Eviction

I am not perfect. A perfect parent I am not and nor will I ever be. But I used to try to be perfect and mentally punched myself around when I didn’t measure up on the perfect stick. In my earlier mommy days, I proudly carried the inauspicious badge of perfection. I wanted to feel everything the right way and be all things to this fragile new life. At many times, I was everything. But I’ve now realized that my earnest attempts at being ideal created quite the quagmire.

Trying to live to a prescribed script left me destined to disappoint. I’ve experienced times when I was so angry with my kids that I had to remove myself from their presence. I never read about THAT in a parenting book. I have dust bunnies in my home. And my kids misbehave and throw two-hour tantrums. I too, on occasion, misbehave. Dinner isn’t already planned and smushed blueberries exist on my floor for many, many days. Naturally, I’ve experienced many life moments that have been the opposite—full of light and joy. But I believe that in order to fully appreciate these, life provides contrast with the other, darker moments.

So I’ve had it. My perfection quest (and all associated frustrations) have finally illuminated the way to imperfect bliss. Calm and acceptance have transformed the space its previous “perfect” tenant occupied. I evicted perfection. I stopped aspiring for flawlessness and started embracing limitations, stains and mistakes.

It has since dawned on me that real parenthood is much like real marriage. Contrary to my early, romantic and naïve views, marriage is not always fairytales and sunset departures, unless you’re Cinderella. My naiveté provided me with a Cinderella-take on parenthood, too. In this swooning tale, Cindy and Princey live a rosy life where bluebirds rock their children to sleep while they make sweet love in the enchanted forest. Amazingly, neither of them work but money is always forthcoming. Cindy still wears a size zero (one-hour after giving birth). The babies don’t poop or cry, throw-up or throw tantrums or throw trucks.

Although I used to aspire to some varied version of that life, I now reject it. The brightest spots of my life are illustrated through the smoky screen of mistakes, dirt and frustration. So now, instead of striving for the unattainable, I savor the reality of life as a real wife and mom, with real children (and a very real husband). Happily. I embrace my imperfections and discard my impossible perfection quest. And not too surprisingly, this delivers many days when my own muddled life, tumbled agonies, and soaring growth impart immeasurable joy. Hopefully, my imperfection grants my children the same reprieve, allowing life to be lived and experienced, not perfected.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mother's Day

The day started with a lovely, ferocious thunderstorm. Dark and foreboding, it beckoned us to our rumpled beds. Fortunately for this mother, hubby took morning duty and I slept in cozy, rainy splendor until 7:45 am. (My requested wake-up time.)

My wake-up call arrived on padded feet, gently singing “Happy Mother’s Day” (to the tune of Happy Birthday). The lights remained off and I smelled yummniess—a hot cup o’ joe and a homemade egg, bacon, cheese sandwich. I lazily propped myself up and received hugs and kisses and squeezes. Then I read three tender, loving and beautiful cards. My heart lifted. I felt a bit like Mary Poppins with the love of my family lifting me up like a magic umbrella.

The loveliness continued with a morning-long snuggle in those warm, rumpled sheets. In between the snuggles, we did deal with some slight injuries and tears (from attempted backflips off of Mommy and Daddy's really high bed) and heart-felt screaming tantrums (from Henry when Abby accidentally sat in his self-proclaimed area of the bed). After crocodile tears dried, Henry serenaded us with a rousing, rockin’ version of “God Our Father”. Abby then suggested “The Star Spangled Banner”.

We all placed our hands on our hearts, and in molted, assorted keys, we all gloriously sang. And our imperfect, early morning voices, joined together in the moment and were, in fact, perfect.

My lyric response to my children today is this:

You anchor me.

You are my past and my future.

Your silky skin and the smell of your slightly sweaty head hypnotize me.

Your resilience, tenderness and intelligence continually amaze me.

Your love humbles me.

Thank you for still believing I hung the moon, even on the days when I’ve sent you with a one-way ticket to said moon.

On sad days, when you try to stop crying and your bottom lip quivers like a tectonic plate on a fault line, my heart quakes open. Your resolution to stop crying makes my own tears fall.

Life is imperfect—like me, like you—but it is stippled with sheer joy and punctuated by warm hearts and buoyant souls.

Because of you, I am a better person.

Because of you, I am a mommy.

Because of you, I am honored with the privilege of celebrating this rainy, wonderful, dark, singing, snuggling, crying, loving, rumpled, soulful day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Free Time

“Play is the way a child learns what no one can teach him. It is the way he explores and orients himself to the actual world of space and time, of things, structure and people. Play is a child’s work.” – L.K. Frank

I couldn’t agree more. At times I feel like a shoddy mother when I let my kids entertain themselves rather than playing with them, teaching them and being involved in each thing. But when I see the games, stories, structures and fantasies they create when left to their own devices, my amazement at their ingenuity erodes any guilt.

Naturally, organized activities, lessons, teachers and the like hold an important and critical spot in their lives. Just not EVERY spot in their lives.

I’m gonna round file the guilt and watch them prosper. Here’s to free time, filled with my children's work.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Post Script

As the school year begins to dwindle, I’ve thought back to the start of this academic year. As those of you who’ve read my blog know, I struggled a bit (ok, a TON) when Abby started Kindergarten. I slowly and patiently prepared her, but forgot to prepare myself. Abby experienced not a moment of fear or apprehension—her confidence played the vibrant melody to my dissonant harmony.

I knew, even back then, that we’d (I’d) hit a stride during the school year despite my aching heart, gaping at the prospect of my baby heading to school each day. I was right—we found a great, rhythmic pace of learning, separation and growth, with daily regroupings to dissect the day. Abby’s joyful (albeit tired) embrace of school dragged me from my private doldrums into the role of joyful participant. Occasionally though, after I’d dropped Abby off at school, I’d linger and watch her disappear into the school building. Occasionally, my heart would break right open again (just as it did in August) and I’d wonder how we’d gotten to this point in her maturation. Now we’re a month away from summer break. The time, as they say, flies.

Henry will be three next month. He’s morphed from a chubby toddler to a young, bright, rambunctious boy. Abby is no longer a little girl. She’s stretched out, lost two teeth and her baby fat. I can see her ribs and knees. We’re reading science books with words like “courting” and “mating”.

(I have girlfriends, by the way, with daughters who have started puberty. In hushed voices, they confide about the physical changes of their daughters’ bodies. Seeing those daughters, with their bra straps showing subtly under their shirts, makes me gasp for air. Bra straps lead to first kisses, commencement speeches, young marriages and round baby bumps.)

As my own children grow, I understand that we are simultaneously years and moments away from these milestones. I experience brief glimmers and pangs of an empty nest—I realize that I prime my children for departures, journeys and landmarks, but often do not extend the same courtesy to myself. Hubby and I encourage the kids to grow and hope they will let go. But we don’t prepare our minds and hearts for our own empty hands. I fear, however, that if I start prepping myself for their not-so imminent exits into the big world, I will loose the peace and joy of the current minute.

So, I try to cherish the lumps and the loveliness of each stage of their lives. This presents a true challenge (especially when I’m wrangling a wet, almost 40 pound, exhausted and screaming Henry out of the tub, or when I’m dealing with a sassy, tired Abby). But I continue to attempt to strike a balance between fully appreciating the gift of each moment AND realizing that it won’t last forever.

For now, I will treasure this minute as both kids sleep under our roof. I’ll enjoy the scent of their baby wash on my hands, fresh from bathing those sweet angels who will awake before the sun tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Flip Side

When I lived in Chicago, I rode the L to work. (The “L” is an abbreviation for the Elevated Train—part of Chicago’s mass transit system.)

One evening I rode the train home from work and scored an outer aisle train seat. As is typical during Chicago rush hour, the train was packed. I noticed an elderly woman, maybe 70, standing, with no seat, and holding onto a hand rail. I made eye contact with her and mouthed across the crowded train, “Would you like my seat?”

She soundlessly replied, “Oh, yes please.”

As she slowly made the journey to my/her seat, I stood up. After I stood up, a little sever-year-old boy scurried through the crowded train and plunked himself into the seat I reserved for the elderly woman. As she neared, I squatted down to talk to him, “Sweetie, I am giving this seat to this woman.”

He stared at me. And stayed in the seat.

I tried again, and with a smile said, “Please get up and give that seat to this woman.”

He got up and scuttled through the north side commuters back to his mother.

The elderly woman graciously thanked me and got her seat.

What I got floored me.

The mother of the sever-year-old boy started yelling at me across the L, “What?!?! We paid just as much as you and her for our tickets and my son has just as much right to sit in that seat as y’all.” The little seven-year-old boy stood wide-eyed behind his mother, whose chest puffed out almost as much as her angry eyes. She was PISSED.

Oh boy.

I looked at her, pointed to the sign that read, “Priority Seating for Senior Citizens and Handicapped Riders”, and loudly said, “When I stood up to give my seat to this woman, your son came over and sat down. I asked him to stand up so this seventy-year-old woman could sit down.”

Although I don’t know for sure, I’m pretty sure what the little boy’s mother heard was, “You’re black and your son is black and you don’t matter as much as we white people do so you have a second class ticket and can stand up until Evanston for all I care.”

She glared at me. And yelled some more. Her friend glared at me. The other commuters observed with cautious eyes.

The black woman kept staring at me and as passengers started to get off the train, she migrated closer and closer to me. I started to question my vigilant efforts to give my priority seat to an old woman and began to worry about my safety. Eventually they stood just beside me, the black woman and her friend and their children. They nastily talked about me and angrily pointed at me. Eventually I’d had enough. I stared at her and her group and said, “Are you talking to me?”


“Do you have something to say to me?”


The next stop was Wellington which meant it was time for me to depart.

I exited the train on legs that weren’t suited to carry anyone. My knees felt like they’d had four stiff drinks. A man walked down the steps behind me and said, “You did the right thing.” Although his encouragement felt wonderful (I almost hugged him), I hoped he was right. This encounter etched itself into my memory; 14 years later, I can still feel my stomach pummeling as I tried to do the right thing while inadvertently insulting another woman.

To me, the situation was very clear; older people get priority seating. To her, well, I’ll have to guess. But my hunch is that my actions represented every bigoted white person she’d ever encountered. I kicked a black person out of a seat for a white person.

As each of us does, she brought a lifetime of experiences into that moment. To her, my actions clearly profiled my preference for white over black. I brought my own lifetime—based not on what is white, or black.

I wonder what the seven-year-old boy remembers, if anything, about that evening. He’d be 21 now. Does he carry a grudge? Is he cautious around white people? Has he had positive, endearing experiences with white people? Or does he hear them making bigoted jokes about aspirin?

I wish I could talk to them now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jokes Are Supposed to be Funny

A good friend relayed a story today and I haven't been able to shake it. The premise is familiar. Before I hop on my soap box, I’ll give the details.

My friend is black. He works at a facility where 95% (if not 99%) of the members are white. He entered this job holding disdain and uncertainty about white people. Over the course of his work tenure, his feelings changed and his perspective altered. White people were not awful. In fact, they were no longer an entity, they were various individuals.

Today when I saw him, he was flat. He seemed tired, maybe sad. He told me that last week, while he was at work, he heard a friend of his repeatedly tell a joke. (I hate to repeat the joke for fear that its bigoted threads will weave into someone else’s psyche, but I must.) The joke goes like this:

Joke teller: “Did you hear that Obama is going to raise taxes on aspirin by 40%?”
Unsuspecting joke receiver: “No. Why?”
Joke teller: “Because it’s white and it works.”

(I wonder how many years this joke has been in circulation, the only change being the Democratic president de jour. My pal noted the inherent irony that the joke is being told while our country’s first black president holds office.)

The first time the joke was told, my friend wasn’t supposed to hear it.
The second time he heard the same joke, told to a different group, he was merely miffed.
The third time he heard the joke, he became furious. Yes, he was sick of the constant recanting of the joke. But what really got him was the way his white friends, upon hearing the punch line, reacted.

They smiled and laughed. And they agreed with the philosophy behind the joke, proven by their “cosigning”—discussing the joke and their agreement with the premise. They jumped on the racist bandwagon and did donuts around their black friend.

Through their actions, these white people confirmed that they believed that black people are lazy. And that white people do all the “heavy lifting” in our society. In the process they crushed the spirit and hope of my friend.

I haven’t stopped thinking about this. After my pal relayed his story, I, too, was crushed. Mad. Heavy. I felt like crying.

I tried to make sense of this mess. This ignorant bigotry is learned—it’s not inherent. Generations pass it down to the next unsuspecting generation. From infancy through adulthood, through subtleties, stereotypes and stigmas, racism continues. It flourishes because we allow it to do so.

Then I started thinking about our kids. We can teach our children the right way. Abby plays daily with children of many different ethnicities. It is glorious. Naturally, she notes the physical differences between her and her friends. But that is where the comparison ends. She does not place one child over another because of their hair, their eyes or the color of their skin.

As her mother, I wonder how to nurture her open, accepting soul. How do I preserve her tolerance and protect her and her generation from the insidious racism that can still warp the educated minds of our society? Abby and Henry perceive everything and absorb the slightest nuance. They take hubby's and my cues--we are always teaching and they are always learning. They will grow up knowing that jokes masquerading as racism are not funny.

My friend and I are fortunate. We talk. We discuss all of the taboo subjects—race, religion, homosexuality, stem-cell research and politics—with openness. Many times we don’t agree—but that’s the point. We keep on talking.

So I’m going to talk with my kids. And I hope that the conversation never ends. As for the bigoted aspirin "joke", I hope it dies a slow, painful, non-medicated death.

“It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.”
- James Arthur Baldwin

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Gum Standard

At 5:30 this morning, I awoke to,


I bolted up in bed.

“What?!?!?” I responded to some small child I couldn’t yet see.

“I wan a piece a gum.”

Henry. Henry loves gum. He’s obsessed with it. He’s not yet three and can hold a piece of gum under his tongue while drinking a full glass of milk. Our biggest tantrums have crystallized over gum. He loves green gum (spearmint), purple gum (bubble gum), blue gum (peppermint) and yellow gum (Zebra striped). I’ve learned that I yield the most authority when I bargain with a piece of gum.

“Henry. If you go to sleep peacefully tonight, you may have a piece of gum in the morning!”

“You’ve listened so well, sweet boy, here’s a piece of gum.”

“If you don’t stop RIGHT NOW I’m taking away your gum.”

“If you continue that behavior you will have no gum for the REST OF THE DAY.”

Do I wish I could guide and control my son with a firm tone and a very hairy eyeball?


Can I?


So I barter cautiously, with meticulous attention to detail as Henry’s gum standards are both stringent and volatile.

Move over gold. I’m buying stock in Wrigley.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Bits

After Henry woke up from his nap today, I dutifully removed his diaper and helped him put his underwear and pants back on.

We went downstairs to rejoin Abby, who patiently awaited my return to our game of concentration. (Side bar: Abby always GENUINELY beats me at concentration. I actually beat her today and she said, “Congratulations on winning, Mommy. Nice job.” Wow. This is one of those moments I want to etch into my brain forever (her great sportsmanship, by the way, not my big win.))

Henry asked for his soy milk. As I got his milk, I watched him repeatedly grab his crotch. Since I’m the mother of a boy, seeing this is not a novelty; he seemed, however, to be doing it more than the usual once-per-minute. And he added an interesting lurch and leg jiggle to his repertoire.

I asked him if he needed to go to the potty.

“No. My penus huwrts, Mommy.”


So I pulled up his shirt and intended to pull his pants down to investigate. But I didn’t need to look any further because I was greeted by the head of Henry's penis which was stuck in the elastic of underwear AND his pants.

“Oh, Henry.”

I gently released all his bits and pieces and put them back where they belong. When I finished, Henry looked me square in the eye and said,

“Mommy, you huwrt my penus.”

“I’m so, so, so sorry, sweet boy”, I replied.

“Mommy, I don’t want you to evwer do dat again.”

My stomach hurt from making him hurt—even though I have no idea what it feels like to own a penis, I know from hubby that any foul play really wreaks havoc on a poor guy’s parts. My solemn promise to Henry is that I will try really, really hard to never, ever, ever hurt his sweet bits again.

ps--Another aside. One of my good pals refers to a male's anatomy as "twig and berries". I cannot believe that I never once used her fabulous expression in this posting. A different title then could've been, "How I almost broke Henry's twig."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Questions and More

My mom always says that when kids act the worst they need the most. I try to remember this tidbit these days as I watch Abby and Henry tail spin in the hormones, emotion and passion that are the lives of a five (almost six) year old and a two (almost three) year old.

Sometimes, they’re just doing their jobs. Five-year-old girls are, at times, sassy, emotional firecrackers. Two-year-old boys do, at times, act as if the devil has taken residence in their behinds. The fervor and territorial prowess I’ve seen rendered over whose turn it is to hold the year-old broken piece of some long-ago-discarded toy is quite incredible.

Abby can break down over what I see as the smallest nuance. Yesterday, for example, she started crying because I cut her toast the wrong way. Sometimes, she’ll tail spin into oblivion because I got her brother out of the bathtub first. Others, she will say through quivering lips that she just needs an extra long goodnight.

Henry is at what I hope is the pinnacle of the terrible twos. A good day is one where a tantrum only lasts 15 minutes. The sobs I hear when we’re out of “yellow gum” (sugar-free, Zebra Striped) might make a passerby think that I’m pulling Henry’s toe nails out with coal-hot pliers. As I watch him convulse and buck because I won’t let him have a fifth glass of soy milk, or because I didn’t answer the “are-we-having-a-bath-tonight?” question correctly, I wonder. Am I raising a boy or breaking a horse?

In the height of the emotional spiral de jour, I try to ask myself: what does this child need? Are they crying because they’re exhausted? Do they need a bit more mommy? They, at their worst, need my attention, love and patience. (What I need at their worst is an entirely different blog, but it involves glasses of a dry, full-bodied Cabernet, dark chocolate and a Grandma’s house.) Once I have cultivated more patience, I focus on determining what they need and how to best support them. How I deliver this parental support is as varied (and random) as their moods. Predictably, there is no easy answer. Many times, there is no answer.

Just as predictably, that unanswered question raises others. How do I manage to raise well-adjusted, humble, good-manned, confident, intelligent children without crushing their independent, beautiful spirits? How do I balance their perceived needs (which are very real to them) with their other needs? How do I remain calm and sane in a house of tantrum and emotion? How do I grant them a happy childhood, but not a spoiled one?

So I sit, with my many questions, on the fulcrum of tranquility and lunacy. Luckily, asking questions usually yields some answers, even if they aren’t the answers for which I think I’m searching. Today’s answer is simple: I am just like my kids, and they are just like me. What they need and what I need are very much the same. Some days, at 36 (almost 37), I want to kick, scream and punch the bed because things don’t go my way. Sometimes I need a kind word and a hug. Others, I could cry (and do) because someone hurts my feelings. And on others, I just want my Mommy.

I let that answer settle over me. And tomorrow I’ll ask again,

“What does this child need?”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The White Crib (sorta like The Red Violin, only shorter)

Henry is now in a big boy bed. Well, he’s in a blow-up bed on the floor, which is his first step out of his baby bed and into big-boy land. I expeditiously took apart the crib today, hoping to get “one last thing” knocked out before I left to get the kids from school. As I took the first piece out of his room, I suddenly stopped mid-stride.

“Oh. My. Gosh.” I thought. And the flood began.

I remember going to Omaha to pick out baby furniture for the nursery when I was pregnant with Abby. (Very round all-over pregnant.) I recall waddling through furniture aisles in my flip flops, worn because no shoe made fit over my swollen, Pillsbury-Dough-Boy feet. I remember wondering what furniture to get, what the right mattress was for this new sweet little life, envisioning the blissful moments standing at the changing table (pregnancy hormones were definitely at work here), imagining feeding my new baby in the comfy rocker. I remember dutifully looking at the spacing between the crib slats and I remember not being able to imagine the life inside of me ever sleeping in that huge, cavernous space.

I remember Abby sleeping in this crib for the first time, in her bouncy seat. Yes, in her bouncy seat in her crib. And I can still hear the thud which shook the house the first time she climbed (ok, fell) out of the crib, exactly two and half years later.

I remember being pregnant with Henry and strategically hiding the white crib and making Abby’s big girl room really exciting so she wouldn’t feel slighted when her baby brother began sleeping in her crib, still slightly warm from her past slumbers.

I remember writing on this very blog about the night Henry slept in the white crib for the first time at four months old. I remember the pain and emotion that filled my heart that evening, my baby boy sleeping so far away from me, the giver of life.

I held the pieces of the dismantled white crib in my hands and not unlike Abby’s first lost baby tooth, I slid my hands over the dents (teething) and dried tears. I smirked at the blue lines Henry artistically added when his mother was smart enough to leave a blue Sharpie within reach of his sleeping post.

Now, I had all the dismantled pieces in the hallway.

No more children of mine will ever sleep in this white crib. One single, fat tear traveled down my cheek. It’s over. No more. I think this was one of the most final, most pointed and defining moments, the “sign-on-the-dotted-line” finality that yes, I’m done having children. (You may reasonably point out that giving away all the baby clothes, or hubby’s “schnip schnip” may have provided more finality, but no, it was the breaking down of the white crib.)

I should get a tshirt that reads:

“once a baby factory, now closed. all facilities still viable. currently, however, being used solely as a hormone factory. now negligibly valuable, yet not obsolete. no more babies shooting down this production line.”

No more babies.

And then, my wonderful, stippled memories of golden reproduction days were shattered by an impressive hour-long tantrum from Henry who decided he absolutely does not like the meal that two weeks ago he loved. And with a one-two punch, Abby finally reached the melting point from lack of sleep and the rigors of being an incredibly kind, thoughtful Kindergartener.

Perhaps a better t-shirt would be:

“well-rested, proud mother of two. able to leave house with just a purse.”

Hubby wisely said to me, when we finally decided we wouldn’t have any more children,
“Honey, one of the children does have to be the last.”

Yes, I know. Especially tonight as I sit surrounded by discarded, strewn white and blue striped crib parts, ready to make their way into some other lucky family’s life. I know.

Farewell, white crib. Thanks for all the memories.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Clutter Counter

I hate clutter. I despise little things hanging out in their random spots. Many times I’ve tripped over toys on my way to the stove from the sink. I’ve been known to aggressively kick and chuck toys into the play area. I’ve threatened to donate any shoes not properly put away to the Goodwill. When I was little, a fun play date included organizing my friend’s bedroom. Clutter physically pains my perfectionist pursuit.

Two small children breed clutter. Abby and Henry are each a complex cornucopia of clutter, from sunrise to nightfall. Backpacks, naked dolls, homework, shoes, school reminders, wet clothes, sippy cups, happy meal toys, snack bowls, rocks, underwear, treasures, hair bows, trucks and trains. And little tiny snippets of paper freshly cut by round-tipped safety scissors.

Hubby contributes admirably to my clutter conundrum. A clean, freshly sanitized counter is his blank palette. The Wall Street Journals set at a diagonal here, a lap top and phone charger there. Grocery store bags on the counter. Look! It’s an abstract, 3D, impressionistic display. Wait, there’s an empty slate over here—a.k.a. the kitchen table—with backpacks, mail and furnace filters, oh my!

I’d like to say I don’t contribute to the clutter. Come on, I’m the one eternally shelving everyone else’s crap. However, my explicit desire and burning need to be, well, perfectly prepared for “the unexpected” leads me to carry suitcase-sized purses. Filled with, you guessed it, clutter (and crap). 4 lip glosses, 2 chapsticks, pen, paper, band-aids, 5 lipsticks, wallet (with every receipt from the past three months), hand sanitizer, phone, Blackberry, 2 lip liners, Tylenol, notebook and Neosporin. Bobby pins, a paper calendar and lotion. And rubber bands. And an extra change of clothes for Henry. Gum.

Not only is my purse pot-calling-the-kettle-blacking me out of the clutter closet, I’m going to need extensive chiropractic hours to recoup my back from hauling this cluttery load.

Therefore, I choose to surrender. I see the children’s clutter as a blueprint of their creative synapses. My purple yoga mat, which is never properly put away, transforms many dreary afternoons into a mystical land of magic carpet rides. It has also transformed both Abby and Henry into big, purple burritos. Instead of physically shuddering when, upon arrival, my husband drops his worldly belongings on the counter, I will embrace the reasons behind his actions. For his stuff dropping (and clutter creation) frees his arms to singly hug and tickle our children as they joyfully dance at his feet.

Ultimately, I choose the people and embrace their essential random bits and pieces. If I successfully counter the clutter chaos, I’m provided with sacred glimpses into who my family is and how their brains work. I don’t always love it, but I inhale, allowing the clutter-filled cornucopia that is my life to joyfully unfurl.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Tooth Fairy's Raise

Last night, the tooth fairy visited our house. Abby lost her first tooth yesterday. “Lost” is a funny word choice, because hubby actually “yanked” it out of her little mouth. He pulled the tooth expertly. I am forever grateful that he was home to do the honors. And Abby, who has been known to bawl when she almost stubs her toe, handled the tooth yanking gracefully.

As you might expect, she proudly displayed the hole in her mouth to anyone who would bother to look. She made chewing gum molds of the new hole. She pulled water into her mouth through the hole and pushed it back out again. She reveled in her new mark of maturation.

Abby was equally excited about the pending arrival of the tooth fairy. She told us that the tooth fairy would wake her up and give her $5 for her tooth.

“Fiver dollars?!?!?” I said. “No, sweetie, she won’t wake you up and she won’t bring $5. But she will bring you something special.”

“Ok, whatever, she’ll bring me something and I’m so excited!!!!”

(Whew. Because if she wasn’t, I was prepared to explain to Abby how the recession affects everyone, even the tooth fairy.)

Night fell. Abby strategically placed her tooth pillow under her big pillow in a spot she was sure the tooth fairy would have no trouble finding. After my darling big girl was soundly asleep, I donned my wings and swooshed into her room. I carefully removed the pillow. I secured the tooth. I slipped a crisp dollar in its place. Mission complete.

I returned to our bedroom with the tooth. At this point, I looked at hubby, who was intensely surfing the web, and held up the yanked tooth.

“We created this tooth.” I said to him.
He rolled his eyes at me.
“Seriously. You and I created it. It’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”

He responded with rapid typing. I guess this physicality is a mom thing—I grew the baby, therefore I grew the gums which sprouted the tooth which now sits in my hand.

The tooth fairy delivered more than just a dollar to Abby. She delivered a moment for reflection to me. I examined the tooth—this talisman of her babyhood. I thought of all the food (and skin) it did its part to bite into. I sentimentally recalled when that little white tooth first peaked through her swollen red gums. I will tell you that I caressed that tooth. Lovingly. The smooth sides and the sharp corners. I noted that Abby had done a nice job with her brushing because the tooth was shiny and clean.

The tooth fairy delivered a reminder that our first born is growing—quickly—and that we must appreciate what was. And look forward to what is coming. Today, adult teeth. Next week, driver’s license. At that moment, I felt cheap for paying only a dollar for the spent baby tooth that sat in my hand. Maybe the tooth fairy has earned herself a raise.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


We’re in Indianapolis for a dear friend’s wedding; hubby arrived about 2 hours before me. His pal picked him up from the airport first, and then they tooled around town. When I arrived, I thought we were going down to Greencastle to get GCB (garlic cheese burger for those of you out of the loop) but learned that the famed Marvin’s restaurant was closed. So I announce to hubby and pal that I’m ravenous.

I notice our pal drinking a soda from a Chipotle cup. “Mmmmmmmm. Chipotle. Come to mama.”, my stomach says. I agree. But then it dawns on me that they rudely went to Chipotle without me! Without even as much as a half-cold chicken-black bean-heavy-on-the-pico de gallo-please-green Tabasco-laden burrito. With a side of chips.

When I inquire, pal tells me that it’s cup from much earlier today. I inspect the said cup and inquire as to why the cup still has condensation on its sides. And why does it still have ice in it if its so stinkin (I really thought F’in here, but I’m keeping it clean for the kids) old.

My Spidey sense kicks in. “You bastards went to Chipotle without me!!!!!”

"No, no, no, no, no, no and no", I’m told. It’s an old cup from way earlier today, etc. I let it drop.

(I must interject here and explain that I love Chipotle and there are no Chipotles in Little Rock. So whenever we go out of town, one of my first considerations is do they have a Chipotle, how far will I be from Chipotle and how quickly can I get there. Dunkin Donuts and Jamba Juice are also on this short list.)

So I ask them if we might go to Chip-po-po. I learn that it’s too far, way too far away, not on the way, out of way, blah blah blah so I’ll have to settle for a fast food joint. I acquiesce, and eat a Burger King hamburger, a ketchup-mustard-heavy pickle-please hamburger.

Then, last night, at a pre-wedding party, I hear my husband recant the day’s events to another friend and he tells her that they ate at Chipotle.

I turn, in slow motion, like a bad-80s TV special effect, to hubby. “You ate at Chipotle!” I yell.


I hear, “I didn’t bring you one because I didn’t know if you’d just eaten and we can go tomorrow” and more blah blah blah.

So, this morning, I’m lying awake, up at 5 am Central time, and I’m thinking through the fun of the night before. And I remember hubby's Chipotle oops.

I got so mad that I almost woke my husband up and confronted him about the Chipotle lie. I almost shook him awake, after he had one of the longest weeks of his professional life, when we’re out of town without kids, to jump down his throat about lying to me about putting Chipotle down his throat and not bringing me any for my throat. It was a lie-inconsideration combo.

I decided to let him sleep. Sleep on, unsuspecting hubby. You’ll have your moment in the Tabasco-laden hot-seat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yesterday Sucked

Yesterday sucked. I am generally a positive, glass half-full, mind-over-matter person. But yesterday, well, it blew. But it didn’t blow chunks, and that’s the best thing I can say about yesterday—no one threw up on me or my bed. I know that in several years, I’ll lament the times I wished these days away; when Henry starts Kindergarten, I’ll reminiscence wistfully about the toddler years. (If I have any doubt, all I need to do is reread my blog entries about Abby’s first days of Kindergarten.) But yesterday, well, it sucked.

Abby has been practicing some new skills she’s picked up from her school friends. One talent she’s floating is the “I’m-the-final-authority” skill. The other, equally charming trait is lying, masquerading as very long jokes. This manifested itself in a battle of wills:

“My teacher told me to hang upside down on the back of the couch. Really.”
“Abby,” I postured, “are you sure that you’re telling me the truth?”
“Yup. Mrs. LaGory told us to do this.”
“Abby. Come on. Please tell me the truth.”
“She did she did she did she really, really, really, really, really, really, did.”
“So,” I countered, “I’ll email her (thank you technology) and ask her why she recommended this odd behavior.”
“No, mommy, don’t ask her. But she did tell us to. Really.”

I eagerly sauntered to my Blackberry to shoot off a trump email to Mrs. LaGory.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” screamed Abby.

A long discussion (the fifth of many) ensued regarding jokes, lying and the truth.

The fun continued (does it ever stop?) with day six of sick Henry. The combination of the plague, potty-training and full-blown two-year-old tantrums rendered me numb. Normally, at this point, I’d enlighten with some illustrative examples. Instead, I will say that I have never, EVER wanted to smack a child as much as I wanted to smack Henry yesterday. (Ok, maybe that urge has been there before…) I had a can of whoop-ass with his name ALL over it. And things haven’t really improved. This morning, when I took a screaming Henry into the bathroom at his preschool, I wearily looked at his teachers and asked them if the bar was open yet. Luckily, they have a sense of humor.

Many times over the last 36 hours I’ve waged guesses as to who has been raising these children. Their behavior couldn’t possibly be any reflection of me or my parenting. Could it? I mean, I gratefully take credit for the wondrous things they do. But the icky, tiring, embarrassing, sassy, loud, tempering, trying and rude stuff? Nope, not me.

Am I really so shallow?

Yesterday, I was. Shallow as the day was long.