Thursday, February 25, 2010

Time Out Thursday

In honor of Theta Mom's Time Out Thursday (, I delightfully relived my last night's outing...

I took the train into Manhattan to visit with some dear family friends. In order to do so, I finagled and favored my children to others, switched car pools, etc. (My friends rock!)

I showered (gasp), adorned my face with artistically applied make-up AND THEN dressed in some hot mama clothes. I took the train into the city; I sat, by myself, with a book and magazine and my iPod and my Blackberry and my thoughts. Sometimes I watched the changing topography. Others I zoned. Then I'd read. I did whatever the hell I wanted. Pure, uninterrupted joy.

Once in the city, I felt so elegant and hip dashing off to the Waldorf to join my friends. When my cab pulled up, the flags on the front of the esteemed, grand hotel greeted me with brisk waves and snaps. I sauntered in (oh yeah, I sauntered) and breathed in the hotel air, heavy with past conversations, steeped in every imaginable emotion. Then, HUGS when I saw my dear friends. Rapid fire conversation darted from one catch-up to the next. Then, we went to a restaurant that serves raw food--I've never eaten raw before but found it delightful, healthy and delish. Phenomenal jewelry appeared on the table because one of women with whom I dined (a new friend!) owns and designs an eclectic, beautiful jewelry line. I drooled over the fabulous and unique pieces.

Candle lit flickers danced amongst our voices and hearts. The evening ebbed; we started many conversations that we did not finish. Another time, another place, we'll pick up. More hugs, goodbye tears and kisses chased me out the restaurant door to my cab.

As I periously navigated through the train station, many thoughts ricocheted through my head. I noted the hordes of people who were actually awake at 10:15 pm. (This evening I'd broken out of my normal routine--jammies by 8 pm, asleep by 9:30 pm-- and I felt giddy seeing how this part of the night lives and moves.) My giddiness switched to despair when fronted with the homeless people who congregate at the station. They accosted my senses. My insular life rarely encounters people who don't shower because they don't have a shower. I give a small prayer of thanks for my life, and one for theirs. I wondered what events brought each of these homeless people to this moment in their life. I wondered if they were happy.

On the ride home, I sat, cocooned in the train car, swaddled by my thoughts and dreams.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Henry's Tennies

Sunday morning, I was engrossed in my newest book (more to come on that later). The kids tromped in from a early morning snow romp. Snow pants, hats, gloves and mismatched boots covered the mud room floor. Right as I read a part that forced tears to well in my eyes, I finally acknowledged the small voice that repeated, at least four times,

"Can someone pwease help me with my tennis shoes?"

Henry. Henry, who used to despise his tennis shoes, now won't go a second without them. And, because he's three, and from a generation of faithful Croc wearers, he has no idea how to get the tennies on, never mind tie them.

So I joined him and sat on the last stair, in my flannel PJs and sweatshirt. My crazy, curly, morning hair hung in my eyes. Henry sat on the floor, in his Woody PJs (These are his Toy Story PJs. He frequently tells me he has Woody pants. I know this juicy tidbit will come in handy someday...mean mommy). His own blond, crazy mop gave mine a run for its money. I loosened the laces, pulled out the tongue and said,

"This is the tongue. You have to pull it out to make room for your foot."

"Oh", he whispered, "the tongue." He smiled at me like I'm the smartest woman in the world. I didn't correct him.

His still-chubby cheeks radiated the early morning light which crept in through the blinds.

I got the laces ready, then Henry's agile, soft hands heartily tightened the laces with a confident zip. Simultaneously, he pulled on the strings of my heart, soul, lungs and probably my liver. It was one of those moments. The quiet, the calm, the love and joy all palpable. I wanted yell, "Freeze!" and stop the passing seconds on the clock.

Henry stood up. He smiled with dimpled cheeks and said, "Danks, Momma."

We hugged. He dashed off wearing his super-fast exercise shoes. Gone.
I was tongue-tied. These small, seemingly mundane moments--the ones I didn't expect or know to expect--stop me in my whirling dash. They reach out, grab my heart, and squeeze. Hard.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Not By the Hair on MY Chinny-Chin Chin.

This morning, Abby and I stood in Henry's room, by the windows. She hugged me. She pulled back and looked up at me. I expected her to say, "Momma, I love you". But instead, she stared at me. More specifically, she stared at my upper lip.

"Mommy", she said, "you have thingys up there."

"Where?" I answered in a panic, knowing that one of my vanity fears was about to unfold.

"Right there", she answered, pointing directly at the hairs on my upper lip. "Maybe you should shave those", she suggested as she sauntered her blond-body-haired-body out of the room.


A direct correlation exists between the darkening of the hair on my face and my age. With each passing year, the hair on my face not only gets darker, it multiplies and brings friends. Lots and lots of little, dark, stubborn, impervious-to-bathroom-light-friends. They used to only populate my eyebrows and upper lip, and my chin-scar (sweet). But now, well, no place on my face is safe. Nothing is sacred!

(A side note here--my favorite well-lit spot to inspect for these devilish bastards is in the car mirror. I pull out of the garage, sit in the driveway and eliminate those little buggers. One day, I'll be clean and hair-free. Then two days later I'll check my lovely mug and learn that my face is littered with dark hairs, taunting me with their stealth return.)

I've even gone this far: just in case I'm ever in a coma
, I've given my best friend explicit hair-removal instructions. Of course I want her to send love, warmth, good vibes, talk to me, etc. But her other priority is to keep my face hair-free. No small task--waxing, plucking, lowering the lights, whatever it takes. The thought of lying there, unconscious is horrible. The thought of lying there, unconscious, with black hairs waving at my doctors, nurses and visitors throws me over the edge.

I used to admonish women in their 60's and 70's who sprouted hair-gardens on their chinny-chin-chins. "Geesh,", I'd think to myself, "get yourself a mirror and bright light and tame that beard." Now, I'm ashamed of my naive judgments. Hairy karma now repays me with own Chia chin garden at 37. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Julie & Julia & Me

This weekend I saw the movie Julie & Julia for the first time. I LOVED IT. An inspiring film--one that confirms, among other things, my belief that butter is bliss. (I always feel safe and secure when I possess plenty of butter--a sheet of cookies is never far when butter is near.) Not only did the movie confirm that is butter bliss, but also...things take time. And marriage goes down and hopefully, back up again. This movie resonated not only because I enjoy cooking (with butter), but because I love to write. In the movie, Julie starts a blog detailing her daily cooking journey through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In the end, Julie does what she loves and as a result, writes a wildly successful book that becomes a wildly successful movie. Love that for her and aspire to these same writing successes myself.

The movie delivered more than just an identifiable story line--it gave me a gift. A gift I will forever store in my heart and reexamine like a beautiful piece of sea glass. Just in case you, like me, wait years to watch popular movies, here's a quick background: Julia Child married the love of her life when she was 40 but never had children.
In a brief yet powerful scene, Julia learns of her sister's pregnancy. Through aching tears, she tells her husband the news and tries to convince of her joy, despite her grief, for her sister. As I watched, I held my breath. I cried, too. Because when I was 19, doctors told me to procreate by the time I was 25 and maybe I'd get lucky (no pun intended). I didn't meet hubby until I was 28 (no pressure) and we married just a month after my 30th birthday. I'm gratefully on the other side of this story and I've given birth to two, healthy miracles. The gift of perspective this movie afforded holds me captive, reminding me, through Julia Child's pain, what might not have been.

Now, I reflect on my last week with my children. Last week, the sound of their constant chatter and screams exhausted me. Last week my children physically accosted each other.
At one point I hid on the floor, behind the kitchen island, so they wouldn't see me and ask for everything with a side of juice. Last week the only sound that exited my daughter's mouth seeped with sarcasm and sass (see No Answers). Last week sucked. Last week I sucked. After watching Julie & Julia, this numbing perspective descended: How would I feel if I didn't get to experience this life as a mother? What if I'd never met Abby and Henry...and what if they weren't my children?

My children inspire me to write. To learn. To swear. To remember myself in this motherhood madness. To ask forgiveness. To tout my strengths and learn from my weaknesses. To reexamine the beauty of a slushy mud puddle.
The days are long and arduous, but I am a mother. Humbled, daily, by what I've yet to learn and grateful for the exquisite opportunity to travel this bumpy, potholey, emotional, joyous path with them, my children.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Answers

I am a mother of a daughter. I realize, with the passing of each day, that this is one HARD job. She's just six. She delights in one moment and fumes in the next. She seems annoyed a lot, about a lot of things. She sighs. She slumps. She cries about happenings I would describe as small and insignificant. When I inquire about her feelings, asking why she feels the way she does, she gives age-appropriate answers but not emotionally insightful ones, i.e., I don't think she's acquired the vocabulary to give her own articulate, state-of-the-emotional-union.

Do I push too hard? Do I not motivate enough? Am I too harsh? Am I squelching her spirit? I have many questions. But for now, the biggest help comes from this admission: I don't know. I don't have the right answer, the right words, the right strategy.

My words, which used to calm like a salve, now seem to incite like a red flag to a bull. My patience, of which very little remains, seems to offer no reprieve. Maybe, if I could remember what it what felt like to be six, and in first grade, I could reflect and find some answers. Even if I could rely on my memory, I doubt it would offer much insight because Abby and I, we're different. Same last name, same gene pool, same face. However, she's on her own unique journey and I'm on mine. We're lucky enough to meet here, now, to travel together.

Tonight, her pouty, whiney mood escalated to a grand crescendo. After I read her a great new book (another attempt to guide her on her journey), we snuggled, as we always do. She started fake crying (again) and whimpering (again) about how uncomfortable she was. (This came after two hours of the same sighing, whining and groaning.) I grabbed her shoulders and said, very sternly,

"If you are uncomfortable, then get yourself comfy. NOW. These things are NOT worth crying about. A broken arm, worth a cry. No clothes, no house, no money to go to the doctor or eat, all worth a tear. But not this. STOP!"

I tried to shake her out of it. I wanted to slap her out of it--but fortunately, patience paid a visit again and I did not. Instead, I pulled her body on top of mine. Her ear lay suctioned on my chest. If she chose to listen, she would've heard my heart beat. Hopefully she deciphered its Morse code message:

"I love you."
"I am here."
"I support you."
"You are intelligent, special and gifted."

I took her back to our beginnings. Tranquil. Warm. Heat beat. Peaceful. Her breaths lengthened, her body heavy. She slept. I stayed still, soaking up the moment.

I still have no answers. But tonight, Abby and I broke through to a peaceful end. Goodnight, Abby. I love you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thoughts About Poop

I didn't ever think that so much of my time as a parent would involve actions, thoughts and strategies surrounding poop. When I reached the blissful plateau of parenthood, the part where neither of my kids wore diapers anymore (except for Henry, who still wears one at night, but doesn't poop in there), I thought I'd pass from poopville to pleasantville.

No such luck.

You see, my daughter, Abby, suffers from self-imposed constipation. She's six. In order to get her to poop, we deployed a stringent poop plan. Three-times-a-day for five minutes each, she's got to sit on the pot. We set a timer. She's got to relax, read and hopefully, yes, poop. And for some reason, she bellows for me when the event commences with poop so I can wipe her. Hubby asked me the other day,

"Why are you wiping her?"

Great question, dear. And I'll spare you the nasty details of my answer. But the point here is that I shouldn't be wiping her! Next time she bellows, I think I'll bellow back,

"You're six! Wipe your own ass!"

Onto Henry. He's three. He poops brilliantly. With regularity and ease. And I, my dear friends, still wipe him. (I'm beginning to see the roots of my problem.) I wipe him because I'm a clean-freak and on the occasions he's attempted to wipe himself, he's been a little bit less than neat. (Again, sparing you the gross visuals.)

There are several occurrences which always act as laxatives for my children:

1. Mommy sits down to a warm meal. Time to poop.
2. Mommy reads Peggy Noonan's article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal. Gotta go.
3. Mommy herself uses the throne. (Even though we have more than one toilet, Henry has a favorite potty. And his pick-of-the-day is ALWAYS the toilet that I'm using, right at that EXACT moment.)

And since I've gone down this disgusting road of writing about poop, I'll share one last thought: why is it an impossibility for me to poop privately? By myself? With no commentary, interruptions or loud house-shaking thuds on the bathroom door? My kids can be happily playing in the furthest corner of the house. I glance cautiously over my shoulders...I tiptoe into the bathroom. I hesitantly, quietly close the door. Before my buns even make it to sitting, they've found me. They're desperate for food, mitigation, hugs or answers. And to prove the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, I'll close with an example.

My mom visited us (just last month, when I was, like I still am, 37-years-old). I decided it was time to start cooking. I started calling for her. "Mom!" Pause. "Mom???" Pause. "MOOOOMMMMM??? Where ARE you?" I escalated and frantically started searching for her. "Where could she be?" I murmured to myself. Louder now, I yelled, "MOM???". I heard a faint voice, rising up from under the bathroom door. "In here honey", the voice said. I profusely apologized to my mother. I sank to the floor, defeated. Apparently this phenomenon spans generations and perseveres through the ages. I'm never going to the bathroom by myself, without interruption, for the rest of my life.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Charles's Muses

I've been watching my children. I feel like they're futuristic muses in Darwin's lab, helping the old chap solidify his research. Abby physically dominates her brother so she can deploy the elevator button first. I see Henry wallop his sister when she kiboshes his plans. If Abby is mid-sentence, Henry will start talking more loudly, at the exact same time, to make sure I address his immediate needs.

I've been listening, too. These phrases repeat frequently at my house:

"I won!"
"I did it better!"
"You're slowing me down!"
"I'm hungry I'm hungry I'm hungry I'm hungry."
"Do it my way."
"I didn't get my waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy!"

Everyday, these Darwinian beings illustrate the Survival of the Fittest theory. They kick, scream, yell and posture to ensure they rise above the rubble of the moment and persevere, securing their spots on the evolutionary train.