Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Back to School

Last weekend, after visiting Manhattan on Saturday, and staying with dear friends for the night in Pelham, we stopped by my alma mater, Fordham, for a brief visit. Usually when we go to the Bronx, I want to go to Mike's pizza, or Ann and Tony's for penne a la vodka, or Butchie's for their chicken sandwich. I love to walk through the Botanical Gardens, or visit the zoo, or walk up Fordham Road or Arthur Ave for a slice of local life. But this Sunday, in the dead of winter, after a very full day on Saturday, all I really wanted to do was walk through campus, and have brunch in the cafeteria, much as I would have twenty years ago.

I charmed the security guard with my true story of being an alum, wanting to visit and buy some Christmas gifts from the bookstore. He allowed us to park for free on campus. (Christmas miracle!) We walked through the biting wind, stopping for a picture in front of Keating Hall, and Daniel actually looked at the camera (miracle number two!) Walking into Keating, memories leapt out at me: the absolute confusion in Calculus, which I promptly dropped for an easier version; the glory of studying with Elizabeth Johnson, one of the premier feminist theologians of our time, as a freshwoman; her asking me to read one of my essays about gender aloud to the class; feeling sometimes slighted as a woman by the Jesuits; feeling enlivened by New York City - that anything was possible.

As we walked around campus I remembered writing for 'the paper,' the alternative campus newspaper, and that they asked me at the end of my freshman year, to be the editor-in-chief. I declined the honor, not wanting the responsibility, but I did keep writing. Looking back, it was good to remember that even then, I was a writer. That fact was obfuscated for awhile, but it has always been a part of who I am.

Brunch was pretty much the same, though they do have a gluten and nut-free station now. I told Carl how I had fought for vegetarian options in my day. Daniel had donuts, ice cream and frozen yogurt, which is probably how I ate when I lived there. "Is it possible to put on the freshman fifteen in one day?" asked Carl as he came back with his third plate of food.

The bookstore was closed, and though I didn't leave with any souvenirs, I did take home a clearer sense of myself, which is probably better than another Fordham t-shirt.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Biggest Party Night of the Year - With Kids

Nothing can stop this family from having a good time
The night before Thanksgiving used to mean meeting friends in a swanky lounge downtown, or a local neighborhood pub, or a sweaty dance club. For a few years, when most of my friends had kids, but I didn't, I held on to this tradition, tried to rally my gang for a night out, unable to accept that things had changed. Now, three years into parenthood myself, I get it. I'm not getting a babysitter for Thanksgiving Eve. Not gonna happen. But as I contemplated the weekend arriving, I wanted to be with friends. My nights in sweaty clubs may be (mostly) on pause, but that doesn't mean I can't see friends. So I took matters into my own hands, brought the party to me.

What the biggest party night of the year looks like, with kids, is this:

Your husband for some reason decides to clean off the top of the fridge for the first time in 10 years, right before everyone arrives, leaving the whole house smelling like bleach. This makes you open the windows even though it's 25 degrees and snowing. He's still vacuuming when people are arriving, since "there will be babies crawling," and though you want to murder him, because who cares if the rug is dirty when the food isn't ready, you remember his mom telling you to never interrupt a man who is cleaning, and remind yourself that it's good to have a clean rug and a sweet husband.

Four other families with youngens come, arriving at 6 pm. You order pizza, cook up some veggies from the CSA, and French fries for the kids. The guests bring crudite with hummus, Greek salad and pumpkin pie. You feast, eating in shifts, some people standing. Parents are used to this. When Rhoda stands, you discover she was sitting on your son's stethoscope. She laughs and said she didn't even feel it. You love her for this.

Daniel, Jacob and Ruthie, ages 3, 3 and 5, eat quickly - only pizza and fries, obviously, and then go play in the living room. When Teddy, age 3 arrives, he joins them. The babies, Trixie, Tyler and Kieran, ages 7 to 12 months, join the fray. After dinner, parents sit on couches, sprawl on the floor, talk in pairs or triads. The moms sit in the dining room for a blessed fifteen minutes and talk about comedy dreams, while the dads manage the mayhem in the living room. A few times you look in the living room and shudder to see every scarf, glove and hat that you own strewn about, along with every lego, toy, musical instrument and book. Oh well, it is the biggest party night of the year.

At 8:15, Lauren starts to pack up baby Trixie, the youngest of the bunch, with the biggest eyes, and most adventurous palate (duck confit, yes please says baby Trixie.) The dads do a crazy cleanup sweep that you wouldn't believe if you hadn't witnessed it. Your living room is restored to order in five minutes. Babies are bundled into car seats, kids into winter clothes. Hugs and kisses are exchanged. Your little guy is jumping on the couch like a maniac, fueled not even by sugar, but by the sheer excitement of Thanksgiving Eve. He's shouting Happy Halloween! Happy Easter! Your husband puts him to bed as you begin cleaning up and cutting up the bread to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner.

No alcohol was served, it was hardly swanky, but it was loud, and full of love, and connection. The only thing missing was dancing. Next year, I'm adding a dance party to the mix.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elvis Has Possessed My Three Year Old

The King lives

A few months ago I asked my son what he wanted to watch on YouTube. Typical answers range from Elmo to Ingrid Michaelson (he's eclectic.) On that particular night he said, "Elvis." I assumed he has watched this with his dad, so I didn't think much of it, and gamely pulled up Elvis Aloha from Hawaii. Later when I mentioned it to Carl, he said, "Yeah, he asked me to watch Elvis the other night, and I assumed you had watched it with him before."

"You mean, this didn't come from you?"


We looked at each other, dumbfounded. Where, then, did our child get the idea to watch Elvis?

Whatever its genesis, my son loves the King. We have watched Elvis Aloha from Hawaii almost every day since then. I have shown Daniel other Elvis footage, the comeback concert in '68, when he's still svelte, dressed in black leather; the classic footage of him shaking his pelvis, causing uproar in 1956; we've even watched the tragic but beautiful Unchained Melody performance, just weeks before his death (at age 42!). But no, the boy is only interested in watching Elvis in Hawaii. Why? I can't really say.

The Hawaii concert makes me a little sad. Yes, he's still the King, but he's clearly high, and has begun his descent into his addiction. Yet he also has moments of clarity, charm, and talent to spare. He's not the man he was in the earlier performances, but vestiges of his prodigious gifts remain. Watching clips from the videos now, I'm struck by his lack of perfectionism, by the fact that he was still working, even in his addiction, until the very end, still offering his gifts to the world.

He may not have been sexy or even coherent all the time, but he was still singing. And my three year old loves it. Go figure.

Thanks. Elvis. You're still the King.

When I asked Daniel what Nalu should be for Halloween, he said, without hesitation, "A hunk of burning love."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Bottle Good Enough?

A still from the simpsons shows a group of moms staring at Marge in horror after she dropped a baby bottle

I'm very excited to share an essay I wrote about breastfeeding, published by Bitch magazine. Please read it if you're interested, and pass it along to any moms who may benefit from my experience.

As always, I love to hear your responses, either here on the blog, by email, or any way you wish to share them. I know many women, like me, have trouble with nursing. Failing at this act that seems like it should be so easy and natural caused me a lot of shame, and pain, at a time when I was vulnerable, hormonal, and sleep-deprived. The judgment from health professionals, other moms, and strangers didn't help. I might still be a tad angry. But writing the article helped. Check it out:

Is Bottle Good Enough?

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Daily Dose of Humor, My Cure for End of Summer Blues

Can't every day be like this?

End of summer. Not my favorite time of year. My prescription for handling this is a daily dose of humor. In addition to all the other necessary self-care: the exercise, the meditation, the sleep, the healthy eating, time by myself, time with friends, time with Carl. Yes, I need all of it, and yes, sometimes it's exhausting. But right now, I also need to laugh.

So here is a link to something that helped me look on the plus side of back to school: Baby Got ClassAnd if you've yet to discover The Lonely Island, Andy Sandberg's comedy group, check them out. My personal favorite of their videos is People Getting Punched Right Before Eating, but there are so many good ones. Warning - most of them are explicit - so don't watch at the office or with your kids.

Please post your favorite funny people or links here. Share the wealth.

Buying something cute for fall helps too - even if it's just one small thing. Just saying.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What If He Wore Pajamas to School?

So apparently the "terrible twos" is a big fat lie and it's actually the "terrible threes." Here I was, thinking we were out of the woods, when the trouble was just beginning.

Okay, it's not all bad

Carl was away for nine days, though it's never easy, this trip coincided with the beginning of what I'll call an ornery phase. A few examples:

D: I want cereal for breakfast.
(upon seeing cereal in his bowl.)
D: I want yogurt for breakfast!!!

Me: Time for bed.
D: It's not time for bed.

Me: I like your haircut.
D: You don't like my haircut.

And then there's getting dressed. What was once a longish, fairly annoying process has become pure torture. For me. In Carl's absence, running late for work, out of patience, I slammed the bedroom door and told him that we weren't leaving his room until he was dressed. This set us up for a show down that left me completely drained, by 8:30 a.m.

Upon recounting this to a friend with adult children, she said, "What if you had just let him wear his pajamas to school?"

Her question stopped me short. I thought about it. "Everyone would have judged me," I said. "All the teachers, and other parents."

My friend paused, then said gently, "Probably not."

I exhaled loudly, realizing two things: she was right, and even if she wasn't, even if they all judged me, the awful fifteen minutes of forcing my child to get dressed was just not worth it. Let them judge.

So now, whenever I start to have a conflict with Daniel, I ask myself, "What if he doesn't: brush his teeth, put on his shoes, eat his carrots, say goodbye, etc?" And most of those battles, I let them go. Because if I'm going to survive the threes with any serenity, I'm going to have to pick my battles.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Goodbye to Age Two

A tender moment
On my son’s third birthday, I’m feeling a bit wistful. Even though I do NOT miss infancy, (I barely survived it with my sanity intact,) when I kissed my boy goodnight last night and said, this is the last time I’ll see you when you’ll be two, my heart caught in my throat.

I never know when these moments will happen. His first birthday came and went with no feelings. But when I turned his car seat from backwards to forward facing, I burst into tears, realizing, he’ll be riding forward for the rest of his life!

He threw a doozy of a tantrum on the eve of his third birthday as if to remind me just what I wouldn’t miss. But for the most part, I loved age two. I loved the sweetness of it. We’d be riding along in the car, and he’d shout from the backseat, “Mommy – school bus!” or “Bridge!” or “Digger!” So much about ordinary everyday life is so fresh and exciting for him, and he has the words to express it. I enjoy his growing independence, his ability to walk distances, put on shoes, pull up pants, climb in and out of the car. He’s not always cooperative, of course not, but he’s rather reasonable for a kid, and will often compromise, or strike some sort of deal. (Yes, toddlers should teach negotiation skills in law and business school.) Two was fun.
He's three!

One of my friends says each stage of a child’s life has gains and losses. I’m sure age three will have things I’ll like – goodbye diapers – and some things I won’t. I’ll try to keep focusing on the positive, enjoying the gifts of three and remembering that all we ever have is the present. 

As much as I may want to freeze him in time, in this sweet innocent phase, I can’t, and I don’t really want that anyway. The best I can do is to stay present as much as possible, and enjoy each moment as it unfolds, and when sadness arises, welcome that too, as part of being alive.

What did you love about age three? Any tips for the hard parts?  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Giving up Rushing for Lent (Again)

Two very wise creatures

Now that Lent is almost over, I can confess that I have given up rushing (again) and that I forgot that I had done this last year. So, there is still work to be done here. Yes, when driving. My instinct when driving is to increase speed when the light turns yellow, to go at least five miles an hour above the speed limit, to never wait behind someone making a left hand turn if it can be avoided. I have experimented over the past few weeks with noticing these impulses, and sometimes doing the opposite. The interesting thing is that waiting behind that car in the left lane is not that bad. It doesn’t take me any longer to get places than it does when I rush, and when I arrive, I am much calmer. Hm.
Besides on the road, the time I notice the most rushing is in the morning with my son. No wonder our mornings can be so unpleasant and full of conflict when I’m always rushing us. I realized that part of the reason for this is that we have to get to school by a certain time for him to eat breakfast there. So I experimented for the past two days, and fed Daniel at home, and it changed my whole attitude about our morning. I didn’t care nearly as much about when we arrived at school. Interestingly, we actually got there in time for breakfast, but the whole morning leading up to it was so much more pleasant for both of us.

Lent is almost over, but I hope to take these lessons with me. Rushing only makes me less happy, and doesn’t get me there any faster. Maybe Mr. Rogers was right about taking our time, like he was right about so many things.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Just pretty. No relation to text.
Seriously, it's a good question.

Well, for the past month, I've mostly been sick with headaches. You can read more about that at 4 Broads. I am thrilled to say that I have been headache free for five straight days, which I think means the cycle is broken, and I'm on the road back to health. Goddess-willing.

I've also been writing a lot about breastfeeding, and one of those articles is going to be published in Bitch magazine - yippee - as soon as I finish writing it.

I've been editing lots of work for other people. If you need help with editing, or know someone who does, please contact me. I love editing other people's writing. It gives me some kind of sick satisfaction. So much easier than creating my own work.

But yes, I'm still creating my own work. I'm finishing up my first novel. For real this time. I'm working on poems and essays, and even a 10 minute play.

I have a new website in the works too.

So that's a little about me. What are you up to this spring? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

9 Ways to Like Winter More

Nalu and I huddle for warmth
Okay, it will never be my favorite time of year. I don’t love that I have to wear a knit hat and four layers of clothes, inside my house, just to stay reasonably warm. But I’m trying to look at the bright side.
Work with me, people!

1) Plan fun events. Carl and I have concert tickets for Feb. 28. My mom and I are going to see a favorite writer speak next week. I have two birthday parties coming up. In winter, I can't rely on fun just happening, I need some guarantees. Plans help.

2) Get a vacation on the calendar. Even if it's not until July, you can start dreaming about it now. My mom and I just bought plane tickets to Paris for April, and boy has that put a spring in my step.

3) Spend time outside. I know, it's freezing - literally. We still need fresh air. Bundle up and take the dog, the kid, or yourself for a walk. Even 20 minutes will help. I promise.

4) Have things that force you to leave the house at night. It gets dark so early. If I'm home, I'm likely to curl up in front of the TV, which is okay sometimes. But if I have a plan to meet a friend or hear a lecture, I may have to drag myself out of the house, but I'm always glad I did.

5) Start a book club or coffee clatch or sewing circle. I really wanted a writing group and I couldn't find one that worked for me. Desperate, I started one, inviting a few friends and acquantainces. Not only does it get me out of the house every other Thursday, I get to share the joy and struggle of writing with people who understand. Priceless.

6) Appreciate time to hibernate. Catch up on Oscar nominees, Downtown Abbey, whatever you missed while you were enjoying those long summer nights.

7) Take up a winter sport. Ice skating, skiing, snowboarding: these are things that could help me to enjoy winter. (So they say. I've yet to try this one.)

8) Take baths, sip hot tea, make soup. Strictly winter pleasures.

9) Visit museums. Winter is the perfect time to rediscover the joy of dinosaur bones or Matisse or medical oddities.

What have I missed? Seriously, I need help with this one.