Dear Jack

This is your mom. You know, the one who birthed you. Remember me? Sometimes I make you dinner – but most times I buy you dinner. Does that ring a bell? Oh I know! I’m the one who talks to herself all day saying things like, ” lights out!” “wash your face” and the classic, “you can’t wear those shorts again”. Yep. That’s me.

Ok so I know summer is in full swing and you have lots of plans. Which, btw, I love. You don’t know this but our calendars are synced – so every morning I get a reminder of your “to do” list. Today was:

  1. 20 sit-ups
  2. find rope swing place
  3. go to pool
  4. edit video

Whenever it pops up I’m inspired to make my own list – but it wouldn’t be as fun. It would be something like:

  1. defrizz hair
  2. drink 4 cups of coffee and have a carb
  3. go to meeting
  4. go to next meeting

Not that great.

I’m so happy you and your friends are out on your bikes everyday. You’ve found a way to get to the pool and to most of your friends’ houses without going on major roads – thank you for that. I love your intense desire for independence and adventure. I hope you are always always like this. Yes, I know it’s a dangerous world with dangerous people – but you aren’t afraid and so that makes me less afraid.

And now that we have some summer days under out belt, I have some new rules:

  • Your phone is meant primarily for…get ready for this…communicating via voice or text. When you are gone for hours and I write you a text in all caps – that means I’m worried for your life. Please write back. PLEASE. Thank you.
  • Stop carrying things while you’re riding a bike – it’s dangerous. This goes for basketballs, money, a tripod, etc. Please put these things in the empty backpack that’s on your back meant exactly for this purpose.
  • Icees and slushies are not food. If it’s neon blue or green – it doesn’t count as a meal.
  • Get back to the house while it’s still light means I want  you home before it’s dark – it doesn’t mean that you should ride your bike at night with your phone flashlight on. Nice try.
  • Remember I have eyes everywhere. So make good choices. (also your sister follows your snapchats and she is even more protective of you then me so you’ll have to deal with that).

So, to close…Go. Explore. Have fun. Be safe. Keep sending me pics of your day – I live for those photos.  And for god’s sake, text me back!

xoxo   

    
 

A gem

  
I take a lot of pictures of my kids. Like an abnormal amount. I have a ton of albums and suitcases full of loose photos. I take a ton of pics. Still do. How can I not? First of all they are super cute, and I know I’m not supposed to say that, but #truth. Second of all it makes me happy. So there. 

All our relatives make fun of the way we’ve trained our kids. As soon as I take a camera out, they take position and smile. Usually when they don’t want to. But they do it for their crazy mama.

Every year of their lives is fully documented. Even before social media. That’s why I was so surprised when I got this picture. Taken at the home of a sister friend years and years ago. 

A new picture from those days, a picture I had not taken is like finding a treasure. She sent it to me this afternoon and I’ve been staring at it ever since. 

Kera intensely doing a craft – Jack smiling with his chunky cheeks – both of them golden brown. Where they back from the beach? What was that day? Where was I? 

I thought I owned every picture taken of my kids. It’s a sweet surprise to see otherwise. Thank you aunt Katherine! Xoxo

Don’t read this before, during or after a meal

There was a smell. It was coming from my son’s room. Not the usual shoe smell that I’ve come to terms with. Or the pee-like smell that I’ve also encountered. This was much much worse.

Rotting eggs. Throw-up. Someone throwing up rotting eggs. That’s what it was like.

I am going to be very honest here. I haven’t been to his room in about a week. I wasn’t avoiding it or anything – but he dresses himself (when he wears clothes) and I say goodnight to him downstairs (because it’s the summer and he doesn’t like to go to bed at 9:30pm like I do).

I may not have actually gone into his room, but I know I’ve passed it these past few days – like when I follow him to the bathroom to watch him brush his teeth or when I do a spot check when he’s in the shower to make sure he’s actually standing under the running water. See, I parent.

But this morning I walked past it and almost passed out. You know when you can taste a smell? Like every good mother of an almost 12-year-old I told him to go in there, bring down all the dirty dishes and figure out what the smell is, while I stayed safely downstairs. He said,” what smell?”.

I bit the bullet and went with him. Into the room. It was a sight to see. He lives like a squatter in there. A well dressed squatter with cable.

We took out all the caked on/baked on/tried up dishes that he collects like a hobby. We stripped his bedding and took out all the trash (in the actual trash can and all around the room). He felt very satisfied after this decided to take off to the pool. I was in a daze. Feeling guilty for obviously neglecting this kid and his living situation for so long. How could I let it get this bad?

I decided to go downstairs and pretend we did everything we could. I told myself I hardly even smelled it anymore. Then my daughter walked by it and said,” what happened in Jack’s room? It smells like throw-up and it’s coming into my room”. Great.

I went back up to his room and got on my hands and knees and started smelling parts of the carpet. I have no dignity.

Under his desk was the bag he uses to take to the pool – he must have forgotten to grab it when he escaped. As I picked it up, white curd dripped onto my hand. I would have screamed but my mouth had shut itself from fear. Inside was the bottle of milk I had given him to take to the pool last weekend. Not last weekend as in yesterday. The weekend before that! I quickly took the bag into the bathroom and put it in the sink until I calmed myself down. Why don’t I own a hazmat suit? Or a mask?

I decided there would be no “cleaning” it. I went and got a garbage bag – it was time to say goodbye to the pool bag. It was over. DOA. As I put it in the trash – I noticed 3 dollar bills in the inside pocket covered with the horrific white curd. I could hear my mother in my head,” just clean it off, its money. You can’t throw out money.” I also heard another voice. The one that said,”pretend you didn’t see it. It’s not a $20 dollar bill. Give it to the universe.” I liked that voice better.

Once the bag was out of the house I hosed down his room with Lysol. And then Febreze. And then I put a layer of baking soda on the carpet. Pray for me.

Thanks for letting me get that out of my head. Don’t have milk with dinner. Or cottage cheese. Or Gorgonzola. Sorry.

P.S. – you know it’s bad when I can’t take a picture of it. I’ve taken pictures of cat poop. This was worse. It was a crime.

Ch Ch Changes

It’s October 3rd. September has been quite a month – full of surprises and change. Nothing new for us. The end of last year was full of changes for our family too. I quit my job after 8 years and started with a new company right before Christmas. My husband was offered a work-from-home gig and jumped on the chance to not commute after decades of trains, planes and automobiles.

Then January through July were a haze. I was traveling a lot for work, which was perfect because my husband and kids were getting into their new “being home together all the time routine”. I was all, “good luck with that, I’ll be in Newport Coast for the week. It’s you, the kids and Common Core. Bye!” It all worked out – no one died. We made it through the winter and spring and then summer was a lot of fun.

We were just hitting our stride and then boom. This is how our life works. For as long as I’ve known my husband, and well before we had our kids, this is our life works. We like to shake it up – or things get shaken up for us. Every change we’ve ever made has come from a small seed of an idea that we can’t let go of. Wanna get hitched and then have a baby in our 20s? Sure. Wanna move out of the city to a town we’ve never heard of? Why not! Wanna have another baby even though I’ll have to quit my job? Let’s do it!

Some changes were our whacked out decisions, and some changes were out of our control. We just had to roll with it.

For the past decade or so (this is not an exaggeration) – I’ve heard my husband say that he’d love to get out of his profession. That the world of finance isn’t making him happy. But because he’s a workhorse, and because it’s been good for our family, he would never walk away. He went from one stressful job to another and made the best of it. But then September started. And slowly a get-away plan emerged. His group was being shuffled and his position would now be based out of NYC. But the kids and i had gotten used to him being home. And he was loving the freedom of not being in an office. Not spending his life on a train. He was going to karate practices, doing pick-up after band rehearsal – getting to know his kids (and they got to know him) in a completely different way. Good, bad and ugly.

It was very much like my childhood. My parents had actual 9-5 jobs for a very short time, then my dad started his own business and never looked back. My mom was either helping him or home with us – actually they were both home with us. I don’t remember a time when my dad was out of the house for more than a few hours a day. It was unusual and wonderful. They were also risk takers. My dad was a pharmacist who could have made a very safe living his whole life, but he tried something different. He took a chance. The irony is that my entire childhood I thought of them as the most boring, risk-averse people – they drive their cars slow and live their lives quietly. Now I think they were absolutely bohemian (I feel my sister rolling her eyes). But really, they marched by the beat of their own drum. And it wasn’t all good – there were failures along with the successes – but they tried. They moved us around. They uprooted our schooling. Money went up and down – but it wasn’t boring. That’s for sure.

Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of change. It doesn’t really rock my world. Not because I was unhappy before, or looking for the change – but because I know it’s not always bad. Or maybe I’m just dead inside. Just kiddin’.

Because I am my parent’s daughter, I’m constantly thinking of businesses that we can run. After my son was born and I decided to stay at home, I even started one of those businesses. A wedding planning company that did pretty well for three years. I loved it. I only stopped doing it because of another change that came out of nowhere. A phone call from an old colleague who had a job for me. A good job. The only caveat – it was two states away. A job that would force my husband to quit his well paying job if we took the move. Normal people would have laughed and said,”no way”.  But my husband and I,who wouldn’t know what to do in a casino if we tried, took another gamble. We said yes. And it worked out really really well. We loved our new town. The kids loved their new schools. My husband found another job right away, and I was happy with my new job. For a little while. But in the back of my mind, I was always thinking of what “we could start”. Even though my husband is the total opposite of my wandering nature, he got into it too. We would look at empty store fronts and imagine what we could do. We would have hour long discussions about the kinds of things that would work there. Then, like the lunatics we are, we’d even call the renters and ask how much the space cost. You know, normal stuff you do on a Friday night. While you and your husband are out at fancy restaurants and enjoying life, we’re researching franchise options and coming up with company names.

So last month when his job location shifted, we jumped on our chance. Well, I jumped and dragged him along. It was Friday night, we were doing our usual “this is a business that could work” routine – and he left the room to order pizza for the kids. That’s when I pulled the trigger for him and applied for all the legal paperwork for his new company. No joke. He came back into the living room and I said,” it’s done. You just started a company”. Instead of divorcing me like a normal person would do – he sat down and started a business plan. The only thing that saves my crazy is his crazy.

A month later, he’s ready to launch the website and dive in. And I would tell you what it is, but it’s not my gig. It’s his. I’m pretty sure he’ll go postal that I’ve even talked about it at all. But as always, I’ll take the gamble.

Manners, Manners

Manners are a big deal in my house. We use please and thank you so often that it sometimes sounds like a verbal tick. I grew up in a very quiet, polite home. My husband grew up in a very loud, polite home. His family wasn’t soft spoken (and isn’t) but they were always quick with a thank you. When we had kids we weren’t exactly sure what the “rules” of our house were going to be. We kinda just made it up as we went along. When we heard other parents talk about the things that their kids were allowed and not allowed to do – sometimes we felt horrible for the kids living through that regime, and sometimes we stole their ideas and rules. But not a lot of them. The only thing I really worried about was stranger danger and not-so-stranger danger. Other than that – we were open to most things. And unlike my parents house, our house is not quiet. We yell. We scream. We laugh. We cry. The full spectrum of the emotional rollercoaster is experienced on most days. We’re human afterall. 

When my daughter was born and I went back to work, we carefully picked a nanny we thought would follow our small list of rules. When we discovered that she was letting a 1 year gnaw on a hot dog while swinging in the park and then washing that down with a milk shake from an illegal visit to Mickey Ds – we were horrified. Just because we weren’t helicopter parents didn’t mean we wanted our kid eating that crap. We lived in NYC for goodness sake – the park was on the Upper East Side. Other nannies were bringing blenders to puree fresh smoothies in the park. If you’re wondering how she got caught, I’ll give you one word. Wrappers. My husband found the paraphernalia in our garbage of all places. Not only was she breaking our sad little list of rules, but she was a moron to boot. Suffice it to say, we gave her the boot. I was young back then and didn’t enjoy a verbal conflict like I do now, and my husband for all his tough guy demeanor can never be mean to anyone he pays for a service. So we let her go without addressing the problem. That’s how we rolled back then.

As she got older and then we had our boy, we held fast to only a few of those early family laws. I don’t want to alarm anyone but we never once bought a lock for our kitchen cabinets and our corners were never padded. Anywhere. My kids were allowed to play on the street. They were, and are, allowed to ride their bikes pretty freely. My daughter has navigated the public transit system alone – something a few of our adult friends don’t do. My son often rides a skateboard or scooter on busy roads. Do we worry about that stuff and pray for their safety? Yes we do. It’s like a full time job. Praying and worrying. But do we say they are “not allowed” to do that? Nope.

You know what they aren’t allowed to do? Speak rudely and not be polite. Manners are numero uno, followed by kindness, and just ahead of humor in terms of importance in our house. We don’t ask for something without a please before or after. When someone hands you something – anything – it should be followed by a thank you. In our house, if you are in the downstairs room all the way to the right and someone in the upstairs room all the way to the left sneezes, make sure they hear you say bless you. In fact you usually know if someone in the house is mad at you because you’ve sneezed and it was followed by silence. The horror!

I don’t go around expecting everyone to follow the same rules as our family, and I have no doubt that even with our politeness rules – my kids, my husband and I are are rude sometimes. Perfection – incase you haven’t read my blog before – isn’t what I’m aiming for in life. I’d like to just get through the day and maybe laugh a bit. Those are my goals. And to eat carbs with reckless abandon. But that’s another story.

And although I’d like to go on a tirade about how rude the world outside is, the truth is that most people are polite. For example, this morning on the train into work, in a very very packed car – a woman walked in with her two small kids and a big bag. Instead of looking down or staring out the window, no less than 4 people stood up to give them seats and offered to help with the bag. One man even offered to give a woman who’d gotten up for the other woman his own seat! I mean, come on! This is politeness gone wild. I would have happily given up my seat but I was stuck like a sardine next to an older Asian woman. It’s a well-known fact to those who ride a commuter rail that older Asian women do not give up seats. No sir. I don’t care if they are from China or India or Nepal. It’s not a racist observation. It’s a Continental truth. And since I will eventually become one of those older Asian women, I can say that. Although you can argue that if you are older, you deserve the seat. You’ve earned the seat. Asian or not. Fair enough.

I was just so happy to see that this group of strangers on the train took care of this woman. These were probably also the same people who would help a tourist in need without rolling their eyes, or wave when you let their car go first at an interection. These were good people. 

When the woman finally sat down and situated the kids, one of them sneezed, and there was a symphony of bless yous in the train car. I wasn’t surprised at all. 

Second best decision ever

11 years ago my husband and I met one of his cousins to go on a skiing trip. They brought their two-year old twin boys and 4-year-old girl – who was best buds with our 4-year-old girl.

Before that weekend we had decided that one kid was perfect for us.  We loved our baby girl. She fulfilled every paternal and maternal need we had.  We were a tight little unit of 3 and we were happy.

Then we went away and everything changed. I don’t know if it was the way the three siblings in the other family clung together, or if it was my husband telling funny stories about his sisters, or maybe it was the memory of how happy I was when my mother told me I was finally going to be a big sister at age 11. Whatever the trigger was, then and there we decided our little girl needed one other person in the world that would share part of her history.

One other person that could understand how frustrating her mother could be, or how nutty her father was, or why we have cake for breakfast on our birthdays. A partner. An ally. Someone who knew what the house that she grew up in smelled like on Saturday mornings. Someone she could be angry at and say mean things to and still be able to sit down to dinner with and laugh. Yep. We needed to have another baby.

I got pregnant a few weeks later.

10 years ago today, I woke up at 4am on a Saturday morning and went into labor. I was supposed to go pumpkin picking that day with my girl and one of my best friends who had come to visit. Instead, my husband and I left them to go to the hospital.

The weather was exactly like it is today, cold and crisp. We lived in Upstate New York and the leaves had changed late that year – so everything was shades of orange and red.

He came like a bullet – in about an hour once I started pushing. And like a bullet, there was some major damage afterwards (I’ll save that for another post).

Since then he’s been a whirl of energy, emotion, comedy and activity. He’s always moving. Even in his sleep he’s moving. He’s smart and quick and always late for something. He says things like,” I love my life.” and “I want to be a kid forever”. Then I go cry in a corner.

And he loves, no adores, his sister. Both are Scorpios, if you believe that sort of thing (I do), but on different ends of the spectrum. She’s easy to trust, warm, welcoming and ready for anything. He’s guarded, careful and likes his routines. Bookends of our family.  Our perfect unit of 4.

So Happy Birthday to our little man. We had no idea how much we really needed you.

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This is what keeps me going

Last night my daughter came home from school and plopped on the couch.

She’s still getting back into the swing of high school hours. As am I.

She smiled big and said,” guess what happened today?”

Here’s why I love these moments: a) it means she’s going to share something with me…actually TELL me something – verbally!  And b) it’s probably something positive since bad news is delivered via text (it’s written in the 14-year-old code of behavior).

Back to her story. She found $20 on the stairs at school yesterday morning. So, she tells me matter-of-factly, she took the money to the office and gave it to the receptionist. The nice lady told her to stop by at the end of the day – if no one had claimed the money – it was hers. At this point in the story, she whipped out the bill and smiled big.

“That was so nice of you to bring it to the office” I said, to which she replied,” it could have been someone’s lunch money and I really felt bad for them.”

Small story, I know. But it made me feel so good.

Let me tell you a secret. When I look at my daughter, here’s the face I still see….

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and this one

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This will help you understand why I wanted to cry and sob tears of joy when she told me this story. And it wasn’t that I was so shocked by her wanting to give the money back or do the right thing – that’s pretty normal for her. It was that she knew how easy it could have been to shove the money in her pocket and never say a word – and she didn’t.

I told her she was a true humanitarian. She didn’t need to see proof of suffering to do the right thing – she did it because there was only one right thing to do.

Then she rolled her eyes and went up to her room.

The end.

 

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