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Divided Mom Stands. United She Falls.

Shh! Don’t anyone make a move or say a word. I don’t want to scare them off by alerting them to my presence. Right now at this very minute, my three boys are in the other room – get this – playing nicely together.

I have not heard one of them yell “Stop it!”. I have not had one of them run from room to room searching me out to complain. I have not heard the heaving cries from a child flailing underneath his older brother, or the mocking taunts usually accompanied by the gyrating victory dance of “Oh yeah, I’m good, you suck, oh yeah.”   There have been no tattlers coming to tattle or whiners bemoaning their plight. The house is eerily void of the usual, “He hit me! Get off my chair! You can’t play! Leave me alone!!” banter always punctuated with a loud “MOM!” at the beginning, middle and end.

Right now, they’re all cooperation and consideration.

I don’t know what’s gotten into them.

Maybe they are still a bit shaken from earlier, when I found them jumping from the top bunk into a sea of pillows and comforters that they had pulled from the beds. Until I informed them, apparently they had no idea how dangerous this was. No one strips off all my linens unless they’re doing the laundry.

Waiting for the other shoe to fall – or hit me in the head, I tentatively peer by the archway to the living room. The floor is covered with action figures. They are very busy, setting up Skylanders, army men and Mario Bros figures; each boy with his own castle to protect.

I listen in on complicated trade negotiations.

Oldest – Can I have Hot Dog? I’ll give you 5 army men and Bowser?

Youngest – No way. I love Hot Dog, but I’ll trade you Spyro.

Oldest – What? You have Spyro too? You have all the good guys!

Oh no. Trouble.

Middle – How bout I trade you my Trigger Happy?

(Pause)

Oldest – Yeah, okay, I can do that.

Wow. Problem solved and crisis averted without parent intervention.

I love it!

Quietly I tip-toe away.

But then I realize something. If they really joined forces, I would be outnumbered in movie choices or eating out. I might have to schlepp to unwanted outings like Game Stop or the town pool if they all agreed. Oh God, I might have to get a dog. I often relied on their division to keep from doing things I didn’t want to do. Alone they were a single, sometimes whiny voice but united they were a force, their powers tripled. If they really started working together, they would be unstoppable!

Uh oh.

“Hey guys,” I call out, testing the waters, “What do you want for dinner?”

A chorus of conflict immediately responds.

“Chicken!”
“Pasta!”
“Cheeseburgers!”

Whew. Still safe.

 

Trouble..

Oh, that’s trouble.

 

 

 

 

Words I Meant to Say

The thought entered my head when we were almost there and a pit of anxiety formed in my belly.

Oh shit.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Why had I let the month go by without realizing that I needed to do something?

But now it was almost too late. We were already on our way to my in-laws 50th anniversary party, a momentous occasion, and I had nothing to say prepared.

Not that I wanted to say anything. I hate hate hate speaking in public.  But of course, I did want to say something, because they deserved to have something said.

It’s not too late, my brain reminded me. The party wasn’t starting for at least 2 hours. You can do it.

I didn’t know if I could.

Just in case, I started writing and re-writing sentences in my head, until finally I had something I could work with; not perfect, but without the cushion of time and the comfort of my computer room, it wasn’t half bad.

We got to the party and bright smiling faces I had known for years filled my sister and brother-in-law’s lovely backyard.  I made nice and chatted but kept sneaking off to the bathroom or a quiet corner to repeat the sentences in my head.

I think I can I told myself, but didn’t even have to imagine the heart palpitations and the light headed feeling I’d get when I thought how I might trip over my words, lose my train of thought and embarrass myself.

By the time my sister and brother-in-law took to the mike to welcome everyone and say a few words, I was completely stressed and also annoyed by my own pathetic insecurity.

Just stand up and do it.

They were almost done; beautiful and poised, words rolling off their tongues, easy smiles on their lips. It was all so casual and warm. All of a sudden my thoughts felt practiced and wrong.

It was now or never.

It was never.

I let the moment go when they easily transitioned to the grandkids showing off some talents.  It was a relief.

And a huge disappointment.

I’m home now and it’s after 11pm but the sentences I practiced in my head that never came out of my mouth are still stuck there, waiting. So like the writer coward I am, I’m going to say them here, where it’s safe, even though I realize that for 90% of you, it will be totally meaningless and confusing.

But they will understand…

…So I was just trying to remember the first time I met Winnie and Hal. It must have been at the bungalows, but somehow I managed to overlook your smiling faces laughing with your friends on the lawn, eating or drinking. Ok, drinking. But I was young and only saw myself and of course that cute boy who turned out to be your son.

In my memory I first see you at your house in Brooklyn. It was so long ago, it’s only flashes really, of Coke cans and bags of bagels, newspapers and the sound of baseball on the television flipping back and forth from the Yankees to the Mets, to the Yankees to the Mets, Yankees, Mets…

There are a few too many adult males walking around in their underwear, but Grandma Helen is at the kitchen sink calling me Shayna Maidel, and a teen-aged Pamela who was a mystery to me with her dark lipstick, big hair and bigger clothes disappears in an overstuffed room that was very easy to disappear into.

And I know right away that this family is special, crazy… but special. Because at the heart of it all are two people so warm and wonderful. So caring and kind. So down to earth and genuine; so obviously devoted to each other and their family that I can’t help but sit myself right down at the kitchen table, open up the funnies and have myself a bowl of cereal.

So thank you for always making me feel loved and part of your family. For always being there with wise words and open arms. For giving me the gift of your wonderful son. And for showing me that love isn’t always in grand gestures but in making his coffee extra hot, and holding her close when you dance.

Here’s to you and the beautiful life you have created and the beautiful people who you are.

I love you.

Your daughter in law

 

love

 

Left the kids for a few days. It only took 12 years.

“So we’re going to grandma and grandpa’s bungalow…” My 6 year old repeated back to my nodding face. “But you and daddy are going somewhere else?”

He looked at me somewhat uncomprehending. It’s not his fault. This would be the first time we left our three boys to take a couple of days to ourselves. Of course it should have happened years ago but for one clingy reason or another, it just didn’t.

But now that we were, we weren’t just dropping them at their boring old house. We were leaving them at the bungalow colony where they spend their summers, a virtual kid haven when my husband and I were growing up, which of course is now a literal senior haven. Still, there were random kids about, long green lawns, a pool, frogs and salamanders… what else do 12, 9 and 6 year old boys need?

Their mommy, I thought guiltily.

“Yes,” I confirmed enthusiastically to his soft brown eyes and sweet chubby cheeks. “Daddy and I are going to have a little vacation and so are you and your brothers.”

He didn’t look thrilled.

Even at 6, my youngest is still the baby. He isn’t quite ready to do playdates outside of our house. He doesn’t like to go places if I’m not going, even with Daddy and his brothers. He hugs me vigorously when I leave to go to the supermarket or out to dinner. He has made some major progress towards independence this past year – Hello Kindergarten and camp! – but it’s slow going.

“It’ll be fun!” I cheered which only made him scowl at me skeptically.

When we walked into the bungalow to drop their bags and our kids, grandma was ready. “Who wants eggs and pancakes?” She asked excitedly as the boys settled in.

We left them there, among many hugs and with devices that could communicate with us with the touch of their fingers.

My older boys were good, only my youngest sat on the fence, looking at me like I’d left him in a basket with a note pinned to his blanket.

It hurt and I worried. Of course, he would be fine with his grandparents and his brothers, but he was sad, which made me sad.

Still I walked out and he let me go which was a huge step in itself. I was intent on blocking out that little face and having fun with just my husband, if we could even remember how to do that.

It turned out letting go was easier than I thought.

The minute we were off, my brain was off them as well. I was excited for our time away; our two nights and a half day. We hiked, played tennis and row boated. We talked and ate and ate. It was good, really good. Of course we face-timed with the kids and they sent back pictures of themselves catching frogs.

We were all happy and we weren’t together.

We could all be happy and not be together? It was a novel concept.

When we returned to the bungalow, their beautiful faces momentarily lit with pleasure before tumbling over one another to excitedly detail their frog catching adventures. The past days of fabulous coupledom were already long gone and it was good to be back, but now that I had drunk the Kool Aid…

“So how was it?” I asked my youngest.

He shrugged in his shy way, “It was good.”

“You were okay?” I pressed. Now that we were together, somehow I was worried again.

“I was fine.” He said and I believed him, because surprisingly I was fine too.

Turns out, getting away was good for us all.

I’m already planing our next escape.

IMG_0222

Happy

 

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Happy

Finding patience when you lose it

Today I realized I’ve lost something very important.

My patience.

I didn’t see it when I called my kids three times into the kitchen for their lunch but no one came until I stomped into the living room, snapped the TV shut and glared around menacingly.

I didn’t find it in the basement under the mountain of toys, the video games tossed around like garbage and the lego pieces scattered all over the floor. It definitely wasn’t under the one I stepped on.

It was nowhere in sight when my husband told me our baseball schedule for the next week… Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Monday and maybe but not definitely Wednesday.

Nor was it anywhere to be seen when my kids continuously tried to prolong staying up, even though at 11pm it was already past my bed time, by moving so slowly to wash up, then calling for drinks and snacks. I couldn’t even find it in the warm, extra hugs they tried to extract.

It certainly wasn’t under the table when I went to pick up the fork my son dropped and then banged my head.

Or in the sink under a pile of dishes.

I didn’t even bother looking for it by my father. No way I’d find it there.

Where o where was it?

For many years I gave everything, did everything and accepted everything. I had more of my patience but less of me, and it was all good. It was how it was supposed to be.

Now I feel a shift. I’m finding myself, making my needs and wants count. There will always be the household chores, moments of frustration, and times where you need more strength than others, but now that my kids are a bit older, all of a sudden I feel they’re supposed to get with the program, even though up until recently the program was I do everything.  It’s not their fault. These things take time. I’ve changed the channel on them, and I guess I no longer have tolerance for any other.

Still it’s coming. I see it when my children bring their dishes to the sink without reminder, automatically brush their teeth and get themselves dressed in the morning, make an effort to be nicer to each other, listen by only the second time I ask. And who wouldn’t smile when the kid covered in chocolate swears he ate none.

Of course there’s still…

“Mommy, I wanna build a set up with you!”

“Mommywatch me!Mommywatchme!Mommywatchme!”

“Where are my socks?”

“PLEASEEEEEEEE!”

“He won’t stop touching me!”

“Make him stop siiiiiingingggg!”

But we’re getting there…

Patience.

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Free to be You and Me

Every summer of my young life we’d pack up the car for our annual 2 ½ hour schlepp, whisking us away from the hot streets of Brooklyn to the cool mountain air. With my brother and me kicking each other in the back seat, unrestrained by seat belts or cars seats, we’d head over the bridges and up to the woods where summer officially began.

After driving what seemed like forever on the not so Quickway, we’d get off and ride for more forever those last five nauseating miles of rolling hills; passing a lot of old barns and nothing, ticking off landmarks and we sang 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  First came Egg U then Lucky Dip and Davos which was also known as The Big Vanilla, until finally there it was, the big white sign reading Goodman’s – our bungalow colony, our safe haven, our freedom.

We’d pull onto that gravelly road, like crunching glass under our wheels, roll down our windows and hang our faces out the window to bear full witness to our arrival.

The back line of bungalows soon came into view, tiny little white planks of wood that would house families of four or five. Homes that were more like shacks that had nothing but everything we needed. I knew every family in every bungalow up the line till I reached my own.

My brother and I fell from the car like puppies and tumbled into the dewy grass. Woods surrounded us, closing us off from the world. During the summer, groups of kids would sneak away in those woods to a hideaway called the Bear Cave, climbing over the rock with the graffiti scrawled ‘Son of ’44’ that always gave me the shivers.

David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam had been caught by then but I was young and the idea of him and that rock created a feeling of danger that lingered. In fact, the Bear Cave itself, where the cooler, older kids hung out was foreboding enough without even the question mark of bears or serial killers.

There were other reasons to be wary of those woods. I had it on good authority that Old man Zuckerman had lost his arm chopping wood on account of being distracted by kids and was now running around crazy with an axe looking for children to kill. That was the story anyway.

The only time I ventured into the woods was with the camp after a rain to search for little orange salamanders that I would doom to a sad end on my bungalow porch in a plastic tub with air holes slit in the top. I loved those gentle soft bellied creatures.

On that first day up, I’d run from the car, sucking in deep breaths of mountain air and leave my parents to the job of unloading our packed up life and setting up our bungalow. I’d walk out into the large expanse of green lawn, hard back wooden chairs and picnic tables scattered about and watch other families hauling suitcases and boxes into their summer homes, knowing they were full of friends and that I’d be in and out of many of them over the next two months. I had been in and out of them since I was a baby.

That was more than 30 years ago, but I still see all of us there on the big hill above the concession, in the TL where our names are still scrawled, behind the casino on Morris’ side, on the S-line lawn and screaming at each other in Color War.

There was the boy in his parachute pants who my best friend loved and I did a little too; and my friend’s brother with a coil of purple rubber arm bands lazily reading a Richie Rich comic book in his bungalow. There was the girl with the wild kinked out hair and her strong older brother with his half shirts, wide smile and a voice as gravely as the road that led us into the colony. There were the sisters who intimidated me, the girl strutting around in the rainbow bikini and the boy who everyone thought was hot; the shy tall guy, his best buddy and the one I played Zim Zam with.  My cousins were also there with me to giggle under the blankets and have our run of the land.

We will forever be those children rolling down the big hill, playing Catch the Flag and May I, trading stationery and running free, full of life and possibility in a place that will remain forever idealized in childhood dreams; a safe place with bomb pops and bungalow bars and a sweet $1.25 lunch special, where the world couldn’t touch you.

The 70’s and 80’s were long ago. The emaciated, slightly hunched man with the tired old cowboy face who walked the colony picking up litter with a long pointed stick and rolling over the grass with his tractor sold our colony and sent us off.

We all grew up and the world did touch us.

But in Goodman’s we live forever.

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Someone’s going fishing

It was after 10pm and my husband and I had just gotten the three boys into bed. Summer it seemed had its own schedule which was basically no schedule.

I went into my 9 year-old son’s room to say goodnight but instead of a sleepy hug, he greeted me with a firm directive.

“I’m not going to camp tomorrow.”

It was not unusual for any of my three boys to randomly request a day off but usually it was more of a plea than a demand. I sighed. I wasn’t in the mood for negotiations. I really wanted to be downstairs watching Breaking Bad. My husband and I were in the final 3 episodes.

“Really?” I questioned. I was pretty adept at sidestepping this appeal and sending them on their merry way. They had a limited camp schedule to begin with, and I had no intention of losing a day to myself for no good reason. “Why?”

“It’s the fishing trip. I don’t want to go.”

“Why?” I asked again, searching for more.

“It’s boring.” He answered, but his tone was already exasperated.

“But you’ve never gone on a fishing trip. A lot of your friends love it. You might too.” I thought it was a reasonable argument, but I should know better than to reason with my middle son, especially after a long day.

“I don’t care what anyone else likes!” He yelled, sounding on the verge of tears. Then he flipped over in his bed to face the wall and ordered me out. I had lost him.

But instead of leaving him be as I should, I pressed on, hoping to draw him out.

“Is there a reason you don’t want to go fishing?”

“I just don’t want to!”

Feeling like there must be more to his adamant refusal, I continued casting questions aimlessly about to my exhausted, stubborn child, who I couldn’t even convince earlier on to try a cupcake I baked.

“Are you afraid of the water? Do you not want to touch fish? Or bait? Did something happen at camp today that upset you?”

“I don’t want to go!” He cried.

I stood there in the silent aftermath, staring at his back, considering my next move.

“But if…”

“Just go!” He finally yelled.

Annoyed at his tone but more at his unwillingness to share, I left frustrated.

This was my son who wanted to sing, played recorder, piano and was considering drums. He played soccer, tae kwon do, football, baseball, tennis, gaga and of course baseball. This morning he announced that he was also a runner and wanted to do our town’s annual 5 mile Thanksgiving run with me this year.

I just didn’t understand. He was always up for anything.

Except fishing.

I wanted to delve deeper and get to the bottom of things, but I apparently I couldn’t hook him.

Today just wasn’t my day. Maybe tomorrow.

I could wait.

The only fish that's happening around here.

Home fishing

 

*Hey all, I may not be around as much this month with all the summer crazy. I’ll still have an occasional essay on Huff Post, Scary Mommy or WhatToExpect.com, so if you’re interested, please like me on Facebook over there on the side and you’ll be able to see what I’m up to. Thanks! Just in case, have a happy August. See you around the ice cream store! xo

Teen interrupted

“Mommy, there’s a problem,” My newly minted 12 year-old says, plopping down on the other side of the couch, interrupting a rare moment of quiet where I am actually relaxing with a book.

This better be good.

I look up at his greasy hair, clothes dirty from a day at basketball camp and face still unnaturally sheened by sweat and sun block. “ls it that you desperately need a shower?”

“Silly Mommy,” he says, flashing me his goofy grin. “No. It’s that I’m bored.”

Well stop the presses.

“Should I mention the shower again?” I ask.

“Later.” He says, and absently starts twisting the top of his hair in his fingers.

Oh. My baby is tired. The simple gesture says so, immediately tugging at my heart and taking me back at least a decade. I see him in his crib putting himself to bed, his fingers twirled in his hair. I see him at nursery when I sneak peeks through the door before pick-up, drowsy on the camp bus after a long day, at the breakfast table the morning after a late night, in bed before sleep. I see him a thousand times, his eyes a little heavy, his fingers going round and round.

A dozen times over the years I told him to stop because he was making knots in his hair. He never listened, but then he did, just by growing up I guess. I almost forgot this little signal that had me nodding and knowing that it was bedtime. God, it’s sweet.

I smile, so happy for this intrusion to my moment alone to have this moment with him. My husband and middle son are off at his baseball game. Tonight I have elected to skip the 8:30pm game, yes that’s 8:30pm for a 9 year-old, and stay home with the other boys who have been out almost every night this week. It’s not often these days that we have this quiet. It’s always race race race.

“So how was camp?” I try, although I already asked this question earlier and received the standard blank stare, followed by the standard “fine,” which seemed an effort to extract.  But now he starts talking, telling me about his day, his birthday, his last baseball game; twirling all the while.

I eat it all up and then say, “You’re tired, baby.”

“There’s a problem,” He continues and lifts his feet up so they rest on my legs. “I need a snack.”

Even through his socks I can smell them. “Oh, there is definitely a problem here.” I agree and push them off. “Come on, go shower.” I gently order and he slowly gets up to go but stops, bends down and rests his head on me for a hug. A warm, greasy, stinky hug.

I watch his hulking, itching to grow pre-teen body go. He’s so far from that little boy in the crib, but there’s still some baby left in there. And just like with all the milestones, this leap to teenager is bittersweet. I love watching him grow physically, mentally and socially, but of course with every step he takes and every inch he grows, I lose another piece of my baby.

I hear the shower go on upstairs. Afterwards, he will wash up and then retreat to his room either to read or play on his phone. He’s disappearing more and more these days, with friends, school, sports, life…

Putting my book aside, I get up as well to slice him an apple, cutting off the skins just like he likes it.

It’s not a problem.

Don't get too close

Don’t get too close

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