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Like Mother, Like Daughter

People tell me I look like my mother.

All. The. Time.

It’s actually a real compliment. My mom is a looker. Always has been. I (almost) never think about how she’s over 20 years older and instead focus on the fact that we are both small and fit with curly hair and an ever ready Colgate smile, compliments of the white strips she brings me on a regular basis.

Sometimes she also brings me a new shirt or pair of jeans that she recently purchased for herself. Since she buys nice stuff and it’s… um… free… it’s not a hard sell. So it’s not like I help matters. The only problem is when we show up at a family function in matching outfits which can be a little embarrassing, especially when one of the younger kids takes me by the hand and says, “Come here, grandma.”

But besides that momentary twist in the chest, it’s good, and we laugh about it. I mean really how lucky am I to have her genes and her jeans?!

Recently my mom, the most energetic person I know – the one with only two speeds – high octane or falling asleep while sitting up; the one who plays tennis before Zumba class and then follows it up with a body sculpting class and later hopes someone will want to join her for bike ride or a walk and even later on, possibly go dancing – has been ever so slightly sidelined by cough arth cough ritis cough in the thigh area. (We don’t speak about any affliction that might indicate age.)

It has been extremely difficult for such an active (see: rigid) person to lessen her fitness load even slightly, so true to her generally bulldozing self, she charges on; limping through tennis games, letting an occasional ‘Ugh’ out in gym class and only allowing it to really aggravate her in the wee hours of the night when she should be sleeping.

As my step father is annoyingly fond of saying, “The apple don’t fall far from the tree” since I not only resemble my mom but, after a brief period in my younger life resenting the hell out of her, have adopted many of her healthy eating and exercise tendencies.

While I am a pretty low key exerciser, think, reading my book while peddling my elliptical, sometimes I take it up a notch like the class I tried the other day. It was kind of a circuit boot camp; you know, jump squat, sprint, push-ups, sprint, throw-up, sprint, running man, sprint, etc.

It was in the middle of the second circuit when I felt it, a twinge in my left thigh. It nagged at me for the rest of the class but I powered through, limping slightly to my car after it was over.

“Shit. Shit. Shit.”

I hated being sidelined. I hated feeling compromised. I hated feeling… old.

Later when my mother came over to babysit, I noticed we were wearing the same jeans and similar black boots. I told her she looked cute, she told me I looked cute and then we giggled like a pair of idiots. Matching idiots.  As we hobbled together toward the kitchen to share a veggie burger and sweet potato, it was with a new understanding. I realized I not only looked like her but slowly and steadily I was becoming her.

Years ago the idea of it would have horrified me. I was young and so sure of my individuality and youth. I didn’t fully realize that time mercilessly keeps moving and doesn’t stop for anyone. We all become our parents at some point.

Although it turns out my thigh injury was just a muscle pull not cough arth cough ritis cough, the real difference is negligible. For better or for worse, I am becoming my mother.

Just as anyone.

photo 2

 

Life is Good

I was going to die.

I glanced over at the bright happy picture of my five and two year old sons and felt certain I would never see their gorgeous faces again. The tears began to well. It was all too much. Gripping the sides of my hospital bed, I took one last look at the children whose lives I was already mourning not being there for, gave one last push and brought my third son into the world.

That was seven years ago.

Seven years gone. Seven years lived. Seven years growing. Seven years of memories and moments. That baby is now a full grown kid; my 2 and 5 year olds now 9 and 12. How did we get from there to here? From diapers and midnight feedings, nursery school and little crawler gym classes to middle school and snark, multi-colored lacrosse shorts and sleepovers. Life is moving faster than one of my kids basketball games; racing from sport to sport to school to play dates – oh sorry boys, hang outs – and activities. We’re so busy trying to keep up that we almost don’t even realize the days, months, years passing.

It’s good being in the thick of it. It’s how it should be. But some days like today I stop and look around and see the wild haired boy with the mischievous smile who is my baby that is a baby no more. I see my older boys having grown as well – My 9 year old charming and wise beyond his years and my 12 year old on the verge of an amazing and frightening new time in his life for both of us. And I remember that day when in my panic I thought I might miss it all.

But here I am (puhpuhpuh), having been blessed to watch my boys growing and growing, their faces, bodies and personalities subtly changing, new expressions lighting up their eyes and mouths; thoughts and ideas opening like flowers in their brains.

One falls over in a pile of giggles, hysterical from his own hijinks, one decides to forgo the fork and shovels in his pasta with his hands and one decides to mastermind a complicated game of mazes, sport and points in the basement.

They are beautiful, unique and special. They are nothing alike and each one is perfect. How incredibly amazing to experience their humor, youth and innocence and see it changing moment by moment in infinitely subtle ways; to watch them grow and develop, rise and fall. Just to be a part of it all; a part of them.

I am overwhelmed by emotion and gratitude. I am so thankful to be here and see it; to hug them and be hugged by them. Today is my youngest son’s birthday, but just like his brothers, I celebrate him every day.

Life is a gift.

Good morning, birthday boy. Ooh that face!

Good morning, birthday boy.

 

 

Oh crap – I’m a girl!

The water runs down my face and I breathe deep enjoying the hotness splattering all around me. I have come here to escape, to hide from my family.

It’s working. The water is a tonic for my tired – even though it’s only 5pm – body and my brain which like my closet, needs a good cleaning. They were all just annoying me in the usual ways – get me this, mommy he’s bothering me, why can’t I – but today my tolerance is low. I can’t blame the moon, my hormones or my father; it’s just me being cranky.

Sometimes we all need a timeout, so I took one and it felt sublime… for about five minutes, until my middle son barrels in complaining about his older brother.

“I’ll be out in a few minutes,” I say but he continues on anyway, his small offended voice growing louder as he pleads his case.

“I can’t really hear you,” I say, hurriedly washing the shampoo from my hair. “Just give me a few minutes.”

“Wait!” He yells impatiently, “Just listen!”

I can’t really listen. The water is running. And I am naked.

“Please,” I beg, feeling the shower glow dissipate even in steam.

My 12 year old runs in, equally impassioned with my 6 year old merrily following, happy not to be part of the fray. He wasn’t the one who did that to him because he did that first but didn’t mean to do it but did it anyway. Nope he’s just here for the entertainment.

They are screaming at each other and me to fix the problem while my little one does a little dance of glee. Does no one realize that I am in the shower? It’s like I’m invisible but for the first time ever I’m feeling exposed.

All of a sudden my three boys ages 6, 9 and 12 seem too old to be barging in on me. We never made a big deal about nudity, neither going out of our way to show it or cover it. And besides a few random questions at the toddler age like, “Mommy, where’s your pee pee?” or, my youngest who just loves my ‘squishy body’, there have been no averted eyes, prolonged stares or interest what so ever. In fact, no one has really seemed to notice that I’m even a girl.

Oh my God – I’m a girl!

And I’m naked!

“Everyone just get out!” I huff and a chorus of exasperated, ‘MOMs!’ ensue. Finally they march out still arguing.

Sometime in the next year or so, even though my 12 year old is still wonderfully oblivious, he will be demanding and deserving his privacy just as I now deserve mine.  It’s time.

Alone I tentatively emerge, grab a towel to wrap round myself.

From now on I need more than just a little escape. I also need to hide.

Freaking knock, please.

Freaking knock, please. Thank you.

Take This Blog and Love It

Today a friend called me a name and I was insulted.

She dropped it casually into conversation, tossing it out like a flick of a cigarette and even over the phone I jumped back singed.

She called me a… Blogger.

A blogger. Can you believe it? Every day I slave at this computer writing essays and editing manuscripts. I am a contributor to Huff Post and What to Expect. I’ve been on the NYTimes Motherlode for crap’s sake. Every day I’m grinding my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut as I press send on submissions to Slate, Brain, Child and Modern Love.

A blogger? I felt categorized and marginalized. I felt defensive.  She may as well have stepped on my face in a pile of mud.

Wait. I am a blogger. And I love not only blogging but the essays that I write.

Why did I have such an immediate and negative reaction?

Could it be because my friend is a ‘legitimate’ author and I’m a bit competitive and sensitive? Probably.

Was she being a little condescending? Probably.

It’s like the article by the debate editor of Brain, Child Magazine, Lauren Apfel that I just read in Time, I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of it about the old negative stereotypes associated with mom bloggers as overly confessional, full rants and vents, grumbles and gripes. And a bunch of us are, and a bunch of us aren’t. Either way, most of the bloggers that I know are damn good writers who are at their craft daily. If we rant or overshare, you can bet it will be a well written and well-structured essay.

These days, many mommy bloggers use their words and their blogging platforms to reach a larger audience, to open doors that otherwise might remain closed and to network. We are freelance writers, aspiring novelists, bloggers who strategize and monetize.

Back a hundred years ago, I wanted to be a writer and I wrote essays, short stories and manuscripts that I placed lovingly under my bed. Yet I didn’t push hard enough for what I wanted. I let it go accepting a career in advertising that I ultimately let that go as well to stay home with my children.

Now that they have grown just enough that I can tell them to go play in the basement and they do, I am re-discovering myself and my passion. On my blog I have written hundreds of essays, most of which I am extremely proud. Yes I write about being a mother. That’s who I am. I also write about being a daughter, a friend, a human; the heartbreak and the heartfelt; the ridiculous and the pain of the every day.

I don’t want to be in any way embarrassed or perpetuate a negative perception about something that has offered me so much personal and professional, if not exactly financial, satisfaction. I want to own it – strut my blog around the block in stilettos shouting “I’m a blogger!” instead of holding back and hedging, “I want to be writer and I have a blog.”

Actually what I want to say is that I am a writer and a blogger and I’d like to be appreciated as both.

icescreammama

Victory and Defeat from the Mom on the Sidelines

Yesterday…

I hold my breath, huddled in the minivan staring at my phone in frustration.  The Iscore site that generally gives me the play by play of my oldest son’s baseball game won’t load, so instead I wait impatiently patient for the texts from the other moms to fill me in. They are there in the trenches, their butts numb and frozen to the bleachers on this chilly evening tensely watching our championship game which is down to the final at bat with bases loaded.

The major leagues wrapped it up weeks ago, but we’re still out there. I am using the Royal ‘we’ of course, because once again my son gave me the official ‘hug off’ before leaving early with Coach Dad for warm ups.

“Bye Mama,” He said, his head nuzzled against my chest.

“Have fun,” I answered, squeezing him.

“Are you coming?” He asked, not looking at me; the hopefulness in his voice piercing my heart.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked, equally hopeful but knowing better.

He shook his head, looked up and gave a bashful smile. “No.”

I nodded. I know the score. Apparently I make him nervous. I get that he wants to impress me which is sweet, but also frustrating, especially when you’re hiding behind trees. Still, I generally respect his wishes, especially on freezing November evenings when my younger boys have a birthday party to go to anyway.

But now the party is over and we are minutes from the field, sitting in our heated car in the restaurant parking lot where the team – win or lose – will be celebrating after their final game of this Fall season. The name of the restaurant is Champions. I hope it’s a premonition.

So I stare at the screen willing a text to appear while my youngest climbs back and forth over the seats, and my middle hangs over mine, breathing hotly into my hair, watching with me. The game is a batter away from over. Bases loaded. 2 outs. We are up 5-4. It’s not my son on the mound – he did his stint admirably in the first
4 2/3 innings, but I feel for his mom, shaking in her shoes on the bench watching her boy up there. That is the kind of pressure on your 12 year-old that makes you want to throw up.

It is taking f o r  e v  errrrrrr! I have nothing to do but whip off text after text to the moms allowed to attend. “I am freaking out!… What’s happening?!…. Come on, Boys!! Do it! Do it!…. ARRRGGGHGhthtghghtitheifrp!!!… Guys!! Tell me what’s happening!!”

Granted they are biting their nails through their gloves, sweating in the 40 degree temps, and their cells screaming silent shouts for attention is not a priority. But they are good to me and after painful, torturous minutes we finally hear, or more accurately see the verdict – WE WIN!!!  photo (14)

I picture my beautiful boy’s joyous face and those of his teammates and friends all jumping on one another, up and down, smiling with pride and relief. It’s the best feeling in the world – winning and knowing you’ve earned it.

And in the bleachers, the dugout and the minivan, the moms and dads exhale.

Today…

I am again sitting vigil in the minivan grinding my teeth, the younger boys in tow. Yesterday’s win was awesome but it’s a new day and right now it’s the final cuts for the middle school basketball team.

Forty boys have already been let go, and they are down to the final 20, but only 15 will make the team. It’s dark, almost 6pm, and the parents tensely line up outside the gym, engines humming restlessly, ready to either bolt for home or do donuts in celebration.

Finally the boys emerge, a few at a time and then a mass of long shorts and growing limbs, patting each other on the backs happily. In the commotion and anticipation, you almost don’t notice the random boy sneaking off to the side, his head hung low. There will be five of those boys and my eyes frantically scan the group.

Will he or won’t he? It could go either way.

Then I see him and I know.

I suck my breath in deep, hold it and try not to cry.

Tomorrow…

 

The i Generation

I’m waiting for my kids to finish up an extremely important video game. If they don’t, apparently it will be catastrophic. Everything they have worked so hard for will be destroyed – the levels completed, the points accrued, the hours spent ignoring me. It will all be for naught.

I wish I saw this same level of commitment when it came to putting their clothes away, finishing up  homework, reading a book or just generally focusing one tenth of their attention to the words coming out of my mouth as they do to the zombies trying to eat them or the football players running on electronic fields of green.

Gone are the days of carefree casual communication. When my boys walk in from school, they drop their backpacks and head straight for their devices like homing pigeons drawn by some unconscious motivator. I try to intervene with small talk – Hey, how was your day? Anyone want a snack? What happened in such and such class? – and general fussing about but they swat me away with nods and non-communicative grunts.

I consider ripping devices from their little paws and demanding attention, have in fact done it many times but now I’m trained and generally sigh and shuffle off and wait till they’ve had their fix. I’ve seen addiction and they’ve just gone through 8 hours of withdrawal. It seems cruel not to give them 15 minutes.

These days it seems children and teens and their devices go hand in hand. Where they go, it goes and communication goes out the window. I can’t even say it’s just about the younger generation. We middle-aged folk are similarly attached, yet we were around before microwaves, ATM’s and computers and we still know how to use a pot, get money from a teller and write freehand. We hold our books to our hearts but lug Kindles in our bags. We still have CD’s and even cassettes stored away, if nowhere else but in our brains. So yes, we are attached to our technology but we know how to live without them, because we have.

But the kids have not.

The iGeneration is all about technology, and communication without personal contact. I’d like to blame them for my oldest son’s questionable social skills but I can’t. He’s as naturally shy as my other son is naturally social and my youngest is somewhere in between.  It has nothing to do with the technology.

And so it goes. Every morning, sleep still on the brain, coffee in hand, my oldest gets into the car and we head off to school. I immediately pepper him with questions about his day while he answers only to the device in hand.

I sigh, turn on some music, sip my coffee and shake my head as I bob along to the new CBS FM, no more golden oldies, just recent oldies for getting oldies like me. I pull to the curb and he shoves his phone away. “Bye Mama,” He says, and before he gets out allows me to push the hair away from his eyes then flashes me a gorgeous heart stopping grin.

All is not lost.

 

Alisa Pnone through dec 31, 2012 046

So yeah, there’s this…

 

But there's this too

But there’s also this…

 

Mama’s Boys are Growing Up

I have no one to blame but myself.

I mean, raising mama’s boys was almost a goal. I loved how much they needed me. I loved doing things for them.  It was my twisted pleasure to find myself at 2 am sleepwalking between nursing a baby to comforting a boy who woke with a nightmare to helping another boy to the bathroom.  I took pride in refusing help; taking all my boys with me to doctor appointments or errands, snubbing carpools to drive myself crazy instead. I catered three different meals at night, picked up their toys because it was easier, zipped my son’s jacket at five years-old and tied shoes at 10.

They asked and I answered. “Can you pack my back pack? Can you get me a snack? Can you can you can you…?”

‘Yes! Mommy can!’ was my war cry.

And mommy did. Again and Again.

See honey, no one else will cut off those crusts, make you a perfect scrambled egg or wash your Spiderman shirt so you could wear it every day like I can.

Was it dysfunctional and co-dependent? Yup. Would I do it again? Probably.

Because back then, we were all one happy needy bunch of love and it was good.

But now that my boys are 6, 9 and 12, I see things a little differently.

In fact, I see them at 30…

They would of course still be living at home because why would they leave free room, board, a stocked fridge and complimentary housekeeping?

There would be hair scruff in all my bathroom sinks, dirty underwear and socks on the floor and loud snoring from every bedroom.

I probably would suffocate from all the gas inhalation.

Or die from embarrassment when they run in on me in the bathroom to demand justice when one of them uses the others deodorant or finishes the last bag of chips.

I may as well just put a cot by the washing machine and sleep there.

And I could never just sit and enjoy a cup of wonderful, steaming coffee in the morning since I’d be dragging their asses out of bed for work – if they had jobs – and making them eggs, three different ways.

All of a sudden, raising mama boys didn’t look as appealing.

So lately I’ve been loosening those ties, and giving my boys more independence and responsibility. They now get themselves dressed in the morning, wash up and tie their own shoes. They do the recyclables and empty the dish washer. They put their clothes away and make their own snacks. They know what they have to do and do it.

Well, usually.

Okay, sometimes.

It’s a process.

But we’ll get there. Because now I see that you don’t mess with the natural order of things. Children grow, you lovingly guide them on the road to being responsible and then you gently shove them out to greener pastures.

Of course they must still call daily, visit at least once a week and marry girls you deem appropriate.

I may no longer want mama’s boys, but mama’s men just might work.

 

But not yet... sigh

But not yet… sigh

 

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