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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho… It’s Off to Camp we Go.

 

“Who’s ready to go to camp?!” Howard bellows, carrying bag after bag from our house and jamming them into the trunk of our mini-van. You would think we were leaving for a month instead of two nights, two hours from our home.

 “Camp! Camp! Camp!” My three boys march in their underwear chanting with glee. It’s kind of ironic since the boys just finished up day-camp, where they tried more often than not to have days off, as if I were sending them to work the fields instead of to play and swim all day.

 Typically, my boys are all too happy to stay and play at our toy-infested, warm cookie-smelling, friend-filled house. On a regular basis, they snub both Howard’s and my overtures for activity. Entreats for playing ball in the park are met with rolled eyes and cranky fits. We never go to movies, because my kids would rather sit in the den, watch a DVD and have me serve them popcorn. When we went to Disney World and rode the mono-rail, four year-old Julius kept asking if it would take us back to Long Island.

 I still recall with horror our recent trip to Great Adventure. Hundreds of dollars, a spectacle everywhere you turn and the first thing seven year-old Michael asked was, “Does it have Wifi?”  Then, “Can we just get cotton candy and go home?”

“I hate it here.” Tyler, my oldest, agreed. Well, at least they were getting along.

What have I done to these children?

 “Do we have a lot more stuff?” Howard calls up, and in answer I throw down a giant garbage bag filled with sheets and blankets. “Do we need all this?” he asks, a little annoyed.

 “Nah, you can sleep on all the baseball bats and balls you took.”

 Howard grumbles and drags the bag to the car.

 It’s Labor Day weekend, and for the fifth year in a row, we’re heading to sleep-away camp.

There, with 25 other families, 23 of which we barely know, we will sleep in bunks that feel like styrofoam covered in vinyl. We will share bathrooms with families we are close with but not THAT close. We will wear ratty sweats and flip flops, eat food in the mess hall I would never eat in the outside world, and drink at inappropriate times while our children, who are not allowed to play alone on our front lawn, run wild.

 There is a lake and nightly bonfires. The children are dirty and out at all hours. They carry walkie-talkies and flashlights. They play basketball, baseball, Gaga, and volleyball. They just hang out, and the parents do the same.

 The first couple of years, I had a hard time getting with the program. Of course, my kids were younger, so Howard and I trailed their every move and were exhausted by night fall, falling into a miserable, uncomfortable sleep with our boys. But as they grew, they wanted more independence like the other kids, so I painstakingly doled out bits of freedom like M&M’s. I admit it. I worry. I like them with me. I want to hug them all the time. And then I want them to go away, but just to the other room.

 “Let’s go!” Howard, true to form, is at the door shouting at us to hurry.

 The boys, usually excruciatingly slow to respond, jump to attention.

 “Uh boys? Your clothes?”

 They fall over in a fit of giggles and put on the shorts and tee-shirts I’ve left out for them. One 10 year-old, who shall remain nameless, put his shirt on backwards.

 Julius tugs at me. “I’m hungry.”

 “Didn’t you just have a bowl of cereal?” Howard asks.

 “I’ve got snacks for the car.” I whisper and Howard looks up to the sky for help.

“Okay, ready.” I confirm, lugging a duffle filled with clothes, my 40 pound ‘let’s make a deal’ bag, all while balancing a bottle of Chardonnay under my arm.

 Julius jumps up around my waist. “Snack! Snack!”

 “Out!” I command, and they all race willy-nilly, tumble-bumble and cram themselves into the car.

 We’re not on the road five minutes before the appeal for snacks start up again. I pass out some granola bars (Howard is the first to take one.)

 “So, you guys excited?” I ask.

 “Yes!” Tyler enthusiastically nods.

 “Are we almost there?” Michael asks.

 I ignore that. We left five minutes ago.

 “So do you think you guys would ever want to go to real sleep-away camp?”

I hold my breath. Say no. Say no.

 “No way.” Tyler answers conclusively.

 “I like us all going together.” Michael pipes in.

 “I’d go if you could come.” Julius adds, not quite getting it.

 “Whew.” I think and settle back for the long ride.

 For us, sleep-away camp is something we do as a family. I hope we never outgrow it.

The lake

The night

The bunk

The End

Go Cougars!

Go Cougars!


I was going out for my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday in two hours, and was curled in the fetal position on the living-room floor with barely enough energy to lift my head. One minute I was battling dragons with Julius; the next, my eyes were drooping. When Julius’ dragon swooped in for the kill, I fell over onto the carpet. It was one of those exhausted mommy moments, where even trying to stay awake was torture. I needed to sleep. I would cry if I couldn’t.

I closed my eyes. Semi-conscious, random thoughts ran thru my brain. What will I wear tonight…? How much did I eat today…? I must have dozed, (probably because of my boring thoughts) because I was startled awake by someone sitting on me. It was Michael. “I want milk, mommy.”

“Go way.” I mumbled, but he may not have heard me, as my face was mushed into the carpet, slightly dampened with my drool.

“Mommy I want milk,” He repeated and started bobbing up and down.

“Get off.” I complained in an unflattering, whiny voice. Michael just continued rocking back and forth. “Okay. Okay.” I shifted my body, causing Michael to slide off and sat up. Adjusting my eyes, I looked at the clock. 5:48pm. Crap! That woke me. I was supposed to leave in less than half an hour. I picked myself up and went to dress. (Yes, I got Michael milk, don’t worry.)

It took 15 minutes to get myself to the door and the next 15 minutes to actually step outside it. At 7 and 10 years-old, Michael and Tyler, are better about me going out than little Julius. With him, there’s a drawn out routine of mounting anxiety, 20-50 massive hugs and kisses, until he finally puts on his brave face and backs slowly away waving “Bye-Bye.” He looks like a water fountain with someone holding their thumb over the nozzle, one second away from bursting.

Finally, I closed the door on Howard and the boys, and walked to the car swinging my overnight bag. My former fatigue had abated and was replaced with the caffeine-crack called FREEDOM. I was liberated! No making dinner, cleaning up, getting milk, playing dragons, mediating arguments or bed-time duty tonight! I picked up my sister-in-law and friends and drove to the Gansevoort Hotel on Park Avenue, singing the whole way.

We are checked in by a pretty girl with an accent (Scandinavian?) and go to the room to drop our bags. The room is modern art deco, but all the pictures on the walls have a similar theme – sex. A little weird, but the mattress is cushy and plush. I could be happy just staying here and going to bed. Now that turns me on. I am old. I am tired. I am a loser. Now just hand me my book and bowl of ice cream and get out.

I don’t say this of course. We’re here to celebrate. Howard’s baby sister is no longer the teenager with dark lipstick, bad bangs,  oversized clothes – and the messiest room. Now she’s a natural mom, with the most gorgeous hair, genuine style – and the messiest room. Some things don’t change.

After visiting the roof bar and going to dinner, we are finally ready to go out. It’s 10:45pm, my usual bedtime. The night is gorgeous. There’s a huge line to get into the club at our hotel. Pause. Should we even leave the hotel? It seems pretty popular. Why waste time and money to do the same thing we’d do right here? I look to my cohorts. They are already stepping into a cab. Apparently, I think like a suburban mom.  We head downtown.

I remember a time when getting proofed was nerve-wracking because I was using a fake ID, then there were a few years of smug pride after I turned 21 (take that bouncers!). By the time I was 30, I was pleased to be proofed, and that warm, appreciative feeling lasted for years (Yes, I’m over 21. Giggle giggle.)

Tonight, when I handed my license to an oversized, young man who shined an interrogation light in my face, I was a cougar in a bar filled with drunken cubs. He knew it. I knew it. It took a few nasty tasting shots before I was ultimately able to erase my shame. We popped in to a few more places, then hailed a cab back uptown to our hotel. Practical, suburban mom secretly tsks.

The line at our hotel’s club is still out the door, but we are guests and get right in. It is loud, dark and crowded. Everyone is young, drunk and dancing. We get drinks and dance a little too, but I am very aware that my knees ache and the high sandals I am wearing are no longer comfortable. The 25 year-olds around us don’t seem affected by the same casual complaints. I appreciate watching them. They are at once, insecure and over-confident, trying too hard or too little. Who are they? Who will they be? Their world is still a frightening and fascinating open highway.

We dance some more and then there’s the collective nod all around. It’s time to go. It’s almost 2am. Respectable. I give an inner cheer.  I made it and had fun. I look to my sister-in-law and friends. I remember back when we were the ages of the people in these bars; throwing up in the bathroom and making out with the bartender (Uh, them, not me. 😉 ). It is a long time ago and a minute. Very much changed and all the same. Time is a funny thing.

At 40, some might say it’s all down-hill, but I say, the view is better and it’s a lot easier than climbing to the top, especially with these knees.

Thar she Blows!

I wasn’t prepared for his attack, coming off the week in the hospital where he lay in a drug-induced delusion. I got lazy and soft, enjoying conversations like, “How are you feeling today, dad?”

“I like horses.”

“Oh. Okay then. What do you like about horses?”

“2 o’clock. Definitely at 2 o’clock.”

After a bit, my conscience did get the better of me and I alerted one of the nurses.

“Uh, do you realize my father isn’t making any sense?”

She looked at me blankly. “What do you mean? He made perfect sense this morning.”

“Uh, I don’t think so, because when I spoke with him on the phone last night, he was out of it.”

She stomped into the room.

“Evan! Do you know where you are?” My father playfully hid his face with his hand. “I’ll give you a choice Evan. Are you home or in the hospital or are you at the zoo?”

My father smiled, almost coquettishly, and affirmatively answered. “HOME!”

I looked at her, trying not to appear smug. “I’ll call the doctor,” she said. Good idea.

The doctor came, took one look and said, “He’s zonked. I don’t think he was like this yesterday.”

Oh contraire, doctor.

So they lowered his medicine, and over the next couple of days, I saw some improvement in coherency; then the irritation started creeping back in, until ultimately he returned to his generally miserable, suffering self who above all hated to be in the hospital with people telling him what to do and where he couldn’t go. His disposition was worse but he was getting better.

The doctors informed me that they intended to release him to rehab. Since he had gone to the hospital with nothing but the monkey on his back, I needed to do a little shopping to get him some extra clothes. As I dialed his room, my fingers were crossed that the call would be quick and painless. Maybe a nurse would be with him, and then I’d have to call back later. I could only hope, but hope had failed me before.

“Hi, Dad.”

“When am I getting out of here?”

Uh oh, not a good start.

“I don’t know. You’ve gotten much better. The doctors are saying that you should go to a rehabilitation facility for a week or so to regain your strength.”

“Oh so you’re in charge, making all my decisions. I don’t have any say.”

“Uh, no. You can do whatever you like. I’m relaying what the doctor’s say.”

“I want to go home. I need to think about what I have to do.”

Gritting teeth. “What you need to do is get yourself a little healthier and then go home.”

“You just want to ship me off! Why is every idea I have wrong?!”

Anger rising to intolerable levels, “If you go home, you will lose your benefits to get into the rehab place. Plus, you are not fully recovered and they would take better care of you.”

“So you’re setting me up to fail because I want to go home and MOMMY won’t let me!”

That was it.

I exploded; the words shooting from my mouth like firecrackers. Expletives that one shouldn’t say to anyone, much less one’s sick father, but out they came. F’n crazy. F’n on drugs. F’n ruining my life. On and on I went. Bad daughter. Bad moment.

I took a deep breath. Then I took another. There was silence on the other end of the phone.

“Dad?” I asked, shaky from my emotions and outburst.

“I’m here.” He answered, smaller since I had cut him down.

“I’m sorry.”

He whimpered a bit.

“Dad, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose it like that. I was just…”

He cut me off. “I’ll go to the rehab.”

“Really?” I was taken aback. “I mean good. I know you hate it, but it’s for the best.”

“I know and it’s not your fault. We’re in a bad place. I mean, I’m in a bad place and you’re stuck. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah.” I agreed, feeling all my energy drain. “It’s really not good. But tomorrow, it might be better.”

There it was again, hope.

“You sure can curse.” He almost laughed.

“So it seems.” I agreed with equal amusement. “Don’t make me do it again.” I teased.

But we both knew that he would.

Let’s Make a Deal!

I rummaged through my sack searching. “A band aid.” I muttered to myself, then looked up at the expectant man reassuringly. “I know I have one in here somewhere.” I continued hunting while the man looked around the park impatiently, his child holding a scraped finger and howling like a dying animal.

“Wait! Wait! Ah… Here’s one.” I pulled out a crumpled snatch of paper that looked like it was covered in crumbs, dirt and possibly poop (It was chocolate, people). The man looked at the unsanitary offering and looked around again helplessly. “Wait!” I shouted. “I found a better one. Dora!” Now I held up a pristine band aid from my wallet.

He took it gratefully. “Thank you. Look honey,” He showed his daughter. “It’s Dora.” The girl snuffled and wiped her nose in her shirt, before happily accepting the offering. Whew. That was close.

The joke is that if there’s ever a crisis, you want to be near me. My bag can be counted on to have everything in it from food, first aid, a knife (cutting apples!), spoons (for the ice cream, duh), possibly spy equipment, army men, playing cards, coupons, rubber balls… Once I pulled out a Ziploc bag with an ear of corn. Often, I don’t even know what I will pull out next.

So I thought it might be entertaining to give you a peek inside my bag of tricks.

Okay, there’s a lot of crap, but really, not as bad as I thought. I don’t see one Ziploc of old cheese melted to the bag, or an open juice box leaking all over my stuff, or even an army of Pokemon preparing for battle. I’m almost feeling like I should add a rubber chicken for effect. Anyway, let’s see what we’ve got…

Four pens and two pencils. Reasonable. Perfect for anxiety chewing, note scribbling and random lice checks.

Candy. And it’s not for the kids. I like candy. But do you see the apple? I’m not all bad.

Random toys, cards, a tennis ball…

Hmm. What’s this. Oh. Ew.

My ice cream accompaniments… cones, spoons, toppings.. because you just know some time you’ll be at an ice cream store and they won’t have cones, spoons or toppings.

What? Doesn’t everyone carry their own container of sprinkles?

Snack break! I just found random almonds on bottom of bag.

Yum, still good.

Ohh enough sanitary napkins to hand out at a middle school gymnastics meet. Just where I was headed. And I’m sure someone there needs an extra pair of socks. Thank goodness I’ve got that covered.

Hmmm… something big is missing here. Wallet. Check. Sunglasses. Check. Hmmm…

My kindle!! Where is it?? The last time I had it was when I took it out for the gym. OMG. I left it there.

I’ve got to call immediately.

This is not my phone.

Okay, this is my phone.

Hold on…. Whew. My kindle is sitting on the same machine at the gym I left it on five hours ago.

Let’s continue. Here’s my extremely organized baggie of receipts and coupons that would save me so much money if I remembered to use them.

Let’s just get rid of some of the expired ones.

What else… band aids (restocked after the park debacle), kid Tylenol, block, bug spray, mom Advil, wipes.

I’ve got everything a reasonable mom needs for an afternoon or an earthquake. I’m prepared. Ready for anything. I didn’t even show you the moisturizer, safety pins, granola bars, water bottle, random change, mini-flashlight, and….

No. I’m kidding about the wine. Okay, I’ve got to go to Pre-K pick-up now. Where are my keys? Did you see my keys? I mean, they’re huge. How could I misplace them? They should be in here????? Man….!

Found em.

Stop the Presses! I’ve made the Top 13 for Blogger Idol!

Stop the Presses! I’ve made the Top 13 for Blogger Idol!

I really didn’t give it much thought, but I noticed bloggers, here and there, commenting on auditioning for the 2012 Blogger Idol contest. So I checked it out, and with a casual shrug, sent in my blogger audition. I almost retracted and rewrote. It seemed a little down and I have a relatively up blog, but done is done and off I sent it, fully expecting that to be the end of it. Well, lo and behold, what have we here… you are reading one of the top 13!

Here’s what I wrote for my audition piece…

“8…9….10!” The counter shouts. “Ready or not… Here I come!!”

The boy turns around and spies her immediately. She stands quiet as a mouse in the center of the room.  At two years-old, she is still young enough to believe that if she just closes her eyes, she is invisible, but everyone is smiling at her.

At seven years-old she is a stealth spy on an important mission. No one can see her in her black shirt, pants and hat. “Boo!” she yells from behind her mother as she washes the dishes. “Oh, you really got me that time!” her mom says, looking around. But she is gone. She is invisible. Her mom stifles a laugh.

At 14, she stands awkwardly on the outside of the world looking in. Her sweatshirt hood covers her head and she stuffs a chocolate bar in her pocket, thinking, hoping no one will notice her. With a wicked smile and body curving too much for its age, all they do is notice.

At 20, she hides in the back of the class, her long locks covering her eyes, her face always hidden away in a book.  It all draws more attention to her than less.

At 42, with three kids and a mini-van, she schlepps up and down Main Street, lugging groceries and back packs. Her hair is pulled off her face in a ponytail. She wears yoga clothes and sneakers. For almost 20 years, she had it. She walked in, people looked. She smiled, the world smiled back.

Now she looks like she wants to be invisible, but mourns the fact that she actually is.

I don’t want to be invisible anymore. I’m ready to be the next American Blogger Idol.

 

Hineni – “Here I am”

I rummage through my closet looking for an appropriate outfit, not an easy thing for a girl who spends her life in gym clothes and sneakers. I try on at least three different ensembles, but ultimately settle on a 15 year-old black dress that I have worn for pretty much everything from bridal showers to funerals. Today, it’s my fall-back temple dress. Thank goodness for Express in the 90’s.

Shalom! School has begun. Fall is almost here. I am Jewish.

Of course I’m Jewish all year round, but in September we celebrate the high holidays – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, we reflect on the past year, and on Yom Kippur our fate is sealed. Simply put, it’s finals week and report cards are coming.

Today, I’m supposed to be at the temple by 10am because I’ve been given an honor to open the ark encasing the Torah. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but I’m really no good at the religion stuff.  I mean, I send my boys to Hebrew School, attend temple on the holidays and of course, wear my “I heart Jews” tee shirt (kidding); but I can’t read Hebrew, never was a Bat Mitzvah, and feel generally uncomfortable with all things religious. I once said “Jesus Christ” as I tripped into temple and practically fell into the Rabbi. Apparently, I am capable of offending multiple religions simultaneously. I also have said “Amen” to the Rabbi after he sneezed, and once in my flirty, uncomfortable-with-authority awkwardness, suggested to him that the reason it was hot in the temple was because of me. Oh yes I did.

I can’t imagine why they would put me up there on display, and I’m conflicted about why I even accepted. I don’t really want to go, but all I can do now is accept my honor, hopefully not fall off the stage, and then slip quietly into background, which is where I really wanted to be in the first place.

I glance at the clock. 9:45am. Crap. Howard and the boys will just have to meet me. It’s a seven minute walk, but I’m in heels so it’s more like 10 minutes. I start with a brisk pace, but slow down when I trip over the sidewalk and slightly twist my ankle. At 9:58am, I limp into the temple sanctuary and check in. “I made it!” I announce and the administrator hands me a card that says my time is 11:15am. What?? My paper said 10am. I show it to the administrator and he shrugs. What kind of racket is this?

I grab a prayer book and sit down in a semi-breathless huff. I notice the book is new and remember that the temple purchased new books a month or so ago, and that in a moment of sentimentality I had even donated $54 for one of the books to be dedicated to my grandmother who had recently passed.

I flip it open absently and there it is; my grandmother’s inscription. Out of 300 random books, I find my grandmother. Or more accurately, my grandmother finds me. I smile and look around like she’s just placed the book on my chair, but of course, it’s our secret.

The temple president is speaking, and I’m instructed to wait for her to finish before ascending the Bimah (platform). Her running theme is “Hineni” which translates to “Here I am.” She’s trying to inspire people get involved, while thanking the people who do. Hineni. I like it.

She finishes and up I go with a handful of other honorees. I open the ark, the Torah is brought forth, and we are instructed to follow the procession around the congregation. What? Me? No. I didn’t sign up for that. Open. Close. Done. But I’m ushered forward and immediately overwhelmed with people shaking my hand and offering Shana Tova.

Like writing LOL, I have never been comfortable saying Shana Tova. It always felt like I was pretending to be something I’m not. Happy New Year I can say, but here I am clasping hands with dozens of people and Shana Tova’ing like a game show host.

We finally end the procession back on the Bimah. The Torah is put away and the arc closed. I look out from the stage and see my boys, front and center watching me. Julius is dancing a little dance, Michael is bright-eyed and Tyler is smiling wide. I smile back and realize his fly is open. Oops, I think. Hineni.

I return to my seat, flushed and happy to be done. Howard and the boys are there and together we finish out the service. I look around at the congregation and see so many friends and familiar faces. My prayer book with my grandmother’s inscription rests on my lap. I feel warm and connected. Hineni. Here I am.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/daily-prompt-faith/

Pick Me U

My car is dead.

So I’m running laps around my block waiting for the tow truck guy and thinking about last Wednesday when I spent over an hour on the phone with my father and his home health aide, Jody, debating whether to call 911.

“I think we should call.” I said. “We’ve let it go for days and it has only gotten worse.”

“I hate the hospital.” My father whimpered like a four year-old.

“I know. But this is worse than your usual terrible.”

“I know.” He submitted. “Okay.”

It was almost too easy. Although my father spends the majority of his life at hospitals or doctor’s offices for his many, many, many conditions, often he ignores typical medical ailments that would send others rushing to the doctor. He constantly says, “Yeah, I know that’s bad, but it’s the least of my problems.” He’s not wrong. When you’ve got as many problems as he does, you learn to pick and choose. So when my father concedes that he should go to the hospital, he should go. This must be worse than I thought.

Jody called for an ambulance and they went to the hospital. I was home with Julius (the other boys hopefully enjoying their second day of school), contemplating what to do. Should I go to the hospital? I certainly didn’t want to. It was usually a long wait and my father was a miserable patient. I would have to find coverage for Julius and possibly the bus, if I couldn’t get back in time. He was there with his home health aide. The dual sides of my brain battled it out. Go. Don’t go. He has been hospitalized so many times, for so many things. Every day is something new. Don’t go. The last time I went for a procedure a couple of weeks ago, I spent hours in traffic, more hours sitting around waiting and he barely spoke to me. Don’t go. He doesn’t have anyone. Go. He’s suffering. Go. He’s always suffering. Don’t Go.

Ultimately, the car decided it. I got in and it wouldn’t turn over. It was dead.

So I spent the day on the phone with doctors and the hospital until he was admitted and we had some idea what we were working with. In between, AAA came and towed my car away. They said it was the starter. Sick dad. Sick car.

Yep, last Wednesday was fun, but now it is Monday. I’m running circles around my block, exercising my body and my brain, once again waiting for AAA and a doctor’s call. What will it be this time? I contemplate the problem, the diagnosis, the trouble. When will it end? Will it ever be fixed? It’s never-ending; the same thing but different.  I am stuck, stranded, alone, unsure of what to do, unable to leave, unable to go. Trapped. Just keep running. Around I go.

My dad is in the hospital.

My car is dead.

Towing #1

Towing #2

This man actually towed my car both times. Ground hog day. Ground hog life.