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Monthly Archives: November 2012

How to Lose a New York State of Mind in 7 Days.

Day 1 –

I sit in a lounge chair, staring into the rolling blue waves. The sun is out full force, and my children are scattered around – one building some kind of sand ditch, the other two playing in the ocean with my husband. It is idyllic. It is Norman Rockwell. Ohmygodddddd, I hate it.

This is our family vacation. We opted out of Thanksgiving this year and decided to piggyback on my sister-in-law’s family vacation to an all-inclusive Jamaican resort. My in-laws are also here and so are my mom and step-dad. In theory, it’s all very nice. In reality? Well… there are extremely annoying bug bites snaking up my legs, the sun is scorching my skin, I’m having an anxiety attack that my children are in the ocean and I’m slightly bored out of my mind.

A couple, too small of bathing suit and too large of body, painfully red in the chest and arms, stagger past, giggling, spilling their drinks in the sand. It doesn’t matter. A new one will replace it shortly. And maybe if they stay drunk, they won’t feel that nasty burn. That is the beauty of the all-inclusive, drink after drink after drink.  Well, it’s the beauty, unless you’re just watching it, then it’s just kind of amusingly unattractive.

Wow, I’m a little uptight. I never realized it. I mean, I know, I’m, ahem, structured, but I’m on an island, damn it. I definitely should be having more fun. Do I actually miss the daily routine of supermarket shopping and going to the gym? Or my morning coffee. Or nightly ice cream. Sigh. Crap, I’m more pathetic than I realized.

Maybe I’m just old, or because I’m with my kids and family, the idea of spending sunrise to sunset lying on the beach has about as much appeal to me as the couple who just walked by. But no, that’s not it. It’s me. I look at my mom standing next to me. She has the forlorn expression of a puppy holding a leash too long in its mouth, waiting. Well, not just me.

Day 4 – Same spot on lovely beach, intermittently biting finger nails while reading.

Men hawking sun dresses, cigarettes and necklaces wander by selling, constantly selling. There are also the music men who stop every few feet and sing, whether you want them to or not. After a while, we’re paying them to go away. About half of them whisper, “Ja wanna mara Ja wanna, Mon?”  The never ending parade of friendly, stoned, poor people is a little depressing. They keep coming round and round. We take pictures with them, of course.

My oldest, who has spent much of the morning creating a ditch/moat pile of sand, walks up toward me, but there’s something funny about the way he’s moving. Hmm. It seems he’s walking like John Wayne in a cowboy movie. “Uh, honey? You have to go to the bathroom or something?”

He nods in the negative. Turns out he’s got beach burn, you know, from the wet, sandy suit rubbing against the inner thigh. It’s raw and painful and my other boys are suffering to a lesser degree. Nightly, we have instituted an Aquaphor application ritual. There is a lot legs flailing, and me trying not to get kicked in the face by giggling boys.

I turn and see my mom by the pool. She’s not in a lounge chair. My mom doesn’t lay. She can’t relax enough to read, and she doesn’t drink; nor would my mom go into the pool or suntan anymore. For her, skin cancer pales in comparison to the very real threat of wrinkles. So, what’s she doing by the pool? Water aerobics. Sort of. While throngs of semi-drunk ladies are in the pool, semi-following the fit Jamaican man demonstrating the moves from outside the water, my mom is right beside him doing her own little aerobics class. I’m almost jealous of her exercise, but too resigned and lulled by the sun to really care. Besides, my book is good. Wait? Am I… relaxing??

Howard has just returned from a snorkling excursion the kids. They are giddy with their sightings. Little Julius swears he saw a Zebra fish and a giant eel. Michael, my middle son, claims he saw a shark (He later modified to baby shark.), and Tyler swears he spotted a reef squid, whatever that is. I don’t know what they saw or didn’t, but their glowing excitement is all the reality I care about.

I think I’m going to get myself one of those drinks with a drunk sounding name. Maybe a Miami Vice or a Sexy Bikini or a Banana Sunset. Yeah, that sounds good, Mon.

Day 7 – We’re going home. Children are sad. They had the “best!” time. I am ready. I am tired of relaxing and sleeping with children lying like cats across my body. We were upgraded to the “Honeymoon Suite” when we came, which we thought was great, until we realized that basically it was just a King bed with a Jacuzzi Tub right next to it, which opened up to the bathroom. A little weird. I mean, I would think even honeymoon couples might like a little privacy. Whatever. I’m going home.

View from the bed. Romantic, huh?

I look around. I’m, sort of, going to miss the smell of wafting weed, the beautiful warm lolling waves, my golden children smiling, eating and drinking more than I ever should, and nothing but nothing to do with my day.  I can understand why people would like something like this. Oh, that’s what a vacation is? Got it. Next time, I’m going to start drinking earlier.

Happy Groundhog Day on Thanksgiving

Yesterday morning I woke up at 6:30am and dragged myself out of bed. Getting up wasn’t too difficult, I’m used it. I never even have to use an alarm. My crazy brain is alarming enough. Anyway, I hobble to the bathroom, my back feeling like a metal bar bent by the Hulk. That’s the way it generally feels every morning, slightly twisted and broken, but there’s no time for my problems, there’s work to be done.

Over the next 15 hours I will…

Be freaked out when my feather of a child is quietly and spookily standing behind me in the kitchen while I make lunches and the rest of the house is still asleep.

Fight because he wants to the play the iPad.

Go upstairs three times to wake my oldest son out of ridiculously deep slumber, before he finally drags himself down the stairs, looks at me and says, “Why did you wake me so late?”

Scurry, like a ferret on crack, trying to find said child’s homework assignment that has gone missing.

Negotiate between M&M’s or fruit roll up as snacks with youngest son to enter Pre-k without causing a scene. Lose, and give him both.

Listen to mom tell me about a serious hair problem.

Fly to the gym for my hour of stress-free time. I will think the entire hour about what I have to do and plan how to fit it all in.

Pick up dry cleaning. Go supermarket.

Call father to check in on how he is doing. He is doing crappy, as usual.

Pull up trash bins. Flip a load of laundry. Find lost toy that I spend years of my life searching for in kid’s pocket.

Pick-up Julius from Pre-K, wait for bus to drop Tyler and Michael.

Fight with them to do homework.

Fight with them to do it again, when they do it too fast and sloppy.

Hit my head on the table as I’m coming up from picking up the pencil Tyler dropped on the floor.

Have multiple play-dates over, kids running up and down the stairs, begging for snacks, pulling out every toy on my shelves, whining, complaining, fighting, finally, thank God, playing Wii.

Hang up on mom telling me same serious hair dilemma.

Make dinner, which kids refuse to eat.

Make another dinner. One kid will eat. One will drop plate on floor. One will cry he wants something else.

Bang head again on table, picking up food from floor.

Sing the tune to, Dolly Parton’s 9-5, while children tease each other mercilessly leaving each one them crying at 5 minute intervals.

Say, Bath Time!

Be ignored.

Say, Bath Time!

Be ignored.

Give up for moment and get laundry.

Scream Bath Time!!!!!!

Be ignored.

Go up close in each of their faces, rip video device from hand and say in menacing voice, “If you ever want to see this thing again, you will get stinky butt upstairs now.”

Watch them run, amused.

Fight with them to get in.

Fight with them to get out.

Watch three naked boys with underwear on head run in circles.

Greet Hubby.

Watch Hubby eat  first dinner.

Watch Hubby eat leftover second dinner.

Say to children, “Time to read in bed!”

Hear husband say, “Time to wrestle!”

Open wine.

Say again, a half hour later, Time to read!!

Watch, fighting down mounting anxiety, as they jump on top of one another.

Go to freezer for ice cream.

Give very dirty look to husband.

Tuck all children in bed.

Start reading a book.

Be interrupted by children complaining they are hungry and begging for snacks.

Try to ignore them and keep reading.

Listen to extremely skinny child loudly moan in hunger.

Cave and go to cut up apples with scoop of peanut butter.

Shut lights.

Say goodnight.

Snuggle.

Say goodnight.

Tickle backs.

Say goodnight!

Sigh, and finally leave the room.

Say hello to husband.

Pass out on the couch while trying to watch a show.

Think how crazy and frustrating the day has been, and how blessed and lucky I am.

Want to cry happy, sappy tears because I love every annoying minute.

Wish everyone the happiest, most wonderful, delicious and thankful, Thanksgiving.

See you at 630 am to do it all again.

iTouch vs. Live Touch – A Tale of Two Dragons

Back in May, my then 9 year-old son, Tyler, used guilt to manipulate Howard and me into adopting a baby bearded dragon. We named him Smiles and I immediately fell in love. My son’s promises of care were quickly forgotten, and Howard and I took up the responsibilities of feeding Smiles and cleaning his tank and paying any general attention to him. (I know, super great parenting. If you need to know more about our awesome technique, you can message me.) The only time Tyler acknowledged Smiles was to take great offense when he overheard me referring to him as mine.

Real dragon

I had pretty much accepted my new chores, only half-heartedly resenting them, the same as all the rest. I mean, what was one more thing to add to the list, besides one more thing to add to the list?

Still, I didn’t completely give up on Tyler. Each morning, I’d lay out some lettuce and veggie stuff and ‘suggest’ that Tyler feed Smiles. Unfortunately, by the time Tyler finished his breakfast, and realized he hadn’t finished last night’s homework and did something ‘extremely important but only took a second’ on his iTouch, it would be time for the bus.

In the afternoons, I’d ‘suggest’ that Tyler pay Smiles a bit of attention.  After ‘suggesting’ a few times, Tyler would sigh and walk into the room that housed Smiles tank, look at him for five seconds and say, “Hi, Smiles.” Then go back to the iTouch.

I tried not to let any of this get to me. I mean, we allowed ourselves to be suckered into getting the creature. Then, we covered up our parental misstep with another, by not making Tyler take responsibility for his responsibility. This was as much our fault as his. We sucked at being parents and now we were paying for it through our labor.

Then came the morning at the bus step, when I saw the game Tyler was so enraptured with for the past few weeks, that he could barely say hello to me, much less Smiles.

Handing me his iTouch, he said something like, “Okay, in exactly an hour, you need to…” And then, he went into some complicated instruction while I zoned out, much like he does, I imagine, when I instruct him.

It was a game called Dragon Vale. Guess what you do in Dragon Vale? I think you know… Yup, you breed, feed and house little dragons. You need to pay careful attention to these little creatures or they will not grow. Can you stand the irony?

Uh, not real dragon

“Uh, Tyler,” I tried. “You know you have a real Dragon that you can care for.”

Tyler nodded in the way that says, I didn’t hear a word you said you silly adult, don’t you see that I have something extremely important I need to tell you? And immediately, he returned to instructing me.

The bus came and left me holding his iTouch displaying a cute cartoon dragon, that you couldn’t actually touch.  I looked at him just long enough to close out the screen. Then and there, I vowed to be a better parent and help teach my kids to be more responsible. We would work on it together, putting out one fire at a time.

 

You can’t win them all. Deal with it.


I am a mom of three sporty boys and my husband is a dedicated coach. We spend every weekend and countless days of the week at the fields, playing one sport or another. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer… we play them all.

Often, my boys are good, sometimes even great, and I watch from the sidelines glowing from the inside out. There are also the strike-outs and errors that make me cringe and cover my eyes. Some days my kids have it. Some days they don’t. Some games the teams are on fire. Some games they crash and burn.

Yet, at the end of each season, win or lose, they all get a trophy.

I don’t understand this at all. I know it’s important to support and encourage them, blah blah, but since when did a trophy for participation become encouragement?

When I was younger we played sports because we loved to. We didn’t need a trophy as an incentive, nor were they handing them out like candy, and guess what? That was okay.  What’s wrong with “Great season, guys. Next time, we’ll get em!”

What’s wrong with only rewarding the real winners?? This ‘everyone wins’ mentality is just ridiculous. Everyone doesn’t win. Welcome to life.    

Losing is not a bad thing. Without losing, there’s no motivation to be better. The only way to achieve success is through failure, yet we are so afraid of this important life lesson. As cliché as it sounds, losing builds character.  And character, if you ask me, is something our young folk seem to be lacking.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the seventies, that I feel this way. Growing up, I was pretty independent. Generally, I had to be home by dark and not get into any trouble. That’s it. Can you imagine that today? Today, we are the over-protectors, over-schedulers and over-achievers. We watch their every move, give them the best of everything and try to take care of their every need.

We’re making it too easy for our kids. We shield and protect them from all of life’s struggles, so much so that we are rewarding them for nothing. Today, it seems, just showing up is an accomplishment. What will they ever strive for, if they have been handed everything on a silver platter with a shiny trophy on top?

And what about the real winners? Anyone ever consider them? You should see them on the field, jumping up and down, shouting with joy. It’s an incomparable feeling to know you accomplished something.

I remember clearly the expression on my son’s face and that of his teammates when their team came in first place in their league.  Elation. Pride. I could cry now remembering those moments. It’s so satisfying and beautiful to see. They won. They were special. They put in a greater effort.

It completely minimizes the winning team’s efforts to be handed the same trophy as everyone else. We have become so politically correct that we are afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings. We need to stop over-estimating the fragility of our children’s psyches. Our kids won’t break. Let’s give them something to strive for, something that acknowledges that winning is special, and makes the losing teams want it – something symbolic… maybe a trophy??

Ultimately, sports is about having fun and gaining confidence. They kids learn to play as team, good or bad, they’re in it together. They build friendships and grow skills that will apply throughout their lives.  They will lose, and when they do, we should teach them to brush themselves off and get back in there.  And when they get back in there, they’ll be better for it.

Just because they don’t deserve a trophy doesn’t mean that we don’t support their efforts. I’m there win or lose. We play ball on the lawn. I watch their games. I cheer for their wins. I cry for their disappointments. I don’t see a trophy as support. I see it as an insult, both to the losers and the winners.

You win some. You lose some. That’s the way it is.

Winning is far from everything, but it is definitely something. If one of my boys gets a trophy, I want it to mean he actually won.

 

Hurricane Sandy Wrap-up

The other morning, I awoke in my own bed, snuggled under my own covers. I went downstairs and made myself a hot cup of coffee and prepared lunches for my kids for school. School!! After almost two weeks, except for two days where I schlepped back and forth from my moms, my boys were going back to school. I could dance with glee.

When Hurricane Sandy whipped through our town, taking down trees and flooding houses, it left my town cold. Literally, our entire town was without power. Days for some, weeks for others. Many, still are in the dark. And up until yesterday, there was a gas shortage. Most days, there was no gas to be found. It was beyond odd. Even if the stations had power, they had no gas. If you were lucky enough to find an open station, you could wait on line for an hour or two.

But the experience has not been without its benefits. For the first week, I really enjoyed the adventure of it all. The brush with disaster left me filled with appreciation. It could have been much worse. But, after days in the dark and cold, and then days cramped at my in-laws and finally, at my mom and step-father’s, it was enough.

We were all off schedule, out of sorts, pent up with energy and frustration. We missed our friends, we missed our lives. Some of us, ahem, missed our freezer full of ice cream.

And then Thursday we were told power had been restored to our house, so we packed our kids, cat and lizard and drove back home. Pulling up to our house, we stared out the car windows, moving in slow motion with faces full of anticipation and fear. It was day time and no discernable lights could be detected.

Oh no, what if we didn’t have power. I steeled myself. Whatever it was, we were home – and we weren’t leaving. We pulled around to the garage. It was the moment of truth. Howard pushed a button, and… the garage door rose. Like magic. Like electricity. Like wow!

We gaped, oohed and ahhed. We had the Power. We all tumbled over one another to get in and flick on lights. Gee, in the light, my house was, well, disgusting. The mattress we had slept on covered our living room floor and was blanketed in toys. In the kitchen, some congealed something was spilled on the table, along with a leftover piece of cold half eaten pizza. Dirty clothes were littered everywhere. Or maybe they were clean, didn’t matter, they were certainly dirty now.

The next hours, days even, was a return to order. Or at least what normally passes for order in my house. So, I thought I’d share a few of my highlights and nolights (tee hee) of the past 2 weeks.

* Taking a run with Howard to Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay while at my MIL. At Coney Island, the boardwalk couldn’t even be found, nor the street or some cars, under mounds of sand. At Sheepshead Bay, the businesses that line the Bay were literally drowned. Horrible.

* Waiting on line for gas in my town. The local deli had a guy taking orders at people’s windows. I got some hot coffee and read my kindle for an hour. Not so terrible.

* Seeing the trees that crashed literally through houses and onto cars! One even on our lawn.  Insane!


* Eating at Franks, a local pizza place, where Linda, the owner pumped out pies in semi-dark with an oven and a generator.

* Our children, playing through the house with flashlights, giggling the whole time.

* Trick or Treating (against the police commissioner’s orders) over the trees and under the wires to houses for candy we go…

* Going from neighbor to neighbor, checking in, offering a hand or anything we could. It was like Hurricane Caroling.

* My first after power shop!

It is a whole other post about how LIPA dropped the ball. At first, everyone was supportive and sympathetic to the overwhelming need and disaster, but after a week or so of absolutely no presence or seemingly any hope of power, the tides began to turn. People became angry, and loopy… no one was fixing anything. At night, there were no lights to be seen. Our town was a black hole in space. Gas became scarce. Then there was another storm…

Overall, it’s been crazy, but not as crazy as for some. So we are thankful that the disaster was not a complete disaster for us, and praying that those still in need are somewhere warm while they wait for their lives to return to some kind of normal.

LIPA – Grrrrr. LIPA workers – Thank you!!

 

My Mom and Me… We’re a match.

Hurricane Sandy, day seven, still without power. We spent the first three nights braving it out in the cold and dark, then the second three nights at my in-laws in Brooklyn. Yesterday, we packed the car and the kids, the cat and the lizard and headed to my mom and step-father’s house.

The kids stretched out like lazy cats with all the new space. We played cards and chess and they ran in circles, up and down the stairs. They had baths in their giant whirlpool tub and we had to fish them out using chocolate marshmallows as bait. Shiny and towel fresh, we plopped them on the couch for a movie.

In the morning, we woke up and my mom had set us up with a tennis court. Disaster? What disaster? Why don’t I come here more often?

It had been quite a few years since my mom and I found ourselves in this position. Back when I was young, we used to randomly play, but I was always so incessantly aggravated by her competitiveness, that I could never play well. Every point she’d get, she’d call out the score, which unnerved my every nerve. Plus, she was hot and sexy and I always had a few pounds to lose, which made watching her bounce across the court in her little short shorts extra annoying.

Back then, I was so wrapped up in killing her that I tried to kill every point, and ultimately killed my game. We were two opposing forces posturing for power. I was 20 years younger, but she had, and still has, a fortitude and vitality that you simply don’t find in average people. She’s a spit fire. A fire cracker. A hundred pounds of boogie-oogie-oogie. You’d think she was made of Red Bull instead of whipped cream, sun flower seeds and garden burgers. In an average day she might play tennis, go to the gym, take a long walk and dance the night away. Did I mention, she runs her own business as well?

The only time I see her sleep is when she comes to babysit and by some unknown circumstance actually sits down. One minute, she’ll be crawling the floors with the kids on her back, running up and down stairs to get them snacks, begging them to dance and play with her; but when they’ve finally tired of her and turned to their iTouches or SpongeBob, she might discover the couch under her taut behind. Almost immediately, she nods out.

So here we are again, across the court from each other, a mother and a daughter preparing to face off. It should be no contest, she’s a league winning player, while I’m scrappy, inconsistent and haven’t played in years, but… I’m younger and faster. She hates that. It makes me smile with affection. My mother is like no other.

I suggest just volleying back and forth for practice and exercise, but my mom just can’t. She needs to keep score. So we play. I know her game – she’s very consistent and is great at returning shots, but doesn’t have real power. I have always been a reasonably strong player; my inconsistency and emotions, being my greatest obstacle.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because our relationship is wonderful and no longer filled with angst, but I’m calm and controlled. I play easily, not great, but with few mistakes, and soon am winning five games to love.

I see the panic and frustration across the court. She’s stomping a bit and Oy Veying here and there. If there were a can, she’d kick it. She can’t help herself. Losing is not something she does with grace. But she sure is cute.

We get down to the final point and I’m torn. Knowing her battle, a big part of me wanted her to win. But I wanted it too. I no longer take her win-at-all-costs personality personally. I’m secretly cheering her on. I think about throwing the game. Just one game, so she could have a little something to hold on to.

I toss the ball, ace out that last point and smile happily. Turns out, I’m just like my mom. Lucky me.

Read here for a (blogging) good time! #pay it forward

*This was last week’s Blogger Idol assignment – to give a shout out to to some great blogs you love. Read below, if you don’t already know them, you should check them out…

And if you’re feeling like giving back a little, go to www.writersarethenewrocks.blogspot.com and vote ice scream mama. I would so appreciate. 🙂

************

I never understood the whole internet dating thing. I mean, fall in love with someone you never met? How bizarre. How in the hell? And then I did. Multiple times. Sometimes at the same time. Often, I go back and forth between them all.

This wasn’t me at all. I married the first boyfriend I had, and now here I was slutting around the internet with people I didn’t really know. But they made me laugh, and sometimes they made me cry. So I didn’t get dinner and a movie, they brought out serious, real emotion in me, stuff that lay buried under massive loads of laundry. I didn’t expect any of it. I didn’t mean for it to happen. It just did.

I hear my husband calling me. “Are you still on the computer?” or “The kids are hungry and playing with scissors!” But I’m in love. And when you’re in love, everything else takes a back seat, right?  

My cynical husband will roll his eyes. He believes there is nothing genuine out there on the internet. But now, having immersed myself into this world for the past four months, I am floored by the people I have found. People who put their hearts and souls out there every day. People who struggle. People who live wild, crazy lives. Mommies. Lots of mommies.

So whether they know it or not, I am in love and stalking, I mean following, so many rocking blogs. Here are a few that bring a little extra something something to my days.

Ask Outlawmama why her skirt smells like pee, or how she and her husband get their sexy on – and she’ll tell you a story. A real, funny, generally embarrassing story that will have you nodding your head with glee. Maybe that’s why she’s constantly at the top of the charts at YeahWrite, an amazing weekly writing competition for bloggers and writers. Outlawmama knows just how to capture a moment. It doesn’t matter whether she’s talking about her bad bangs or her bad self, she makes me laugh at life and all its crazy.

When I want to hang out with my best friend, I turn to Ateachablemom. She’s in the trenches with snot on her shirt and insecurity in her eyes. She right in the thick of that wild jungle called mommyland, just trying to do better and doing the best she can. She’s constantly learning and teaching. When you’re with her, you know you’re not alone. She’s me. She’s you. She’s fabulous.

Watch The Landy climb big snowy mountains. Watch the Landy work out! Watch the Landy race in mud! I never thought I’d be into this blog about an Aussie guy on a mission to climb a mountain. But dag nabbit, he rocks! He is a real man, with a sensitive side who waxes poetic while jumping from planes, roaring through rapids, lifting small buildings in a single bound! Every time I read his posts, I want to cheer – GO LANDY GO!!! I swear you won’t be able to help yourself.

I met Pile of Babies here on Idol and got to know her and her blog a little better through our interview assignment. All I can say is – Awe.

First with her, because we were in different time zones and at 7:30 pm her time, 10:30 pm mine – she had a quiet house with her twins already asleep while my three boys were running in circles in their underwear.

And then there’s her blog.

I simply loved every single thing I read. Meredith takes all the stuff in life that makes you want to pull your hair out, and instead has you peeing your pants. You will be both amazed and amused by her bravery to tell it like it is, and do it with insight, humor and a ton of snark. Mostly, you’ll be laughing your ass off. Not many people could write hilarious posts like, “Your threats do not scare me small person.” and “Having twins is not adorable but thanks.”  If those titles alone don’t make you check out her blog, well than you must be, “Drunk, or 4 years-old“.

So forget the dishes, the kids and whatever other mishegoss you have going on, and go hang out with these guys. I promise, you’ll be totally entertained while you laugh, cheer and virtually fall in love.

It’s a beautiful thing. Just don’t ask my husband.